A short-haired woman in outlandish clothes falls from a point six inches below a ceiling, and onto a hapless bystander.
"The founding of Rome."
"We start counting 753 years after that, assuming we identify the same event as the founding of Rome, which may not be accurate, and I'm from 2011 in our years."
"I hope you can understand why I'm very very skeptical of this."
"Lemme show you something."
She pulls her smartphone out of her pocket. "Do you have these?"
"What in the name of the twelve immortals is that?"
"My phone. Please don't smash it, whatever they're trying to get through to me from my end of the portal is gonna take more than an hour to work and I'd like to have it. Would you like any numbers multiplied or to listen to some alternate universe music or anything, there are limits to what this thing can do without infrastructure."
"Yes, I want to listen to alternate-universe music. How do you even-- there's no musicians--"
"Deceptive year numbering aside we are farther along than you!" She taps her phone. Scrolls past a few things in case they're diplomatic disasters and winds up on a string quartet of Elenaor Rigby and hits play.
"...there's. A string quartet. In your rectangle."
"There is a recording of a string quartet playing this song in my rectangle."
He's quiet for a moment. He might be listening to the song. Then he says--
"So you translate the string quartet into some kind of information, and put it in the rectangle, and then the rectangle converts the information back into sound waves?"
"Yes, precisely, very good."
"That seems very useful. You could record books for people who have an easier time following things when they're heard, and lectures and plays for people who weren't there. And you could have people send talking letters instead of the normal kind, if the rectangles aren't so valuable that you want to keep yours with you."
"It's used for all those things, though conversations are usually done in real time, we can send sound long distance as it occurs. 'Phone' is short for 'telephone' and that was the name of the precursor technology behind this one, which incorporates other functions on top of that. The information can be moved - usually duplicated, not removed and transported - without the physical devices accompanying it, or it can be copied onto physical devices that are designed to be physically toted around for transfer to another device."
"The future sounds wonderful."
"It's pretty cool. Anyway. My name is Isabella Swan, pleased to meet you."
"Leo Burton. The pleasure is all mine. I work for His Majesty's Intelligence Service."
"I work for Big Apple Cognition, if we're swapping careers now. Figurehead monarchy or real monarchy?"
"The Senate currently has more power than the king but that is mostly because the king is too ill to exercise it. --I mentioned my career because it seems like I'm the sort of person you might want to make, what did you call it, first contact with."
"I'm not actually confident that an intelligence agency is the first place they would have wanted to go but they're not here and I am, so sure, I'll take it. Do you by any chance have some food, by the way, I'd been about to go get lunch and you seem to be a human organism who probably eats food I can digest."
"We can go down to the kitchens and have the cook make you something."
"I'd appreciate that. I'd offer to pay you back for it but I don't carry cash and suspect it would not at this time be valuable cross-portal unless you know a very particular sort of weird shopkeeper."
"--Okay, first rule of etiquette, don't do that."
"Exchange money for goods and services?"