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Ronwell Dobson squinted across his desk at the two government officials. They sat side by side, both in dark suits, white shirts, dark hair, white skin, indistinguishable to the nearsighted mayor. Dobson held to the belief that glasses were unfashionable. If he were to spend four hours in a dark room deep in conversation with a psychologist, he might reveal a connection from this belief to the deep-rooted conviction that wearing glasses was a sign of weakness. But Dobson held the same low opinion about therapy that he had toward spectacles, so his glasses stayed in a case in his car’s glove box and his reasons remained obscure.
The first official spoke. “Mayor, let us be blunt, for directness is a virtue in our work.”
“Indeed,” said the second.
“I am Mr. Pluck. My partner is Mr. Pyke. We have a keen interest in your town. To be specific, we are looking for something in your town.”
“Uh-huh,” Dobson said. He had practiced his token responses for the last election so they balanced humility and self-assurance.
“The town is harboring an object of great interest to us,” Pluck said.
“It could make all your dreams come true,” said Pyke.
“Why do we tell you about this, you may be thinking,” Pluck said. “At least that’s what I would be thinking, if I were in your position.”
“As agents of the TRA, we could easily occupy the town, commandeer all resources, and undertake the search.”
“You don’t say.”
“In truth, we have found citizens tend to resent this type of intrusion,” Pluck said. “But in every locality there is one person who is in control, who can find anything. You are that person.”
“The big man,” said Pyke.
“If you say so.”
“The perfect person to procure this item for us.”
“I reckon we can come to some sort of agreement,” Dobson said. “But I wonder, and I am just wondering…”
“It is your right.”
“What’s to stop me from keeping this item for myself, if it’s as wonderful as you say?”
“A reasonable question,” Pluck said.
“I was wondering that myself,” said Pyke.
“But I think you’ll find the answer implicit in our previous statement. We currently have six TRA agents total within your town’s borders, counting ourselves. The other four are undercover, for your own safety. Recent legislation allows, once we have more than seven TRA agents in one location, that location falls under our control. So we need add only one more agent, in any capacity, to seize the town. And that seventh agent could be here for any number of reasons, to investigate the disappearance of your previous mayor, to review the voting records of the previous city election.”
“It’s a good thing I’m so agreeable,” Dobson said. “Save you from all that trouble.”
“What’s the object?”
“A mere nothing. A flight of fancy. A movie."