And what then?
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Moira Delaney was the lead researcher for twenty-four fifty-two, and she was good at her job. Over the past three decades, her small team had built up stores upon stores of records, notes, theories, and counterpoints. They knew the exact source of every photograph, the identities of every person in them, the models of camera they were taken with and the places they were developed. She'd given each of the eighty-two images code-names, and could recall them without fail from memory, as well as their origins and whether or not they'd been destroyed in the past. Her knowledge of the photographic techniques used in overcomplicated crowd shots now bordered on the eidetic. Some would say she'd wasted her genius on a relatively simple Safe-class, and maybe they were right. But at the end of the day, someone had to do it, and she'd be damned if she wasn't the perfect for the job.

The dash-one, of course, had also been studied extensively, though its hostility and single-mindedness made it difficult. Long-range visual observations were preferred for obvious reasons, but various remotely-operated drones had done their grim work well, and Site-90 now had a locked closet filled to the brim with organic samples. They had reasonably good guesses for its ethnic origin (east-Asian), gender (male), and the nature of its bandages (modern linen, dyed to look ancient). Its top speed was known to two decimal places, and its body-mass to four. She'd been given a moderate budget and a rotating cabal of PhD students, and she'd put it to excellent use — she'd found an answer to almost every question anybody could possibly have about Adrian Saul and his pet project.

Almost.

There are some questions that can't be answered, or that can only be answered once. These are the questions that kept her up at night. To know the sound a vase makes when it shatters, or the smell a totem makes when it burns. A very final set of data, to be obtained only after every other possible avenue has been explored.

It's been three months now since she'd procured any new information, no matter how small and insignificant, and four times that long since anybody had needed it. Of the people in the original images (now more than five decades old and tinted yellow by the years), only one was still alive. As of thirty minutes ago, he was in critical condition at a hospital in greater Manchester.

Moira sat down in her chair, buckled herself in, and leaned back, running possibilities through her head. A hundred miles away, a team of analysts sat staring at humidity-controlled cases, watching for any change in the photographs' contents. She wasn't sure she trusted them, but she couldn't stay to watch herself. No, she was going where — if her hopes were correct — things were going to change.

She was going to watch a man die.


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