From charlesreid1


Basically they were just assholes, though, and took it as the measure of God’s satisfaction with them that everybody else thought they were assholes.

Camera down giving her the white rectangle of the van, shrinking in the street below. Camera up, the building towered away forever, a cliff the size of the world.

Her head was perfectly still, eyes unblinking. He imagined her ego swimming up behind them, to peer at him suspiciously, something eel-like, larval, transparently boned. He had its full attention.

Something she’d gotten from Burton and the Corps, that you didn’t do things in the clothes you sat around in. You got yourself squared away, then your intent did too. When she’d been Dwight’s recon point, she’d made sure she got cleaned up.

“But why do you?” she asked, as Ossian poured her tea. “Call them that. It sounds short. Nasty. Brutish. Wouldn’t one expect the fork’s new branch to continue to grow?” “We do,” said Lev, “assume exactly that. Actually I’m not sure why enthusiasts settled on that expression.” “Imperialism,” said Ash. “We’re third-worlding alternate continua. Calling them stubs makes that a bit easier.”

“Indeed,” said Lowbeer. “The use of explosives is unusual, and we prefer to keep it so. Too much like asymmetric warfare.” “Terrorism,” said the rental. “We prefer not to use that term,” said Lowbeer, studying her candle flame with something that looked to Netherton to be regret, “if only because terror should remain the sole prerogative of the state.” She looked up at him. “Someone has made an attempt on your life. It may also have been intended to intimidate any associates who might survive you.”

“Flynne’s brother arrived,” he said, “unexpectedly.” “He was rigorously selected by the military,” she said, “for an unusual integration of objective calculation and sheer impulsivity.”

“Markets are full of predatory trading algorithms. They’ve evolved to hunt in packs. Ash has people with the tools to turn those packs to Coldiron’s advantage, nobody the wiser. But whoever else is up there, with their own backdoor to now, they’ve got the same tools, or near enough.” “So what’s it mean?” “I think it’s like an invisible two-party world war, but economic. So far, anyway.”

“I personally recall that world, which you can only imagine was preferable to this one,” she said. “Eras are conveniences, particularly for those who never experienced them. We carve history from totalities beyond our grasp. Bolt labels on the result. Handles. Then speak of the handles as though they were things in themselves.”

If you fancy resenting the tedious, I recommend intentional communities, particularly those led by charismatics.”

and he’d started to explain what he called the jackpot. And first of all that it was no one thing. That it was multicausal, with no particular beginning and no end. More a climate than an event, so not the way apocalypse stories liked to have a big event, after which everybody ran around with guns, looking like Burton and his posse, or else were eaten alive by something caused by the big event. Not like that. It was androgenic, he said, and she knew from Ciencia Loca and National Geographic that that meant because of people. Not that they’d known what they were doing, had meant to make problems, but they’d caused it anyway.

No comets crashing, nothing you could really call a nuclear war. Just everything else, tangled in the changing climate: droughts, water shortages, crop failures, honeybees gone like they almost were now, collapse of other keystone species, every last alpha predator gone, antibiotics doing even less than they already did, diseases that were never quite the one big pandemic but big enough to be historic events in themselves. And all of it around people: how people were, how many of them there were, how they’d changed things just by being there. The shadows on the lawn were black holes, bottomless, or like velvet had been spread, perfectly flat.

But science, he said, had been the wild card, the twist. With everything stumbling deeper into a ditch of shit, history itself become a slaughterhouse, science had started popping. Not all at once, no one big heroic thing, but there were cleaner, cheaper energy sources, more effective ways to get carbon out of the air, new drugs that did what antibiotics had done before, nanotechnology that was more than just car paint that healed itself or camo crawling on a ball cap. Ways to print food that required much less in the way of actual food to begin with. So everything, however deeply fucked in general, was lit increasingly by the new, by things that made people blink and sit up, but then the rest of it would just go on, deeper into the ditch. A progress accompanied by constant violence, he said, by sufferings unimaginable. She felt him stretch past that, to the future where he lived, then pull himself there, quick, unwilling to describe the worst of what had happened, would happen.

None of that, he said, had necessarily been as bad for very rich people. The richest had gotten richer, there being fewer to own whatever there was. Constant crisis had provided constant opportunity. That was where his world had come from, he said. At the deepest point of everything going to shit, population radically reduced, the survivors saw less carbon being dumped into the system, with what was still being produced eaten by these towers they’d built, which was the other thing the one she’d patrolled was there for, not just housing rich folks. And seeing that, for them, the survivors, was like seeing the bullet dodged.

“What about China?” The Wheelie Boy’s tablet creaked faintly, raising the angle of its camera. “They’d had a head start,” he said. “At what?” “At how the world would work, after the jackpot. This,” and the tablet creaked again, surveying her mother’s lawn, “is still ostensibly a democracy. A majority of empowered survivors, considering the jackpot, and no doubt their own positions, wanted none of that. Blamed it, in fact.” “Who runs it, then?” “Oligarchs, corporations, neomonarchists. Hereditary monarchies provided conveniently familiar armatures. Essentially feudal, according to its critics. Such as they are.” “The King of England?” “The City of London,” he said. “The Guilds of the City. In alliance with people like Lev’s father. Enabled by people like Lowbeer.” “The whole world’s funny?” She remembered Lowbeer saying that. “The klept,” he said, misunderstanding her, “isn’t funny at all.”

He remembered Flynne’s face, luminous in the moonlight, stricken. He hadn’t liked having to tell her about the jackpot. He disliked the narrative aspects of history, particularly that part of it. People were so boringly deformed by it, like Ash, or else, like Lev, scarcely aware of it.

“Recognize this?” asked Lowbeer, indicating the tray. “No,” he said. He saw the words CLANTON BICENTENNIAL in a clumsy font, a pair of years two centuries apart, small drawings or vignettes, the printing faded, worn. “Your peripheral happened to record one of these in her house,” Lowbeer said. “We compared the various objects there to the catalogs of Clovis’s cooperative of dealers. This one was under Ladbroke Grove. Assemblers brought it up.” “Just now?” “While you were out.” “I don’t recognize it.” He vaguely knew that former tube tunnels in the vicinity were packed with artifacts, the combined stock of many dealers, minutely cataloged and instantly accessible to assemblers. It struck him as sad, somehow, that this thing had been down there, just moments before. He hoped it wasn’t literally the one from Flynne’s house. “Hers was on a mantelpiece,” Lowbeer said, “pride of place.” “Been to Clanton,” said Mrs. Fearing. “Shot a man there. Lounge of the Ramada Inn. In the ankle. I was always a decent shot, at the range, but it’s how you do when you aren’t that counts.”

I must have you and Flynne ready for Daedra’s party, Tuesday evening.” “You had so little time with her, back there,” Netherton said. “I thought you needed information.” “I do,” she said, “but she’ll need time to retrieve and decrypt it. It’s nothing she literally remembers.”

“No. Not that it can’t be done, of course, though our connection in the stub is slightly makeshift, perhaps not entirely up to it. I’ve seldom found the results particularly useful, myself, as thematically interesting as primary oneirics can be. Though mainly in how visually banal they generally are, as opposed to the considerable glamor we all seem to imagine they had, as we remember them.”

“No sense in that.” “Conspiracy theory’s got to be simple. Sense doesn’t come into it. People are more scared of how complicated shit actually is than they ever are about whatever’s supposed to be behind the conspiracy.”

They just told us he’ll be back soon. Then he gets to meet his hot nurse.” “What hot nurse?” “Griff sent her,” said Janice. “Nurse,” said Carlos, “my ass.” “Carlos thinks she’s an operator,” Macon said. “She says she’s a paramedic. No reason she can’t be both.” “Stone killer,” said Carlos, like that might be his favorite flavor of pie.

“You quit being so whiny-assed special,” Clovis advised Conner, having stepped closer to his bed, “like every other butt-hurt Haptic Recon pussy it’s been my misfortune to meet, and maybe I’ll get you a nice cup of coffee.” Conner looked up at her like he’d discovered a kindred spirit.

Why they call it that, anyway, Luke 4:5?” “’Cause that’s one spooky-ass Bible verse, probably.” “It’s a white people thing, Luke 4:5? Never paid ’em any attention.” “‘And the devil, taking him up into a high mountain, showed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.’”

“Who thought that thing up?” asked the peripheral, now very clearly Flynne’s brother’s friend, Conner, lounging against the jamb in a way Pavel would never have done.

But she still didn’t get what the United States did either, in Wilf’s world. He made it sound like the nation-state equivalent of Conner, minus the sense of humor, but she supposed that might not be so far off, even today.

“we think we’ve solved the problem of Flynne’s lacking the gift of neoprimitivist curatorial gab.” “How is that?” Netherton asked. “I suppose you could call it fecal transplant therapy.” “Really?” Netherton looked at her. “A synthetic bullshit implant,” Ash said, and smiled. “A procedure I don’t imagine you’ll ever be in need of.”

I’m unable to act on most of them, else I attract too much attention, become suspect myself. But possession of that information has already had a very beneficial effect on my career.” “When was this?” “Thursday,” he said. “It hasn’t been very long.” “I’ve barely slept. But it was nothing professional that convinced me. It was that she knew me as no one else could. Thoughts and feelings I’ve had constantly, all my life, but had never expressed, not to anyone.” He looked away, then back, shyly.

“Lowbeer says say hello,” she said to Burton. “She’s glad you can come with us. So am I.” “Cross between a trunk monkey and a fancy jack,” said his infomercial voice. “What I joined the Marines for.”

The hood was only fractionally longer than the rear deck, both of which could easily be imagined as tennis courts for the use of rather large homunculi. It had no rear window whatever, which gave him the sense that it had turned up its collar.

- Bookmark on Page 470

“Hey, Henry,” said a smoothly upbeat male voice, from the head of the stairwell, “sorry I broke your car.” The exoskeleton stepped through the arch, the homunculus on its massive shoulders, under the bell jar. It stopped, seemed to look at the man in the hat, except it didn’t have any eyes you could see. “Red,” said the man, softly. “Sorry I killed your driver and your security detail,” said the infomercial voice, like it was apologizing for not having 2-percent milk.

Lowbeer’s sigil appeared. “You did very well, Mr. Netherton,” she said. “I scarcely did anything.” “Opportunities to do very badly were manifold. You avoided them. The major part in any success.”

She’d told Ainsley, earlier, walking on the Embankment, how she sometimes worried that they weren’t really doing more than just building their own version of the klept. Which Ainsley had said was not just a good thing but an essential thing, for all of them to keep in mind. Because people who couldn’t imagine themselves capable of evil were at a major disadvantage in dealing with people who didn’t need to imagine, because they already were. She’d said it was always a mistake, to believe those people were different, special, infected with something that was inhuman, subhuman, fundamentally other. Which had reminded her of what her mother had said about Corbell Picket. That evil wasn’t glamorous, but just the result of ordinary half-assed badness, high school badness, given enough room, however that might happen, to become its bigger self. Bigger, with more horrible results, but never more than the cumulative weight of ordinary human baseness.

Meredith Yayanos kept a careful eye on Inspector Lowbeer throughout, an acute and articulate tunnel canary amid some issues I know little about.