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Clair dropped and pulled Jesse down to the asphalt with her. "Dylan Linwood" jerked as though shoved in the back. Red mist burst out of a sudden hole in his chest. A split-second later the sound of the shot reached Clair's ear rings, followed by another shot from much closer at hand. The agent's finger had squeezed the trigger as he dropped. The slug that might have killed Clair whined harmlessly off the asphalt. Two more shots in rapid succession whizzed over their heads before the sharpshooter realized that the job was done.

"Dylan Linwood" went down and stayed down.

Jesse threw himself at the fallen body and pounded its bloody chest.

"Who are you?" he screamed. "Who are you?"

Clair ran after him and kicked the agent's pistol away. Dylan Linwood's stolen face was turned as though to stare at her, but all his eyes contained were empty, unseen data. Anyone could be watching. I couldn't trace the signal.

Clair put a hand over the body's face and closed the eyelids. Through her ear rings I could hear the airship's engines whining and whirring as the craft came in to land. Perfectly camouflaged from both "Dylan Linwood" and the fugitives, it had taken cover against the hilly backdrop, then approached on low thrust until it was in firing range, exactly as I had suggested.

Not ordered. Suggested. Gemma Mallapur hadn't taken kindly to me telling her what she had to do, whether it was to save Clair or Jesse. In the end I had convinced her only to make her own judgment call. That she made the right one made her a friend in my eyes, for a while.

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