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Defused?”

Defused,” Hasegawa Mamoru acknowledged. “He’s being put away permanently.”

But why alive?”

Mamoru didn’t have the real answer to that question, but he had one answer. “It was an explicit request from Sano-san on the Japanese side.”

And the mopping up?”

The rest are being rounded up as well,” Mamoru said in confirmation. “They’ll stay alive as well. Same request,” he added.

He almost had to shout the words. The waterhole they visited might be targetted at people in their forties and older, but it still poured out music at a volume more suited for those in their twenties.

The outdoors cityscape of Gothenburg might be silent in a way Tokyo never was, but indoors was a very different matter. Apart from that Gothenburg was strangely similar to Tokyo. An abysmal winter, wetter here than at home, but still the same kind of windy almost winter that drowned the city lights in dreary darkness. Illuminations all over the city mitigated it somewhat, but Mamoru grimaced at the thought of staying here late January when they were all taken down. Sweden was dark in winter.

At least the speakers blaring out foreign music, foreign for him at least, made certain they could speak undisturbed.

You look like you would have preferred seeing them dead,” the other man said.

Mamoru clenched his fists under the table. “I have a daughter in another school in that area. Thinking it might have been my little Ai...” The cold smile he was rewarded with made Mamoru regret he ever got involved with this organisation.

There never was any risk. Your daughter is Japanese.”

If being Japanese is the reason Ai-chan was never raped then my own pride in being Japanese just crashed. He chose not to respond, but a feeling of distaste lingered in his mind. “And the outcome?” Mamoru asked. He was genuinely interested, but it was also an excuse to change the topic.

The other man shrugged. It was a thoroughly western expression, which made sense since he was just as tall, blond and blue eyed as any stereotype of the concept of Swedish would want you to believe. “We’ll see. We’re sending to their nineteen eighties, or at least we believe we do.”

That was further back than I thought. Mamoru pretended the information didn’t surprise him. “So our readings are from the twenty fifties?” he suggested.

Probably. It’s a double blind. We don’t know exactly which year in the... What did your contacts call it? Yes, upstream world we’re sending to. We sure as hell make certain they don’t know which year we’re sending from.”

That made sense. “And it’s the same with the… ah… downstream world?”

Probably. I mean, if we’re sending a bit over thirty years into their past, then it just makes sense we’re receiving from some thirty years ahead in the downstream future. We get hints about what kind of people they want transited and we deliver.”

We deliver. What a disgusting way to put it. “Why?” He could just as well ask that all important question.

Economic and technological trends some ten to twenty years ahead. It keeps both Sweden and Japan afloat of the rest of the world.” The advertisement for a Swedish male grimaced. “Well, if the idiots over there could get their collective heads out of their arses Japan would be on top as well.”

There have been major mishaps in Sweden as well. At least if I remember my history books,” Mamoru tried.

Half a beer later the other man smirked and showed Mamoru a toothy grin. “We have our share of idiots here as well. We get the information from downstream; doesn’t mean people in power always listen to it.”

Why removing Kareyoshi? Pigs worse than him have been allowed to stay in power,” Mamoru said and changed the subject. He could just as well gain some more clues to the riddle.

Because those in power upstream suffer from the same kind of decency as we do. The last time we allowed things to deteriorate like this they plugged the bottle for fifteen years.”

Fifteen?” Mamoru was certain one of the arrivals was in his mid twenties objectively. He sipped his own beer and let his eyes wander over the rustic tackiness that served as decoration around them.

Ashiga James was an accident. He was never supposed to transit.”

So that’s what happened. They’re not fully in control of the transits. But…

Yes, we have accidents here as well. Or rather we believe those have to occur. Some of the people who should transit probably never get identified. Call it fate, or karma. Whatever.”

The interruption was brutal, but it told Mamoru just about everything he didn’t want to know. Some people got caught in transition as accidents, but most were manipulated into leaving the world they knew for another, and the man on he other side of the table, with a beer in his hand, still dared talking about decency.

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