Bodil's increasingly voracious tirade was interrupted by a loud snort from the bar and both women turned their heads.
"Emily?" Alicia asked, over politely. "Do you have something to contribute?"
'Emily' turned as red as her dress.
"Um, no... Sorry."
"Then please be qui..."
"And it's Ellie. Not Emily. We agreed."
"Whatever you like Ellie but please be quiet."
Still blushing, Ellie, formally Emily, concentrated on the bottle of beer she held. Alicia turned her attention back to Bodil.
"Thank you, professor Hill. I am to assume, then, that your dislike of the artist's representation of Joe Spivey is due to historical accuracy over artistic interpretation?"
"Not quite, no."
"There is that, of course. But I have already told Mr Miller-Williams etc. that he is free to interpret his subject however he likes."
Alicia Troy held her perfect smile.
"What concerns me most is the latest apparent attempt by the Troy family to muddy, besmirch or even downright hide historical facts from society in general and the academic world in particular."
The perfect smile flickered almost imperceptibly, but just enough to be noticed by a trained observer like Bodil.
Just enough, in fact, so that a long held personal suspicion of hers was given enough credence for her to push ahead, despite the enormity of the accusation. Bodil's heart raced.
"It is well known amongst those historians who have an interest in such things that, over the intervening centuries,
countless documents and artefacts have been bought up by the Troys for inclusion in their 'Archive'.
It is also well known that many of the items bought up for the Archive never saw the light of day again and that serious researchers were frequently denied access to others.
Finally, three hundred and something years ago the Archive was closed for good and any requests at all from researchers went unanswered."
Slowly, the smile had faded from Alicia's features and those beautiful eyes tried desperately to hide the flickering anger building behind them.
Bodil was less successful at hiding her emotions and her own brilliant blue eyes blazed as she continued.
"And now this travesty we have outside. Why, Miss Troy? Why does the Troy dynasty want to turn an unsavoury minor character from The History into some kind of people's hero?"
The silence that followed was the kind of silence that so often led to sudden hair-tugging, nail-clawing violence.
The two women glared at each other like two hissing felines and the silence stretched into long seconds.
Alicia and Bodil continued to stare at each other but the slight shoulder tremors and the lips pressing ever more tightly together to vainly stifle what could not be stifled had broken
the tension entirely. What finally tipped them over into laughter was Ellie's earnestly whispered "Sorry." From the bar.
On the other side of the door to the lounge, Derek raised an eyebrow.
Ellie watched, scowling, as the two seated women slowly recovered. It wasn't her fault. Pastry gave her gas.
Hysterics over, Bodil and Alicia looked at each other. It was Alicia who spoke.
"Professor? Do you know how many people there are in the world just now?"
Bodil thought about the question. It wasn't something she had ever considered. Why was this woman asking? She shook her head.
"No, no idea."
"Just over two hundred million." The puzzled look on the professor's face prompted her to continue. "There used to be billions.
Two hundred million is almost nothing for the population of a whole world." Alicia leaned forward. "We have no armies, no navies, no air-forces.
We have a police force of twenty six thousand world-wide.
Of those twenty six thousand a full third are unarmed and even the other two thirds generally only have hand guns so they can protect themselves should the need arise."
Bodil continued to look puzzled but didn't try to interrupt because there was something in the former president's voice that told her that what she was saying was very important.
So she listened as Alicia Troy went on.
"The only thing we have that is anything like an army is the Ranger force which exists only to find and destroy the few remaining dangerous mutants. We now have only a thousand Rangers.
One thousand men and women who have any kind of experience with any weapon more powerful than an automatic rifle.
" She sat back against the plush leather of the sofa and looked hard at the woman opposite. "So tell me, Professor. You're an educated woman.
Should the need ever arise, how do we defend ourselves against a trained, determined, heavily armed and experienced enemy force?"
Bodil was at a loss. What had any of this to do with pre-Sirtuin history or... well, anything in fact?
"I... I don't know. I don't see how we could. In fact... no, we couldn't."
Alicia pointed a manicured finger at the professor.
"Exactly. And that is why we need the late, unlamented Joe Spivey to step forward and be a hero.
" She leaned forward again, took the professor's hands in her own and looked earnestly into her eyes. "Professor. I can't tell you anymore. But now, right now history is being made.
" She squeezed Bodil's hands." How that history turns out depends on you letting that old dog Spivey have his day." Alicia let go of Bodil's hands and again sat back, watching her.
At the bar, Ellie watched too. A silent thin-lipped Ellie who watched the professor intently.
Bodil was confused. What was this? Was this some stunt to get her to just shut up and let the Troys get away with... whatever it was they were up to? What enemy? There were no 'enemies'.
There hadn't been since the Great Clone War in the time of the Grand Mother.
"Why should I trust you, Miss Troy? Why should I even believe a word of what you've just said?"
Before replying, Alicia glanced at her friend at the bar. Not even Bodil noticed the tiniest of movements on the blond woman's face.
"Professor. There is no great conspiracy. The archive was closed by my mother for personal reasons..."
"Then re-open it. The Grand Mother has been gone for..."
"I can't. I don't have the authority." Alicia saw the defiance building up again behind the professor's untrusting gaze. She glanced at Ellie again before leaning forward towards Professor Hill.
"Come back with us. You can visit the archive, see whatever you want. Do that for me and in a few days... In a few days, you can see for yourself why tonight's event is so important."
Again the two women found themselves trying to see each other's souls behind their eyes. At the bar, a beer cap lifted with a hiss and the spell was broken. Bodil nodded.
"Very well. I could never forgive myself if I refused the chance to actually see the famous Troy Archive."
Alicia smiled. Professor Hill smiled. Ellie drank beer.