Updating mirrored closet doors

"Fucking Cold War hangover losers," he swears under his breath, quite angry, partly at himself for losing his cool and partly at the harassing entity behind the anonymous phone call.

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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?

Portions of this book originally appeared in Asimov's SF Magazine as follows: "Lobsters" (June 2001), "Troubadour" (Oct/Nov 2001), "Tourist" (Feb 2002), "Halo" (June 2002), "Router" (Sept 2002), "Nightfall" (April 2003), "Curator" (Dec 2003), "Elector" (Oct/Nov 2004), "Survivor" (Dec 2004).

"The question of whether a computer can think is no more interesting than the question of whether a submarine can swim." – Edsger W.

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