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"It better not be."

"It is."

"It better not be, because you've just lost yourself an esper if it is."

"Services that can be commandeered in time of warlike an esper's services-are never lost," he said. Color him infuriatingly calm, cool, and collected. I wanted to kick his d.a.m.ned teeth in. He probably would still have smiled at me with that smile.

"Services cannot be commandeered unless the craftsman can be found," I said.

"Is this a threat to withhold services from the government in a time of national crisis?" he asked, smiling through every word. Snapping turtle mouth there, looking for one of my incautious fingers.

"Look," I said, trying another tack, "suppose we let the charges ride for the time being. Suppose the only thing that you concede is the bail. A low bail, but she'll still stand trial."

"Out of my control," he said again. But the tone of his voice said that nothing was ever out of his control.

"Like h.e.l.l!"

"I'm not on the junta, you know."

"Look, Morsf.a.gen, suppose she also destroys the d.a.m.n book. Now it's the book she's in trouble for, isn't it? The first part of it?"

"With or without the book," he said, "the trouble remains for us. The danger does not lie within the printed page, but within the mind of the man setting words to paper. Or woman, as the case may be. But there isn't any use discussing it. I haven't any say about it. Besides, I've seen her picture, and I'm certain you can wait seven months for that kind of stuff." Voice of the obscene telephone caller, yet still authoritarian. In the back of his throat: unvoiced laughter that will explode when I hang up.

"I know why you're in the military now," I said, my voice deceptively neutral.

"Why is that?" he asked, walking into it.

"When your own manhood is negligible, a gun must at least be a little consolation." And I hung up on the creep.

"That was definitely a mistake," my mentor said.

I picked my coat up and worked into it. "Maybe."

"No maybe about it. Where are you going now?"

"Home, pack some things, and get out. Look, I'll get a message to you so you'll know where I'm at. Wait. Scratch that. I've got a key to Melinda's apartment. If it's still unoccupied, I'll stay there. They'll check hotels right away, so maybe her place is safer. Maybe I'm not as potent a wedge as I think I am. Maybe they really don't need my esp. But I rather think they'll come crawling after a while; it's the only way I can help her."

"You love her?" he asked.

I nodded. I couldn't really say it. Maybe it was still a hangover from my delusions of G.o.dhood. Or maybe I was just afraid that her affection did not run as deep as mine.

Perhaps, in a month, she had forgotten me.

"Then hurry," he said. "You might not have much time."

I left his Tudor home under the trees, took one of his two hovercars, and pressed the accelerator half through the floor on the way home. The craft veered from one side of

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