Old Washington is a sublane frontage tube to New Buren and 1004th.
Ozone, deplete of thought and intention sat with blanket over a lap of wiring. He’d found the Cart of Dreams being pulled into one of the great compactors out in Warrendale: “Can hold two-hundred pounds,” says.
Ozone could hear fast-moving passerbies deify the words they walked on, clinking bottles. He scratched, sipped from his canteen, and busied at what remained of his face.
A swaying light and then more splashes of water.
Roland visored the eye and the two were just shadows.
—What are you doing out here?
—I’m perfectly happy. Ozone waved his hand about the rubbish. Can’t you see.
—I’m just fine.
A car skidded by. The frontage didn’t have tracks like the New tubes. The car’s tires splashed and rumbled through. He wobbled his lantern back and forth, Roland, sliding the visor. Insects had begun to crawl at its seam, eager for the false warmth.
Roland pushed Ozone out from underneath the bridge, towards the parade.
—You’ll end up scrap.
A thick-grey blue sky clung to the buildings. Fire blazoned from chapels and pyres around which danced a legion of chop-haired punks.
A float sat amidst the throng, shaking, seeming a nest. Faceless spoyders pumped their metallic claws to percussion.
—They’ve been reprogrammed, said Ozone idly.
Ozone looked back at Roland who was staring off. He noticed Ozone.
—The Kims—he gestured at something Ozone couldn’t see– a gaggle of men-women in the throes of a white-robed dance atop the next float. They’ve been rough with four or five passengers since you’ve left. Demanding rides, robbing.
Ozone stared down at the blanket on his lap.
They hung around the edges. The snake of the parade seemed headless. Robots ran oil on the backs of dog and fleshless birds were flung into pits to snap and thrash against each other.
Dancers bucked and cawed in cages atop one of the floats. Tiny men and women ran hollow between.
A gong sat, and the waves of sound toggled the tribe into a tentative silence. A wolf-hooded woman rose and from the windows paper and rags fired, the sky in a long fluttering.
—The seasons fade!
The gong, the parade thrashed in new fervor.
Someone stumbled into the Cart of Dreams and a man-woman sneered down onto Ozone before being told:
—Witch, by Roland.
A behemoth galley swung around the elbow of the parade’s main street, a weighted scimitar of steel suspended longly in the sky, twice as tall as any of the tenements. Tiny compartments at the main deck pulled inward, closing. But the fury of the city-lit masses split apart like dogs to their corners.
Roland pushed Ozone into a side street.
—Let’s go back. I want to watch those punks get stormed.
There was no consideration on Roland’s part. Whatever ship listed inside had made him queasy, turning corner after corner until an elevator.
A tiny swarm of nano spun in helix. Trapped behind a small laser wall at elevator side, serving as lift operator.
—You are out of oil, and without it those ruts in your circuits’ll dry and you’ll end up where I said you would.
Ozone fingered his sacral wire beneath the blanket.
Ozone pulled the smoke of one of his coils and set it to the plate. The steel doors rattled open.
Skyward through the branched cortex of the city, following track to track, the horizontal changes slight, the two registering quietly the small betrayal.
Ozone figured his face, remembered dragging himself off the elevators days prior.
Marianas was up to her knees in robotics, a soldering gun in left hand, a vid-screen forecasting some repair, remote ear buds in place.
The dockyard in silence.
—Driver 4 returned.
Her two metal legs; not smiling or gloating. She handled the Cart of Dreams roughly and pulled up the blanket on Ozone’s lap, exposing the alternate cords and fibers.
She got up close this face and dug a finger through the gap in his cheek, pulling at the cables running up his jaw, doing math visibly.
She scowled and gestured to Roland and they went through the machine shop to Taxi 4.
It was covered in dried ichor, dented heavily from the outside. Marianas sparked the passlock and the door swung open, the spill of wires spreading up from the hole.
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All reviews by Greg Bem unless marked otherwise.
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