airship

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On the map, the red dot of "Dylan Linwood" had stopped.

"Shit," said Jesse. "There were more of them. We almost rode right into a trap!"

"What now?" Clair asked.

"We wait," Jesse said.

The bike wasn't moving anywhere. They sat astride it in the middle of the road, surrounded by nothing but darkness. Clair looked up and half-saw a shape wheeling silently against the sky, camouflage-stars rippling down its sides. An airship of some kind, but I still didn't have enough information to identify its class or owners.

A new series of clicks came over the open line, followed by Gemma's voice.

"Hail Mary," was all she said.

The engine snarled and Jesse launched the bike up the road.

"Want to tell me what that was about?" Clair asked him.

"We're going to Plan B. There's another field-Maury Rasmussen, up near the San Andreas memorial."

"Do we have to do what Gemma says?"

"Got a better idea, Clair?"

She was silent for a moment.

"All right. You drive and I'll navigate. Deal?"

It was his turn to hesitate.

"Deal, I guess."

Clair called up maps in her lenses. At the same time, she closed the link to Jesse and opened a chat with me.

"Clair, you must have read my mind. I have multiple targets coming from the centre of Oakdale. One of them is 'Dylan Linwood'."

"There's two of him now?"

I considered reminding her about the rule of parity, but didn't think then was the right time.

"No, just one, but he's moving around in a way I can't explain."

One moment he had been at the airfield, kilometres from the nearest d-mat booth. Now he was on the road again, travelling at speed. It was a mystery I didn't have time to address.

Clair scanned the maps, as though staring at the red dots I had provided might tell her more than I already had. Maybe it did, because when she next spoke it was with a suggestion I hadn't considered.

"Q, can you plant decoy data?"

"If I'm careful."

"I want you to copy the profile of that air traffic and send the copies in different directions."

"Oh, I see. Clever!" And it was clever. Labels were like any other kind of data, only they didn't literally create something new when replicated, just the appearance of something. Copying the label of the aircraft wasn't going to create anything other than confusion. "I'll try, Clair. The trick won't hold forever, but it will give you some time."

"All we need is time. Thanks, Q. I really owe you for this."

"That's what friends are for, Clair."

She didn't reply, but I didn't take offence. She was under a lot of stress.

"Well?" Jesse asked.

"Keep going the way you are," she told him. "I'll tell you when to turn."

Above them the airship that should have taken them to safety wheeled about and glided away, a shimmering stain against the sky.


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