4 October, 2657 - London, UK
I think I’ve been had.
Yesterday I received an email from Her Majesty, Queen Victoria the Fifth granting me an audience on Monday morning, 4 October, 10 a.m. This was quite a surprise, since I hadn’t asked for an audience. I decided this was regal-speak for demanding my presence.
I was only too happy to oblige. What is it about royalty that turns Brits into doting idiots? After seventeen centuries has it been bred into our genes? Or has charisma been bred into the Royal Family? “Vickie the 5th,” as we like to call her, has absolutely no real power except the ability to charm you into doing almost anything. The Royals are careful not to abuse this power, if only so we subjects don’t become immune to it.
I showed up at Buckingham Palace, fifteen minutes early, least I be late. At exactly ten I was escorted into a parlor where her Majesty sat. Victoria the 5th bears no resemblance to her name sack. She does bear a remarkable resemblance to another ancestor--Grace Kelly. She asked me to sit and offered me tea. Here I was, Wendell Howe, the offspring of humble professors, sitting in Buckingham Palace, sipping tea with the Queen of Britain herself!
Her Majesty was telling me how much she loved orchids and would love to see more at the Royal Botanical Gardens. She asked if I would like to help? I was nodding profusely, only half comprehending what she was saying. She is so regal and captivating that you find yourself promising her anything.
At 10:15 a stubby fellow was brought in. He introduced himself to me as Dr. Arthur Sherwood, the curator of the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew here in London. Victoria suggested Sherwood take me to the gardens and explain my mission.
I found myself whisked away in a hover-limo to Kew Gardens. Sherwood gave me a short history of the Royal Botanical Gardens. Founded in 1759, Kew started out as a royal garden, but in 1840 were adopted as a national botanical garden. The Royal Botanical Gardens quickly outgrew the 300 acres at Kew, and now have gardens all over. They also have a Temporal Botanist on staff.
Uh oh. Now I knew why they needed me. Temporal Biologists, such as Temporal Botanists and Temporal Zoologists, are a thorn in the side of Temporal Anthropologists. I know we should not be that way. We have good reason, though. Things have been strained since the Temporal Botanist, Dr. Dennis Kiley, let Temporal Anthropologist, Dr. Jose Cervantes, fall off a cliff. When Kiley was asked why he didn’t try to help Cervantes, he replied “What? And drop my extinct Amazon Lily? Are you mad?”
I don’t think it was anything personal, it’s just Temporal Biologists are--well, very focused. The Institute of Time Travel gave up long ago trying to teach them to blend into a particular era like they do with Temporal Anthropologists. They are far more concerned with plants and animals, than with people. Besides, they specialize in a genome rather than a time period.
The Institute instead makes them take a Temporal Anthropologist with them to run interference with the natives in the Field. Since animals and plants are best found in remote areas, we don’t tend to run into too many people.
Still these assignments can be taxing. Temporal Botanists are so focused on finding and preserving specimens that they tend to ignore you. They talk more to their plants than they do to you. They often don’t do as you tell them, not understanding why angry natives should want to harm them, and why they are only making said natives angrier.
I suppose we should be more tolerant of Temporal Biologists. After all, they are collecting plants and animals that are extinct and no longer in the 27th century. However, they will treat the dodo they have just captured as the last dodo on earth, even when they are surrounded by the creatures. What mere Temporal Anthropologist can compete with a specimen that is “the last of its kind?”
After a brief tour of the orchid greenhouse, Dr. Sherwood introduced me to their Temporal Botanist, Dr. Lily Pinehurst. I recalled the name. I remember Dr. Karl Hornberg complaining about her. She sees Temporal Anthropologists as a pain in the nether regions who just get in her way. She apparently became a botanist because she gets along better with plants, than with people.
I stuck out my hand to shake hands with her. She just looked at it, then looked up at me. “Can you punt?” she asked.
“Erm, yes, of course,” I said, feeling confused. “They would run me out of Cambridge if I couldn’t punt.”
“Good! I need a punter. You’ll be useful.”
“Why do you need a punter?”
“Florida Everglades. It’s a swamp. Shallow water. Got lots of orchids, many now lost. We are going to bring them back.”
“The Everglades?” My heart sank. “You know, there’s a reason the Seminoles ran away into the Everglades. No one in their right mind would follow them into it. It’s full of man-eating alligators.”
“The alligators are man-eaters; they won’t eat my orchids.”
I then saw why Her Majesty had asked me to tea. Kew Gardens wanted Queen Victoria to ask me personally to go on this ordeal, knowing I couldn’t say “no” to her.
Like I said--I have been had.
For those who don’t know what punting is:
Punting at the University of Cambridge
For more on the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew:
(They really are very lovely.)
Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew official website
A short film showing Kew Gardens
Follow Kew Gardens on Twitter @Kewgardens