Chapter 6


Tokoyo’s affairs had been settled with a minimum of fuss; he’d left almost everything to his assistant, a move that both puzzled and amused Hiroki. That dandelion-headed young man had taken this news with a blank face and had not said a word to either Hiroki or Yoko while they sat at the same table with Tokoyo’s lawyer.

Hiroki had expected nothing from his brother, but the fact that he had thought to leave a will at all told Hiroki a lot. He had been expecting to die, and had wanted to make sure that nothing he valued ended up in the hands of someone he didn’t want to have it.

It was a shame. Hiroki had coveted his brother’s research data and would have been able to make use of quite a bit of it. Now it was in the hands of a tight-lipped, fuzz-headed youth who probably wouldn’t have the slightest clue what to do with it.

Hiroki smiled as he boarded a tram to the Core. It didn’t represent a major stumbling block, though he had no doubt that slowing him down had been Tokoyo’s motivation. Otherwise, there was no reason to allow his research to languish in the hands of an incompetent.

The car was empty except for him; peering through the windows into the adjacent cars, he could see no one else. It was late, and commuters were usually going in the opposite direction at this time of night. If he’d gone three sectors down, it would be a different story, as he’d have been joining the crowds moving toward the core-ward entertainment districts.

With one hand on the overhead rail for balance, Hiroki moved to the end of the car, stopped at the door, and made an arcane gesture with his left hand. A sigil invisible to most eyes shimmered into view then faded again, leaving the door unmarked.

Hiroki turned and surveyed the empty tramcar. He was outside of the range of the camera above this door, but the one at the opposite end of the car had captured him. He wasn’t overly troubled--his body had shielded the gesture he’d made and the sigil wouldn’t be visible to electronic eyes--but made a note to be more discrete once he arrived at his destination. If he appeared in too many places performing the same action in all of them, anyone persistent enough to notice the pattern could use it later to trace him.

He frowned. There were far too many people like that lately. He would have to contend with them in the future and the thought was not pleasant.

The tram slid to a stop without a noise from the hydraulics, and he exited before the doors had opened fully. In the nearly deserted station, he checked his pockets and produced a small stone that he held in the palm of his right hand as he climbed the stairs up to the skyway. The stone was old and carved grotesquely, and though it had been produced long before the existence of electronic technology, it emitted a sort of electromagnetic pulse that made him almost invisible to the cameras without causing a complete malfunction. It was much more subtle than his older brother’s method of simply turning the cameras off and creating a telltale gap in the records. He smiled again, the expression twisting his mouth unpleasantly. Tokoyo had vast resources at his disposal, but it was nothing compared to Hiroki’s admittedly smaller but far more potent supply.

He walked along a broad skyway, flanked on either side by the residential floors of several buildings, making his sign at certain intervals. The buildings would be crowded for the rest of the evening and night, but few people would be out on the skyway.

Yoko, too, had his own special set of talents, but he was in a totally different class from his older brothers. If Tokoyo was skilled at determining the mechanisms of life and power, and Hiroki at synthesizing data and using it to his own ends, Yoko’s main aptitude was for destruction. But with skills that tended toward the physical and material, he could be neutralized with a minimum of trouble should he decide to be a pest.

With another warped smile, Hiroki slid his phone out of his pocket. He dialed his brother’s number and waited for him to answer.

“Hello?” Yoko had been asleep. Hiroki could tell by the faint accent that tinged his voice.

“What are you doing tonight? Staying home?” He didn’t wait for an answer. “Maybe you should get out for a change. The weather’s really nice. Maybe take a walk? See a movie?”

There was a confused pause and the sound of him shuffling through his apartment, and then Yoko said, “Why?”

“I’m just checking up on you. I worry, since you’re reclusive,” Hiroki replied cheerfully. “I mean, you might drop dead one day like Tokoyo and I’ll never know because I never hear from you.

“You concern is misplaced.” His clipped tone made Hiroki smirk.

“Well, maybe, but you should still get out more. The world we know won’t always be there, you know.”

There was another pause, as though Yoko didn’t know how he was meant to understand that comment or what he should say to it. He must have ultimately decided to say nothing, because he hung up without saying goodnight.

Hiroki slid his phone back into his pocket and thudded down the stairs from the skyway to another tram station. His next stop was several sectors down in one of the entertainment centers; afterward, he would have just enough time to get a rim-ward tram that would take him well out of the area he’d marked off.