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“No. He can’t.”


“Just wait.”

“No.” Shaun’s voice was firm. “I’ll get the rest of the equipment set up, I’ll get the servers running, and I’ll check your caller ID every time your phone rings. If Mahir calls, I’ll wake you, without consideration for the fact that you’re going to work yourself to death. I’m agreeing to that, but I’m also making an executive decision, and my decision is that you, Georgia Carolyn Mason, are going to bed. If you do not like this decision, you may appeal to the court of me hitting you in the back of the head as soon as you turn around.”

“Can I have my painkillers?”

“You can have two pills and a pillow,” Shaun said. “When you wake up, the world will be a magical wonderland of candy canes, unicorns, and fully assembled servers. And Rick stays. Deal?”

“Deal.” I stood, stepping out of my shoes before sitting back down on the bed. “Bastard.”

“Close your eyes.” I did. Shaun removed my sunglasses, pressing two small round objects into my hand. “Swallow those and you can have these back when you wake up.”

“That’s dirty pool,” I complained, popping the pills into my mouth. They dissolved almost instantly, leaving the bitter taste of codeine behind. I wobbled and let myself fall sideways, eyes still closed. “Dirty pool player.”

“That’s me.” Shaun kissed my forehead. “Rest, George. It’ll be better when you wake up.”

“No, it won’t,” I said, resigning myself to the inevitable. “It’ll just be later. Later isn’t better. Later is just when we have less time.”

“Sleep,” said Shaun.

So I did.

This is the truth: We are a nation accustomed to being afraid. If I’m being honest, not just with you but with myself, it’s not just the nation, and it’s not just something we’ve grown used to. It’s the world, and it’s an addiction. People crave fear. Fear justifies everything. Fear makes it okay to have surrendered freedom after freedom, until our every move is tracked and recorded in a dozen databases the average man will never have access to. Fear creates, defines, and shapes our world, and without it, most of us would have no idea what to do with ourselves.

Our ancestors dreamed of a world without boundaries, while we dream new boundaries to put around our homes, our children, and ourselves. We limit our potential day after day in the name of a safety that we refuse to ever achieve. We took a world that was huge with possibility, and we made it as small as we could.

Feeling safe yet?

—From Images May Disturb You,

the blog of Georgia Mason, April 6, 2040


I awoke to the sound of Rick and Shaun arguing quietly, undercut by the comforting static buzz of servers and computers; true to his word, Shaun had managed to get the network up and running while I slept. I stretched experimentally and was pleased to discover that my head neither hurt nor felt like it was stuffed with medicated cotton wool. I’d live. I’d pay for it later—my headaches come from minor damage to the optical nerves, and the more I use artificial stimulants to ignore it, the more likely it becomes that the damage will be permanent—but I’d live.

“—telling you, we’re letting her sleep until she wakes up. Work on your report.”

“It’s the Daughters of the American Revolution. They haven’t said anything new since the American Revolution.”

“So it should be an easy report.”


“Hey, man, I just want you to do your job and let my sister get some sleep. Is that so wrong?”

“Right now? Yes.”

“Pet your cat and finish your report.” Shaun sounded exhausted. I wondered how long I’d been asleep, lost in my dreamless, drug-induced wonderland while he wrangled the servers and waited for Mahir to call.

I must have sighed because I heard footsteps. The mattress bowed as Shaun leaned against the edge, asking, anxiously, “George? Did you want something?”

Another eight hours of sleep, replacement eyes, and Buffy back from the dead. Since I wasn’t likely to get any of the things I really wanted, I sighed and answered, “My sunglasses?” My voice was dry and scratchy. I turned my face toward Shaun, my eyes still closed and eyebrows raised in silent punctuation to the question.

He touched my hand with the tips of his fingers before he pressed my sunglasses against my palm, saying, “You’ve been out for about ten hours. I’ve tried Mahir three times, but there’s been no response. Becks says she spoke to him after we did, when she had to request a delete and re-upload of some of her journal files, but that’s the last time stamp anybody has.”

Becks ? Oh, Rebecca Atherton, the Newsie he stole from me after things went wrong in Eakly. I slipped my sunglasses on and opened my eyes, taking a moment to orient myself before sitting up. Getting my eyes to focus took a little longer. Shaun put a hand on my knee, steadying me, and I covered it with my own, turning my still blurry eyes toward the distant glow of the computers against the far wall. There was a patch of blobby darkness there that looked out of place against the green, and I nodded to it, saying, “Hey, Rick.”

“Hey, Georgia,” the blob replied. “Feeling any better?”

“I’m half-blind, and it feels like a flock of seagulls crapped inside my head, but it doesn’t hurt, so I guess I’ll live.” I squeezed Shaun’s hand. “How was the DAR meeting?”


“Good. At least something in this world can be counted on to stay dull.” My eyes were starting to work. The blob had a head now. “You planning on sticking around, or do we need to post your job opening, too?”

Rick paused. “Shaun said you’d already discussed it.”

“The two of us, yes. The three of us? Not so much.” I shrugged. “I figured you should get a say. You plan to stick around? We’re not doing so well on the survival figures, I’m afraid. One out of four sort of sucks.”