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3.

“Okay,” said Rob, “so, question. Histories where Andre’s parents came to Olvar. There were histories in which they didn’t?”

“We saw one,” said Annelise. “Rob, we were there. Remember?”

“What? Oh. So you had to go all the way back to where his parents came to Olvar?”

“No, actually,” said old Henry 1. “All we had to do was figure out where we could put the vermoids so that they would spread back to there. It’s their nature to spread back to bifurcation points. I mean, the forking point is there already. Something to do with events on Groria, I don’t pay attention to those things.”

“Lots of forking points at the end of Antor’s reign,” said Andre. “The whole history of Groria is full of fractures around there.”

“So what becomes of him when he doesn’t move to Olvar?” asked Annelise.

“He stays in Rion,” said Henry 1, unsuccessfully concealing a smirk.

“Wait a minute,” said Lilah. “Wait a stinkin’ minute. What happens to Andre’s family in—Rion? Isn’t that near Semvov?”

“Exactly,” said Rob.

“Yes,” said Henry 2. “It’s practically in the middle of the biggest strategic war map in Grorian history. He doesn’t get out alive.”

“A lot of people don’t,” said Rob. “You really shouldn’t be happy about it.”

“Andre is a sociopath,” Henry 2 retorted. “He destroys people’s lives. He—!”

“No, correction,” Lilah said, raising her voice over his. “You destroy people’s lives. He just makes people named Henry jealous and unhappy. It’s not the same thing.” She glared at Henry 2, who glared right back but said nothing. Then she switched her glare to the elder Henry, who shook his head. “What?” she asked him. “Second thoughts?”

“All my thoughts,” said Henry 1, “are second thoughts.”

“Well, welcome to my world. So listen. I got one more question. Young Hothead Henry here was going to dump the worms, the, uh, vermoids, in the past. Of course he actually did do that, but when I tried to take us to him, well, he was already pretty much just a few ribs, hips and leg bones, with some rotten flesh still hanging off them.”

“That would be me,” said Henry 2 in a sort of vicious mutter.

“So we came here because this one was the next closest?” asked Rob.

“Something like that,” said Lilah. “You guys were about ready.”

“Yes,” said Henry 1. “Fifty years. Sixty. We were finally ready. For good or ill.”

“And we did it,” said Henry 2. “You can’t fool me, time cop. It’s already happened, hasn’t it? You went and saw it. That means it happened.”

“Yeah,” said Lilah. “They don’t call it murder if you didn’t kill them yet. Before, you had one murder on your hands. A child, but just one. Now, you both are guilty of billions of deaths. So I kind of figured, when I knew it was a Henry of some sort who was responsible, that you wouldn’t mind dying in the process. You’d lost Lucy—I knew one of you had, because there’s a Lucy out there on the loose—!”

“No,” said Henry 2. “She’s in the downstream of the event. She’s gone too.”

“Yes, but we saw her outside your kill zone. I think she’s around somewhere. With that other Andre.”

“No. No, no. Can’t be.”

“But what I want to know,” said Lilah, “is about the Lucy who came to us with the case. She couldn’t get back to Endweith. And then she disappeared completely. That was you, right? Or was that Andre?”

“It was me,” said Henry 1. “It will be me.”

“You send Lucy to her conference. Then—!”

“Yes, yes, she’s there right now.” Henry the Elder snorted mildly. “Now,” he repeated as if it were a strange concept. “Anyway, she goes there, we put the plan in operation, then my colleague here dies with all the universes we need to cut, and I go pick her up. I draw her in with a beacon. She goes to jump back here to Endweith, and instead, she jumps to me. In a safe place. Because Endweith, and that entire, tainted, universe: it would all be gone.”

Henry 2 gave Henry 1 a look of surprising tenderness. “And you and Lucy live together in your new home,” he said.

“But there was a problem,” said Lilah. “We’re here because she did try to get back to Endweith, and she couldn’t find it. Instead she looked all over the Olvar history that’s still there, and she couldn’t find you. She was heartbroken,” Lilah finished with an ounce of scorn.

“That,” said Henry 1, “is because you don’t know what form the beacon took.”

“Okay, humor me.” Henry 1 just smiled. “Or don’t,” said Lilah. “You know what? I don’t bleeping care. We are done here. Done. It’s time to turn you over to the Violet Council and see what they think should be done with you. See, this may be an unusual jurisdictional situation and all, but we are not lawless, we aren’t just thugs. Or animals acting on instinct. Because if we were, you would already be dead.”

The Henrys raised their voices to object, but Lilah and Annelise and Rob were already excusing themselves out onto the balcony.

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