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Pearl

“We only refer to them as ‘click-bricks.'”

“But it’s your trademark!” says Pearl. “Even if you’re worried about genericization, you can still say LEGmmppphh!”

“‘Bricks,'” says the foreman, sweaty hand on Pearl’s mouth. “Otherwise–” his eyes dart toward the massive, glossy enclosure dominating the factory.

“Is that a computer?”

“Only in the crudest sense. It’s a comprehensive trademark-enforcement solution. It does more than mine data. It listens. It enforces.”

“But it’s enormous,” says Pearl. “Baroque! What did you make it out of?”

The foreman stares at him.

What do you fucking think we made it out of,” he hisses.

Pearl

“What is it they call us?” muses the Inger Stevens seated across from Pearl. “Knockoffs? Copycats?”

“Kinkos,” says Pearl carefully.

“Kinkos.” She smiles (it is a brilliant smile). “How arcane. As if their own faces, tragedies of genetics, are something to be proud of.”

“How do you tell each other apart?” Pearl asks. “Not to be rude. But if you’re all perfect copies–”

“Not perfect. Not quite; that would be infringement of beautymark. We each choose a unique flaw–I have this dimple, you see?”

Pearl leans close, as for a moment, they’re surrounded by a passing swarm of Vivien Leighs.

Pearl

“Fiction of the last century often posited that mannequins were in some way trapped,” says Volure, “that they longed for freedom of movement, or left their pedestals to creep about at night. Of course the Book of Stillness teaches otherwise.”

Pearl looks carefully at the bare-chested jeans-wearer gazing flatly out the window. “But they use subjective time dilators, right?”

“Only when they’re starting out. The professionals are in deep trance.”

“How much do you have to pay them?”

He laughs. “They pay us.

Pearl thinks she catches the mannequin breathing, but it might just be the sun going down.

Pearl

“The difference,” says the Abbot, “is that here several orders share one roof–united in devotion, divided amicably about its expression.” He’s the first fat man Pearl’s seen here, which fits her mental image perfectly. The long scars of his eyes, however, don’t. His fingers see for him, quick as spiders.

“We’ll talk after dinner. Brother Pruitt will take you to your cell,” he says as a stooped man enters the office. An Anorectine, she guesses, under vows of hunger. He holds the door, and his hands look intensely fragile: yellow and dry things, formed of rice paper and balsa wood.

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