Shadow of the Mothaship Part 5

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Shadow of the Mothaship is a Webnovel created by Cory Doctorow.
This lightnovel is currently completed.

My very own father is giving a free lecture on Lasting Happiness and the Galactic Federation, at Raptor Stadium, tomorrow night.

I make a mental note to be elsewhere.

Of course, it’s not important where I am, the fricken thing is simulcast to every dingy, darky corner of the world. Pops, after all, has been given a Governor General’s award, a n.o.bel Prize, and a UN Medal of Bravery.

I pinball between bars, looking for somewhere outside of the coffin without the Tyrant’s oration.

Someone’s converted what was left of Roy Thompson hall into a big booming dance club, the kind of place with strobe lights and nekkid dancers.

It’s been so long since I was at a bar. Last summer. When they first ascended to the mothaship. I feel like an intruder, though I notice about a million half-familiar faces among the dancers, people who I met or shook hands with or drank with or fought with, some time in another life.

And then I see Daisy Duke. Six months have been enough for her to grow her hair out a little and do something to it that makes it look *expensive*. She’s wearing a catsuit and a bolero jacket, and looks s.e.xy and kind of scary.

She’s at one of the ridiculously small tables, drinking and sparkling at a man in a silver vest and some kind of skirt that looks like the kind of thing I laugh at until I catch myself trying one on

We make eye-contact. I smile and start to stand. I even point at my knee and grin. Her date says something, and I see, behind the twinkle, a total lack of recognition. She turns to him and I see myself in the mirror behind her.

My hair’s longer. I’m not wearing a bathrobe. I’ve got some meat on my bones.

I’m not walking with a cane. Still, I’m *me*. I want to walk over to her and give her a hug, roll up my pants and show her the gob of scar tissue around my knee, find out where Tony the Tiger’s got to.

But I don’t. I don’t know why, but I don’t. If I had a comm, I might try calling her, so she’d see my name and then I wouldn’t have to say it to her. But I don’t have a comm.

I feel, suddenly, like a ghost.

I test this out, walk to the bar, circling Daisy’s table once on the way and again on the way back. She sees me but doesn’t recognise me, both times. I overhear s.n.a.t.c.hes of her conversation, “– competing next weekend in a black-belt compet.i.tion — oh, man, I can’t *believe* what a pain in the a.s.s my boss was today — want another drink –” and it’s her voice, her tones, but somehow, it doesn’t seem like *her*.

It feels melancholy and strange, being a ghost. I find myself leaving the bar, and walking off towards Yonge Street, to the Eatons-Walmart store where Tony the Tiger worked.

And f.u.c.k me if I don’t pa.s.s him on the street out front, looking burned and buzzed and broke, panning for pennies. He’s looking down, directly addressing people’s knees as they pa.s.s him, “spare-change-spare-change-spare-change.”

I stand in front of him until he looks up. He’s got an ugly scar running over his eyebrow, and he looks right through me. *Where you been, Tony?* I want to ask it, can’t. I’m a ghost. I give him a quarter. He doesn’t notice.

I run into Stude the Dude and hatch my plan at Tilly the horse’s funeral. I read the obit in the Globe, with a pict of the two of them. They buried her at Mount Pleasant Cemetery, with McKenzie King and Timothy Eaton and Lester Pearson.

Stude can afford it. The squib said that he was going aboard the mothaship the day after the ceremony.

Lots of people are doing that. Now that we’re members of the Confederation, we’ve got pa.s.sports that’ll take us to *wild* places. The streets get emptier every day. It’s hard to avoid Dad’s face.

Stude scares the s.h.i.t out of me with his eulogy. *It’s all in Process-speak*. It is positively, fricken eerie.

“My Life-Companion goes into the ground today.”

There’s a long pause while he stares into the big hole and the out-sized coffin.

“My Daily Road has taken me far from the Points of Excellence, and I feel like my life has been a Barrier to Joy for myself and for many others. But Tilly was a Special Someone, a Lightning Rod for Happiness, and her presence graced me with the Vision of Joy.”

And so on.

I wait near the back until Stude finishes, then follow at a discreet distance as he makes his way back to his place. It’s not something I ever would have considered doing last Hallowe’en — the Stude I knew would’ve spotted a tail in hot second. But now the world has gone to jargon-slinging harmony and I’m brazen as I ride along behind on my bike, down Yonge to Front, and up to a new building made of foam.

I feel like a ghost as I watch him look straight through me, and I mark the address.

I spend a day kicking at everything foam.

The foam is hard, and light, and durable, and I imagine the houses of my parent’s suburb, the little Process enclave, surviving long past any of us, surviving as museum pieces for a.r.s.enic-breathing bugouts, who crawl over the mummified furniture and chests of clothes, snapping picts and chattering in their thrilling contraltos. I want to scream

Here and there, pieces of the old, pre-Process, pre-foam Toronto stick out, and I rub them as I pa.s.s them by, touchstones for luck.

Spring lasted about ten days. Now we’re into a muggy, 32 degrees Toronto summer, and my collar itches and sweat trickles down my neck.

I’d be wearing something lighter and cooler, except that today I’m meeting my Dad, at Aristide. They’ve got a little wire-flown twin-prop number fuelled up and waiting for me at the miniature airstrip on Toronto Island. Dad was *so*

glad when I got in touch with him. A real Milestone on his Personal Road to Lasting Happiness. There’s even one of the Process-heads from Yonge and Bloor waiting for me. He doesn’t even comment on all my fricken luggage.

I hit Stude’s place about ten minutes after he left for his trip to the mothaship. I had the dregs of the solvent that he’d sold me, and I used that to dissolve a hole in his door, and reached in and popped the latch.

I didn’t make a mess, just methodically opened crates and boxes until I found what I was looking for. Then I hauled it in batches to the elevator, loaded it, and took it back to my coffin in a cab.

I had to rent another coffin to store it all.

The Process-head stays at the airport. Praise the bugouts. If he’d been aboard, it would’ve queered the whole deal.

I press my nose against the oval window next to the hatch, checking my comm from time to time, squinting at the GPS readout. My stomach is a knot, and my knee aches. I feel great.

The transition to Process-land is sharp from this perspective, real buildings giving way to foam white on a razor-edged line. I count off streets as we fly low, the autopilot getting ready to touch down at Aristide, only 70 kay away.

And there’s my Chestnut Ave.

G.o.d*d.a.m.n* the wind’s fierce in a plane when you pop the emergency hatch. It spirals away like a maple key as the plane starts soothing me over its PA.

I’ve got a safety strap around my waist and hooked onto the front row of seats, and the knots had better be secure. I use my sore leg to kick the keg of solvent off the deck.

I grab my strap with both hands and lie on my belly at the hatch’s edge and count three hippopotami, and then the charge on Stude’s kegger goes bang, and the plane kicks up, and now it’s not the plane coming over the PA, but the Roman tyrant’s voice, shouting, but not loud enough to be understood over the wind.

The superfine mist of solvent settles like an acid bath over my Chestnut Ave, over the perfect smile, and starts to eat the s.h.i.t out of it.

I watch until the plane moves me out of range, then keep watching from my comm, renting super-expensive sat time on Dad’s account.

The roofs go first, along with the road surfaces, then the floors below, and then structural integrity is a thing of past and they fall to pieces like gingerbread, furniture tumbling rolypoly away, everything edged with rough fractal fringe.

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