A/N: A special birthday update. Still in Palau, weather gorgeous. Beautiful country, oh yes.

Laughter. I swear I can hear the Professor and Veronica's laughter.

Evil bastards. I hate them. I will discredit them before everyone and then rip them into little pieces and then stomp up and down on them and then I'll get out the flame-thrower and then I'll get creative!

There's a stab of pain on my hand, a burst of orange flame, gone as soon as I look. Strange. Still, what the fuck is normal now?

My head hurts.

I need Izzy, I really do. Hey, her dad's Commissioner of Police! He can lend me a TOW launcher or some fragmentation grenades. Ooh, what fun…

"Izzzzzzzzzzzzzzyyyyy!" I wail.

She raises an eyebrow, and then sees I'm serious. Her face changes to concern. "What is it, Siggy? What's happened? Oh, here, come inside. Sit down now." She bustles around the room, comfortable and homely, slightly cluttered but none the worse for that, and soon the welcome hiss of a kettle can be heard before she comes in bearing an exquisite silver tray and teapot, steaming faintly. "You're in no state to be Mother," she observes dryly, carefully pouring Darjeeling into a cup.

"Here." I take it and sip gratefully. Tea. Where would I be without tea? All to pieces over my floor, ready to be stomped on by the Virus.

My wails have died to hiccupping sobs. I don't want to leave my college! My precious, precious college! My shield against the dreadful city!

"Now, what is it?"

"The Virus!" I moaned, sipping my tea and inhaling the fumes. "I'm going to have to leave the damn college!"


"Because I walked in on the Virus and Robertson at it like rabbits and they've twisted it round to make me look bad – like I was harassing her!"

Izzy tutted in sympathy. "And what are you going to do about it?"

My anger rose, against the weakening adamant walls. "They are fools," I told her calmly. "Utter fools who have no idea of whom they are meddling with. They play their petty games of power with me and I will not have it! I will see them all roast in the deepest pits of hell! I shall send them there myself, have no fear, and they shall regret what they have done to me!" I think I might be shouting.

I would have said more, told her more, but a hand is clamped across my mouth, forcing a pill inside. I try to bite down; but Izzy is skilled and avoids my teeth. She's conspiring against me! She's in league with the Virus, she must be, what other reason could she have for this betrayal? What does she hope to gain from it? What did they offer her – have they blackmailed her? They will all die! I shall have them all slaughtered I shall…

I shall…

I'm drifting – the world is all the shades of crystal again and words sound like chimes. Heh…chimes, climbs, pines… Jingle, jingle, jingle. I giggled, in a haze.

I blink. The sun is a lot lower in the window, the sky painted red. Izania looks tired, too, drained.

"You haven't been taking your medication," she says flatly.

My mind races – I have been! I must have been! "No, no, I've had them. I have! I have! I remember taking them! I did. Honest. You're quite mistaken Izzy. Oh, yes you are. Indeed. You have to be. I wouldn't just forget to take my medicines, oh no. This…this…" When did I last have my medication? Before Halloween? No, impossible. I am omnipotent – I never forget a thing. Not me, no.

But the pills Izzy forced down me are working, bringing me crashing down. "I…I've done it again, haven't I?" I whisper softly. "Oh, God, what have I done this time?"

Izzy tries to reassure me – I did nothing very bad, it was all right, no harm done, but I see scratches on her arms and she's stooped with tiredness and stress.

It's not completely gone; it rises beneath the medicines again and I burst into tears, madly, uncontrollably, wracking my whole body with the force. I can't stop – this is all my fault and I can't keep forcing myself on Izzy, but this happens every time I stress and I just collapse on her.

Eventually, I manage to calm myself, my eyes red and puffy, my body exhausted. Izzy smiles weakly. "More tea?" she asks shakily – my Little Moments, as she's dubbed them, are a strain. I nod assent, as liquid sanity pours into my cup. It's so pretty…I trail a finger in it, swirling absently, but Izzy pulls my hand away before I get burnt. I knew that. But it's so pretty and sparkly and it makes a nice noise when it falls back into the cup.

"So, what will you do?" she asks softly. I bring my eyes, with effort, back to Izzy.

I sighed, defeatedly, into my tea, making tsunamis which crash against the obdurate china. Hee…pretty, "Nothing I can do. Move out of college, rent some flat somewhere, get knifed, have you sue the college to within an inch of its life with my dying breath and then go with a smile on my face knowing you'll be extremely rich and Robertson will never work again."


Oh, bugger. Really. All of me hurts, and I really don't want to go a) to my room, b) to my studio or c) out into the city.

Nevertheless, I find myself slinking out into the teeming dystopia. Skyscrapers leer in the dusk, their lidless eyes reflecting everything but themselves, beaded with rain. It's always raining, here. Streetlamps burn dimly, their radiance dimmed and scattered by the raindrops, a halo of wavering marsh-light, eerie and shifting. I turn off my lenses – the augmented city dies, leaving me with the pure terrene. Bliss, after a Little Moment, a solid anchor is often required to reel in my wandering, wavering sanity.

Over churches and graveyards the strange light flickers. Crosses spit and hiss darkly, spitefully, but the windows are dark as night, beaded with raindrops.

I like the rain. It sparkles, darkly.

The plants are dark viridian, incredibly alive and somewhat eerie in the half-light, rain glittering like diamonds on them. The susurrus of the drops through the foliage is soothing in the roar of the city. My feet crunch on dark gravel by a white-rimmed fury that was once a lake, now whipped to wrath by the rain and funnelled winds. The park is a dark oasis in the city's neon glow, its black heart undisturbed by the surface radiance. A microcosm of the city.

The moon is a half tonight, and the polluted skies above make the underbelly of the clouds glow a sickly yellow. The moon itself turns the cloud-tops silver. I would give everything to fly up there, past the polluted city, to the great, silent freedom of the skies.

An imagination is not the same, even mine, where I feel the wind through my hair and cold's nip at my cheeks and nose and hands and skin and eyes.

The midnight music sings to me, softly, bearing imagination, innovation, conception, all the wonders and terrors of abstract thought. Mostly terrors, for me. I see things which are not and cannot be, and I bring them to ephemeral life in imaginations, programs everyone runs and few can create. For it is the artistry of creation that so many lack and so the few must dilute their talent to supply the hungry masses.

The peasants complain of no bread and the nobles of too much cake. As true now in this bland, bipartisan world as in the French Revolution when Marie Antoinette wore her country's fortune in black opals and drank the blood of France as wine until the dreadful mix boiled over into blood and fire and…that's my personal maniac talking again. This time it's not so bad – I know it's happening and I can stop it.

But rather than the rusty justice of the knife, the star-metal pain, nature has her own justice that bypasses the crudity of humans and redounds on them in rebuke. The glittering pathways of the brain, afire with creativity, degrade, and slowly the searing vision falters and fades and the artist is plunged into the mundane terrene, no shield to protect them, no natural filter for the world. I shiver as thoughts not consciously my own – ironically the seat of my glorious imaginations – rise up inside me again. I am torn, split in two. Normal and maniac. The transition between the two is never pretty, and usually lightning-fast, unpredictable.

The bench is cold beneath me, and overhead the hidden stars sparkle and glitter and the rain falls, darkly.

The air is cold, now, and tastes somewhat like the way empty rooms smell.

I can see the old mansions of the central city on its towering hill all lit and warm. Old money, old customs. I smile. I liked old things, and old traditions and duties were comfortable, if not as fun as some of the newer ones.

There's something restful about walking around at night, especially in colleges – there's nothing and no-one up and about, it's dark and quiet, the roar of the city muted and muffled. Moonlight glints off fine tracery stonework, flashes fleetingly from glass, the swiftest refugee in the world


Well. There are dents in the safe.

This does not bode well. I have to get my money and my cards and my drink out of there before the Virus breaks through. The safe is only a college-issued one, so it really is not up to snuff. I had actually meant to discuss the matter with the college authorities, before the whole farrago with the Virus. Obviously I will now have to take more drastic action.

I twirl the dials, one combination, two combination, three combination, four! I unlocked it, removed the rather battered interior and beheld the true safe. I swept the cash into my rucksack and the cards into my pocket. I would be sorry to see my champagne and brandy go to waste with the Virus, and she'd probably destroy my own beautiful flutes and balloons, but there was no space for the sparkling Murano glass. Blasted person.

I collapse back onto my beloved bed. That's another thing I probably would not be able to keep ahold of. I would enjoy this last night of it, then, and damn all the others.

The high canopy shrouds me as I climb into my dear, dear bed, all that is important to me gathered about or hidden safe and close at hand. The bed is feathered, beautifully, sinfully soft, warm and yielding, giving way beneath my slight weight to engulf me in its giving embrace. The covers are thick and heavy, insulation from the world and more importantly the dreadful cold. There's a nice frieze carved into the canopy head, too. I love my bed.

Perhaps I should sleep with a gun tonight – one can never know what the Virus would try next. Evil girl.


Even at dawn, it's still raining. No matter – I like the rain. I think we don't get enough of it, personally. It turns the city into something bearable, dims the blazing lights and its crushing heat, distils the pollution from the air and leaves it clean and fresh.

Veronica hasn't come back – her bed is still a mess, and it's cold. Ordinarily, I would have welcomed this, but now it simply reminds me that she is a vulture, circling to feast when I am gone.

I sigh and rise. I like to rise early, even if it is simply to luxuriate in my bed and see the sun come up. Today, the sun is obscured completely by the dark clouds.

The shower, at least, is hot, and the boiling rain helps me to relax and think. My rucksack is packed with my money and such personal things as I see necessary, my card is in an inner pocket, sealed and locked away – and that needs more protection than the cash.

All I need is to get dressed and go out into the ghastly city, buy a flat or suitably nice home and then shove what remaining money I have into a safety deposit box, then go and hire four musclemen to protect little old me.

I dressed slowly; pearl-grey morning coat and gloves – I am never without gloves. The barrier between myself and the world, they are removed only for the concertos one conducts at the computer's crux of imagination. I suppose I should have a top hat and a cane: indeed, I do have such things, but they attract undue stares. I like my coat and gloves as they are, anyway, a shifting, shimmering pearly gray that flickers and dances like scudding clouds. It's never the same twice – I was never told how much the beautiful thing cost, and I never asked.

They were as much weapons as clothes, only worn on special occasions, for that extra edge. My last link, of sorts.

No matter. I straighten up from my near-penitent crouch, my rucksack on my back and clothes glittering like dolphin-backs at dawn, square my shoulders, and prepare myself to enter the teeming metropolis of the city.

The porters yell their cheery greetings to me – they adore me; I am free with gifts of port and Havanas at Christmas, and always remember their birthdays. A little kindness can go a long way, I've always found. I pass under the gates, out of my ivory tower, and into the fleshpot of the city.

Its roar has the force of a physical thing, comprised of the low thrum of engines, the brazen call of the horns, the belch of factories and the sound of their never-ending rut.

My ears ring from the dreadful sound, made only worse by the swish of cars past the gates and the chatter of a million people. At least it's raining. I don't have an umbrella. Ah well. Who needs an umbrella, anyway? I like to look up at the sky and see all the clouds fight and the raindrops fall. Well, until one plummets, with impeccable aim, into my eye. That wasn't nice at all.

Ow. I'm more or less on an even keel right now, as per usual – my schedule has become clockwork once more, two pills in the morning before cleaning my teeth, washed down with water – before the teeth so it doesn't taste of icky mint toothpaste, which is a disgusting flavour for water – and then I'm more or less set for the day, barring stress, of course. Stress is not nice. Stress is not my friend.

The others around me are all hunched, fighting the rain, coattails flying, hair in disarray as they clutch at whatever is to hand to keep them dry. The women flail along in high heels and tight dresses, the men lollop along untidily, heads down to the gray, pitted cobbles, suits crumpled and sodden.

Like everything else in this city, the cobbles are ancient, damaged and worn. Deep craters, scored by horses' hooves in years gone by, ironshod hooves shattering the stone – I always imagine pounding chases on horseback through the old city, hooves striking cataracts of sparks from the cobbles, guns going off in flashes of flame in the industrial smoke mixed with the everlasting rain, hooves throwing up cataracts of sparks, the pounding thump of the fleeing heart, the roars of the pursuit, the whistles and bells shrieking their alarm – but enough of that, I cannot afford to stand still and dream all day, especially in this city. I have an augmentation working on that very theme, though, and it's my baby. I think I shall sell it to an imaginations company and watch the money roll in.

Still, there are more immediate concerns now. Like finding a damn apartment close to the damn college that wasn't priced at fifteen million plus.