fingers. His face was white and his eyes were fever hot and fading.

“Won’t die,” he said, just loud enough to hear. “Won’t fucking die.”

I casually kicked the pistol out of his hand and put my gun in his face. “Yes, I think you might.”

His eyes refocused, as if he hadn’t seen me until that moment. He was far gone, shivering and sweating. He put his hand on the gun, touching it lightly like a child in a dream.

“I thought I was free. On the ship, but he followed. Saw him on the deck. Ran. In the passage, I laid him out. I laid him open.”

“The captain, you mean? That’s who you laid out, man. No one else.”

Marcus chuckled and spit blood. “Later. That was later. But it wasn’t enough. Kept getting up, so I ran. Killed the ship and tried to get off. He got to the glides before me though.” He shuddered and sank into himself, his hand to his face. “Oh, well.”

“Who did? The guy who killed the captain, did he get into one of the glideboats? Is that what happened?”

“No, man. Glides were empty. He just overrode them and released. I was going to do the same thing, make sure he didn’t follow.” He focused on me again, maybe finally seeing me as something other than a dream. “You’re a Pilot? I know you.”

“Yeah,” I said. “You do.”

He fumbled in his coat and I pressed the barrel into his forehead. He ignored the metal and produced something round and shiny. He pressed it into my free hand and smiled redly.

“Jacob, right? Take this. Take it to the city.”

“Sure,” I said, and glanced at it. It was the most complicated Cog I’d ever seen. Hard to make out any detail, but it was about the size of my palm and seemed to be slithering inside itself, orbits within orbits, gears sliding beautifully into gears and around. Marcus coughed and I looked up, putting the Cog into my inner vest pocket. “Soon as we land, I’ll take it to the city. So, what happened? Did you kill our captain?”

Marcus closed his eyes and balled up his fists, then started to sob. He collapsed on himself like a mountain with a hollow core. “Everybody. I killed everybody.”

“Okay. That’s okay. I’ll take care of it.” Then I shot him, just above the eyes.

“Who was that?”

I swung the pistol around, then lowered it. Higgins was standing about ten feet behind me, his hands up. When he saw that I wasn’t about to put a bullet in him, he nodded to Marcus. “Was it him? Did he do it?”

“Sure.” I looked beyond Higgins. Passengers were boiling up out of the evacuation corridor, lurching down the walkway in their dainty clothes, staring emptily at where the glideboats should have been. “What are they doing?”

Higgins looked back, shrugged. “We thought out here, maybe they have a chance to swim clear of the wreckage. Maybe.” He turned to me, walked past where I was kneeling next to the still form of Marcus, then went to stand by the rail. He nodded to the wide white wall of the waterfall, gnashing closer and closer.

“Do you think we’re going to clear that?” he asked.

“No,” I said, and then we did.

The waterfall became open air, the tumult sliding away to be replaced by the lights of Veridon. At night, the city looked like a titan’s jeweled shawl casually discarded, spilling out from the river in ripples of street and cut- stone wall. It was built into broad terraces, each level rising higher above the river, frictionlamps along the streets reflecting off the canals and decorative waterfalls that crisscrossed Veridon. The city was stitched in canals and avenues, tiny lights and broad domes, black lines marking where the Ebd and Dunje rivers cut through the architecture, stepping down in occasional waterfalls and control locks to eventually empty into the enormous Reine. The roar of the falls faded, to be replaced by wind ripping by, and the grinding of the damaged spars in the anti- ballast above.

Glory of Day tipped forward, clearing the precipice and sliding over the river. Distant klaxons sounded, echoing down the slopes of the Torchlight and in the harbor below. The passengers behind me cheered, and then the anti- ballast collapsed and caught on fire. Cheers became cries of terror. I turned to them, to see if there was a way out of this.

They were mostly still in their formal attire, a couple in regular clothes. They stared down at the water below. Their screams echoed in my head, matching the terror in my dreams, my memories, the screams I felt through my ship as I struggled to keep aloft. I was lost again, falling down. The screams became more desperate, and I opened my eyes.

Several people had gone over, one old lady trailing a banner of white fur as she fell. A man was forcing his way to the front, shoving others out of his way, heedless of what became of them afterwards. He cleared the crowd and knelt over the ruined hulk of Marcus. Ran his hands over the dead man's chest, ignoring the blood, ignoring the guts that slithered under his fingers. Looking for something. Not finding it, he looked around the deck in a very inhuman manner, like an insect. He stood, paying us no mind, and began to run to the front of the zep. He glanced at me as he passed, our eyes meeting. His face was completely slack, not with fear or calm. Just empty. Eyes like bleached summer sky, blue almost white. He went by before I could stop him, got to the prow of the zep and vaulted over the edge like a swimmer. He was wearing a long cloak, and it fluttered like wings as he disappeared over the railing.

“That’s all,” the captain said, the closest voxorator barely fluttering open. “That’s all.”

The Glory burst, the burners screaming to claw one last bit of lift out of the sky, the anti-ballast blossoming and collapsing. The river Reine was before us, flat and black, rushing at us like an avalanche.

I closed my eyes and waited for the cold.

Chapter Two

The Summer Girl

I hold to old gods. My family is faithful to the Celestes, though their worship has fallen out of favor among the city’s elite. As a child I remember my father sneaking off to the holy dome of the Singer, or the Noble, to pay his respects before dawn, before the streets were crowded with common folk and their new, common God of the Algorithm. Now it was almost illegal to worship in the domes of the Celestes. The Church of the Algorithm had such power, such influence. Eventually, my parents hid their icons of the Celestes, stopped risking even early morning services. We took service at the Church of the Algorithm, like good Veridians. But at night, in closed rooms, in our secret hearts, we held to the old gods.

Not that I expect much of them, either in this world or the next. I get by with my own help, by my own hand. And when I die, I expect a long, empty blackness. The Celestes teach nothing of an afterlife. Not like the Algorithm, with its infinite pattern, its eternal calculations and the intricacies of their metronomic prophecies. Their lives are a soulless pattern, and their deaths are as well. The holy Wrights of the Algorithm teach of an afterlife of clockwork, the hidden engines of the world swept back to reveal the calculation at the middle, the equation that is God.

I hold to old gods. Imagine my disappointment, then, when the darkness that took me after the Glory of Day shattered against the cold water of the river Reine lingered only for a while. Light came, and noise. I opened my eyes to a world of pattern, of engine. The world of the Algorithm.

“Ah, fuck,” I muttered. My voice was husky, like I’d been yelling. The ceiling above me was a twitching tableau of clockwork precision, cogs and escapements and coiling springs that slipped and ticked and groaned loudly. Metal crashed against metal. Not my idea of heaven. I tried to sit up and found myself weak and naked. I looked down and saw that I was bound to a bed, covered only by a thin sheet of white linen. I spat, and a wad of dried leaves scattered across my chest. The taste in my mouth was of dry earth.

Embalming herbs. They meant to bury me. I looked around. There were other bodies, lined up neatly on either side. Lots of bodies. About as many as you would expect to recover from an airship crashing into a river. I struggled free from my ceremonial bonds and stood up. Behind me, someone screamed.

There was a door, and a crowd of Wrights of the Algorithm clustered inside it. They shook under their grease- lined brown robes. I wrapped the linen around my waist.

“Can I have my clothes back?”

Вы читаете Heart of Veridon
Добавить отзыв


Вы можете отметить интересные вам фрагменты текста, которые будут доступны по уникальной ссылке в адресной строке браузера.

Отметить Добавить цитату