scream

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Ignoring Shannon and Jesse and the clamour in her lenses as I tried to reconnect with her, Clair ran to the first person into the room-Arcady, his beard singed and smelling like the century-old slime of the city's drowned basements-and wrenched the pistol from his hand.

"Down!" she yelled.

People dived as she emptied the clip into the walls. Bullet after bullet, ricochets whining, her finger wrenching the trigger until the pistol made nothing but a click-clicking sound.

She turned to get another weapon and found Turner behind her, raising his hands in placation as though she had gone crazy.

"You can't be in here," she gasped, grabbing his shoulder. "Get out!"

The door was already closing.

"Stop it-someone, quickly!" she cried.

Lorne slipped a tattooed arm in the gap and try to pull it back, but the door wasn't staying open for anyone now Turner was inside. Lorne screamed as the metal mouth closed. Blood sprayed. There was a terrible crunching sound.

I was locked out again, bewildered and confused. Why was Clair sending us away, when we had done so much to get to her? Didn't she realize what efforts we had gone to-what efforts I was still going to, as I fought my unknown assailant to stay connected to events inside the building?

A sudden surge in data and energy to and from the room brought my agonized introspection to a crashing halt.

It wasn't just a room, I realized. It was also a d-mat booth, large enough to process everyone inside, along with the walls, furniture, carpet-even the paint on the walls. Everything within its mirrored boundary would be reduced to information that could be recreated anywhere. Anywhere at all.

Or erased forever.

I screamed, and an echo of that scream returned to me, as though from distant walls.

I knew then exactly who it was who had been resisting me. Someone who was as smart as I was, exactly.

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