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The Interlude of the Interview with Retired Black Sakura Reporter Tsuneo Sugiyama, as Related by Martin Guildbreaker

The Interlude of the Interview with Retired Black Sakura Reporter Tsuneo Sugiyama, as Related by Martin Guildbreaker

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anecdote, to enliven this list of flat facts. If there is a keystone event of my fortunes, it was the night

late in my fourteenth year when I exchanged my first adult words with my Emperor. I was waiting for

my ba’pas in a small courtyard garden in the Imperial Palace. I was not aware at the time, but it was a

grim day for Cornel MASON, since Familiaris Calavine Acton had just confessed to the Amador

Treason, so Caesar was considering the first exercise of their Capital Power. This is also why my

ba’pas were at the palace well past midnight. I remember a little fountain which was partly clogged,

so that a faint spray shot sideways onto a bench. The damp of the stone felt good as I sat, though I was

cold, because it made me very aware of my body. I did not notice the Emperor until they spoke.

“What can a child of your age have to think about that makes you look so much more serious than I


I remember, looking up, that MASON was at first just an immense dark shape, like a pillar

merging the black of the Earth with the black of the sky, but, as I watched, the spraying water made

glints of light spread along their suit, as if the stars and city lights of the capital were mingling and

multiplying in the new space offered by this living being.

Caesar’s words I remember verbatim, but my own stumbling responses I do not. I answered that I

was trying to decide when to take the Adulthood Competency Exam and prepare for my Annus

Dialogorum. I have no doubt that the custom will outlast these words, but to please Mycroft I will

explain. When an aspiring Mason has passed the exam, and completed the initial courses in Masonic

Law and Government, the initiate is clothed for a year in a suit of pure white, and undertakes the

‘Year of Debate,’ engaging a different person each day in discussion of what it means to be a Mason.

After three hundred and sixty-six debates, if the initiate still wishes to join the Empire, there is no

further test.

“If you have doubt about becoming a Mason,” MASON answered, “the Annus Dialogorum will

settle it.”

I approximate my answer: “That isn’t it, Caesar. There’s no doubt I will be a Mason. I can’t wait

to start speaking Latin, and using and understanding power, and serving you. But I know I’m very

young. If I do my Annus Dialogorum now I’ll understand less than if I wait until I’m older, and learn

less from it about what it really means to be a Mason. I want to be a Mason now, but I don’t want to

waste the Annus, since I only get to do it once.”

MASON’s next words were not to me, but to an aide, commanding that my ba’pas be summoned to

witness my investiture as an Imperial Nepos. That very night—I will not say ‘in my honor’—Cornel

MASON created the Ordo Vitae Dialogorum, “the Order of the Life of Debate.” Membership is open

to all Masons, and marked by one white sleeve, a permanent invitation to engage the wearer in debate

over the Masonic life, not for a year, but lifelong. I wear it proudly. That night too, the title of

Familiaris was promised to me upon my passing the Adulthood Competency Exam, since, by

Alliance Law, a minor may not subject themself to Caesar’s Force.

I had long desired, even expected, these honors, but each in their course as I earned them, not all in

one breath. I asked Caesar in some bewilderment why they granted me so much so quickly. This was

my true investiture: “I have a use for you. You will be my instrument, my touch, my voice, my proxy

while my work keeps me away, the one Masonic influence to counter all the others. You will teach

and guide my son.”

That night I met the Porphyrogene.

* * *

The first stage of my investigation of the Black Sakura and Saneer-Weeksbooth double break-in has

already been related. At 17:57 UT on 03/24/2454 I requested permission to interview Tsuneo

Sugiyama, preferring to conduct the interview in person rather than over the tracker system. I was

invited to the Sugiyama residence, outside Kanazawa in the Ishikawa prefecture of Chubu, and

arrived at 19:31 UT. The Sugiyama bash’house is a compact town house, three stories, pressed tightly

on both sides by similar houses. Tsuneo Sugiyama is eighty-nine years old, female, one hundred and

sixty-two centimeters tall, dark brown eyes, short grayish white hair, with distinctly yellowed front

teeth, no other distinguishing marks. Sugiyama wore a Japanese-cut Mitsubishi suit, green, with a

spring pattern of morning glories climbing bamboo. Eight strat insignia were visible: on the right

wrist a Japanese nation-strat bracelet and Lune Cassirer Fan Club bracelet, on the jacket front a

Journalists’ Guild clip and Gazetteer Gaming Club pin, on the shoes skiers’ buckles, on the front

pocket a Shiba Inu dog breeder’s patch and an Ishikawa Region patch, on the left ring finger a Nagoya

Campus ring, and on the right little finger a Great Books Club ring. Sugiyama offered me tea, and I

accepted. I commenced formal interview at 19:37 UT. The following is a verbatim transcript,

interspersed with my interpretative comments:

* * *

Sugiyama seemed unusually relaxed at the beginning of the interview, though not in a joking or jovial

way. I did not understand the reason until later on.

Guildbreaker: “Thank you for seeing me, Mitsubishi Sugiyama. You are aware this is being


Sugiyama: “Of course, Mason, of course.”

Guildbreaker: “This is just an initial interview. There may be more detailed sessions later, once I’ve

had a chance to act on your initial statement.”

Sugiyama: “I know how interviews work, youngster.”

Guildbreaker: “And you know I represent a poly-Hive investigation? If you report anything here

which is pertinent to the security of a non-Mitsubishi, I’m legally obligated to inform the Praetors

of the affected Hive, or the Tribunes’ Officers in the case of Hiveless.”

Sugiyama: “I knew outside police would come. It doesn’t make sense for this to be handled among


Guildbreaker: “I am not police, I am a polylegal investigator. My team is handling the initial stages

of this, since it affects all seven Hives at sensitive levels, so they want it handled delicately. Once

we’ve secured the safety of the essential parties, the police will apprehend the actual offender.”

Sugiyama: “You’re using Utopians for the grunt work, aren’t you? I know how it works. I covered the

Mycroft Canner case as well.”

Guildbreaker: “First, for the record, is it correct that you are not the author of the Seven-Ten list

which was stolen from Black Sakura two days ago and subsequently recovered by the police?”

Sugiyama: “That’s correct, but no one outside Black Sakura knew I wasn’t writing it this year.

Seven-Ten lists are only popular when they’re written by big names, and with Black Sakura being

only the second-most-important Mitsubishi paper, the Hagiwara-san knew our readership outside

the Hive would fizzle if the public found out I wasn’t the author. That doesn’t excuse them trying to

pass off Masami-kun’s work as mine, but I understand why they did it.”

Guildbreaker: “How long have you worked at Black Sakura?”

Sugiyama: “I first worked for them from 2382 to ’86, then did graduate school from ’86 to ’90,

worked at Black Sakura again until 2411, freelance from ’11 to ’25, then took nine years off to

write my books, started again at Black Sakura full time in ’34, and retired last week. That last run

was nineteen years, nine months, eleven days all told.”

Sugiyama answered this question with a speed which indicated that they had prepared their answers

ahead of time. My flight to Chubu had taken forty-six minutes, and they had clearly spent that time

preparing. Having worked so long as a reporter, Sugiyama was experienced with interviews, so it

was safe to assume that, if they chose to lie to me, I would have no way to detect it.

Guildbreaker: “You retired last week?”

Sugiyama: “Unofficially. A lot of people invest in the paper counting on me as a draw, so we

decided it was best to wait and announce at the end of the quarter when the contracts expired.”

Guildbreaker: “Was this a planned retirement, or…”

Sugiyama: “Oh, it was sudden. I know doctors keep telling me I have another fifty years left in me,

but after seventy-two years as a journalist voker I decided it was time to pay more attention to

family. Knowing me, I probably won’t be able to keep myself entirely retired very long, but it’s

the plan for now.”

Guildbreaker: “How far ahead had you planned this?”

Sugiyama: “It wasn’t planned at all, totally sudden.”

Guildbreaker: “What was the cause?”

Sugiyama: “My grandchild Aki tried to kill themself.”

Guildbreaker: “I’m sorry to hear it. Do you know why?”

Sugiyama: “Aki’s lover killed themself. You see, Aki is already twenty-one, and had been living in a

Campus seven years but hadn’t really gotten close enough to anyone to think about forming a bash’,

except this one lover, a bright young Irish Brillist named Mertice O’Beirne. Had a marvelous

voice, that kid, but a bit unstable, into gore photos and Canner-beat, but lots of potential. They

were very close. Aki wanted the two of them to come join and continue my bash’ rather than

forming a new one, since Aki’s always been close to me and my bash’mates, but Mertice wanted

to stay in the Campus longer to see if they could find some others of their generation to make a new


Guildbreaker: “How did Mertice die?”

Sugiyama: “Car crash.”

Guildbreaker: “A car crash?”

Sugiyama: “Yes, the one over Mexico City, nine days ago. You must have read about it.”

Guildbreaker: “Yes.”

I do not jump to conclusions, neither do I ignore data when it appears before me. Yes, murder entered

my mind as a rational possibility. No, I did not have any special intuition of something sinister

beyond the facts. I did note to myself that Sugiyama could not know where the stolen list had been

found, so they had no reason to share my suspicions.

Sugiyama: “It was Mertice’s own fault, the experts say. There’s this kit you can get, apparently, that

makes the cars crash, scrambles the system. A Thrill-Ride Suicide Kit it’s called. It’s illegal in

most Hives to sell something like that, but Humanists will insist on these things being art for art’s

sake, whatever the buyer does with it.”

Guildbreaker: “Then you believe the crash was suicide?”

Sugiyama: “Like I said, Mertice was unstable, even attempted suicide once before. Mertice called

Aki and talked to them over the tracker in the final minute when the car was flying out of control,

horrible morbid stuff about death and eternity.”

Guildbreaker: “Did Mertice specifically say it was suicide?”

Sugiyama: “You can get the recording from the cops. I don’t want to listen to it. Aki tried to jump off

a building themself after that, and made another attempt at home the day after, but they’ve finally

calmed down. I’m past being pissed at poor Mertice, the kid obviously needed help, but almost

losing Aki made me think about how little time I’d spent with them, or with my ba’kids and

bash’mates, since I’ve always been a voker.”

Guildbreaker: “So you decided to retire?”

Sugiyama: “That’s right. Maybe I’ll write another book. But for now I’ve spent all week with Aki

and my bash’mates, and some from Aki’s birth bash’, just relaxing. Feels pretty right. I’m still

going to do editorials now and again, but no more vokering for me. You’re a voker too, aren’t you,


Guildbreaker: “Yes.”

Sugiyama: “Ever calculate what portion of your time you spend with the people you care most


Guildbreaker: “My bash’ are all vokers.”

Sugiyama: “Ha. No hope for you then.”

I considered the possibility that the tangent might be intentional evasion, and cut it off.

Guildbreaker: “What about the Seven-Ten list? You were supposed to write it.”

Sugiyama: “Yes, I was beginning the editorials when all this happened. My assistant offered to finish

the editorials for me and publish the original list, but I don’t like to do things halfway.”

Guildbreaker: “Your assistant, that is Masami Mitsubishi?”

Sugiyama: “Yes. Brilliant kid, memory like an elephant and a razor sense of humor, I can see what

Andō saw in them. But I told Masami-kun if they were going to write the list they should do it

themself, their own list, start to finish. They’re young and it’s good to have young ideas out there

sometimes. I told Hagiwara-san that Masami-kun’s status as a member of the Andō-Mitsubishi

bash’ would be a draw in itself, but do editors listen?”

Guildbreaker: “Had Masami known who was on your list?”

Sugiyama: “Only the three outsider names. Masami-kun set up the interviews for me. Most of the staff

at Black Sakura can usually guess who my bottom three will be since they know who I’ve been

interviewing lately, but I never show anyone the order of the Big Seven.”

Guildbreaker: “Did you write it down?”

Sugiyama: “Of course. I had a paper copy in shorthand, and half-finished essays on most of the ten

started on my computer. I know what you’re thinking: Masami could have accessed my computer,

and it’s true, they could have. So could anyone around the office. Thing is, I’ve seen a copy of

Masami’s list now, and there’s no way Masami would come up with that after seeing mine. You

know how you can tell if an artist has studied another even if they don’t copy it directly?”

Guildbreaker: “Do you have the original list here?”

Sugiyama: “I knew you’d ask. I’ve written a translation for you.”

Guildbreaker: “Thank you, but I will also want to examine the original paper list for fingerprints and

other signs of tampering.”

Sugiyama: “Of course, of course, just read my translation first.”

I read the list at this time. It was on the same type of paper as that recovered by Mycroft, but written

in a very unsteady English hand. I was unable to keep my hands from shaking as I read. I do not have

(nor do I believe in) powers that can sense import in things beyond what reason and the facts supply,

but I do believe that some minds, appropriately specialized, may get a true sense of a thing at first

glance, even before the conscious mind translates the details into thoughts. Surely President

Ganymede, presented with a painting, knows its period, school, and quality before becoming

conscious of the brushstrokes, pigment, and stylistic traits which are the grounds for their deduction.

Princesse Danaë Mitsubishi, though not as fluent in art as the President, is experienced enough at least

to recognize the school. As Princesse Mitsubishi is with art, so I am far from the foremost expert at

solving crimes, but even on first reading of the list, I knew that I held motive in my hands.

#1: Cornel MASON

#2: Anonymous

#3: Sniper

#4: Ziven Racer

#5: Bryar Kosala

#6: Felix Faust

#7: Hotaka Andō Mitsubishi

#8: Franỗois Quesnay

#9: Julia Doria-Pamphili

#10: Lorelei Cookie Cook

Guildbreaker: This this is … Sniper instead of the President? And Racer instead of Perry?”

Sugiyama: “I wanted to stir things up a bit.”

Guildbreaker: “Masami Mitsubishi knew about this?”

Sugiyama: “Masami knew I’d been interviewing Racer, Julia, and Cookie, but I’m sure they assumed

those three would be eight, nine, and ten. In fact, I went so far as to start a fake editorial about

Ganymede, so anyone glancing through my files would think my list was normal. Leaks are rare but

they do happen, and I didn’t want anything to spoil the surprise. Bookies don’t even take bets about

outsiders making it into the top Seven.”

Guildbreaker: “Did Sniper know?”

Sugiyama: “No. Every paper interviews Sniper twice a week, what’s one more?”

Guildbreaker: “Racer I understand, but why, if I may ask…”

Sugiyama: “Everybody knows Ganymede only had the margin they did last election because Sniper

endorsed them. If Sniper didn’t always publicly decline office, they’d be Vice President or even

Co-Consul by now.”

Guildbreaker: “So you say Sniper is the most important Humanist because they let President

Ganymede win?”

Sugiyama: “Not just that. They meet a lot, Ganymede and Sniper, behind closed doors. Sniper’s

careful never to admit anything, but no one would hand someone the Presidency without a big price

tag attached. Why share power as Co-Consuls when you can blackmail Ganymede and not have to

go to any boring meetings? I’ve met Sniper hundreds of times, so I know something of how the kid


Guildbreaker: “And Hotaka Andō Mitsubishi you ranked below even Felix Faust?”

Sugiyama: “When I have time I’ll write summaries of my unfinished editorials for you, unless you

have someone on your staff who reads Japanese.”

Guildbreaker: “I do.”

Sugiyama: “Of course: Tai-kun.”

(Note: Sugiyama means J.E.D.D. Mason, whose Japanese nickname I understand has something to

do with being a young person crowned or near a crown.)

Guildbreaker: “You realized when you wrote this that it would be quite a blow for Director

Mitsubishi to be ranked so low by their native paper.”

Sugiyama: “Nothing like a good kick in the balls to get people going. You may not be aware, but I’ve

been watching my Hive eighty years now: things are bad. We’ve been letting ourselves shrink too

long. It isn’t good for us, sitting like lumps watching the Masons grow. But it’s not only my own

Hive I’m kicking, there’s wallop enough for the Humanists, and for Europe. All three need it, the

Cousins too. My draft editorials will make it clearer. I was sad when I quit that they wouldn’t be

published, but you’ve got to hand the reins to the new generation sometime. Masami-kun has some

pretty stimulating names on their list too, Darcy Sok and Crown Prince Leonor especially. Give

the kid a year or two and they’ll be better than I was. Well, as good, maybe.”

(I asked Mycroft what I should read of the pattern of honorifics sometimes present and sometimes

absent in Sugiyama’s English; Mycroft was unhelpful.)

Guildbreaker: “Would you be willing to let me schedule you for an Enhanced Memory Session to

recall in detail the activity at the Black Sakura offices in the week before the theft?”

Sugiyama: “I don’t like Utopians pumping chemicals into my brain.”

Guildbreaker: “It could be vital.”

Sugiyama: “I still don’t like it.”

Guildbreaker: “The alternative is for me to send a professional police interviewer, which would

take much longer. I’ve endured both myself, and I dislike drugs, but I vastly preferred the E.M.S.”

Sugiyama: “I’ll think about it.”

Guildbreaker: “Time is a factor.”

Sugiyama: “I’ll need at least one minute to think.”

Guildbreaker: “Of course. Are you familiar with how an E.M.S. works? Do you want to hear about

the side effects?”

Sugiyama: “I’ve done them before, I just don’t like it.”

Guildbreaker: “I must also ask you to speculate about who else might have seen your list.”

Sugiyama: “You’re sure it leaked, aren’t you?”

Guildbreaker: “The theft seems to be engineered to bring your list before the public eye.”

Sugiyama: “My thought as well, someone at Black Sakura who saw my list and couldn’t bear not to

let the public see it.”

Guildbreaker: “Or was bribed by one of the Hives that would benefit.”

Sugiyama: “You don’t know us at all, do you? Black Sakura isn’t a normal paper like Le Monde or

Shanghai Daily, it’s staffed entirely by vokers, not just vokers but total Japanese Mitsubishi

culture-obsessed literary zealots. It’s not unusual for us to spend a week in the office without

sleeping, most of us hardly see our bash’es, and I don’t know a one person there who manages to

spend their whole salary, since we don’t really do anything but work. Most of them wouldn’t know

what to do with a bribe if you offered it to them, and a lot of them would probably physically

attack anyone who suggested intentionally tampering with the press. There’s always the possibility

of an outsider sneaking into the office, but if one of Black Sakura did it, it was because they

wanted the public to see my last great work, not for money or power.”

Guildbreaker: “What about this Assistant Editor who went public about the theft and substitution,

Hikaru Nakahara.”

Sugiyama: “Journalistic conscience, not bribery. If I know Nakahara-san they probably spent a long

night deciding whether to go public or hand in their resignation. Well, there will have been some

ambition in it. When Hagiwara-san resigns, Nakahara-san will probably take over, and readership

will skyrocket with all this fuss. If scary criminals think we’re important enough to burgle—”

Porphyrogene: “Imprimantur.” (Translation: “Let them be printed.”)

* * *

I held out my hand to silence Sugiyama, who could not hear the new voice over my tracker, but was

startled seeing me sit so abruptly straight. Others always tell me they could not bear to live with a

tracker connection set on permanent priority, so the person on the other end may hear and see through

mine at any time without my knowledge, and speak to me suddenly without any warning beep or me

having to select ‘Take Call.’ After seventeen years of the privilege, never facing any scene alone, nor

enduring a second’s delay before the Porphyrogene’s words reach me, I could not bear to live

without it.

Guildbreaker: “Quae?” (“What?”)

Porphyrogene: “Indices. Collegis auctoribus, petitum est ut indices perendie cum aliis pervulgare

liceat. Nihil obstat. (The lists. At the urging of [Sugiyama’s?] colleagues, it has been petitioned

that they be allowed to be disseminated with the others the day after tomorrow. Let nothing prevent


Sugiyama: “What’s happening?”

Guildbreaker: “I am to tell you that there is no legal obstruction to prevent Black Sakura from

publishing the two lists, yours and Masami Mitsubishi’s, when the other papers release theirs on

the day after tomorrow.”

Sugiyama: “I was about to ask that.”

Guildbreaker: “Yes, they knew you were.”

Sugiyama: “Is that Tai-kun on the line?”

Guildbreaker: “Yes.”

Sugiyama: “Tai-kun themself. Quite the honor for my little mystery. Has Tai-kun met with Director

Andō about this yet? Has the Directorate approved the publication of the lists?”

Porphyrogene, in English, repeated verbatim by Guildbreaker: “The Directorate has no right to

silence words; only the author does. This theft tells us that some specter wants your list in the

world’s eye. We know not why. By publishing, you blindly serve that specter, but you also serve

Truth, and relieve the curiosity-pain of frightened humanity. You must choose, but if within these

two days we can name the specter, you will choose less blindly.”

Sugiyama: “You’re right. Call your Utopians, let’s get this E.M.S. over with.”

Guildbreaker: “You’ll do it?”

Sugiyama: “If it might help, yes. Your Tai-kun’s right, the public needs to see what this is all about,

but something’s rotten here, and someone’s trying to use me and use my paper. The only way to

stop them is for you to find out what they’re after.”

Guildbreaker: “Thank you. We appreciate your help.”

Sugiyama: “Good. I wouldn’t do an E.M.S. for just anyone.”

Porphyrogene, repeated by Guildbreaker: “No, you do it for Truth and Charity. Your choice is kind.

I thank you.”



If They Catch Me

I see Martin has introduced the word ‘murder’ into our tale. Technology has eliminated that middle

breed of criminal who thinks that, if they wash their hands and dump the body far from home, they can

get away with it. Criminals now are either self-labeled geniuses who, through elaborate preparation,

think they can outwit the trackers, DNA, and all the practice and experience of law, or else they are

plain men with no delusions of escaping punishment. Of every five killers now, three turn themselves

in right away, having acted in the grip of rage, or else in the calm confidence that the deed was worth

the price. One out of five escapes by suicide. Only the last of the five attempts to hide, having

schemed and toiled for months to form the perfect plan. He fails. There are professionals, of course,

for the mob will always need its violence, but they too know that someday they must either flee the

Alliance entirely, living out their lives in trackless hiding, or else be caught. Gone are the days when

the police would gather evidence, conduct their interviews over a few days, and, in the end, discover

the boyfriend, ex-wife, or business rival who had seen the opportunity and seized it. I asked

Commissioner General Papadelias once which he preferred, the would-be mastermind who

challenges the detective to a game of wits, or the honest criminal who waits red-handed at the scene.

The former, he answered, was more stimulating, but usually only the latter commanded his respect. I

understand it. The Prince of Murderers, said Papadelias, the Moriarty he waited for, would do both,

accepting fully and philosophically his inevitable end, yet still fighting with all his strength and

cunning to extend his freedom to the last breath. He needed, I think, to meet a soldier.

“Good morning, Major.”

“Mycroft! You look ready to drop.”

The stiffness in my shoulders made me wince as I ducked the plastic sheeting which camouflages

Bridger’s cave. It is a cheerful cave, walled with foam of festive colors, carved out by the robots

which mine the trash beneath Cielo de Pájaros. Inside the cave is all clutter, the choicest treasures

gathered from the trash of which Bridger has first pick: bright marbles, balls, tricycles, toy cars,

chunks of dozens of dollhouses assembled into a hodgepodge palace, and mounds of storybooks

stacked dense as bricks. My own more hygienic contributions add to the nest: blankets, cushions,

clothes, video players and digital readers, good paints and paper, and a shelf of real food: rice,

animal-shaped cookies, instant bacon, anything too difficult for the boy to make from mud and grass.

“I had a long day yesterday,” I answered.

The Major stretched back in his rocking chair on the roof of a pink plastic castle, switching off the

handheld news screen which dwarfed him like a billboard. “Did you sleep?”

I gave a guilty wince. “I napped on the flight back here from Romanova.”

The Major always breathes deeply, as if he enjoys the taste of air itself. “Are ten kinds of trouble

coming, or only two?”

“It’s bad, sir,” I answered, comfortable in company where I could say ‘sir’ and have no one stare.

“I don’t know how bad yet.”

“Bad far away or bad here?”

“Both. I just spoke with Lesley Saneer. Someone very dangerous came to the house yesterday, a

sensayer in historical clothes named Dominic Seneschal.”

“I know. They spent hours searching Thisbe’s room.”

I nodded. “If we’re wise we’ll assume Dominic found enough evidence to know there have been

unregistered strangers in that room.” I eased myself into my own scavenged metal chair, between the

Major’s castle and a white-painted cardboard box, transformed into a functioning refrigerator by

Bridger’s power. “I did my best to clean up yesterday, but we’ve been so comfortable in that house

lately, we haven’t been worrying about tiny bits of evidence like skin flakes. We aren’t prepared to

evade a professional.”

The Major nodded, the relaxed but heavy nod of a patient who has already deduced the worst

before the doctor works around to the word ‘fatal.’ “You’ve crossed swords with this Dominic


“I know Dominic well, though we haven’t literally crossed swords. Dominic does carry a sword,

though, and has killed several opponents in duels. Not an enemy we can face. It’s time to move on.”

The veteran nodded slowly, his sigh heavy and frail at once. “Yes.”

“Is Bridger—” I didn’t have to finish, for light and smiles burst in through the plastic door.



Bridger was long since too big for my lap, but had never realized it. “Aimer was just reading more

of Les Misérables with me!” His elbows jabbed my ribs as he climbed onto me, and his legs spilled

out of the chair over mine, like a hermit crab in need of a new shell. “I think Jean Valjean would get

along really well with Odysseus, don’t you? They could talk about what it’s like being on a really

long journey with lots of different stages and never knowing if it’s almost over, and I bet Odysseus

would have lots of clever suggestions for how Valjean could disguise themself and never be caught!”

“Yes, they probably would.” Bridger needed new pants, too, I noticed, as more centimeters of

sock showed beneath ever-rising cuffs. Thirteen years old; he would begin to shoot up soon, and we

would have to guess how tall he would become, and teach him how to shave.

Children rarely notice whether or not you’re listening. “I was thinking about what you were telling

me before, about how the Greek heroes are beloved of the gods, and how that’s sort of good but also

bad, because it means big scary divine things always happen to them, and they never get to rest, and

everyone around them always dies, like Odysseus’s sailors all die. That’s what happens to Valjean,

too, like they’re also beloved of the gods, so I bet they and Odysseus could help each other deal with

it, and Odysseus could come up with a clever way to make money and feed all the poor people in


He got me. My mind strayed first to imagining what ingenious barricade Odysseus could construct,

and then I saw it all, the conversation he imagined, the two wanderers breaking bread together,

drawing succor from seeing another pair of eyes as tired as their own. The Major gazed darkly at me,

reminding me of his objections when the mining bots had dragged Les Misérables from the dump, a

real old paper copy, somehow still legible. I had not had the heart to forbid Bridger to read it, but at

story time Bridger always used to turn on the waterworks even when the ‘bad guy’ died. Now we

were watching the bookmark crawl millimeter by millimeter through the masterpiece which brings

tears to the eyes of disillusioned adults. We all imagine happy endings to such books, pick out the

page, the paragraph, in which we would step in and pluck the innocents to safety. Only one among us

actually can. All it would take is some store manikins, the costumes, and a miracle.

“I don’t know,” I forced myself to answer. “I don’t know if Odysseus could get used to dealing

with armies that have guns, or with people who believe in one God instead of lots of gods. You know

it’s very hard for people to deal with a world completely different from their own.” I rubbed the

boy’s hair, chewing on the future in my mind. Yes, we would have to guess how tall he’d grow, and

teach him how to shave, and make decisions like this for himself, not just to be a good boy and obey

when we said ‘no.’

Bridger’s smile would not dim. “Maybe Achilles couldn’t get used to gun armies, but Odysseus

could. Odysseus is the cleverest ever. If Odysseus can get along with nymphs and gods and goddesses

and ghosts and foreigners then they can handle Frenchmen.”

“Probably so, but I can’t see it going well. Odysseus managed to get lost for ten years in just the

Mediterranean, and up in France there’s the whole Atlantic to deal with.” I mussed his hair again, its

blond perhaps starting to dim. “You know that’s a very sad book, right? Les Misérables. Famously


Bridger hadn’t learned to avoid the eyes of others, but always met them honestly. “I know.

Lieutenant Aimer already told me some of what’s going to happen. I’ll be ready when it comes.”

I used to forget sometimes that I was not Bridger’s only pseudo-parent.

“Why do people like sad books?” he asked.

“You like this book,” I answered.

“I’d like it better if it wasn’t sad.” He leaned his head against my shoulder. “I get mad at authors

for doing that sort of thing to characters.”

“Some books have to be sad to get across the ideas the author wants to talk about. Victor Hugo is

describing a very sad part of real history. Hugo wants you to understand that moment in time, what

was beautiful about it, and what was horrible. Books, even made-up stories, can’t all have happy

endings because they reflect the real world, and the real world isn’t always happy.”

The Major nodded, sagely slow. “If history is written by winners, fiction like that is written by

bystanders trying to guess what the victims would have said if they’d survived.”

“So what?” The heedless boy elbowed me in the gut again as he sat up. “Even if it’s real life’s

fault bad things happen, that doesn’t mean they aren’t bad. Don’t you get mad, Mycroft? Major?

Whether it’s fiction or real life, don’t you get mad?”

I nodded. “That’s the sort of thing you can talk to the sensayer Carlyle about.”

The Major leaned back, his tiny arms swinging over the chair’s sides. “Anger doesn’t help. Men

write books like that because they want history to remember, mourn, and make sure that sort of

tragedy won’t happen again.” His voice was gentle, like an abdicated king happy that his words are

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The Interlude of the Interview with Retired Black Sakura Reporter Tsuneo Sugiyama, as Related by Martin Guildbreaker

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