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dismay at the changes in her life. She accepted change easily enough;
spaceflight, the Stone, the opportunities offered by the Hexamon.
But Mirsky's return slipped from her understanding like a fish through her
fingers.
"Ser Lanier," the Chinese delegate called, smiling broadly and inclining her
head as she sat beside Karen on the free-form couch. Her face was wreathed in
fine sun-wrinkles; she was small and round, matronly, probably ten years
younger than Karen. "You seem pensive. Are you worried about this conference?"
"No," Karen said, smiling reassurance. "Personal difficulties."
"Your mind should be at rest," the delegate said. "All will go well. We are
friends already, even those whom I worried about."
"I know," Karen said. "It's nothing, really. Don't trouble yourself."
He's doing it to me again, she thought. I cannot get away frorn him. She
closed her eyes and forced herself to sleep.
TWENTY-NINE
Thistledown
Korzenowski's partial located Olmy in the fourth chamber forests of
Northspin Island two days after Lanier's arrival. Downloaded into a
cross-shaped tracking probe, the partial searched the fourth chamber with
infrared sensors and located seven hundred and fifty humans. Most were in
groups of three or more; only seventy were solitary, and only
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ET E R N ITY 157
two, across half a day of activity, showed signs of deliberately avoiding
company. The partial analyzed the heat signatures of both of these
possibilities and settled on the one most likely to be a self-contained
homorph.
Under any other circumstance, this kind of search would have been unthinkable,
a gross invasion of privacy. But Korzenowski knew the importance of having
Olrny speak with Mirsky. And he needed Olmy for the upcoming Nexus debate on
the reopening of the Way. The Engineer could no longer completely oppose that
project; Mirsky's arguments were too persuasive, however bizarre. How could
one deny the requests of gods, even if they existed only at the end of time?
It was not the partial personality's duty to analyze these problems. It flew
above the valley floor to hover near Olmy's campsite, and then projected an
image of Korzenowski with the appropriate picts revealing its status as an
assigned ghost.
From Olmy's point of view, Korzenowski seemed to walk out of the forest, his
face wreathed in a smile, his eyes cat-like, piercing. "Good day, Ser Olmy,"
the ghost said.
Olmy pulled himself away from the flow of Jart information and hid his
all-too-human irritation at being found. "You've gone to considerable
trouble," he picted.
"Something extraordinary has happened," the ghost informed him.
"Your presence in the third chamber is required."
Oimy stood by the tent, unsure of his emotional state for the moment, neither
moving nor picting nor speaking.
"A decision is to be made regarding the Way. Your presence is requested by my
original."
"Is this a Nexus summons?"
"Not formally. Do you remember Pavel Mirsky?"
"We never met," Oh-ny said. "I know who he was."
"He has returned," the ghost' said, rapidly picting the few salient details.
Olmy's face seemed to contort with pain. He shuddered, then his shoulders
sagged and the tension left him. He pushed aside the Jart information,
refocusing on his humanity and on his relationship with
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Korzenowski, once his mentor, the man who had shaped much of his life or
rather, lives. The fact of Mirsky's reappearance then assumed its proper color
deeply bizarre, more than puzzling: entrancing. He did not doubt the ghost's
message. Even had someone besides Korzenowski summoned him, this news alone
would suffice to bring him out of the forest and away from his meditations.
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1.~8 GREG BEAR
Events were moving more rapidly than he had imagined.
"Is there time for me to hike out?" Olmy asked, smiling. The mild social humor
was as sweet as sugar in his mind, and he realized how starved he had become
for human company. The ghost returned the smile. "Quicker transportation will
arrive soon," it said.
"The prodigal son," Korzenowski said, hugging Olmy firmly in the
Nexus antechamber. "I apologize for sending a partial to hunt you down.
I assume you didn't want to be found."
Olmy felt a kind of shame, standing before his mentor, unwilling to speak of
what he had been doing. He still had to keep his balance within his own head,
watching the implants he had given over to the Jart.
"Where is Mirsky?" he asked, hoping to sidestep questions.
"With Garry Lanier. The Nexus is meeting in two hours. Mirsky is testifying
before the full chamber. He wants to speak with you first."
"Is he real?"
"As real as I am," Korzenowski said.
"That worries me." Olmy forced a grin.
"He has an amazing story to tell." Korzenowski, unwilling to find humor in
anything now, looked away from Olmy at a wall of natural asteroid iron, his
reflection milky and distant in the polished metal surface.
"We've caused a lot of trouble."
"Where?"
"At the end of time," Korzenowski said. "I remember thinking about this
possibility centuries ago, when I was designing the Way .... It seemed a vain
fantasy then, that anything I could be involved in would have such
repercussions. . . But the idea has haunted me. I half expected someone to
return from the precincts, qike a ghost."
"And here he is."
Korzenowski nodded. "He hasn't pointed any accusing fingers. He seems happy to
be back. Almost childlike. Still, he frightens me. We have such
responsibilities, now." Korzenowski turned his square, discerning eyes on
Olmy. "Would you resent a request for help?"
Olmy shook his head automatically. He owed more to the Engineer than he could
ever repay more than even bringing him back to life could tally against.
Korzenowski had shaped Olmy's life, opened vistas to him he would have missed
otherwise. Still, he was not sure how his plan
--already fixed and irrevocable might match Korzenowski's. "I am always at
your service, Ser."
"Sometime in the next few months, perhaps even today if the time is right--if
Mirsky puts his story across as clearly to the Nexus as he did to
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ETERNITY 159
us---I am going to recommend that the Way be opened," Korzenowski said.
Olmy's smile was faint, ironic.
"Yes, I know," Korzenowski said gently. "We've been opposing forces on this."
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It seemed no one understood his position, not even his mentor. Olmy did not
think it worth the time to correct him. Still, he could not help but gently
chide the Engineer, if only to make sure he was keeping everything in
perspective.
"I hope I don't presume when I say that you are not completely unhappy with
this turn?"
"There is excitement and challenge," Korzenowski said, "and then there is
wisdom. I've been clinging desperately to wisdom. Which of us is more eager to
have this monster back?"
"Which of us really wants to face the consequences?" Olmy asked.
Lanier and Mirsky left the elevator and approached them. Mirsky walked ahead
of Lanier, smiling expectantly, and extended his hand to
Olmy. "We have not met," he said. Olmy shook the hand firmly. Warm and human.
"You are the expediter of our duty," Mirsky said. Olmy could not completely [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]