New York

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They climbed up and over Brooklyn Heights to the base of the bridge leading to the Manhattan Isles. There had once been another bridge near there, but its foundations had been undermined and the arch had fallen down. There were pictures of it covered in cars like components on an assembly line.

The surviving bridge was mostly empty, but there were other pedestrians-tourists, mainly, admiring the drowned boroughs and the wildlife sanctuaries that had sprung up around them. The bridge itself was almost entirely green. Vines hung from the suspension cables and trees grew tall out of soil piled deep in the lower levels. Paths meandered across its length. There was just one vehicular track running straight along the middle, for emergencies. People still had heart attacks if they weren't used to physical exertion. People still occasionally jumped to their deaths.

Behind the bridge was the famous Manhattan skyline, as familiar as the gondolas that plied its crystalline waters. New York's skyscrapers weren't the tallest in the world, and they certainly weren't the only ones to have suffered inundation, but their restoration had been a potent symbol for the generation following the Water Wars. Clair's parents' generation had witnessed the opening of the first walkways as children. Their parents had walked them as survivors of humanity's darkest hour.

The sun was behind Clair now, and the bridges looked as slender and translucent as fine-spun glass. With the crystalline Freedom Tower poking up from the southernmost island, the archipelago seemed both magical and hyper-real, like something that had dropped out of the sky perfectly formed.

It was also on the other side of the Inlet.

"Walking will take us way too long," Gemma said.

"I agree," said Clair. "Q, are electrobikes allowed on the bridge?"

"No," I replied, "but I can send you something that is permitted." There was a clutch of d-mat booths at the end of the bridge.

"Okay. Do it. There's no point us going at all if the sub gets there hours before us."

It was a simple matter to find a permitted pattern and fab four identical iterations. Within minutes, two booths opened with a hiss and old-style single-wheeled segways emerged. They weren't as powerful as electrobikes, but they would do what Clair wanted. She and the others mounted up and spent a moment learning the unfamiliar controls. Then they formed a line and headed onto the greenway, Clair first, Gemma last, my drone trailing overhead like a balloon on a string.

The motors were whisper-quiet on the perfectly straight approach to the graceful arch over the river. Birds swooped in and out of thickets. Animals rustled in the undergrowth. Clair smelt flowers, even though autumn was long past.

The first tower swept over them like a cross-section of a cathedral, a reminder of an age when such things were not just admired, but required.

Jesse accelerated to Clair's side as they cruised on to the central section of the bridge.

"Maybe going faster isn't such a good idea," he said. "If Turner is planning some 'direct action', we'd be better off arriving late."

"Arcady wouldn't agree to that," she said.

"You're assuming it's Arcady's call. Turner's a fanatic, don't forget. This would be a great chance to hit VIA hard."

"Do you think Gemma knows anything about this?"

"If she does, she's not talking."

Clair glanced behind her. Gemma looked tense, but that wasn't suspicious in itself. It would have been weird if she didn't look that way.

They pressed on in worried silence, approaching and passing the centre of the bridge. The second tower began to loom.

"There's nothing we can do," Clair decided, "except keep going."


"What else is there, Jesse? We can't turn back, we can't call the others, we can't turn them in. We just have to hope we get there before they do."

He didn't argue.

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