"It was not your fault. You're the victim of a clerical error. A mistake was made—not by you. But involving you."
"What mistake?" Ed rubbed his forehead wearily. "I—I got in on something. I saw through. I saw something I wasn't supposed to see."
The Old Man nodded. "That's right. You saw something you were not supposed to see—something few elements have been aware of, let alone witnessed."
"An official term. Let it pass. A mistake was made, but we hope to rectify it. It is my hope that—"
"Those people," Ed interrupted. "Heaps of dry ash. And gray. Like they were dead. Only it was everything: the stairs and walls and floor. No color or life."
"That Sector had been temporarily de-energized. So the adjustment team could enter and effect changes."
"Changes." Ed nodded. "That's right. When I went back later, everything was alive again. But not the same. It was all different."
"The adjustment was complete by noon. The team finished its work and re-energized the Sector."
"I see," Ed muttered.
"You were supposed to have been in the Sector when the adjustment began. Because of an error you were not. You came into the Sector late—during the adjustment itself. You fled, and when you returned it was over. You saw, and you should not have seen. Instead of a witness you should have been part of the adjustment. Like the others, you should have undergone changes."
Sweat came out on Ed Fletcher's head. He wiped it away. His stomach turned over. Weakly, he cleared his throat. "I get the picture." His voice was almost inaudible. A chilling premonition moved through him. "I was supposed to be changed like the others. But I guess something went wrong."
"Something went wrong. An error occurred. And now a serious problem exists. You have seen these things. You know a great deal. And you are not coordinated with the new configuration."
"Gosh," Ed muttered. "Well, I won't tell anybody." Cold sweat poured off him. "You can count on that. I'm as good as changed."
"You have already told someone," the Old Man said coldly.
"Me?" Ed blinked. "Who?"
Ed trembled. The color drained from his face, leaving it sickly white. "That's right. I did."
"Your wife knows." The Old Man's face twisted angrily. "A woman. Of all the things to tell—"
"I didn't know." Ed retreated, panic leaping through him. "But I know now. You can count on me. Consider me changed."
The ancient blue eyes bored keenly into him, peering far into his depths. "And you were going to call