Mahir caught my eye and smirked. “Hallo, Mason.”
“Hey, Mahir.” I shook my head. “Looks like we’ve both been having an interesting time. I’ll see your luxury hotel, and raise you one zombie bear.”
“I can see that this is going to be a deeply enlightening evening.” He put a hand on my arm. “I’ve been following the feeds about the Masons. Two of our juniors are covering it, due to the connection to our site’s founders. How are you holding up?”
It took me a second to realize that by “our site’s founders,” he was referring to me and George. “Oh, okay, I guess. Totally out of my mind, but that’s normal. Should we be hanging around down here?”
Maggie disengaged from Becks, glancing my way. “Our rooms are on the third floor. Did the Agora tell you about the baths?”
“That depends. When you ask ‘did the Agora’ tell us, do you mean—”
“That’s what I was afraid you were going to say. Yeah, it told us.”
“Good.” Maggie looped one arm through Becks’s and one arm through mine, tugging us across the lobby toward the elevators. “Let’s get you cleaned up and into something that doesn’t smell like road funk, and then we can sit down for dinner and to plan our plan of attack for tomorrow.”
“Road funk?” I asked.
“Plan of attack?” Becks asked.
Tomorrow? George asked.
“Your timing is impeccable, as always,” said Mahir, moving to walk alongside the three of us. “Tomorrow morning we will finally be accomplishing our goal here in the city of Seattle.”
“What do you mean?” asked Becks.
Maggie freed an arm long enough to push the elevator “call” button and leaned even closer, whispering conspiratorially, “We’re here to meet the Monkey, remember?”
The elevator arrived with a loud ding and Maggie stepped inside, waving for the rest of us to follow. After exchanging a look with Becks, I did.
“I think I preferred the zombie bears,” I muttered.
“That’s just you, Mason,” she said, and started laughing. Maggie and Mahir joined in. There was an edge of hysteria to the sound, like they were laughing to hold back the dark. I stood there, feeling the elevator gaining speed beneath us, and held my silence as we rose higher, and closer to the future.
I was never a “poor little rich girl.” I had a lot of money, sure, but I also had parents who loved me, and who balanced the urge to give me everything I wanted with instilling me with a strong sense of personal responsibility. I never thought of my money as a burden. The only burden was the way it made people look at me. That was what I couldn’t stand, and that’s the reason I chose to go into the field I went into. I was good at being a Fictional. I was never that good at being a spoiled brat.
There are things money can’t buy. People who love you, a job you’re good at, a sense of personal respect… those are on the list.
—From Dandelion Mine, the blog of Magdalene Grace Garcia, July 31, 2041. Unpublished.
Buffy was complaining today about how we need a new transmitter for the van, and we can’t afford it right now. She wants us to ask the Masons for a loan. She doesn’t seem to understand that having parents who are in the media business doesn’t mean we can turn to them for every little thing we need. Sure, they’d probably give it to us, but we’d be giving up something a lot more valuable. We’d be giving up our independence. All it’s going to take is one loan, and they’ll have the leverage they need to start worming their way into our business. They want it. I know they want it.
And I am not going to let them have it.
—From Postcards from The Wall, the unpublished files of Georgia Mason, originally posted on July 31, 2041.
The word was distorted enough to seem unimportant. I didn’t bother trying to respond. I was lying on something soft, it was pleasantly dark, and if people wanted to talk to me, they could knock themselves out. Nothing said I had to answer.
“I expected she might be. Let’s assume she’s awake, and put her back under for now.”
“Are you sure? The strain to her system—”
“We need to finish this.”
A needle slid into my arm. The sensation was sharp enough to break the haze, replacing soft darkness with sudden concern. I opened my eyes, peering into a blur of light. There were figures there, wearing medical scrubs, with clear plastic masks over their faces. That just made me more concerned. What were they doing that might splash them with my bodily fluids?
“Doctor—” The speaker sounded alarmed. Whatever I was supposed to do, opening my eyes apparently wasn’t on the list.
“I see her. Increase the midazolam drip—I want her out until we’re done.” The taller of the two figures bent toward me. “Georgia? Can you hear me?”
I made a sound. It was faint, somewhere between a gasp and a groan.
It was apparently enough. “Increase that dose now, Kathleen,” snapped Dr. Kimberley, her features becoming visible through the plastic as she leaned closer. She raised one blue-gloved hand, brushing my hair away from my face. “Don’t try to move, Georgia. This will all be over soon.”
That’s what I was afraid of. The room was getting dark around the edges, hard lines turning into soft blurs as whatever they were pumping into me started taking effect. I tried to yell at her, to demand to know what she thought she was doing, but all that emerged was a faint squeak, like a hinge that needed to be oiled.
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