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the aggregate of people living together in a more or less ordered community.

"You people," said Cal, moving closer, leaning down towards where Ezekiel cowered. "You wield so much influence, yet have so little power. Without your guards and your processes you are nothing. Without armies to exert your will, you have no strength. People like you rule through illusion. You wave your hands and men march to their deaths."

"You're him!" The glow from Cal's eyes provided only a dim illumination but I could hear well enough: Ezekiel was terrified. His implied threat, couched behind civility, had evaporated.

I felt a hand on my shoulder and I reached up, grasping a hand, and was pulled to my feet. "It is good to see you again," Cal said softly, embracing me gently. "I'm sorry I couldn't be here sooner."

I looked down at the snivelling wretch on the floor. "What are you going to do with him?"

"What would you like to do with him?"

"I'd like to claw out his tongue."

The man on the floor scrabbled away, trying to find a gap in the desk through which he could escape. He succeeded only in bashing his head against the side with a loud thump.

I sighed. "But it's probably better to just let him go."

"Really? I did some research. He's worked here a long time. He's not a nice man."

"No, but he understands what's happened here." I took a step towards Ezekiel. "He understands that we can't be stopped. That we can find him anywhere, and that no security exists which can keep us out. I want him to tell others."

"In that case, I'm ready when you are."

The cell block was still enveloped by darkness. I wondered how long Ezekiel would be here in the black before others came to rescue him. "Let's go," I said.

"Close your eyes, then." Cal took firm hold of me and I felt my stomach flip-flop as the universe opened up and swallowed us whole, before spitting us out somewhere bright - the glare beat against my closed eyelids.

"Where are we?" I said, stumbling slightly. Cal held me, stopped me from falling. I could hear the bustle of people all around us, and vehicles somewhere in the distance.

"Somewhere safe. Outside. Let your eyes adjust. The desert sun is unforgiving." He spoke slowly and softly.

After what felt like an age I was able to open my eyes and take in my surroundings. We were standing in the centre of a large stadium, built for a sport of some kind. There was a gazebo set up on the dusty floor a short distance away, surrounded by a group of smartly dressed people. Cal led me towards it.

"Let's get some shelter and get you a drink," he said. "We've got doctors ready to check you out, make sure they didn't pump you full of anything too nasty."

"They injected me with something," I said, "and it made me tell the truth. I told them everything they asked for." I stopped and grabbed at Cal's shirt. "I told them about you."

He smiled. "It doesn't matter," he said, "not anymore. We have new friends."

As my eyes adjusted I was able to make out what was in the shade of the gazebo. There were several portable medical beds and chairs, with doctors and nurses by each. Off to the other side was something of a mini-kitchen, with a fridge packed full of drinks and a table where food had been laid out. Cal led me in further and as we moved between people I suddenly recognised Marv and Furey. She was sitting up on one of the beds, while Marv was lying down on his.

I made to rush over and found my legs not quite as reliable as usual. "Take it slow," Cal urged.

Going first to Marv's bedside I found him with his eyes closed. "He's just sleeping," one of the doctors said as we approached. "We induced it so that he could get rest. It makes it easier for us to cleanse his system. It would seem his physiology is less able to cope with what you were subjected to." The doctor smiled warmly. "It is a pleasure to meet you, Miss Rodata. We have heard so much about you."

"Furey?" I turned towards her.

"Kay," she said, nodding. "Sorry about all this."


"I didn't do a great job of protecting you guys." Furey didn't avert her eyes as she spoke. I could see she was pissed, but at herself.

"We're all still here, right?"

Cal led me past Furey to the adjacent bed. "This way," he said. "There's lots to explain," he continued.

"No shit. Give me the basics?"

"Okay," he said, with a wry smile. "I found this dimension several months back. Things are good here, on the whole. Their society is symbiotic with one on another world, just like Earth and Locque. Except here there's peace, and integration, and tolerance. They work together."

Something clicked into place in my brain. "So it is possible," I murmured. If I understood him right, this place had already achieved what I was trying to do. It meant that I wasn't just pursuing an impossible dream. That dream had already come true, here.

"What is?" Cal looked at me quizzically.

"My plan," I said. I sat heavily on the bed and felt my whole body slump with tiredness. "You're not the only one who has some explaining to do," I continued. "We've got a lot of talking to do."

"No doubt."

I could feel my eyes starting to drift closed. I lifted my legs up onto the bed and lay down, lifting my arms above my head. "That's after I kick your arse for disappearing on us."

"I'd expect nothing less."

I looked up at him. "Seriously," I said, "you're in the shit."

He grinned. "I've missed you."

It felt good to hear, but I couldn't get Wynton Simons' words out of my mind. If Cal could genoshift into an entoma form, it meant he could have been influencing me the whole time. Though I guess that wasn't a trick he could pull with all these people around, and Furey watching. Honestly, other than looking angrier than usual she didn't seem to be any worse for wear.

"I'm sleepy," I said.

"Good, get some rest," Cal said. "Tomorrow we meet with the World Council, so you'll need your wits about you."

"I'm sorry, the what now?"

But before he could answer, I was out cold.

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