Authors: Meerm (v5.0)
Poor, poor Meerm.
She ver sick sim.
sick before. Not like be sick.
And tummy hurt.
Bad tummy hurt all
Meerm stand window, look out through
metal bar. Wish she be outside sometime. Not now.
Again! Loud noise again.Crack! Like giant plate break.
Meerm go door, open just little and listen. Hear loud scare word by Needle Lady
and Needle Man, hear new man voice shout more loud, hear sim voice, many voice
Ver fraid, other sim.
Meerm hear new man voice shout,
“Where is she?” and hear ver fraid Needle Lady
“Upstairs! We moved her upstairs!”
Meerm ver fraid.
Make belly hurt badder. Hear many loud feet come stair. Meerm want close sick
room door but no good. Across hall see ladder up wall. Ladder up to little
door. Meerm sure locked—all door here locked—but Meerm try.
Too fraid stay sick room.
Meerm jump cross
hall, climb ladder, push little door.
Move! Door move!
Meerm so happy.
Climb up roof.
Close little door.
Meerm listen. Hear new man voice
Ver, ver mad.
Hear foot on ladder. Come roof!
What Meerm do? Where go?
Meerm can fit? Run and crawl in. Squeeze ver hard. Sink inside just as mans
come roof. Meerm close eye, not breathe as mans run all round roof. Man look in
metal hole but not see Meerm.
Mans ver mad as
Meerm safe but still not move.
Wait. Meerm will wait long long time. Wait until—
What smell? Smoke! Smoke and hot come
up vent. Meerm get out and stand on roof.
Tar hot on foot.
Smoke all round. Meerm ver ver scare. Run round roof, see fire evwhere. Look
down. Flame all round, come out bar on all window. Meerm not want die.
But roof ver hot.
Meerm foot. What Meerm do?
Meerm scream. No one hear.
No one near.
Patrick stood at his hotel window and
gazed down at the top of
and the giant Christmas
snowman atop its entrance. The unrisen sun was just beginning to lighten the
low clouds lidding the city. In a few hours the streets below would be packed
with the weekly Saturday horde of Christmas shoppers.
Patrick had been awake for hours.
This had become a pattern every night since the poisoning of the
. Fall asleep easily—with the help of a couple of stiff
Scotches—and then find himself wide awake at 3:00A .M. or so with his mind
sifting through the litterbox his life had become.
All because of an argument in a
country club men’s room. What if he hadn’t chosen that moment to go to the
bathroom? What if he’d waited until after that second drink? Holmes Carter
would have been long gone, and without Carter’s bad attitude, Patrick would
have laughed off Tome’s request to unionize the club
If he’d done that, where would he be now?
For one thing, he’d still have a law
practice; he missed Maggie, even missed some of his clients. He’d also have a
house instead of a fire-blackened foundation. And he might still have Pamela,
although he wondered if that would be such a good thing. From his present
perspective he could see that their relationship had been one more of mutual
convenience than rooted in any deep regard.
He probably wouldn’t have spent
Thanksgiving alone, either. Ever since his folks retired to
, they’d always called and insisted he come
down for Thanksgiving. Not this year. That was Dad’s doing, Patrick was sure.
He’d known Dad had been upset with
the whole idea of a sim union—he’d made that perfectly clear over the phone on
more than one occasion—but Patrick hadn’t realized just how much until
Thanksgiving came and went without an invitation.
That had hurt. Even now, more than a
week later, the wound still ached.
So here he was: jobless, homeless,
alone, and functionally orphaned.
And aligned with a masked
mystery man who’d invited him to join a nameless fifth column movement to bring
down one of the world’s most powerful multinational corporations.
“And I said yes,” he whispered, still
not believing it.
This is not me, he kept telling
himself. This is somebody else. All I wanted out of life was stability and a
good living. That was why I went into law. I am not a risk taker. I am not an
adrenaline junkie. How did I come to this? And how do I get out of it?
say no. Pack up and walk away.
And do what?
After what he’d been through, could he go back to sitting at
a table and listening to union and management argue over the length of coffee
breaks or who qualified for daycare? Not likely.
And then there was Romy. Walking away
from Zero meant walking away from her.
So for the foreseeable future he’d
stick this out and see where it took him.
Hopefully it would soon take him out
of this hotel. Zero had suggested he relocate himself and his practice to
Romy had laughed off Patrick’s suggestion that he move in with her while he
hunted for an office and an apartment. So for the time being, home was a room
in the Hotel Pennsylvania.
Finding space—whether living or
The new boom had sent prices in
up to where the new space station was nearing completion.
The jangle of the phone startled him.
He stepped through the dark room to the night table, found the phone, and
fumbled the receiver to his ear.
Romy’s voice: “Am I interrupting
“Only my daily
She gave him an address.
“If you haven’t anything better to do, meet me there ASAP.
I’ll wait for you.”
Patrick sensed strain in her voice,
but before he could ask for any details she hung up.
Dutifully he pulled on yesterday’s
clothes, grabbed a large container of coffee on his way through the lobby, and
ventured into the early morning chill of
in search of a taxi.
The driver shot him a look when he
read off the address. “You’re sure?”
“I’m sure,” Patrick told him after
The driver shrugged—reluctantly,
Patrick thought—and gunned the cab into the traffic.
Patrick considered that look and
thought, Romy, Romy, what are you getting me into now?
All too soon Patrick understood the
driver’s reaction. The address was in the fabled borough of the
Not the nice Botanical Gardens Bronx, but the bad
the Bonfire of the Vanities /“
. This particular section embodied most people’s
worst expectations: a wasteland of scattered buildings, some occupied, some
battered, interspersed with vacant,
“Christ, what happened here?” Patrick
muttered as he stepped out of the cab.
As soon as he closed the door behind
him, his taxi chirped its tires and zoomed away. Patrick couldn’t blame him. At
least there were lots of cops around. No need to ask why they were here: The
charred, smoking ruin of what must have been a cousin to the neighboring
derelict buildings was the obvious center of attention. No fire trucks in sight
now, but a couple of red SUVs bearing fire department logos stood out among the
cluster of blue-and-white units blocking the street.
He glanced around and spotted Romy’s
long black cleathre coat among the gaggle of onlookers standing outside the
yellow police tape.
“Not exactly my idea of a fun place
to spend a Saturday morning,” he said as he reached her.
“You’re here,” she said, but no smile
lit her grim expression. “Good. We can get started.”
“‘How are you, Patrick?’” he said.
“‘Did you sleep well?’ Why, yes, Romy. Thank you for asking. And how was your
“Save it,” she said, lifting the tape
and ducking under. “Follow me.”
Patrick complied as she approached a
burly, clipboard-wielding sergeant.
“Excuse me, Sergeant,” she said,
holding up a leather ID folder. “Romy Cadman, OPRR. Please fill me in on what
The sergeant swiveled his head and
gave her a quick up and down with his pale blue eyes.
“Office for the
Protection of Research Risks.
We’re federal. We monitor labs and test
subjects, animal and human. Lieutenant Milancewich at Manhattan South notified
me that this building might have housed an unlicensed lab and that
could have been involved.”
Patrick knew Romy had no authority to
be here, but said nothing, just stood by and admired her moxie as she weathered
the sergeant’s hostile stare.
“He did, did he? Well, I ain’t heard
of no OPRR and no Lieutenant Milancewich, and you’re one hell of a long way
from Manhattan South. We can handle this just fine without
feds nosing into it.”
“Of course you can,” Romy said. “OPRR
has no investigative authority. We’re only offering help. We know labs. We can
trace diagnostic equipment better and faster than anyone. We know lab animals.
were used as test subjects here, we can help
you track them. Our interest is purely statistical: We’re keeping tally of
illegal labs and what biologicals they produce.” She opened her cleathre coat
to return her ID folder to an inner pocket, revealing in the process a tight,
black, ribbed knit sweater and long legs slinking from a short black skirt. “We’re
a resource, sergeant. Use us.”
The sergeant’s eyes lingered on her
coat as she tied it closed,
he stuck out his
Romy smiled and shook his hand. “Call
Patrick resisted an impulse to close
his eyes and shake his head. If that had been him popping up in front of
Sergeant Yarger with an OPRR ID, he’d have been kicked back on the far side of
the yellow tape before he’d spoken word one. But Romy had just reduced this
Bronx-hardened cop to a lap dog.
The weaker sex?
Yeah, tell me about it.
“And who’s this?” Yarger said,
jutting his chin Patrick’s way.
“That’s my assistant, Patrick.”
Patrick smiled and nodded at the
me, all right: faithful
sidekick and gofer.
Yarger narrowed his eyes. “Ain’t I
seen you before?”
“About the lab
“Your lieutenant friend was right. We
found bits and pieces of all sorts of lab equipment in the wreckage. Some of
it’s been identified as—lemme see.” He consulted his clipboard. “Here we go:
hematology machines, blood chemistry analyzers, immu…immuno…”
Romy was nodding. “I get the picture.
Who identified the equipment?”
“Couple of M-E’s
Patrick said when he saw Romy’s stricken look. “Sims
“We should be so lucky.
Just one very dead, very crisp human
Male, age unknown.”
Patrick stared at the burned-out
ruins and couldn’t help grimacing. They reminded him of what remained of his
and how “crisp” he could have been.
“What a way to go.”
“Wasn’t the fire that got
A bullet saved him from that.”
Patrick said. “You’re sure?”
Yarger gave him a steely look.
“What he means,” Romy added quickly,
tell if he was, as you say, ‘very crisp’?”
The sergeant poked an index finger
against the center of his forehead. “Ain’t never seen no fire burn a little
here and blow off the back of a skull, know what I’m
“I hear you,” Romy said. “But no, er,
“Not yet anyways. Don’t expect to
find none either.”
“But Lieutenant Milancewich mentioned
have a witness who saw armed men herding a bunch of
and some humans into a couple of vans just before the place lit up.” He shook
his head. “I don’t know what sort of incendiary devices they used, but they
musta been beauts. Place went up like it was made of paper.”
“But therecould be dead
in there,” Romy persisted.
Yarger crooked a finger and started
moving away. “C’mere. I’ll show you why there won’t be.”
Patrick and Romy followed him to a
taped-off area near the corner. Yarger stopped and pointed to the sidewalk.
Red spray-painted letters spread
across the pavement.
FREE THE SIMS!
DEATH TO SIM OPPRESSORS!
with a glance at Romy.
Her face was troubled when she met
his eyes. “I know what you’re thinking,” she whispered. “But no.
Patrick raised his voice to cover hers. “Didn’t they
kidnap Patty Hearst?”
“Different group,” Yarger said.
“These assholes are the ‘Sim Liberation Army.’
“How do you know?” Romy said.
“That’s what they called themselves
in the note they left.”
“What else did it say?”
The usual stuff.
You know the rap.”
“May I see it?”
Yarger gave Romy
-gotta-be-kidding look. “Forensics got it.” He turned as someone
called his name.
Be right there.” Then back to
Romy. “Look, you wanna leave me your
you if we think we need help. But don’t wait up for it. And for the time being,
stay on the other side of the tape, okay?”
Patrick expected Romy to press him
further, but she simply nodded. Patrick lifted the tape for her and she ducked
under. She pulled out a compact camera and began snapping pictures.
He’ll want to see.”
“Speaking of Zero,” he said, leaning
close and whispering. “Did you call him about this?
“You don’t call Zero. You leave a
“Could he be behind this?”
She lowered her camera. Her look was
fierce. “I told you—”
“Does he consult you on everything he
Of course not.
So how do you know?”
She started snapping pictures again.
“I just do. He lets me take care of the brothels and places like this. That’s my
“Well just what sort of place is
it—or I guess I should say
“A globulin farm.”
“I thought I explained that
when—wait. Did you see that Asian man?”
“He was in that knot of people over
there. I just pointed the camera in his direction and he ducked away. Where did
She rose on tiptoe to scan the area,
quickly ducked back.
She spun, turning her back to Patrick as she started moving toward the corner.
“Don’t look around, just follow me.”
“Just do it. I don’t want to—”
“Well, well!” said a man’s voice
“If it isn’t Ms. Romy Cadman of OPRR.
Fancy meeting you here.”
“Shit!” Romy hissed; it sounded more
like escaping steam than a word.
As she turned, so did Patrick. He saw
a swarthy, broad-shouldered man in a gray overcoat swaggering toward them.
Patrick took an instant dislike to his smug expression. But his cold, dark eyes
were his most arresting feature. Patrick felt like a mouse being scrutinized by
a rattlesnake. But then the man’s gaze flicked away. Patrick had been demoted
from lunch to background scenery.
“Mr. Portero,” Romy said in a
deep-freeze voice. “What a surprise.”
“I don’t see why it should be. Sims
reported on the scene, and SimGen has a vital interest
in the welfare of all sims.”