The Curve of The Earth
Petrovitch ran his hand over his chest, where the turbine spun quietly. “I’ll deal with that if it happens, but I’ll subvert him before then. He already thinks his boss might be lying to him, or at least not telling him the whole truth. In his binary mind, that probably counts as the same thing. Authority has to be trusted completely, at all times. That’s a basic tenet of Reconstruction.”
    “Unless he wants there to be a good reason why he hasn’t been told about the electromagnetic storm.”
    “And the crater.”
    “That too.” Marcus picked some stray hairs from out ofthe teeth of his comb, then slipped it into his back pocket. “Some people’s capacity for self-delusion is prodigious.”
    “What am I going to do if I can’t find her?” Petrovitch drank some more coffee and looked pensive.
    “Some self-delusions are more inspiring than others. We call that kind hope.” Marcus got up from his seat and collected the carpet bag being offered to him by a pink-haired woman with stripy tights. It was heavy with promise, and when he dumped it on the table in front of Petrovitch, it fell with a solid thump.
    “Is that everything?”
    “It’s what you ordered. If you’ve forgotten anything now, then it’s a little late.”
    Petrovitch pulled the bag into his lap and unzipped it. A flimsy piece of paper shoved on top popped out: he unfolded it and saw his inventory printed out and each item checked as it was packed.
    “Where’s the…?”
    “Here.” Marcus passed him the tags that would mark the bag as a diplomatic pouch. “I don’t like it, though.”
    “This is the first time we’ve ever done this, while everybody else does it all the time – and we can prove it. Anyway,” said Petrovitch, tying the tags on to the handle, “it’s for all the best reasons.”
    “Just make sure you don’t, you know.”
    “What? Blow stuff up?”
    “It’d be good if you at least tried to behave.” He grew serious. “We all want Lucy back, but you need to remember that you’re part of the Freezone collective now.”
    “Yeah, I know all this.”
    “It’s my job to remind you.”
    “Thank you, Mr Ambassador.”
    “Don’t get shirty with me, Sam. We have protocols. We varythem only in exceptional circumstances, so don’t think they don’t apply to you.”
    “Marcus, this is Lucy we’re talking about.”
    “I’m painfully aware of that. I don’t want you going rogue, you hear me? I want you back as well as Lucy. Michael will keep a close eye on you to make sure you stick to the few rules we have.”
    “I’m sure he will.” Petrovitch chewed at his lip and counted to ten. Slowly. “Marcus, I know it’s your job. I’m not going to screw up, okay? No declaring war on anyone unless it’s absolutely necessary.”
    “Or at all. If you want to go off the reservation, talk to Michael, and we’ll have an ad-hoc. And you’ll behave yourself if the decision goes against you.”
    “It was easier when I could do what I wanted.”
    “You mean when you were always a hair’s breadth away from getting yourself killed.” Marcus sat down next to him, favouring his old bones. “I know how impulsive you are. Hell, I’ve seen the way you play chess, all or nothing. You need to take it slowly. Your usual way of doing things isn’t going to work.”
    Petrovitch screwed the inventory up and threw it into a bin, then zipped up the bag. He locked it with his thumbprint and put it on the floor beside him.
    “I’ll do my best,” he finally said.
    “The Freezone’s bigger than you, Sam.”
    “It’s always been bigger than me. If,” said Petrovitch, struggling for the words, “if it’s a choice between me following the rules and me getting Lucy back, you know which way it’s going to go, don’t you?”
    “I know. Everybody knows. Which is why we’re all holding our breath, waiting to see what happens.”
    “Yeah.” Petrovitch laughed. “It’ll be fine.”
    “Time you were off, Sam.”

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