“Reservations, maybe.” With a distracted gesture. “After having been so many different people in such a short time that I can’t remember all my names: Carmen, Violet, Chrissie…”
“I liked you specially when you were Lilith.”
She pulled a face at him. “I’m not joking! Knowing that here if anywhere I’m bound to be recognized, even though we made sure the croakers pulled their watch—I guess I wasn’t quite ready for it.”
“Nor was I. I’d have liked to run longer and do more. But they’re no fools, the people who monitor the Fedcomps. Already I’m pretty sure they have an inkling of what’s about to crash on them. Before they react, we have to capitalize our last resources. You’re still a cause célèbre around KC, and judging by how she looked and sounded Ina is boiling with eagerness to put a good heavy G2S code between us and disaster.”
“I’m sure you’re right. Your logic is flawless. Even so—”
“You don’t have to live by logic. You’re wise. And that can transcend logic. No matter how logical your choice may seem in retrospect.”
“I was going to say: even so it’ll feel strange to go in and not have Bagheera come to rub against my ankles.”
The apt had been searched by experts. That aside, it was unchanged, though dusty. Kate picked up the paintbrush she had been using when “Fessier” called and grimaced at its clogged bristles.
“Anything missing?” he inquired, and she made a fast check.
“Nothing much. Some letters, my address-and-code book… Things I can live without. Most are still furnishing my head. But”—she wrinkled her nose—”the power was off for some time, wasn’t it, before you had it restored?”
“Sure, from the day after you were ‘naped.”
“In that case, the moment I open the refrigerator the apt will be uninhabitable. I distinctly recall I’d laid in two dozen extra eggs. Come on, we have a lot of garbage cans to fill. There’s going to be a party here tonight.”
“Naturally. You never heard of Doubting Thomas? Besides, students are a gabby lot. What you’ve done is going to be on all strands of the net by this time tomorrow. I want it on the mouth-to-mouth circuit too.”
“But you know damn well I’ve written in a program that will call a press conference—”
“At noon the day after the balloon goes up,” she cut in. “Nick, Sandy, whatever the hell, darling, the avalanche you plan to start may have swept us into limbo long beforehand. If you’re going to hurt them as much as you think, you and I can’t safely plan so far ahead.”
He thought about that for a long moment. When he answered his voice shook a little.
“I know. I just haven’t faced the idea. Right, leave the clearing-up to me. Get on that phone and contact everybody you can. And you might as well enroll Ina’s help, get her to bring some friends from G2S.”
“I already thought of that,” she said with composure, and punched her mother’s code.
THE HATCHING OF THE WORM On her way to visit friends for dinner, Dr. Zoë Sideropoulos paused before her home computer terminal long enough to activate a link to the continental net and strike a cluster of three digits on the board. Then she went out to her car.
Returning from an evening seminar, Professor Joachim Yent remembered what day it was and punched three digits into the board of his computer terminal.
Dean Prudence McCourtenay was in bed with a cold; she was a martyr to them every winter. But she had five veephones in her seven-room house, one being at her bedside.
Dr. Chase R. Dellinger took five from unexpected work at his lab—something suspect about a batch of newly imported mushroom spawn, perhaps contaminated with a mutant strain—and on his way back paused at a computer remote and tapped three digits into the net.
Nerice Compton misdialed a phone call and swore convincingly; she and Rush had friends in for drinks tonight.
Judge Virgil Horovitz had had a heart attack. At his age, that was not wholly unexpected. Besides, it had happened twice before. On returning from the hospital, his housekeeper remembered to activate the computer terminal and press three digital keys.