Works in progress

I have several works in progress at Wattpad one of which is also included below.

 

 

G.U.T., or How Pippa Sandberg Changed the World

by

Sylvia Petter

(Cover Art by Maarit Linsbauer)

Chapter 1

Pippa Sandberg chewed the end of her HB pencil and wondered how she could change the world. She wasn’t so ambitious as to want to change the whole world, not yet, her immediate one would do for starters, and anyway, whatever she did would have to come from within the G.U.T.

The G.U.T. was the Global Union of Telecommunications that counted 200 members, a smidgeon more than the United Nations. Pippa was proud to work for the G.U.T. because it did include members such as the Principality of Waterland and the Republic of Utopia, to name just the two most radical and latest members. They weren’t considered to be real countries, but then, what was, these days?

Pippa knew all about countries, real or not in traditional terms, because her job at the G.U.T. was to find codes for each and every one of them, and considering that the alphabet had only 26 letters, well, you do the sums.

It had not always been like that though. When Pippa first came to work at the G.U.T. ten odd, very odd, months ago, her job was to fish radio stations out of the water and put them back onto the coastlines of a large map of the world.

Her colleagues then included a noble Dutchman who had forgotten how to fly and an Islander washed onto the shores of the G.U.T. after having lost his way looking for seashells. In fact, that was the name of his homeland, although Pippa thought, the spelling was wonky.

When Pippa took breaks from her fishing work she would wander about the catacombed halls of the building she worked in at the G.U.T. There she came across bronze figures, busts, of men and women who also had wanted to change the world, and some of them, most of them, even had.

On one such walk, Pippa came across the bronze bust of Alexander Graham Bell. “The inventor of the telegraph”, the brass plaque said where his heart would have been had more than his head and neck been kept. Pippa traced her finger over the plaque.

“That tickles,” said a soft deep voice.

Pippa pulled back her hand and hid it behind her back. “Who said that?” she said, never one to just leave things alone.

“Alex,” the bust said and winked with its left eye.

Pippa leaned forward and with her other hand tentatively touched the eyelid that had just moved.

“You’re tickling again,” Alex said. “My wife used to do that.”

“Your wife?”

“It was her way of thanking me.”

“Whatever for?”

“The machine I made for her, of course.” Alex seemed to be snorting.

“The telegraph?” Pippa’s voice rose incredulously.

“Don’t be silly. I made a machine for her so that she could hear, I mean feel, I mean – well, it’s all very complicated.”

“But the telegraph?”

“Oh that only came later. It’s not really what I started out with.” The bust sighed. “That part of it all got me stuck here in bronze, with the rest of my body missing.”

“Well, I guess the head’s the main thing,” Pippa said.

“Not so,” said the bust of Alexander Graham Bell. “The head’s not much use without the heart.”

Pippa was about to say that the bust didn’t have a heart and that anyway, he’d been dead a long while when all of a sudden all life left the bronze bust and when she stroked the plaque again there was not the slightest ripple of a reaction.

Pippa shrugged and turned to go back to her office to continue her fishing for radio stations when she saw an old Indian man – he was wearing a turban – standing in the shadows by the lifts. This place is spooky, she thought.

The Indian man came towards her. “No, it’s not,” he said. “There’s just a lot going on.”

“You read my mind?”

“The next step,” the old man said as he came forward and stretched out his hand.

Pippa hesitated, took it and shook it and the old man shook and then they both laughed as they let go at the same time.

“I heard you speaking to Mr. Bell,” the old man said softly as if having discovered a secret of Pippa’s. “And I heard him speaking to you.”

So it was true, Pippa thought. I wasn’t imagining it. “Do you know him?” she said.

“Of course. We speak all the time. He worries about his heart being lost.”

This is so silly, Pippa thought. This is the G.U.T., an eminent technological institution, and we’re talking about talking to busts.

“It’s not silly at all,” said the old man. “Let me introduce myself. I am The Saint.”

“You’re a saint?” Pippa blinked and felt her head spin.

“Not at all,” the old man said with a chuckle. “My name is Theodor Saint, The Saint for short.”

Pippa laughed. “I’m Philippa Sandberg, Pippa for short. Nice to meet you.” This was the craziest thing that had happened to her all morning, well at least since her conversation with Alex Bell.

“If you like, I’ll tell you about where you’ve just been.”

Pippa raised her left eyebrow. She was good at that having practised it ever since an eyebrow had been peaked at her by a prefect at school. “In front of a bust?”

“My dear, you slipped into telepathy for a few moments, the next village on from telecommunications, McLuhan and beyond, if that means anything.”

Pippa blinked and glanced at her watch.

“Ah, I see that you must be getting on,” The Saint said. “Come by my office some time and I’ll tell you more.”

Pippa knew she had to get back to her drowning radio stations, but she was curious about what Theodor Saint had to say. “I’ll do that. Where … ?”

But the old man had already disappeared down the hall, leaving Pippa halfway between the past and the future.

990 words

Chapter 2

The offices of the G.U.T. were arranged in a high tower with ivory friezes about each of the many windows. From the outside it looked like a tall, engraved, upside-down tusk with its tip disappearing into a vast green lawn. Underground corridors ran off from the Tusk’s tip to surface again in a long, low narrow building called the Tube, and in another facing the tramline called the Shoebox. There was grass all around the three buildings and sheep would graze there, that is whenever they made it across the highway of cars in one piece of herd. Only the tram was well behaved enough to let them all pass as one. The General Services of the G.U.T. used the sheep as an outsourcing alternative to hiring gardeners, and it was whispered that the spring lambs sometimes graced the tables of the upper echelons, but no one spoke openly about that.

The Shoebox, which was the farthest G.U.T. building and faced the United Nations, was made of glass with cardboard on the outside that automatically came down in sheets whenever the sun tried too hard to peek in.

Theodor Saint’s office was tucked away in the back of the corridor leading to the Shoebox and looked out onto a corner of the sheep-kempt lawn.

Pippa had yet to find the old man, which was not going to be easy, for one thing since the office that she shared was located on the 10th floor of the Tusk.

The marrow of the Tusk had been replaced by a series of lifts, four in all. That was where people met, but only five or six at a time if at all that many, for they had to run round in circles on each floor to catch a lift that was free, and that stopped at all, since the lifts liked to go up and down for no apparent reason except that it was coffee or lunch break time.

The people who worked in the Tusk rarely ventured along the corridors of the Tube, or as far as the Shoebox, that is not until a large cafeteria was built there in the interests of communication and as part of a project by the same General Services that had outsourced the garden work to the sheep.

Coffee breaks were never long enough to allow excursions to the cafeteria and at lunch time all anyone wanted was to get out of the G.U.T. and do errands, jog to the neighbouring botanical gardens, or just lunch in one of the many small bistros that abounded in the area.

The bronze busts of the men and women who had wanted to change their immediate world were located in the catacombed tip of the Tusk, to one side of a rolling staircase that led out to a heliport for important visitors.

In the summer, some years, the heliport was also used for outside parties. It was at these parties that all the people from all the G.U.T.’s buildings were able to get together socially, some for the first time. And it was at one of these parties that Pippa Sandberg met the tall angular Head of General Services, Dr Humid van Arroz.

She didn’t actually meet him as such, she tripped over his size 12 shoe just as he was moving one leg to balance and demonstrate his latest project for corralling the sheep, some of which had been straying from the lawns of the G.U.T. to block the doors of the neighbouring post office. One might say that his shoe met with hers and she fell to his feet.

802 words

Chapter 3

Dr Humid van Arroz bent over and with two long fingers drew Pippa up by the left shoulder. Pippa winced. His helping half hand hurt more than the ground that had grazed her nose.

“Are you hurt?” Dr van Arroz said, his black eyes daring her to say “Yes”.

“I am a bit,” Pippa said, brushing her hands over her knee-length pants skirt. “Oh,” she added as a ladder ran down her red stockinged leg. “And my tights are ruined.”

Dr van Arroz frowned just as Pippa felt a pull on her arm and heard a “Shhh” in her ear. “Just say it’s all right,” her colleague Josinta hissed. Pippa tried to pull away but not before Josinta had pushed in front of her and smilingly said to Dr Humid van Arroz, “She’s all right,” to which Dr van Arroz nodded in smug satisfaction.

As Josinta tugged Pippa away, Pippa said: “But I’m not all right and I wanted to say so.”

“You can’t do that. Don’t you know what he does to the sheep?”

Pippa shook her head, now following Josinta meekly.

“He steals their lambs. He’d have you apologizing for having tripped.”

“I wouldn’t. It was his fault.”

“That’s the point. He’d make you say it was yours, sooner or later.”

Pippa glanced back and saw Dr van Arroz looking at her with slits in his eyes before turning away to continue with the outline of his project.

“I’ll make him apologize,” Pippa said.

“Maybe one day, but not now,” Josinta said. “Let’s get something to drink.”

“And my tights?”

“Too many people for anyone to notice.”

Pippa soon forgot about the graze on her nose, the pain in her shoulder and the ruined tights for she had just seen her Islander colleague and the noble Dutchman nearby.

The latter was standing next to a plump bearded man who was saying the alphabet in Japanese, fact Pippa was made aware of by the noble Dutchman who whispered in her ear, “That’s the alphabet in Japanese. Sasha knows ten languages and wants to learn all the languages of the G.U.T.’s members, if it’s the last thing he does.”

“All 200 of them? He can’t.”

“Oh, he will,” said the noble Dutchman. “They always double or triple up, so it’s never really 200.”

Sasha nodded at Pippa and reached out to her a glass of white bubbly, which she took. “Nastrovja,” he said. “Bottoms up,” whispered the noble Dutchman.

Pippa grinned and emptied the glass in one go. Then, all of a sudden, she started to feel dizzy. The heliport seemed to be spinning around and around, faster and faster. Pippa felt like a top, spinning into whiteness, and then with a thunk she disappeared, at least in her head.

460 words

Chapter 4

Pippa came to in the basement of the Tusk, just below the bust of Samuel Morse. Her pants skirt was soaked. “I’m all wet,” she said aloud and looked about her.

“Only some bubbly. It’s not the Titanic,” a voice said.

Pippa looked up and saw the bronze bust of Samuel Morse shaking his head slowly. “But too much of that bubbly stuff can lead to disaster.”

Somehow Pippa wasn’t too surprised to hear the bust talking. I’ve already met Alex Bell, she thought, and here’s Sam Morse now.

She remembered how she’d practised the code, tapping out dah-dah-dah-dit-dit-dit-dah-dah-dah on a little tapper her father had set up in the garage where she and the other kids in the secret Kids’ Code Club had played at spies and robbers.

So this was the great Sam. Pippa stood up so that she could look him straight in the eye. “Your code didn’t help the Titanic much,” she said.

“Did so,” the bust sulked. “Would have helped more if they hadn’t been celebrating on that other ship. What’s its name now?”

“The Concordia?”

“Can’t remember. That might be it. Anyway, celebrating they were, with the bubbly. The same stuff you’ve obviously been drinking by the look of you.”

Pippa straightened her skirt and tried to pull it down a bit to cover the top of the ladder in her tights.

But the bust was oblivious. “The watch fell asleep and didn’t hear the SOS.” The bust sighed. “It always takes two in communications. Same thing today. They’ve got all those plugs, but don’t realize that there aren’t any sockets in the desert.”

“What are you talking about?” Pippa said. “Socks in the desert?”

“Sockets, girl. Sockets. This is the G.U.T. They make plugs, don’t they? Or the make them work.”

“Er …”

“Well, they forgot the sockets, didn’t they?” The bust sighed again. “I suppose they’re working on it.”

Pippa shook her head and thought to herself that old Sam Morse must also have had a swig of the white bubbly.

“No, he hasn’t. And he’s quite right about the sockets,” a familiar voice said. “But I cannot stop now. That’s another thing I’ll tell you about when you come to my office.”

Pippa gaped and saw the old Indian man scurry down the corridor, “Wait,” she called.

“Can’t stop now,” he called back and disappeared around the corner.

I’m going to have to make time and find The Saint, Pippa thought. It is all very puzzling. Maybe Josinta knows where I can find his office.

424 words

Chapter 5

Josinta Rena worked on Pippa’s floor in the Tusk. She had nothing to do with fishing for radio stations, although she knew all about them. Josinta knew about everything in the G.U.T. and was a cross between an institutional memory and a grey eminence in the area of legalese and confidential papers.

Other people in the G.U.T. were not aware of the extent of her knowledge of heavy and light detail, especially since she resembled an ageless Betty Boop without the high voice. She was also what one could call Pippa’s guardian angel, if such a thing could exist in the world of the G.U.T.

“Do you know where Theodor Saint’s office is?” Pippa asked a few days later when everyone had recovered from the heliport party. “He’s not on the phone list,” she added.

Josinta narrowed her large round eyes, which was no mean feat since they were very large and very round brown ones. “He’s not on the list,” she said curtly.

“I know that,” said Pippa. “I just said it.”

“Well, you can’t contact him then if he’s not on the list,” Josinta said and turned back to her box marked “CONFIDENTIAL” in such a way that her back blocked any curious peeks.

But Pippa wasn’t curious about what was in Josinta’s confidential box, she just wanted to know where to find The Saint.

Still with her back turned, Josinta muttered, “And I wouldn’t go looking for him if I were you.” Then she spun round, realizing that she had said just the thing to set Pippa off on her way to look for Theodor Saint, and with a sweet smile added: “He doesn’t have an office in the G.U.T. anymore.”

Pippa looked puzzled. Yes, he does, she thought. And I’ll find it. “OK,” she said. “But he used to, didn’t he?”

Josinta shuffled some of the papers on her desk and keeping her eyes down she said softly. “He used to. He had some weird theories. The G.U.T. didn’t like them.”

“Like telepathy?” Pippa said.

“How do you know?”

“I met him one day,” Pippa said and then realized that she shouldn’t say anything for the time being. Maybe later when she had found out a bit more.

“You must never let anyone know that you met him, particularly not Dr Humid van Arroz. I can’t tell you anymore. Just trust me.”

Pippa smiled at Josinta. “No worries,” she said and went back to her own office where the fishing of stations was proceeding as ever. Pippa knew that The Saint held the keys to many a mystery in the G.U.T. and she also knew that he was inclined to give her at least one or two of them.

453 words

Chapter 6

In his office on the 12th floor of the Tusk, Dr Humid van Arroz sat back in his armchair and crossed his long thin legs on his desk so that his size 12 hand-tooled shoes blocked out the door to his office. There had been something about that blonde in the pants skirt and red tights, red tights of all things, who had fallen to his feet, and that something bothered him.

He didn’t know why and had made his enquiries. She was a good worker, but she had an insatiable curiosity, and what was worse and did not at all fit in with the G.U.T. was her apparent ignorance, yes ignorance, of one of the G.U.T.’s most important precepts – respect for authority.

He had felt it, seen it in her brown eyes, just before Ms Rena had taken her under her wing. That worried him, too. Ms Josinta Rena, the keeper of the confidentials, had protected her in a way. He would have to keep an eye out for this Philippa Sandberg.

He rubbed the nails of his right hand softly over the right lapel of his jacket. He was not unknown to use charm. Yes, he would use his own brand of charm on this tousle-headed young woman who could risk disturbing his empire.

Dr Humid van Arroz’s empire had been built up carefully over years of connections – his own brand of vitamin C. He instinctively reached for the bowl of plump fresh navel oranges that he kept on a small ebony table by his desk. Still musing, he dug his fingernails into the puckered skin.

A sudden knock on the door caught him bringing his long legs down from the desk and too quickly releasing the orange.

Drat.

He hated being surprised like this. His fingers were sticky. He slipped his free hand into his inside jacket pocket and withdrew a white Swiss cotton handkerchief monogrammed with HvA; he shook it out quickly and wiped his fingers. He had just stuffed the handkerchief into his trouser pocket when the door opened.

“Excuse me,” said Theodor Saint, his teeth gleaming white in a broad smile. He was not wearing his turban and had combed greying strands of hair from one side of his head to the other, like a tiara rimming his brown dome. “Excuse me,” he said again.

“What is it, Saint?” snapped Dr van Arroz. “I have told you not to come up here to my office. If I need you, I shall come down to yours.”

Theodor Saint kept smiling, “I thought you might desire a progress report,” he said, settling into the armchair facing Dr van Arroz’s sculpted oak desk. Theodor Saint knew that van Arroz was always interested in progress, at least the sort that was in the latter’s interest.

467 words

Chapter 7

As an engineer, Dr van Arroz knew of The Saint’s work on telepathy, but had been unable to reconcile it with his own perception of scientific fact. His interest in achieving such reconciliation was the reason he allowed Theodor Saint to continue occupying, beyond the retirement age of 65, one of the outer half-underground offices of the G.U.T., that and the recognition that the old Indian was onto something.

“You may not like it, though,” said Theodor Saint, leaning back slowly. Dr van Arroz’s eyes stretched into slits. Taking this as a signal to continue, Theodor Saint formed a temple of his thumbs and fingers, as if lining van Arroz up, and said in a soft voice: “Telepathy is not just about power.”

“Indeed,” said van Arroz, his hand reaching for the unfortunate orange.

“No,” said Theodor Saint. “It also works with the heart.”

“The heart?” Dr van Arroz squeezed the orange. “In the G.U.T.? Nonsense. No such thing.” van Arroz’s fingers felt sticky as a dampness seeped beneath his fingernails.

“Those oranges will rot if you keep doing that,” Theodor Saint whispered.

Dr van Arroz sat up straight and fumbled for his handkerchief. Damn The Saint, he thought as he wiped his fingers again.

“I am already,” said Theodor Saint and then thought, but things look like changing.

“But?” Dr van Arroz’s eyes ran over The Saint’s tiara of hair and then, mesmerized by his brown dome glistening in the afternoon sunlight, added: “I got the beginning.”

“Yes,” said The Saint. “But you’re not powerful enough for the rest yet.” Nor are you pure of heart, if you even have one, he thought.

Dr van Arroz scratched his ear and craned forward slightly, the movement revealing the tiniest imbalance of a dislodged toupee. How he hated the way Theodor Saint flaunted his bald spot. “Where’s your turban,” he hissed.

The Saint smiled serenely and then chuckled. “It wouldn’t do to be recognized, would it now?”

Dr van Arroz took a deep breath and cleared his throat. “Well, where is all this progress you came to report?”

“My dear colleague,” said The Saint, “it seems that telepathy not only works for the one with the most power.” The Saint settled himself comfortably, like a cat that had just found the right position. “It also works for one who is pure of heart. Best of all,” he added, “when the two go together.”

“Harrumph,” said Dr van Arroz.

“I have no final proof yet, ” purred Theodor Saint, “but I’m getting there. And of course, to get there, I shall need a longer stay here.”

“Listen here, Saint,” said Dr van Arroz. “I gave you six months.”

“The project will need that much again,” The Saint said flatly, his smile fading.

460 words

Chapter 8

Dr van Arroz’s mind raced. Three months to take over the Personnel and Social Protection Department and turn it into Human Resources. He’d seen to it that the former Chief, Antoine Picard, had succumbed to a certain weakness for bubbly, bubbly that he, Humid van Arroz had doubly, and if he might say so, cleverly spiked.

It had been easy to take over, cut costs he’d proposed. And the time had been right. He had fired the Medical Practitioner and the Social Assistant, cut posts and heads, and Social Protection. He was just finishing off the financial side, and that regrettably was still a little behind, but budget cuts would be next, and it would not be long before General Services would also swallow up the Finance Department, and why not, even IT – he was, after all an engineer. When all was done there’d only remain a little cosmetic touch. What’s in a name?

Administrative Services, Chief of. Ad-min-is-tra-tive. He loved the way that word rasped over his tongue. It was liberating, just like his morning tongue scraping that freed the damp appendage from those annoying toxins.

As Head of Administrative Services, he would have all the power and the gift of telepathy would then come to him, home in to him. And then? Why, he could aim even higher.

He sighed and then his mouth tightened into a hyphen. He was so close, and now this.

But he needed Theodor Saint. He needed the reconciliation of the gift with his science. He had to give in on the six extra months. Damn Saint, he thought again.

Theodor Saint silently looked at van Arroz, then said in the measured intonation of a poker player before a Full House: “ Six more months. Take it or leave it.”

“Oh, very well then,” van Arroz said. “But midway through I want a detailed report. Facts. Figures. Persons. Male. Female.”

Sheep? Thought Theodor Saint as he rose from his chair as if ascending to heaven. “I shan’t come here again,” he said. “You know where to find me.” Then he left, quietly closing the door behind him.

Dr Humid van Arroz’s knuckles were white as he gripped the arms of his armchair. “So close,” he muttered. He stretched a hand towards the oranges and then pulled it back. “Damn The Saint!”

388 words

Chapter 9

Theodor Saint sat cross-legged on his desk facing the slit of window that peeped out over the lawn. He was finding it hard to concentrate. The sheep would come by soon, he thought. It was mid-Spring and they were always brought over to graze the lawns of the G.U.T. before the grass grew too high.

He had kept his composure when in Dr van Arroz’s office, had even gone to the right edge of heavy handed, and now he was plain exhausted. He closed his eyes and focussed on an imaginary dot in the middle of his mind.

He needed to talk to Princess Rejoo, his niece halfway around the world. It was for her that he had insisted on staying on in his office cum laboratory. He still needed six months to finalise a halfway decent working prototype of the Care Bracelet.

“It’s the perfect solution,” Princess had said, albeit via brain transmission to her uncle. “You must find a way to develop it. The kids can wear them on their wrists and they’ll work from wherever they are.”

“Mmmm. It would have to block certain messages. There’s a lot of junk buzzing around in one’s head, and heaven knows how we’ll handle the jokes and the hoaxes.”

“Don’t be so negative,” Princess’ voice beamed into The Saint’s mind.

It’s all for Princess and her cause, Theodor Saint thought and began chanting his mantra “Posi-ti-vize and you will devise. Positivize and you …”

Behind his closed eyelids he felt the sun being blocked out and opened his eyes in the middle of “will”.

A pair of brown eyes in a white face that peeped out of a tumble of fair curls was staring at him. Who’s that? he thought.

“It’s me, Mr Saint, Pippa Sandberg.”

She heard me?

“Of course, I heard you,” Pippa said. “I’ve been looking everywhere for your office. Luckily the sheep are back.”

The sheep?

“They must like you. They all seemed to cuddle about your window. No one would even notice it.”

But then how …?

“Did I?” Pippa raised one hand to shade her eyes and peer into the darkened office. “I like sheep,” she laughed. “Can I come in?”

Theodor Saint looked about him. His turban was hanging in a dozen folds over one chair. I’m not dressed, he thought.

“Course you are,” Pippa said. “I could squeeze through the window …”

Theodor Saint unravelled his legs and got down from his desk. He knocked briskly against the window-pane as if to make sure he wasn’t imagining the young woman on the other side.

She must be right down on her knees, he thought, bottom up, protected by a herd of sheep. He began to laugh. But she’d still have to pass another test, he thought.

“What’s that?” Pippa said.

“You’re very good,” Theodor Saint said back to the window. “You seem to have the natural sensory equipment, to a certain extent.”

“Equipment for what?”

“Never mind. First find Maria Sklodowska and she’ll tell you the easiest way to get here.”

“Maria who? Where does she work?”

Theodor Saint turned from the window and smiled quietly. That’s your test, my dear, he thought to himself and then started when he heard, “Righto.”

When he turned back to the window, white fleece blocked his view. “That young woman may be here quicker than I think,” he said aloud and began winding the reams of thin white material about his head. He would have to look presentable.

584 words

Chapter 10

Pippa brushed grass from her knees and pushed through the thick flock of sheep that covered the lawn ten-deep. She had found The Saint. Now she had to find the way to his office.

Maria Thingumijig, what was her name? Skoda? Skowska? Something like that. She’d seen it before somewhere, but where? On the empty heliport Pippa stood still and closed her eyes tight. Think now. Concentrate. Where is Maria?

“Down here with us.” The words entered her mind. Down? She looked up at the top of the Tusk and then down its ivory length. The catacombs. Of course. She’s a bust. Pippa jumped in the air and ran for the side entrance of the Tusk, singing at the top of her voice “Mar-i-a, Mar-i-a.”

The head and shoulders of Maria Sklodowska-Curie were mounted on marble at the very end of the corridor, no doubt because she was larger than life. It wouldn’t do to eclipse the likes of Marconi and Tesla, Sam Morse and Alex Bell, Pippa thought.

“Men!” said Marie Curie. “Can’t live with them, can’t live without them.”

Pippa stepped closer to the bust. “They made life tough for you?” she said, imagining a young woman in a white-long sleeved blouse, a long grey serge skirt, and her tousled hair breaking out from the decorum of a fin-de-siècle bun. The woman was running in circles behind men in lab coats and top hats. The circular movement made it look as if young Marie was trying to catch one while being pursued by the others, round and around.

“I was not trying to catch. I only wanted the recognition due to me. It was they trying to catch up with me, but what they didn’t understand was that for a woman there’s life beyond science.”

“And did they catch up?”

“My dear, you are much better placed than me to judge that. And I did live for my science.”

Pippa raised one eyebrow.

“All right, I had my loves,” Marie said. “But always through my work, for my work,” she added hastily.

Pippa’s mind read some tears, and a garbled image of a very young woman with a broken heart, but it was soon swept away with the flourish of a lab-coat. “And you did get the recognition,” Pippa said softly.

“Thanks to a man who recognised that is was my work and not just Pierre’s.”

“Things haven’t changed,” Pippa said. “I guess you still need connections.”

“Alas,” said Marie Curie, “but the lack of should not stop you. Mark my words, the day will come when there will be true transparency,” Maria said cryptically.

“Speaking of which,” Pippa said, suddenly remembering The Saint, “How can I find Theodor Saint’s office?”

“Ah, the good Theodor. He’s in a bit of a quandary, you know.”

“He is?”

“I shouldn’t spill the – what are those things?”

“Beans?” Pippa said.

Marie ignored her and pursed her lips, then let them soften. “Theodor Saint is a scientist; and a scientist in his laboratory is not a mere technician: he is also a child confronting natural phenomena that impress him as though they were fairy tales.”

“Yes, but where is his – laboratory,” Pippa said.

Marie Curie furrowed her brow. “It’s a bit of a maze, this place, isn’t it? And they keep moving me and the others about. Always renovating. They’re even putting music into the toilets down the way.”

“Please. The way to The Saint.”

“Sorry, my dear,” Marie Curie said and continued in a teacherly tone: “North twenty metres and then SSW, then NE past the second door to the power of 32. Turn around and you should be there.”

Pippa’s head began to spin.

“And don’t go through the magnetic field.”

I can match that, Pippa thought. “You mean, follow the sheep?”

Marie Curie smiled. “I think you’ve got it,” she said.

851 words

To be continued.