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'La Dolce Vita' a novel by Guy Martyr 12

La Dolce Vita instalment 12 of 20

Horatio recalled these visions as he gazed at the disc on the mantelpiece. What to do with it: recycle it? hand it in? send it anonymously? find David? . . . What was the disc, anyway? One look had provided few answers: an identity programme, of sorts; but just a disc; how could it be so important? You can't store that much on it, unless it was . . . of course, a System Reader! as his memory regurgitated an obscure fact he had read in, of all places, 'The Journal of Building' - discs which could tap into every data base in the world, by use of a Dominant Code, based on organic virus technology. But even that article had posited them as conjectural. No one had gone on record as actually having one, owning it, using them. Secret people in secret places, perhaps; but no one owning up.

Of course, it would pay not to own up, because of the Invention Planning laws that would be transgressed by such a thing. Invention Permission was of course a most sought after commodity, and had become the major constraint to many capitally resplendent propositions. But this must be so: the landscape of innovation was in danger of becoming over-developed: it had been swamped for generations past by inventions' -claims, -constructions of empire,

-wars, all seeking ever more esoteric territory to possess. Who 'owns' this or that genre, genome, particle of life, and, ultimately, the self. Who owns the self? Capitalists had been homing in: their target the highest prize - you! Once you don't own yourself any more, we'll sell it back to you, piece by piece. Well-meaning politicians had been trying to counter this trend with the introduction of Invention Permission. But so much commercial pressure was being applied; it was surely only a matter of time before the walls of legal constraint collapsed and a free-for-all started. The trick now was to be in position in anticipation of the starting gun; close to the action, but not so close, as to incur the current penalties . . .

Horatio snapped himself out of this logical nose dive: what was he thinking, getting dragged into the mêlée? That is just other people's nonsense. The disc, the thing: how to get rid of it . . . He recalled le Korbu's parting pearl of wisdom: "If all else fails, reach further . . . "

He began to run through the options: he couldn't recycle the disc, as it would be found - everything at recycling depots was scrutinised - and traced to him, probably by dna traces, or audit trail. Deleting it was an option, but he suspected all deletions were scanned. Dropping it in the river was an attractive possibility, but the cameras were very sensitive to that sort of thing. Even taking it into an agri-area would prove impossible - all carriage movements were logged, and cameras were everywhere . . .

Horatio tried a different tack: go on the offensive; could he use the thing against itself? He put the disc into his computer, admittedly risky, and opened it up again. Up came the numbers: Horatio wondered whether to put in his own details, or someone else's; whose? . . . Vicki's? . . . That might confuse them more . . . He put in her birth date. His fingers sweated, he trembled slightly, hovering over the 'Return' button; cataclysmic consequences threatened; he pressed . . .


Vicki, at that moment, was lying on a hospital trolley with a red face; very red in fact, as she was suffering a severe allergic reaction. She had left Simon and Caz's earlier the previous evening, not feeling too well, and had started to walk home. She had refused the offer of a lift, not wanting to make a fuss, and though she felt pretty ill, she had not wanted to embarrass her hosts by becoming ill at their house. An innate strength had taken her on foot to Guy's Hospital, where she had presented herself to the fairly besieged reception with a "I don't think I can fill in these forms, I really need to see someone straight away . . . " and had collapsed. She was placed on a trolley breathing very poorly, heart pounding, turning very red, and given a quick examination The young doctor suddenly looked very grave: "We need to contact her next of kin."

They had tried to contact Horatio, but he being in transit no contact could be made.

Victoria should have known not to touch the rubber washing up gloves at Simon and Caz's house, but she had had such a good time, and had wanted to talk to Caz in the kitchen, and had drunk two or three glasses of that lovely wine, she had let her guard down. As soon as she had put the gloves on she had known, or suspected strongly, that an allergic reaction was likely . . .

At the point when Horatio entered Vicki's details on the computer, her condition was, worryingly, still in balance. Her heart was beating erratically, and her breathing was still difficult. She thought, through her struggles to breathe, of Horatio; she wished he were

there . . .

Horatio, in an amused manner, opened the 'enhance' drop-down menu, and upped Vicki's 'Social Status' from 10 to 16.

As if from nowhere, a consultant arrived and examined Victoria, issued orders, changed her location to a private room, administered further drugs. Her condition stabilised, and shortly her recovery began.

Horatio turned to 'Service Call Up %' and brought it down to 0.

He toyed with the idea of giving her a 97% chance of winning the lottery, but demurred.

Finally he officially resigned her from Police-Actioneering, because she had never wanted to do it in the first place.

But as he saved and exited he didn't really believe that all those things would come true.


Victoria arrived home in a taxi later that day. She was surprised to find Horatio at home.

"What are you doing here?" to the yawning Horatio, crashed out on the sofa.

"Where have you been? You look awful" back to Victoria.

After Horatio's initial anger, and concern, at Vicki's predicament - why had bloody Simon and Caz let her touch the rubber gloves? - Horatio and Victoria spent a very pleasant few days together, with nothing concerning them unduly. Vicki had only to recover her body's equilibrium, which meant calm, rest, and a regime of yoga, which she indulged each morning; and Horatio, with no further Service duties in sight, and no employment allocation, felt in an airy, holiday mood. They enjoyed each other's company in this carefree way. Horatio had never really appreciated Vicki before as a womanly presence; there had always been so much to do during their life together, mostly surrounding his work; furthermore a certain formalism shrouded their relationship, as if even they must maintain a polite propriety. Yet here was Vicki tramping round the dwelling scantily dressed in the mornings, doing her yoga in front of him on the floor, with Horatio lounging on the sofa, karmically observing, seeing for the first time that she really was quite beautiful, that her body was very sensual, and an attractive poise emanated from her gait.

In the evenings she took to walking round nearly naked before and after a shower. Horatio had never known her be so open: here she was, this entirely beautiful creature, right under his nose. How could he have missed this all along?

He thought of the love-making in which they had indulged: all very staid, even in the early days. But now she really turned him on. When he approached her, though, she held off: "No, Horatio, I'm sorry . . . I still don't feel up to it, after my time in hospital . . . "

"Then stop wandering round looking so bloody sexy" and they both kind of laughed.

Horatio did not mention the disc: in fact he had more or less forgotten it, still undecided as to its fate.

"I think I'd better try and find out my Status" he said one morning. "I don't know if I'm still in Service, or not."

"Don't forget we're visiting the Centre today."

"It won't take long."

Horatio opened his personal screen, and tried a Status-check, without success. His access was barred, or routes unavailable, at every turn.

He tried all ruses: checking his Credit, he found regular payments in were still being made, at a pretty good rate, too. The Police-Actioner lists showed him to be 'Enrolled, Inactive'. The Service lists showed him as 'In Service, Unassigned'. His Employment Vessel had him also 'Unassigned'.

He switched off, and went out with Vicki, little the wiser.

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