Главная АвторыЖанрыО проекте
 
 

«The Difference Engine», William Gibson и др.

Найти другие книги автора/авторов: , ,
Иллюстрация к книге

FIRST ITERATION

The Angel of Goliad

Composite image, optically encoded by escort-craft of the trans-Channel airship Lord Brunel: aerial view of suburban Cherbourg, October 14, 1905.

A villa, a garden, a balcony.

Erase the balcony's wrought-iron curves, exposing a bath-chair and its occupant. Reflected sunset glints from the nickel-plate of the chair's wheel-spokes.

The occupant, owner of the villa, rests her arthritic hands upon fabric woven by a Jacquard loom.

These hands consist of tendons, tissue, jointed bone. Through quiet processes of time and information, threads within the human cells have woven themselves into a woman.

Her name is Sybil Gerard.

Below her, in a neglected formal garden, leafless vines lace wooden trellises on whitewashed, flaking walls. From the open windows of her sickroom, a warm draft stirs the loose white hair at her neck, bringing scents of coal-smoke, jasmine, opium.

Her attention is fixed upon the sky, upon a silhouette of vast and irresistible grace—metal, in her lifetime, having taught itself to fly. In advance of that magnificence, tiny unmanned aeroplanes dip and skirl against the red horizon.

Like starlings, Sybil thinks.

The airship's lights, square golden windows, hint at human warmth. Effortlessly, with the incomparable grace of organic function, she imagines a distant music there, the music of London: the passengers promenade, they drink, they flirt, perhaps they dance.

Thoughts come unbidden, the mind weaving its perspectives, assembling meaning from emotion and memory.

She recalls her life in London. Recalls herself, so long ago, making her way along the Strand, pressing past the crush at Temple Bar. Pressing on, the city of Memory winding itself about her—till, by the walls of Newgate, the shadow of her father's hanging falls…

And Memory turns, deflected swift as light, down another byway—one where it is always evening…

It is January 15, 1855.

A room in Grand's Hotel, Piccadilly.

 

One chair was propped backward, wedged securely beneath the door's cut-glass knob. Another was draped with clothing: a woman's fringed mantelet, a mud-crusted skirt of heavy worsted, a man's checked trousers and cutaway coat.

Two forms lay beneath the bedclothes of the laminated-maple four-poster, and off in the iron grip of winter Big Ben bellowed ten o'clock, great hoarse calliope sounds, the coal-fired breath of London.

Sybil slid her feet through icy linens to the warmth of the ceramic bottle in its wrap of flannel. Her toes brushed his shin. The touch seemed to start him from deep deliberation. That was how he was, this Dandy Mick Radley.

She'd met Mick Radley at Laurent's Dancing Academy, down Windmill Street. Now that she knew him, he seemed more the sort for Kellner's in Leicester Square, or even the Portland Rooms. He was always thinking, scheming, muttering over something in his head. Clever, clever. It worried her. And Mrs. Winterhalter wouldn't have approved, for the handling of "political gentlemen" required delicacy and discretion, qualities Mrs. Winterhalter believed she herself had a-plenty, while crediting none to her girls.

"No more dollymopping, Sybil," Mick said. One of his pronouncements, something about which he'd made up his clever mind.

Sybil grinned up at him, her face half-hidden by the blanket's warm edge. She knew he liked the grin. Her wicked-girl grin. He can't mean that, she thought. Make a joke of it, she told herself. "But if I weren't a wicked dollymop, would I be here with you now?"

"No more playing bobtail."

"You know I only go with gentlemen."

Mick sniffed, amused. "Call me a gentleman, then?"

"A very flash gentleman," Sybil said, flattering him. "One of the fancy. You know I don't care for the Rad Lords. I spit on 'em, Mick."

Sybil shivered, but not unhappily, for she'd run into a good bit of luck here, full of steak-and-taters and hot chocolate, in bed between clean sheets in a fashionable hotel. A shiny new hotel with central steam-heat, though she'd gladly have traded the restless gurgling and banging of the scrolled gilt radiator for the glow of a well-banked health.

And he was a good-looking cove, this Mick Radley, she had to admit, dressed very flash, had the tin and was generous with it, and he'd yet to demand anything peculiar or beastly. She knew it wouldn't last, as Mick was a touring gent from Manchester, and gone soon enough. But there was profit in him, and maybe more when he left her, if she made him feel sorry about it, and generous.

Еще несколько книг в жанре «Научная Фантастика»

Красная звезда, Александр Богданов Читать →

Ищущий Битву, Владимир Свержин Читать →