I was not concealing my own tears at all. I dearly loved this clumsy, pudgy, sloppily dressed Irishman, though most of my life had been spent in playing down that love. Maybe it was because I had learned early to hate and despise as self-protection. When Harry separated me from that world inside the AC complex and showed me what actual love was, I never lost my suspicion. And it is easier to act less involved so that if you're hurt later, the anguish doesn't show so much and give your adversary satisfaction. Now unchecked, evidence of that love flowed.
We hurried across the lobby to the second elevator bank and went down to the underground garage, where the attendant brought Harry's hovercar, accepted a tip, and stepped back as we drove out of that great, sparkling building. In the street, we both sighed, as if some weight had been lifted from us, and we began to talk for the first time, out of the range of those microphones which infest any government building.
"You'll tell me about it now," he said, his eyes flicking from the s.h.i.+fting layers of new snow on the street to where I sat against the far door. "They wouldn't let me up to see you but once a week, you know."
"You'd only have been looking at flesh and blood," I said. "All this time, I've been inside of Child, locked down there in his mind."
"As I figured," he said. "But those"-he jerked his thumb behind us, twisting his face up to look disgusted"those pretty boys in their uniforms, I just don't trust."
"They didn't exercise my body properly. And they didn't take any precautions against stomach shrinkage.
Otherwise, I'm fine."
He snorted. "So tell me,"
"You first. I've spent a month in that place, and I don't have the foggiest notion what has happened out here.
When I went in, war had all but been declared. The Chinese and the j.a.panese had crossed the Soviet border, maybe nuked a town*"
He looked grim, stared at the street unfolding before us for a long time before he said anything. It was dark, and the crisp blue arc lights sent fantastic shadows wriggling between the heavy fall of snowflakes. The streets seemed almost empty of traffic.
"War was declared two days later," he said.
"And we won?"
I looked around at the streets, all undamaged, all occupied by our own troops, our own police. Indeed, I saw now that the amount of occupation of our territory spelled some sort of trouble. Every other street corner contained coppers parked in squad-carrying howlers, surveying the dark boulevard. They watched us go by with quick, dark glances, though they offered no pursuit.
"Partly?" I asked.
As we flitted across the city, he summed up the developments of the month-long war: The
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