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aluminum source& to say nothing of the preposterous and expensive mechanical
processes you have to use to coax aluminum free of the minerals that contain
it Were it not for sorcery, I
doubt we'd ever have learned what a wonderfully useful metal aluminum is.
Two crowns sixty wouldn't come close to paying the bill from the Department of
Water and Powers I'd found in my mailbox. The bill was up from last month,
too; the Department, a little clipped-on notice said, had gained approval for
a three percent increase in salamander propitiation fees. Everything costs
more these days.
The money I'd got for the aluminum cans would just about cover a hamburger,
though not the fries that went with it A Golden Steeples was right around the
corner from the recycling center. I went in there, spent my dividend and a bit
more besides. It was a long way from a gourmet treat, but when you're eating
by yourself, a lot of the time you don't care.
A newspaper rack stood just outside the Golden Steeples: it used the same kind
of greedy little imp that dwells in pay phones. I stuck in the right change,
pulled out a
. If I'd tried to take more than one, the imp would have screamed blue murder.
I think it's a shame the racks have to resort to measures like that, but they
do. Life in the big city
Back in my flat, I opened a beer and drank it down while I read the daily. One
of the page-nine stories directly concerned me: Brother Vahan was appealing to
the Cardinal of Angels City for a dispensation to allow cosmetic sorcery for
one of the monks badly burned in the Thomas Brothers fire.
I prayed that the Cardinal would grant the dispensation. Cosmetic sorcery can
do marvelous things these days. If the doctors and wizards have a recent
portrait of someone before he was burned, they can use the law of similarity
to bring his appearance back to what it used to be. Function doesn't follow
superficial form, of course, but a burn victim gains so much by not becoming a
walking horror show.
Trouble is, the Cardinal of Angels City is a stiff-necked Erseman who takes
the mortification of the flesh and God's will seriously. The story said he was
considering Brother Vahan's appeal, "but the issuance of a dispensation cannot
be guaranteed'' He was liable to decide God wanted that monk disfigured, and
who were we to argue with Him?
That sort of attitude never made sense to me. Far as I can see, if God wanted
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bum victims to stay ugh/
forever, He wouldn't have made cosmetic sorcery possible. But then, I'm just
an EPA man, not a theologian (and especially not a Catholic theologian). What
do I know?
George and the Dragon was splashed all over the entertainment section (and I
wondered what the
Cardinal thought about that)
. I hadn't gotten a good enough look at the blonde by the Hollywood
Freeway to tell if she was the one falling out of her minitunic in the ads. I
wasn't about to go to the
Light-and-magic show to find out, either. That miserable publicity stunt had
cost them at least one cash customer.
When I got to work the next morning, more pickets were marching out alongside
the Confederal
Building to protest the aerial spraying for Medvamps. I shook my head as I
went up the elevator to work. Some people simply cannot weigh short-term
inconvenience against long-term benefit.
As soon as I got to my desk, I started working like a man possessed; had a
priest wandered by, he
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probably would have wanted to perform an exorcism on me. But I banged through
the routine parts of my job as fast as I could so I'd have time to investigate
the Devonshire case properly. I wanted to get out to Chocolate Weasel that
The best-laid plans
I'd just managed to get the wood on top of my desk out from under the usual
sea of parchments and visible to the naked eye once more when the phone
started yelling at me. Unlike some people I know, I
don't usually have premonitions, but I did this time. What I smelled was
trouble. The phone hadn't given me much else lately.
"David Fisher, Environmental Perfection Agency."
"Mr. Fisher, this is Susan Kuznetsov, of the Barony's Bureau of Physical and
Spiritual Health& "
"Yes?" I'd never heard of her.
"Mr. Fisher, I'm calling from Chatsworth Memorial Hospital. I was going to
notify the St Ferdinand's chapter of the Thomas Brothers, as is usual in such
cases, but due to the recent tragedy there, that was impossible. When I called
the East Angels City Thomas Brothers monastery, I was referred to you."
"Why?" I asked. My mind wasn't on the Devonshire dump, not that minute. But
then, before she could answer, I put together whom she worked for, where she
was calling from, her likeliest reason for wanting to get hold of the Thomas
Brothers, and their likeliest reason for passing her on to me. "Don't tell me,
Mistress Kuznetsov "
I'm afraid so, Mr. Fisher. We've just had an apsychic baby born here."
Chapter Four
I don't know much about babies: call it lack of practical experience. Give
Judy and me a few years and I
expect we'll do something about that, but not now. Oh, my brother up in
Portland has a two-year-old girl and I have some little cousins up there, too,
but I can count on the smelly fingers of both hands the number of diapers I've
So poor little Jesus Cordero (the irony of the name struck me as soon as I
heard it) didn't look much different from any other new-minted kid to me. He
lay on his tummy in the cradle, wriggling in a sort of random way, as if he
didn't really understand he had arms and legs and could do things with them.
The only thing in the least remarkable about him to the eye was an [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]


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