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Members of the government begin to walk about with guards, and their families
move into the Aerial Palace. Hilthi protests he wants to live among the
people but though he will not leave his apartment, at least he is persuaded to
keep a guard about him.
Two days later, with the bomber still in Barchabi hands, a far worse
catastrophe. Constantine and Aiah view it from his launch, the gleaming
black-and-silver turbine-powered machine he had confiscated from the
Keremaths.
Cold rain drizzles down as Aiah looks at the overturned apartment building.
One of its two support pontoons had been bashed in, and the entire building,
with upward of four thousand people inside, had capsized in minutes. The huge
concrete pontoons are built with watertight compartments below the waterline
and had capsized in minutes. The pontoons are built with massive redundancy,
and such sudden and catastrophic failure should not be possible.
Not without help, anyway.
The apartment building, brick on a steel frame, had collapsed when it was
overturned, though its watery grave is shallow and the intact pontoon is still
visible, barnacle-encrusted flank exposed to the air like some strange
leviathan floating dead on the water. Boats sit on the slack green water
around the structure, picking up debris and the dead, and barges with huge
cranes stand ready. But most of the rescue work is invisible: telepresent
mages at nearby plasm substations scouring the rubble for signs of anyone
trapped in an air pocket, and other mages with the rare and difficult skill of
teleportation stand by to pop any survivors to the nearest hospital.
Constantine watches grimly, the collar of his windbreaker turned up as the
rain falls in a soft mist on his bare head. Disposed about the boat are his
guards, all twisted Cheloki with bony faces like armored black visors, and led
by Marti-nus. They have followed Constantine all these years, from the
Cheloki Wars on, and they have never failed him.
Constantine had not used so many guards until recently. Aiah assumes that
telepresent mages are on guard as well. This business, she reflects, has made
Constantine wary.
"It will be the Hand sending a message," he says. Drops of rain course down
his face, and he blinks them from his lashes as he speaks. "Who else has the
plasm to waste? Sorya taught them not to use bombs.
Aiah huddles beneath her jacket hood as rain patters on it, a steady
percussion near her ears. "What can we do?
Constantine tilts his head back, as if to consult with the low clouds. He
opens his mouth and lets the rain refresh him. Then he looks at Aiah, and a
dangerous light burns in his eyes.
"I want you to give me a list," Constantine says. "Ten Handmen we have not
arrested. Not necessarily the highest-ranking, but the worst, and all
married with large families, preferably. I want their addresses and the names
of their close kin. I want them by the beginning of work shift tomorrow.
Aiah's mouth goes dry. Her hand, holding her rain hood closed beneath her
chin, begins to tremble. "Yes, Metropolitan," she says.
He does not correct her use of his old title. Instead he looks at the rubble
of the building. His tone turns meditative. "And another list, I think.
Every Handman in your files. Names, pictures, current addresses." He looks at
her sharply. "But that for later. The list of ten, first of all. I would
send Great-Uncle Rathmen an answer to his message.
INTERFACT PURCHASES WORLDWIDE NEWS, DATAFILESTHE WIRE PROTESTS BIDDING
PROTOCOLSThere are three bombings in the next wave. Three Hand-men are
killed, along with their families. Three Handmen from the list of ten that
Aiah had prepared. The explosions are carefully controlled, and there are no
other casualties.
After this, the bombings cease entirely.
Aiah concludes that Constantine's message has been received.
She does not watch the video for days, in order to avoid any pictures of dead
children, but she finds, regardless, the dead haunting her dreams, a sad and
silent procession, gazing at her with drowned, frozen, reproachful eyes.
EIGHT
Weeks pass.
The Plasm Enforcement Division hones its moves, gathers more data, makes more
arrests against increasingly powerless, increasingly desperate opposition.
Mercenaries, now dressed in more politically acceptable Shield-gray uniforms
instead of full combat gear, continue to storm the bastions of the Silver
Hand.
Even the police begin to do their bit, rounding up Hand-men on one charge or
another. Not major figures, scarcely anyone ranked above brother, but every
arrest helps.
The firing squads continue in their work, though the executions are no longer
publicized, and terse press releases providing just names and the crimes of
which the Handmen were convicted are given out instead. It is not work of
which anyone is particularly proud.
Aiah hears more and more reports of Handmen and their associates who have
decided to leave Caraqui and seek a life elsewhere. The knowledge gives her
nothing but satisfaction.
Other Handmen turn up with growing frequency in byways and canals, all dead by
violence. Aiah follows these cases in hopes that they may turn out to be a
sign that the Hand has turned on itself, is warring over the remains of its
power in the absence of its leadership, but the available evi- dence suggests
this is not so. The members of the Hand are too terrified of the government
to spend time fighting each other. These bodies are the result of private
vengeance, citizens no longer afraid of the Handmen and considering themselves
free to act without fear.
Aiah supposes that she can't approve. But neither, she decides, can she much
blame the citizens for turning on their persecutors.
She spends a certain amount of time compiling a dossier on Gentri. There is
little to discover beyond what is in the public record. She spends some time
surveilling him through telepresence, but it's impossible to monitor him when [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]




 

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