We've stepped through to this Earth before, more than once,
And moved among the analogues of the people we love,
To tell them our hidden truths without bearing the consequences.


"I hope you're comfortable." It was a lie, a platitude worn as a disguise by utter contempt. "You're going to be here a while."

She said nothing; she restrained herself from looking around nervously. There would have been nothing to see: an empty box of a room with a single door and a large wall mirror behind which was undoubtedly a camera.

"We need your help with some things."

"What things?"

"The names of other members of your organization, the—"

"What organization?"

"How you communicate with them, where their money comes from, that sort of thing. And how you beat the lie detector."

"I don't belong to the Snows. I don't know anyone who does." She forced herself to stay calm, to speak in normal, measured, even tones. "You're wasting your time."

"We know that's not true. You're caught, and you can't talk your way out of it." He sat down opposite her, shrugged. "Talking is your only hope."

"I can't help you." She couldn't answer his questions, because the answers were buried deep behind an activation phrase no one had said yet.

He stared at her, then: "I guess it's going to have to be the hard way, then."

The Kitchen Scene

"So who's this guy, now?"

"Not sure, some Rabbi from out of town."

"They're really losing it over him. It's embarrassing."

"Right? And all this food… you know they won't eat half of it, and will we get the leftovers? We will not."

"Of course not. She'll tell you to toss it to the dogs out back and she'll watch to make sure you do it, too, you just wait."

"Oh, I know she will. I know she will."

"Oh, hey, draw a pitcher of water and take it in."

"Just water? Not wine?"

"Just water. For some magic trick."

Deep Listening

"What," came Rebbo's voice over the suit radio, "is this dreadful noise I am listening to?"

"Music. I'm playing music from the library computer over the open comm circuit. Too loud?"

"It is confusing."

"Con—" Mays pulled up his core-sample tool, leaned on it, turned to look across the frozen surface of the moonlet to where Rebbo was working nearer the ship. "You don't have music? Your people?"

"We have music. It soothes, calms. It aids in slipping into the trancelike state we use to allow subconscious problem-solving." There was a pause. "This music seems designed for exactly the opposite."

"It's mostly for dancing. You know, dancing?"

"I have seen it done."

"You want I should turn it off? Maybe switch to a different playlist? There's classical, and… the ambient/minimalist category is probably more your speed."

"I do not wish to interrupt your enjoyment if it is assisting you in your work."

"It's fine. ELLE, play the man some Eno. Or something like that."

"Music For Airports, volumes one through four. Album mode."

Mays continued his work, taking more samples before heading back to the ship. He found Rebbo sitting cross-legged at the base of the ship's ladder, fast asleep.