Grazhir :: Crossover :: FeS2 :: 14



“Pick apart the pieces of your heart and let me peer inside. Let me in where only your thoughts have been. Let me occupy your mind as you do mine.” — Goyte, Heart’s a Mess

Potter had snatched up the paper as soon as it arrived and was currently chuckling over it. The previous evening the young man had settled down with a virgin book and his other materials and carefully written out the vault Age. Voldemort had done most of the work of drafting it, but Potter was the one to write it given his instinctive understanding of the language. There was far less of a chance of him making a mistake in the transference. That done they had created a linking book to the designated room in the palace and called it good for the night. Well, after Potter had slapped sticky notes on both books as a reminder of what they were.

The room in question was presently warded against entry by anyone other than the two of them and the descriptive book had been placed on one of the ubiquitous pedestals found around the city. At its base was a wooden box containing both linking books. When they were established in the new Age—they still needed a name for it, he reminded himself—they could set up a new linking book for the return from the vault. And another for their return from the exterior part of the nexus. But that was for later.

The Daily Prophet looked to have several articles regarding the second task of the Triwizard Tournament. Top billing appeared to be about Potter’s mysterious disappearance. “Well?” he asked.

“The DMLE is, and I quote, ‘baffled’ ”—Potter made an odd gesture with the first two fingers of each hand—“by the things I left there. Naturally, there were no magical signatures left behind, the portkey they attached to me failed to work, and locating spells are laughably useless, so they have no idea what the hell happened to me. Rita did make a connection between the items and Dumbledore so she went off on a dramatic bit about it, somehow managing to accuse him of all manner of things without actually saying it directly. You know, the usual.

“I wouldn’t doubt she was on the platform the whole time in beetle form, and later attached to one of them while they were investigating the vault. The next article goes on about the rankings for the second task and overall, plus a reminder for the expected date of the third task. The next one covers the suicide of Bole and McLaggen’s unfortunate death.” Potter folded the paper and slid it over to him.

He scanned the articles quickly, noting that Skeeter did her usual hatchet job in her customary florid style, but there was nothing of note about the disappearance of gold from Gringotts. True, they had most likely only reported his attempt through Quirrell because there had been nothing to steal and could thus present it in any way they wished—to their benefit, naturally. They would never admit to actually having ‘misplaced’ hundreds of thousands of galleons, possibly millions; it was not like they had bothered to count any of it.

He was about to ask what effect Potter thought this might have on James, but stopped himself in time to prevent being construed as either cruel or insensitive. No matter what he presented outwardly, he did actually think of Potter as a friend. A part of him quailed at the admission. On the other hand, Potter had proven he was as wily and clever—as Slytherin—as he himself was, and had proven to be an excellent companion. And of course, Potter had ably demonstrated that he was never going to be able to best him, and that was before he had been let in on the big secret.

A crawling sensation went unpleasantly up his spine. It had been one thing to be informed that Potter was the Master of Death, but to have Death literally drop by for a visit? The rules were clear: do not play Potter false, lest you die. He expected such a death would neither be quick nor in any way merciful. Even so, he had been well on his way to genuinely appreciating the young man before that point, and with the spectre of death—that stultifying fear of dying—removed he was able to relax further. Potter was ridiculously not-Slytherin at times, but it had become part of his charm.

So he asked something else instead. “Why did you comment on my ability to be rational during that first real meeting?”

Potter looked up from his almost obscene enjoyment of bacon and blinked at the sudden and unexpected query. “Er. . . .”

He waited patiently for his partner’s brains to catch up and was eventually rewarded when Potter’s gaze cleared and sharpened. He seemed to deliberately prolong the wait by consuming another rasher, then looked at him directly, his green eyes shining so like the killing curse. “Before,” he said slowly, “you seemed to be fairly rational at our first meeting. Not much change there from this time. The second time it was your diary and, well, your sixteen year old self was—” He paused, his upper lip twitching. “Arrogant. But still rational.

“You even seemed to be all right at the rebirth ceremony, though you did meet common expectations by going off on a monologue, which, now that I think about it, was disappointingly cliché. It wasn’t until later that it seemed as though you were losing it. Yes, your plans were still managing a fair amount of success, but the arrogance was back, the hubris, and at least one thing . . . was pretty damn slipshod on your part. Maybe two, considering that if I had been thinking a bit more I could have used one of your tactics against you to devastating effect.”

He felt almost hypnotized by those haunting eyes.

“I believe that one particular point contributed a lot toward me winning, that and my damnable luck. You didn’t think. You hadn’t researched it properly. You didn’t confirm. It was like you were so caught up that care and detail and attention just no longer mattered. It was the same mistake you made by going to Godric’s Hollow. So when I met you this time, down there in the mirror chamber, I was trying not only to ruffle your feathers but make you step back and think.

“I continued to taunt and provoke you, to make you react, yes, and to think. To try to get you to acknowledge. . . . I don’t know. Definitely to try to keep you off balance. And then of course, I blatantly questioned your ability to be rational. You did what I expected at that point, though there was always the chance that you’d disappoint me. I’d like to think by then you felt challenged and possibly even amused at times. I wondered if the ceremony was half the problem. Peter being involved and contributing, that sniveling coward. Using only a fraction of my blood. Not having access to the stone. But we used all of Moody’s blood, we used the stone, and Barty is devoted to you, not because he fears you, but in spite of it. I wanted you to be . . . whole, even though you can’t exactly be and I remain the keeper of your soul.”

He sat back, feeling oddly tired. Though Potter had slid by an explanation of that “particular point” he had made it clear that his counterpart had not learned from his mistakes. But then he felt suddenly better. Potter had come back to try something different, with him, not against him. To show him a different path he could choose to take, though it was more like being seduced, in truth. Had showed him he had faith. And, while Potter seemed disinterested in killing purely for the sake of killing, he did not abhor the act and neither did he expect Voldemort to. A different path, not an opposite one. He felt, for what might be the first time in his life, mostly uncritical approval from another, and by another who clearly did not need him, yet wanted him.

Yes, he had a friend.

He also suspected that Potter had no real idea how becoming the Master of Death had changed him.

Potter blinked lazily and his eyes went back to being almost normal. And then he asked, “So when we do get around to dealing with your merry band of whackjobs, how do you want to handle things?”


“I can think of several things,” he replied. “The first is likely untenable given the fact that we lack a meeting place and calling in all of them at once would not gain us quite the result I think we’re after. So. One at a time with you in clear view, which I also think is unwise, simply because anyone who is ill-suited would perhaps need to be obliviated and that would be a waste of energy. One at a time with you invisible, to obviate that aspect.”

Potter piled some scrambled eggs onto a piece of toast and folded it in half. After taking a bite, chewing thoughtfully, and swallowing he said, “Because I have delightfully unique and valuable abilities, and cannot be discerned, detected, or barricaded from. Like what I did with Barty.”

He nodded. “Criteria being who might suit to emigrate, or those who must be cut loose.”

Potter arched a brow at him with maddening slowness. “Cut loose, or killed, depending.”


His partner grinned wickedly. “I wonder how the guards at Azkaban would react if they suddenly noticed a bunch of new prisoners they had never processed nor had paperwork for.” And then he switched gears entirely and said, “Say, I’ve realized something. I don’t think I’ve ever said it so, please call me Harry. Well, unless I’m Yuki.” He shrugged and had another bite of his egg and toast.


“Oh, wow,” he breathed as he looked around in awe. “It’s perfect. So exact.”

“What did you expect, Harry?” Voldemort asked dryly.

He made a face at him and turned back to the vault. They had written it. He threw his head back and laughed in delight. “Damn,” he whispered. “It’s a wonder the D’ni didn’t implode as a species with this kind of power. I had thought at one time to maybe restart their guilds, but . . . I don’t want this power getting around, even under vows,” he said, shaking his head. “They used it frivolously. I don’t want us to do that. Not this. This is playing God.”

“Do you even believe in God?” Voldemort asked, genuine curiosity staining his tone.

“I—I don’t have any idea,” he admitted. “I suppose Death would tell me if I asked, but I can’t say I suddenly feel any inclination to do so.”

“Mm. In any case, I agree with you. This should stay between us. Learning the common form of the language is one thing, but this power is to be venerated. No pleasure garden Ages, only what we need to become our own world, with that small security in case something unexpected comes up.”

Harry turned back from his inspection. “Make the linking book for here outside, for an extra layer of security?”

Voldemort nodded.

“I can store the descriptive book in my trunk.” He looked at the doors to the structure they had written and nodded. “Okay.” The blank book came out and they linked it to a spot about ten feet from the doors. He tapped a Post-it Note onto it with a title and put it away, then moved forward. “Let’s ward this puppy.”

Shortly thereafter they were inside the vault and Harry was placing the linking book back to the palace onto one of those ubiquitous pedestals. It made more sense to them to have it inside the ward scheme. “I’ll move my vault trunks in here later. How much do you plan to move here? All of it, or. . . ?”

“I think I should leave at least one account open,” Voldemort said. “The goblins are already going to be difficult. It’ll just get worse once they realize they’ve lost a fair amount from their keeping. Leaving one open means I have a place on that world to work from. Let us return and start on the nexus.”

So they did. Harry once again set about transcribing from the draft to a virgin book. He had no idea what Voldemort was up to, nor Barty for that matter, while he worked, occasionally sitting back so he could shake out his writing hand. They met up again for lunch, the food brought in and prepared by his elves. Voldemort had a long piece of parchment with him, in all opposition to generally accepted dining etiquette, and was muttering under his breath as he went through the words thereon, one hand holding food, one a quill. Barty was feeling sociable, though, so Harry engaged him in D’ni conversation to get an idea of just how well the man was doing.

After he returned to his work, it being more involved simply because of the oddity of the starting conditions. He just knew the book for their new world was going to take several days, at the least. By mid-afternoon he was done and Derek had confirmed it, so he shoved the book in his pocket, grabbed the linking books, one to their room in the palace and several unused, and tracked down Voldemort. “We’re good on this one,” he said, eyeing that list with mild curiosity. “So whenever you’re ready. I’m going to be in the library until then.”

Voldemort looked up blankly, then shook his head. “Now is fine. I’m just going over my accounts so it isn’t as though it’s an immediate concern.” The quill went into a holder on the desk, the parchment was rolled up and shoved into a drawer, and his partner got up to join him.

The nexus Age had turned out oddly thanks to Derek’s input. They arrived on a vast plain punctuated by a forest of massive octagonal columns with vertically scored sides. Harry produced a pedestal and laid the linking book on it and Voldemort stepped up to ward their way home. Then they turned to look at the closest column. Forty feet up was a series of openings just large enough for a grown man to get through.

Every column had those openings; all but seven of those columns had ones which simply existed as indents of a sort. The special columns, from fifty feet down, were mostly hollow. Derek had provided Harry with the phrasing necessary to create the structure of a nexus room in the architectural style of the D’ni, though not in the actual style of one of their nexuses. They shared a look before walking over to the nearest one, Harry pausing to stick a note to the side, and flying up. A careful bit of maneuvering got them inside and they were shortly spiraling down around the interior, avoiding the partial ‘roof’ about thirty feet down.

The openings would ensure an air supply and the high ceiling would help keep the interior cool. From the ground looking up one could see magnificent vaulted arches, left open to the space above it. It would be filled with something akin to the ceiling of the Great Hall of Hogwarts, creating a view to mimic a virgin sky, with a second layer of illusion above that to present a second vaulted, closed ceiling. Above that would be warding to prevent the curious from getting too curious. Later on the openings would also be warded against egress.

If it came to it, later on down the road, the goblins could be allowed exit from their nexus in order to convert some of the solid columns into additional nexuses, but for now they thought seven would be far more than they would need for the foreseeable future. And, for the time being, the many, many alcoves around the perimeter of the structure would remain empty and unlabeled.

Harry produced two pedestals and set them at the center of the room. One would hold the book linking to Gringotts and one to the world Age. He paused. “We still haven’t given our incipient world a name, have we.”

“I have been thinking about that myself, but I confess, nothing has yet stood out as a likely name.”

“Well, there’s always the cliché of using Avalon or Atlantis. Ophiuchus. Logos.”

“You had to know saying Ophiuchus would attract my attention.”

Harry grinned at his partner. “No, really? With a main city of Serpens? If we won’t have the same constellations we could still take them with us in the form of names.”

Voldemort favored him with one of ‘those’ looks and nodded. “I am fine with Ophiuchus and Serpens. As this is a Slytherin venture it makes sense.” He looked around, his eyes glowing a sullen red. “We’re going to need to gather supplies. Please pass on my thanks to Death for providing the requisite phrases. The sheer number of linking books we’re going to need. . . .” He trailed off, shaking his head.

Harry smiled, feeling rather pleased. Not so much that Derek had, in fact, provided or pointed them to exactly what they would need to create more books from base materials, plus the necessary ink, but that Tom had thought to thank that provider. He supposed that Voldemort might never get over his deep-seated fear of death, but this was progress. He glanced up. ‘You got that, Derek?’

‘Yes. And I agree, this is progress.’

He nodded and took a deep breath, then exhaled. Voldemort was right; they were going to need a whole lot of books. “Well, all right. I can shift us back in here next—ooh.”

“What is it?”

Harry adopted an innocent expression. “Well, I was going to say we’d have to come back to place a linking book to Gringotts after we started negotiations, but I could just cheat. That would add another layer to things when they linked back and realized I had been in their very private sanctum and they had no clue.”

A slow smile stretched Voldemort’s mouth and his gaze went half-lidded. “I like it. Yes. It will not hit them until they arrive home, but will reinforce our power, the idea that we can get to them anywhere. That should help them to remember their manners. Very nice play, Harry.”

He grinned, a bit loopily. “I’ll have to sneak in anyway, see what an office would look like, that we’d meet them in. I need to know what I’ve got to work with for a completely unexpected and tragic death.” Then he switched gears and swept his gaze around the room. “It’s light enough now, but it’s day. Suppose we could put in a bunch of fire-marble lanterns, one per alcove and a set hanging over the center.”

A week later saw the book for Ophiuchus written (with changes to include the conditions under which fire-marbles were created) and Harry had started on the last Age, the one to provide them with the materials for writing books. As for the fire-marbles, why bother enchanting something to do a job when they already had something that would work? It was clean light and gave off no emissions or pollution, and all they had to do was mine them; the goblins would be fine doing that, he supposed, and they would already be happily mining away for the bounty of metals and gems cradled in the shell of the world.

The only structure included in Ophiuchus was a replica of K’veer, that manor house Harry so admired on one of the cavern islands. That allowed them, on arrival, the opportunity to set up a room in the manor much like the one in the palace. Their private linking books would go there, in a room protected by the fidelius. Voldemort would hold that secret for them. As it was, their arrival brought them to a wide open space right before the manor. The sky was a brilliant blue, decorated by scatterings of puffy white clouds. If Harry didn’t know better he would swear he was on Earth.

He exchanged a look with Voldemort and headed in. Shortly thereafter their chosen room was under the fidelius and Harry was in on the secret (though he suspected no secret could bar his entry given his status). Pedestals and linking books were set up around the perimeter, each with an incised stone nameplate affixed to the wall above. The vault, the nexus exterior, the palace, and so forth.

Back outside they set a linking book for normal arrivals, set up a pedestal for a link to an unwarded part of the palace, and detoured back to Ae’gura to fetch Barty and the elves, explaining how the process worked. All of them returned to Ophiuchus at that point. The elves were given instruction on obtaining furniture and other supplies and shooed off to get on with it. Harry, Voldemort, and Barty, however, set about the start of marking off where various government buildings were to go, including a school and its associated environs. They had to at least have something to show the goblins once they had them here.

Harry would also have to set up linking books to the quarry sites for marble and granite. Sure, they could do it the hard way, but why bother? And why bother to set up a nexus if not to use it? If they fell in with the plans, then another book to link to the Australia-like landmass the goblins could settle as their own.

They got a fair amount of work done that day and gratefully enough retired back to Ae’gura for the evening. Over the next week they marked out areas for construction (and Harry set up more linking books) to prepare for their negotiations with the goblins. Harry and Voldemort also went to the extra Age, simply enough named Materia, to gather up what they needed to construct more blanks.

The Daily Prophet continued to report on the mysterious disappearance of Harry Potter, affording him his daily morning amusement. He also took a day off to skulk around Gringotts, checking out various offices and the far more private areas within the goblins’ domain. A linking book was set to a spot in a cavern far underground, in one of the common areas of their ‘city’. Goblins from other locales would be dealt with later; it was the British goblins they would be dealing with at the start. Nearly every office had at least one ceremonial weapon on the walls, often more. That was good. He could write up a death and just leave a few spots blank, such as the name and the weapon. He snickered; mad-libs had come to mind.

In the meantime, his elves had been busy transporting goods between realms and had nearly finished outfitting the new K’veer. In earlier times the original had, at one point, been used by the Guild of Illusionists and it was more of a bizarre fortification than a manor house of any kind, but he simply preferred thinking of it as one. As such it rose high above ground level and had views in every direction. The style changed from section to section, but some of them were breathtaking. There were times he was sure humanity was a plague, but then he would see something like the grand windows of K’veer, or the view toward Kerath’s Arch. . . . Such beauty was heart-stopping and awe-inspiring.

He and Voldemort now had private suites, their protected personal linking room, reception rooms, several meeting rooms, and so forth. The elves had set aside an area for their own use, and for others who would follow, and the kitchens were protected against any being except elves, Harry, Voldemort, and Barty. The building had been warded rather in the way they would have a base of operations on Earth, so the general public would be gently pushed away, but those bearing Voldemort’s Dark Mark could gain entrance without too much trouble.

Harry ran through his mental list of tasks and nodded.


Potter was dressed to impress and wearing his natural form, though his eyes were deliberately that glowing killing curse green. He also had his hood up and secured with magic so that it would stay in place until the right time. They apparated to Diagon Alley and swept up the steps on into Gringotts, and started things off by visiting all but one of Voldemort’s many vaults. Contents were guided into extended trunks and shifted to their palace linking room while their goblin guide waited cluelessly outside each time.

Voldemort would close them down later, after they already had a treaty in place. The remaining vault had a fair amount of money in it, but it was there more to handle things such as bank drafts. Once the wholesale divestment of funds and goods was complete they returned to the surface. To their guide he said, “Who amongst the Host has the authority to negotiate at a high level?”

The goblin eyed him suspiciously. “Goldbrik,” he finally responded.

Voldemort waited a moment, listening to Harry comment in his mind, then sneered. “I believe you meant to say Narok. And as you cannot be trusted to do something so simple as speak the truth we will go through someone else.” He swept off with Harry in tow, straight to the exact goblin they needed as a go-between. He knew very well that the goblins could verify a person’s identity without appearing to do so, so it was not a shock that they were shortly being escorted toward Narok’s office. Having the Dark Lord and the Light’s Pawn visiting as a pair was enough to make anyone aware of their identities curious.

He also assumed that Potter could fake his ‘magical’ identity any time he pleased, but had left it alone for this so as to sow confusion. During the walk he noticed that his partner was writing something in his book, which was surprising as he had not expected to be able to even see it.

‘That goblin, Bordash, is going to have an accident on the carts today,’ Potter remarked casually. ‘Tragic. So unnecessary. They really ought to set a refresher course on safety.’

His mouth twitched from holding back a smile. Their escort stopped before one of the doors and knocked. After a moment he opened the door and gestured him and Potter in, then shut the door after them. Inside was Narok, seated behind a decadently-ornate desk; and with him, a good half dozen other goblins. ‘Well,’ he sent. ‘Six extra goblins just for us.’

‘Do they not realize this comes across as them being hilariously frightened of us?’ Potter replied, confusion in his tone.

“What can I do for you, gentlemen?” Narok asked evenly.

After a brief pause Potter casually conjured up two chairs—as there were none in evidence for them, and against policy for wand use in the bank—and a little table to go between them, then took a seat, allowing his hood to drift back to expose his face. The glow in his eyes increased until it looked as though he was holding a killing curse in reserve. Voldemort took the other chair, then looked expectantly at Narok, ignoring the other goblins for the time being.

There was quiet for some minutes before Narok finally capitulated in the silent war and turned to order one of his underlings to bring in refreshments. Only after he had a cup of tea (untainted, naturally—Potter had checked) and had availed himself of a sip did he speak. “Narok. We have a proposition for you and the Host, one which would see you, should negotiations complete successfully, in possession of a virgin island roughly the size of Australia for your clans.”

Narok was good; he did not so much as twitch at that outrageous statement. One of his underlings, however, scoffed rudely.

Potter had a sip of tea and set his cup down, reaching into his pocket to remove that black book again, along with a fountain pen. Then he looked up, glowing eyes focused on Narok.

Voldemort waited patiently again, his face locked into a cold expression, taking occasional sips of his tea. ‘I wonder how many rounds this will take before Narok finally admits to himself that he’s just prolonging the agony.’

‘The agony of silence, the agony of our company, or the agony of unsatisfied curiosity?’ Potter replied.

‘While occasionally frustrating, your company could never be described as agonizing.’

‘Oh, Tom, you’re so sweet,’ Potter teased. ‘All this flattery is turning my head.’ After another sip of tea he asked, ‘So who do you think we should approach first amongst your lot?’

‘I was thinking Lucius Malfoy, actually.’

‘Oh, my. I must wonder if he’s checked on that diary yet. He’s got to be shitting bricks over it having gone missing.’

‘Shitting br—Harry, really.’

‘What? It’s just an expression. Would you prefer “having kittens” instead? The meaning is the same in the end. But I don’t like to say “having kittens” because it gives me flashbacks to Umbridge.’

“I find it difficult to believe,” Narok finally said, “that there is a land mass that large and yet unknown.”

Voldemort quirked a brow. “On this planet, anyway.”

For a split second Narok looked confused. Off to the side that same goblin shifted restlessly, his face twisting into a scowl. ‘I cannot decide if that fellow is badly trained or acting that way on purpose.’

‘Eh, badly trained,’ Potter promptly replied. ‘Hasn’t had enough training, actually, but they were in a bit of a hurry and scrambling to assemble a group for this.’

In a surprisingly short amount of time Narok stated, “You would have me believe you have access to a different planet.”

“Not access. Ownership,” he said firmly. “We successfully broker a deal and you get your own continent on a virgin world.” ‘Which one is this, anyway?’

‘Ragnok’s eldest, which explains the authority level. He thinks you’re crackers, by the way, but he sort of already did.’

The twitchy goblin burst out in a torrent of Gobbledygook, the meaning of which Potter echoed to him even as he made a few notations in his book in a very casual and indifferent manner. A heartbeat later the goblin in question, Bokdon, gestured so vehemently that he lost his balance and stumbled back against the wall, which caused tremors to travel upward and disturb a ceremonial axe on display. The axe hitched, then became loosened enough to fall straight down and guillotine Bokdon.

As the goblin’s head rolled away from the body Potter looked up and said innocently, “I wasn’t aware goblin meetings included a floor show. Will there be an encore performance?” Then he focused on his book again and began writing.

Voldemort made the assumption that his partner was ready to accidentally-on-purpose kill another goblin if they proved to be slow learners. Narok’s expression went flat as he gestured to one of his underlings to clean up the mess. Voldemort sipped more tea, looking entirely unimpressed.

Narok had obviously been rattled at the coincidence because he asked, “I must assume you have proof of this claim.”

‘Nice double meaning there,’ Potter commented, still writing away.

“Naturally,” he said dryly. “I must assume you are wise enough to understand that I have better uses for my time than coming here to enact your humiliation.”

“The reputation of your companion’s sire might allude to otherwise, though I admit the reason would escape me.”

Potter looked up again, seemingly shocked and a bit insulted. “You must think very highly indeed of yourself to believe I might possibly waste my valuable time here taking the piss. I get that you’re suspicious and all, trying to see where the knife in the back is coming from, but really, you just had to go there and accuse me of being involved in some kind of convoluted prank at your expense? On the basis of my father having been an insufferable asshole? . . . Or is that you actually desperately want to believe we’re being straight with you and have no Earthly idea how to move forward? Because really, an entire continent for yourselves? No humans or veela or vampires or whatever sharing the land with you? Tempting. Very tempting.”

Silence descended again to his complete lack of surprise. Potter jotted a few more things down in his book between sips of tea. Then he muttered, with proper projection, “I wonder if there really are gnomes in Switzerland.”

Narok looked affronted.

“Maybe they’d be more amenable,” Potter continued, still muttering, still writing, “though they don’t have the same reputation as builders. A shame, really.” ‘I know, a very transparent play,’ he admitted.

‘Rather. But you have riled him up nonetheless.’

“What is your proof?” Narok asked grittily.

“I’m thinking a photograph won’t do,” Voldemort said dryly. “Proof consists of a little trip, both to show you the world, and to explain just exactly what it is we would require in return for the island.”

“Actually,” Potter piped up, as planned if it had gone this way, “I’m sure our friend here might enjoy seeing a memory, and anyone competent can discern falsified ones.”

“An interesting suggestion,” he replied. ‘I take it you’ve been looking and are responding to his thought processes.’