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Corporate Body

The first sign of trouble was the Vrooom Vroom of a purple ute, its tyres scrunching on Petra's drive. There was a bundle wrapped in a tarpaulin in the tray. A gorilla in overalls hammered on the door. Petra opened it before it splintered.

It was Robbie, Petra's least favourite person.

He jerked a thumb at the ute. "I need to dump a body," he said. "Can I use your garage for a couple of weeks?"

Petra winced. "Does it smell?"

"Nah. It's perfectly preserved."

"When do I expect the cops?"

"You don't. It's been dead fifteen hundred years."

Petra frowned. "That doesn't make sense. How do you have a perfectly preserved body that old. Even the maggots are gone by then. All you've got is a skeleton."

"Not the way we do it. It's in suspended animation. Until he's needed again."

"Who's he?"

"England's greatest hero."

"David Beckham's still alive. Unless Posh Spice has finally got sick of him."

"Different ratings agency. This one's King Arthur."

"So what's he doing half way around the world?"

"You know he went to the Isle of Avalon. To be healed and wait for his time?"

"So I'm told"

"Problem is, Avalon was a wetland. They drained it centuries ago. So he had to be moved. It's a real problem. Not just him. Most of the hidden kings are in trouble. Suburban development, mining, freeways, caves open to tourism. Only one that's doing okay is Qin Shihuang Di, first emperor of China. He's such a nasty piece of work that they're scared to open his tomb, even now."

"Haven't they dug up his army."

"Yeah. But they're not ours. Terracotta, not real bodies. What's in the tomb, that's another story."

"Ours? Who are you working for."

"Mob called Stasis. Specialises in heroes that want to hide away for a while. Does disappearing businessmen too, who want to do a Rip van Winkle. There's even an 'away with the fairies package' where you go dancing and come back seven years later."

"So what's Arthur doing here?"

"Came in case of an invasion."

"Boat people?"

"No, way back."

"Japanese?"

"No way. Japan wasn't on the map in those days." Robbie paused. "Though maybe this guy might have known about them."

"So who?"

"French. Eighteen hundreds. He knows about them. They built forts around the coast to keep them out."

"So why's he in your truck?"

"He was down at Avalon. Near Melbourne. Where he's at is always called Avalon. That's why there's so many of them. Nice bit of swamp. There's an airport there now, but that doesn't bother him. But they're doing drainage works, so we had to shift him for a while. Then we'll put him back -- unless they find a new place for him."

"So you've got a great hero in your truck. I've never seen a great hero. What does he look like?"

Robbie grinned. "Bit of a surprise," he said.

He pulled back the tarpaulin. Petra gasped. The body was short and stocky, with a fearsome grin and mongoloid features.

"You sure you haven't mixed him up with Atilla the Hun or Genghis Khan?"

Robbie shook his head. "No way. Both accounted for. This one's for real."

"How can it be King Arthur, the great hero of the British resistance against the Angles and Saxons?"

Robbie's grin was almost as wide as the body's. "Easy. Remember this was a time of great migrations. The more adventurous you were, the further you went. If you believe the legends, the British were helpless. No Roman legions. Four hundred years of not having to fight. They even hired Saxons like Hengist and Horsa who double crossed them. So why not someone from even further away with no conflict of interest?"

"Then why didn't the legends say he was a foreigner?"

"If it was your great hero, who just saved your country, would you?"

Copyright D.W. Walker, 2009


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