вторник, 29 января 2013 г.

DISINTEGRATION

Chapter VII 

The Morning Celestro Played Games


The next morning Arone showed up for work at Rawotzki's mansion much earlier than she was supposed to, but Celestro was already waiting for her in the poinsettia room. She entered, and one look was enough for Celestro to understand that she believed every word he'd told her the day before. Arone was pale and, clearly, had hardly slept, if at all. The moment she looked at Celestro tears filled her eyes, but she wiped them off quickly and sat down.

"How is he?" Celestro asked making her a glass of martini.


"He's everything you said, Lester," she said in a broken voice. "He's been on relaxer and in the oxygen room, but I still could hear him screaming from pain. Tell me how to get this damn thing out of him."


"First, there is something you have to know."


Celestro was about to explain everything when Causse Gantier entered the room.


"Mr. Rawotzki, you have a visitor." The concierge wore his sweetest face.


"Whoever this is, they can wait, I'm in the middle of a meeting." Rawotzki waved Causse off, but the concierge didn't move.


"The visitor is insisting on seeing you immediately. Asian affairs."


Celestro gave Gantier an intense look, then turned to Arone.


"Look, it's Ford's rep, they must be investigating for personnel connections. They can't see you here."


"But..."


"Please, just trust me, I'll deal with them in no time and be back. Go wait for me in the office. If they see you talking to me, it won't look too good for Mike."


Arone nodded, took her glass and headed for the office. Celestro followed Causse through the opening and almost bumped into Sakura.


"What the hell are you doing here, Asian Affairs?" Celestro hissed, grabbing her by the arm and pulling her along the marble corridor and into a small guest room.


"You could have told me you were going to talk to Arone today, and my visit wouldn't have been so unexpected." She freed herself of his grasp and looked at him with her bright almond eyes. 


"If you must know, I wasn't secretly avoiding you." Celestro smoothed his neon jacket. "I just didn't think it was necessary. I’m not the one who’s hiding facts, remember? And just for the sport of it, how did you know I was going to talk to her, anyway? My security's pristine."


"Don't worry, your security is good.
And I wasn't spying on you, don't look at me like that!"
Sakura made herself comfortable in one of the luxury blue leather armchairs that surrounded a solid round mahogany table with flared moldings and tapered legs. The top of the table was gracefully shaped to match the backs of the armchairs. "I called Arone to ask how she was doing after our last session, she was crying and asked to call me back because she was about to have a very important meeting. So, I took a wild guess."

Celestro relaxed a little and sat down at the wooden coffee table - the only table that didn't hover in the house. The guest room looked very different from the rest of the house, it was like a piece of a museum. Celestro was a connoisseur of exquisite old furniture. The walls were painted ochre and covered with pictures in elegant wooden frames exhibiting marine landscapes by Homer, Dabo, T.R.Smith and Aivazovsky, and among those - a huge window, decorated with a golden portiere curtain incorporating a field of azure and gold poinsettias. One could see only outside through the window, but the protection screen around the house still let the sunlight in. The room looked posh in its glitter and luxury; it made Celestro feel royal.

Sakura smiled in that warm cheerful way a mother smiles at her child seeing him come home from school. He knew she liked the room too.

"Let's not make your guest wait for too long," she said. Celestro's essie earring flicked, and he invited Gantier in with an annoyed "yes". The concierge entered with a tray of tea and sugar, then bowed and left.


"He likes you, Miss Takano." Celestro winked at her.


"Everybody likes me, brother, even you. Most of the time. I'm a nice person." 
Sakura took a sip of tea and closed her almond-shaped eyes from pleasure. "This is so good, I should come for tea more often."

"You said you wanted to tell me something important." Celestro started to get impatient.


"Yes. Well." She put the cup back on the tray. "As you know, the moment you get the blocker out, Microsoft will get confused and hence vulnerable. Memories will come back in a flood, he won't be able to discern facts from conclusions, given what he already knows. The story Arone told him about sleeping with you will mess with his brain, because he'll have to deal with two versions of one truth."


"Yeah, about that. You could have mentioned he learned the big secret, don't you think?"

Sakura tilted his head, patronizing him again. "You'd only have worried more. I dealt with it, I'm good at my job as you know."

"Fine. What are you saying?"


"I'm saying he'll need guidance."


"Right. That's when I come in."


"What? No!" Sakura looked at him in horror. "You can't show your face yet."


"Why not?" 


Sakura got into her soothing therapeutic mode. "Listen to me. I've spent the last five years talking to this couple, together and separately. I know exactly how Mike feels about you, and trust me, it's light-years far from affection. If you interfere, his memories will be aggravated by his hatred to you, we need to guide him to remember things exactly how we want him to."

"What do you mean? Can we change his actual memories? No, wait, wait...what do you mean 'we'?"


"First of all, his memories can't be changed, but there are plenty of ways to shift his focus, change his attitude, work with his feelings. And answering your second question, who's better at this job than his own therapist? Besides, Arone told me about the blocker herself, I earned her trust."


"Oh, that woman just can't keep her mouth shut." Celeslro rolled his perfectly shaped eyes. “Unlike you, though. That’s the second important thing I’ve learned only now. Anything else I missed?”


"You know I have a gift of getting information out of people. And no, there is nothing else."


"You're a marvel, sis, always were, always will be."


"Good to hear a nice thing from you once in a while, even if it’s sarcasm."


"Come on! I am nice! I'm the nicest person on earth." Celestro nudged her shoe with his boot.


"Yes, the most delusional too." Sakura kicked him back, and they laughed and their conversation drifted away from Arone and Microsoft. They were teens again, talking nonsense and picking on each other, and laughing. Celestro's favorite memories of his foster years. The time for her to go came too quickly, but she didn't stall. She never did.


"Convince her to use my help, I'll take care of the rest."


Celestro called Gantier and ordered him to see his step-sister off, while he headed for the office, where Arone was waiting for him.

He came in and found her sleeping on a hoverchair. Coming closer, he pushed the chair slightly. It floated, carrying her tired beautiful body effortlessly around the room, her milky light dress moved up her legs a little, fluttering. Celestro enjoyed the sight for a while, then caught the chair, waking her up.


"I'm sorry, I must have dosed off," she whispered, struggling to keep her eyes open.


Celestro made a couple of slides on his SC bracelet, stretched his hand and beckoned. The dark glass covering the wall from floor to ceiling slid aside and a tray with a cup of coffee on it hovered towards his open hand. He took the cup and sent the tray back.


"Here, drink this. We need to finish our talk, so you could get home as quickly as you can. What's his excuse at work?"


"He's been given a sleep-in day." Arone was getting visually better with every swig of coffee royale, redolent with memories.


"We have to finish this fast." Celestro was talking half to himself. "Headaches aren't exactly a common thing now, Ford's people might get suspicious if his migraines last. If they haven't already. Good thing Mike has the reputation of a technology hater, so stress can actually work as an excuse."


"You told me I had to know something first. What is it?"


Celestro pulled another hoverchair under himself. He started speaking slowly, careful not to miss anything.


"Once the blocker's out, the headaches won't stop right away. But you don't have to worry, they will get milder, and as soon as he remembers all, they will go away completely.  The memories will start coming back chaotically, and he will struggle to understand what's real and what's not. And now that he knows one fact from what is blocked, your version will conflict with everything he'll remember and he'll need guidance."


Celestro stopped and looked away, thinking.


"What? Something's wrong?" Arone's hand involuntarily moved towards the rim of her dress, eager to be occupied with something, but Celestro caught it half-way and looked Arone in the eyes.


"Nothing. I just...You know, I wish you had finished the med school, it would be so much quicker with a professional."


Arone didn't seem to understand, so Celestro went on.


"He should have someone to help him remember, keep his thoughts on track. A therapist would make the process quick and painless."


"Um..."


Celestro raised his eyebrows. "Yes?"


"I think...I'm not sure, but...I might have someone."


"Arone, you know you can't trust anyone with this."


"Yes, but she...our couple counselor...I might have mentioned the blocker to her."


Celestro closed his eyes with a loud 'oh-no' sigh and let go of her hand. Arone hurried to explain. "Please, don't be mad. She can be trusted, she knew the story with me sleeping with you and she never let me down, not once. It's been five years, I bet she can help."


"Do you understand that we'll have to let this therapist of yours in on the whole story?" Celestro's tone turned dark and almost threatening. "She'll know everything."


"She's a friend," insisted Arone, "I can talk to her. If you're worried she'll get scared to keep this kind of information, then think better about it. She's not going to be putting herself at risk, she's a senior therapist, and as far as I know, they have immunity. They aren't even allowed to testify in court. She won't tell anyone, and nobody will ever be able to legally extract this information from her."


"I've always admired how smart you are, Arone." Celestro brightened up a little. "Still, I'd rather be safe than sorry. What's her name?"


"Sakura Takano."


"Takano...Doesn't ring a bell. What center is she in?"


"Better Enterprise."


Celestro switched his SC on and waited for a couple of seconds before speaking.


"Rawotzki here. Need a quick check on a Sakura Takano from Better Enterprise...Check her background: any undesirable connections, criminal record, reputation flaws, the usual. See if she can be trusted. Flick me in five."


While he was talking, Arone examined the last drops of coffee rolling inside her cup.


"Want some more?" Celestro smiled, catching her absent-minded look.


"No, thank you. But I'm sure the call's just a waste of time. Her reputation is impeccable, I'm actually surprised you don't know her, she's the best in the city."


"Well, I don't really need couple counselors, do I."


The remark sounded cold and almost reproachful, but the SC flicked before Arone could make any comments.


"Yes, I'm listening...Good, thank you. You're a marvel. Always were, always will be." 


Arone raised her eyebrow at the last remark, but couldn't but look pleased with herself and was actually smiling for the first time that morning. 
"Sounds like you might need a couple counselor after all," she said.

"I certainly would like to think it's jealousy, but I guess it's just the return of Missis Irony."

"Frankly? I couldn't care less about your private life, because mine is pretty much a mess right now. So, are you going to tell me how to get the blocker out?"


Celestro tried to hide an inevitable smirk of self-content and fished a small black chip out of his pocket.


"Here's the unblocker, it will reprogram the chip in his head." He gave her the tiny board to her. "We can't let Mike know how he lost his memory, so make sure the therapist makes him believe it was some kind of a psychotic break or shock that made him forget everything. You just have to insert this into his relaxer and do the usual 5-minute session, the blocker is organic, it will self-destruct and dissolve in his system. He'll be unconscious for a couple of hours, maybe less. Talk to the therapist and have her ready to see him as soon as he wakes up. And don't lose the thing, it cost me a fortune to get it off-market."


"I'm not sure our house is safe, since he is--" Arone started, but broke off mid-sentence.


"Since he's what?" asked Celestro, squinting at her.


Arone bit her lip. "Since he is working for Ford. Don't they have their employees under surveillance?"


"It's not exactly legal." Celestro was hardly convinced by her innocent act. "Anyway, therapists must have those devices they use for home visits to make the session private. That should keep all curious ears out."


"Good, then. I'd better go."


Arone returned the cup to Celestro, and he could swear she was avoiding touching his fingers. She left the office in a hurry.


Watching her disappear behind the opening, Celestro leaned back and spun the empty cup between his fingers.

пятница, 25 января 2013 г.

DISINTEGRATION

Chapter VI

The Day Paper Proved Useful


Without a word, Arone rose to her feet, put her glass back on the table and headed for the corridor.
"You aren't seriously thinking of leaving, are you?" There was no smile in Celestro's  voice. Arone turned around on her heels to be met with disbelief written all over his face.

"Oh, I very much am!" she said. "I agreed to this job on condition that I would not have to meet you. I should have known better. Is this your brilliant plan? Lure me out of the public eye and torture me here?"


"Arone, I didn't come here to see you, I promise."


"Well, I guess you just happened to be around at the time of my appointment with your Estate Manager! Does the manager even exist?" Arone crossed her arms on her chest and looked at him, her eyelashes fluttering vehemently.


"Those eyelashes do scare me." Celestro stepped back in a fake fear, but his eyes were sparkling with amusement.


"Enough. Have a good day, Mr. Rawotzki."


Arone turned to leave again, but Celestro stepped in her way.


"Please, don't go. I confess, I might have come here a bit earlier than I had to, but I'm not staying, I promise."


His pleading look made Arone hesitate, and she considered believing him, while he spoke.


"I may not have had to come here, but I just wanted to say hello, just this once. I haven't seen much of you these five years."


"Well, I've seen plenty of you, so if you don't mind, please leave and let me work or let me through."


Celestro stepped aside and tapped on the wall. Mini-bar slid out, and he poured himself a glass of brandy.


"The manager does exist, and she will be here in a short while, so I won't be spoiling your morning for long. I hoped to talk to you, though."


"There is nothing to talk about. We agreed it was over for good, you promised not to contact me."


"And I've been keeping my promise for 5 years."


"Until now?"


"It's about Microsoft."


"You just can't let him be, can you?" She searched his face for any trace of enjoyment, but he was serious. "He's happy without knowing he had any connection to you or to your diabolic plan to destroy Ford."


"Well, we both know the plan wasn't all mine." Celestro sipped at his brandy.


"You put him up to it."


"And for a good reason. Ford's his father and last time I checked he still doesn't give a damn for his son, nor is he trying to look for him."


"Did you not hear what I just said? My husband's happy!"


"Husband?” Celestro’s face changed; he looked at Arone with a frown. “That's a fancy word, never heard you call him that before."


"Well, a lot has changed and I'd rather it stayed this way." Starting to feel suffocated, Arone took a step away from Celestro.


"I'm sorry, it can't. You have to undo what you did, or there will be consequences for Mike."


Arone opened her mouth to give another acid remark, but stopped as Celestro's last phrase sank in.


"What do you mean? What consequences?"


"Mike wasn't the first one to get the blocker in his head."
Celestro took Arone by the shoulder and led her back to the sofa. As they sat down, he continued. "It's been practiced ever since the law of non-disclosure came out. Felons are shipped to Asia into a life-time exile, their memories are blocked and they start a new life. In fact, a couple of our former employees have been in Mongolia for over 5 years now, serving their sentence." Celestro leaned forward, his hands propped on his knees. "We've been getting reports about their state of health. Bio- and psycodata. The latest report was quite alarming. They started developing the symptoms of a brain damage."

"What?" Arone stood up, sat down again and started fiddling with the rim of her skirt.


"I had my labguys look into it. The damage starts with severe headaches, then loss of short-term memory and concentration, then insomnia and constant nausea, autistic behavior. If we wait for too long, even when the blocker is removed, the symptoms don't wear off.
At a certain point, it's too late and the damage becomes permanent. One of our research subjects has collapsed three days ago. He's been taken to the laboratory."

"Oh, my God!" The reality of the situation washed over Arone like a cold shower.


"You filthy selfish bastard!"
she yelled, beating him against his chest, while he was trying to get hold of her hands. "How could you do this to me? You promised it was for everyone's good, you promised it would solve all our problems! I did it because I trusted you, I actually cared about you! How could you? How could you!!"

Celestro finally got a grip of her wrists. "Look, I'm sorry I got you into this. I did want you to be with Mike, I know you love him and always will. And he's still my friend, even though he doesn't remember it. I can't compromise him by contacting him myself, that is why I tried to get in touch with you - to warn you that it's not too late yet. We can save Mike and our secret."


"Well." Arone pulled her hands away from him. "Now the secret doesn't really matter. I told him that we slept together."


"You did what?!" Celestro jumped to his feet and knocked his glass over. Brandy went all over the white hovertable and was absorbed in a second without leaving a trace.


"I didn't intend to, it just slipped out."


"How on earth do such things just slip out?" Celestro looked truly mad, and Arone felt more scared than angry.


"It was our anniversary, and we got into a fight about you. The blocker may have blocked this part of his memory, but his feelings are intact. He hates you, just doesn't know why. He got angry and started yelling at me, and I forgot he didn't know, and I mentioned it. But we are now over it. We tried really hard, and he's forgiven me. Finally. And there is no way I'm letting you mess this up."


"I'm trying to help him! We need this blocker removed now!" Celestro's usual commanding tone colored the phrase, but he quickly regained his temper and continued in a more composed manner. "While the symptoms are not there yet, we have to act."
 

Arone looked at him, suddenly calm.
 

"How amazing that you remembered your old friend exactly at the moment when Ford's future is at stake and you are stepping on his heels."

"Arone, I'm trying to help." That sounded like a warning, but Arone didn't waver.

 
"Out of pure altruism? Not really your strong point." Arone stood up slowly and started walking towards the opening. Something was wrong, she coudl feel it with her gut. At the opening Celestro caught up with her and touched her hair. She stopped dead in her tracks, as he breathed words into her neck from behind.


"You know I care about you, I always did. Did you see the cup? I kept it exactly where you had left it..." He let her hair stream through his fingers. "I missed your hair - ginger paradise... Do you remember I once wanted to breed a poinsettia with petals the color of your hair? I've missed you."


Arone didn't move and didn't speak. He came closer, and she could feel his chest against her back.


"Arone, I care about you...and Mike. He was my only friend...you were - and still are - the love of my life."
She turned around and faced him; she wanted him to see the disgust on her face.


"Whatever happened between us was a mistake," she said. "I still can’t believe I did it, and I will never be so stupid again. I never loved you, but I honestly thought you were our friend. You used him, and you used me. You don't care for anyone but yourself."


"I've been out of your lives for five years!" For a split second Celestro's voice revealed a note of desperation. "And I would have continued to be if I hadn't learnt that Mike was in danger. Just listen to me this once and you'll never have to see me again."


"I know your game when I see one. You know what? I don't believe a word you said and I will never let you give Micro his memories back. He'll be happy without knowing that he used to have a snake for a friend!"


Footsteps in the corridor interrupted their intense staring at each other - her look, full of resentment, and his - full of guilt. At the whooshing sound of the opening dispersing they turned their heads to see a smart looking man in his forties who was watching them with a confused expression of his face. Arone looked at Celestro again.


"Well, I suppose this is the manager. I'll explain the vision to him and leave the 3d-models here. My company will provide another onsite designer tomorrow."


"Arone..." Celestro whispered, almost begging.


"I wish I had never agreed to this job or a coffee royale in the greenhouse," she hissed, then marched towards the manager and shook his hand.


"Good morning, can we talk somewhere else?" she asked briskly.


"Sure," he said, not sure at all by the looks of him, but Celestro nodded slightly as the manager met his eyes for approval. Arone was shown across the room to the office.
 

"See you soon, Mrs. Stevenson," Celestro said, refilling his glass.

"I seriously doubt that," she answered and followed the manager out of the room.


As soon as the opening closed, Celestro activated his StayConnected earring.
 

"Hi, you were right, she didn't believe me," he said, clutching his forehead with the rosette of his perfect long fingers. "Her shrewdness is admirable...No, I can't wait for much longer..." With a sigh he listened to the voice transmitting through his head. "I know," he said after a while. "Anything you wanna tell me?..Maybe the fact, that she owned up to him about our little adventure in the flowers? I really hate it when you hide things from me!.." As the voice in the SC chattered back, Celestro threw his head back and rolled his eyes. "It has everything to do with me!..Yes, I want to know how it went, but this time make sure you tell me everything...Are you sure headaches will be triggered?..You used magnetic field? Clever. Didn't take you for a schemer...ha-ha, yes, I'll wait, but if she doesn't show up tomorrow I'll have to find a different way to unblock him, we're losing time...Okay, five years of hard work, I get it. ...Thank you, you've always been the best, Sakura. I'll keep you posted...Love you too."
 

Celestro switched off the SC and smiled to himself, then his eyes found a flower in the corner of the room. His smile melted away, as he stared at the lonely little poinsettia with ginger petal.


"Okay, guys, I hope you enjoyed your reading session, but I have big news!" announced Icon storming into the room and throwing an info-ball out of her SC bracelet at the big screen in the center of the room. The ball exploded with a loud ping and reassembled into a schedule. Everyone in the room opened their eyes and took out their i-contacts.


"WiFi reported this morning that the programming part is almost complete, that means we are to have simulation training and personal interview with Mr. Ford this week and then we are good to go."


She gave everyone a radiant smile that disappeared the moment she saw Microsoft with his eyes still closed.


"Microsoft!" she shrieked, almost knocking him off the hoverchair with the mere power of her voice.


Schrödinger tried to hide a smile as Microsoft struggled to sit up and rubbed his eyes, then, realizing he was still wearing his i-contacts, finally got them out of his eyes after a minute of fumbling and cursing.


"Have you slept through the lecture?" she said, and her powerful tone caught him off guard so he couldn't say anything but a bunch of incoherent interjections.


"Are you feeling well?" asked Matrix with his usual concern.


"Yes," Microsoft said quickly, as he regained the sense of reality. "I'm fine, I'm just...bored, that's all. No, seriously, Mat, do we have to know all this? I don't understand half of the words, let alone the concepts."


"Theory is essential," said WiFi, looking down as if she was talking to the table and pronouncing words at what seemed to be supersonic speed for a human speech to have. "Unless you know what implications the program has, your brain will be unprepared and you may act on impulse, which is a huge risk, since--"


"Hey," Microsoft stopped her with his raised hand. "I know you think you're explaining things, but you're really not. Am I the only fighter here? Okolloh, my friend, you're security, right? These things must be...how to put it...new for you, aren't they?"
 

The big black man smirked and answered leisurely, "Security knows more than you think, kid. I don't know 'bout you, but I've been payin' attention."

Microsoft sighed in exasperation. "Ugh, me against the world! Fine, I'm sorry, can we move on?"

"Good." Icon turned to Stallone. "Are we ready for the press-conference?"


"I've spoken to Mr.Ford half an hour ago, he's in with the speech writers now," said Stallone Rivers, sneaking a look at Matrix. "I've taken care of everything."


Matrix nodded approvingly as he caught her glance. She blushed.


"Well done, Rivers," Icon said, ignoring her embarrassment, then stretched her hand out, grabbed an invisible handle and pulled a digital filing cabinet drawer out of the screen. She picked a folder and pushed the drawer back in. With her fingers she stretched the folder out on the table, transforming it into a series of sections.


"So." She said. "You can see three stages of simulation. The system was developed by that dick Rawotzki, but you have to give him credit, it's actually brilliant."


Microsoft winced with a painful groan, everyone looked at him.


"I'm sorry, I must have woken up too abruptly," he said giving Icon an apologetic look, "Don't mind me, please, go on. What was it, ZP's tribute to our lovely mission? Aw!"


He took his head in his hands and remained still for a couple of seconds. Mat exchanged concerned looks with Icon, the rest were looking at Microsoft with surprise. Headaches weren't something that happened to people too often, unless they were intentionally ignoring personal care.


"Mike." Mat leaned forward. "Maybe it's been too much pressure on you, you'd better go home and have a good natural sleep. You told me you hadn't slept well last night, right?" 


"What about all the 'essential theory'?" Microsoft hated sarcasm, but his head ached too much to hold it back.


"I'll fill you in later," said Mat. "Icon, help me see Mike out, please. A team member with migraines is not exactly the thing we want everyone to know about."


"Sure. Stallone, could you take it from here?" 


"I got it," said Rivers.



As Microsoft's car flew out of the garage, Icon gave Matrix a serious and scared look. "That's exactly what we feared, Mat. What shall we do?"


"Don't panic, it might be a simple headache."


"I've got his final records today, there is a year-gap right before he started working for Ford, it's like he hadn't existed for a year."


"He stayed at home helping his wife with this huge design project on the mall, we know it. Arone's boss confirmed."


"Right, and you choose to believe anything connected to Rawotzki's bitch?" Icon shook her hands in disgust.


"It's just your wild guess." Matrix rubbed the bridge of his nose. "Her being at Rawotzki's house a couple of times doesn't mean they slept together. Please, stop jumping at conclusions. Besides, there is the evaluation program, you have to trust it."


Icon didn't look convinced, but decided to retreat. "Whatever, don't tell me I didn't say so, if this guy screws everything up."


Matrix rolled his eyes, but his voice was still quiet. "WiFi said he might be the only one who was close to the boy that night. He might be our only chance, so, please stop whining and let's try and trust him, convince him that he wants to do the job as much as we do, okay?" Finishing his argument, Matrix headed for the training room. Icon threw her arms in the air as a sign of defeat and followed him.


"Hey, you're home early." Arone kissed Microsoft, but one look at his face was enough for her to see that something wasn't right. "What is it?"


"Nothing."
Exhaustion took over him, making it hard to speak. "I just have this terrible headache, must be the stress. I know I promised an evening together today, but I think I really need a little more sleep today. I'm sorry."

"You don't have to be. Have a rest, of course." Arone pressed down a lump in her throat.


He went to bed and in five minutes she could hear by his breathing that he was fast asleep, groaning from pangs of pain from time to time. Wiping tears off her cheeks, she opened his case and fished a piece of paper and a pen out of it. She didn't think she would ever have to use paper again, but she had to pass a message. As much as she liked technology, she thought paper was a truly brilliant idea, because no other source of communication was more secure. As Microsoft once said, "No one's tracking paper these days, hardly anyone remembers it exists."


She wrote a note, folded it carefully and slipped it through a posting portal beside her desk.


 The next morning Causse Gantier flicked Rawotzki's office.

"Mr. Rawotzki, you've got mail."

Celestro smiled. "Get in here." As the old concierge teleported to the office and handed his master a slip of paper, Celestro's face radiated with self-content.


The note said: "What do I have to do?"