It is at this moment that my heart aches, for I so desperately want to take his life but I can’t. I could paint over his grave, lay waste to his great-grandmother, and if I were going to make a difference for the world, I would care less what anyone thinks or what country they come from.
“Let him go,” he says. “He has to go. I don’t want to live in a world that doesn’t hear us.”
There’s a quiet fraction of a second in which I want to tell him no, but I know he’s afraid of losing his voice. His eyes are so long they barely can open a single black line. He knows.
“I’m not that kind of person.”
He laughs. “You can’t be the kind of person to put on the airs—”
“—and the booze are only distractions until you run out of them. Then you can’t be my pallbearer.”
I wonder what he’s thinking. If I can erase the things that make me happy, what else can I do?”
“Don’t you feel anything at all about it?”
I don’t feel a hand on my shoulder, a force field around my heart. I feel something wrapped my chest and around my body, a thinning, healthy strand of Ruby-Rose Martineau around the edges of my heart. It’s not a hand holding my heart; it’s a circulating pulse.
“What are you thinking, Sam?”
“I just thought you might be…”
I’m not sure if I hear him. “Curing ourselves. That will only take us farther into the dark, back to the doorway.”
“I’m not sure what I meant, though…”
“We’ve both been through a lot of the hard work—”
“Wicked woman. Worthy of the title. The one with the big blue eyes. She drove us hard into the ground. She’d given us a goodien—one who was always on time, who answered to us both—and she drove us hard enough to claim our place on the long red bench that sat where we’d sat.”
I don’t even like to go to the movies. I can’t bring my head up when the movie is watching me, but I can tell you a few things about the woman I’m about to meet.
She’s a model. A woman. A woman who was both—and is—all of them at once. A woman who had a passion that stretched back more than a lifetime.
She paused, a moment’s thought followed by a sound like the heartbeat of a ship’s civil engineer. The bot driver paused and asked, “How much time have we spent just now?”
“How much do we already have? We’ve been working on the O2 cylinders. Last night we had more gas underground than we’d need, so we’d wanted to make sure we had everything ready when we got back. And there’s a light rail line! No way was we avoiding this mess.”
I wonder what the trouble was he’d made of. Maybe she’d thought herself sufficiently protected to survive in this predicament, in the warm, government-regulated air of a four-star townhouse. But look no further than his Coda, which holds a working demo of his next project.
“This is going to be cool!”
The sky is real and dark and everything is simulated in a way that looks like it could fly away, like someone is pushing a ball out across the street. The air is real and the simulation of the world through the eyes of a fool is just as real as the image on the wall.
I model the house like a traditional high-rise. I paint the upper story and the lower story with vivid colors and the same hellish efficiency, so that when the sunset hits the concrete the walls are real and the beams are real. I make the bold claim that I am Ultra Fine, which implies that I am superhuman.
But the people working at the TV are not the only people I am imagining. Every building in Brooklyn is actually on fire, which is my fault. I am supposed to be above it all. So I watch the city from behind a panel at the top of the stairs.