He cat-prowls the corridors.
He stops in front of the Gunwall. 'Logan''s Gun is still not there. He paces, waits. He hears a guarded whisper not meant for his ears: "Old Francis is on to something," says a voice. "They say the cubs cheated him out of a runner." "That isn't it. He's on to something." He doesn't react to this. He shadow-glides the gray halls. He is a violence, contained.
He moves back to the Gunwall, stares, moves away. He checks the time: 7:30. Fact: Loganhas not returned with his Gun. Fact: Loganis on Lastday. He instructs the techs to rig a Gun trace, tuned to Logan's weapon. When the Gun is 'fired it will register its location on the 'board. He sits, face illuminated by ghost lights 'from the glowing circuits. He waits. EVENING…
When Logan walked into his living unit young Abe Lincoln was there, splitting logs in the center of the room. Logan automatically punched a wall stud and the president was sucked, hissing, back into the Tri-Dim.
He stripped, bathed, changed to grays and dialed a meal and a Scotch. Sipping the iced drink, Logan stared at his palm, at the blinking crystal flower. Lastday. Twenty-four hours in which to live. Then his flower would go black and it would be time to turn himself in for Sleep. Twenty-four hours. Logan picked up the silver punchkey from the bed. Runners say please; runners say help; runners say mercy, runners say don't. Doyle had said Sanctuary. And Logan held a key which might lead to it, to a goal never proved to exist, to a place which could not exist. Not in this world. Not for a runner in 2116. But what if Sanctuary were a reality? A place where runners were safe from the Gun. What if he, Logan 3, could find it and destroy it in the last twenty four hours of his life? His existence would be justified; he'd be a world hero; his life would end in glory. It would be a risk worth taking. And the key to the quest lay in his hand. Do it. Logan walked to the communideck. The silver key slid easily into the slot. Inside the flat housing, tiny indentations in the stamped-metal made electrical connections. The wallscreen lightened. A girl in vented peekaboos regarded Logan. She was perhaps sixteen, with dead, flat eyes. Her body was slim-breasted and angular.
"Call back later," she said. "I'm going out."
"I'm calling now," said Logan.
"Have you got a name?"
"I've got a name." He let it rest at that.
A spark of interest in the flat eyes. "But you've keeping it to yourself."
"There's no sanctuary in passing out random identities," said Logan, leaning slightly on the word sanctuary. Her gaze did not flicker. This didn't feel right. Not right at all. The runner could have been babbling. Maybe he was acting on a false lead.
Who gave you my key?" the girl asked.
"I'm going out."
"You said that."
"To a party. I'm expected."
"I could meet you there," said Logan.
She studied him speculatively.
"Halstead complex. West wing. Fourth level.
Living unit 2582. Got that?"
"I really shouldn't be inviting strangers," she
said. "If you're…not up to the party I'll be to blame"
"I'm up to it," said Logan, "and anything else." He kept his face impassive.
She said one last thing before she blacked.
"I'm Lilith 4. I think you'll find me…helpful."
The screen died.
Logan let out a breath. It sounded like a word. The word it sounded like was "Sanctuary."
The party in unit 2582 was getting into full stride when Logan arrived. The door was opened by a mouse-faced man in orange trims. He was quite intoxicated.
"The tree of cruelty often blooms in the fertile soil of love," he said
"I'm sure it does," said Logan, scanning the crowded room for Lilith.
"The boy seeks, the man finds. That's a poem. I write them, you know."
"I didn't know," said Logan. The girl was not in the crowd. Perhaps she'd been delayed or had changed her mind about meeting him.
"One of my poems was read on TD. Called 'Womb Wood.' Like to hear it?"
Logan said nothing.
"In the woods of the womb, She walked. In a whirl of red wounds, She fell. Heart bursting like a plum In the bracelets of her breasts."
Logan sat down on a flowcouch built into the wall. The poet continued to talk, obviously determined to elicit praise.
"That poem received a great deal of very favorable comment. I'm quite famous, you know."
"Fine," said Logan.
A toad of a man scuttled up with a foaming mug in his hand. "Try this," he said. Logan caught the slightly sour odor of fermentation.
"It's Volney's home brew. We've got a whole keg of it. It's nothing like the beer from the slots. He's a real artist, Volney is. Puts musk raisins in it."
"I prefer Scotch."
"That's your loss, citizen."
Logan dialed a Scotch. It was taken from him by a red-haired girl in slash velvets. She downed it hurriedly.
"Wonderful!" she said Her green eyes were alcohol flushed. She offered Logan a cigarette.
"Don't be afraid to," she urged him. "There's a police payoff in this area. No tobacco raids. Go ahead."
The girl took offense. "Afraid to smoke, aren't you? You men! Cowards. Every one of you cowards. I was on pairup with a merchantman until last week. Then we broke it. Know why?"
"Why?" asked Logan.
"Because. Because he lacked the essentials.
He was content. Content to be content. He had his business and he had me and that's all he wanted. I need a man who wants what he doesn't have. That make sense to you, citizen?"
"Maybe you don't need a man. Maybe you need a boy."
"I tried a boy. Eleven. He was good for a while, but I got so I hated his young face. I'm fifteen—and a woman needs a man. How old are you?"
"Old enough," said Logan, keeping his right hand closed. The flower blinked warmly in palmflesh. He could feel its heat against his fingertips.
"How about a pairup?"
"No. No, thanks."
The green eyes chilled. "Is that all you can say—'no, thanks'?" The girl stood up, weaved away.
Logan sighed. Where was Lilith?
The door slid open and a fat bellied man eased in, bearing a double armload of clothing and accessories. Hs voice shrilled in falsetto. "Hail, fellow lungblasters and glassmasters and livefasters!
Hail, fellow peepers! The gear is here." The fatman pasted a talk puppet grin on his face and began strutting the room in high-pumping steps. "Gear up! Everybody gear up!"
"Been waiting long?" Lilith 4 grinned down at Logan; a pink cigarette dangled smoke from her glittercoated lips. She was barehipped in silver snakeskins.
"Let's talk," said Logan. "You know why I'm here."
The fatman bustled importantly up to them. He thrust a black knit bodystocking and crepe stretchsoles at them. "Gear up, you two," he said, clapping his meaty hands.
"We'll be partners," declared Lilith. "You said you were up to it."
Logan took the clothing, moved to a changeroom and slipped out of his grays. He'd have to stow the Gun somewhere; no place to conceal it in the skintight bodysuit. At least he'd left the spare ammo packs in his unit; figuring that the six charges in the weapon should see him through. Now he was grateful for this decision. Less bulk to worry about. He slipped the Gun into an alcove, gambling that no one would have occasion to search the closet.
"You have Greek shoulders," said the mousefaced poet, who was beginning to gear up next to him.
Logan grunted and returned to Lilith, who was already dressed and ready. She offered him a Scotch.
"Thanks, I can use this!" He tipped the glass to his lips.
A dozen dark-garbed men and women waited in the central chamber. They joined them, and the girl handed Logan a pair of smokegoggles. "Wear these on the ledge."
Six black-light cameras were arranged neatly on a table. One camera per couple.
"Righty, righty," said the fatman, signaling for attention. "Now all you peepers know what to do?"
"Stop being a damn woman, Sharps," said a bored voice, "and get on with it."
Sharps glanced petulantly at the speaker.
"I'm in charge. The cameras belong to me!"
"And it's your alcohol and your tobacco and your living unit. For which we are all duly grateful. So let's peep."
Sharps made an obscene gesture. He waved the first couple off. In pairs, the players left the chamber through a ceiling-high viewwindow. Logan found himself kneeling beside Lilith on a narrow ledge high in the complex. Below them, the great city was alive with snakes of light. He saw the rows of blinking glasshouses near Hurley Square and, beyond, the dazzle of Arcade. The fire galleries sent up their rose glow, staining the edge of the night sky. It was a long way down. He shifted the camera and gripped the alum ribbing of the building wall. Wind slicked between the box beams, threatening to pull him from the ledge. Lilith crawled into the liquid dark, edging in front of Logan. Keeping his eye on the feminine sway of her dark bottom, he followed.
When the girl stopped he said, "Talk. Were alone now." He couldn't see her face behind the goggles.
"First we peep," she said. "Then we talk."
"Why not now?"
"If we return to the party without film they'll suspect something. Sharps is not the fool he seems. They'll ask questions we might not want to answer."
High in the complex, a full half-mile above them, a police paravane ran its pinlight along the ledges.
"Keep in shadow," said Lilith. "They patrol these landings. We have to be careful."
Logan knew the game was illegal, and he didn't want the police stopping him. If he got picked up without the Gun he would not be able to prove his identity. They'd have to check him out. If he had the Gun, and revealed himself, the girl would close the door on Sanctuary. Either way, he couldn't afford to be stopped. He'd be careful. With a cat's litheness, the girl swung, hand over hand, along a guy wire leading to the next ledge. Logan slung the camera over one shoulder and followed. Most of the windows they could reach were blacked. Other units were unoccupied. Lilith pointed downward "I think something's happening in there," she said. The window she'd indicated was closed but not blacked. The girl took out a slim wire with an earplug at one end and a walkup on the other. She pressed the cup against the building, the plug in her ear. She smiled.
"Have a listen," she said, passing the earplug to Logan.
Through the miniature amplifier he could hear voices husky with love. A man and a woman. Sighs. The rub of skin on skin.
"Give me the camera," whispered Lilith.
"And grab my ankles. I'm going down for a shot."
Logan braced himself. He clung to the girl's legs as she slipped off the ledge, head first.
Lilith dangled in space just in front of the dark window. Below her: a mile-deep emptiness, a stagger of steel and glass and boa beam units.
Logan leaned back, feet gripping the stone, feeling his leg muscles protest. The camera whirred. "Up!" the girl whispered.
He pulled her back to the ledge. "How did you know I could hang on to you?"
"I didn't," she said. "That's part of the lift."
Did she really know anything about Sanctuary? Or was she simply some danger-sick female out for thrills? Logan didn't know. Yet. A pinlight raked the building. Police! They melted into shadow. The patrol paravane ghosted past them and continued on its way.
"You're doing fine," the girl said.
"Can't we talk now?"
She laughed—and crawled off with Logan behind her. They climbed upward, along ridged metal, their suction stretchsoles aiding the ascent. On the roof
Lilith said, "Jump!"
She leaped into space, cleared a gap between units, and landed in a garden patio. He made the jump, almost losing his balance.
The patio was deserted.
On the adjoining level, however, the girl found fresh prey. "You take them this time," she said to Logan. He aimed the camera, fingered it into whirring motion.
"Good," said the girl. "That's prime peeping.
"Now we talk—or I pitch you over this ledge.
I've had enough of your nonsense."
"You'd really do it, wouldn't you?" Her voice held excitement.
"I really would."
"All right…what do you know about
"I know it's where I want to go."
"Where did you get my key?" She watched him carefully.
His lips felt loose. He giggled foolishly.
"From…from the same place all runners get theirs."
He giggled again. What was happening to him? The hard aluminum ledge rippled, fell away. He was floating out in space with the wind crying around him.
"Answer the question!" the girl's voice whispered intensely at his ear.
Logan found himself singing: "Angerman was…filled with fury, He the judge and he the jury…
Logan babbled happily. He was poised in air, looking down at himself sprawled on the ledge. He watched Lilith cuff him across the mouth. He watched her grab his hair and bend his head back.
"The key—where did you get the key?"
"Man named 10, named 10, named 10…named Doyle 10."
Logan's neck ached.
"Angerman, pursuing faster," he sang. "Ang—Angerman, the angry master."
He stood up rigidly, with the girl clinging to him. The world was no longer dark; it was filled with blazing orange music which stabbed his eyes.
"Did you kill Doyle?" The orange music stroked him. "Cubs…,cubs killed him."
Logan stepped off the ledge. Instinctively he reached out; his clawing fingers found a grip. His head was clearing as he kicked at air. His right foot lodged on a metal projection and slowly, inch by inch, he drew himself back onto the ledge. He lay, stomach down, gasping for breath. The girl. She'd drugged his Scotch. With Truthtell. Had he told her too much?
"What now?" he asked.
"Go see Doc," she said sweetly. "He's your next contact."
"In Arcade. Look for The New You. That's his place."
"Now we go back to Sharps and turn in our peeps. Some lift, eh?"
"Sure," said Logan. "Some lift."
He left the belt at the Beverly overpass and began threading his way through Arcade. The immense pleasure center formed a never-ending human logjam. Arcade had not closed its doors to funseekers for over fifty years. The place was a vast crazy quilt of hallucimills, Re-Live parlors and fire galleries. Signs screamed and moaned in smoky colors: RE-LIVE THAT FIRST EMBRACE! (A gaudy Tri-Dim on a ribbed platform depicting two nude youngsters in a torrid tangle.) RE-LIVE THOSE PRECIOUS MOMENTSI (A wild-eyed boy riding a flamed devilstick through a mock sky.) RE-LIVE! RE-LIVEI RE-LIVEI Noise gonged; a thousand odors mingled; hawkers cried their wares. Here night was day and day was night
"Wanta good time, citizen?" A man with one arm and a fog voice beckoned him toward a swinging door.
Logan passed him quickly. He saw the sign he was looking for. It hit the window in a sulfurous shower and withdrew, hit and withdrew into the darkness behind the black glass. THE NEW YOU…THE NEW YOU…THE NEW YOU…
Logan entered the shop. The waiting room was the color of ashes. The scattered pieces of furniture were faded, worn. Even the air in the room seemed used.
An ancient chrome-plated desk hunched in one corner, and behind it sat a young woman in soiled whites. Her face was pale and predatory.
She regarded Logan suspiciously.
"You want Doc?"
"I want Sanctuary."
The girl wet her lips with a small pink tongue. "Then you want Doc."
She rose listlessly, crossed to Logan. "Hand," she said. He held up his right hand, palm out. Red-blackred-black-red-black…
"C'mon," she said. "Follow through for the new you.
She led him down a musty hallway and into a large room smelling of metal. Logan recognized the thing in the center of the alum floor; he felt himself ice up. Table! The machine loomed over a flat metal bed that was grooved and slotted and equipped with fastening devices.
"There's not another like her outside a hospital between here and New Alaska," said a harsh, confident voice.
Logan whirled to face a thick bodied sixteenyear-old. The man's bony features were split by a crooked-toothed smile. He wore a long gray smock which extended down to his shoe tops. Doc.
"A little edgy, are you? Well, that's natural. Runners are scared people. Least you got enough sense to start before your flower blacks. It's tougher then, with the Sandmen onto you. What'll it be, face job or full body? Could add a couple inches to those legs"
"Just the face," said Logan.
"Got no time, is that it? Runners never got time." A note of sad regret in the voice. "I won't ask your name. I don't want to know it. You got the punchkey and that's good enough for me. Ballard knows who to give them to." Ballard! Logan's mind leaped. The world's oldest man. A story to frighten children with. A legend. A subject for folk chants. Was there actually such a man—the force behind Sanctuary?
"Holly will get you ready. If you're worried about the Table, don't be. They call me Doc , but I'm a trained mech. A real mechanic. Give me a basket of transistors and a pound of platinum sponge and I can make anything. You're in good hands, believe what I tell you."
As he talked, the girl came forward to unbutton the collar of Logan's shirt. The Gun was stuffed into his waistband, and he wondered if they'd want all his clothes off. Hiding the Gun would be impossible here.
"Ask me what I'm doing in a shop like this if I'm so handy. I got my reasons. I make out. A little Muscle for the cubs, a sea lift now and then, a face job for Ballard—maybe a body change for some sick citizen who's tired of himself. Adds up. I do all right."
The girl was brushing her fingertips lightly down Logan's arms. There was a deep-blue spark in her eyes.
"I'm Holly," she said softly. "Holly 13. In ancient times they said my number was unlucky. Do you believe in luck?"
Doc aimed another crooked smile at Logan.
"Holly don't work for the money. She gets her lift out of watching the Table—and other things." His smile became a dry chuckle.
'Back in a minute."
"Do I need to undress?" Logan asked the girl.
"Not for a face," she said. "That is, not unless you want to."
"Empty your pockets." She led him to the Table.
It was one of the big brutes, a Mark J. Surgeon. Suspended over the flat bed was a glittering tangle of probes and pincers and scalpels, springs, clamps and needles. Tubes and looped wires interconnected from one part of the Table to another, crisscrossing the main body which contained the solidstate circuitry forming the machine's memory center and brain. At one end was a console of buttons and switches, lights and dials.
A Table such as this could lengthen bone and change dental patterns. It could broaden shoulders, put on or take off weight. It could alter germ plasma or blood groupings. With its infinitely adjustable lasers it could lay back the flesh surrounding a single nerve and lift out that nerve without nicking the sheath. It was as precise as a diamond cutter and as unemotional as a vending slot. Logan didn't want to get on the Table. It could carve and change him, make him into another man. Holly 13 fastened down his ankles and wrists, then attached the sensors. The Table rippled, accepted his weight, positioned him.
"I like dark hair," said Holly, leaning close to him. The blue spark danced in the depths of her eyes.
"Have him give you dark hair."
Doc returned to his patient. "Got anything special in mind?" he asked. 'Bone structure like yours I could give you most anything."
"That's your decision," snapped Logan. "Just get it over with."
"Look, runner," said Doc, his voice hard, "just you ease down. I tell you where to go, how to go and when to go. You runners are always in a hurry. Always trying to rush me.
You don't go nowhere without Doc . I handle this end of things. Can't use the next key anyhow till nine forty. Got plenty of time for the new you."
Doc danced his, fingers over the control board as he studied Logan's face. "We can widen those cheekbones for a start."
The Table began to hum as a pair of thin silver probes separated themselves from the overhead cluster and poised above Logan; a stun needle lowered toward his face; a vibrosaw began to keen.
Abruptly all motion ceased. The keening died. An alarm buzzed insistently.
Doc's eyes narrowed. "Something's wrong.
We've got metal on the Table. You empty your pockets?"
Doc looked at him suspiciously. "Something ain't right"
He came out from behind the console, stood over Logan. The slight bulge of the Gun was visible in Logan's waist. Doc pulled open his shirt, baring the weapon.
"Lock the door, Holly."
"What is it?" she asked, moving forward. Doc shoved her back.
"Gun!" he said. "We got a Sandman."
"What'll we do?"
"I'm thinking." Doc glared at Logan, helpless on the Table.
"You've seen my hand," said Logan. "I'm on Lastday. Does it figure I'd still be working for DS?"
"You got a Gun," said Doc . "Only DS men got Guns."
"I'm not the first Sandman to run."
"Why should I take a chance?" said Doc, moving back to the console. "I'm scrambling the Table. You'll get more than a new face, Sandman." Logan lunged against the straps, but they held fast.
"What will it do to him?" asked Holly. The blue light gleamed in her eyes.
"Anything. It's on its own."
The Table hummed to life.
"I want to watch," said Holly, flushing.
Logan looked up, sweating, into the moving cluster of pointed, bladed objects suspended above him. A stun needle lanced into his cheek, and the left side of his face went dead. A pair of metal clamps bit into his right leg below the knee. A surgical scapel slit his shirt from shoulder to waist, leaving a thread of blood in its wake. A sponge dipped to wipe the blood neatly away.
Desperately Logan sucked in his belly and tried to flatten himself into the Table. Beside him, Holly was breathing fast. A wide serrated blade shifted its downward sweep, moved three inches to the right and hovered. A pair of nervescissors snipped viciously at empty air, lowered abruptly and sliced through the strap that confined Logan's right arm.
Doc took a shocked step back as Logan clawed the Gun free. A rain of silver knives dropped toward him, and he hacked at them with the barrel. They snapped like icicles. Logan attempted to swing the Gun in Doc's direction. "Kill the Table!"
Lizard-quick, Doc was out the door, the girl behind him.
The Table pumped a cooling alcohol spray on Logan's chest as he clumsily freed his other wrist. Tiny lubricated gears inside the machine's housing slid into new positions. Logan sprawled the upper part of his body off the bed and hit the leg releases. He rolled from the Table as it mindlessly attacked its own vitals. It died, shrieking, as sparks showered from the gutted machine. Logan considered his next move. Without another punch-key, which Doc apparently was to supply, his run was over. And it wouldn't take a mouth like Doc long to spread the word: Sandman. The trail would end before it began. He kicked the back door open and found himself in a dank warren of intersecting hallways. The moaning cry of the fire galleries drifted up to him, mixed with the baked desert smell of dreamdust from the halluciomills. Something iced out of the gray half-darkness, knocking the Gun from his grasp. A glacier numbness chilled his arm from hand to elbow. Popsickle! Logan spun into a fighting crouch to face the dim white figure coming at him with the refrigerated police billy held at waist level. Doc, in for the kill. One blow to the chest and Logan's body would be a sea of ice crystals, freezing heart action, stopping the breath in his throat. The Gun lay on the floor rimed with frost. He kept his eyes locked on the short smokecolored stick in Doc's practiced hand. The popsickle slashed air as Doc lunged past him. Logan twisted and fell to one knee in the classic Omnite attack position. His left elbow drove into Doc's groin. With a soundless, choked scream, Doc slammed the wall, bouncing off into Logan's knee, which caught him with a killing spinal blow. Logan swore bitterly, stripping the dead man's pockets. I should have handled this without killing him, he thought. Now where's the next key? Has the girl got it? And where is she? Probably hidden somewhere in the Arcade labyrinth. Logan retrieved the moist Gun, straightening to a sound in the next room. He moved carefully to the door, easing it open. Holly was inside, against the far wall, a medical knife poised at her breast. Her terrorglazed eyes were fixed on the Gun. As Logan advanced toward her she drove the blade into her chest. The world ended abruptly for Holly 13. Logan put away his weapon.
"Doyle…Doyle…is that you?" A drugged voice.
Logan stepped through an alum-mesh curtain. The cramped room reeked of anesthetic. A dark-haired girl, nude to the waist, was rising groggily from a pneumocot. She blinked dreamily at Logan. "It's me—Jessica," she said; her fingers tentatively explored the new planes of her face. A runner, thought Logan. Her hand is blinking. But why does she think I'm Doyle? And did she get the “Key. Do you have a punchkey?" he asked.
"Doyle…you don't look like my brother anymore. You don't even sound the same. They've changed us."
So that was it: the girl was Doyle's sister. He must have told her to meet him here.
"Listen," said Logan, "do you have the next key?"
She was fully awake now, slipping into her blouse. He saw her remove a silver object.
from one pocket. Logan took it from her. Amazekey.
"Did Doc give you any instructions?"
"Yes. He told me—us—to use a branch tunnel under Arcade. I know where it is."
"All right then. Let's go." He followed her to a slideway. The plunged down into jeweled darkness. At the off ramp
he took her hand. They ran along the maze platform. The maze. A million miles of tunnel, a veining of expressways serving the continents, interlinking Chicago with New York, Detroit with New Alaska, London with Lower Australia—a multitude of black-steel beetles burrowing the subterranean depths at fantastic speeds.
Logan stabbed the mazekey into a callbox at the edge of the platform. A distant brass -humming along the tunnels, a rocketing rush of deep-earth winds; the mazecar blazed out of darkness and socked into the boarding slot. They climbed in. The hatch slid closed. The seats locked.
"Destination?" asked the car.
Jessica said, "Sanctuary."
The mazecar surged into fluid motion. As the beetle rushed, Logan's thoughts rushed with it. Sanctuary. It seemed too easy; you got into a mazecar and said a word and the obedient piece of machinery carried you—where? And the girl, Jessica? How would he deal with her? The car slowed, hissed to a stop. The hatch opened. Jessica didn't move. "They can change the color of a man's eyes but they can't change the man inside. You're not my brother."
"He's dead," Logan told her.
The girl's mouth tightened. "You killed him."
"No—but I saw him die. He gave me his key. He—wanted me to have it."
For a moment her face was still; then she began to sob quietly.
What do you say? How do you say I'm sorry?
A Sandman doesn't feel sorry. He does what he has to.
"Look," he said. "Your brother's dead and we're alive. And if we want to stay alive we'll
have to keep moving. It's just that simple."
"Exit, please," said the car.
They stepped out and the machine whipped away. The maze platform was lifeless. Dusty yellow sunlight speared down from a jagged hole in the tunnel ceiling. Loose metal tiles lay in disordered heaps where they had sloughed from the walls. Exposed masonry jutted through cracked anodized flooring. On the rusting section of tunnel wall a weathered poster clung, edges peeling. On it a running silhouette was overprinted with harsh letters: SHAME. Directly under this a vandal had chalked RUNNERS STINK!A bent sign angled over the platform: CATHEDRAL.
And what now? Logan asked himself. Is this Sanctuary? A shorted-out section of city swarming with renegade cubs…
"Listen!" Jess warned.A distant singing. A faint rising and falling refrain, echoing from an upper level. Logan
ducked Jess into a wedge of shadow. They waited. Faintly:
Sandman, Sandman, leave my 'door. Don't come back here any more.
A high, childish treble, coming closer. "Cubs" said Logan.
Now I lay medown to pray. Sandman,
Sandman, stay away...
A small figure in a tattered blue garment walked into the circle of sun on the platform.
A little girl of five. She was dragging something behind her. The child's face was grimed and hair-tangled; her scabbed legs were thin. She wore no shoes.
She stopped singing. "Don't be afraid," she said. "I'm Mary-Mary 2."
Logan stepped from the shadow. "What are you doing here?"
"Oh, he told me to meet you."
The little girl's eyes saucered. "Why, the old, old man, of course."
Jessica gripped the child's shoulder. "What old, old man?"
"His hair is black and white, all mixed together," she told them. "And he has deep places in his face and he looks so wise. He's the oldest man in the world."
The little girl took a silver key from a torn pocket. "He told me to give you this."
Logan palmed the key. "Do we use it now?"
"This many," she said solemnly, raising her tiny hands, all ten fingers spread. In the center of her right palm a yellow flower glowed softly.
"Ten o'clock," said Jess.
Logan checked a wallchron above them.
"Twelve minutes." Jessica looked deeply into the waif's eyes. "Where do you live, Mary-Mary?"
She smiled. "Here," she said.
"Why aren't you in a nursery?"
"I'm very smart," said Mary-Mary.
"But don't you get hungry?"
"You can catch things to eat."
She opened the frayed cloth bag at her feet and proudly held out an old-fashioned rat trap. Jessica paled.
"I never go upstairs," continued Mary-Mary.
"The bad people are there and they chase you. Goodbye now! You're a nice old lady."
The child looked disdainfully at Logan and walked off into the tunnels.
"I don't think she likes me," he said.
"She shouldn't be here," said Jess. "Alone in a place like this. She should be in a nursery with other children."
"She seems to be self-sufficient."
"A nursery would protect her."
"As it protected you?"
"Of course. No child under seven belongs on her own. I was happy in the nursery." Jess sat down on the platform edge with Logan.
"No, no I wasn't happy." Her voice trembled.
"I accepted everything then, without questioning but I was never happy there." Logan let the girl talk; he wanted to know more about her, wanted to understand her.
"Why should every child be taken from its parents at birth? Why should a brother and sister be separated for seven years?" She studied Logan's face. "When did you begin to doubt, to question Sleep? I'd like to know."
"I can't recall just when. I'd heard the stories, of course."
"Yes. And the rest of it."
"About the Sanctuary line. Oh, how I wanted to believe those stories when I first heard them as a little girl." Her eyes grew hard again. "Do you ever wonder what your mother was like, who she was, what she felt, how she looked? Do you think she'd be ashamed of what you've become?"
"She may have been a runner, too," said Logan evasively. "I'll never know what she was."
Jess frowned angrily. "I think you should. I think children should know their mothers and be loved by them. Little Mary-Mary should have a mother to love her. A machine can never love you…only people can love people."
"Where did you work before you ran?" he asked her.
"I was a fashion tech at Lifeleather trim. Three hours a day, three days a week. I hated it."
"Then why did you stay there?"
"Because it was a job. What can anyone really work at? You can paint or write poetry or go on pairup. You can glassdance or firewalk in the Arcades." Her voice was scornful.
"You can breed roses or collect stones or compose for the Tri-Dims. But there's no meaning to any of it. I just—"
A scream from the tunnels.
"That was Mary-Mary!" Jess lunged forward, but Logan restrained her.
"Wait," he said. "Here she comes."
The child ran out of the darkness into Jessica's arms. "The bad people! Bad, bad, bad!"
A howling group of cubscouts burst from the tunnel mouth to surround them. A strutting, feral-faced thirteen-year-old headed the pack. From the waist up he was dressed in the bloodstained uniform of a DS man. Below the ripped black tunic he wore sweat-darkened skintights.
"Here now and look what Charmin' Billy led you to." He smirked. "The little rat-trapper and two stinkin' runners."
Mary-Mary stomped her foot. "You go on away!" she demanded. "This is my place. Go back upstairs!"
Charming Billy ignored her. "Going to have us a time, we are!"
Logan measured the pack with his eyes. He could summon the car in another five minutes. How do you buy five minutes? He'd take out the blocky cub to his right first and then go for Charming Billy if nothing else worked. He eased Jess and the child behind him.
Logan looked at Billy. "I feel sorry for you, boy."
Confusion. The pack watched their leader.
"For me? Better feel sorry for yourself, Runner!"
"No—for you, Billy. How old are you?"
Billy's eyes slitted. He didn't reply.
"Twelve? Thirteen? Now me, I'm as old as you can get." Logan slowly exposed his blinking timeflower. "And you your days are running out. How long can you last, Billy?"
One minute gone.
"Two years? A year? Six months?" he pointed to the blue flower glowing in Billy's palm.
"What happens when you go to red?"
"Got me a Sandman once, I did! They said I'd never get him, but I cut him up good, I did. Make the rules as I go. Cubs do what I say. Always have. Always will. I got Cathedral and I'll never let go!"
"No cubs at fourteen, Billy. Ever heard of a cub with a red flower? You'll leave Cathedral then, Billy, when you're on red, because they won't let an adult stay here. The young ones.
They'll gut-rip you if you stay, so you'll cross the river. And then, almost before you know it, Billy, you're twenty-one and your hand is blinking. And you'll die like a sheep."
Two minutes gone.
"Not me, I won't!" Billy shouted. "I'll—"
"—run!" snapped Logan. "Isn't that just what you'll do? Run as I'm running. As she's running."
"Shut up! Shut up your damn mouth! I ain't no stinkin' runner!"
"We're the same kind, Billy. You're just like us. Help us, Billy. Don't fight us."
The blocky cub cut in. "Let him suck Muscle. That'll shut his mouth. Let's us watch him shake himself to death!"
The anger and frustration drained from Charming Billy's face. He smiled. Logan tensed. The talking was done. Three minutes gone. Drugpads materialized. The cubs squeezed the pads, inhaled the Muscle. They shimmered into kaleidoscopic blurs, into weaving color patterns. Here. There. They were everywhere. Logan fell back into a fighting crouch, but before he could strike a blow he was caught, dragged and slammed against the wall.
Screaming, Mary-Mary broke from Jessica and ran off down the tunnels.
A staccato burst of words; the blocky cub's voice, "GivehimsomeMuscle!"
A drugpad danced the air in front of Logan's face. Four minutes gone. Logan held his breath. The fumes enveloped him; if he breathed…He felt the Gun pressing into his thigh. The Gun. Despite revealing himself to Jess, he'd have to use the Gun.
He wrenched his arms loose, dropped to the floor, rolled free of the weaving shapes, drew and fired. The nitro charge exploded into the pack. Fragmented bodies littered the, platform. Five minutest Logan quickly pocketed a drugpad and keypunched the callbox.
Jess stared at him with revulsion. "Sandman! You're a Sandman!"
A mazecar swooped out of the depths.
Jessica hesitated. Logan pushed the girl inside, leaped after her. Before the hatch could engage a black shimmer filled the space. The shimmer solidified into Charming Billy. He was headless. The hatch shut. The mazecar slammed into night.