“I certainly have,” replied a second voice – Flowers’s, presumably. “Arranging the logistics of the move is pure aggravation, but a sensible precaution given what we’ve been hearing.” This second voice was higher-pitched, distorted to almost a mosquito-whine. The listener could barely make out the words, but the words were all that existed in the listener’s world – there was neither light nor shade, neither warmth nor cold, and – up till now, at least – there had been no sound. Memories stirred lazily in the depths of the listener’s mind, like fish in the depths of a frozen pond. It had not always been like this. The listener struggled to recall what exactly it had been like, but the effort was exhausting. The first voice was speaking again.
“Have you done the ten o’clocks yet?”
“I was Just about to do them, sir. Would you care to see?”
“Yes, I would, actually. Lead the way.”
The voices fell silent, leaving the listener alone to wonder if it had imagined them.
“I wonder how long this heat wave is going to continue,” grumbled Prada from her post by the front window, “it wouldn’t be so bad if we had air-con or something.”
A couple of hours had passed and the mysterious telephone truck was still parked, apparently deserted.
Behind her, in the living room, Othello stood up and stretched, a few joints popping as he did so.
“Seen anything yet?” asked Box, who was indulging his sweet tooth with the jar of jelly beans from the kitchen.
“Nothing that jumps out at me,” sighed Othello.
“Me neither,” added Mercury, sitting back from his computer and rubbing his eyes. “Let’s take a break and come back to this, my head’s buzzing.”
“I could take over if you like,” offered Box. Mercury gave him a be-my-guest wave and wandered into the kitchen in search of a cooling drink.
Remembering not to stand in full view, Harold wandered over to where India was watching the back garden.
“I could watch for a while if you need a break.” He said. India favoured him with a killer stare, but then seemed to reconsider and, mumbling her thanks, walked after Mercury.
“I think she’s thawing,” Harold whispered gleefully to Teatime. “She didn’t even insult me that time.”
“I think the final hours of the universe will be but a distant memory before she ever warms to you, old button.” Teatime replied
“I live in hope.” Grinned Harold.
“Then it’s a jolly good thing you’re immortal.” Was the monkey’s dry response.
The voices were back, closer and louder this time. With an effort, the listener dragged together the shreds of its diffuse attention and tried to focus on what was being said.
“…pioneering work was first done in Scotland,” the one the listener dimly remembered was called Flowers was saying.
“Oh, yes,” agreed the first, as yet, unnamed voice, “Shark-something and Webber, or something, wasn’t it?”
“Sharkey and Webster, sir, yes.” replied Flowers. “Brilliant researchers, both, but sadly not given the credit they deserve. It was tragic the way they were killed before they could publish, truly… Oh hello.”
“What is it?”
The voices were very close now; the listener did not have to struggle at all to make them out.
“The reading’s are a bit high on this one.” Flowers explained, “Could you just hold on to this for me, while I change the settings? We don’t want to go the way of Shark-something and Webber, now do we?”
The two voices laughed together quietly for a moment. There followed a rapid series of clicks and suddenly the listener forgot itself once again.