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A tourist boat putters by in the canal; the sails of the huge windmill overhead cast long, cool shadows across the road. "Am organization formerly known as KGB dot RU." "I think your translator's broken." He holds the phone to his ear carefully, as if it's made of smoke-thin aerogel, tenuous as the sanity of the being on the other end of the line. Am apologize for we not use commercial translation software.
The windmill is a machine for lifting water, turning wind power into dry land: trading energy for space, sixteenth-century style. Interpreters are ideologically suspect, mostly have capitalist semiotics and pay-per-use APIs. " Manfred drains his beer glass, sets it down, stands up, and begins to walk along the main road, phone glued to the side of his head.
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It's a hot summer Tuesday, and he's standing in the plaza in front of the Centraal Station with his eyeballs powered up and the sunlight jangling off the canal, motor scooters and kamikaze cyclists whizzing past and tourists chattering on every side.
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?
Finally, I'd like to thank everyone who e-mailed me to ask when the book was coming, or who voted for the stories that were shortlisted for awards.
You did a great job of keeping me focused, even during the periods when the whole project was too daunting to contemplate.