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Chapter Twenty-Seven

As soon as Mr. Frostee seized control of the remote, Cobb was utterly shut off from the outside world. As during his first transition, he felt a growing disorientation, an increasing blurring of all distinctions. But this time it stopped before getting completely out of control. Vision returned, and with it the ghosts of hands and feet. He was driving the truck.

"I'm sorry to have done that, Cobb. I was angry. It seemed essential to me to disassemble that young man as soon as possible."

"What's happened?" Cobb cried voicelessly. There was something funny about his vision. It was as if he were perched on top of the truck, instead of being behind the wheel. But yet he could feel the wheel, twitching back and forth as he steered the truck south. "What's happened?" he asked again.

"I just blew up my last remote. We're going to have to find someone to front for us. One of the Personetics people in Daytona."

"Your remote? That was supposed to be my body! I thought you said I had free will!"

"You still do. I can't make you change your mind about anything. But that body was mine as much as yours."

"Then how can I see? How can I drive?"

"The truck itself is a sort of body. There's two camera eyes that I can stick out of the roof. You're seeing through them. And I've turned the servos for manipulating the truck's controls over to you as well. We may have our occasional differences. Cobb, but I still trust you. Anyway, you're a better driver than I."

"I can't believe this," Cobb wailed. "Don't you have any survival instinct at all? I could have talked Sta-Hi into working with us!"

"He was the one who blew up GAX," Mr. Frostee replied. "And now the war is lost. BEX told me about it on the broadcast last week. Disky has reverted to complete anarchy. They've smashed most of MEX, and there's talk of disassembling TEX and even BEX as well. The final union is still... inevitable. But for now it looks as if..."

"As if what?" Cobb asked. There was a resigned and fatalistic edge to Mr. Frostee's words which terrified him.

"It's like waves, Cobb. Waves on the beach. Sometimes a wave comes up very far, past the tide line. A wave like that can carve out a new channel. The big boppers were a new channel. A higher form of life. But now we're sliding back... back into the sea, the sea of possibility. It doesn't matter. It's right, what you told the kids. Possible existence is as good as real existence."

They were driving into Daytona now. Lights flashed by. One of Cobb's "eyes" watched the road, and the other scanned the sidewalk, looking for one of the Personetics followers. The girls whored and the boys dealt dope. But it was so hard to remember their faces!

"You know," Mr. Frostee said. "You know he split the panels?"

"What do you mean?" There was nothing but darkness, and the two spots of vision, and the controls of the truck.

"There's heat leaking in from where your friend rammed us. The temperature's up five degrees. One more, and our circuits melt down. Thirty seconds, maybe."

"Am I on tape somewhere else?" Cobb asked. "Is there a copy on the Moon?"

"I don't know," Mr. Frostee said. "What's the difference?"

Chapter Twenty-Six | Software | Chapter Twenty-Eight