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“Can you help me? The noise is driving me mad.”
“But you’re already mad, aren’t you?”
“Yes, you are!”
“I don’t think so.”
“Oh, for sure.”
“Your hair wants cutting.”
“What? We were talking about being mad.”
“I know, and your hair makes me mad.”
“I haven’t the slightest idea. It just does. If you knew time as well as I do… ”
“You wouldn’t waste it.”
“Not it. Him.”
“So am I.”
“Is this a riddle?”
“Yes. Have you guessed it yet?”
“No. What’s the answer?”
“I haven’t the slightest idea. And I’m still mad.”
Lost in the souk
They were laughing at me… The group on the corner.
Hardly surprising. This was about the fifth time I’d passed this way in the last twenty minutes. As nonchalant as I tried to appear, they knew just as well as I that I was hopelessly lost and simply wandering round in circles.
I’d been warned, of course: Don’t try exploring the market without a guide, you’ll get hopelessly lost, and probably robbed and beaten in some dark alleyway.
In desperation, I ducked into a shop and pleaded with the shopkeeper, “Can you help me?”
Slowly, sadly, he shook his head.
The add read: limited Offer until supplies run out. Free to the first two
dozen participants. Sam not being one to miss out on anything smacking of
free. Headed down to the listed address. When he got there the parking lot
was empty, say for a single large truck. A guy leaned out the back and
yelled: Next. Sam stepped up and guy drop a bundle of sticks on top of
him. “What with the bundle of sticks?” he yelled back. “Technically that’s
a faggot.” said the man pointing due north. Sam trudged off in the into
the gathering mist.
He set a bundle of notes down, and slid them slowly across the table top.
“It’s not enough” I said. “Nowhere near enough!”
“If you want to see your daughter alive again, you need to do a lot better than that! A lot better! You have three more days.”
The man left. He’d be back in three days, and I’d take his money, but he still wouldn’t see his daughter alive again.
No amount of money would suffice for that.
She’d been dead for a week already, and when I’d finally fleeced him for all he had.
So would he.
The following day being Monday, Billbert showed up at the Catherine L. Zane Middle School for his first day of classes in Eureka. His mother had taken an inventory of the items in his backpack, signed him into the new school, and thinking she had done enough, sent him on his way.
The bell rang and everyone hurried off in different directions except for one red headed girl in a puffy white jacket. She watched Billbert approach.
“Um. Can you help me find my homeroom class?”
She smiled with bright amber eyes. “I can do that. And so much more.”
Dozens of embassy staffers were affected: nausea, headaches, dizziness and vertigo… Some of our allies had diplomats who were likewise incapacitated. Our intelligence officers couldn’t find anything about the expats of their allies or any of their local citizens who got sick. Our intelligence director has liaised with the top intelligence officers from the other impacted states, as well as multiple covert-ops chiefs and some off-the-books white hats. According to everything we know, no one on Earth has tech that can accomplish this without being detected. The energy signatures alone would give them away. The noise must come from somewhere…
Every week, the market took inventory to see if they had enough of everything.
It also helped them to track loss due to theft or spoilage.
At first, the workers went down each aisle with a clipboard.
Then, they used tables and scanners to update a central databank.
Finally, a robot drone went around with a camera.
Sure, it was expensive, but over time it was far cheaper than the team of workers with tablets.
And it was noisy, but the manager ran it overnight and got the results first thing in the morning.
It also scared away the rats.