We hurried out the rear exit and down the hill to Dr. Mishkin’s house, where she unbolted the front door and welcomed us in to the darkened living room. “There’s a guy looking for Maggie,” Oak told her.

“I know. He was already here. Luckily I had time to lock the doors because he tried to get in, front door, back door. Banging with his fist and calling for you. He seems a bit unhinged.”

“It’s Robbie. My ex.”

“Ah. Could you put the kettle on, dear?” Oak nodded and disappeared into the kitchen. She took my hands and guided me to an armchair. “You’re so cold.”

“I should leave. I should leave now before he comes back.”

“You’re safe here. First, we warm you up. Then we make decisions.” She wrapped her lap blanket around my shoulders.

“He wants me back.”

“Of course he does, but he can’t have you.”

“He’ll kill me next time.”

“We won’t let that happen.”

“My best friend warned me about him, but I didn’t listen.”

“Who is this best friend?”

“Allie. She has a baby. A baby and a four year old. I met her in fourth grade. I really should leave.”

“Shhh.” Dr. Mishkin sat beside me, enfolding my hands in hers. They looked like the roots of something ancient, knobby and gnarled. “Tell me about this Allie. How did you meet her in fourth grade?”

By the time Oak brought us tea—a mug for me, and a proper cup and saucer for Dr. Mishkin, because he is a quick study—I was coming out of my weird, icy paralysis. “Do you think Shirley’s okay?” I asked him.

“She’s tough, she can handle him. Plus, I just talked to Beasley. Campus security already showed. They’re communicating with the local cops. You’re safe.”

“For now. He’ll come back.”

“Good thing we have a place to go. After you finish your tea, why don’t you pack up your stuff. I have a few things to do but I’ll be ready soon.”

“You’re going too?”

“Of course. Two is better than one. Besides, I know the way.”

“The way where?” Dr. Mishkin asked.

“Oak arranged a place in Wisconsin where I can hide out.”

“A lake cabin,” Oak said. “My friend takes his family there on weekends, but they don’t go there much this time of year. His kids have too many school activities, so we can stay there as long as necessary. Oh, and we have a substitute lined up for Maggie, so you won’t be alone. Our office mate, Harriet Beasley. She normally has to commute from the cities, so she’s happy to step in.”

“She can stay here if she likes,” Dr. Mishkin said. “But I’m coming with you.”


Two hours later we were on our way. Dr. Mishkin couldn’t be dissuaded. “If it’s large enough for a family, you will have room. What’s the harm? Do you realize how boring my life has been? I am ready for an adventure. Besides, I want to meet Graham Turlow. I seem to recall his book about Iraq got good reviews.” We told Beasley about the change of plans, and the key that would be left under a brick beneath the front steps. She was happy to house sit without the extra responsibilities.

Shirley Anderson had dropped by the house with a box full of the printed documents and waved away my thanks. “Sorry to see you leave, but it’s almost worth it to see the English faculty go after each other. They’re fighting over who has to finish your courses as an unpaid overload. At each other’s throats.” She and Dr. Mishkin roared with laughter. It turned out they were old pals. Their children had attended elementary school together.

Oak cancelled his classes, claiming a family emergency, and called Graham Turlow to tell him we were changing locations, recommending he book a room at a bed-and-breakfast in Chance, the town nearest to our cabin. Since I’d lost my faraday pouch somewhere along the way, I patched together a makeshift one out of a small cardboard box, duct tape, and layers of tinfoil, inside and out. Dr. Mishkin teased me about making us all hats, but when we tested it, it worked.

On the way, we picked up a prepaid sim card to use in Oak’s phone so he could keep teaching his online Metro State courses without being tracked, and we swapped cars with the help of another of Oak’s many friends, parking Dr. Mishkin’s in a South Minneapolis garage while we drove on in a borrowed rust bucket.


We arrived at the cabin after dark. It was cold and smelled like wood smoke and mildew. Oak built a fire in the wood stove while I brought in our bags and a cooler full of food brought from home. Dr. Mishkin sat in a padded rocking chair near the stove, bundled in her winter coat while the cottage warmed up. I swept up the mouse turds on the kitchen counter and hoped she didn’t notice.

The world felt far away as night drew in around the cabin. It was an old-school summer cottage, a simple wooden structure in a clearing beside a lake with rafters made of birch logs, a chimney made out of local stone, and creaky wooden floors covered with threadbare oriental carpets. Three tiny bedrooms opened onto the main room, with its collection of rocking chairs, board games, and shelves full of tattered paperbacks. Windows on three sides could be hooked open to catch the breeze in the summer. In October they leaked cold drafts, but the wood stove put out enough heat to make up for it. As I made dinner in the kitchen (a counter with a sink, a dorm-sized refrigerator, and a vintage range) I made a note of where the knives were kept. The biggest one was good and sharp. I closed my eyes and oriented myself. Third drawer from the sink. I could find it in the dark.

As the soup began to bubble, danger seemed to recede and we spent the evening playing cards at the kitchen table and drinking hot toddies made with rum I found in one of the cupboards.

Thanks to the rum, I fell asleep quickly but woke in the dark, thirsty and unsure of the time. I peered out the window beside my bed. The moon was up and the white bark of the birch trees at the edge of the clearing was brightly illuminated against the dark of the pine trees deeper into the woods. I lay back in bed, but sleep wouldn’t come. It was strangely unsettling to not know the time, so I pushed the door open and stepped into the main room.

Moonlight streamed across the lake, a white path that glinted off ice and shivered where the water was still open. In the clearing beside the cabin two deer grazed. The larger one looked up, alert, ears twitching. I held my breath. For a moment, the doe seemed to stare straight at me before she sprinted away gracefully, followed by the yearling, their white tails waving like flags of surrender as they vanished into the surrounding woods.

“Wow,” I said to Oak.

“Cool, huh?”

“What are you doing up?”

Oak was slumped in a rocking chair moved to a corner of the room, his feet up on the cooler, facing the path to the gravel drive where our borrowed car was parked. “Just keeping an eye out.” He yawned and stretched.

“You can’t stay awake all night.”

“I can try.”

“Don’t be silly. We took precautions. We’ll be okay.”

“I saw your face when you heard Robbie was on campus, looking for you.”

“Oh, right. I kind of freaked out. But the risk that he could find us here is low, so you should go to bed.”

“I don’t want you to feel that afraid, ever again.”

I didn’t know what to say. I gestured to the sink and came back with a glass of water. “Mm. Love this well water. What time is it?”

“Not sure. It was a little after two last I checked.”

I pulled a chair closer and found an afghan to wrap around my shoulders. Oak had banked the fire for the night, and it was chilly. “Thanks for being here. This place is great, but it would be spooky if I were by myself.”

“You’d have Dr. Mishkin.”

“That was a surprise. She’s so stubborn. I wonder what her daughter will say when she finds out we went on a road trip. I’ll be so fired. Actually, I may already be fired.”

“Resigning from one job and getting fired from another in the same day? You may have set a record.”

“I think you set a record.” He raised an eyebrow, a question mark. “For coming through. Getting us a car and a place to hide out on short notice.”

“I just have good friends.”

“I’m short on friends. I made more of them being Maggie Farnham than I’ve had for years.”

“Probably hard when you’re on the run.”

“Even before. At Eventive, my only friend was Aurora. The work culture there made it hard to socialize. So did Robbie. We had friends back in Maine, a group of computer science majors we shared a house with. But when we moved to Boston, I think he felt insecure, worried he didn’t measure up. Besides, he was always a little over-protective with me and prone to jealousy, but he wasn’t violent, not at first. Things got a lot worse in the end. He couldn’t get an important product off the ground, and he was frustrated. Scared, too. Scared he wasn’t as good as he thought he was. Scared of disappointing his hero, Adam Barton.”

“No excuse.”

“No, it’s not.” I yawned. “I’m not going to let him keep me awake tonight. I’m going back to bed. You should get some sleep, too.”

“I will.”

But he didn’t move, so I draped the afghan over him. “Here, I warmed it up for you.”

As he reached out for it, our hands met. “Thanks.” He gave mine a squeeze.


The morning was devoted to domestic matters. While I inventoried food and planned meals for the next few days, Dr. Mishkin inventoried the reading options. Oak checked out the wood supply. There was a massive wall of old logs stacked between two handy trees, but they would need splitting. He gave me lessons, then took the axe from me, claiming I was a danger to myself and others, before he rapidly filled a basket by himself. Then we all drove into Chance with the box of documents to meet up with Graham.

“I tried calling you soon as I got in,” he said crossly when we crowded into to the lobby of his bed and breakfast, a charming Victorian cottage liberally decorated with duck-themed knickknacks.

“New number,” Oak told him, and texted it to him. “Otherwise we could be tracked.”

I introduced him to Dr. Mishkin. She shook his hand. “Very pleased to meet you. These young people have allowed me to come along. I hope you don’t mind.”

“Not a bit. Is that a Polish accent?”

“Please. Brooklyn. But I was born and raised in Moscow.”

“Fascinating. Love to hear your story someday. Meanwhile…”

“We brought the papers with us,” I said, indicating the cardboard box I had set down at my feet. “It’s a lot.”

“Great.” He crouched down, his knees creaking, and opened the lid to take a look. He whistled through his teeth. “This is promising. We’ll need a place to work. This joint’s okay for sleeping, but the room is too small, and we can’t use the common areas, there are other guests. A bunch of guys just checked in from Chicago, up here to hunt turkeys. What’s up with that? You can get one at the grocery store for cheap. How about we take this stuff to your place?”

He followed us in his rental down the county highway and over the gravel roads to the cabin after grumbling when I made him leave his phone in his room.

Once at the cabin, he commandeered the kitchen table, the only surface big enough to sort out the box of documents. Dr. Mishkin claimed one end of the table, marking her place with a mug of tea (there were no proper cups with saucers, to her dismay). She pretended to read a random volume of the Harvard Classics that she found among the Readers Digest condensed books while actually listening to us.

We unloaded the box of documents and made piles, using Aurora’s readme text as a guide. Then we dug through each pile, sorting them into further categories as we sifted through them. He asked questions as we worked, his recorder placed in the middle of the table to capture everything I said.

After a break to fix and eat dinner, holding bowls of pasta in our laps as the sun set, we carried on by lamplight until we had spread the documents into a rough map of Eventive’s many problematic activities. Satisfied with the basic overview and ready to dig deeper, Graham drove back to his lodging.

That night I woke from a dream I couldn’t remember and lay in bed, wondering what had startled me. Then it came again, the sound of dead leaves being disturbed close by. I slipped on my jacket and tiptoed out to the main room. Oak had set up an army cot he found in a closet beside the front door. He was awake, too. We looked at each other when the noise came again. Something or someone was making its way around the cabin.

It was a dark night, the moon glowing like a giant pearl behind the clouds. I stepped over to the kitchen counter, carefully slid open a drawer and drew out a knife, then went as quietly as I could to the door. Oak joined me, the phone in his hand. We listened. Carefully I opened it. Oak stepped outside and hit the flashlight app. “Oh, shit.”

A handsome skunk was snuffling around the crawlspace under the steps, two smaller versions of her nearby. She turned to waddle back around the corner followed by her kits as we stumbled back inside, suppressing our laughter, limp with adrenaline and relief. I put the knife back and put on the kettle. That bottle of rum was coming in handy.


Graham and I worked for a week, with me talking into his recorder until I grew hoarse, he filling a legal pad with scribbled notes and occasionally giving my throat a rest by telling a long-winded story about his career. Oak alternated between splitting wood to keep the stove stoked and communicating with students in his online courses, using his phone with its burner sim card as a sluggish hotspot and setting his VPN to Minneapolis.

He also made routine scans of social media chatter, browsing Reddit and using newly-created Twitter and Facebook accounts, reporting in from time to time. The student-organized protest had been a success. The counter protest had been a bust, with less alumni turnout than expected. Michael Knutson, undeterred, had made another video, this one a point-by-point dissection of the event and its speakers, proving with devastating rationality (his words) that professors and woke students were engaged in a nefarious plot to make white students feel guilt and emotional distress, which clearly was racist.

After a couple of days reporting the news of the world, Oak suggested Dr. Mishkin should check in with her daughter. “There are some weird rumors flying around about your whereabouts. Either you got kidnapped by antifa or you’ve been arrested by Homeland Security and will be tried for treason. She might be concerned.”

“How tiresome.” She looked around, vexed. “Where did I put my phone?”

“We put them away, remember?” I said.

“Yes, of course.” That cheered her up. “Well, I don’t know her number by heart, so I guess she will just have to evaluate these ridiculous claims using common sense, not that it’s a strong point for her.” She grumbled when Oak signed up for a fake Linkedin account and used it to locate Lara’s contact information, but sighed, took the burner phone from him, and made the call.

“Hello, Lara. … Yes, I’ve heard about the silliness. I’m quite all right, I simply decided to take a small vacation. No, no, I didn’t drive, though I’m perfectly capable. Maggie insisted on doing it, as you instructed. She had never been to the North Shore, and I told her she must see it while the fall color is so vibrant, and now that she is a woman of leisure….”

“North Shore?” Graham muttered, confused.

“Of Lake Superior,” I clarified. “Minnesota’s answer to the Riviera.”

“That’s not accurate,” Dr. Mishkin said. “She wasn’t fired. She resigned. It’s the college’s fault, they should have supported her during all this internet foolishness, but they were, as usual, quite stupid At any rate, I wanted to put your mind at ease in case you were seeing absurd rumors on that Facebook of yours, which really, you should delete. Did you know they collect an enormous amount of personal data? They use it to design ads that will speak to you personally by putting you in narrow categories, such as suburban parents whose children play soccer and women who worry too much about their elderly mothers.” She said goodbye and handed the phone back to Oak.

Graham mimed applause. “Nicely done, that bit of misdirection about our location.”

“I’ve had a great deal of practice.”

“I’m intrigued. Tell me more.” God, he was flirting with her.

We broke for dinner, and Graham used his best interrogation skills to learn how she practiced misdirection, but she serenely deflected him as if they were playing a game of chess. He pretended to be frustrated, but clearly was charmed, and Dr. Mishkin was enjoying it.


It was strange, delving into Aurora’s documents, learning things about Eventive I didn’t know while revisiting my own career there, only to surface in a cabin surrounded by miles of forests and fields. Once or twice a day, Oak and I stretched our legs, following deer paths through the woods. Most of the cabins in the area had been closed up for the winter, but at night we could see lights here and there across the lake. When the weekend came, a few motor boats and a kayak appeared on the lake, though enough ice had formed in our bay to keep them at a safe distance.

Though the natural world around the little cabin felt tranquil and ageless, I felt a constant undercurrent of anxiety that flooded my body with adrenaline when I heard the distant crunch of tires traveling on the gravel road or even a squirrel rustling for nuts in dead leaves on the forest floor. Had Robbie returned to Boston, or was he still somewhere nearby, poring over digital signals and electronic traces, trying to track me down? Graham was excited about the story we were constructing together, and confident that it would be a crowning achievement for his career as an investigative journalist. I tried to keep my jitters to myself.


By Tuesday, a week after we had left Mitagomee in a hurry, Graham arrived from his lodgings with good news. He had successfully pitched the story to an editor at the Post. They had been talking it over for days, and it had been given the green light at a meeting that morning. He was ready to write the first installment of what would likely become a series.

“Awesome,” Oak said, while I felt a mix of hope and dread. I’d been here before, and it had ended badly.

As if he had read my mind, Graham added “I talked to Brian Friedman about writing a sidebar. What Eventive did to him would make a great illustration of how they operate. Besides, this was his story originally. He put a lot of work into it, and it was decent stuff. Getting a byline in the Post would be a start on rebooting his career. Listen to me, ‘rebooting,’ I’ve been around you techies too long.”

“What did he say?” I asked.

“He’s not ready to go public yet. In fact, he thinks I may be in for the same treatment he got.”

I was worried, too, though not just on Graham’s account. I was getting used to the idea of having my life back, having friends and a future. Having a chance to do what Aurora tried to do, to expose Eventive. “Aren’t you going to have to ask Adam Barton for a response? That’s what started all the trouble for Brian.”

“Sure, he’ll have a chance to comment, but before that the paper will fact-check the shit out of it and make sure it’s solid. Besides, what have I got to lose? Unlike Brian, I don’t have a wife and kids, I don’t have a boss who could can me, and it’s not like I got a career to worry about, now that I’m older than dirt. What’s the worst that could happen, my publisher yanks my book contract? It would be a relief. It’s kind of nice, being this old,” he said to Dr. Mishkin. “You don’t have to give a shit, am I right?”

“Yes, absolutely. Though I’m not sure advanced age is required. I haven’t given a shit since I was in my twenties.”

“See? That’s the spirit. You youngsters take note. Say, look. I’m going to head back to the city tomorrow and start putting this together. Emily, keep that phone handy. As this first installment shapes up, I’m bound to have some questions, and I’m sure the fact checkers will, too. Today, though, let’s give it a final push. I need you to explain how natural language processing works, again. And some of the other tech terminology. I was outlining the story last night, but when it comes to the nuts and bolts my notes don’t make any sense.”

We were three hours into it when Oak got a worrying email. His mother in California wanted him to call immediately. I knew him well enough to see the tension in his shoulders, in his voice as he called. “Hey, mom. What’s up?”

He turned away, walking to a far corner of the room. “How bad is it? … Okay, yeah, I get it. Which hospital?” By this time all three of us were listening in.

He turned around and shrugged helplessly. “It’s my dad. He’s at Fairview, in the ICU. They think it’s a stroke. I’m the only family in the area, so I guess I have to go.”

“Of course,” I said. “I hope he’ll be okay.”

“Shit. That means I’ll have to take the car. I don’t like stranding you.”

“I can stay here tonight,” Graham said. “We’ll have a vehicle, don’t worry.”

“Okay, thanks. You’d better have the sim card. I’ll put mine back in when I get to Minneapolis and let you know what’s going on.”

We swapped out cards, then I walked with him to the car. “Good luck with your dad.”

“I’m sorry, Maggie. I mean Emily.”

“Don’t stress about us. We’ll be fine.”

“Both Maggie and Emily?” He gave me a weak smile. “It’s not like we’re even close, me and my dad. We never were, even before my parents split up. I wish my sister still lived in the cities. They’re both engineers, they speak the same language, but she’s on a project in Taiwan, so.”

“We’ve been careful. We’ll be okay.”

He nodded, unhappy about it. I gave him a hug before he climbed into the car, then watched him go, the borrowed Honda bouncing its way up the rutted drive to the gravel county road.

“Do you need to call the B and B?” I asked Graham when I got back to the cabin. “Let them know you’ll be out tonight?”

“I should,” he said, slipping his phone out of his pocket.

“No, use mine,” I said.

He was looking at it. “Dammit. Forgot to switch it off again.” He hastily powered it down and slipped it into his pocket, trying to hide his mistake.

I felt my stomach lurch. “What do you mean, ‘again’?”

“I hardly ever use the damn thing, except when I travel. I forget it’s there. Let’s get back to work.”

We did, but I couldn’t let go of a nagging sense of vulnerability. Cell phones leave trails. I tried to dismiss it—would Eventive be monitoring Graham’s phone? I had been careful to keep the number for my burner private, so they shouldn’t be able to connect the two of us. But I couldn’t quite relax. I knew too much about how few pieces of information it took to zero in on an individual, and how easy it was to obtain GPS location data from any number of sketchy companies.

We worked for another hour until the sun had set and streaks of cloud glowed orange and magenta, picking up the last of the light. It was getting cold in the cabin, and I realized it was past time to feed the wood stove. There was only one piece of wood left in the basket, so I took it outside to gather more. Luckily, Oak had left a tidy pile already split. I didn’t trust myself to swing the axe he handled with such confidence. I filled the basket and was about to lift it when I felt an arm wrap around my neck.

“Gotcha,” Robbie whispered. It sounded almost playful.

I dropped the basket. The axe was sunk into an upright log where Oak had left it. Close enough that I could grab it if I managed to lurch one step forward, but Robbie must have sensed my thoughts. He tightened his grip, swung me away from the woodpile, and showed me the gun he held in his other hand.

I closed my eyes and reached for the old Emily, the loyal employee, the cheerful girlfriend. For what passed for normal, back when we were together, when I was skilled at talking him down. “God, Robbie. You scared me.”

“Cool how I got your boyfriend out of here, huh?”

“He’s not my boyfriend.”

“He’s going to be mad when he gets to the hospital. Who are those old people in there? I thought your grandparents lived out East.”

“They’re just friends.” An old alarm rang. I wasn’t supposed to have friends. “People I met. Nobody important.”

“Remember when we were friends, back in Maine? That first day, in the computer lab? I thought you were the best thing that ever happened to me.”

“Those were good times.” I tried to steady the tremor in my voice.

“And at Eventive, eating pizza late at night, talking about my projects, then walking back to our place after midnight? In bed, I used to snuggle up against you. You were so warm and soft.” He nuzzled my temple, as if the arm he had around my neck was a hug. “Your hair wasn’t so short, though. I liked it better before.”

“I was in an accident, they had to cut it off. It’s growing it out. Maybe I’ll dye it blue, again. Remember when I used to do that?”

“You were different then.”

“What is it you want, Robbie?”

“I want you. I want to go back to how it was when we first met, I want to start over. He fired me, you believe that?”

“Adam did?”

“With a text message, a week ago. Said my productivity had fallen off.”

“That’s not fair. You worked your ass off for him.”

“It’s just a mistake. I’ve just been using vacation time. I didn’t use any for five years, so I thought it would be okay if sometimes I took a few days off to look for you. I almost caught up with you in Florida, at that nasty motel. You don’t belong in a place like that. Why did you leave?”

“You hurt me. You beat me up.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Maybe you don’t remember. You were upset, you got really drunk. I was scared.”

“So, I was drunk. That’s no reason to run away.”

“I’m sorry, Robbie. Things just stopped working for us.”

“I thought with Aurora gone, it would get better. But you changed. And then you left, and nothing has gone right since then.”

He released my neck, but kept the gun he was holding trained on me. He gave me a wan smile, struggling for normal, as if he were, like me, trying to be the man he used to be, the hotshot coder, the confident guy who could write code better than anyone. His hand, the one holding the pistol, was shaking, and for some reason that pierced me with sorrow. “I just wanted to find you so we could talk, but you kept running away from me. Didn’t you know how much I love you?”

“I loved you too, Robbie. But you hurt me. And I was scared of Adam. What he’s doing with the company, it’s wrong.”

“No.” He wagged the gun barrel as if it was a finger he was chiding me with. “You’re wrong about Adam. He’s a great man. Here’s the deal: We’re going to start over, and I’m going to prove to him he needs me. And things will be back the way they should be.”

“Hey, Mr. Martens?” Graham let himself out of the door cautiously, feeling for the ground with his foot, keeping his eyes fixed on us. He let the door close and raised his palms up. See? Harmless. “My name’s Graham Turlow.”

The gun pointed toward him, then back to me as he winced in frustration. “You should stay out of this.”

“I’m reporter. I’m writing a story for the Washington Post about Eventive. I’d love to have a chance to talk to you. Get your side of things.”

“Another reporter?” Robbie said to me. “What is it with you?”

“Graham, go inside.”

Robbie’s arm went around my neck again, and he pulled me back, toward the county road, the gun wavering between Graham and my head. “We’re going. Leave us alone.”

“Come on, man,” Graham said, trying for a calm, reasonable tone. “This isn’t going to work, you know that. I can help you. Why don’t we—”

A brilliant flash erupted beside my head. Graham went down on his back, arms splayed. I must have screamed, but I couldn’t hear anything but a loud roar in my ears. The arm choked me as Robbie stumbled back frantically, trying to drag me away from the cabin, from Graham. I couldn’t breathe.

As we both stumbled backward, his foot caught on a root and he let me go, struggling to stay upright. Still half blinded by the afterimage of the flash, I threw myself forward onto my hands and knees.

I felt Robbie drop on top of me, a heavy weight pinning me to the ground. I shrugged him off and rolled away, across rocks and roots and something solid and angular jabbing my ribs. The gun. I snatched it and held it for a moment before I threw it away into the trees.

It didn’t make sense. A dark pool of blood was seeping out from under him. Had he shot himself? I covered my ears, but the roar wouldn’t let up. I looked away, into the woods, then blinked and struggled to steady the image. A tall, lean shape far back among the trees, a long gun pointed at me. A surge of adrenaline rushed through me, but I couldn’t move, frozen in shock.

The gun barrel swung down to point at the ground, and the man nodded once, as if we had reached some kind of agreement. He slipped back through the trees until his dark clothing merged into the shadows among the pines, gone as if he’d never been there.

I huddled beside Robbie, hugging myself and shivering, thinking I should put my fingers against his neck like they do on TV, but I couldn’t bring myself touch him. His back had a hole in it, a mess of blood and bone and rags of tissue. One arm was flung out, fingers clutching the footpath, the other reaching toward me. His cheek was pillowed against the earth, his eye staring past me with that blank look he used to have when running code through his head, hunting for the bug that kept his routine from running like it was supposed to.

I felt a gentle pressure on my shoulder, someone rubbing it. Dr. Mishkin had squatted beside me. She did the thing I couldn’t, felt Robbie’s neck with two fingers, unfazed. “He’s gone,” she said after a moment. Her words were faint and scrambled behind the roaring, ringing chaos inside my head.

“Graham?” I managed to ask.

She snorted. “He’s fine. The shot went over head. He just tripped over his own feet and bumped his noggin, nothing serious. Could you help me up? My legs aren’t as strong as they used to be.”


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Runtime Copyright © by Barbara Fister is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.