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'You should talk to your mother more. I can help you.'
Aiah makes an effort to change the topic. 'Hey,' she says brightly, i have
some news! I may be going back to college for a degree!'
'More longnose education,' Gurrah says darkly. 'What good is it?'
'Education is education,' Aiah says. 'What university in Barkazi is going to
give me a full scholarship?'
Aiah tries to disguise her satisfaction at the argument being channeled into
such familiar paths. She lets Gurrah score a few points, then says she has to
get supper ready and brings the conversation to an end.
Aiah shifts to another station. More images from Cara-qui, more Special Police
being dragged off to the subaquatic basements of their own prisons.
And more dead, presumably.
Later that shift, while buying bread at the local bakery, she sees a man in a
white leather jacket hanging in the doorway drinking a soda. Later she sees
the same man, without the trademark jacket, following her home.
Interesting, she thinks.
CORRUPTION ALLEGED IN POLICE 'MILLIONAIRE COMMISSIONER' DENIES KNOWING OWN
WORTH
'15:31, Horn Six transmit at 430 mm. 6 minutes. Ne?' 'Da. 15:31, Horn Six
transmit at 430 mm. 6 minutes.
Confirmed.' Aiah thinks of fifty thousand dead, the barges nosing out to deep
water with the cargo of ash. Their survivors, she remembers, deserve no less.
She thinks of Constantine, his big hands stroking her skin.
She looks at the picture of Gil in its wetsilver frame, and sees the face of a
stranger.
STRIFE ALLEGED IN OPERATION TWO STREET COLONELS ASSASSINATED
Another creeper turns up in her office and asks her a lot of familiar
questions. Aiah answers patiently, her answers consistent with everything
she's said before, and she looks up into the scowling face of her interrogator
and thinks: You may have a new boss soon, courtesy of me.
She settles into her stolen chair. 'I thought the government was officially
blaming Constantine for this one,' she says. 'Why are you bothering to
question me at all?'
'Constantine may have had accomplices.'
'Constantine's accomplices aren't lousy Grade Sixes in Jaspeer,' Aiah says.
'Constantine's accomplices are being appointed to run whole departments in
Caraqui. Do you really think if I knew Constantine, I'd be stupid enough to
stay here when I could be in Caraqui living like a queen?'
Asking the question leaves a bitter taste in Aiah's mouth. Sometimes, she
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thinks, a question implies its own answer, its own perfect truth.
'Maybe you don't want to leave Jaspeer,' the creeper says. 'You were born here
and have lived here all your life, and you have a lover here. Jaspeer is your
metropolis.'
'My metropolis,' Aiah says, suddenly in passionate love with the truth, 'was
destroyed before I was born.'
After the creeper leaves, Aiah puts on her headset, logs in, and, between
calls on her computer, begins to plan her escape.
If the ID is really going to follow her everywhere, she thinks, that's going
to complicate everything. LODAQ III OVERTHROWN!
IS CONSTANTINE'S INFLUENCE SPREADING?
DETAILS ON THE WIRE]
Aiah gives it three more days. The creepers are still following her at least
part of the time; sometimes they're easy to spot, particularly after she
starts recognizing faces, but sometimes she just can't be sure. Any plan she
develops has to deal with the possibility that she might be tailed without
knowing it.
Aiah calls the Wisdom Fortune Temple and finds out the times of their
services.
The easiest way to follow her, she knows, is through telepresence. From the
back of one kitchen cabinet she takes one of the plasm batteries that, all
those weeks ago, she carried in her tote bag to and from Terminal. She takes
it to her plasm meter and fixes the battery's alligator clip to the live well
wire.
Dials click over as the battery fills. It's the first time Aiah has ever used
the plasm connection in her building.
She puts a finger on the contact and feels her nerves cry at the touch of
plasm. The sensation takes her breath away.
She had tried very hard to forget what this was like.
Aiah recalls how plasm turned gold in the sky when she was feeding it to Red
Bolt. She takes a breath and expands her sensorium, tries to attune it to the
presence of plasm. Carefully she scours her apartment.
Nothing other than the glow she's generating herself.
But any hypothetical mage following her might have guessed what she was
attempting and flown his anima somewhere else. So she pops her own anima out
into the hallway outside  nothing there - and then looks in the apartment
across the hall, above, below and to either side.
Still nothing, saving the knowledge that the lady next door is cutting her
toenails.
Aiah takes the finger off the contact, makes certain the battery is full, and
detaches the alligator clip. She looks at the meter and realizes she now owes
six hundred dalders to the Authority.
She puts the battery in her tote along with a dark blue jacket, her ivory
necklace, Volume Fourteen of Proceedings, a floppy hat and her passport. She
takes the money from under her mattress, hesitates for a moment, then adds the
portrait of Karlo. Then she dons a light beige jacket, picks up a pillow and
leaves the apartment.
In one of Loeno's basements she uses her Authority passkey to open a metal
door leading into the utility tunnel. Once inside she puts her finger on the
battery contact again, checks for watchers, then takes her checktube from its
hiding place behind the plasm main, wipes off the gritty dust and stows it in
her tote.
She leaves Loeno Towers by her usual door and almost at once sees the
creepers' car drifting down the street after her. When she drops into the New
Central Line Station, the two creepers have to exit in a hurry and follow her.
New Central Line to Red Line to Circle Line. The last car jolts so badly it
nearly puts her back out of joint. She leaves the trackline at Old Shorings
and almost dances to the surface.
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Childhood memories rise along with the scent of food and the sound of music
rolling out of open windows. The buildings lean on their scaffolds like old
friends bending over her to wish her well. Chardug the Hermit greets her
cheerfully from his pillar, and she drops a little change in his basket.
The last time, she thinks, she'll see any of this.
For good luck she buys a bowl of hot noodles flavored with onions and chilies,
her favorite. Above her head, plasm Lynxoid Brothers battle the Blue Titan in
an advertisement for the new chromoplay. Glancing down the street she can see
the unhappy pale faces of the Jaspeeri cops standing out like neon displays
amid the brown Barkazil population, and Aiah has to turn away to hide her
smile.
Aiah climbs the worn metal stair to the Wisdom Fortune Temple, passing two
elderly women in white-and-blue temple garb who have stopped on the landing to
catch their breath. The steel door is open and Aiah enters, breathing in the
scent of the packaged herbs behind the store counter. Behind the counter is
Dhival, Khorsa's sister, dressed in red-and-gold velvet robes, her face
dramatic with heavy cosmetics.
Dhival looks surprised, but comes out from behind the counter to give Aiah an
embrace and a kiss on each cheek. 'Have you come for services?'
is Khorsa here?' [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]