“I don’t know why you came here. There’s no people. Nothing to do.”
The mark didn’t jump, didn’t panic and run, just shrugged and answered, “That’s why I came here.”
I was grateful not to have to chase him. “So just the quiet? The view? The sound of the waves?”
“All that. But also, the lack of people is a good thing. No yelling, no crying and laughing. None of the stink of humanity.” He snorted. “I suppose you’ll add that to the report. ‘Antisocial statements’.”
“You don’t make me run, I won’t add any more charges. But you’ve got to hand over the Lasso right now.” He fished it out of his pocket, an innocuous little metal disc, and handed it to me. “Thanks.”
He shrugged; he knew it was over. Maybe he’d gotten what he wanted, if only for a little while.
I holstered my stunner, sat down beside him on the exposed limestone. “If you like nature so much, you could have taken one of the approved vacation packages. There’s destinations like this—”
“Ten thousand people sitting around you, taking pictures, calling their children back from the edge. Laying out a picnic.” His voice dripped with disgust. “No thanks. This is how a place like this should be. Quiet, lonely. Just for me.”
I shook my head. “Greedy. Selfish.”
“Sure. But why not? Why not be greedy once and a while? Why not be selfish?”
“We can’t have people using the Lasso for unapproved trips back. No supervision? No fail-safes? It could be disaster. You could change everything.”
“I’m not some terrorist. If you hadn’t come along, I wouldn’t have changed anything. I would have stayed right here. Build a little house out of local stone, wake up to this view every morning? Yes, please.”
“You don’t have to be a terrorist. You could just make a mistake. And then poof, it’s a different world.” I didn’t tell him about the little stone house over the next rise, the one he hadn’t seen because the Lasso had put him down nearer the water this time, this first time. It wouldn’t matter, because when I take him forward there wouldn’t ever be another time, an earlier time, and the house won’t ever have existed.
“I know the party line.”
“It’s not just a line.”
“Can we sit a minute? Not long, just… can we? I won’t make any trouble.”
I didn’t look at my watch; I’ve been doing this too long for that sort of mistake. I didn’t mind spending an hour of my biological time looking at a view like this. “Sure.”
Eventually I took him forward. He didn’t make any trouble, but I’m pretty sure that eventually he’ll escape, steal another Lasso: the little stone house is still there, then, waiting for him to return.
My secret worry is that it’s waiting for me, that I will someday go back and build it. I should have looked inside, then, and made sure. Now, I’m scared to.