Hollywood managed to saunter across the unsteady floor to plant his feet and stare down at Leeza, gaze traveling over her rumpled T-shirt and shorts and lingering on her legs.
Leeza jerked the sheet over herself. “Bug off.”
He raised shoulders and hands in an elaborate shrug and lounged into the opposite bunk, smirking.
She turned her back on him, pulling her headset out of the storage pocket, recorder box strapped to the inset loops along the inner wall. She uncoiled the leads and jacked in.
She slotted a chip and scanned, local color: Whitewashed cubic maze of buildings on a rocky cliff over bright blue water. Salt tang and heat. Sky a vibrant bowl overhead. But there was no way to capture that ultraviolet intensity of light—toh phos—like an energy field crackling around and through you. Maybe if she upped selective stims to give it a knife-edge bite . . . But it was too much work right now, she couldn’t concentrate.
So she switched to receiver scan, local transmissions coming through better since they’d upped the transmission power on the remaining microwave towers. Which she recalled had Ariadne all freaked out about the bio dangers. Leeze shrugged irritably. Maybe she could pick up some news and entertainment stims, maybe something she could use. She was floating, killing time, sliding down the lines so she didn’t have to think, just ride the Link:
***A news program rushes Leeza through its twisting holographic logo to a brisk British voiceover:
“Eastern Mediterranean Updates for English speakers, with Colin Blackwell. Today we take you on the spot for exclusive coverage of what promises to be a reactionary uprising by the moderate Moslems in Pan-Palestine. On Viewer Link-In, subscribers may take advantage of the opportunity to question correspondent Sofiya Ghiabedes from her bed in Athens Orthopedic, where she is recovering after infiltrating a secret orgiastic ceremony of the ecoterrorist Corybantes. These so-called New Amazons are responsible for the explosions two weeks ago that destroyed a nearly-completed nuclear power facility in Thessaly. Then, drought predictions on the Weather Front, with meteorologist Faruk Kassem. But first, a news chip just in. . . .”***
Static and fuzzy gray broke up the transmission, but then it cleared again:
***A gray-haired woman in a lab coat points at readouts dated a couple days earlier. “There is some hope that, contrary to earlier projections, the violent transitional effects of the geomagnetic reversal may be easing. Here we’re analyzing some very interesting data just in from the eastern Mediterranean area, where readings indicate the sudden, inexplicable appearance of an isolated and apparently electromagnetically stable zone centered in the Aegean.”
A mumbled question offscreen, bad pickup. The woman purses her lips. “We haven’t explained it yet, but, yes, we’ll be watching to see how stable the zone remains. . . .”
Visuals blank for a few seconds—tacky production values—and then snap onto a talking-head announcer ensconced in a podium with viewer-response readouts across the curved panel enclosing her.
“In related news—” The dark-haired woman glances sideways and back to the camera—“researchers in Chile have announced preliminary studies suggesting a link between usage of NeuroLink technology and RP-Hansen’s. The study by El Instituto Bioelectrico at the national university in Santiago has analyzed World Health Organization data on what is now being called the New Plague. Their findings contradict the WHO designation of the syndrome as contagious, and suggest instead that increased exposures to electromagnetic stimulation from nanotechnology and microwave transmissions are impairing immunological function and activating dormant bacteria, including a mutated RPH bacteria.”
“Hyper verbose!” A new face, young co-anchor in another podium, sporting the hip AndroiGenus look with the smoothed, noseless features a palette for a multicolored mandala tattoo. S/he consults the viewer response display and gives a thumb’s-down to the older announcer. “NeoLuddite buzz-crushers! Laugh me out of the room, they think we’re giving up our Links? So, keeping it real, here’s the latest Neuro rush from Sadis and the Spankers. . . .”***
Synth vibe, pulsing visuals, and prickly pain-patterns danced through the Link, but Leeza just stared, unseeing, groping for fogged-out connections. She took a deep breath, then ran reverse and replay:
***“. . . the sudden, inexplicable appearance of an isolated and apparently electromagnetically stable zone centered in the Aegean.”***
The Egypt trip had been just a smokescreen all along. Madre de Dios! She’d really done something on Tinos. And Crete. . . ?
Leeza slowly shook her head, not believing it, but knowing it. She reflexively imprinted and ejected a chip copy, jacked out, squirmed around in the bunk to pull herself upright. Damiana would goddamn listen to her now, just wouldn’t she.
Hollywood’s dark eyes locked onto her as she staggered to her feet. She froze, clicking finally into gear. Screw them all—let them figure it out for themselves.
She jerked around, slammed the door of the head behind her, splashed water on her hot face. She gripped the sides of the sink, leaning closer to the mirror and staring into narrowed eyes.
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