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"Sorry, Clair," I said through the drone's PA speakers. "It took me much longer than I expected to install my own command agents and disengage the-"

"No worries, Q." Clair relaxed along with the people around her. "I'm just glad it's you."

I flew the drone into the carriage. People made space for it-except for the driver, whose face held a mixture of fascination and alarm.

"You've hacked the PKs?" he said. "What do you need us for?"

"Special case," said Arcady, waving aside any possibility of an explanation as though he did this kind of thing every day. "Just get us on our way."

"The door-"

"I think it'll close now," said Clair. "Won't it, Q?"

"I will release the controls," I confirmed, "now we have a secure means of communication." Taking control of the train had been easy, but I needed to talk to them, not drive them off the rails.

The driver punched the code and the door closed behind him.

I hadn't anticipated another Faraday shield, although I should have. Human society, I was learning, contained an unprecedented number of undeclared and for the most part unobserved bubbles. It was like there were two worlds existing side by side, hardly touching.

A moment later, the door opened again and I was able to see through the drone again.

"I lost you for a moment there, Clair."

"I know, Q. Me too. Don't worry. As long as you can see the carriage from the outside, you can tell we're safe."

"All right."

It would have to do. The train was pulling out.

"We're going now, Q. We'll have to shut the door again."

"Travel safely," I told her.

"We'll check in when we can," Clair said. "Keep an ear out."

"I will, Clair."

Arcady closed the hatch, and we were disconnected again. The train was moving faster now, turning steadily to the right. I watched patiently and calmly. Everything I needed for my survival was in that train. But unless someone physically attacked it, there was no reason to worry. The dupes' failed attempt to kill Turner-and maybe the others with him as well-didn't reassure me that there would be no attack, but I saw no sign of it. The train was a moving target. The dupes couldn't avoid being conspicuous if they were to take it out.

I understood that they were like me: creatures that lurked in the shadows, afraid of coming out into the light. And that, of course, was how Clair planned to attack them. VIA would turn a spotlight onto them, and they would crumble into dust, like vampires.

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