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 vanished eyes. 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, internal 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
corporations that control entire economies.
        I see Fox  grinning,  talking  fast,  dismissing  my  ventures  into
intercorporate  espionage  with a shake of his head. The Edge, he said, have
to find that Edge. He made you bear the capital E. The Edge was Fox's grail,
that essential fraction of sheer human talent,  nontransferable,  locked  in
the skulls of the world's hottest research scientists.
        You  can't put Edge down on paper, Fox said, can't punch Edge into a
diskette. The money was in corporate defectors. Fox was smooth, the severity
of his dark French suits offset by a boyish forelock that wouldn't  stay  in
place. I never liked the way the effect was ruined when he stepped back from
the bar, his left shoulder skewed at an angle no Paris tailor could conceal.
Someone  had run him over with a taxi in Berne, and nobody quite knew how to
put him together again.
        I guess I went with him because he said he was after that Edge.  And
somewhere  out  there, on our way to find the Edge, I found you, Sandii. The
New  Rose  Hotel  is  a  coffin  rack  on  the  ragged  fringes  of   Narita
International.  Plastic  capsules  a meter high and three long, stacked like
surplus Godzilla teeth in a concrete lot off the main road to  the  airport.
Each  capsule has a television mounted flush with the ceiling. I spend whole
days watching Japanese game shows and old movies. Sometimes I have your  gun
in my hand.
        Sometimes  I  can  hear  the  jets, laced into holding patterns over
Narita. I close my eyes and  imagine  the  sharp,  white  contrails  fading,
losing definition.
        You  walked  into  a  bar  in  Yokohama,  the  first time I saw you.
Eurasian, half gaijin, long-hipped and fluid in a Chinese knock-off of  some
Tokyo  designer's original. Dark European eyes, Asian cheekbones. I remember
you dumping your purse out on the bed, later, in  some  hotel  room,  pawing
through  your  makeup.  A  crumpled wad of new yen, dilapidated address book
held together with rubber bands, a Mitsubishi bank chip,  Japanese  passport
with  a  gold  chrysanthemum  stamped on the cover, and the Chinese .22. You
told me your story. Your father had been an executive in Tokyo, but  now  he
was  disgraced,  disowned, cast down by Hosaka, the biggest zaibatsu of all.
That night your mother was Dutch, and I  listened  as  you  spun  out  those
summers  in  Amsterdam  for me, the pigeons in Dam Square like a soft, brown
carpet. I never asked what your father might have done to earn his disgrace.
I watched you dress; watched the swing of your dark, straight hair,  how  it
cut the air. Now Hosaka hunts me.
        The  coffins  of  New Rose are racked in recycled scaffolding, steel
pipes under bright enamel. Paint flakes away when I climb the ladder,  falls
with  each  step as I follow the catwalk. My left hand counts off the coffin
hatches, their multilingual decals warning of fines levied for the loss of a
key. I look up as the jets rise out of Narita, passage home, distant now  as
any moon. Fox was quick to see how we could use you, but not sharp enough to
credit  you  with  ambition. But then he never lay all night with you on the
beach at Kamakura, never listened to your nightmares, never heard an  entire
imagined  childhood  shift  under  those  stars,  shift  and roll over, your
child's mouth opening to reveal some fresh past, and  always  the  one,  you
swore,  that  was  really and finally the truth. I didn't care, holding your
hips while the sand cooled against your skin. Once you left me, ran back  to
that  beach  saying you'd forgotten our key. I found it in the door and went
after you,  to  find  you  ankle-deep  in  surf,  your  smooth  back  rigid,
trembling; your eyes far away. You --couldn't talk. Shivering. Gone. Shaking
for different futures and better pasts. Sandii, you left me here.
        You  left me all your things. This gun. Your makeup, all the shadows
and blushes capped in plastic. Your Cray microcomputer,  a  gift  from  Fox,
with  a shopping list you entered. Sometimes I play that back, watching each
item cross the little silver screen.
        A freezer. A fermenter. An incubator. An electrophoresis system with
integrated  agarose  cell  and  transilluminator.  A  tissue   embedder.   A
high-performance    liquid    chromatograph.    A    flow    cytometer.    A
spectrophotometer.  Four  gross  of  borosilicate  scintillation  vials.   A
microcentrifuge.  And  one  DNA  synthesizer,  with  in-built computer. Plus
software.
        Expensive, Sandii, but then Hosaka was footing our bills. Later  you
made them pay even more, but you were already gone.
        Hiroshi  drew  up  that  list  for  you.  In  bed, probably. Hiroshi
Yomiuri. Maas Biolabs GmbH had him. Hosaka wanted him.
        He was hot. Edge and lots of it. Fox followed genetic engineers  the
way  a  fan follows players in a favorite game. Fox wanted Hiroshi so bad he
could taste it.
        He'd sent me up to Frankfurt three times before you turned up,  just
to have a look-see at Hiroshi. Not to make a pass or even to give him a wink
and a nod. Just to watch.
        Hiroshi  showed  all  the  signs  of having settled in. He'd found a
German girl with a taste for conservative loden and  riding  boots  polished
the  shade  of  a fresh chestnut. He'd bought a renovated town house on just
the right square. He'd taken up fencing and given up kendo.
        And everywhere the Maas security teams, smooth and  heavy,  a  rich,
clear syrup of surveillance. I came back and told Fox we'd never touch him.
        You touched him for us, Sandii. You touched him just right.
        Our  Hosaka  contacts  were  like  specialized  cells protecting the
parent organism. We were mutagens, Fox and I, dubious agents adrift  on  the
dark side of the intercorporate sea.
        When  we  had  you in place in Vienna, we offered them Hiroshi. They
didn't even blink. Dead calm in an LA hotel room.  They  said  they  had  to
think about it.
        Fox  spoke the name of Hosaka's primary competitor in the gene game,
let it fall out naked, broke the  protocol  forbidding  the  use  of  proper
names.
        They had to think about it, they said.
        Fox gave them three days.
        I  took  you  to  Barcelona  a  week  before I took you to Vienna. I
remember you with your hair tucked back into a gray beret, your high  Mongol
cheekbones  reflected  in  the  windows of ancient shops. Strolling down the
Ramblas to the Phoenician harbor,  past  the  glass-roofed  Mercado  selling
oranges  out  of  Africa. The old Ritz, warm in our room, dark, with all the
soft weight of Europe pulled over us like a quilt. I could enter you in your
sleep. You were always ready. Seeing  your  lips  in  a  soft,  round  0  of
surprise,  your  face  about to sink into the thick, white pillow -- archaic
linen of the Ritz. Inside you I imagined all the neon,  the  crowds  surging
around Shinjuku Station, wired electric night. You moved that way, rhythm of
a new age, dreamy and far from any nation's soil.
        When we flew to Vienna, I installed you in Hiroshi's wife's favorite
hotel. Quiet,  solid,  the  lobby tiled like a marble chessboard, with brass
elevators smelling of lemon oil and small cigars. It was easy to imagine her
there, the highlights on her riding boots reflected in polished marble,  but
we knew she wouldn't be coming. along, not this trip.
        She  was  off to some Rhinetand spa, and Hiroshi was in Vienna for a
conference. When Maas security flowed in to scan the hotel, you were out  of
sight. Hiroshi arrived an hour later, alone.
        Imagine  an  alien,  Fox  once said, who's come here to identify the
planet's dominant form of intelligence. The alien has a look, then  chooses.
What  do  you  think he picks? I probably shrugged. The zaibatsus, Fox said,
the multinationals. The blood of a zaibatsu is information, not people.  The
structure   is  independent  of  the  individual  lives  that  comprise  it.
Corporation as life form. Not the Edge lecture again, I said.
        Maas isn't like that, he said, ignoring me.
        Maas was small, fast, ruthless. An atavism. Maas was all Edge.
        I  remember  Fox  talking  about  the  nature  of  Hiroshi's   Edge.
Radioactive  nucleases,  monoclonal  antibodies,  something  to  do with the
linkage of proteins, nucleotides ... Hot, Fox  called  them,  hot  proteins.
High-speed  links.  He  said  Hiroshi  was  a  freak,  the kind who shatters
paradigms, inverts a whole field of science, brings on the violent  revision
of  an  entire  body  of knowledge. Basic patents, he said, his throat tight
with the sheer wealth of it, with the high, thin smell of tax-free  millions
that  clung  to  those  two  words.  Hosaka wanted Hiroshi, but his Edge was
radical enough to worry them. They wanted him to work in isolation.  I  went
to  Marrakech,  to  the  old city, the Medina. I found a heroin lab that had
been converted to the extraction of pheromones. I bought it,  with  Hosaka's
money.
        I walked the marketplace at Djemaa-el-Fna with a sweating Portuguese
businessman,   discussing  fluorescent  lighting  and  the  installation  of
ventilated  specimen  cages.  Beyond  the  city  walls,  the   high   Atlas.
Djemaa-el-Fna  was  thick  with  jugglers, dancers, storytellers, small boys
turning lathes with their feet, legless  beggars  with  wooden  bowls  under
animated holograms advertising French software.
        We  strolled  past  bales  of  raw  wool and plastic tubs of Chinese
microchips.
        I  hinted  that  my  employers  planned  to  manufacture   synthetic
beta-endorphin.
        Always try to give them something they understand.
        Sandii, I remember you in Harajuka, sometimes. Close my eyes in this
coffin and  I  can  see  you  there  -- all the glitter, crystal maze of the
boutiques, the smell of new clothes. I see your cheekbones ride past  chrome
racks of Paris leathers. Sometimes I hold your hand.
        We  thought we'd found you, Sandii, but really you'd found us. Now I
know you were looking for us, or for someone like  us.  Fox  was  delighted,
grinning  over our find: such a pretty new tool, bright as any scalpel. Just
the thing to help us sever a stubborn Edge, like Hiroshi's, from the jealous
parent-body of Maas Biolabs. You must  have  been  searching  a  long  time,
looking  for a way out, all those nights down Shinjuku. Nights you carefully
cut from the scattered deck of your past.
        My own past had gone down years before,  lost  with  all  hands,  no
trace. I understood Fox's late-night habit of emptying his wallet, shuffling
through  his  identification. He'd lay the pieces out in different patterns,
rearrange them, wait for a picture to form. I knew what he was looking  for.
You  did the same thing with your childhoods. In New Rose, tonight, I choose
from your deck of pasts.
        I choose the original version, the famous Yokohama  hotelroom  text,
recited to me that first night in bed. I choose the disgraced father, Hosaka
executive.  Hosaka.  How  perfect.  And  the  Dutch  mother,  the summers in
Amsterdam, the soft blanket of pigeons in the Dam Square afternoon.
        I came in out of the heat of Marrakech into Hilton air conditioning.
Wet shirt clinging cold to the small of my back while  I  read  the  message
you'd  relayed through Fox. You were in all the way; Hiroshi would leave his
wife. It wasn't difficult for you to communicate with us, even  through  the
clear,  tight  film of Maas security; you'd shown Hiroshi the perfect little
place for coffee and kipferl. Your favorite waiter was white-haired, kindly,
walked with a limp, and worked for us. You  left  your  messages  under  the
linen napkin.
        All  day  today  I watched a small helicopter cut a tight grid above
this country of mine, the land of my exile, the New Rose Hotel. Watched from
my hatch as its patient shadow crossed the grease-stained  concrete.  Close.
Very close.
        I  left  Marrakech  for  Berlin.  I met with a Welshman in a bar and
began to arrange for Hiroshi's disappearance.  It  would  be  a  complicated
business,  intricate  as  the  brass  gears and sliding mirrors of Victorian
stage magic, but the desired effect was simple enough.  Hiroshi  would  step
behind  a  hydrogen-cell  Mercedes  and  vanish.  The  dozen Maas agents who
followed him constantly would swarm around  the  van  like  ants;  the  Maas
security apparatus would harden around his point of departure like epoxy.
        They know how to do business promptly in Berlin. I wits even able to
arrange a  last night with you. I kept it secret from Fox; he might not have
approved. Now I've forgotten the town's name. I knew it for an hour  on  the
autobahn, under a gray Rhenish sky, and forgot it in your arms.
        The  rain  began,  sometime  toward  morning.  Our room had a single
window, high and narrow, where I stood and watched the rain  fur  the  river
with  silver needles. Sound of your breathing. The river flowed beneath low,
stone arches. The street was empty. Europe was a dead museum.
        I'd already booked your flight to Marrakech, out of Orly, under your
newest name. You'd be on your way when I pulled the final string and dropped
Hiroshi out of sight.
        You'd left your purse on the dark old bureau. While you slept I went
through your things, removed anything that might clash with  the  new  cover
I'd  bought  for  you in Berlin. I took the Chinese .22, your microcomputer,
and your bank chip. I took a new passport, Dutch, from my bag, a Swiss  bank
chip in the same name, and tucked them into your purse.
        My  hand  brushed  something  flat, I drew it out, held the thing, a
diskette. No labels.
        It lay there in the palm of my hand, all that death. Latent,  coded,
waiting.
        I stood there and watched you breathe, watched your breasts rise and
fall. Saw  your  lips  slightly  parted, and in the jut and fullness of your
lower lip, the faintest suggestion of bruising.
        I put the diskette back into your purse. When I lay down beside you,
you rolled against me, waking, on your breath all the electric  night  of  a
new  Asia,  the  future  rising  in  you  like a bright fluid, washing me of
everything but the moment. That was your magic, that you  lived  outside  of
history, all now.
        And you knew how to take me there. For the last time, you took me.
        While  I was shaving, I heard you empty your makeup into my bag. I'm
Dutch now, you said, I'll want a new look.
        Dr Hiroshi Yomiuri went missing in Vienna, in  a  quiet  street  off
Singerstrasse,  two  blocks  from  his  wife's  favorite  hotel.  On a clear
afternoon in October, in the  presence  of  a  dozen  expert  witnesses,  Dr
Yomiuri vanished.
        He  stepped  through a looking glass. Somewhere, offstage, the oiled
play of Victorian clockwork. I sat in a hotel room in Geneva  and  took  the
Welshman's  call.  It  was  done, Hiroshi down my rabbit hole and headed for
Marrakech. I poured myself a drink and thought about your legs.
        Fox and I met in Narita a day later, in a  sushi  bar  in  the.  JAL
terminal.
        He'd just stepped off an Air Maroc jet, exhausted and triumphant.
        Loves  it  there,  he  said,  meaning  Hiroshi.  Loves her, he said,
meaning you.
        I smiled. You'd promised to meet me in Shinjuku in a month.
        Your cheap little gun in the New Rose Hotel. Ale chrome is  starting
to  peel.  The machining is clumsy, blurry Chinese stamped into rough steel.
The grips are red plastic, molded with a  dragon  on  either  side.  Like  a
child's toy.
        Fox  ate  sushi  in  the  JAL  terminal, high on what we'd done. The
shoulder had been giving him trouble, but he said he didn't care. Money  now
for  better  doctors.  Money now for everything. Somehow it didn't seem very
important to me, the money we'd gotten from Hosaka. Not that I  doubted  our
new  wealth,  but that last night with you had left me convinced that it all
came to us naturally, in the new order of things, as a function of  who  and
what we were.
        Poor  Fox.  With his blue oxford shirts crisper than ever, his Paris
suits darker and richer. Sitting there in JAL, dabbing sushi into  a  little
rectangular tray of green horseradish, he had less than a week to live. Dark
now, and the coffin racks of New Rose are lit all night by floodlights, high
on  painted  metal  masts. Nothing here seems to serve its original purpose.
Everything is surplus, recycled, even the coffins.  Forty  years  ago  these
plastic capsules were stacked in Tokyo or Yokohama, a modern convenience for
traveling  businessmen. Maybe your father slept in one. When the scaffolding
was new, it rose around the shell of  some  mirrored  tower  on  the  Ginza,
swarmed over by crews of builders.
        The breeze tonight brings the rattle of a pachinko parlor, the smell
of stewed vegetables from the pushcarts across the road.
        I  spread  crab-flavored  krill paste on orange rice crackers. I can
hear the planes. Those last few days in  Tokyo,  Fox  and  I  had  adjoining
suites  on  the fifty-third floor of the Hyatt. No contact with Hosaka. They
paid us, then erased us from official corporate memory. I
        But Fox couldn't let go. Hiroshi was his baby, his pet project. He'd
developed a proprietary, almost fatherly, interest in Hiroshi. He loved  him
for  his Edge. So Fox had me keep in touch with my Portuguese businessman in
the Medina, who was willing to keep a very partial eye on Hiroshi's lab  for
us.
        When  he  phoned,  he'd  phone from a stall in Djemaa-el-Fna, with a
background of  wailing  vendors  and  Atlas  panpipes.  Someone  was  moving
security  into  Marrakech, he told us. Fox nodded. Hosaka. After less than a
dozen calls, I saw the change in Fox, a tension, a look of abstraction.  I'd
find  him  at  the window, staring down fifty-three floors into the Imperial
gardens, lost in something he wouldn't  talk  about.  Ask  him  for  a  more
detailed  description, he, said, after one particular call. He thought a man
our contact had seen entering  Hiroshi's  lab  might  be  Moenner,  Hosaka's
leading gene man.
        That  was Moenner, he said, after the next call. Another call and he
thought he'd identified Chedanne, who headed Hosaka's protein team.  Neither
had  been  seen outside the corporate arcology in over two years. By then it
was obvious that Hosaka's leading researchers were pooling  quietly  in  the
Medina,  the  black executive Lears whispering into the Marrakech airport on
carbon-fiber wings. Fox shook his head. He was a professional, a specialist,
and he saw the sudden accumulation of all that  prime  Hosaka  Edge  in  the
Medina as a drastic failure in the zaibatsu's tradecraft.
        Christ,  he  said,  pouring himself a Black Label, they've got their
whole bio section in there right now. One  bomb.  He  shook  his  head.  One
grenade  in  the  right  place  at  the right time ... I reminded him of the
saturation techniques Hosaka security was obviously  employing.  Hosaka  had
lines  to  the  heart  of the Diet, and their massive infiltration of agents
into Marrakech could only be taking place with the knowledge and cooperation
of the Moroccan government.
        Hang it up. I said. It's over. You've sold them Hiroshi. Now  forget
him.
        I know what it is, he said. I know. I saw it once before.
        He  said  that there was a certain wild factor in lab work. The edge
of Edge, he called it. When a researcher  develops  a  breakthrough,  others
sometimes  find  it  impossible to duplicate the first researcher's results.
This was even  more  likely  with  Hiroshi,  whose  work  went  against  the
conceptual   grain  of  his  field.  The  answer,  often,  was  to  fly  the
breakthrough boy from lab to corporate lab for a ritual laying on of  hands.
A  few  pointless  adjustments in the equipment, and the process would work.
Crazy thing, he said, nobody knows why it works that way, but  it  does.  He
grinned.
        But  they're  taking a chance, he said. Bastards told us they wanted
to isolate Hiroshi, keep him away from their central research thrust. Balls.
Bet your ass there's  some  kind  of  power  struggle  going  on  in  Hosaka
research.  Somebody  big's flying his favorites in and rubbing them all over
Hiroshi for luck. When Hiroshi  shoots  the  legs  out  from  under  genetic
engineering, the Medina crowd's going to be ready.
        He drank his scotch and shrugged.
        Go to bed, he said. You're right, it's over.
        I  did  go to bed, but the phone woke me. Marrakech again, the white
static of a satellite link, a rush of frightened Portuguese.
        Hosaka didn't freeze our credit, they caused it to evaporate.  Fairy
gold.  One  minute we were millionaires in the world's hardest currency, and
the next we were paupers. I woke Fox.
        Sandii, he said. She sold out. Maas security turned her  in  Vienna.
Sweet Jesus.
        I  watched  him  slit  his battered suitcase apart with a Swiss Army
knife. He had three gold bars glued  in  there  with  contact  cement.  Soft
plates, each one proofed and stamped by the treasury of some extinct African
government. I should've seen it, he said, his voice flat.
        I  said  no.  I  think I said your name. Forget her, he said. Hosaka
wants us dead. They'll assume we crossed them. Get on the  phone  and  check
our credit.
        Our  credit  was gone. They denied that either of us had ever had an
account. Haul ass, Fox said.
        We ran. Out a service  door,  into  Tokyo  traffic,  and  down  into
Shinjuku.  That  was when I understood for the first time the real extent of
Hosaka's reach.
        Every door was closed. People we'd done business with for two  years
saw  us  coming, and I'd see steel shutters slam behind their eyes. We'd get
out before they had a chance to reach for the phone. The surface tension  of
the  underworld  had  been  tripled, and everywhere we'd meet that same taut
membrane and be thrown back. No chance to sink, to get out of sight.
        Hosaka let us run for most of that first day. Then they sent someone
to break Fox's back a second time. I didn't see them do it, but  I  saw  him
fall.  We were in a Ginza department store an hour before closing, and I saw
his arc off that polished mezzanine, down into all  the  wares  of  the  new
Asia.  They  missed  me  somehow, and I just kept running. Fox took the gold
with him, but I had a hundred new yen in my pocket. I ran. All  the  way  to
the New Rose Hotel.
        Now it's time.
        Come  with  me,  Sandii. Hear the neon humming on the road to Narita
International.  A  few  late  moths  trace  stopmotion  circles  around  the
floodlights  that  shine  on  New  Rose. And the funny thing, Sandii, is how
sometimes you just don't seem real to me. Fox once said you were  ectoplasm,
a  ghost  called  up by the extremes of economics. Ghost of the new century,
congealing on a thousand beds in the world's Hyatts, the world's Hiltons.
        Now I've got your gun in my hand, jacket pocket, and my  hand  seems
so  far  away.  Disconnected.  I  remember  my  Portuguese  business  friend
forgetting his English, trying to get it across in four languages  I  barely
understood, and I thought he was telling me that the Medina was burning. Not
the  Medina.  The  brains  of  Hosaka's best research people. Plague, he was
whispering, my businessman, plague and fever and death. Smart Fox, he put it
together on the run. I didn't even have to mention finding the  diskette  in
your bag in Germany.
        Someone had reprogrammed the DNA synthesizer, he said. The thing was
there for  the  overnight construction of just the right macromolecule. With
its in-built computer and its custom software. Expensive, Sandii. But not as
expensive as you turned out to be for Hosaka.
        I hope you got a good price from Maas.
        The diskette in my hand. Rain on the river. I knew, but  I  couldn't
face  it.  I  put the code for that meningial virus back into your purse and
lay down beside you.
        So Moenner died, along  with  other  Hosaka  researchers.  Including
Hiroshi. Chedanne suffered permanent brain damage.
        Hiroshi  hadn't worried about contamination. The proteins he punched
for were harmless. So the  synthesizer  hummed  to  itself  all  night  long
building  a  virus  to the specifications of Maas Biolabs GmbH. Maas. Small,
fast, ruthless' -- All Edge.
        The airport road is a long, straight shot. Keep to the shadows.
        And I was shouting at that Portuguese voice, I made him tell me what
happened to the girl, to Hiroshi's woman. Vanished, he  said.  The  whir  of
Victorian clockwork.
        So Fox had to fall, fall with his three pathetic plates of gold, and
snap his  spine for the last time. On the floor of a Ginza department store,
every shopper staring in the instant before they screamed. I just can't hate
you, baby.
        And Hosaka's helicopter is  back,  no  lights  at  all,  hunting  on
infrared,  feeling  for  body heat. A muffled whine as it turns, a kilometer
away, swinging back toward us, toward New Rose. Too fast a  shadow,  against
the glow of Narita.
        It's all right, baby. Only please come here. Hold my hand.

Популярность: 61, Last-modified: Mon, 15 Feb 1999 20:37:47 GMT