tania woke up, a little groggy from the drugs her abductors had overpowered her with.
she expected to find herself bound in a dark cell, but instead she was in a huge canopied bed in a large ornate bedroom, of the kind she had only seen on shows or read about in books, and which she would have thought no longer existed.
since she was not tied up, she got up and went over to the big oak door. it was locked.
she then went to the large floor to ceiling windows, which turned out not to be locked, but which opened to a sheer drop of over a hundred feet, to a surging and foamy sea. a number of large rocks jutted up from the turbulent water.
it seemed to be late in the day and getting dark.
she left one of the windows open and went back to the bed and lay down on it. soon the sound of the crashing waves lulled her back to sleep. she began to dream.
she was walking along a dark beach. a huge rocky shape loomed across the water. gibraltar? the only light came from a small restaurant about a hundred yards up the beach. its front door opened on a narrow street right above the water. the high tide had reached the steps leading from the beach up to the door so she had to leave the beach and walk down the wooden street.
two women were standing outside the front door. tania recognized them as medusa and dulcinea, two women who used to hang outside headquarters singing and selling apples, before the big cleanup. medusa was bald with a tattooed head, dulcinea had long brown hair down to her knees, both wore nurses uniforms and caps.
"are you here for the jobs?" medusa asked tania,
"the serving wench and the scullery maid."
"no." tania saw larry through the lighted doorway. "if you'll excuse me."
larry didn't seem surprised to see her. he was wearing a spotless waiter's uniform.
behind him gabriele d'annunzio, in a maitre d's uniform, was pacing nervously back and forth in the little main room of the restaurant,occasionally stopping to fan the air or himself with a large ornately printed menu.
"what are we to do? what are we to do?" he kept repeating.
"we have a problem," larry explained to tania.
"oh?" tania answered.
"or at least signor d'annunzio thinks we have a problem. we are expecting parties from the erasmus darwinists and the charles darwinists. they have scheduled a big sitdown to resolve their differences.
"aren't all sitdowns big sitdowns?" tania asked.
"absolutely. the problem is that we previously scheduled a celebratory dinner for a group of ex-popes and some friends and hangers-on. they are due any minute."
"i don't like popes."
"they're ex-popes. anyway the signor feels that the one or both of the darwinist parties might take it a sign of disrespect to have the popes in the same room."
"what am i to do? all the responsibility falls on me?" d'annunzio cried.
there was a small staircase behind larry and they heard footsteps coming down it.
"what's going on here?" mr alfred russel wallace emerged from the stairs fastening his tie.
"popes and darwinists. both coming, " said larry.
"i think i have a solution." said tania.
"let's hear it," said mr wallace.
"when i was walking down the beach i noticed a big raft washed up on shore. you can have the popes and their friends served on board the raft. tell them it was specially arranged for their celebration. a moonlight cruise - they'll love it."
"what an idea!" mr wallace clapped his hands. "you've saved the day, young lady."
"it still has to be implemented," d'annunzio grumbled.
"implement it, implement it. and, d'annunzio, i congratulate you on your new serving maid. an excellent choice."
"i'm not a serving maid," said tania.
"you are now," larry told her. he nodded toward the kitchen. "i'll show you around."
in the kitchen the cooks, catherine de medici and sancho panza, were busy over the stoves preparing the spicy artichoke and avocado dinners for the expected parties. the two busboys, st bartholomew and st james, were sitting in the back doorway looking out into the desert.
"you two," larry addressed the busboys, "go down to the beach and secure that raft. sweep it off . then get a couple of torches and report back to me."
"we are busboys, not torchbearers," st bartholomew grumbled.
"just do it," larry answered. he shook his head at tania. "how are things going here?" he asked the cooks.
"great," sancho panza answered without looking up.
tania went back into the dining room. two patrons had arrived apparently unexpectedly - florence nightingale and the empress eugenie.
"we are here to mediate the dispute between the darwininsts." the empress was explaining to mr wallace and d'annunzio. "were you not told?"
"told or not told,we bid you both welcome," mr wallace replied smoothly.
"we expect the best table," said the empress.
there were only three tables, as d'annunzio indicated with a sweep of his arm.
"we might as well take the middle table," said florence nightingale.
d'annunzio pointed to tania. "get the ladies glasses of water, please."
"she's not in uniform." the empress said. "shouldn't the waitress be in uniform?"
tania opened her mouth to speak but nothing came out.
she woke up on top of the canopied bed. little olivia, from the rooftop, was staring down at her.
"why am i here?" tania asked her.
"that wasn't a very intelligent question," the little girl replied. "why are any of us here?"
"that's a positively stupid question," tania answered. 'i want to know why i - i - am here."
"those who know you are here know why you are here," olivia said. "those who don't know you are here - ". she spread her hands. " - do they even wonder where you are? i wonder."
'i'd rather go back to sleep and dream than listen to this nonsense. yes, i think there are those who wonder where i am. don't you realize who i am?"
olivia just smiled at her.
"are you darwinists?" tania asked.
olivia laughed "are you serious?"
"am i going to be interrogated?" tania asked.
"nobody is going to ask you anything. you will be told things."
the door opened and a tall new model robot - the tallest robot tania had ever seen - came in. he looked around the room and seeing a picture on the wall, went over and straightened it out. the picture portrayed a stormy ocean scene. a raft with sixty-eight survivors was taking on water and many of the survivors were arguing furiously and gesticulating, other were staring listlessly at the rising foam. tania got up and walked over behind the robot and looked closely at the picture.