"Gentlemen, this will be your final mission."
The colonel was speaking in a hoarse, punctured voice. His uniform was complete but worn, tightly pressed around his now emaciated frame. Only his bushy eyebrow continued as voluminous and unabated as before the War.
"You will be gated to what the AntDep has established was the peak moment of our civilisation. Specifically, you will be gated to what was at the time known as a supermarket, a supply depot of sorts. Larger, I guess. Take these device cards. They were just coming into use at the time, being primarily a means of payment. They have been coded with one thousand euros, which was the unit of account of the time. Sounds pretty silly if you ask me."
The colonel paused for the gale of laughter. There was no gale of laughter. There was in fact no indication the colonel actually expected one, it's just that over the years his rigid discourse had fixed itself in a certain form. This is where a gale of laughter went.
"All the items available to mankind through the means of mass production are on display there, on shelves, sorted by some criteria MathDep has not yet been able to extract. In general all items have the unitary price affixed. You will have one thousand and eight units of account on your cards. You must not select items in excess of that value. Once your selection is complete, use your card to clear it with the clerk, proceed out the door, turn left, go ninety eight yards, turn left and go through the wall between the two red bricks.
Do not attempt to run through without having been cleared. While this may seem to provide you with the benefit of selecting more items, any bulk in excess of that value will be heavy. It is unlikely you will be able to carry the load fast enough, it is certain you will be followed and exposing gating technology to humanity at this stage was rated Dan1 by TechDep.
You are timed to arrive at about nine in the morning, local time. You have roughly twelve hours to complete this part of your assignment. There are BioSup units available, access is free. The word for BioSup at the time is "lavatory". If you absolutely must have hash you will have to clear it. You are not to do so except in case of mission threatening emergency.
I can not begin to overstate the importance of this phase. You have been selected not as the seven bravest, not as the seven toughest, but as the seven smartest of the force. There will be no record of your deeds except, maybe, on some blog somewhere, but through your actions you will be the only ones to survive. Make the most of it."
The silence was awkward. Pretty much everyone had known, for weeks even, that it would likely come to this. Pretty much everyone had known who the seven would be. There weren't that many people left to begin with.
The second gate was to send them "somewhere". Somewhere, wherever that may be on the face of Earth (as they said, "Earth, not water, mostly"). Sometime, whenever that may come to be. TechDep was "pretty sure" they could limit it at least to a time after either writing or pottery were invented, "or something like that".
So what do you pick if you have a thousand "units of account" on a supermarket card and a single chance of starting life anew among the who-knows-when people of who-knows-where ?