The line to the Bureau didn’t seem to be moving anywhere in a hurry; Adam tried to strike up a conversation with the man in front of him in line, a thirtysomething dressed in bright yellow coveralls and goggles. “What are you in for?”

“The name’s Sol Nechny,” the man said. “I’m a solar mechanic.”

Adam nodded, pretending to be fascinated. “I see! What’s a solar mechanic do?”

“We keep the sun in good order and running,” Nechny sighed. “I’d think that would be obvious from the adjective ‘solar’ and the noun ‘mechanic,’ but I know the state of grammar instruction in schools these days.”

That made Adam feel a little defensive. “Last I heard, the sun was part of the natural world and didn’t need mechanics.”

“Oh yes, I certainly must have things all wrong,” Nechny barked with exaggerated politeness. “After all, I only work in the bloody sun; surely someone such as yourself who’s never been knows more about it than I!”

“It’s a big ball of nuclear fusion, not some kind of steam engine!” Adam cried. He was pretty sure he’d heard that in some long-ago science class.

“Nuclear fusion? Are we going to talk about the tooth fairy and the Easter bunny while we’re discussing old wives’ tales and myths? Do you honestly think an explosion of that size would just stay nicely put and provide free energy out of the goodness of its heart?” Nechny cried.

Adam bristled. “It’s not like I just made that up, you know! I heard it from a science teacher!”

“Nonsense cooked up by people with nothing better to do; not that we’ve any intention of enlightening them, of course,” scoffed Nechny. “Next you’ll be lecturing me about how the center of the earth is full of molten rock!”