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A camera winks at him from atop a streetlight; he waves, wondering idly if it's the KGB or the traffic police. "If survival is what you're after, you could post your state vector on one of the p2p nets: Then nobody could delete you –" "Nyet! " "Then we probably have nothing to talk about." Manfred punches the hang-up button and throws the mobile phone out into a canal.
He is waiting for directions to the party, which should arrive within the next half hour, and this Cold War retread Eliza-bot is bumming him out. " The artificial intelligence sounds as alarmed as it's possible to sound over a Voi P link. It hits the water, and there's a pop of deflagrating lithium cells.
He leans against a shop front, massaging his forehead and eyeballing a display of antique brass doorknockers. "Well, if you hadn't shafted them during the late noughties ...
" capitalist spooks." Russia has been back under the thumb of the apparatchiks for fifteen years now, its brief flirtation with anarchocapitalism replaced by Brezhnevite dirigisme and Putinesque puritanism, and it's no surprise that the wall's crumbling – but it looks like they haven't learned anything from the current woes afflicting the United States.
They compete for his attention, bickering and rudely waving in front of the scenery.
A couple of punks – maybe local, but more likely drifters lured to Amsterdam by the magnetic field of tolerance the Dutch beam across Europe like a pulsar – are laughing and chatting by a couple of battered mopeds in the far corner.
A novel by Charles Stross Copyright © Charles Stross, 2005 Published by Ace Books, New York, July 2005, ISBN 0441012841 Orbit Books, London, August 2005, ISBN 1841493902 Copyright © Charles Stross, 2005.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivs 2.5 License.
The square smells of water and dirt and hot metal and the fart-laden exhaust fumes of cold catalytic converters; the bells of trams ding in the background, and birds flock overhead.