Unlike Rainith, Geeda Lala was making the best of her enforced excursion into the past. She hadn't intended traveling so far back in time but didn't find the experience as unpleasant as her fairy companion.
'It's an adventure. I like adventures.'
'You don't like being chased by Girsin and 102 Woo.'
That was true. The youthful Geeda was peaceable, not well-versed in fighting. She'd expected to avoid pursuit by virtue of her skills in hiding herself in the past. She hadn't expected her pursuers to hire someone with Girsin's skills in historical mathematics. Even so, she remained calm.
'Fourteen Trees will look after me. She's smarter than Girsin.'
Rainith the Red sniffed. She wasn't convinced that Fourteen Trees was much good for anything. Not that Rainith minded the pursuit. Fighting was the only thing she'd really enjoyed so far. But she hadn't liked the periods of the 60s she'd been obliged to live through, and didn't find 1970 much better.
'Everyone has ridiculous clothes and they're all idiots. Even the underground magazine people are idiots.' Rainith paused, and smiled, recollecting the insults she'd aimed at the staff of Oz. 'I told them they were all dinosaurs. That'll teach them.'
'We should go to the Isle of Wight festival.'
Geeda Lala brandished a music paper. 'Isle of Wight Festival. There are a lot of bands playing.'
Rainith studied the whole-page advert.
Jimi Hendrix, Chicago, Family, The Doors, The Moody Blues, The Who, Melanie, Miles Davis, Joan Baez, The Groundhogs, Joni Mitchell, Jethro Tull, Sly & the Family Stone, Ten Years After, Procul Harum, Emerson, Lake & Palmer.
'It sounds like hell on earth.'
'We have to make the best of things. It'll be fun.'
'I'm sure it won't be. I've seen festivals on TV. You have to live in a tent in a muddy field.'
'Aren't fairies used to muddy fields?'
'We've got more sense than to live in them in tents.'
Geeda Lala laughed. 'We should go. I'll get us some money for tickets.'
Geeda had the capacity to manufacture money by dint of her mathematical skills, though Fourteen Trees had warned her against taking any action which might disturb the energy of the past, lest it alert 102 to her whereabouts.
'I'll be careful,' she said.'102 Woo won't be able to trace us.'
Rainith didn't mind if they did. 'I'd rather fight 102 Woo than go to this festival.'
'There will be a lot of music for you to review,' Geeda pointed out. 'And you're bound to hate it all. You could do a special edition of your fanzine.'
Rainith nodded. She liked the idea of a special festival edition of Fairies Hate You. The huge array of 1970s bands was bound to inspire her to new heights of loathing and disgust.
The phone rang. Though they were squatting, Geeda had managed to have it connected. She'd developed an array of practical skills during her time on Earth.
'Rainith? Yes, she's here.' Geeda passed the phone over. 'It's someone from Oz magazine.'
'Rainith? We've been talking about what you said. About us being old and out of touch. We think you might have a point. Maybe we should talk to some schoolkids. We'd like you to come and discuss it in an editorial meeting.'
Agent Glade took a seat in Mixt's huge living room. Mixt and Nakishdan regarded him with suspicion.
'Have you come here to blame us for stuff?'
'Because none of it was our fault.'
'You can't blame us if -'
Glade waved them quiet. 'Don't start that again. No one is blaming you.'
'Because none of it was our fault.'
'The Beatles store was full of flying snakes and 102 Woo. Could hardly move for enemies everywhere.'
'You should pay us more.'
'We might pay you more if you answered your phones and came to debriefing meetings like you're meant to,' said Duluth.
Martin and Nakishdan looked guilty.
'We would have got in touch soon. We just had a few things to take care of.'
Glade brushed his long hair away from his face. It was rather lank. He didn't look particularly healthy. He rarely did, these days. He might have been taken for older than thirty five. He certainly wouldn't have been taken for an employee of the intelligence service.
'Maybe that's a good thing,' thought Mixt. 'Like a disguise.' As she looked at him, she didn't know if Glade's unkempt appearance was a disguise, or just the result of him letting himself go.
'Every time you mess things up, Ms Darben and Agent Duluth blame me.'
'That doesn't seem fair,' said Nakishdan. 'After all, it's us that are incompetent.'
'Definitely,' agreed Mixt. 'You should just blame us for everything.'
'I do. But I'm meant to keep you in check, and make sure you report.' Glade looked at Mixt, whom he regarded as slightly more responsible than Nakishdan. 'So what happened at the Beatles store?'
Mixt gave a concise account of their excursion to the event, telling him about the appearance of Mathematician Girsin, 102 Woo, and the hostile flying snakes. She didn't mention Granyu, who, she had decided, was none of the Department's business. Nor did she mention Mathematician Girsin's attempt to take her on a date in Venice.
'Were there any civilian casualties?'
'Did people see the snakes?'
'No. Nakishdan suppressed everything.'
That was a lie. Granyu's companion Flavia had suppressed the events, hiding them from onlookers, but Mixt didn't want the department to know about her either. The Roman Flavia and the Ancient Briton Granyu were her affair, and she'd deal with them herself. After Mixt had finished, Agent Glade asked Nakishdan if he'd anything to add. He shook his head. Mixt offered Glade a cup of tea. He refused, but accepted her offer of beer. She walked through to the downstairs kitchen, where she put on the kettle, took beer from the fridge and gin from a cabinet. She poured herself a glass of gin while the kettle was boiling.
Mixt took tea and beer back into the living room and laid the tray on a small table.
'What's this about Mathematician Girsin taking you to Venice?'
'Nakishdan!' Mixt glared at Nakishdan accusingly.
'I couldn't help it. He forced it out of me with relentless questioning.'
'I was only gone two minutes!'
'I have almost no tolerance for relentless questioning.'
'I think you told him because you're still annoyed about it.'
'Not true. It was the questioning. I just can't stand up to it.'
Captain Lir of 102 Woo made no attempt to hide his annoyance at Mathematician Girsin.
'I understood you were to accompany us on our missions.'
'Other matters prevent me from coming with you.'
'What other matters?'
'Matters that don't concern you, Captain.'
That didn't satisfy the Captain, who was loyal to his organisation. 'You accepted employment from 102 Woo. You can't simply decide to do other things.'
'I've already helped you on your next mission. I discovered Geeda Lala's next destination. She going to be at a festival. I've told you the date and location. That's more than anyone else could have done, with 47 Jeng hiding her. And now, I'm leaving.'
Mathematician Girsin vanished from sight, leaving Captain Lir behind, very dissatisfied. When Girsin re-appeared in his hotel room in London, Deetmir, the tiny, circular, floating artificial intelligence appeared at his shoulder.
'This is foolish.'
'So you keep saying.'
'It's a mistake to annoy 102 Woo,' insisted the robot. 'You know how powerful they are.'
Girsin shrugged. 'I've already helped them and I'll help them again soon. They've got no cause to complain.'
'They'll have plenty of cause to complain if they learn that you've taken a holiday in order to romance one of their targets.'
Girsin laughed, then rummaged around in the large closet for a suit. He chose two and showed them to Deetmir.
'What do you think? Too formal?'
Mathematician Girsin wasn't quite sure of the appropriate levels of dress for what he had in mind. That could be a problem, in his line of work. Despite his great mathematical skills, and powers of moving through dimensions and simulations almost at will, he had, on occasion, arrived in very inappropriate clothing.
'What's so special about this woman Mixt anyway?'
Girsin shrugged. 'She was unusual.'
'Unusual? Well, she carries a naginata folded up beneath her coat. I suppose that's unusual, though I wouldn't say it greatly recommended her. And didn't you say she was mad?'
'She visits a therapist. That doesn't qualify as mad. Not here, anyway.'
Deetmir whirred in mild agitation. The robot was used to Girsin's occasional bouts of irrational behaviour, but counted this episode as potentially very damaging. It didn't pay to aggravate 102 Woo.
Girsin ran his fingers through his thick brown hair. He knew that it was longer than was commonly worn here, but he'd always found that women liked it.
'She lives with her boyfriend,' said Deetmir.
'What are you planning to do? Assassinate him?'
'Deetmir, now you're being ridiculous. That would hardly go down well. I'll just create a distraction.'
'Do you have to ask so many questions? Did I not once steal the entire secret scientific advances of the Dawn civilisation while simultaneously romancing their president's wife? I'm sure I can distract a boyfriend for a few days. Now stop complaining, and help me decide what to wear.'
'They're not nudging us forward fast enough. I'm not satisfied with this nudging.'
This was a frequent complaint from Rainith, one which Geeda Lala had heard many times. She dealt with it patiently.
'They're doing the best they can. It's not easy for Fourteen Trees to keep us hidden from 102 Woo.'
'Is she really trying?'
'Then why are we still stuck in 1970? I hate 1970.'
'We've moved forward a few months. That's better than nothing.'
Rainith the Red sighed. 'I'm never going to see the Sex Pistols. I'll be old before they play.'
Geeda laughed. 'We won't be stuck here for long. You don't age like humans anyway.'
The fairy grunted. It was true, fairies didn't age the same way as humans. That didn't mean she wanted to spend years in a time period she particularly disliked.
'How's the magazine?'
Rainith glanced at the copy of Oz that lay in her lap. May, 1970, Schoolkids issue.
'It's just as boring and stupid as usual.'
'Really? I thought it would be better.'
'So did I. But it isn't.'
After severe criticism from Rainith that their magazine was dated, and they were dinosaurs, the editorial board of Oz, an underground magazine, had recruited a group of schoolchildren to edit their May edition.
'I thought it would brighten things up,' said Rainith. 'But it turns out that schoolkids in 1970 were just as dull as adults. Look at this. Whole pages of small type and the same horrible psychedelic backgrounds. It's rubbish.'
Rainith had attempted to read one of the articles, a long condemnation of the school system in Britain, but had given up in disgust. 'Who cares about school? And who can concentrate on all that small typing going right to the edge of the page? I hate it.'
'Does Rupert Bear usually have such a large penis?' Geeda Lala looked at one of the cartoons.
'I don't think so. But even the cartoons are rubbish. Rupert Bear with a huge penis. Who gives a fuck? I hate 1970.'
'I'm looking forward to the festival.' Geeda Lala had acquired tickets for the Reading Festival, in August.
Rainith scowled. 'It's going to be terrible. I'm starting to suspect you don't dislike all these horrible bands as much as you should.'
'They'll make you appreciate the Sex Pistols even more when we finally get to 1975,' said Geeda, brightly.
Rainith sighed again. She supposed that that was true, but she wasn't enjoying the process.