run

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ssssssss

The inside of the door was undamaged. It wasn't even dented. The booth worked properly, taking her far away from the man who had threatened her parents and tried to kill her.

The door hissed open. There were people waiting on the other side, but she ignored them. She leaned out into the open, searching for any familiar faces. I searched too.

Raymond Miller was gone. There was no sign of anyone from WHOLE. Several drones whined overhead, like oversized blowflies. It all looked safe, but I could see what was coming, and RUN was still flashing in Clair's eyes.

Dylan Linwood burst into view three doors along.

Clair threw herself back inside. "New destination," she said, but then froze again. If Dylan Linwood could track her there, where could she go to escape him? Tracing someone's movements through the d-mat network was supposed to be impossible.

"Clair? I know you're here," he called.

"Isle of Shanghai, Ju Long Hostel," she said in a quiet, fast voice. Another good choice: if Zep had gotten away as well, that was where he might have fled to.

"You can't run, Clair," said Linwood, "and you can forget about calling for help."

He walked along the line of booths until he was next to hers. They stared at each other for a split second. He moved toward her just as the door closed.

"Shi—!"

ssssssss

Clair came out of the booth in Shanghai at a run, not sticking around to see if he had followed her a second time. She ran through the sporting hostel toward Zep's room. He wasn't there, but there was another huddle of young men in the common area.

"There's a guy following me, trying to hurt me," she said to them. "Please, don't let him come through here, will you?"

The huddle broke apart, puzzled and territorial. Then Dylan Linwood burst into the common area.

"That's him!" Clair cried. "That's him!"

The huddle swarmed forward.

She grabbed the nearest guy to her before he could run into the fray. "Is there a back way out of here?"

He nodded and hurried her to the far side of the room, where an EXIT signalled the existence of a fire escape. A single shot sounded behind them and her guide turned back to see what was going on, but Clair kept running, taking the stairs right to the bottom and bursting out into the busy Shanghai street. It was full of pedestrians and bicyclists, conveniently rowdy with music and calling voices.

Clair pushed her way through the crowd, putting as much distance and confusion between her and the hostel as she could. There was a d-mat station at the next junction.

As she fled, she clicked the call patch from me. I braced myself for more suspicion, perhaps even an accusation of helping Dylan Linwood track her.

"Okay," she said. "I'm out of options, and you're the only one who hasn't lied to me. Tell me how this guy is following me and what I have to do to shake him."


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