Curve of the Earth (Samuil Petrovitch, Book 4)
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He twirled his finger in the air, and the people he had positioned in the hall gravitated towards him. He reached into his pocket for a new pair of infoshades and stalked off. In Reconstruction America, a single swear word could cost him a twenty-dollar fine. Petrovitch had cussed more in five minutes than Newcomen had heard in the last five years. Just stop. I know who you are, where and when you were born, who your parents are, where you live, work, drink coffee, your entire case history at the Bureau, how much you earn and what you spend it on.
I know you better than you know yourself, because you tell yourself little lies, and I see through them.
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The FBI agent closed his eyes for a moment, and his lips moved in a muttered mantra. When he regained his composure, he seemed to have visibly grown. He topped Petrovitch by a head anyway, and when he stood straight, he looked less like a sack of rubbish and more like a college pro footballer. Which he had been. He had the clean good looks of an advertising model — selected and spliced for, like his height, his eye and hair colour — except for the vague knot on the bridge of his nose.
The perfect all-American ideal. I have a job to do. An important job given to me by my government, one they trust me to do to the best of my abilities. I do not intend to make them ashamed of me. I blame Auden: seeing him enrages me in a way few others can manage.
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Welcome to the Metrozone, Joseph Newcomen. Even as he said it, Petrovitch could see him trying to put names to the three women behind him.
The Curve of The Earth (Metrozone)
Petrovitch looked back at her. Two metres tall, lean in a way that a tigress was lean, hair caught up in an intricate mathematical plait that coiled over her shoulder. Whose reputation, by the look of you, precedes her. While he was addressing Petrovitch, Newcomen had gained a small measure of confidence.
He lost it all again. They were all ferals. Especially that last one, the one with the crazy name. The ex-CIA traitor. Tabletop stalked up to Newcomen, the heels of her boots clacking against the hard floor. She stared at his shiny leather shoes and the length of his bristly blond hair, and everything in between. In return, Newcomen tried to look away from the bright pink ponytail, the lean — almost hungry — face, and the curve of her neck where it shadowed into the collar of her flying jacket.
She dismissed him with a flick of her hair. Plenty of other people they could have picked.
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In fact, could they have picked anyone less suited for this? Bastards all. As it was, she put her hands on her hips and looked sour. I know how it is in the USA, but over here? He was stealing another look at Tabletop. Couple of friends, really. We can do one on the way to the other. My company not good enough? They stood close together but ignored each other, full attention focused on him and the American. What with your daughter missing. Newcomen more-or-less successfully negotiated the same route and joined him. Petrovitch ignored both him and the few taxis waiting for a fare, and walked between them to the open road.
A car pulled out of the February mist and drew up alongside. Newcomen opened the back door with a sigh and heaved his luggage on to the seat, then slid across next to it. Petrovitch walked around the front of the car and dropped behind the steering wheel, which was on the other side to the one he was used to. And stop drooling like an idiot. Now shut the yebani door and we can get going. Newcomen eventually leaned out and pulled the door shut. Petrovitch frowned at him in the rear-view mirror as they pulled away.
Well, I let them, and they like me, so they tend to do what I ask them to do. I know there are laws against this sort of thing, but I have diplomatic immunity pretty much everywhere I go, so I tend to ignore a lot of small stuff. And the big stuff. Remind me to introduce you sometime. But no, the Jihad was originally its evil twin. European cars were usually smaller than their steroidal American counterparts. I mean that in a good way. Another car passed them on the right, and he flinched.
Petrovitch kicked the door open again when the car had come to a halt. It was parked, two wheels up on the kerb, next to an extravagant length of corroded iron railings. Just ahead of the bonnet was a set of ornate gates hung between two blackened stone pillars, each topped with a chipped obelisk. If you lose it, so much the better. He started towards the gates, raising one hand and beckoning the agent. But it used to be important to you.
Newcomen unconsciously rubbed his arm, midway between right elbow and shoulder. He looked around him for the first time. Some of them were old, pre-Armageddon, the ones closest to the entrance. Most were not: some dated back to the foundation of the Metrozone, and then as they walked along the cracked tarmac paths deeper into the cemetery, the death dates got more and more recent.
Even the designs of the memorials marked an evolution of sorts: varied and effusive early on, to more uniform, utilitarian later, until almost all variation had been weeded out and a simple narrow rectangular slab became the norm.
The curve of the Earth / | Woodland Public Library
Name, date of birth, and the day they died. That was all. They were passing by row upon row marked with May Finally, Petrovitch headed down one of the rows, off the path, disturbing the ragged grasses that were growing unchecked between the upright stones. It looked more or less a random choice, but he knew exactly where he was going. Six graves down, there was a black marker engraved in faded kanji, with the dates in Roman numerals. He stopped in front of it and worried at his lip for a few moments. He gripped a handful of green leaf blades and hacked at their base.
The less you know, the less information I can tear from your still-living flesh. She was a friend. Body cremated, ashes interred right here, half a world away from where she was born.
She was twenty-two when she died. He dug into his pockets again and came up with a steel lighter and a small flat candle in a foil container.