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Authors: Steve Toutonghi
Tags: Literary Fiction
    â€œWhere are your other drives?” Leap asks. “I can come over with my One or my Three.”
    â€œNo,” Chance says. “I’ve got a drive sleeping. I’ll set my One down in a few more minutes. He’s just crying right now. My Four is near the restaurant, where it happened.”
    â€œIn New Denver?” Leap asks.
    â€œYes,” Chance says.
    â€œDoes it have something to do with this join named Rope losing two drives?”
    Chance knows that at least one of Leap’s other drives has begun scanning Civ News.
    â€œBoth of those drives that died weren’t Rope’s,” Chance says. “I mean, I guess I don’t even know if either one of them were Rope’s. One of them was my Three.”
    â€œBut Civ News says they’re Rope’s.” Leap Two’s voice makes it clear that Leap is trying to understand. Why would Civ News be inaccurate? “Is that why you flipped the privacy switch?”
    â€œYes,” Chance says. “I needed to tell you. I might need your help, and I don’t want a record of this.”
    Most employees consider the switch a quaint anachronism. If joins want a private conversation, they just connect using other drives. Chance has never used the switch before but appreciates that its continued existence acknowledges the value of a face-to-face conversation with a specific body.
    â€œYou can bring a drive to my place, so we can talk,” Leap says. Then, “After what happened earlier this morning . . . with you . . . they’ll want a little detail on why we turned on the switch.”
    â€œI know,” agrees Chance.
    â€œOkay. You want captain back?” Leap asks.
    Chance experiences a momentary lightness, a swell of gratitude toward Leap. “No, I don’t. You fly. But thank you.”
    â€œOkay,” says Leap.
    Chance turns off the privacy switch. They fly for a while, neither of them talking. Chance doesn’t help and doesn’t pay attention to what Leap is doing. When they’re about an hour from landing, Leap turns on the privacy switch again.
    She says, “I’m trying to get my head around this. You’re saying this Rope character, someone I don’t know, and that you’ve never talked about, killed your drive. Who is this? How do you know this person? Why would this Rope want to hurt you? I just . . . I don’t get it, Chance. What’s going on?”
    Chance has been trying to make sense of what happened but is still numb. Leap watches her but doesn’t speak. It’s clear that neither of them has anything more to say, so Leap switches off privacy again.
    Leap swipes open a comm channel. She reports the authorization changes so far and justifies them by describing Chance as physically ill. There’ll be an inquiry, but it’s one of the few reasons that may not carry a penalty. The death of a drive is reason enough for a join to step out of a command role.
    Then Leap says, “Autonomy, primary flight assistance required. Leap will continue as copilot. Please confirm.”
    Autonomy responds, “Confirmed. Primary flight assistance engaged. Autonomy will pilot flight number B-Two-Ten-CC. Leap is now copilot.”
    Leap closes the comm channel, switches privacy back on, then turns to Chance.
    Chance knows what Leap wants. She says, “Okay. I’m gonna tell you what happened, but, please, don’t do research as I talk. Rope is . . . informed. I’m afraid Rope will know you and I are friends and may be watching you as well.”
    Chance gives Leap a quick summary of the meetings with Rope.

    This time, they find each other on the Uyuni salt flat, the group Chance thinks of as Team Teenager. They’ve met before, when all of Chance’s drives are sleeping at the same time. It’s a dry day. A little chilly.
    There are five of them—Ashton, Renee, Jake, Shami-8, and Javier—each of the individuals who

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