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Richard K. Morgan is the acclaimed author of Market Forces, Broken Angels, and Altered Carbon, a New York Times Notable Book that also won the Philip K. Dick Award. Morgan sold the movie rights for Altered Carbon to Joel Silver and Warner Bros. His third book, Market Forces, has also been sold to Warner Bros. He lives in Scotland. Simon Vance, a former BBC Radio presenter and newsreader, is a full-time actor who has appeared on both stage and television. He has recorded over four hundred audiobooks and has earned over twenty Earphones Awards from AudioFile magazine, including one for his narration of Theft by Peter Carey. A twelve-time Audie finalist, Simon has won three Audie Awards, including one for Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, and the 2008 Booklist Voice of Choice Award. He has also been named an AudioFile Golden Voice as well as an AudioFile Best Voice of 2009.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Down in Flames
Above all, the hard lessons of this century have taught us that there must be consistent oversight and effective constraint, and that the policing systems thus required must operate with unimpeachable levels of integrity and support.
He finally found Gray in a MarsPrep camp just over the Bolivian border and into Peru, hiding behind some cheap facial surgery and the name Rodriguez. It wasn’t a bad cover in itself, and it probably would have stood standard scrutiny. Security checks in the prep camps were notoriously lax; the truth was that they didn’t much care who you’d been before you signed up. But there were still a few obvious signs you could look for if you knew how, and Carl, with a methodical intensity that was starting to resemble desperation, had been looking for weeks. He knew that Gray was up on the altiplano somewhere, because the trail led there from Bogotá, and because where else, ultimately, was a variant thirteen going to run. He knew this, and he knew it was just a matter of time before the traces showed up and someone called it in. But he also knew, with induction programs everywhere skimping and speeding up to meet increasing demand, that time was on the other man’s side. Something had to give, and soon, or Gray was going to be gone and Carl wasn’t going to get his bounty.
So when the break came, the tiny morsel of data finally fed back from the web of contacts he’d been plying all those weeks, it was hard not to jump. Hard not to dump his painstakingly constructed cover, fire up his Agency credit and badge, and hire the fastest set of all-terrain wheels available in Copacabana. Hard not to tear across the border at Agency speed, raising road dust and rumors all the way to the camp, where Gray, of course, if he had any kind of local support, would be long gone.
Carl didn’t jump.
Instead, he called in a couple of local favors and managed to blag a ride across the border with a military liaison unit—some superannuated patrol carrier with a Colony corporation’s logo sun-bleached to fading on the armored sides. The troops were Peruvian regulars, drafted in from dirt-poor families in the coastal provinces and then seconded to corporate security duties. They’d be pulling down little more than standard conscript pay for that, but the interior of the carrier was relatively plush by military standards and it seemed to have air-con. And anyway, they were tough and young, a sort of young you didn’t see so much in the Western world anymore, innocently pleased with their hard-drilled physical competence and cheap khaki prestige. They all had wide grins for him, and bad teeth, and none was older than twenty. Carl figured the good cheer for ignorance. It was a safe bet these kids didn’t know the subcontract rate their high command was extracting from its corporate clients for their services.
Sealed inside the jolting, sweat-smelling belly of the vehicle, brooding on his chances against Gray, Carl would really have preferred to stay silent altogether. He didn’t like to talk, never had. Felt in fact that it was a much-overrated pastime. But there was a limit to how taciturn you could be when you were getting a free ride. So he mustered some lightweight chat about next week’s Argentina–Brazil play-off and threw as little of it into the conversational mix as he thought he could get away with. Some comments about Patricia Mocatta, and the advisability of female captains for teams that were still predominantly male. Player name checks. Tactical comparisons. It all seemed to go down fine.
“¿Eres Marciano?” one of them asked him, finally, inevitably.
He shook his head. In fact, he had been a Martian once, but it was a long, complicated story he didn’t feel like telling.
“Soy contable,” he told them, because that was sometimes what he felt like. “Contable de biotecnologia.”
They all grinned. He wasn’t sure if it was because they didn’t think he looked like a biotech accountant, or because they just didn’t believe him. Either way they didn’t push the point. They were used to men with stories that didn’t match their faces.
“Habla bien el español,” someone complimented him.
His Spanish was good, though for the last two weeks it was Quechua he’d been speaking mostly, Mars-accented but still tight up against the Peruvian original that had spawned it. It was what the bulk of the altiplano dwellers used, and they in turn made up most of the grunt labor force in the prep camps, just as they still did on Mars. Notwithstanding which fact, the language of enforcement up here was still Spanish. Aside from a smattering of web-gleaned Amanglic, these guys from the coast spoke nothing else. Not an ideal state of affairs from the corporate point of view, but the Lima government had been adamant when the COLIN contracts were signed. Handing over control to the gringo corporations was one thing, had oligarchy-endorsed historical precedent on its side in fact. But allowing the altiplano dwellers to shake themselves culturally loose from the grip of coastal rule, well, that would be simply unacceptable. There was just too much bad history in the balance. The original Incas six hundred years ago and their stubborn thirty-year refusal to behave as a conquered people should, the bloody reprise by Túpac Amaru in 1780, the Sendero Luminoso Maoists a bare century back, and more recently still the upheavals of the familias andinas. The lessons had been learned, the word went out. Never again. Spanish-speaking uniforms and bureaucrats drove home the point.
The patrol carrier pulled up with a jerk, and the rear door hinged weightily outward. Harsh, high-altitude sunlight spilled in, and with it came the sound and smell of the camp. Now he heard Quechua, the familiar un-Spanish cadences of it, shouted back and forth above the noise of machinery in motion. An imported robot voice trampled it down, blared vehicle reversing, vehicle reversing in Amanglic. There was music from somewhere, huayno vocals remixed to a bloodbeat dance rhythm. Pervasive under the scent of engine oil and plastics, the dark meat odor of someone grilling antecuchos over a charcoal fire. Carl thought he could make out the sound of rotors lifting somewhere in the distance.
The soldiers boiled out, dragging packs and weapons after. Carl let them go, stepped down last and looked around, using their boisterous crowding as cover. The carrier had stopped on an evercrete apron opposite a couple of dusty, parked coaches with destination boards for Cuzco and Arequipa. There was a girdered shell of a terminal building, and behind it Garrod Horkan 9 camp stretched away up the hill, all single-story prefab shacks and sterile rectilinear street plan. Corporate flags fluttered whitely on poles every few blocks, an entwined g and h ringed by stars. Through the unglassed windows of the terminal, Carl spotted figures wearing coveralls with the same logo emblazoned front and back.
Fucking company towns.
He dumped his pack in a locker block inside the terminal, asked directions of a coveralled cleaner, and stepped back out into the sun on the upward-sloping street. Down the hill, Lake Titicaca glimmered painfully bright and blue. He slipped on the Cebe smart lenses, settled his battered leather Peruvian Stetson on his head, and started up the slope, tracking the music. The masking was more local cover than necessity—his skin was dark and leathered enough not to worry about the sun, but the lenses and hat would also partially obscure his features. Black faces weren’t that common in the altiplano camps, and unlikely though it was, Gray might have someone watching the terminal. The less Carl stood out, the better.
A couple of blocks up the street, he found what he was looking for. A prefab twice the size of the units around it, leaking the bloodbeat and huayno remix through shuttered windows and a double door wedged back. The walls were stickered with peeling publicity for local bands, and the open door space was bracketed by two loopview panels showing some Lima ad agency’s idea of Caribbean nightlife. White sand beach and palm trees by night, party lights strung. Bikini-clad criolla girls gripped beer bottles knowingly and pumped their hips to an unheard rhythm alongside similarly European-looking consorts. Outside of the band—jet-muscled and cavorting gaily in the background, well away from the women—no one had skin any darker than a glass of blended Scotch and water.
Carl shook his head bemusedly and went inside.
The bloodbeat was louder once he got in, but not unbearable. The roof tented at second-story height, nothing but space between the plastic rafters, and the music got sucked up there. At a corner table, three men and a woman were playing a card game that required calls, apparently without any trouble tracking one another’s voices. Conversation at other tables was a constant murmur you could hear. Sunlight fell in through the doorway and shutters. It made hard bars and blocks on the floor but didn’t reach far, and if you looked there directly then looked away, the rest of the room seemed dimly lit by comparison.
At the far end of the room, a boomerang-angled bar made from riveted tin sections held up half a dozen drinkers. It was set far enough back from the windows that the beer coolers on the wall behind glowed softly in the gloom. There was a door set in the wall and propped open on an equally dimly lit kitchen space, apparently empty and not in use. The only visible staff took the form of a dumpy indigena waitress slouching about between the tables, collecting bottles and glasses on a tray. Carl watched her intently for a moment, then followed her as she headed back toward the bar.
He caught up with her just as she put down her tray on the bartop.
“Bottle of Red Stripe,” he said, in Quechua. “No glass.”
She ducked under the hinged access section without comment and opened a cooler cabinet on the floor. Hooked out the bottle and straightened up, gripping it not unlike the criollas in the ad panels outside. Then she cracked it deftly open with a rust-spotted key that hung off her belt, and set it on the bar.
The only currency he had on him was Bolivian. He dug out a COLIN wafer and held it up between two fingers. “Swipe okay?”
She gave him a long-suffering look and went to get the machine. He checked the time display in the upper left corner of the Cebe lenses, then took them off. They’d cycled for low light anyway, but he wanted clear eye contact for what was coming. He dumped his hat on the bartop and propped himself next to it, facing the room. Did his best to look like someone who didn’t want anything, like someone fitting in.
In theory, he should have checked in with the GH site manager on arrival. It was procedure, written into the Charter. Extensive previous experience, some of it sticky with his own blood, had taught him not to bother. There was a whole shifting topography of dislike out there for what Carl Marsalis was, and it touched on pretty much every level of human wiring. At the high cognitive end, you had sophisticated dinner-party politics that condemned his professional existence as amoral. At a more emotive level there was the generalized social revulsion that comes with the label turncoat. And lower still, riding the arid terminology of the Jacobsen Report but swooping into the hormonal murk of instinct, you could find a rarely admitted but nonetheless giddy terror that he was, despite everything, still one of them.
And worse than all of this, in the eyes of the Colony corporations, Carl was bad press walking. Bad press and a guaranteed hole in finances. By the time someone like Gray was ready for shipping out, Garrod Horkan could expect to have plowed several tens of thousands of dollars into him in varied training and mesh biotech. Not the sort of investment you want bleeding out into the altiplano dust under the headline insufficient security at colin camp!
Four years previously, he’d announced himself to the site manager at a camp south of La Paz, and his target had mysteriously vanished while Carl was still filling out forms in the administration building. There was a bowl of soup still steaming on the kitchen table when he walked into the prefab, a spoon still in the soup. The back door was open, and so was an emptied trunk at the foot of the bed in the next room. The man never surfaced again, and Carl had to conclude, to himself and to the Agency, that he was now, in all probability, on Mars. No one at COLIN was going to confirm that one way or the other, so he didn’t bother asking.
Six months after that, Carl announced himself late one evening to another site manager, declined to fill in the forms until later, and was set upon by five men with baseball bats as he exited the admin office. Fortunately, they weren’t professionals, and in the dark they got in one another’s way. But by the time he’d wrested one of the bats free for himself and driven his attackers off, the whole camp was awake. The street was lit up with flashlights and the news was spreading at speed; there was a new black face, an outsider, down at the admin building, causing trouble. Carl didn’t even bother braving the streets and streets of stares to check on the camp address he had for his target. He already knew what he’d find. That left the fallout from the fight, which was equally predictable. Despite numerous passersby and even one or two blatant spectators, there were suddenly no useful witnesses. The man Carl had managed to hurt badly enough that he couldn’t run away remained steadfastly silent about his reasons for the assault. The site manager refused to let Carl question him alone, and cut short even the supervised interrogation on medical grounds. The prisoner has rights, she iterated slowly, as if Carl weren’t very bright. You’ve already hurt him badly.
Carl, still oozing blood from a split cheek and guessing at least one of his fingers was broken, just looked at her.
These days, he notified the site managers after the event.
“Looking for an old friend,” he told the waitress when she got back with the machine. He gave her the COLIN wafer and waited until she’d swiped it. “Name of Rodriguez. It’s very important that I find him.”
Her fingers hovered over the punch pad. She shrugged.
“Rodriguez is a common name.”
Carl took out one of the hardcopy downloads from the Bogotá clinic and slid it across the bartop at her. It was a vanity shot, system-generated to show clients what they’d look like when the swelling went down. In real time, that soon after surgery that cheap, Gray’s new face probably wouldn’t have looked amiss on a Jesusland lynching victim, but the man smiling up out of the clinic print looked uninjured and pleasantly unremarkable. Broad cheekbones, wide mouth, an off-the-rack Amerind makeover. Carl, eternally paranoid about these things, had Matthew go back into the clinic dataflow that night just to make sure they weren’t trying to fob him off with an image from stock. Matthew grumbled, but he did it, in the end probably just to prove he could. There was no doubt. Gray looked like this now.
The waitress glanced incuriously down at the print for a moment, then punched up an amount on the wafer that certainly wasn’t five soles. She nodded up the bar to where a bulky fair-haired male leaned at the other end, staring into a shot glass as if he hated it.
Carl’s hand whipped out, mesh-swift. He’d dosed up that morning. He hooked her index finger before it could hit the transaction key. He twisted slightly, just enough to take the slack out of the knuckle joints. He felt the finger bones lock tig...
"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.
Book Description Gollancz, 2007. Hardcover. Condition: Brand New. 560 pages. 9.49x6.42x1.81 inches. In Stock. Seller Inventory # zk0575075139
Book Description Condition: New. New. Seller Inventory # M-0575075139
Book Description London: Gollancz, 2007. Hardcover. Condition: New. Seller Inventory # DADAX0575075139