BOBBING LAVA PIECES, TWISTED into gargoyles leering. Jodas! She’s trying to run, jumping from bobbing chunk to chunk as they sink beneath her. Ariadne, her face like one of those frowning Byzantine saints, looms huge overhead, filling the sky. “The quake. Hurry. It’s coming.”
Leeza can’t even scream. Tsunami! Killer wave foaming over her—
“Uhn!” She jerked upright and smacked her head in the bunk, stars flaring. “Chinga tu madre!” She rubbed her head and scowled. Big deal. So the banged-up propellor slowed them down and it was all her fault. They’d made it out to open sea okay, hadn’t they?
She shook her head, rumpled her hair, did a quick series of face and jaw exercises, ending with a grimace. Sitting up on the bunk, she called, “Ariadne?”
No answer. The boat rocked slow on its anchor lines. Leeza tugged a silk tunic over her head and stepped gingerly onto the metal decking, toes curling at the damp grittiness. The open skylight funneled a fresh breeze and stars. She climbed up, out to the stern deck, blinking at the night. She hadn’t gotten two winks the night before, once they’d finally crept up on the island after dusk. Too wired. Now she’d slept the day away.
Above her, Ariadne sat on the flying bridge, gazing out at the black water of the cove shimmering faint silver reflections. Leeza tilted her head back to see more stars winking on as black patches of ragged cloud swept off toward the blacker horizon. Folded sheets of pale green and magenta auroras hung from the dark heavens, twisting like worms.
“Maximal.” People freaked over the displays, used-to-be only in high latitudes, before the geomag shakeup. Called them signs of the Apocalypse. For a second, fear clutched Leeza. What if they were right, what if none of it meant shit because they were all dying? Like dinosaurs.
“Bull-mierda,” she whispered. “It’s a free light show.” She bared her teeth in a grin and turned back to the bridge. “Ariadne?”
She didn’t move, just staring at the water as the boat rocked slow like a cradle. Leeza started to raise her voice, then caught a quick breath, glanced around, and darted back down below.
It might be her only chance. She’d seen the chips in with Ariadne’s stuff. If they were compatible with her own system. . . . She yanked open the cabinet under the bunk, rifling through Ariadne’s bag. Her fingers closed over a microchip in its envelope. She was sure she’d seen another one, but she couldn’t find it. She pulled out her own recorder. Ariadne’s chip was lower density than Leeza used, but it read anyway, her fingers tapping a crazy tattoo as the damn thing blinked its Wait light and it was taking freaking forever—
Movement tipped the boat. “Carajo!” Leeza thrust the chip into Ariadne’s bag, started to stuff it back in the cabinet.
“Leeza?” Ariadne was peering down from the ladder.
Leeza produced a grin and lifted her recorder. “Oh. Morning. I mean night. I was just looking for a fresh chip, thought I’d run some copy on the auroras up there.” She risked a glance at Ariadne. “Can’t find my extra gear bag.”
“Your equipment is in the other compartment.”
“Oh. Right. Still half asleep.” Leeza latched Ariadne’s cabinet, opening the one on the other side to rummage through her own bag. “Here it is. Don’t want to miss that color.” She slung camera and recorder over her shoulder and hustled up the ladder, avoiding Ariadne’s eyes.
She made a show of Linking in on deck, raising the camera, and it was good stuff, sheets of rippling aurora lights against dark sky, cool breeze off the water, rhythmic sway of the boat. “I’m getting some super material.” Transmission and reception were still blocked by turbulence, but she could record to chip. “You want to Link into my files, check out a replay of that storm? It’s a rush.”
“No.” Voice emphatic.
Leeza lowered the camera. “Not you, too! Don’t tell me you’re afraid of the NeuroLink.”
“Have you thought about what it could be doing to you? It’s addicting, Leeza. Have you read the studies raising questions of longterm nerve and cognitive damage? And there may be a higher incidence of RP-Hansen’s among Link users.”
“NeoLuddite buzz crushers! I’m telling you, the Link’s a mind-blower.”
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