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lover, name of a teacher you liked. And I've got just the
right pheromOne5~ and I'm a walking arsenal of drugs,
something here you're bound to like. And we can lie,
Hiro and I; we're ace liars. Please. You've got to see.
Perfect strangers, but Hiro and I, for you, we make up
the perfect stranger, Leni."
She was a small woman, blond, her smooth,
straight hair streaked with premature gray. I touched
her hair, once, and went out into the clearing. As I
stood there, the long grass shuddered, the wildflowers
began to shake, and we began our descent, the boat
centered on its landscaped round of elevator. The clear-
ing slid down out of Heaven, and the sunlight was lost
in the glare of huge vapor arcs that threw hard shadows
across the broad deck of the air lock. Figures in red
suits, running. A red Dinky Toy did a U-turn on fat rub-
ber wheels, getting out of our way.
Nevsky, the KGB surfer, was waiting at the foot of
the gangway that they wheeled to the edge of the clear-
ing. I didn't see him until I reached the bottom.
"I must take the drugs now, Mr. Halpert."
I stood there, swaying, blinking tears from my
eyes. He reached out to steady me. I wondered whether
he even knew why he was down here in the lock deck, a
yellow suit in red territory. But he probably didn't
mind; he didn't seem to mind anything very much; he
had his clipboard ready.
"I must take them, Mr. Halpert."
I stripped out of the suit, bundled it, and handed it
to him. He stuffed it into a plastic Ziploc, put the Ziploc
in a case manacled to his left wrist, and spun the com-
"Don't take them all at once, kid," I said. Then I
Late that night Charmian brought a special kind of
darkness down to my cubicle, individual doses sealed
in heavy foil. It was nothing like the darkness of Big
Night, that sentient, hunting dark that waits to drag the
hitchhikers down to Wards, that dark that incubates
the Fear. It was a darkness like the shadows moving in
the back seat of your parents' car, on a rainy night when
you'.re five years old, warm and secure. Charmian's a
lot slicker that I am when it comes to getting past the
clipboard tickers, the ones like Nevsky.
I didn't ask her why she was back from Heaven, or
what had happened to Jorge. She didn't ask me any-
thing about Leni.
Hiro was gone, off the air entirely. I'd seen him at
the debriefing that afternoon; as usual, our eyes didn't
meet. It didn't matter. I knew he'd be back. It had been
business as usual, really. A bad day in Heaven, but it's
never easy. It's hard when you feel the Fear for the first
time, but I've always known it was there, waiting. They
talked about Leni's diagrams and about her ballpoint
sketches of molecular chains that shift on command.
Molecules that can function as switches, logic elements,
even a kind of wiring, built up in layers into a single very
large molecule, a very small computer. We'll probably
never know what she met out there; we'll probably
never know the details of the transaction. We might be
sorry if we ever found out. We aren't the only hinter-
land tribe, the only ones looking for scraps.
Damn Leni, damn that Frenchman, damn all the
ones who bring things home, who bring cancer cures,
seashells, things without names who keep us here wait-
ing, who fill Wards, who bring us the Fear. But cling to
this dark, warm and close, to Charmian's slow breath-
ing, to the rhythm of the sea. You get high enough out
here; you'll hear the sea, deep down behind the constant
conch-shell static of the bonephone. It's something we
carry with us, no matter how far from home.
Charmian stirred beside me, muttered a stranger's
name, the name of some broken traveler long gone
down to Wards. She holds the current record; she kept a
man alive for two weeks, until he put his eyes out with
his thumbs. She screamed all the way down, broke her
nails on the elevator's plastic lid. Then they sedated her.
We both have the drive, though, that special need,
that freak dynamic that lets us keep going back to
Heaven. We both got it the same way, lay out there in
our little boats for weeks, waiting for the Highway to
take us. And when our last flare was gone, we were
hauled back here by tugs. Some people just aren't
taken, and nobody knows why. And you'll never get a
second chance. They say it's too expensive, but what
they really mean, as they eye the bandages on your
wrists, is that now you're too valuable, too much use to
them as a potential surrogate. Don't worry about the
suicide attempt, they'll tell you; happens all the time.
Perfectly understandable: feeling of profound rejection.
But I'd wanted to go, wanted it so bad. Charmian, too.
She tried with pills. But they worked on us, twisted us a
little, aligned our drives, planted the bonephones,
paired us with handlers.
Olga must have known, must have seen it all,
somehow~ she was trying to keep us from finding our
way out there, where she'd been. She knew that if we
found her, we'd have to go. Even now, knowing what I
know, I still want to go. I never will. But we can swing
here in this dark that towers way above us, Charmian's
hand in mind. Between our palms the drug's torn foil
wrapper. And Saint Olga smiles out at us from the
walls; you can feel her, all those prints from the same
publicity shot, torn and taped across the walls of night,
her white smile, forever.
Red Star, Winter Orbit
by Bruce Sterling and William Gibson
Colonel Korolev twisted slowly in his harness, dreaming
of winter and gravity. Young again, a cadet, he whipped
his horse across the late November steppes of Kazakh-
stan into dry red vistas of Martian sunset.
That's wrong, he thought
And woke in the Museum of the Soviet Triumph
in Space to the sounds of Romanenko and the KGB
man's wife. They were going at it again behind the
screen at the aft end of the Salyut, restraining straps
and padded hull creaking and thudding rhythmically.
Hooves in the snow.
Freeing himself from the harness, Korolev executed
a practiced kick that propelled him into the toilet stall.
Shrugging out of his threadbare coverall, he clamped
the commode around his loins and wiped condensed
steam from the steel mirror. His arthritic hand had
swollen again during sleep; the wrist was bird-bone thin
from calcium loss. Twenty years had passed since he'd
last known gravity; he'd grown old in orbit.
He shaved with a suction razor. A patchwork of
broken veins blotched his left cheek and temple, another
legacy from the blowout that had crippled him.
When he emerged, he found that the adulterers had
finished. Romanenko was adjusting his clothing. The
political officer's wife, Valentina, had ripped the sleeves
from her brown coverall; her white arms were sheened
with the sweat of their exertion. Her ash-blond hair
rippled in the breeze from a ventilator. Her eyes were
purest cornflower blue, set a little too closely together,
and they held a look half-apologetic, half-conspirator-
ial. "See what we've brought you, Colonel
She handed him a tiny airline bottle of cognac.
Stunned, Korolev blinked at the Air France logo
embossed on the plastic cap.
"It came in the last Soyuz. In a cucumber, my hus-
band said." She giggled. "He gave it to me."
"We decided you should have it, Colonel," Ro-
manenko said, grinning broadly. "After all, we can be
furloughed at any time." Korolev ignored the sidelong,
embarrassed glance at his shriveled legs and pale,
He opened the bottle, and the ~rich aroma brought a
sudden tingling rush of blood to his cheeks. He raised it
carefully and sucked out a few milliliters of brandy. It
burned like acid. "Christ," he gasped, "it's been years.
I'll get plastered!" he said, laughing, tears blurring his
"My father tells me you drank like a hero, Colonel,
in the old days.~~
"Yes," Korolev said, and sipped again, "I did."
The cognac spread through him like liquid gold. He
disliked Romanenko. He'd never liked the boy's father,
either an easygoing Party man, long since settled into
lecture tours, a dacha on the Black Sea, American li-
quor, French suits, Italian shoes. . . . The boy had the
father's looks, the same clear gray eyes utterly untrou-
bled by doubt.
The alcohol surged through Korolev's thin blood.
"You are too generous," he said. He kicked once,
gently, and arrived at his console. "You must take some
sam isdata, American cable broadcasts, freshly inter-
cepted. Racy stuff! Wasted on an old man like me." He
slotted a blank cassette and punched for the material.
"I'll give it to the gun crew," Romanenko said,
grinning. "They can run it on the tracking consoles in
the gun room." The particle-beam station had always
been known as the gun room. The soldiers who manned
it were particularly hungry for this sort of tape. Korolev
ran off a second copy for Valentina.
"It's dirty?" She looked alarmed and intrigued.
"May we come again, Colonel? Thursday at 2400?"
Korolev smiled at her. She had been a factory
worker before she'd been singled out for space. Her
beauty made her useful as a propaganda tool, a role
model for the proletariat. He pitied her now, with the
cognac coursing through his veins, and found it im-
possible to deny her a little happiness. "A midnight
rendezvous in the museum, Valentina? Romantic!"
She kissed his cheek, wobbling in free fall. "Thank
you, my Colonel."
"You're a prince, Colonel," Romanenko said,
slapping Korolev's matchstick shoulder as gently as he
could. After countless hours on an exerciser, the boy's
arms bulged like a blacksmith's.
Korolev watched the lovers carefully make their
way out into the central docking sphere, the junction of
three aging Salyuts and two corridors. Romanenko took
the "north" corridor to the gun room; Valentina went
in the opposite direction to the next junction sphere and