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Phosphorescent hexadecimal crawls the web of wires.

Kirrily’s holding her with a tight grip on her hair. Celesque tries to keep her mouth shut but the bluetooth’s murmuring to her, a seductive sequence of piping numbers that tugs at her mind. Her lips want to follow. She can hear the ecstasy in the voices of the others around her, and hypnagoges boil out of the depth of the pit.

They pause, together, to inhale.

Ashlock steps out of the door, a thick black band tied across her eyes and ears. She bends to touch the trembling floor; and then she smiles.


There are five of them, in sackcloth and a star pattern, rocking endlessly on a floorlike mesh of taut steel cables. The star’s missing a point. The taller suit applies pressure to Celesque’s joints until she kneels at the vertex.

Below her stretches sickening space.

Kirrily grabs her chin and Celesque sees that her head is half-shaved, one eye milky, ear a twisted keloid. “You tipped those two amateurs to my dirty laundry, didn’t you?” she asks in that beautiful, husky voice, and holds up a bluetooth. “You owe me some time.”

Celesque is terrified.

She really, really should be.


Celesque idly slaves her machine over to the loic for some nightly mischief and touches off the lights, then locks up her little shell company’s office. Analog affectations. She’s fenced quantum keys that would crack a national treasury, but wouldn’t get through this door.

They’re waiting in the lobby, smoothing their tailored suits.

“We have a car,” begins the tall one, but she’s already ditched for the fire exit, clawing at the hacked emergency beacon in her blazer pocket. They are so fast. She broadsides the red bar handle, and they have her hammerlocked before she realizes the alarm’s been cut.


Tach’s iPod is smoking.

“It looks,” says their fence Celesque dryly, “a little too hot for me to move.”

“Hey, nobody’s coming after this one,” says Ashlock, which is technically true. “Just put out some feelers or whatever.”

“There are practically feelers coming out of that thing already,” says Celesque.

“It’s good math. Powerful. It’ll sell.”

“Then sell it yourself, sweetie.” Celesque shrugs. “I’m not touching it. If that’s what I think it is, do yourself a favor. Hit it with a hammer, toss it in a lake.”

But information, Ashlock knows to her dismay, can be neither created nor destroyed.