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If the mood holds, someone out there is going to become very rich indeed. * * * Manfred sits on a stool out in the car park at the Brouwerij 't IJ, watching the articulated buses go by and drinking a third of a liter of lip-curlingly sour .His channels are jabbering away in a corner of his head-up display, throwing compressed infobursts of filtered press releases at him.He leans against a shop front, massaging his forehead and eyeballing a display of antique brass doorknockers. "Well, if you hadn't shafted them during the late noughties ..." Manfred taps his left heel on the pavement, looking round for a way out of this conversation. They're all zero-sum cannibals." A thought occurs to him.Among the many people who read and commented on the early drafts are: Andrew J.Wilson, Stef Pearson, Gav Inglis, Andrew Ferguson, Jack Deighton, Jane Mc Kie, Hannu Rajaniemi, Martin Page, Stephen Christian, Simon Bisson, Paul Fraser, Dave Clements, Ken Mac Leod, Damien Broderick, Damon Sicore, Cory Doctorow, Emmet O'Brien, Andrew Ducker, Warren Ellis, and Peter Hollo.They compete for his attention, bickering and rudely waving in front of the scenery.A couple of punks – maybe local, but more likely drifters lured to Amsterdam by the magnetic field of tolerance the Dutch beam across Europe like a pulsar – are laughing and chatting by a couple of battered mopeds in the far corner.
"Oh man, you've got the wrong free enterprise broker here. I'm strictly private." A rogue advertisement sneaks through his junkbuster proxy and spams glowing fifties kitsch across his navigation window – which is blinking – for a moment before a phage process kills it and spawns a new filter. Manfred's never been too clear on new-old old-new European metapolitics: Just dodging the crumbling bureaucracy of his old-old American heritage gives him headaches.(If your name isn't on this list, blame my memory – my neural prostheses are off-line.) I mentioned several friendly editors earlier: I relied on the talented midwifery of Gardner Dozois, who edited Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine at the time, and Sheila Williams, who quietly and diligently kept the wheels rolling.My agent Caitlin Blasdell had a hand in it too, and I'd like to thank my editors Ginjer Buchanan at Ace and Tim Holman at Orbit for their helpful comments and advice.A camera winks at him from atop a streetlight; he waves, wondering idly if it's the KGB or the traffic police. "If survival is what you're after, you could post your state vector on one of the p2p nets: Then nobody could delete you –" "Nyet! " "Then we probably have nothing to talk about." Manfred punches the hang-up button and throws the mobile phone out into a canal.He is waiting for directions to the party, which should arrive within the next half hour, and this Cold War retread Eliza-bot is bumming him out. " The artificial intelligence sounds as alarmed as it's possible to sound over a Voi P link. It hits the water, and there's a pop of deflagrating lithium cells.This is getting weird enough to trip his weird-out meter, and that takes some doing.Manfred's whole life is lived on the bleeding edge of strangeness, fifteen minutes into everyone else's future, and he's normally in complete control – but at times like this he gets a frisson of fear, a sense that he might just have missed the correct turn on reality's approach road. Let me get this straight, you claim to be some kind of AI, working for KGB dot RU, and you're afraid of a copyright infringement lawsuit over your translator semiotics?Manfred is waiting for an invite to a party where he's going to meet a man he can talk to about trading energy for space, twenty-first-century style, and forget about his personal problems. He wraps his throat mike around the cheap black plastic casing, pipes the input to a simple listener process.He's ignoring the instant messenger boxes, enjoying some low-bandwidth, high-sensation time with his beer and the pigeons, when a woman walks up to him, and says his name: "Manfred Macx? The courier is an Effective Cyclist, all wind-burned smooth-running muscles clad in a paean to polymer technology: electric blue lycra and wasp yellow carbonate with a light speckling of anti collision LEDs and tight-packed air bags. He pauses a moment, struck by the degree to which she resembles Pam, his ex-fiance. She dumps the box in his lap, then she's back over the low wall and onto her bicycle with her phone already chirping, disappearing in a cloud of spread-spectrum emissions. "Are you saying you taught yourself the language just so you could talk to me?The bandwidth is good here, he realizes; and it's not just the bandwidth, it's the whole scene.Amsterdam is making him feel wanted already, even though he's fresh off the train from Schiphol: He's infected with the dynamic optimism of another time zone, another city.