He came in steep,

. . . fueled by self-loathing. When the Kuang program met the first of the defenders, scattering the leaves of light, he felt the shark thing lose a degree of substantiality, the fabric of information loosening.

And then – old alchemy of the brain and its vast pharmacy – his hate flowed into his hands.

In the instant before he drove Kuang’s sting through the base of the first tower, he attained a level of proficiency exceeding anything he’d known or imagined. Beyond ego, beyond personality, beyond awareness, he moved, Kuang moving with him, evading his attackers with an ancient dance, Hideo’s dance, grace of the mind-body interface granted him, in that second, by the clarity and singleness of his wish to die.

And one step in that dance was the lightest touch on the switch, barely enough to flip-

-now
and his voice the cry of a bird
unknown,
3Jane answering in song, three
notes, high and pure.
A true name.

Neon forest, rain sizzling across hot pavement. The smell of frying food. A girl’s hands locked across the small of his back, in the sweating darkness of a portside coffin.

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