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the process of infecting or the state of being infected.

Here's how it went down.

If you thought of the city as a bicycle wheel, the Aviary was where all the spokes met, right in the middle. It was a spire, reaching hundreds of feet into the sky. Most of the spire was office space, occupied by lowly peons who slaved away to keep the city - and the country - actually functioning. I think they're called civil servants. As you go higher up the spire the pay gets better, the offices fancier, and the view better. Then, right at the top, perches the Aviary, inaccessible to anybody without wings or a really long ladder. The spire ended, and then the Aviary sat on top, with no connecting walkways or elevators or stairs.

From there they ruled the world. Turned out that being able to fly gave you a certain advantage over everyone who couldn't fly. The year that the wings were born changed the socio-political landscape on a global scale, first in subtle ways and then totally. I wasn't even born back then, obviously, but I've been living in a world run by them my whole life. An alisocracy, maybe?

The Aviary was parliament, so only some of the wings actually worked and lived there. But even those that didn't still had fancy elevated apartments all over the city, slightly divorced from their neighbours, and always looking down - literally - on everybody else.

Point is, getting in wasn't easy. The first five floors were packed full of security, and nobody got past them. A couple of climbers had tried to scale the outside of the building but had been shot down before they'd reached the third floor. 'Aviary' made it sound too nice, really. It was more of a fortress.

Marv and Cal went in first; Marv with his cleaning staff pass and Cal following close behind in his spectre form. I'd pointed out ahead of time that Cal would have to be completely naked for it to work, but Marv didn't seem to be bothered.

Me, I sat in the park that surrounded the base of the spire, leaning against a fountain and trying to tell the difference between birds and people flying around the top of the building. Wings didn't bother going in the ground entrance, of course. They just flew in from wherever. It was a school day, so I got a few curious glances but was mostly ignored. The handy thing of being squamata is that a lot of people weren't really sure where to look - some idiots even believed that we could turn people to stone if they stared in our eyes for too long. Not at all true, but that was one lie I'd always rather enjoyed.

Marv had recommended going in just after lunch, because everybody would be in their mid-afternoon slump and less likely to risk their necks. So it was about half two when the alarms started to ring out. People started pouring out of the huge, glass front doors, spilling into the park. Even as they began to form orderly groups for head counting I was on my feet and heading in the opposite direction.

As I neared the entrance there was a distant but loud sound of smashing glass. Fire ripped out of the side of the building a long way up, sending a desk and assorted office detritus flying into the air, where it tumbled down and down before crunching into a sculpture a few feet away. I thought of the fallen policeman.

Amid cries of bomb warnings I ducked into the foyer, a grand, double-height chamber with an enormously long reception desk and a row of elevators on the far side. The crowd was pushing to get out with increasing frenzy, and security guards were occupied either with that or with the issue upstairs.

"Is it a fire or is it a bomb? What are we talking about here?" I heard one of the guards shout, as he waved his gun wildly in the air, desperately hunting for something to shoot.

I kept a wide berth and headed for the bank of elevators. Right on cue the middle one opened and fifteen harassed-looking office workers ran out, squinting blearily against the light. As they cleared the elevator they left one man inside: it was Marv, with his cleaning cart.

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