“You told me,” hissed the politician to the scientist in charge, “to ask it something theoretical. “What would happen if Atlantis hadn’t fallen?” seemed theoretical enough to me!”
“I agree, Minister,” the Director of the Institute replied. “I was expecting a few minutes of processing and a printout of predictions, not this…” He glanced over at the new arrivals. “As they are representatives of foreign governments, isn’t this a diplomatic matter?”
“Probably. In fact, I’m certain of it, but I don’t know how I’m going to tell the Foreign Minister that he and his Department have to talk to a bunch of people whose countries don’t exist in our world and who were abducted by your machine.”
The three men who were the focal point of the room had nothing in common except that they had been plucked from their normal lives a few moments ago and deposited by unknown means in this strange place. They certainly didn’t share a language. One of them had already classified everyone in the room, besides himself, as a barbarian. The shortest, darkest one was thinking in terms of trade agreements because all these strangers obviously made things, things were goods and goods meant trade. The biggest one, the blond, found it interesting that no-one in a uniform was in evidence, yet, as he surveyed the room, checking the exits.
One of the cluster of students, brought in to provide a suitable backdrop for the Minister’s photo opportunity looked at the refreshment table, the unexpected arrivals and back again. “Right,” she said firmly, “anybody else here work hospitality to pay the bills? I figure offering these people food and drink is a good place to start.”
Ten minutes later when she offered the Minister and the Director coffee from her tray the Director asked, “Miss Coussens, forgive me, but what are you doing?”
“Offering hospitality, sir, and finding out more about our new arrivals,” she added milk to his coffee for him. “They all know what coffee is and they’ll eat the chicken, turkey and vegetarian wraps. Oh, and I think the big, blond one asked if there was any beer.”