In recall, their faces come back to me.
Not the faces of the beautiful rad-resistant Maori combat sleeves they wore up to Dangrek and the smoking ruins of Sauberville. Instead, I see the faces they owned before they died. The faces Semetaire claimed and sold back into the chaos of the war. The faces they remembered themselves as, the faces they presented in the innocuous hotel-suite virtuality where I first met them.
The faces of the dead.
. . .
A twenty-year-old, face so black it was almost blue, bone structure that belonged somewhere on the forward profile of a high-altitude interceptor, a dreadlocked mane gathered up the height of a fist before it spilled back down, hung with dangerous-looking steel jewellery and a couple of spare quickplant plugs, coded green and black. The jacks at the base of the skull showed three more.
‘What are those?’ I asked her.
‘Linguapack, Thai and Mandarin, Ninth Dan Shotokan,’ she fingered her way up the braille-tagged feathers in a fashion that suggested she could probably rip and change blind and under fire. ‘Advanced Field Medic.’
‘And the ones in your hair?’
‘Satnav interface and concert violin.’ She grinned. ‘Not much call for that one recently, but it keeps me lucky.’ Her face fell with comic abruptness that made me bite my lip. ‘Kept.’
‘You’ve requested rapid deployment posts seven times in the last year,’ said Hand. ‘Why is that?’
She gave him a curious look. ‘You already asked me that .’
‘Oh, I get it. Ghost in the machine. Yeah, well, like I said before. Closer focus, more influence over combat outcomes, better toys. You know, you smiled more the last time I said that.’
Richard K. Morgan