Back in the garden, everyone waves to them as they emerge from the bamboo. The girl waves back, but Julius starts signaling something with his hands. The girl doesn’t know what it means, but she can tell it’s to do with one of the nearby hills. The other Ghosts all nod and react calmly. Kunti sits up and pulls her shirt down. Simon moves to sit beside her, tossing his cords behind the rock. Miss Brown wipes off her hands and begins to walk lazily through the garden patch. Smiling, and then even more so when he sees the girl’s confusion, Julius takes hold of her wheelchair and begins making a slow circuit around the border of the bamboo grove.
Before the girl can even ask what they are all up to, she sees two people appear over the crest of the hill, walking toward them. Julius presses reassuringly on her shoulder and she stays still, hands on her lap while he pushes her chair.
It’s a pair of women, coming over the crest at a jog dressed in sporty shorts and strappy tops. They come trotting right down the main trail, splashing through puddles from the last rain. They reach the bottom of the rise and start weaving their way through the garden, neither taking any notice of the plants there but automatically avoiding them nonetheless.
The girl grunts as Julius makes a sharp turn, and then nearly shouts when she sees he’s headed toward the newcomers.
“Hey,” says Julius, waving a hand slowly to the joggers. “How about this weather?”
The girl nods and tries to smile. Her face is so numb with fear that she can’t tell if she succeeds. Why is Julius talking to them? If they figure out what they are…
“Yeah, it’s beautiful out,” says one of the women.
Then Miss Brown is approaching, backwards for no apparent reason, and she looks over her shoulder at the women. “Busy day?”
The second woman replies: “Gotta hit the printer after the walk, then some data mining and design lessons this afternoon.”
Nods are exchanged and the women jog on. They quickly cross the rest of the garden, neither even pausing at the sight of Kunti gripping Simon’s shoulders like a vice, her lips locked onto his even tighter. Another few moments and they are climbing the far hill.
Looking back at Julius, the girl breathes a slow, awaited breath. She is suddenly both calmed and impressed. “Smooth,” she says, nodding her approval.
“Just keeping it real, but unverified. There’s nothing a User pays less attention to than idle chat.”
They all turn at a loud gasp. Simon finally managed to get himself free from Kunti.
“Sorry,” she says, wiping her lips dry as Simon gasps for breath. “Panicked.” She smiles weakly.
The encounter over, Miss Brown goes right back to her plants, Kunti stands to take a short walk, and Simon sits on the flat rock now, weaving again. Taking the wheels and moving free, the girl turns around to look at Julius. “How’d you know?” she says.
“Know what?” he says, elegantly stepping around her to take the handles again and maneuver her chair to a flat spot of solid soil.
“About those two. You came back out here just to see them. How’d you know they were coming?”
He shrugs. “It’s my job to know.” And he’s off, back toward the bamboo grove.
* * *
Marcus nods at the window. Behind him, Griffin is still shaking. “This is getting to be too much,” he says. “Another close call.”
“I don’t think so,” says Marcus, waving back through views of the Unverifiables’ garden. “Watch this.”
A view plays at human eye level. The two women come jogging into the garden. They slow a bit, then one speaks. “Yeah,” she says, “it’s beautiful out.”
They keep moving, then the second says. “Gotta hit the printer after the walk, then some data mining and design lessons this afternoon.”
Griffin just stares at the window. Ylwa swivels slowly back and forth in her chair, head back.
“Don’t you see?” says Marcus. He hates stating the obvious. “Think about that view we just watched. Those two women not only passed by, but spoke to the Unverifiables. But if we didn’t know that, we wouldn’t know the Unverifiables were there. There’s nothing unusual in that view.”
Griffin stands, nodding slowly. “They got them to say just what they wanted them to.”
“Exactly. If those women had engaged the Unverifiables in conversation, it would have looked very odd in playback. But the Unverifiables took the initiative, and now it looks like those two were just sharing something into their chatter.” Marcus waves away the view and crosses his arms. “That Julius is good.”
Ylwa swivels toward him, and with her head still laying back says, “Watch out, Bats. That clown’s no joke.”
He raises an eyebrow, but not from ignorance. “I thought you couldn’t read.”
“I can’t,” she says, “but I’m a good listener and I like the colorful pictures.” Her head comes forward and her eyes fall right on Marcus. “My point is, don’t get too interested. We’re supposed to be observing them, not learning from them.” And her head lolls back. “Now keep your ears open. She’s doing something.”