I am back.

"What have you done!" says the leader. He is an older man, neatly trimmed grey hair and dark wool suit. He is out of his chair and moving towards me.

I am exhausted and dirty. I am a big man, but even so, I can barely hold the giant bottle. It is golden scotch, the bottle elaborately carved. I stand blinking, holding the scotch.

"Where is the girl?" He is agitated and not quite shouting. He is always controlled, so this sounds like shouting because he isn't controlled. "You were supposed to get the girl and the scotch. Or the girl alone if you couldn't get both. Not just the scotch!"

"Wait." I say. "It's ok."

"What?" It isn't ok. He is gobsmacked that I would do something other than ordered. "Your orders-"


We hear a sudden rise in crowd noise from the lobby. We both go to there and a crowd is gathering fast. We push though. In the center is a woman. She is small but muscular. She is as filthy as I am and is carrying a sword. She is down on one knee, breathing hard, the sword held in front of her. She lowers it. Her head drops forward a little as her shoulders droop.

"Move aside!" The leader goes through the crowd and stops in front of her. "Welcome," he says.

"Where is the computer?" she says wearily.

He leads her through the crowd. The people are talking and whispering, about the scotch too. I hold it more tightly and follow. Some people would drink it. In fact, most would.

She tells us what she needs and we have supplies within minutes. She assembles it without hesitation. She seats herself in front of the computer. The scotch is open and being siphoned in to the computer.

The leader looks at me, now.

I report. "I was supposed to bring her and the scotch back. Or her, hoping we could distill the scotch ourselves. But it became clear that I couldn't bring both and that distilling the scotch wouldn't work. So instead, I told her the truth. That our universe was unraveling and that we needed her help. I could carry the scotch and she could fight her way through. There were others trying to abduct her."

"I see."

We both stand and watch as she types in lines of code, frowning. I have done everything I could to save the universe. Now it is up to her.

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