Chapter 7

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Angus is late. Keiran waits in the corner of the Prince Albert, a diminishing pint of Kronenbourg on the table before him, increasingly annoyed, trying to ignore the noise and the smoke of a London pub at ten PM. Angus is thirty minutes late by the time the small, fine-featured Scotsman finally enters the pub from Coldharbour Lane and weaves through the crowd towards Keiran. With his colourful tattoos, and the gold strands woven into his dreadlocks, Angus stands out vividly even in the sea of spectacular humanity that is Brixton.

"I remember you used to be punctual," Keiran says sourly, as Angus sits.

"Did I? Really? Must have been all those drugs." Angus smiles. "I apologize. Usual Tube problems. Why are we here?"

Keiran says, "I'm giving up."

"Giving up what?"

"Giving up your project. I quit. Find someone else to do it. Sorry."

Angus blinks. "What prompted this?"

Keiran shrugs and sips from his Kronenbourg. "I just have too many other things going on to keep working on this too. Sorry. I shouldn't have agreed to try to do you a favour in the first place."

After a moment, Angus says, "Did you at least send Jaya's passport to your friend?"

Keiran nods. "They should already be back in Goa by now."

Angus studies Keiran silently for a moment.

"I'm sorry," Keiran says. "I just don't have the time. I've made zero progress anyways. Two weeks and I'm still nowhere. I'm probably too rusty to help you in a timely manner."

"I don’t understand. Last I knew you, you would have lived for this. You would have been positively bubbling with excitement. You would have been up hacking all night, every night."

"Last you knew me was four years ago," Keiran says. "When I was probably off my head on drugs all night, every night. Things are different now. I'm sorry. Of course I'd like to help you out. I just don't have time to waste on things like your project."

"As simple as that. You just don't have time to waste."

"As simple as that."

"Well," Angus says. "Of course I'd hate to waste your time. I know it's just enormously valuable." His voice is thick with sarcasm. "Thirty pounds an hour, no? Is that what they pay you to keep the virtual cogs of capitalism running smooth? Is that how much you sell yourself for?"

"Angus. There's no point arguing. My decision is made. You asked me for a favour, I took a hack at it, I didn't get anywhere, and now I'm done. End of story."

Angus studies him. Then he says, "Do you remember the car park?"

Keiran twitches. After a moment he says, "Vividly."

"You remember your last words to me then? Of course you do, mind like a black hole, nothing escapes. Refresh my memory. What were they, exactly?"

After a moment, Keiran says, "The exact words were 'I owe you my life.'"

Angus nods and says nothing.

"Angus, for Christ's sake. I know what I said. But you can't just waltz back four years later and demand I throw my life away on one of your pointless gestures."

"I'm not asking you to break the Bank of England. Just to do a little research."

"In blatant violation of the law. No. I've already taken too big a risk for this. I have a life now. I have too much to lose."

"A life?" Angus asks. "It is to weep. A man with what is widely described as the most gifted technical mind ever to come out of the UK, a man who once believed in a better world, reduced to working at an investment bank. How exciting. How inspirational. Come on, LoTek –"

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