THE PROTOTYPE jet hummed into Japanese airspace, as confident in its own agency as any other aeroplane. Anyone who at that moment turned their eyes skywards would have barely regarded it, and those who did dismissed its cargo as businessmen or holidaymakers.
Within, Quentin Quark reclined and touched the cold glass to his lips. The ice tinkled against his teeth as he drained the tumbler of the synthesised whiskey. Some day, he thought, we'll get it right. He watched the clouds for a while, soaking in the pale sky. In his boredom he interfaced with the on-board MindWay and scanned the plane's liquid hard drive for safety features.
The toilet flushed, and Dr Vassa scrambled out of the toilet and made nervous steps back to his seat opposite Quentin.
"I have no idea what you're doing in there," Quentin chuckled.
"The nanos may eliminate my necessity to vomit or excrete, but they do not stop me from retching," Vassa replied, sounding a little envious and put out. "And that is not something I wish to do in public."
"'In public,'" Quentin said. "There's nobody on this plane but us."
"And how are you spending your time? Gallivanting about in an Asimov?"
"Just doing some discordio-lingusitic exercises. But that's a good idea."
"Hmpf. We must be over Japan by now."
"We're due to land in about 15 minutes," Quentin said. "There's an RSI man waiting for us."
"'Rising Sun Institute.' What the hell is that? Why not just call it the Slitty-Eyed Johnny Foreigner Institute. Quentin, do you ever get the feeling your whole life is just the wet dream of an adolescent? One who's read too many pulpy science fiction mags?"
"Occasionally. But I try to ignore it."
Tokyo welcomed the two men with open arms. Quentin had wanted to come at night, to see the city in all its neon majesty, but time constraints dictated otherwise. Upon landing on the airstrip, Dr Quark and Dr Vassa were met by an employee of the Rising Sun Institute, who bowed, shook their hands and hurried them into the company of another two men in dark suits. More bowing, hand shaking and introductions and Vassa and Quark were in the back of a luxury limousine.
"Now I know why you like Japan so much," Vassa said, peering out of the shaded windows.
"Because of the quality reception they always give me?"
"There's that. And the fact they're about five years ahead of the US in almost every aspect. You see them as rivals, don't you?"
"I don't have any rivals. Why does everyone try to psychoanalyse me?" Quentin grinned. "I'm a pretty simple guy, all things taken into account. Hey," he said, pointing out of the window at a video game bar, "I know that place. They sell nootropic shakes in there. Let's go later."
"Very simple," Vassa folded his arms.
They arrived at the RSI in time to look around their quarters before Kobayashi was ready for them. A squadron of research assistants and technicians swamped them like paparazzi.
"By my head, here come the Pharisees," Quentin muttered.
"You do set yourself up, Quentin," Vassa said. "If you dressed normally and didn't change your name, nobody would know who you were."
"Doctor Quark, it is an honour…"
"Your work on metacosmology…"
"…inspired so much…"
"…meet you at last…"
"…your most humble…"
"Professor Quark, your paper on Quine's indispensability of…"
"…me to show you to your rooms."
"…homological historical theory…"
Their quarters were in the adjacent commercial hotel, a high-tech, high-rise five-star called Grand Oaks. It was one of the most exclusive places to stay on earth, but between his secretary, Jane's, persistence, the RSI's enthusiasm and Quentin's profile, they'd managed to acquire some of the best quarters in the city. Quentin's room was spacious and generous, with holomirrors, enough ThermoMeals to last them all week, and a very accessible neuro-interface system. The clothes provided were classy and expensive, tailored to the two men's respective size and tastes. Quentin was feeling satisfied and very much at home by the time there was a knock at the door. Vassa was doing his best to look relaxed in an armchair nearby, and rubbed his hands over his wrists as Quark went to answer.
"My name is KENTA," the assistant said in Japanese. He wore a smart single-breasted suit, beautifully attuned to his slender body. His skin was a very light shade of bronze, his bone structure perfection. "I work with Professor Kobayashi. I am to assist you in any way necessary."
"Fascinating," Quentin said as they shook hands. "Vassa, come and look at this, will you? Apologies, KENTA, if I appear rude… Vassa, look, he's been altered on the genetic level."
"You are correct, Doctor," KENTA confirmed. "I am an experimental bio-genetic prototype. I'm genegineered for absolute efficiency in laboratory, combat and sexual situations."
"Sounds like someone I know," Vassa murmured.
"Fascinating," Quentin repeated, scrutinising KENTA's face like it was hanging in a gallery.
"Will you walk this way, please."
Quentin probably could have found their destination himself, the RSI being so obviously modelled on the Leland Building back in New York. The Trans-Spatial Research and Development Department, or Miho's Den as it was colloquially known, was a massive circular complex, like a mall for labs. A particle accelerator ran around the outside of the mall, which accounted for a slow hum that could occasionally be heard above the Satie that played softly and incessantly.
An elevator disc formed at their feet, and the three men stepped onto it. It took them to one of the highest points in the room, some hundred-and-fifty feet above the ground. There, Miho Kobayashi caught sight of them, and broke herself off from a team of scientists.
"Doctor Quark. Always a pleasure."
"I told you, call me Quentin. This is Doctor Emilio Vassa, Professor Vassa before he lost his teaching post. Doctor Vassa, Professor Miho Kobayashi."
She was a short, middle-aged woman, bearing shoulder-length black hair with flecks of grey, Japanese but Oxford-educated. She wore her years extremely well, Quentin always thought. It dawned on him she was Vassa's type.
"Charmed," Vassa said, placing his lips on Kobayashi's knuckles.
"Charming!" Kobayashi chirped. "You have both met my darling KENTA?"
"Indeed," Vassa said. "Quentin is rather taken with him."
"I thought you might be, Doctor Quark," Kobayashi said. "You should see his DNA sequences. Pure poetry, even if I do say so myself."
"I won't stick around to be flattered," KENTA joked, mechanically. "I'll be in the bestiary. If you need me, Miho, just whistle."
As he left, Kobayashi's face was filled with pride. "I modelled him on you, partly," she admitted to Quentin. "I hope you don't mind. You'd be shocked what you can find on the internet."
"Not at all," Quentin said. "I'm pretty much public property these days anyway."
"Ahem," Vassa said. "If we could get down to business."
"Of course. Right this way, please, doctors."
Kobayashi led them to the heart of the Den, talking as they walked. "Of course, I'm a physicist by trade, like yourself, Doctor Quark. But computer programming is where to be at the moment, right, Doctor Vassa?"
"I thought Quentin was the only man who considered a particle accelerator a fashion accessory."
"Well, it's amazing what you can do with an unlimited budget," she shrugged. "Scientific research departments all around the globe will be using progressive-loop Möbius Accounts in ten years. And I'm not a specialist: We still do physics here. 'Specialisation is for insects,'" she quoted with a smile.
"I couldn't agree more," Quentin said.
They found themselves in a small, spherical room, like a metallic womb. Quark was reminded of his Quantum Temple, when deactivated. It was a computer itself, and like the plane used a liquid hard drive. Six subjects were sitting in platinum-coloured chairs and wearing VR helmets whilst technicians checked their vital signs and moistened their eyeballs.
"This, gentlemen, is Logos," Kobayashi said. "Or, at least, a prototype. It is the world's most advanced virtual reality programme."
"So this is the big secret?" Vassa said. "Yet another high-tech video game?"
"Logos is more than that, Doctor Vassa," Kobayashi said. She held up a seventh VR helmet. "Who wants to try?"
Quark grinned, and, assisted by his nanos, made the mental leap into the programme without taking the headset. He stood rigid, as if in a trance, as his mind explored Kobayashi's computer.
"Get him a chair before he falls," Kobayashi said to one of the technicians.
"Don't bother," Vassa said. "He does this all the…" Before Vassa could finish his sentence, Quark collapsed into the arms of the technicians.
They worked quickly, hooking him up to an ECG and putting him in one of the specially-designed seats. Vassa himself removed Quentin's visor, and saw that his eyes had rolled back into his head beneath their flickering lids.
"I've never seen him like this," Kobayashi said.
"As I said, Logos isn't like any other programme. It's as spiritual as it is psychokinetic."
"Spiritual?" Vassa said. "I'm not a dualist, Dr Kobayashi."
"Neither am I," came the reply. "And please, call me Miho."
Quentin murmured, as if awaking from a dream. His eyes fell back into place, and he licked his dry lips.
"It's a singularity," Quentin said. "Or, rather, a microsingularity, working within specified parameters."
"Indeed, Doctor Quark," Miho said, rather impressed.
"Quentin. And that's the least of it. There was something feeding off me the whole time I was in there. Not just my intellectual responses, but my instinctive ones, too."
"Correct again. Gentlemen, shall we adjourn?"
They made their way to Miho's personal quarters. A modest office, but one with enough floor space for all three of them. KENTA brought them tea, which they sipped as they smiled politely at each other until he left the room again.
"Okay," Miho said, taking in a deep breath. "Stop me if I'm lecturing you on what you already know. All this, after all, is based on your work. Both of you."
"Go on," Quentin said. "We won't interrupt."
"Okay. We have theorised that there are, in a basic sense, three levels of 'reality,' as far as the word can be understood to have any meaning. There's the relativistic level, of Einstein, where we spend most of our time. Then there's the quantum level, of Planck, Bohr and Heisenberg. Finally, there's the linguistic level, of Joyce, Derrida and the post-structuralists."
"How very arborescent," Vassa said. "I wonder where you think mathematics fit in?"
"Well, that's just it. We know this isn't really the case. We're simply expressing it in terms that make sense to us. Schrodinger's Cat shows us that the quantum world can have a direct impact on ours. A subatomic particle decays, a cat in a box dies. Structurally, of course, there's no difference within the cat. We only perceive it to be a cat in the first place through our brain's own internal language. And indeed, there's no cat at all: it's just a thought experiment. Thus, the quantum level is also co-dependent upon the linguistic. What Schrodinger's Cat also shows us is that the universe is not deterministic. However, psychics have, with extreme accuracy, been able to predict the future. Which tells us the levels not only influence each other, but can be used to bypass one another. This explains why a wavefunction collapse only occurs after it has been perceived."
"Hmm," Quentin agreed, but wishing to steer clear of any Platonic implications. "Where does Logos come in?"
"Logos is literally pure language. Pure information. But when you're inside, the programme also simulates, in a similar manner to the Quantum Temple. You're subject to gravity, friction, all the other forces and laws, all the way down to the pseudo-subatomic. Within Logos, we can conduct experiments we wouldn't be able to do elsewhere ethically."
"Well, the aim of all this, at least in the short term, is to determine some sort of parameter as to where the language affects the other two realms. This is where Doctor Quark's… Quentin's… work on esoteric physics has been hugely influential. If I can be frank, we are looking for a way to harness emotional resonance within the psychokinetic field. Feelings of sexual pleasure, extreme pain, all give off huge bursts of energy on the language and information level. Transferring these into real energy gives us more options than we've ever had before. Our resources would be limited only by our imaginations."
"So," Vassa said. "You're using people as batteries. Stick a nail in them, make them fuck, you can run a city for a week. Am I right?"
"Well, in theory," Kobayashi replied, a little taken aback. "But Logos doesn't just feed. It nourishes. What it takes out, it puts back in twice over. That's why it has to be a singularity."
"What problems do you anticipate?" Quentin asked, as KENTA served them more tea. "Say, a technogeneration from now. If it becomes commercially viable."
"It's too early to tell," the professor said. "I've stayed up a lot of nights making this as foolproof as possible. But you have to understand, Logos, an unrestrained Logos, would be a world of its own. Living, breathing, expanding, in a constant state of change. We really don't know whether it would necessarily be as limited to three dimensions as ours is. We're currently collating several Theories of Time on the subject. You could get people, minds, slipping backwards or forwards through time, while their bodies sit in chairs. I'm hoping to get a paper out about it by the end of the year…"
"So, still don't have any rivals, hmm?"
Quentin and Vassa sat in Vassa's room, which was slightly more modest, but still sizeable. The first thing Quentin had done was to kick the television screen in, "just in case." They relaxed, Vassa in an armchair and Quentin into a beanbag. Using his biblionanos, Quentin indulged in Rabelais, Maya Deren and a few Tijuana bibles, while Vassa took his William Thackery with the utmost seriousness.
Room service arrived with a bottle of synthetic champagne and sushi, laced with light nootropics. Vassa passed on the champagne, stuffed his hand into his pocket and produced a battered bank note, before using this in tandem with a solemn wink to tip the bell-boy. Half an hour later and a second boy returned with a make-up case. Vassa took the make-up case into the bathroom. Quentin followed him in.
"Heh. I don't know whether it's just apophenia, but I read the exact same line in Rabelais and this porn comic at the same time."
"Not really surprising, considering the subject material," Vassa said, zipping the leather bag open to reveal a plastic bag of white powder.
"You know," Quentin said, trying not to sound like a lecturer he'd once had at Chicago. "That stuff will turn your brain into blancmange."
"Some anarchist you are," Vassa said, arranging the coke into lines with a razor. "What can I say? I'm fucking nervous. I don't like any of this shit."
"And that will make you less nervous?"
Vassa replied by sucking a dram up into his sinuses as loudly as he could manage at his age without choking. He looked up into the mirror, avoiding the gaze of Quentin's reflection, and began poking at the baggy skin beneath his eyeballs. There was a knock at the door, and Quentin went to answer it.
"Hello stranger," Jane Larkin said.
"At last!" Quentin mumbled into her shoulder as they hugged. "You don't look like you just got off a plane." She was dressed to go out, in purple eyeliner, tassled leather and kinky boots.
"I dressed on the way. They've taken my suitcase up to my room, wherever that is. I love this servants' entrance shit. Where's Vassa?"
"Putting on his bathrobe. Come over to my room, we'll talk."
Quentin filled Jane in over the champagne. She listened attentively, physics not being her strongpoint, with a forearm balanced between folded knee and chin, and tapped her dangling foot to The Grateful Dead album Quentin had put on. She in turn glossed over her own life, how she was moving into a new apartment. They weren't ones for small talk.
"How does Logos stack up to some of our tech?" she asked at last.
"It's deceptively simple. They're at the liquid information stage, which puts them at least at the level of Addrisi's Castle, but I don't think they've considered the full possibilities of hard-light hard drives. And yet, what they've created is potentially a singularity, in both the technological and spiritual sense. That's an achievement, admittedly."
"So what's the aim of all this?"
"A proper Type 1 civilisation, with shamanic elements restored to healer/constructor status. That will probably mean the removal of the Church… anyway, I'm digressing. The point is, we're heading out to celebrate. You, me, Kobayashi and KENTA. And Vassa if he's up for it."
KENTA and Miho soon joined them. Introductions were awkward, as KENTA couldn't speak English and Jane couldn't speak Japanese, but between the four of them they worked it out.
With there being no reply when they knocked on Vassa's door, Quentin excused himself and went in. While the three of them waited in the hallway, Jane and KENTA conversed, and used Miho as a translator, until they had taught each other a few compromise phrases for the night. KENTA's artificial, yet honest politeness was intriguing.
Quentin returned, shrugging. The foursome made their way down to the lobby and then into a waiting limousine. The night was drawing in, and Tokyo came alive in a brilliant half-hour flash of liquid light as they raced around clubs and bars. The nattering of the city's nightlife was incessant, a stream of bleeps, synthesisers and conversation. They found themselves in The Flower, a club and modern art gallery, where idiot savants painted murals whilst the patrons drank. Then onto Bar Ambrosia, a gaijin-friendly place for some live music and dancing.
Quentin was a notoriously middling musician. A concert-grade pianist, and utterly useless at almost anything else. He had fronted a jazz-rock band for a few months, and was found out when asked to sing in anything other than a baritone. This was nothing to be ashamed of, obviously, but Quentin's friends expected him to be good at everything, especially when he pretended to be an expert on music theory (a pretence that collapsed when he was asked to explain anything other than Wagner).
Thus, his karaoke was greeted with apprehension, and he didn't (or did) disappoint: a few passable covers of Pixies songs, made interesting by his Barry White-lite vocal style, followed by a truly awful Stairway to Heaven rendition.
As a dancer, though, he was far more adept. In fact, by the time he was halfway through a dance with Jane, the entire club had forgiven him. He looked over at Miho, and felt sorry for her as she was trying to elicit some trace of life from KENTA's workmanlike steps. They traded partners, Jane now dancing with KENTA and leaving Quentin with a clear run with Miho. Cameras snapped around them.
"So, if you hum long enough, you end up, like, in a calm state, you know what I mean?" a Japanese girl was telling Quentin in the Temple Club over a Daft Punk track. He nodded politely and stirred his drink. "I mean, I think people just don't have the courage to just sit down and try this stuff to see if it works. Do you know voodoo? You kind of look like you do…"
"Voodoo and karate," Quentin smiled.
"Wow. That is so cool. I was just saying…"
Miho grabbed him by the arm and led him up a few led-lit steps to the seated area. The chairs, fake black leather lined with red, were more like half-spheres, comfortable and private. It was best if you sat cross-legged in them.
"I wasn't lying when I said you were an inspiration," Miho said. "Your work started all of this."
"People seem to be saying that a lot to me lately," Quentin said. "I'm not sure how much of it they mean. Maybe you all think I was neglected as a child?"
"How old are you, if you don't mind me asking?"
"44. 45 this month," Quentin replied.
"Incredible. Tell me," she said, shuffling closer so she could be heard without having to raise her voice, "Is it true you built a Tesla coil on your own before you were ten?"
"A vicious rumour," Quentin replied. "It was more like a Van de Graaff generator. Which explains the hair, obviously. When did you start working for the RSI?"
"Since the beginning. I'm a founder and senior fellow."
"And whose idea was it to copy the Leland Building?"
"Mine, probably. Sincerest form of flattery, Dr Quark."
"Well, I've got a good idea we'll be copying each other quite a bit in years to come."
Their glasses touched with an audible chink. Her smile was an alluring one, tantalising, daring. He saw her kiss coming, but let her do it anyway.
"I should tell you," Quentin said when he pulled away. "I prefer boys."
"You think?" she grinned. "Anyway. You could have stopped me."
"Let's just say I'm intrigued."
They looked over across the dance floor. KENTA was standing very straight, smiling at Jane, who had one hand on the bar behind him.
"Our assistants seem to be getting along," Miho said. "Even if mine is a little more advanced than yours."
"You have no idea," Quentin said. "Jane over there is the Maitreya, even if she does look like a reject from the 1970s."
Miho laughed and went back into the kiss.
Outside, they found their limousine had been forced to drive on because of the mass of traffic now exuding from the city centre. The four of them linked arms and ploughed through the crowds, Jane and Quentin humming a song they'd danced to. KENTA attempted to signal a taxi, as stoically as possible.
Quentin, hands in pockets and watching a billboard advertisement for an anime, hummed for a few more seconds before he realised he was the only one. Casually, still in a light euphoria, he looked over at Jane. She had stopped stock still in the middle of the pavement, a fearful expression on her face.
"Are you okay?"
A nearby engine roared. They both looked roadside in time to see a black van glisten past, a gun extended from one of its windows. Quentin made up the six metres between himself and Jane in less than a second and dragged her to the floor, twisting in the air so he took the brunt of the impact and her head was cradled inside his elbow. A hail of rubber bullets discharged as he did so, and as they landed he looked to see that KENTA had managed to do the same with Miho.
The van screeched to a halt and its screen door swung open. Two punks stepped out, one male and one female, decked in denim, chains and sunglasses. A third and fourth remained in the van, one at the wheel and another with a gun in hand.
"I am Izanami Akiko Nobuko, Scion of the Gaia Peace Liberation Army," the woman punk yelled.
"Great," Quentin said. "Luddites."
"We are here," Izanami continued, "for Defiler Miho Kobayashi, traitor to her race and planet."
"Listen to me," Quentin said, taking a few steps forward.
"False prophet Defiler Quentin Quark," Izanami yelled in the same uncomfortable pitch. "We are not here for you at this time. Stay where you are and you will not be harmed."
"I said listen," Quentin replied. "You don't have to do this."
"You have made your choice." With that, Izanami raised her hand, a signal to a hidden person in the black van.
Quentin primed his muscles, expecting another blast from the machine gun. Instead, invisible tendrils shot from the van and wormed their way into his mind. A noise like a jet engine taking off, and suddenly Quentin found himself somewhere else. Arizona. A torture chamber. Pain, unimaginable pain. Richards… no, Izanami… talking…
"This is a Temporal Disrupter," Izanami explained from far away. "It is completely innocuous to all except psychic time travellers like yourself. It causes you to experience moments of extreme pain from somewhere down your personal timeline."
Quentin staggered. KENTA sprang into action, kicking an unbroken bottle up from the ground towards the van with inhuman accuracy. The bottle exploded in the face of the gunman, and the weapon clattered to the tarmac below.
The male punk who stood at Izanami's shoulder rushed towards KENTA as Izanami herself retreated. A low Krav Maga attack missed, but threw KENTA off balance. As the engine started up, the punk's facial bones crumbled against the pavement. KENTA turned him over as the car raced away and pulled his fist back for the coup de grace.
"No," Quentin said, his fingers clenched around KENTA's wrist. Instinctively, KENTA twisted as he rose, turning Quentin's grasp into a wristlock of his own.
"KENTA, stop," Miho called. She began to dust herself off. KENTA released the still-dazed Quark. Quentin stood as straight and as dignified as he could manage, but his pride and his nervous memory hurt.
"Are you alright?" Jane asked, taking Quentin aside.
"I'm still halfway between here and somewhere else. Somewhere I will be three years from now. It's excruciating."
"Focus," Jane said. "Breathe. You're here, now, in the present. Tokyo."
"Here feels like a memory…"
By the time the police arrived to take the punk into custody, they had made it back to Grand Oaks. Quentin's hands wrapped around a coffee cup as Jane told Vassa what had happened.
"If it hadn't been for KENTA, they'd have Miho and the rest of us would probably be dead."
"He sounds like a fucking psycho!" Vassa protested, a little more anxious than his usual self. Eventually, Vassa went back to his own room, cursing something about youth being wasted on the young. Jane leaned on the closed door, relieved.
"What made you stop?" Quentin said.
"Before the attack. You stopped in the middle of the street."
"Oh, I…" she began. Then she waved her hand. "I just had a bad feeling, that's all."
"I know only three people who can predict the future," Quentin said. "And only one who can do it well."
"Oh, no," Jane replied, walking off into the kitchen. "You're not sending me to one of your psychic friends for training. I'm not one of those employees."
"You could give him a chance. You'd like him. His name is Marc…"
"Anyway," she interrupted, returning with a packet of digestive biscuits. "What was that you muttered when they hit you with the mind whammy? Sounded like 'I had a rich wife-ess.'"
"No idea. I was probably talking to whomever I'll be talking to three years from now."
"And where did they get that kind of technology anyway? Fall off the back of an Alexandrine lorry?"
"I've been wondering about that myself…"
Another knock at the door. Jane went to answer it, making sure to check through the peephole first. She opened it to KENTA, whom she greeted with a friendly but exasperated tone. KENTA rushed through pleasantries, telling them that Miho was a little startled but safe. Jane sat back down, but KENTA declined a chair with terse politeness.
"I want to find them," KENTA said. "Please understand. They tried to kidnap the Professor. I want to find them tonight."
Quentin rubbed his eyes with his thumb and forefinger. You wear that visor for too long, you get a headache. Childish metaphors started entering his head, unravelling ropes and crumbling cliff faces, ostensibly omens of losing control. It was never control he wanted. Being faced with his anarchic fraternity, their pure, unreasonable ideology, had caused some of him to want to respond in binary, to impose order and use his influence to bring them down. For the cause; for the greater good.
In KENTA's eyes there was a cold concern, but mainly revenge vibes. Helping him in this might ensure his loyalty in the future. Quentin cast the idea aside.
"Let it go," Quentin said. "It's not worth it."
"What? They should be brought to justice."
"I'm not really interested in that sort of thing."
For the second time, KENTA looked angry. His fists tightened. His artificial hormones fired like blunderbusses in the dark. Jane rose and put a hand on his shoulder. Quentin put his hands behind his head and reclined.
KENTA left, inexpressibly furious. Jane watched him go, and then turned back to Quentin.
"That was cruel."
"How so?" Quentin said from behind closed eyes.
"You know what you were doing. Seeing how angry he was allowed to get."
"Anger, my dear, is not a luxury I can afford to extend to myself. It pleases me to see it in others."
Jane walked to the room's massive plate-glass window. The sun would be up in a few hours, but for now the city dotted itself in the strange light it seemed to prefer. Maybe that's because Jane herself, when in Tokyo, was always waiting for the night to come, and the city always appeared to follow suit, dragging its feet until the sunset. Now, however, the buildings seemed like ominous monoliths, uneasy cages for harbingers of civilisations to come. Who hid beneath the neon hieroglyphs and shining structures? Where would they go when Logos arrived?
The album had begun to play again:
'The other day they waited, the sky was dark and faded,
Solemnly they stated, "He has to die, you know he has to die."
All the children learnin', from books that they were burnin',
Every leaf was turnin'; to watch him die, you know he had to die'.
"You could be a bit politer to me, you know," Charles Appleyard said, says later. Quentin put a hand on the plate-glass window of his office and watched the wheels of New York turn beneath him. "I did just spend hours talking with the authorities, both American and Japanese."
"Nobody asked you to," Quentin replied.
"I know," Charles replied. "But I'm one of the few people around here who thinks we should keep on good terms with people other than the military."
"Didn't you once describe me as too image-conscious?"
"Once. Now, people don't know what to think of you. I'm not a consultant by any means, I can barely brush my own hair. But it wouldn't hurt to, say, speak to the press a little bit more. Which unit am I talking to right now?"
"Asimov-12," Quentin replied. "If anything, Charles, I feel I ought to focus my net a little. Vassa and I are working on something big right now."
"He's become a liability. Even if he does know what we're up to, I'm not letting him in on it."
"People are starting to call him your nemesis again," Charles laughed, picking up the business section of the times from Quentin's desk. "Your Moriarty."
"People are always looking for heroes and villains. If they knew anything about either of us, I'd be the Moriarty."
"In a sense, what we're doing right now is a response to what I saw in Japan. Her work is brilliant, but it's meant I've had to bring mine forward by two years."
"I can take a more active role," Charles said. "As Vice, I do a lot of the heavy lifting anyway. It won't be any skin off my nose if you want to concentrate on labwork while I handle the organisational stuff."
"I'll let you know," Quark said, making for the door. "Oh, that was the other thing. I might need a new secretary."
"We're letting Jane go?"
"Just an extended holiday."
"Oh, Jesus. You're not sending her to Marcus, are you? I'll hire a temp, anyway."