The door took them to a small internal courtyard that defined the meeting place of four internal rooms, where the Skylifter's original d-mat booths had been. A second, much smaller spiral staircase coiled to the floor above them. Clair followed Jesse upward at a respectful distance, dodging his sneakers.
The summit of the Skylifter was a transparent dome through which the sun shone brightly on her and the members of WHOLE. There were maybe two dozen of them sitting cross-legged on the floor to one side of the stairwell.
The room was protected by a Faraday shield. Once again, I could only curse WHOLE's paranoia and wait out the packets as they arrived.
(unknown male): "Take a seat, Clair and Jesse. Sit anywhere. We don't stand on protocol here, if you'll pardon the pun." (sound of movement) "Welcome to the headquarters of the World Holistic Leadership. My name is Turner Goldsmith. Dancer has told me all about your situation."
Clair: "What is my situation? Am I expected to join WHOLE to stay up here?"
Turner: "Our hospitality is unconditional. Anybody who knocks on our door will gain entry."
Clair: "That's all very well when your door is thousands of metres in the air."
Turner: "Don't think we're debating whether to throw you out the window. I promise you we only do that to spies and dupes. Hardly ever to notorious zombies like you."
Clair: "'Hardly ever'?"
Turner: "Come on, Clair. Do we look like monsters to you?"
Clair: "I don't know. Looks can be deceiving."
Turner: "Indeed they can be. That's why we're here, after all. Improvement, the dupes, d-mat in general . . . ."
Clair: "We'll never agree on that last point. D-mat's a means, not an end. Like a gun or a drone. It's not the problem."
Gemma: "It's everyone's problem, Clair. You just haven't noticed, yet."
Turner: "We don't have to agree or disagree about anything except our common humanity."
Clair: "This from the guy who decided that blowing up Dylan Linwood was a good idea."
Turner: "It was a good idea, Clair. From the moment he didn't call in, we knew he had been compromised."
Clair: "Killed, you mean."
Turner: "Yes. And destroying his dupe at the first opportunity sent a message that its makers couldn't misinterpret."
Clair: "Without telling his son? Then keeping us at gunpoint in a safe-house until Dylan's duplicate almost killed us, too?"
Turner: "My people acted swiftly and decisively to save lives. I'm the first to admit that not every decision made in a theatre of war is perfectly considered or perfectly rendered. We can only apologize after the fact and hope that our future actions will show us in a better light."
Clair: "If this is a war, you're vastly outnumbered."
Turner: "That never stopped anyone being right."
YOU ARE READING
113 (Twinmaker)Science Fiction
A post-scarcity world transformed by free, instantaneous travel should be paradise, but nothing is ever as it seems. When an ordinary girl uses Improvement, a meme promising a complete physical makeover by little more than wishing for it, she brings...