Benjamin was still staring at the feed on his phone. They were several drinks into melancholy and he still couldn’t stop. Normally he’d have given up, and be singing already. Bixby waved at the bartender for another round, and when the drinks arrived he lifted Benjamin’s wrist up to the chipreader so he could pay. Benjamin didn’t even complain.
“There’s something not right,” said Benjamin. “I just can’t see what it is.”
“She’ll be happier without you?”
“Maybe. But that’s not it.”
“Listen, Benj, whatever it is that makes this an unchangeable thing, it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Or a big thing. You know how this works.”
“Yeah, and you know how often an unchangeable thing happens. One spilled cup of coffee here, one missed train there and whole lives rewrite themselves. But that’s not what we’re seeing. We’re seeing it happen on the same day at the same time, no matter what we mess with.”
Bixby’s stomach turned over. He’d been trying not to think about it. “Benj, stop thinking. We collect the data, we run the scripts, we go out and pick up the stray dogs and wotnot that run into roads and cause accidents and bring the city to screeching halt. We go and spill coffee on people’s suits so they miss meetings, and remind them to take their briefcases when they leave trains, all so’s things can run smooth and money can get made. Money that flows quite nicely into our accounts thank you very much, and money that could easily get diverted into someone else’s account while we get diverted into a windowless cell somewhere far away. Underground, most likely. Where people don’t care if you’re screaming. I’m not into the windowless cell thing. I’m a dog catcher. I like being a dog catcher.”
“And you’re good at it, Bix.” Benjamin drained his beer. “You know what we need?”
“What’s that?” Bixby was hoping he was going to say pizza.
“Reynolds. We need Reynolds.”
“Oh no. No. We get clocked seeing that madman, we are fried.”
“He’s the only one who’s ever-”
“And look where it got him.”
Benjamin swung round and looked at Bixby. “Look where we are now, Bix. Look where we’ve got to by playing by the rules. Crappy apartment, crappy paycheck, crappy beer in a crappy bar. No offence.” Benjamin nodded at the bartender, who acknowledged the gesture. “Sarah is the best thing about my life, and apparently it’s vital to the smooth running of the universe that she drops me like a hot potato. On a particular day. At a particular time. Doesn’t that make you just a little bit curious?”

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