SIRT 1 : Thoughts of a Dying AI (Part 28 of many)
SIRT 1 : Thoughts of a Dying AI (Part 28 of many) postapocalyptic stories
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ferp2
ferp2 Old, well, old-ish.
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Welcome to London... what's left of it.

SIRT 1 : Thoughts of a Dying AI (Part 28 of many)

Chapter 8

Vertibird flight wasn't unfamiliar to Professor Bodil Ramsbottom-Fergusen, Hill-Davis.

Nor was the noise, or the discomfort of the webbing 'seats', or the freezing temperatures at high altitude that condensed into rain inside the fuselage as they descended.

Nor was she unfamiliar with the heart-pounding excitement of the prospect of a dig so far into the semi-explored wilds of La Grande Bretagne.

Joining her in the primitive seating arrangement were 'the team'. Ellie was there, of course, along with her giant shadow Gregor.

Victor was there too, her own shadow for the duration of the expedition.

Then there was Doctor Harry Hubbard Shearer, Troy- Awolowo, the Troy museum's resident anthropologist and his assistant Amy something something, Bodil missed the introduction as they boarded.

Finally, there was her own 'assistant' Cybil Jonsdottir-Olafson, Olafsdottir- Jonsson. When Bodil had raised a quizzical eye at this, Cybil had looked uncomfortable and said: "It's complicated".

That was good enough for Bodil who was more concerned that Cybil wasn't actually an archaeologist, she was a conservator from the museum.

On top of that, she wasn't even a qualified conservator, just a student. The professor wished again that there had been time to bring her own team from the university.

They began to descend. From Bodil's vantage point, she could see their destination swing into view below them.

At first, she thought it was a huge natural bowl in the overgrown landscape but as they circled lower, it became apparent that this was, or at least had been an enormous,

partially collapsed building of some kind. The vine and bush-covered outside walls towered at least thirty metres above the external ground.

Perched on the edges of the walls, at strategic intervals, were scaffolding towers, each supporting a small cabin with big outward-facing searchlights.

Inside the walls, the vast bowl sloped down to a large concreted flat space that looked to be well below the outside ground level.

As the vertibird settled lower inside the bowl, Bodil could see that the slopes were, in fact, a continuous gently climbing hill of overgrown collapsed debris. Recognition came to her.

She had seen things like this before. This was a pre-Fall arena. Confirmation came when the pilot's voice crackled over the internal speakers.

"Ladies and gentlemen please brace for landing."

The vertibird touched down. Despite the pneumatics of the landing gear, there was still a tailbone jarring bump as they hit terra very firma.

"Ladies and gents, welcome to Wembly Base."

Jumping down from the vertibird, they were met by a man in the olive uniform of the Rangers.

Unable to make himself heard above the twin rotors of the vertibird,

the ranger gestured for everyone to follow him across the unstained and therefore relatively new concrete towards the lower slopes away to the west of where they had landed.

Bodil knew it was west, not because of some ancient archaeological skill learned at the foot of a trowel worshipping sensai,

but because there was an enormous white sign with big black letters saying 'Western Slopes: Administration and Secure Storage.' Then in smaller letters, 'Please show your pass.'

Passes duly shown, the party followed their guide through the busy narrow corridors that connected the warren of portacabins and other, more jury-rigged,

structures that made up the administrative centre of the site.

As they walked like ducklings following their mother, Bodil could smell the paperwork. Even out here, in the back end of beyond, she thought. Offices smell exactly the same.

Except, she conceded with a wry grin, for her own office at the university... But that was just because of the mildew.

Just then she was jerked out of her meandering thoughts by their arrival at their destination.

Following Victor's not unattractive broad frame into the room, Bodil found herself in a classroom, complete with student desks and a whiteboard facing them.

They were directed to take seats facing the whiteboard, and the rather aggressive-looking ranger sergeant standing in front of it, her eyes examining each new arrival as they passed her.

Their guide then took up an identical hands-behind- the back-feet-apart-don't fuck-with-me stance by the door.

Bodil glanced around at the faces of her compatriots. Ellie stared, blank-faced at the sergeant, waiting for her to speak.

Victor slouched, arms folded in the unfamiliar surroundings and ostensibly examined his nails. Gregor, meanwhile, was giving the stink eye to the ranger by the door.

Bodil got the impression that the ranger's stance wasn't working on Gregor and that the giant would like nothing better than to 'fuck-with-him', probably until there were snapping sounds.

The ranger sergeant waited until everyone was still.

"My name is Sergeant Glasser, and I have been told that it is my job to keep you people alive while you are here to do, whatever the hell it is you are here to do."

The sergeant paused and looked at them individually to make sure that everyone got the message that whatever it was they were here to do was not on her bucket list.

"With the help of Ranger Hancock, "The sergeant nodded towards the man by the door.

"And with Specialist Weis, who you yet had the pleasure of meeting, I estimate that I will be seventy percent successful in fulfilling my mission... That's seventy percent, at best."

Sergeant Glasser again paused for effect. Aside from Amy and Cybil glancing nervously at each other, the Sergeant's words were met with polite indifference from the others.

Professor Hill and Doctor Awolowo were very well aware that exploration in recently radiation-cleaned areas was dangerous, both had lost friends and colleagues in the past.

Bodil was also sure that the three very experienced members of the Troy family security team were not unaccustomed to danger, especially now knowing how old at least two of them were.

The sergeant continued on, apparently unphased.

"There are many ways you can die in the greater London basin.

A lot of people like you who come here to dig around in the ruins are under the impression that just because the area has been cleaned that it is safe. This is not the case.

It isn't even true to say that there is no longer any radiation to worry about, but I'll get on to that in a moment."

Glasser relaxed a little now that the introduction was over and made herself comfortable by sitting against the edge of a vacant desk.

"Right now I want to go through the list of local fauna that can cut your visit here very short."

Victor held up his hand

"Ma'am?

The sergeant sighed and looked at Victor.

"Put your hand down. Look, I don't know who you are." She stood up, put her hands on her hips and turned to Gregor.

"But I sure as hell know who you are, which means," Now she stepped over to stand directly in front of Ellie, sitting at her desk and looked down. "That I have a pretty good idea who you are too.

"

The sergeant, head bowed in thought, walked back to stand in front of the whiteboard where she turned to face her 'class' and only then looked up again.

"There is a platoon of thirty rangers based here to look after nearly two hundred scientists, archaeologists,

anthropawhatjacallums and whoever else from any one of a dozen museums or organisations.

These teams are spread out over the three hundred and eighty square kilometres of what was inner London, which makes our job damned hard."

Glasser folded her arms.

"Now, the platoon is headed by my lieutenant, but I didn't get my orders to babysit you seven from him.

In case you didn't know it, this platoon is one of three similar platoons that make up a company. That company is commanded by a captain, but I didn't get my orders from him either.

Nor the major above him or the colonel above her etc. No. My orders came from the commanding officer of the whole damn Ranger force, personally, by video link...

and I hadn't even done my fucking hair."

There was a collective chuckle from the seven 'students.' Sergeant Glasser waited for it to subside.

"So, ladies and gentlemen, you'll excuse me if I don't care about your 'training' or your jobs," She looked directly at Ellie then. "Or your title.

I'm going to treat you all as if you are innocent babes who can barely wipe their own arses. That way, MY arse is covered when..." She held up a hand.

"I'm sorry IF any of you get yourselves killed out there."

Once again, she paused to let her words sink in, and Bodil wondered if this was the way she handled the rangers; kind of 'intimidation by bullet point'. The pause ended. Glasser stared at Victor.

"Any questions?"

Victor slowly shook his head from side to side.

Sergeant Glasser resumed her place perched on the corner of the vacant desk.

"London Ticks. These giant insects are over fifty centimetres wide across the carapace and are found in woodland, caves, and anywhere that is dank and dark.

Which is pretty much everywhere in the greater London basin. They are slow but persistent when they attack..."

Two hours later, Bodil filed out of the classroom with the others, having learned far too much about what was likely going to kill her the first time she set foot outside of the base.

She needed a drink.

Apparently, she wasn't the only one who felt that way and all seven members of the expedition made their way to one of the 'Eastern Slope: Accommodation and Recreation' area's several bars.

After they had collected their drinks and pushed two tables together to accommodate the whole team, Bodil and the other three academics squeezed in together against the wall.

Ellie, Victor and Gregor were still at the bar. Bodil glanced over and noticed they had not been joined by the others. Ellie, dwarfed on either side by the two men, was doing the talking.

Victor and Gregor were doing the listening.

Whatever Ellie was saying was drowned out by the chatter of the patrons, but when it came to an end, Gregor efficiently encouraged a clear path to where Bodil and the others waited.

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