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Workers of the world.... "You must tell them that
I need it," he said, pinching his shrunken wrist, "in my
She embraced him and slipped away.
He waited alone in the docking sphere. The silence
scratched away at his nerves; the systems crash had
deactivated the ventilation system, whose hum he'd liv-
ed with for twenty years. At last he heard Tatjana's
Someone was coming down the corridor. It was
Yefremov, moving clumsily in a vacuum suit. Korolev
Yefremov wore his bland, official mask behind the
Lexan faceplate, but he avoided meeting Korolev's eyes
as he passed. He was heading for the gun room.
"No!" Korolev shouted.
The Klaxon blared the station's call to full battle
The gun-room hatch was open when he reached it.
Inside, the soldiers were moving jerkily in the galvan-
ized reflex of constant drill, yanking the broad straps of
their console seats across the chests of their bulky suits.
"Don't do it!" He clawed at the stiff accordion
fabric of Yefremov's suit. One of the accelerators
powered up with a staccato whine. On a tracking screen,
green cross hairs closed in on a red dot.
Yefremov removed his helmet. Calmly, with no
change in his expression, he backhanded Korolev with
"Make them stop!" Korolev sobbed. The walls
shook as a beam cut loose with the sound of a cracking
whip. "Your wife, Yefremov! She's out there!"
"Outside, Colonel." Yefremov grabbed Korolev's
arthritic hand and squeezed. Korolev screamed. "Out-
side." A gloved fist struck him in the chest.
Korolev pounded helplessly on the vacuum suit as
he was shoved out into the corridor. "Even I, Colonel,
dare not come between the Red Army and its orders."
Yefremov looked sick now; the mask had crumbled.
"Fine sport," he said. "Wait here until it's over."
Then Tatjana's Soyuz struck the beam installation
and the barracks ring. In a split-second daguerreotype
of raw sunlight, Korolev saw the gun room wrinkle and
collapse like a beer can crushed under a boot; he saw the
decapitated torso of a soldier spinning away from a con-
sole; he saw Yefremov try to speak, his hair streaming
upright as vacuum tore the air in his suit out through his
open helmet ring. Fine twin streams of blood arced
from Korolev's nostrils, the roar of escaping air re-
placed by a deeper roaring in his head.
The last thing Korolev remembered hearing was the
hatch door slamming shut.
When he woke, he woke to darkness, to pulsing
agony behind his eyes, remembering old lectures. This
was as great a danger as the blowout itself, nitrogen
bubbling through the blood to strike with white-hot,
But it was all so remote, so academic, really. He
turned the wheels of the hatches out of some strange
sense of noblesse oblige, nothing more. The labor was
quite onerous, and he wished very much to return to the
museum and sleep.
He could repair the leaks with caulk, but the systems
crash was beyond him. He had Glushko's garden. With
the vegetables and algae, he wouldn't starve or smother.
The communications module had gone with the gun
room and the barracks ring, sheared from the station by
the impact of Tatjana's suicidal Soyuz. He assumed that
the collision had perturbed Kosmograd's orbit, but he
had no way of predicting the hour of the station's final
incandescent meeting with the upper atmosphere. He
was often ill now, and he often thought that he might
die before burnout, which disturbed him.
He spent uncounted hours screening the museum's
library of tapes. A fitting pursuit for the Last Man in
Space who had once been the First Man on Mars.
He became obsessed with the icon of Gagarin,
endlessly rerunning the grainy television images of the
Sixties, the newsreels that led so unalterably to the
cosmonaut's death. The stale air of Kosmograd swam
with the spirits of martyrs. Gagarin, the first Salyut
crew, the Americans roasted alive in their squat Apollo...
Often he dreamed of Tatjana, the look in her eyes
like the look he'd imagined in the eyes of the museum's
portraits. And once he woke, or dreamed he woke, in
the Salyut where she had slept, to find himself in his old
uniform, with a battery-powered work light strapped
across his forehead. From a great distance, as though he
watched a newsreel on the museum's monitor, he saw
himself rip the Star of the Tsiolkovsky Order from his
pocket and staple it to her pilot's certificate.
When the knocking came, he knew that it must be a
dream as well.
The hatch wheeled open.
In the bluish, flickering light from the old film, he
saw that the woman was black. Long corkscrews of
matted hair rose like cobras around her head. She wore
goggles, a silk aviator's scarf twisting behind her in free
fall. "Andy," she said in English, "you better come see
A small, muscular man, nearly bald, and wearing
only a jockstrap and a jangling toolbelt, floated up
behind her and peered in. "Is he alive?"
"Of course I am alive," said Korolev in slightly ac-
The man called Andy sailed in over her head. "You
okay, Jack?" His right bicep was tattooed with a
geodesic balloon above crossed lightning bolts and bore
the legend SUNSPARK 15, UTAH. "We weren't expecting
"Neither was I," said Korolev, blinking.
"We've come to live here," said the woman, drift-
"We're from the balloons. Squatters, I guess you
could say. Heard the place was empty. You know the
orbit's decaying on this thing?" The man executed a
clumsy midair somersault, the tools clattering on his
belt. "This free fall's outrageous."
"God," said the woman, "I just can't get used to
it! It's wonderful. It's like skydiving, but there's no
Korolev stared at the man, who had the blundering,
careless look of someone drunk on freedom since birth.
"But you don't even have a launchpad," he said.
"Launchpad?" the man said, laughing. "What we
do, we haul these surplus booster engines up the cables
to the balloons, drop `em, and fire `em in midair."
"That's insane," Korolev said.
"Got us here, didn't it?"
Korolev nodded. If this was all a dream, it was a
very peculiar one. "I am Colonel Yuri Vasilevich Koro-
"Mars!" The woman clapped her hands. "Wait'll
the kids hear that." She plucked the little Lunokhod
moon-rover model from the bulkhead and began to
"Hey," the man said, "I gotta work. We got a
bunch of boosters outside. We gotta lift this thing
before it starts burning."
Something clanged against the hull. Kosmograd
rang with the impact. "That'll be Tulsa," Andy said,
consulting a wristwatch. "Right on time."
"But why?" Korolev shook his head, deeply con-
fused. "Why have you come?"
"We told you. To live here. We can enlarge this
thing, maybe build more. They said we'd never make it
living in the balloons, but we were the only ones who
could make them work. It was our one chance to get out
here on our own. Who'd want to live out here for the
sake of some government, some army brass, a bunch of
pen pushers? You have to want a frontier want it in
your bones, right?"
Korolev smiled. Andy grinned back. "We grabbed
those power cables and just pulled ourselves straight up.
And when you get to the top, well, man, you either
make that big jump or else you rot there." His voice
rose. "And you don't look back, no sir! We've made
that jump, and we're here to stay!"
The woman placed the model's Velcro wheels
against the curved wall and released it. It went scooting
along above their heads, whirring merrily. "Isn't that
cute? The kids are just going to love it."
Korolev stared into Andy's eyes. Kosmograd rang
again, jarring the little Lunokhod model onto a new
"East Los Angeles," the woman said. "That's the
one with the kids in it." She took off her goggles, and
Korolev saw her eyes brimming over with a wonderful
"Well," said Andy, rattling his toolbelt, "you feel
like showing us around?"
New Rose Hotel
Seven rented nights in this coffin, Sandii. New Rose
Hotel. How I want you now. Sometimes I hit you.
Replay it so slow and sweet and mean, I can almost feel
it. Sometimes I take your little automatic out of my bag,
run my thumb down smooth, cheap chrome. Chinese
.22, its bore no wider than the dilated pupils of your
Fox is dead now, Sandii.
Fox told me to forget you.
I remember Fox leaning against the padded bar in the
dark lounge of some Singapore hotel, Bencoolen Street,
his hands describing different spheres of influence, in-
ternal rivalries, the arc of a particular career, a point of
weakness he had discovered in the armor of some think
tank. Fox was point man in the skull wars, a middleman
for corporate crossovers. He was a soldier in the secret
skirmishes of the zaibatsus, the multinational corpora-
tions that control entire economies.
I see Fox grinning, talking fast, dismissing my ven-
tures into intercorporate espionage with a shake of his
head. The Edge, he said, have to find that Edge. He
made you hear the capital E. The Edge was Fox's grail,