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the chemical processes that occur within a living organism in order to maintain life.

Okay, this looks bad. It is bad. Being tied to a chair is never good. Well, unless you're into that kind of thing, in which case more power to you. But generally speaking, when I'm tied to a chair it's because something's gone a little sideways.

We'd been sitting in a small cafe on the edge of a market square. Our guide book claimed that it used to be the place to go to buy and sell slaves, back in the day. It was said that the red colour of the stone fountain in the centre came from the blood of dead slaves, though that seemed a little unlikely to me.

Travelling back west through this region at the height of summer hadn't been the best part of our plan. We'd pretty much tracked the least pleasant weather the entire journey, from the monsoon rains back east to the scorching, tarmac-melting heat here. With Furey's help I'd been trying to match up countries on Locque with those on Earth, as we'd travelled a not dissimilar route in the opposite direction while in the belly of the cargo ship. They called this city Cairo, I think. Some of our place names sounded a little like the Earth equivalents, although most of the time ours came from an older stem, as if the history of our planet had paused a few hundred years ago. If it's not obvious, that was when Earth found us and started controlling everything.

Anyway, I digress. Trying anything to keep my mind off my current situation.

"It's not working," I'd said to the others, as we sat by the open window, the hot breeze doing nothing to cool us down.

"The fan?" Marv asked.

I squinted at the fan I was idly waving in one hand. I'd picked it up in one of the souks for a faintly ridiculous sum. "You're right, this isn't doing much," I confirmed, "but I was talking about the plan. We're not getting anywhere."

"You got to give yourself some slack," Marv said. "Everywhere we've been you've given talks, you've been spreading the word. The idea. And we've been seeing all sorts, man - this is going out far and wide."

"But it's such a complicated concept," I said, resting my chin in my hands. "I can't even get on to talking about creating peace or some positive way forward without first explaining that there's a whole other dimension out there. And doing that without causing mass panic and freaking people out is next to impossible."

"It's too much for people to take in," Furey said.

"Right. People on your world already know all of this, so it's easier to talk to them into seeing things a different way. But everyone on Locque is so damned clueless."

"I wish we could just show them what we've seen," said Marv, sipping at a coffee. "Then they'd get it."

"They'd get that we've been controlling you all for centuries," Furey noted. "If you make that the entry point, nobody is going to get on board."

"I just don't see how we can possibly convince people. Of anything."

Marv held out a hand - his new one - across the table, and put it on top of mine. "Hey," he said, "it's early days still. You were never going to change the world overnight."

"Or ever. I'm just one girl. Even together, we're just three randoms."

"Yeah, but it's not about us," Marv said. "It's about the idea. We don't matter, individually. But you get that idea out, it'll start to spread. Like a disease. There's no stopping it."

I groaned. "Yeah, because I've always wanted to spread a disease."

"You're a beautiful germ, Kay."

Furey had gone silent. She was holding her drink tightly, while scanning left and right for something outside. "Time to go," she said.

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