War and Peace: Chapter 55

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Chapter 55

James slept for twelve hours.

When he woke, the nightmare was still there.

He'd missed the morning shift at the library, but made his afternoon arena shift and closed at Tokyo Sunrise. The same old meaningless jobs were a comfort. He managed not to think about anything. His brain was too numb to try.

When he got off, he drove to Joseph Stenton and sat in the car with the engine off until the air grew so cold that his breath steamed up the windshield.

Life was full of strange fates. His mother had a body and no soul to inhabit it; when the soul fled, the body remained. Kanade was a soul that had never owned a body at all; when the soul fled, what remained?

Only memories.

Was that a blessing, or a curse?

"I don't know," James said, watching his words turn to ice crystals on the glass.

He got out of the car and went inside.

Carol was at the nursing station. When she saw his face, she stood up, something she had never done in seven years of visits.

"James," Carol said, and then paused, looking uncharacteristically lost. "I ... we've been trying to contact you."

"My phone's been off."

"So you don't know, then," Carol said, and from the way she said it, he did know.

"My mother?"

Carol closed her eyes. "I'm sorry, James. It was very sudden. I'm ... so sorry."

James looked up at the fluorescent tubes in their covered panels on the ceiling. Even blinding himself didn't make the tears come. He had nothing left to feel.

"Thank you," he said. "I'll make the arrangements."

***

Days later, when everything was finally taken care of, James sat in front of the television to watch Ryu and the High School Beat Box.

When he got to the theme song, he almost put his fist through the screen. He stopped himself on one knee in front of the TV, palm and forehead pressed against the panel, eyes squeezed so tight that he saw stars.

When he realized what he was doing, he forced himself to stand, walk to the bed, and lie down.

Sleep wouldn't come, and wouldn't come. Something was bothering him.

Well, a lot of fucking things were bothering him. But a few stood out from the others.

Why had Daisy made shutting down the destabilization project a condition of her deal?

Daisy took a million hostages, so she didn't care about humans. She threatened to detonate info bombs that would reveal everything to the world, which would have led to the dissolution of the DAISy EGAN project and all its AIs, so she didn't care about AIs. All Daisy cared about was freedom. Yet she had gone out of her way to include that condition in her deal.

There were other inconsistencies, too. Small, but many.

His mind still felt trapped in a world that Daisy had engineered from the ground up.

James got up and sat at the computer, because he had to either distract himself or go crazy. It had been a while since he had checked his email. He scrolled through pages of unread messages, eyes not really seeing, then shook his head to clear it and started from the beginning.

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