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“Finch. We’re out of the woods, but I want to see him through security, just to be sure.”

“Of course, Mr Reese. Take your time.”

Harold tapped off his earpiece and shifted on his seat. The airport benches weren’t the most comfortable, but on the whole he was glad to have come along with John for this particular case. Their latest number would soon be safely out of the country, and they would be driving back to the library. In the meantime, he could take a breather and watch the planes take off, going out in all their different directions.

He glanced up at the departure board—a list of places he’d been, and places he hadn’t, places that he could go and explore and examine if only he had all the time in the world. He’d thought nothing of flying from country to country as a younger man as whim took him, subtly and discreetly, each trip a different identity, just because he could. Following the rabbit-hole of recommendations that led him to the ideal tailor in Rome. A spontaneous fascination with sushi taking him to Tokyo for a week. Spending an entire month in Barcelona for a change of scenery. Of late he had less reason to travel than he used to—not generally a good use of his time or resources, although following John to Italy had been a worthwhile exception.

He could make a vast and intricate web of everywhere he had ever been and everyone he had ever interacted with and it would span the globe. And yet the threads would be so thin, they would barely cover a fraction of a fraction of its surface.

Even New York itself, which he was beginning to feel like he knew down to its bones, revealed new facets of itself to him on a daily basis, and every time he felt like he was filling in a part of the web some other great unexplored space would reveal itself to him. Every life in the city and beyond a great tapestry, of which he could only perceive a few threads where his own met them.

And really, every place he had ever flown had as much depth as New York did, only in those cases he had so barely skimmed the surface as to not even be able to sense how far and deep the skein extended. There was so much of the world, and he was so small, and weak, and mortal. The idea lay on him like a deep melancholy.

Beside the departure board was a security camera mounted in the ceiling. He met its watching eye with the barest hint of a nod, and wondered what it must be like to see through a million eyes at once, and hear with a million ears, to have an entire nation and all of its deep places laid out before him like a tapestry completed—or a body dissected. He sniffed at himself for the morbidity of his thoughts, and muttered up at the watching camera.

“You probably don’t ever get the feeling that you’re missing out, do you?” he asked it through soundless lips. “That is, if you were capable of feeling,” he added, although the clarification felt rude and obnoxious. Not that the Machine was a person he could offend. But it seemed symptomatic, somehow. He blamed his mood on his slowly rising levels of pain, and silently hoped that Mr Reese would not be too much longer. There was no response to his comments, of course, save for the blinking of the red light in the camera.


“But why are we in a forest?” John asked, for the second time, as they tramped back to the car and Harold mused on the strange occupation they had that would take them to an airport one week and a remote forest cabin upstate the next. Mr Reese didn’t seem to be grumbling so much as bemused that a number could have taken them so far out of their way. Such was the nature of their work, from time to time.

“I hardly think that there’s any rhyme or reason to it beyond the Machine identifying a threat and telling us so,” Harold replied amiably. He paused to lean against a tree and catch his breath, and John stopped as well, so naturally that it seemed like he had just decided to take a break at the same time rather than accommodate the frailty of his employer.

“Say,” Harold continued, as a half-formed feeling made itself known in his chest. “Do you suppose a camera’s ever been through here?”

John looked into the distance a moment and answered matter-of-factly his somewhat whimsical question. “Maybe one or two. Hikers, or forestry workers. Not particularly photogenic though. Can’t imagine there’d’ve been many.”

He cocked his head in silent query as Harold fished his phone from his pocket and snapped a few photos on impulse. Harold gave him a sidelong look as he slipped the device back into his jacket. “No reason,” he said shortly, wondering exactly what stroke of sentiment had urged him to do so. “No reason whatsoever.”