Book 3/Page 60/Transcript

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Isaac knew that the Perfect Warlord was asking a perfectly valid question. This was something he Needed to Know. And so here was a new iteration of a familiar paradox.

To solve the Charlie problem, they'd needed to summon a counterpart, a matching mastermind (lowercase "m"). Not a Great Mind, but a great mind nonetheless. Nothing less would serve the purpose.

But any great mind will naturally be curious.

Isaac quite admired Chief Warlord Gotti's curiosity. He liked the man, personally. But now he was asking about Baddies, and that was one of the secrets they had summoned him to protect. Thus, paradox.

The secret of apostasy[1] and excommunication from Thinkamancy was being kept on something just a shade above a Need to Know basis; it was deemed Need to Ask. The Great Minds acknowledged that Chief Gotti probably Needed to Know it. But they'd agreed to wait until he asked first, and then to discourage him from asking too much more about it.

Isaac could, of course, have hidden his displeasure with the question; control of facial expression is basic to all forms of Eyemancy. But it was a perfectly good nonverbal channel of emotional communication, and so he let his face fall into a bitter scowl.

"Chief Gotti," said Isaac darkly, "in cases in which a Thinkamancer commits a serious crime, they are branded 'Baddies,' and barred from contact with all other Thinkamancers, including other Baddies. They can cast, but they are no longer welcome among us."

The Warlord--who was not in conscious control of his facial expressions, Isaac was reasonably certain--scowled back. "What did she do?" he asked.

"I'm afraid you don't Need to Know that," said the Headmaster.

Maggie, sitting beside Isaac, seemed about to say something, but Chief Gotti tilted his head forward. "Did she help Charlie?" he asked. "Is she on his side?"

"No," said Isaac. "If that were the case, we might have found a more immoderate punishment than finding her Bad. And we would have warned you about her. No, Bunny's transgression was esoteric, meaningful only to the Great Minds. It's irrelevant to you."

Chief Gotti puckered his lips. "Okay. So then... she might be willing to work with us."

"Perhaps. But we would be unwilling to work with her," said Isaac. "We'll have no contact with that caster."

"Isaac. You want us to fight Charlie, right?" said the Chief Warlord. "Well we can't do that right now, because we're under truce.[2] But meanwhile, we're fighting everyone but Charlescomm, and that's gotta stop. If we can make peace with Transylvito, we should. We need some allies."

"Then you should look for them elsewhere," said Isaac, keeping his expression dour and unyielding.

"Yeah, I've been cold calling," said Parson. "But a warm contact would be better. And none of the other sides have Thinkamancers. Unless... there are more Baddies out there?"

Isaac shook his head. "Not among your enemies."

"Okay. Look," said the Chief, making a postulating gesture, with splay-fingered hands. Body language was a crude channel that the Great Minds disparaged, but Parson said quite a lot with it at times. He was a refreshing person to communicate with. "What if you offered to forgive her, in exchange for her helping us against Charlie?"

Isaac shook his head again, slightly. "That would set an unacceptable precedent, I'm afraid."

Parson looked pained. "It would be worth it."

"To you, but not to us."

"To both of us," Parson insisted, "if she helps take down Charlescomm. What's that worth, compared to some esoteric rule she broke... how long ago?"

Isaac thought for a moment. "It was about seventy-two hundredturns ago."

The Chief Warlord blinked, then rolled up his sleeve and subvocalized to his bracer. Isaac could see that he was asking it to divide 7200 by 365. He made an exasperated noise.

"Nineteen point seven two years?! You mean nobody's talked to her in almost twenty years?"

"Not about this," said the Headmaster, "When contact occurs within the regular course of a Thinkamancer's duties, then it is permitted. But Bunny is barred from initiating new contact when not ordered to, and from using certain common bands of Thinkamancy."

Parson Gotti locked eyes with him, his expression sober and resolute. "You gotta bring her here so we can talk, Isaac. The Great Minds need to offer her a deal, because-"

"No," he interjected, as firmly as he could.

"... because if you don't talk to her, then we're going to. I will order Maggie to send a Thinkagram to Bunny, and she'll have to, because that's the normal course of her duties. And then Charlie will be listening in," said the Chief sourly. "If we can talk to her here, then it's secure, and that would be better. But either way, I'm calling her. It's up to you."

Hm. Another paradox of having summoned a Perfect Warlord was that sometimes he might well outflank you, in his zeal to do what you ultimately wanted him to. This was worth some meditation.

"I will certainly relay your proposal to the Great Minds," said Isaac, "but they will reject it. Bunny's crime is too severe."

"Why? What'd she do?" asked Parson again.

In his memory, Isaac replayed a multi-thread Alike Thought. They'd agreed on a contingent reply, should Parson Gotti insist on his characterizing Bunny's offense. "Suffice it to say that she broke an oath to the Great Minds," he said, "for reasons of love."

Parson Gotti looked blank, but the marginal shift in Maggie's body position at that moment seemed possibly worth noting. Hm.