Spacer Iron Butterflies 65
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    Connections between Ellis and Lesobeck weren't hard to find. Ellis had spent his early career as a defense attorney, first a public defender and then in private practice. He had argued plenty of cases in front of Judge Lesobeck. I filtered for ones involving insanity, then for cases that he lost, and came up with eight. Six of them had been criminal cases involving violent homicide; one of the perpetrators was dead, the other five still in asylums. The other two were minor cases, one a pyro who had been treated and released; he lives in Utah, but I noted the case anyway, since Lucky thinks he might be connected to the Chinatown business. The other was a kleptomaniac, same story. No one had done anything conveniently dramatic, like stand up in court and announce, "I'm going to get you all some day." Unfortunate, that.
    Outside we heard some noise which indicated that Hans was back and practicing plasma blasts on skeet targets. Very impressive. He ought to know better than to take this sort of thing personally. Win some, lose some.
    A while later the doorbell rang. Lucky went to get it; we were delighted to see that it was Albert, who aside from the addition of a cane doesn't seem to have changed at all. His cable show is supposed to start airing in a couple weeks. Speaking of which, our newspaper nemisis Ms. Shapiro has a heavily advertised commentary venue of her own on public access, which is supposed to start tonight. I may watch it. Know thy enemy.
    Winters called to ask Hans if he would get in touch and clarify a memo she'd gotten about him seeing a flying person over Chinatown earlier that day; he hadn't gotten a good look and he or she had apparently been rather heavily made up—more mysteries! I told her that Chandler was willing to meet someplace neutral; she suggested the Green Room. I winced and agreed; it's a new theme restaurant, something to do with talk shows, the very idea of which makes my skin crawl. Wonder why it occured to her, she doesn't seem the sort to be into either talk shows or trendy restaurants.
    I spent the rest of the morning watching Scott and Dr. Scott put together something that will scan for the missing protomatter; apparently the phase shifts register on a particular spectrum he can look for. Dr. Scott seems to be in a better mood today, aside from lamenting the limitations of the crummy equipment he has to work with at home, nothing like the stuff we have at the base.
    "Well, missing Plovian protomatter sounds like something we can legitimately concern ourselves with," I offered. "Let us know if there's anything we can do."
    "I will, thanks."
    Eleven rolled around; it was now a decent hour of the day in the western time zones and I couldn't rationalize waiting any longer. I placed a call to Detroit. I'd successfully avoided thinking about Travis all morning, after the talk with Lucky, but there were things I had to find out, and the sooner the better.
    "Hi, you've reached the office of Trent Aster. I can't come to phone right now, so please leave a message at the tone. If this is an emergency, please dial two. If this is business to do with the Detroit Warriors, please dial three."
    I decided this did not constitute an emergency, and waited for the tone. "Hi Trent, this is Sasha out in Boston, I had a couple of questions to ask you, if you could—"
    "Hello," Trent broke in, picking up the phone. "Sorry about that, I'm screening my calls." He'd spent a late night dealing with some villain called Psiphon, who had stripped out half of his abilities for the past forty-eight hours—"I hate that."
    "I can imagine. Look, I just had a couple of questions I wanted to ask. How certain are you that you got all that crap out of my head?"
    "Fairly certain. Why?"
    "Because I saw someone yesterday. Someone I knew... a long time ago."
    "I see. What was your relationship with this person?"
    "It was fairly intimate."
    He's pretty sure, he reiterated, that he got all the programming out of my brain; though I might still have some sort of genetic memory, he doesn't think that at that level it could control my behavior or lead to hallucinations. It doesn't seem like there's anything anyone could do about that if it's there, so I'm going to try not to worry about the possibility. Maybe in a few more years I'll know enough about biochemistry to start fiddling around with my own genes and find out if there's anything weird there other than their third-hand nature, but I'm sure as hell not going to try it right now.
    After a few questions to narrow down when in my memories the incidents with Travis were, he suggested that the breakup sequence itself was probably a major divergence point—maybe the divergence point—between the sets of memories we were each given.
    In which case Travis knows whose memories these are, or most of them. If I can find that out, and find out what happened to her... as Trent said, it's a wedge in the door that might lead me to these people some day. He advised me to keep kicking it.
    Kick it, hell. I'm going to blow the damn thing up if I can.
    "Thanks. I'll do that. Talk to you later."
    "Right. Oh, by the way, is Dawn there?" he asked.
    "No, she and Phoenix are in Japan."
    "Damn. I hate that."
    "When people go to Japan?"
    "No, Emily's been staying here the past few nights, and she's been talking in her sleep. In Japanese."
    I'm not even going to try to start thinking about what that might be about; I have plenty of weird shit right here.
    As I write this, I'm not sure what I'm feeling; after all this time, I finally have something I can do to try to make sense out of this whole insane mess, a concrete lead to follow up on. Despite everything else going on (and there's too much to list right now, most of it entirely bizarre), despite this second gruesome murder a week after Ellis, I feel almost good about things. If the day keeps up like this I'll have whiplash from my own mood swings.
    I just wish I knew how much of my memory I could trust; I hadn't given any of it much faith until yesterday, but now it looks as if some of them came from a real person. How much editing did they do? I sat there remembering everything I could about him, about the relationship and how it ended, going back and forth over the same terrain, trying to guess where the divergence point was. In nine other alternate realities, I assume they broke up and she went off to someplace else, to do something other than what she'd been doing all along. Had that happened in the real world as well? Or not? Might she have just disappeared one day? Maybe she's dead. Maybe they just borrowed her for a while, copied her brain and let her go. Maybe in real life they never broke up, maybe they got married. What's her name?
    One way to find out.
    Of course, it might be a trap.

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© 1999 Rebecca J. Stevenson