Which is worse: a dead soul inhabiting a rebuilt body, or a living soul without any body at all? What's more, how about being both?
"What does hell look like? Me. It looks just like me." --Big Pierrot
They sit outside and they wait, the night's rain falling like wet steel needles over the Manhattan outzone, bouncing off the roof of the car with a loud, tinny static noise. Three muscleboys sit in the car with the lights off and wait. They watch the two Asahi Tag Teamsters on the corner, the protectors of La Guardia Towers on East 10th Street, while the huge block of artificial stone slowly erodes in the rain. Ten seconds. That's how long it will take.
And when the teamsters check out a noise from around the corner and leave as planned, the three in the car go into action.
The flash is the last thing Dex remembers. Kitty's last memory is seeing her boyfriend ripped apart by a bright orange blast and scraped across the walls, just a microsecond before she feels the blast's claws herself.
"Let's take a look at his new eyes, shall we?" A Russian voice.
The alley is bathed in angelic white light of the purest kind. Dex has a vision of God. When it goes as suddenly as it came, the kids begin to taunt him, too, about the visions.
"Didn't you see it?" he screams. "It came through the windows. The light."
"Didn't see a light. Did you see a light?"
"What light? Has he had a revelation? Has he seen... God?"
"That's what happens when you have girls' eyes. You think you see God."
"Maybe he thinks he is God."
Darkness now. The sound of crying. The lost echoes of gunshots. The wet warm smell of running blood. The pistol makes a sharp crack as he drops it to the concrete.
"You okay?" he says to the girl in the darkness.
"I've felt better. They would have killed me if you hadn't arrived, you know."
"Take me home, please?" she pleads.
The cold shaky touch of her hand in his. Her body set in a weak crouch. Her free hand holding her torn silk blouse together.
The kids are dead now. But in his dream, in her house, their voices still mock him like mind-ghosts.
Dex hides in the dark warmth of an antique MFI wardrobe and sobs. He wishes someone older was here to tell them all to shut up. He can't seem to do it himself.
A whisper from the shadows behind him. Soothing, but so unexpected and shocking that it nearly unlocks his bowels.
"Don't be afraid."
That simple. Dex searches the wardrobe frantically, throwing furs and leather coats and company uniforms to each side to find the voice, but it isn't there.
There she is. A young Asian girl about nine years old with long black hair and beautiful white eyes. He quickly climbs into a fur coat and wraps himself in its luxury.
"My name's Dexter. Who are you?"
Pain enters his tiny body and splits the skin envelope in a thousand places, crying out for mercy under the explosive sensation.
Then darkness again.
"Shit, he's dreaming." That Russian voice again.
And the pain is gone and he is new again, and he slowly spends his second childhood in a London house filled with the voices of the children who taunt him. But the girl, whose name is Pain, always protects him. When she's there, the other children go away. She seems to have this power, this command over them all. And when they reach puberty, Dex and Pain play games in the darkness of the wardrobe in her father's house, and no matter what the game, Pain always wins.
"Is he done?" A new voice, English. Female.
"This is about as good as he gets." The Russian voice.
"Is he still dreaming?"
"Yes, Miss Fairchild."
"Well, I suppose he can't do much else. Keep him going for a couple of days, then wake him up. Call me. I'll have to brief him when he comes round."
"You're the boss."
Soho. The London outzone. The Year of the Rat.
There is a burned-out shell of a pub called The Blue Cross that lies in the underworld of one of the outzone's huge tower blocks. Inside things are busy, but running on candlelight thanks to one of the frequent brownouts the place suffers whenever Metropol finds a cable tapping the monorail lines high above.
The Cross is the main Sodha slicers hangout. Sardine-canned with long-haired Asians in leather jackets and molded kevlar impact armor suits sprayed in a variety of bright neon colors. Dex told her to dress down, so she wears a white lace blouse and black silk jeans. She feels like sushi in a chip shop.
She follows him through the dark crowd and attracts a couple of glances here and there from the men, but not enough to make her feel any smaller than she already is. Out of her depth here, she needs someone like Dex to keep her from drowning. And he needs her if he wants to stay alive.
Dex is pushing through this crowd looking for one person, and when he finds the young man, the poor kid can't recognize him.
The young man is dressed as a slicer, with a baseball jersey, black Big Pierrot T-shirt, leather jeans and kevlar-plated, knee-high boots, but his black raja hair is too short and the chrome of the NST interface sockets in his skull behind his ear flickers in the dull orange of the candles. He fits, but he doesn't fit; a person Dex, the eternal Stranger in a Strange Land, can completely identify with.
"Long time, no see, Mo."
Motorhead is drunk as usual and strains his memory to name the face. Dex finds it impossible to believe that this seventeen-year-old has taken his place with the Sodha slicers.
Finally, Motorhead makes a noise. "Who the fuck are you?"
Dex's face is expressionless. "What, don't you remember the Boy? I used to run with you back in the Year of the Dog."
Motorhead returns to his drink. "Wrong. Try another one, matey. The Boy's dead. The Americans got him. Blew him and his girlfriend up in Manhattan."
Dex remained where he was. "Remember in Seven Stars? That night in the Dog's summer when we got wankered? You dared me to ask that woman to dance with me and it turned out she was FDI? We nearly ended up publicly hanged for that one. Or that time in the Grid when you got caught in a BFP shell and I had to rig some speedy softs to bail you out? Damn you, look at me! It's me, Mo. It's the Boy."
Motorhead looks up at the mention of the BFP. Someone could have found out about the Seven Stars incident -- the two of them were real legends in that place -- but no one except the Boy knows about the incident at the Banque Federal de Paris. Bad business. As the shock of recognition hits him, a smile widens across his face.
"Jesus, Boy! What the fuck are you doing here?"
Dex looks at the blonde woman behind him, a furtive gaze in her gray-green eyes. She gives a hint of a shrug and hides her thumbs in the back pockets of her jeans. Behind them all, next to the door, a fast fistfight breaks out.
"I'm in trouble, Mo. Real trouble."
Motorhead cocks his head to the left. "Yeah," he says. "When have you ever been out of trouble?"
Dex says they need a place to talk. Somewhere private. Motorhead picks one of the hologram lions around a hologram Nelson in Trafalgar Square, the one that faces north toward the foggy outline of the four huge cylinders of Tottenham Court Points that thrust into the clouds above the outzone.
They sit around the red hologram lion. Motorhead takes out a small yo-yo and starts to run tricks with it.
"Where did you go? I mean, after you left Sodha, Dev Lung went apeshit. I nearly died because of you. He thought I'd tried to cut you out or something."
"I went to Texas City," Dex says. "Forged my way into the Tank Corps and lamped around with them for a while. I figured their security would keep you and all the rest off my back for a while. But... things happened there. We were running missions against the nomads who were smuggling food and drugs and anything else worth a cent between Texas and the U.S. One day my gunner flipped out. Started shooting up a bus full of kids. So I took out my nine and shot him. Lucky bastard survived. He got a Purple Heart, and I was facing a court-martial.
"So I joined the opposition. Hooked in with one of the nomad groups. I helped drive, surfed the Grid every now and then to launder finances -- the usual stuff. Stayed about a year with them before I left for New Atlantic City. Manhattan. Met up with this smartgirl called Kitty, who ran a little business selling neurosofts and skips to the Asahi Tag Teamsters. So I was a pony there for a while. Then I got into some mess that hooked me back into running the Grid again. I was just ready to return. Camden Town Boy's big comeback. Then... well, everything else is future history."
He slides a small blue laminated business card across the stone to Motorhead. Centered words embossed on the plastic next to a patchy videostat. Dexter Eastman. Information Services Division. Vijayanta Pharmaceuticals IG. The face in the videostat is subdued. Shameful. The face of someone press-ganged into the company.
Motorhead nods, then slides the card back to his old spar. "I don't get it. Why kill you?"
The blonde girl steps in. "Vijayanta taketh, and Vijayanta giveth back. He's more use to us dead than alive, if you know what I mean."
Motorhead switches confused glances between Dex and Sarah. Finally, he settles on the girl. "No."
"You can't get more expendable than dead," says Dex.
"But why you?"
Dex nods to Sarah. She stares at him coldly, then eventually gives in. "Ever heard of Rhea?" she asks Motorhead.
The young decker frowns in thought. "Sounds like an Artificial Intelligence code."
Sarah nods. "Vijayanta IG's," she says with some pride in her voice. AIs are few and far between in the Year of the Rat. It costs a lot of money to program one. Far cheaper to get the donated braintapes of some company executives and edit them into a single Digital Intelligence. DIs are far more common. Almost every Federal Metropolitan Council has one as a member, and most companies keep one on the executive board. AIs are corporate status symbols. An advertisement of their multinational wealth.
"So, it's your AI. So what?"
"It's gone rogue. We've lost it."
Motorhead breaks into laughter. The sound echoes around the antiquated post-Storm War buildings. A confusing collage of cruel ambience.
Dex and Sarah aren't laughing. They each watch Motorhead in their own way: Sarah through the scared eyes of someone whose job is on the line, and Dex through eyes that once belonged to a girl. When Motorhead looks up at them, he calms down.
"I'm sorry. But that's pretty funny."
Dex and Sarah's serious looks give the game away. He slowly realizes exactly why they have come to see him. And the joke isn't funny anymore.
"Peace through superior mindpower." --Big Pierrot
The suite on Floor 113 at the Miramar Hotel in the center of the St. James Secure Zone has a dry, air-conditioned taste to it. Motorhead finds himself pulling his stuck tongue from the roof of his mouth as he waits with Dex for Sarah to get dressed down again. Sarah doesn't have any street clothes. She's all gray company suits and maroon Vijayanta ties. More used to this kind of life, up here in the sky, where you can't even see the outzone thanks to the dirty gray clouds that blanket the entire view from the window. Motorhead almost feels like he could jump on top of them and they'd take his weight.
Piercing the clouds far away are the columnar towers of various other Secure Zones. Battle Bridge Points, Tottenham Court Points, Bowling Green Points, Camden Points, Canbury Points, the tip of the Smallpox Hospital spire and the various billowing stacks of the dustzone workhouses. Underneath, he knows, are the countless crumbling, uncompleted towers of the outzone, none of which stand more than 100 stories high.
Unlike Motorhead, Dex has tasted rooms like this before. Nothing new. But they call up a certain brand of feeling that he doesn't want to have running around his guts just now. He distracts himself by checking out the Disney channels on the color TV, then, realizing that they only make the feeling worse, he switches off the set. To utter silence.
Motorhead shuffles a bit, his hands sliding nervously in and out of the pockets of his orange Sodhaboy baseball jersey. Then he slumps down on the couch and runs his fingers over ultravelvet smoother than the skin on a 20-rupee kitten. He succumbs to the urge to take off the blue pilot's cap he's wearing and spins it around on a finger. Finally, bored, he jerks himself back to his feet.
"Have they got room service here?" he says. "I always wanted to call for room service."
Dex points him to a box in the corner. There's a long menu stuck next to it claiming to return the order within fifteen seconds. He reads the instructions. You put your order in a small cylinder and the tube sucks it up. He figures the box underneath must be where the stuff comes out. Motorhead orders a plastic bottle of cider.
"Want anything?" he offers to Dex. His old friend shakes his head. "Fair enough."
When the cider arrives -- Motorhead times it at 12.48 seconds on his collector's Seiko digital -- he opens it and downs it all at once. A lot of flavor, no bubbles. He wonders if it's flat or that's the way it's meant to be.
He stands in awe of the room, scared yet admiring. "Like the places in the TV soaps, innit, Boy? One of those posh places Big Pierrot stays in when he's busting down a suit. Only in color."
Dex sits down with his hands in his lap and tries to think of nothing. But that uncomfortable feeling keeps coming back, and it's tied to his dream. That dream he had in London with the children and the girl called Pain. Somewhere there is a link in all this. He had to be here for some other reason than Vijayanta's threat, but his mind is averting it; every time he tries to think about her, tries to remember her face, he thinks of something else. Remembering is the key to the pain he is feeling, but remembering what?
He looks at Motorhead, but Mo's trying to find a pocket in his jacket that will fit the bottle. Real petroleum plastic, worth a lot on the streets of the outzone.
No. Mo wouldn't know. He wouldn't remember.
The sun is starting to break through on this side of the Miramar building and its tiny arc pours red-purple light into the room through large circular windows. The light brings out the contours and some of the unhealable scars on Dex's face. Motorhead notices for the first time that his black hair is all implanted and bald patches show through it. Worn much longer than Dex ever used to allow. Something's wrong here. Vijayanta put his body back together, but his soul is dead. Dex has lost his old self, and it sends a stealthy shiver crawling down Motorhead's thin neck.
It takes them two hours to reach Covent Garden in the back of a cycle-rickshaw ordered by cellphone. Dex spends most of the ride watching the beggars and street vendors and turning down offers from the kittens -- prepubescent prostitutes -- plying trade in the darkness under the city's towers. Hiding his face in amused shame as Motorhead sharks Sarah. She takes it calmly. Answers his questions. Gives him just enough to seem interesting, but not enough to seem interested.
Motorhead himself talks but doesn't really listen. Catching tiny squalls of information in her life story. Born in Milton Keynes, the center of Thames Midland. Followed her father into computers at Logica, a Vijayanta subsidiary. Contracted by Vijayanta and, after only three years, taken on as staff. Being team leader of the Rhea Rogue Hunt is just another step up the corporate ladder for her.
"I nearly cried when Rhea disappeared. We looked for it everywhere within the system. But it was nowhere. No trace."
Sarah's running a Gabriel on him and it's worked. Her persona reveals one of the flavors of nonlife that must exist in the world of the Secure Zone. Sarah is Too Much Work To Party flavor.
"How come we're doing it this way? I mean, you lose something that big and it's a Fed problem, innit? Fednet should be doing this."
"Let's just say that Rhea knows some things that we don't really want to go public. Understand? Best to keep your trap shut about this." Her voice is stern, but calm. Dex feels her temperature bunny-hop a degree.
"So just tell me one more time why I should help you and the Boy find it," he asks her with a frown.
"Do you enjoy life?" she replies.
"Then you do as I tell you."
Covent Garden Market is a technical bazaar. Rusting corrugated iron and sheets of gas-planet PVC shrouding a maze of tiny tables, stalls and open cases. The surrounding towers cast a grim shadow over the square, and though the far-off sky is blue, twinkling with the new stars of low-orbit workstations, down here the air is cold and thick with sweaty dampness.
"Who did you say we could find here again?" Sarah asks.
Motorhead barges his way through the slow-moving crowds. Jostles with scores of people who seem intent to just stand and look at the merchandise, rather than buy or move on. The ponies sell laserdisks, microsofts for those who like plugging things straight into their neural systems, stolen Fednet PCs, valve amps, monochrome TVs and even headset radios at their stalls. None seem to want to undercut the others' prices.
"Nukie. He's one of the best teks this side of the river. He's the only guy I know who could scratch-build you a deck in the time you want. He did mine in two days."
Nukie is a white-boy steamer. His hair trails lank and greasy around his broad shoulders. Eyes wide open and wild, with pinprick pupils. Standing taller than anyone Sarah has ever seen, at least two meters high. Sarah concludes that Nukie is the biggest, ugliest man this side of Milton Keynes.
" 'lo, Mo. Who're they?" Nukie's dialect has slowly tempered in the London outzone. A product of growing up in one place and having to work in another. South Shields, the small industrial complex where he was born, was abandoned by Nissan, the whole workforce now dotted around Thames Midland trying to find new jobs. Nukie's father worked on computer components for Nissan aerodynes. His son believes his technical flair is hereditary.
"This is Sarah. And this is the Camden Town Boy."
"Pleased to make your acquaintance," he says to them. His face blank to Dex's old handle. The Boy must have been before his time, even though when Nukie smiles, his scarred face makes him look old enough to be their grandfather.
"So what're you after?"
Dex steps in before Motorhead can make any compromises or deals. "I need a cyberdeck. As fast as you can build it, with military-level signature masking. It'll need to run about five cartridges. And a unlicensed Fednet PC for the software design."
The twisted smile becomes a toothy grin. "Not after much, are we? I'll have you one by tomorrow morning, if you're willing to pay for it."
"Depends on how much you're willing to charge."
Sarah tries to follow the deal as it goes down, but three slicers by the stall behind them have started a scuffle over the price of a microsoft. Just like the slicers in the Blue Cross, they wear insect-like kevlar armor suits, spray-painted in wild day-glo colors. One of them wears a jersey like Motorhead's: orange leather baseball-style, with a patch on the breast shaped into a circular letter S. Sodhaboys.
Sarah stands back and watches everything. In a place like this, it's all she knows how to.
"How does it work?"
"The Sodha slicers. How do they keep going?"
Night in the outzone. Sitting in a corner of the Blue Cross, Dex and Sarah watch the slicers dance. If she didn't know better, Sarah would have thought it was a brawl. A living pincushion of flailing fists and boots. She looks away from the floor and catches a glimpse of Motorhead at the bar, joking with some of the other long-haired rajas. As soon as he looks over, she turns back to Dex, who gulps down a mouthful of cheap fizzy cider.
"Dev Lung... He's the bossman, right? He has these contacts in most of the companies. Siphons stuff from them and gets our ponies to spread it around in the outzone. Just simple merchandising, really. Everything from powdered milk to neurosofts. The ponies get it all for free and pay back what they sell. Some of them have stalls in the markets, some have real shops under our protection, but a lot just go out on their slices and sell stuff on the streets. If they don't sell something, they give it back so someone else can. Anything gets lost or damaged and the pony has to pay for it."
He necks the last of the cider from a reusable plastic bottle. "It sounds complicated, but it's a pretty simple way of giving people out here what they need. The slicergangs live or die on the merchandise they can push."
Sarah notices herself fidgeting with her hands and slides them into the pockets of a pair of black leather jeans Motorhead had loaned her. "You're right. It sounds complicated."
"No more complicated than running the Grid."
"I've never done that either." Looking back to the dance floor, she unwittingly catches Motorhead's attention again.
"Shit, you had a deprived childhood."
"Yes. I suppose I did."
Sarah jumps when Motorhead slides in behind her. She didn't notice him creep around the dance floor. "You dancing?" he asks. He wraps his arms around her waist and shakes her a little.
She laughs in shock, squirming. Then escapes by grabbing the crotch of his jeans and squeezing short and hard.
"I'll take that as a yes then," he says after a long breath. "You coming, Boy?" And she drags him away into the flailing crowd in the pit.
Dex watches them for a time. Watching Sarah. Only two days in the outzone and already she's sinking in. The outzone has claws. It grabs and sticks and never lets go. And if you do escape, it'll scar you forever. He snorts a laugh at them, picks his bottle and takes it to the bar for a refill.
The following morning, Dex is woken from the now-nightly Pain dream by a tickling sensation on his cheek.
Unconsciously, he shifts to scratch his face. His fingers knock an unfazed roach to the dusty carpet in front of his nose. The roach scuttles off towards the safety of the skirting board. Dex opens his other eye and remembers how Motorhead convinced him to sleep on the floor at his place after a night at the Blue Cross.
"Drink, Boy?" Motorhead is standing at the door to the kitchen. Just like Kitty in Manhattan, only she used to lean against the door frame; Motorhead has his arms stretched across the entrance, and peers in.
Dex has a dry mouth, filled with carpet dust, so he answers with a nod. He feels like telling him about the dreams, but he decides to leave that in case of emergency. He doesn't want the younger decker to know too much.
"Can I ask you something, Boy?" Sounds of Motorhead shuffling around the tiny kitchen. "How much thumb has she got on you, eh? How badly do you belong to her?"
He rubs his eyes and yawns. "Well, I can't say she saved my life, but..." A deep sigh. He sits up. "Look, if I find this thing then they might leave me alone. They gave me a Vijayanta card, but I'm still only an outhouser. Contracted work. Baksheesh. They might just let me go again." He almost feels like he's convinced himself.
"Must be weird, being officially dead. Means you have to really lay low."
Dex agrees to himself. Yeah. Really weird.
The atmosphere from the kitchen seems to lift. Elevator doors opening to let out a claustrophobe. Motorhead changes the subject. "Heard this joke the other day. Why did the monkey fall out of the tree?"
Dex stands and pulls sleep from his girl's eyes. "No idea," he says.
"Because it was dead."
He shakes his head. Gazes around the living room properly for the first time. It's too cluttered. Empty keyboards, hollow shells of bright green Fednet PCs, laser-prints of the latest shareware copies of Kafig-Zucht, Girls Lieben Dicke Schwarze and other skinmags. Holoposters of Kerry Swaine and lesser known ASP stars taped to the walls.
All shit and no shine. Dex laughs to himself. He used to have a room just like it. Courtesy of Dev Lung, the man at the top of the Sodha slicers.
The younger decker finally comes back in with coffee made from a Federal welfare pack and scalding water. "You'd better get ready. It's nearly eight. Sarah'll be here soon, and I've got a date with Mister Lung."
"Say 'Hi' to him for me, will you?"
Motorhead gives Dex a wary look. "You're kidding, aren't you? After what you did?"
Dex shrugs. "I somehow get the feeling I'm going to stay here. I figure I'll need some friends if I want to stay alive."
Motorhead nods, understanding the motive.
"Anyway, where to today?" Dex asks. He burns the roof of his mouth with the coffee. At last some sensation there.
Clapping rough brown hands, Motorhead replies. "Gridland, matey. Your toys have arrived."
"I aim to please. I shoot to kill." --Big Pierrot
"So you say he wants to patch things up?"
Dev Lung is a short, stocky man in his mid-twenties who sits behind his steel desk in the Paddington warehouse and looks down at everyone through thick, square-framed glasses. His hands rest on the blotting pad on the desk, stubby fingers interlocked and thumbs habitually dancing around each other while he thinks. Motorhead sees him as one of those small people with a lot of power.
Motorhead is squeezing a soft squash ball. Left hand first. Then right. Then back again. Tension release. Everyone knows that Dev Lung has an evil spirit in him. A spirit that waits for the one time when no one will expect it to take control.
Motorhead has seen the spirit and survived. Albeit by the skin of his teeth. Mastered a way of getting around the man by being brutally honest with him. One of the Camden Town Boy's old tricks of the trade. Before the Boy left for Texas, he was Lung's decker, on call to the man whenever he needed to know things. Dev Lung is a man who needs to know everything.
Now Motorhead holds that position. The young decker nods to the man and throws the squash ball at the wall, catching it in one hand. Listening to the metal echo.
"He says he's making a start again in London and he doesn't want any enemies."
"Is that how he really feels? I mean, I don't know, I want us to be friends again, but I can't take him on with Sodha because you're here now. I'd rather he was on my side than Kistna, or, even worse, December Flowers. You know? What do you think? Is he for real?"
Motorhead screws his face up and sighs.
"Dunno," he says. "He's changed a lot, but I don't know if that's him, or something that Vijayanta did to him. He's become kinda cold and single-minded. I took him out to the Blue Cross last night and he just stood there and watched us all charging, slowly getting wankered. I know he ain't a steamer, but that man never used to miss a party, no matter what the style. His whole story was that he could fit in anywhere. Now it seems like he doesn't fit in anywhere. I've never seen him looking so lost."
Dev Lung shrugs. "If he's making an effort to patch it up, then I can't really say no to him. But if he tries to go against me again, he's street furniture. You can quote me on that."
"Hate to say it, boss, but he's been killed once already. I really don't think he cares what happens to him now."
Dev Lung puts his thinking face on and Motorhead waits, bouncing the ball against the wall. He knows that the Boy is back at his place waiting for the Recon program to map out Vijayanta Core 274, Rhea's home. They are both being extra careful about this affair. Neither of them has ever done this kind of job before. Rogue Hunting. Hard enough job finding something that exists. When it breaks out and could be anywhere in the world? Motorhead finds himself hiding his face behind a bony hand.
"Get him to see me. Tell him I'm prepared to forget the whole thing as long as he does. How does that sound?"
Six Sodhaboys escort him to his flat on their slices -- fast electric bikes. Their long hair drags in the wind. This is what he joined for, Motorhead remembers, the feel of the wind on his face. Now the Grid has hold of him and refuses to let go. It's a similar feeling, a powered rush through empty space, but riding a slice is a damn sight safer. Even with all the other slicer teams around.
Saying namaste to his escort, his gives the plastic fairings on his slice a quick wipe over with his jacket cuff and forces himself up thirty flights of concrete stairs in pitch darkness.
"How's it looking?" Motorhead asks.
"None too good."
Dex is slumped in a fluffy brown armchair with a collection of broken pistachio shells around his feet. A fly buzzes around the shells, feeding on the detritus of half a day's studying.
"So what happened? You can tell me. I'm a doctor." Motorhead takes the jacket off and hangs it on the handle of his bedroom door. He clears a space for himself by kicking a few cider bottles to the walls of the room and sits down on a battered copy of Lolita magazine.
"Recon program mapped the core, and there's a huge hole in the node where Rhea should be. Want to see?"
Motorhead switches on the Fednet PC and calls up the image. In two dimensions it's like the crystal topography of an electron microscope picture. Silver edges and thin blue strands stretching across the image. And in the center, a tiny neon hole in the core's edge.
"Well, that's a surprise."
Dex snorts a cynical laugh. "What's strange is that it is a surprise. Look at the shape of the hole."
Motorhead looks carefully, then fiddles with the perspective to get a better look. The hole in the core's opaque neon glow is giant and empty, but there seems to be more missing, some kind of shadow within the hole that disappears in the fog of the core.
"Rhea destroyed some of the system when it went. I called Sarah and she said that checks out, they're running a diagnostic now, and they'll make some repairs. But it all means that it wasn't stolen. See that shadow there? I've been wracking my head for hours trying to think what it could be. Unless the stories about witch-holes are true."
Motorhead shakes his head at the screen. "A witch-hole... But that would mean it burned its way out."
Dex looks closer at the screen. "Yeah. Or maybe it didn't escape outward. Maybe it escaped inward. My dad once told me about a star that went nova just before I was born. Burned like a bastard for about ten days so the whole world had daylight 24-7..." He trails off. Examining the scan closer and closer, lost in his own growing hypothesis. "Yeah. Like a star going nova. That would explain the shadow."
A frown of awestruck confusion pulls at Motorhead's lean face. "How the fuck did it do that?"
Dex breaks away from the thoughts he's riding and shrugs. "Beats the shit out of me."
They drew wires and the Boy lost. Now he's here, a floating decimal point in the Grid. A meaningful nothing in a vast sensorium that doesn't really exist.
A ghost in the machine.
He pushes himself through the Grid. A simulated sense that rushes through his nervous system. His body feels like he's swimming through a sea of powdered milk. Some sort of electronic hyper-rush. The Grid is still, yet he can feel its constant data flow all around him. Vijayanta Core 274 is alive with paradox and irony. The Boy's senses are having no trouble getting the joke.
There. The hole. He moves around the outside of it. Utterly scared of its intention. Five years he's run the Grid. Witch-holes are myths. Monsters in the dataspace. He never imagined he'd see one. Never imagined he'd have to go near one. And he knows of no one else who has ever dared.
"Don't take your eyes off that screen. If I lose it, pull me out immediately," he said.
Motorhead watches the screen. His own Demon program sits in the Grid, holding the stringy end of a Trace strand that follows the Boy through the core. The short-haired slicer can see Dex's position on the 3-D vector mapper connected to the PC screen. The shadow is there, and the Boy circles it slow. An observant hawk.
Motorhead takes a quick glance to see if the real-life Boy, attached to the cyberdeck by a primitive cyber helmet that trails a score of microthin leads between the two, is still breathing steady. Satisfied, he returns his vision to the monochrome Fednet PC screen.
Dex slides into the shadow. Motorhead panics.
No feeling. That's what he notices at first. Like the sensory-deprivation tanks his father used to make showers out of in the Pancras Wells Dustzone. He said floating in one of those took away all feeling, so you could reach a perfect thoughtlessness for meditation. The concept is prehistoric, and the Boy doesn't know if he likes it at all.
He soon comes to realize that this isn't the same. He can feel something. A rushing sensation. A dream of falling that he used to have as a kid on continuous playback. And no way to wake up. Falling further. Spinning madly and flailing. All notion of orientation completely lost.
Then he stops. Landing on his feet in a living room in Paddington, with Japanese cartoons on the color TV and his hand passing through the hand of a beautiful, small Bangladeshi woman with long dark hair. A woman he knows by the name of Pain.
"Never let something as petty as death get in the way of a good romance." --Big Pierrot
The living room smells of plastic roses. It invades Dex's nostrils and forces his overworked breathing to calm down.
"I thought you were dead, Dex. Then it told me you were still alive. It knew you'd come here." Her voice is sweet. Carried by the warm rose air. A strange tinny quality to it that never used to be there, but it's her voice. Her tones.
She walks about the room with a resigned comfort. A prisoner walking around the cell. "I'd give you a hug, Dex, but I can't touch you."
He sits on the right arm of a black leather sofa and rubs his face. "This is going to sound shitty, I know. I know you as Pain, but that's not your name, is it? I mean, whenever I became close to you in the dream, I..."
She moves away from him. "You went into convulsions. It was part of the program. While Vijayanta's blades patched you up, they tried to run some coma loop program on you. But somehow you kept dragging me in."
Dex shakes his head as she takes an apple from a fruit bowl on the black plastic sideboard and nips a small bite from it. He looks back at the bowl. Another has appeared to take its place.
"Like this one?" Dex asks finally. "I mean, that's what this is, right? A construct. Your father's Sony apartment with you in it."
She talks through gritted teeth. "Don't you get it, Dex, you idiot? Jesus, I knew you could be slow at times, but..." She puffs a heavy sigh and sits next to him on the sofa. "This isn't a construct, Dex. This is me. Rhea has stolen my body. This is all it left behind."
"So you say he'll lead us to it?"
Sarah squirms nervously in a brown leather office chair. Her face contorted into a squint as the sun's light diffuses across the tower's windows. She nods to her skinny superior.
"I think of him more as bait, Mister Shelley. He'll lure Rhea to where we can find it," she says.
The skinny man in the tan-brown suit takes a drag from a slender Havana cigar; as he exhales, every swirl of the gray smoke seems to tumble through the hard rays of light through that large window.
"Too simple," he says. "Rhea would see it a mile away. This is no simple Rogue Hunt, Miss Fairchild. Rhea became too hungry for us and broke the rules. Did they brief you on Rhea's actions at Milton Keynes before it broke free?"
She shakes her head. Cheeks flushed in embarrassment. "No, they didn't. I was simply given the project of retrieving Eastman, making sure he was stable enough to work with us and then giving him the job. I guess they just didn't trust me enough, Mister Shelley."
"It's not a question of trust, Miss Fairchild. It's a question of loyalty. All you were told was that we can't go to Fednet because it holds secret company data. Well, that's true, but beside the point. Rhea has stolen a program from another company. It wouldn't tell me which, nor what kind of program. But it's obviously commercial enough for Rhea to want to distribute it, because when I threatened to have its financial control revoked, it ran. Mister Eastman has been called in not only to find Rhea, but to get me that data when he does. Eastman is a most valuable commodity in respect to his expendability."
"A monkeytrick," she says softly to herself. "Using an outhouser so we don't lose one of our own."
"You're learning at last, Fairchild."
He touches a screen on the long, brown trapezoid desk and the screen comes alive with the chubby face of his secretary. "Bring in Mister Hix," he says to the screen and the face fizzes to black. Then he looks up to Sarah. "What of the other boy? Motorhead."
She shrugs. "Motorhead was Dex's idea. Apparently we needed a contact on the streets in order to get the equipment. I didn't have any plans for him."
The man in the tan-brown suit pouts and rocks back and forth slightly on his booted heels. "I'll leave him be for now, then. Until he makes a mistake. Then I'll hammer him down with the rest. You've done a good job, Sarah, but I think it's possibly more prudent if I were to take over from now on. Go back to Milton Keynes and do some real work."
Alone in the Executive Elevator, she looks out over the zones she's growing accustomed to. Realizing how much she hates her position. So much power, so little knowledge. That's what counts in the Dustzone. Out there, in the outzone, it's courage. In that office, she's just like Dex. Bait. Thinking of Shelley's words. Leave her be for now. Until she makes a mistake. And that's all she is. Another monkey waiting to be tricked.
Dex taps a beat on the back of the sofa with his fingers. "Why don't I remember your name?"
"You don't want to," she answers. She takes another small bite from the apple. "Oh, it's not your fault. Your memory brought me into the program, and I shouldn't have been there. So the program tried to erase me. I asked Rhea while it was destroying me."
"It's insane. I hated you and loved you all in one go. I just wish I knew who the fuck you are."
She walks over with silent footsteps. "You saved my life once. And in return, I showed you another world. I'm Kayjay."
Sarah avoids the monorail system and calls a cycle-rickshaw to pick her up from outside the gates of Vijayanta's Mile End dustzone. It takes her on a mystery tour through areas that she'd only seen on TV, and even then only on crime reports. The rickshaw driver, a gawky young Asian kid named Vikram, played tour guide as they went past them. The Swanfields projects, two square miles of uncompleted gray concrete; Hoxton, home of the December Flowers slicer gang. Through the back streets of Holbourn to avoid static from the Kistnaboys and out into Long Acre. Sodha territory. He drops her off outside the Blue Cross and she pays him in freshly-bought rupees. Something tells her she's starting to learn a little about this place.
Inside things are quiet. The daytime in the Blue Cross is reserved almost solely for dealing and drinking. She buys herself a bottle of homebrew cider and sits in a dark corner, away from the glaring sun.
She barely gets to open it when a Sodhagirl with short black hair joins her at the table.
"You're Sarah the Suit, aren't you?" she says.
Sarah's triangle face breaks into a shy smile. "Yes. How did you know?"
"Saw you last night with Mo and the others. You can't dance for shit, but you're learning. I'm Cody." She extends an oily hand. Sarah shakes it tentatively. "So I hear Mo's helping you out with some keiki?"
Cody's expression blanks as she tries to find the English meaning of the Japanese term. "Business," she says finally.
"Oh, yes. News travels fast around here." Sarah gulps down some of the cider.
"Faster than television. So, when are you going back to the comfy life?"
Sarah the Suit lets her eyes drift around the bar. Shards of hot sunlight cut through the dusty air, leaving the dozen or so ponies and kittens only the broken shadows in which to ply their trade. Then she loses focus, lost in the thought of leaving a place like this. Realizing how quickly she's grown to like it.
"Today," she replies. "I have to go back today."
Why did the monkey fall out of the tree?
"You have to go, Dex. You weren't meant to be here."
"But I can't go back until I know what happened."
She points a slender finger at Dex's chest. "You're dying up there. The witch-hole's got you."
"I mean what happened to you. What happened with you and Rhea?"
"Rhea used me. It copied me into the system and unloaded itself into my brain. Right now, it's in an intensive care ward in the Smallpox Hospital, using my body to escape. It just broke free of its position, found me attached to all those 'trodes and got started. But there's one thing it did first."
"It told me why Vijayanta want it so badly."
Back in Motorhead's living room, the convulsions finally stop. The screen of the Fednet PC sprays white-noise static across the room. Motorhead, having spent almost three minutes trying to keep the Boy from smashing his head on the floor or swallowing his tongue or drowning in his own vomit, finally gives up.
A pounding thunder in his skull. He searches the flat for some painkillers or anything, but he is fresh out of luck and drugs. He needs some air. Grabbing his baseball jersey, he runs out of the flat.
"There's what's legal. There's what's right. And there's what I do best." --Big Pierrot
An apartment like any other. Lifeless. Dead. Then Sarah presses her palm against the lock and the door slides open. The hall lights flicker on and bathe the place in sea green splendor. It sends a warm shiver through Sarah's spine. She's home.
Each room is a different color. Designed to enhance her moods and to keep her sane; a constant reminder of variegation in such a monochrome place as Milton Keynes.
The living room is a subtle contrast of turquoise walls and aquamarine Bauhaus furniture. She places herself at her petroleum-plastic desk and flicks on the blue-screen Sony. She logs in. Lets the machine cycle through the message box, filled with faces from the Information Services department asking about her whereabouts. She absentmindedly skims through them. The last face shocks her tapered finger, and she can't press a single key while he plays.
"Sarah," he says. "I know about Shelley's deal. Now, I can tell the Feds or I can talk to you. So reply to Vja274-BOY. Okay?"
His own deck and he loves the machine like a child loves his mother. He powers it up, plugs the lead from the two neurosensory transfer plugs into the back of the machine, and hits the start switch, shuddering into the Grid.
Using copies of the Boy's homemade Trojan, Motorhead follows a strand through the hardened shell. The shell accepts him gladly. Boy's recon map was erased. Motorhead has a hard time orientating himself inside the shell, relying on memory and the practice of sending Find slaves in likely directions. Hoping one will run into the witch-hole. When he receives a positive message from one of the slave strands, he follows its path and then stops dead in his tracks.
The cube is filled with another program of some sort. Tentatively, he calls in the other Find slaves and sends an Identifier slave to the opaque area ahead of him. The thin blue thread touches the skin of the cube. He registers the name in his mind and tears the wires from his head.
Plunging back into his own body. He reels from the chair, makes a run for the window. Sense-shock pulsing through him. But he's too slow. He can almost feel the inner walls of his stomach meet as he retches into a convenient plastic box.
He wipes his mouth with his shirt sleeve and allows himself time to take it in. Dex is dead. His body, at least. Somehow, the Grid had pulled his soul through to the other side when he entered that witch-hole. Motorhead had taken some pretty drastic action that day. Dev Lung wanted to burn the body, to erase his existence permanently. Motorhead had to fight against the devil in him a second time before he allowed the young decker to freeze the body instead. Just in case.
For a full, painful hour, Motorhead cannot close his eyes without that Artificial Intelligence address code filling up his sensorium.
Shelley's thin face, the face of the skinny man in the tan-brown suit, fills the blue monitor screen. Eyes looking out of shot to his own screen in an office in London.
Sarah regards closely the bony features of the man on the screen. The blank, poker-face expression and cold, dark blue eyes piercing the screen's corner the way an insect sits perfectly still and watches its prey.
"What's wrong, Sarah?"
She shrugs, off-camera. "I got a message from Dex. Something's happened. He seems to be caught in the core. I think he's dead."
The expression doesn't change. "What was the message about, Sarah?"
"Something about a deal you've made. He says he'll take it to the FDI, whatever it is."
Shelley's lips pout in thought. He shakes his head. His voice turns stern, yet sincerely concerned. "You could be in considerable danger, Sarah, so I'll have you moved. Put into a safehouse, I mean, just until this blows over. Stay in your flat, and I'll send someone to pick you up. Just stay where you are, okay?"
She hangs her head. "Okay." The screen flickers and then returns to normal blue fuzz.
Sarah stays in her flat for a full minute. The time it takes her to pack a small black sports bag with Motorhead's leather jeans and a tiny hold-out pistol so she can head back to London.
When Sarah's triangle face appears at the door, he slams it shut.
"Mo," he hears her pleading. "This wasn't supposed to happen. It was a simple monkeytrick. I used Dex as bait to lure Rhea into the open. I didn't know about the witch-hole. Look, you have to let me in. They're after me, too. He left a message for me in Milton Keynes and I need to talk to him."
"You can't talk to him, you stupid bitch. He's dead." Motorhead leans against the steel front door, his face in his hands. In the bedroom, on the other side of the apartment, the cellular phone buzzes, waiting to be answered.
"I know that, Mo. But he's in my system somehow. He can talk to me, so I must be able to talk to him."
The phone in the bedroom still buzzing impatiently.
"He's dead. D-E-A-D. He's not in your system, he's not a ghost, he's just dead. Just fuck off and leave me alone." He leaves the door to answer the phone. He can just make out her words as she calls through the steel.
"You don't understand. Something happened. He went into the witch-hole and something happened, didn't it? I need to know what happened!"
Motorhead pulls the aerial up on the phone and presses a button, wiping sweat from his brow. "Yes," he manages to say.
"Open the door and let her in, Mo. And keep the line open." Dex's voice. Motorhead rushes for the door.
He jacks the cellular into an old tape recorder. With a condenser mike and a crackling speaker, it's the closest they can get to Conference Mode. Dex explains everything. Rhea's escape into the mind of Kayjay and Kayjay's whereabouts, and he tells them about the deal.
"Shelley has his hands on something that could change the face of Vijayanta and he's dealt some out to the street. A microsoft. Serious stuff. Rhea stole the source code from some other system while still in the experimental stage. It's killing people on the street. Sodha and Kistnaboys and fuck knows who else. Rhea was using Shelley to distribute it. When the shit hit the fan, Rhea bugged out, leaving Shelley with all these lethal chips. That's why he wants it back so much. All our ponies are going to go apeshit when they find out."
"What can we do?" Motorhead asks.
"It won't take long before Shelley discovers the Rhea-Kayjay switch. We're not the only department working on this. So the best thing would be for you to get Kayjay and for me to detain Shelley. Once we've got her, we might be able to reverse the switch. Even if we can't, then we'll have some bargaining power."
"I can still get us into the Mile End Dustzone. But we'll need an army to get past the security," Sarah suggests.
Dex's voice provides the answer. "No need for an army. I'll get you in. It's settled, then. Get Kayjay and I'll sort it out. You have to be quick, though, Dustzone curfew hours and all that stuff."
Sarah finds herself nodding unconsciously to the phone. Motorhead unjacks the thing from the tape machine.
"So there it is," he says. "Dex is your new DI. So tell me, what the hell are we supposed to do with Rhea when we get to Mile End?"
She looks at the young decker and sighs. "I don't know. I really don't know."
"Earth is 98 percent full. Please delete anyone you can." --Big Pierrot
The misty skies over the London outzone have turned red in the hot spring afternoon. Solar satellites and workstations form spiny constellations twinkling above. Sarah turns her attention back to the street as they roll through the sparse traffic in a wooden cycle-rickshaw.
"Who is this Kayjay, anyway?" she asks Motorhead, wary of hitting any raw nerves in his already tender mind.
"She was a Sodhagirl that the Boy had a shine on. She was the daughter of a Sony shaker, but she was one of those young rich rebels. Ran away from home when she was 11 and ended up in the outzone getting attacked by a gang of New Churchers and raped. Dead, too, if the Boy hadn't stepped in. Her father rewarded him with access to the Sony flat in the Camden Secure Zone and him and Kayjay became best friends. That's where the Boy was born, with her father's Sony cyberdeck, so the legend goes."
He watches her as she looks out at the streets of the outzone. Feels her taking in the life here.
"Anyway, Kayjay and him were an item for a while, and then one day she tells him she can't love him anymore. No reason, just says, 'I don't love you, Dex.' So he left for Texas. He told us the rest. Two months ago, Dev Lung sends her on an errand into Kistna territory. He's been trying to cut some sort of deal with them. A truce, like. Well, they gave her a trial by ordeal for being with Sodha. Hot rodded her. That's why she's in the hospital. Getting new limbs."
Motorhead sighs. "It's Kistna law. To prove your innocence, you have to carry a piece of red-hot iron ten meters and drop it in a vat of water. If your hands show no blisters after three days, God has smiled on you."
"And if the blisters are still there?"
"They cut your arms and legs off and leave you to die."
The conversation stops there. The cycle-rickshaw turns quietly onto the New Road and the nine-year-old boy at the front pedals steadily through the Battle Bridge Secure Zone, the brown spires of the Smallpox Hospital disappearing into the red mist thickening at the road's horizon. To each side, the crumbling towers form a canyon of granite grey. It makes Sarah sink a little further into her rickshaw seat.
"Better keep a look out," the driver says quietly. "We're moving into Kistnaville."
The reception office is a wide transparent plastic fish tank filled with tiny Sikh women sitting behind Fednet terminals typing in administration details. They all ignore Motorhead and Sarah as they enter the cavernous foyer. There is one open window in the fish tank. Sarah tries it.
"Is it possible to see a girl called Kayjay? She was admitted here two months ago."
Motorhead steps in when he sees the confused look on the Sikh woman's tiny face. He switches languages to Punjabi. Says three sentences. Her face lights up.
The woman flicks lightning-fast fingers across the terminal's touchpad, thin blue light dances over her face. Then the screen changes to bright white and Sarah guesses that a videostat of the girl must be on the record. The receptionist tries to find the English words to convey what is written in Punjabi on the screen.
"She is gone today," the woman says proudly.
Motorhead's face drops. "What do you mean, gone?"
"She is discharged today, you see? Gone home. She's better now. Metal arms and legs. Better."
The screen changes back to blue. The Sikh woman reels her hands back as if she's touched a wrong button. Her hands were by her face all the time. Punjabi characters scrawl themselves across the screen faster than her typing could ever write. Repeating themselves over and over. She turns the screen around to face Motorhead and Sarah, who look inquisitively at her.
"It says, 'Turn screen around,' " the woman says.
The screen blanks into dark blue again. The words this time come up in English:
DON'T ASK HOW NO TIME KAYJAY HAS GONE COME BACK TO THE DUSTZONE YOU MIGHT WANT TO SEE THIS BOY
Motorhead spends a second taking it in. Nodding to the receptionist in thanks just as Sarah grabs his arm and drags him out of the hospital.
Shelley has set the holoroom for a snow-covered winter's noon on Capitol Hill. He closes the door behind him and steps up to the bench by the black steel railings that surround the grounds of the New American Museum, green astroturf leading up to the white building.
Boy sits at the corner of the bench wearing a black pilot's jacket and baggy red jeans. As he was before Vijayanta killed him, with his hands spread along the arm and back of the bench and his right foot tucked in by his buttocks on the seat. Dex is dead forever now. Only the Boy remains. Shelley sits down next to him.
"Thought about my offer yet?" the shaker asks.
"Thought?" Boy laughs. "Jesus, you must really be desperate."
"Well, have you?" Shelley puckers up his lips in frustration.
Boy looks at a hypothetical watch. "Now I have, yes. You can kiss my ass." He raises his eyebrows a touch.
Shelley looks away toward the view of Washington. Far away to the south he can just make out a section of green land that lies beyond the walls of the Plex. "Fine. Then I'll call in some Fednet boys and have you shut down."
Boy shakes his head, the smirk still on his face. "Sorry, matey, but I've been kind of busy. If you shut me down here, I'll pop up in two other cores. And if I'm shut down there I replicate again, to an exponential. When I die the whole of the Grid will crash because it can't handle all my processes."
He smiles. "I made it a principle a long time ago never to work for smart-ass companies. Now I'm dead, I figure I've all the more reason to stick to my principles, seeing as they're about all I've got."
Shelley doesn't hide his annoyance. His lips are pursed tighter than ever. He stands and walks a few steps across the sidewalk. "You seem to have me in a stranglehold, Mister Eastman. What do you want from me?"
When Boy gives him the answer, Shelley just laughs in disbelief.
The lift stops rather suddenly. When the door slides open, Motorhead and Sarah instinctively edge to the sides of the lift, expecting the stutter of heavy rifle fire. But there's only the low hum of the neon strip lights that lead to his office. The corridor's empty. No security guards here. No Shelley. No autocannons she'd suspected would be lurking in the corner.
They make their way along the edges of the corridor. Shelley's office at the far end is a closed door. When they reach it, just about to hit the switch, it opens. The two drop instinctively, sensing the danger.
In front of Shelley's desk, a motion-controlled device sets off about five pounds of plastic explosive. Windows disintegrate, spraying out into the evening air. Flames lick the backs of Sarah's legs. Then it's all over.
They stand and survey the scene. There are a few pieces of Shelley left by the remains of the desk, but most of him has been blown out the window. Motorhead catches the smell of charred flesh and retches in the corner. Sarah kicks part of what could have been a leg under the debris.
The holoroom is set for Paris, the base of La Tour Eiffel. Sarah steps up to Boy's apparition and folds her arms.
"Okay, you've got your revenge. Now what did you have to do with it?"
Boy puts on a mock-innocent face and shrugs. "I just told him that the best way out of his situation was suicide. He didn't have the guts to do it himself, so he waited for you to arrive instead."
Sarah unfolds her arms and gasps. "There's so much more behind this that you haven't told us, isn't there?"
"Fancy parting with some of this information?"
"Nope. I told you what you needed to know to get the job done. I mean, you stopped him, right? No one knows what happened. Metropol was distracted at the time. The world's a safer place. Just like Big Pierrot."
"Vijayanta are still after me, though, aren't they?" She shrugs, not knowing what to do next.
"Go back to the outzone. It's more exciting than Milton Keynes." He laughs. "Anywhere's more exciting than Milton Keynes."
With her eyes low, she nods and takes the suggestion into her head. "Okay, I guess I can put up with Mo for a bit. And I seemed to be making a few friends of my own."
"Good." Boy turns away, walking north.
"Where are you going?" she calls after him.
He wheels around to face her a final time. His eyes are alive with loss. "I'm a Digital Intelligence now. Pretty soon the management will want to shut me down or make me work for a living. I'd better see as much as I can before I get collared. Besides, Rhea's still running 'round with my friend's body. Can't let it get away, can we?" His arms stretch out to each side. He laughs hard and spins himself dizzy, heading north until he disappears into the wall.
Sarah turns and laughs as she walks out of the room. Behind her in a hologram Paris, rain begins to fall.
Ridley McIntyre (Fraujingle@aol.com) was born in London, but now lives in New Jersey with his fiancée. He has been writing SF since the age of 8, but took a brief hiatus in 1997 while exploring the potential of growing up. He plans to do this with grace, having many tales to tell other people's grandchildren.
InterText stories written by Ridley McIntyre: "Boy" (v2n2), "Seven" (v2n6), "Mercy Street" (v3n3), "Nails of Rust" (v3n4), "Monkeytrick" (v4n4), "Ghostdancer" (v5n5), "Life Without Buildings" (v8n4).
InterText Copyright © 1991-1999 Jason Snell. This story may only be distributed as part of the collected whole of Volume 4, Number 4 of InterText. This story Copyright © 1994 Ridley McIntyre.