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26 lila wakes up (1) Seymour, Lila’s assistant, appeared in her office. “There’s a Federal wants to talk to you.” “You mean State.” The State people were pests. The loss of Cleveland had thrown them into a tizzy. By June 2047, the cavernous lakefront edifice that had been built as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was a tracking station receiving information from Canada and Alliance ships in the Atlantic. The BP tower was a pile of rubble called Strike One, the Federal Building was the Centro de Gobierno (the Alliance had let the South American forces name this one), and the former Terminal Tower was a military headquarters, with General Nenonene ’s quarters taking up the basement of what used to be the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. It was all confusing. Many people had left Cleveland, but many more people hadn’t. Why couldn’t they? Their houses. Their businesses. The schools for their children. Their elderly relatives who didn’t understand. All of it made sense, and yet it didn’t make sense. With the Grid already knocking out a good third of the state and Cleveland occupied, there wasn’t much State of Ohio left. The people in the state capital in Columbus reminded Lila of befuddled bees circling a destroyed hive. 27 lila wakes up (1) “No, darling. I mean Federal.” “Federal?” Lila sighed. Federal people rarely bothered her, but when they did it was never pleasant. What environmental edict were they obsessing about now? “Okay.” She turned to face her screen. “Put ’em on.” “I mean they’re here,” Seymour said. “A youngie-girl.” “In person?” Lila swiveled in her chair. She tried to remember the last time anyone had made a call on her in person. What made Federal think she had the time for in person? More ominously, what did Federal need that they sent a real person? Seymour brought in the Federal, a tall woman—good Lord, did they take them straight out of college these days?—with an eager, open face and an athlete’s stride. The youngie sat. “What a surprise!” said Lila. “You’re really a Federal? Who do you represent, exactly?” “I’m from Agriculture,” the youngie said, dipping her head. The Department of Agriculture had planned and now controlled the Grid. Since the Gridding, Agriculture had become a shameful part of the government. People had been known to pretend they worked in other parts of the government. It took, Lila suspected, an act of will and faith to half-stand and extend her hand across Lila’s desk. “Michelle Everly.” “Michelle,” Lila said. “Lila de Becqueville.” A lovely face, Lila realized, sculpted and high-cheekboned. The lashes at the corners of Michelle’s eyes tangled in a wanton way. A slight scent of lemon to her, probably perfume. “I’ve heard about you,” Michelle said, settling herself back in the chair. “I’ve heard you have an excellent system. Best treatment system of any city your size. Superior flood protection, aquifer maintenance, nice leach fields, reliable sewage . . .” “Thank you.” Everything she’d said was true. The Water Queen, Lila called herself. Not that she told anyone this. “My mother remembers you coming to her school,” Michelle said, reddening slightly. Michelle’s mother! Lila was 28 s ha r p a n d d a n g e r ou s v i r t u e s shocked at how this dated her, and she made it into a curse: tu madre. “You used to give talks on the history of water in Ohio.” Michelle’s face was eager and imploring. Inside herself, Lila felt something shifting. “Your mother remembers me?” she said. It was true: early in Lila’s career, twenty, twenty-five years before, she had given talks. This was during New Dawn Dayton, the halcyon period before the Short Times when all sorts of industry—including Prestige Polymer, Armitage Steel, even Consort and its premier nuclear plant—had come to Dayton because of the city’s abundance of water. Lila thought how little she remembered of Ohio’s water history now, although somewhere she still had the data chips. “You talked about the Great Black Swamp. And malaria.” “Lima, Ohio, was named after Lima, Peru,” Lila said. “They imported quinine from Peru as a malaria medicine.” Malaria in Ohio: people used to be incredulous when she told them. The drainage tile used to dry northwest Ohio could be stretched from the earth...


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MARC Record
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