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Perdido Street Station
(Bas-Lag 01) By

China Miéville

"...and Lublamai no longer thought of screaming but only of watching as those dark markings rolled and boiled in perfect symetry across the wings like clouds in a night sky above, in water below."

Prologue Part One: Commissions Chapter One Chapter Two Chapter Three Chapter Four Chapter Five

Part Two:Physiognomies of Flight Chapter Six Chapter Seven Chapter Eight Chapter Nine Chapter Ten Chapter Eleven Chapter Twelve Chapter Thirteen Chapter Fourteen Chapter Fifteen Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Part Three: Metamorphoses Chapter Eighteen Chapter Nineteen Chapter Twenty Chapter Twenty-One Chapter Twenty-Two Chapter Twenty-Three Chapter Twenty-Four Chapter Twenty-Five Chapter Twenty-Six

Part Four: A Plague of Nightmares Chapter Twenty-Seven Chapter Twenty-Eight Chapter Twenty-Nine Chapter Thirty Chapter Thirty-One Chapter Thirty-Two Chapter Thirty-Three

Part Five: Councils Chapter Thirty-Four Chapter Thirty-Five Chapter Thirty-Six Chapter Thirty-Seven Chapter Thirty-Eight Chapter Thirty-Nine Chapter Forty Chapter Forty-One

Part Six: The Glasshouse Chapter Forty-Two Chapter Forty-Three Chapter Forty-Four Chapter Forty-Five

Part Seven: Crisis Chapter Forty-Six Chapter Forty-Seven Chapter Forty-Eight Chapter Forty-Nine Chapter Fifty Chapter Fifty-One

Part Eight: Judgement Chapter Fifty-Two

"I even gave up, for a while, stopping by the window of the room to look out at the lights and deep, illuminated streets. That’s a form of dying, that losing contact with the city like that." -Philip K. Dick, We Can Build You

Veldt to scrub to fields to farms to these first tumbling houses that rise from the earth. It has been night for a long time. The hovels that encrust the river’s edge have grown like mushrooms around me in the dark. We rock. We pitch in a deep current. Behind me the man tugs uneasily at his rudder and the barge corrects. Light lurches as the lantern swings. The man is afraid of me. I lean out from the prow of the small vessel across the darkly moving water. Over the engines oily rumble and the caresses of the river small sounds, house sounds, are building. Timbers whisper and the wind strokes thatch, walls settle and floors shift to fill space; the tens of houses have become hundreds, thousands; they spread backwards from the banks and shed light from all

across the plain. They surround me. They are growing. They are taller and fatter and noisier, their roofs are slate, their walls are strong brick. The river twists and turns to face the city. It looms suddenly, massive, stamped on the landscape. Its light wells up around the surrounds, the rock hills, like bruise-blood. Its dirty towers glow. I am debased. I am compelled to worship this extraordinary presence that has silted into existence at the conjunction of two rivers. It is a vast pollutant, a stench, a klaxon sounding. Fat chimneys retch dirt into the sky even now in the deep night. It is not the current which pulls us but the city itself, its weight sucks us in. Faint shouts, here and there the calls of beasts, the obscene clash and pounding from the factories as huge machines rut. Railways trace urban anatomy like protruding veins. Red brick and dark walls, squat churches like troglodytic things, ragged awnings flickering,

cobbled mazes in the old town, culs-de-sac, sewers riddling the earth like secular sepulchres, a new landscape of wasteground, crushed stone, libraries fat with forgotten volumes, old hospitals, towerblocks, ships and metal claws that lift cargoes from the water. How could we not see this approaching? What trick of topography is this, that lets the sprawling monster hide behind corners to leap out at the traveller? It is too late to flee. The man murmurs to me, tells me where we are. I do not turn to him. This is Raven’s Gate, this brutalized warren around us. The rotting buildings lean against each other, exhausted. The river smears slime on its brick banks, city walls risen from the depths to hold the water at bay. There is a vile stink here.

(I wonder how this looks from above, no chance for the city to hide then, if you came at it on the wind you would see it from miles and miles away like a dirty smear, like a slab of carrion thronging with maggots, I should not think like this but I cannot stop now, I could ride the updrafts that the chimneys vent, sail high over the proud towers and shit on the earthbound, ride the chaos, alight where I choose, I must not think like this, I must not do this now, I must stop, not now, not this, not yet.) Here there are houses which dribble pale mucus, an organic daubing that smears base façades and oozes from top windows. Extra storeys are rendered in the cold white muck which fills gaps between houses and dead-end alleys. The landscape is defaced with ripples as if wax has melted and set suddenly across the rooftops. Some other intelligence has made these human streets their own. Wires are stretched tight across the river and the

eaves, held fast by milky aggregates of phlegm. They hum like bass strings. Something scuttles overhead. The bargeman hawks foully into the water. His gob dissipates. The mass of spittle-mortar above us ebbs. Narrow streets emerge. A train whistles as it crosses the river before us on raised tracks. I look to it, to the south and the east, seeing the line of little lights rush away and be swallowed by this nightland, this behemoth that eats its citizens. We will pass the factories soon. Cranes rear from the gloom like spindly birds; here and there they move to keep the skeleton crews, the midnight crews, in their work. Chains swing deadweight like useless limbs, snapping into zombie motion where cogs engage and flywheels turn. Fat predatory shadows prowl the sky. There is a boom, a reverberation, as if the city has a hollow core. The black barge putters through

a mass of its fellows weighed down with coke and wood and iron and steel and glass. The water here reflects the stars through a stinking rainbow of impurities, effluents and chymical slop, making it sluggish and unsettling. (Oh, to rise above this to not smell this filth this dirt this dung to not enter the city through this latrine but I must stop, I must, I cannot go on, I must.) The engine slows. I turn and watch the man behind me, who averts his eyes and steers, affecting to look through me. He is taking us in to dock, there behind the warehouse so engorged its contents spill out beyond the buttresses in a labyrinth of huge boxes. He picks his way between other craft. There are roofs emerging from the river. A line of sunken houses, built on the wrong side of the wall, pressed up against the bank in the water, their bituminous black bricks dripping. Disturbances beneath us. The river boils with eddies from below. Dead fish and

frogs that have given up the fight to breathe in this rotting stew of detritus swirl frantic between the flat side of the barge and the concrete shore, trapped in choppy turmoil. The gap is closed. My captain leaps ashore and ties up. His relief is draining to see. He is wittering gruffly in triumph and ushering me quickly ashore and away and I alight, as slowly as if onto coals, picking my way through the rubbish and the broken glass. He is happy with the stones I have given him. I am in Smog Bend, he tells me, and I make myself look away as he points my direction so he will not know I am lost, that I am new in the city, that I am afraid of these dark and threatening edifices of which I cannot kick free, that I am nauseous with claustrophobia and foreboding. A little to the south two great pillars rise from the river. The gates to the Old City, once grandiose, now psoriatic and ruined. The carved histories that wound about those obelisks have been effaced by

time and acid, and only roughcast spiral threads like those of old screws remain. Behind them, a low bridge (Drud Crossing, he says). I ignore the man’s eager explanations and walk away through this lime-bleached zone, past yawning doors that promise the comfort of true dark and an escape from the river stench. The bargeman is just a tiny voice now and it is a small pleasure to know I will never see him again. It is not cold. A city light is promising itself in the east. I will follow the trainlines. I will stalk in their shadow as they pass by over the houses and towers and barracks and offices and prisons of the city, I will track them from the arches that anchor them to the earth. I must find my way in. My cloak (heavy cloth unfamiliar and painful on my skin) tugs at me and I can feel the weight of my purse. That is what protects me here; that and the

illusion I have fostered, the source of my sorrow and my shame, the anguish that has brought me to this great wen, this dusty city dreamed up in bone and brick, a conspiracy of industry and violence, steeped in history and battened-down power, this badland beyond my ken. New Crobuzon.

Part One: Commissions

Chapter One
A window burst open high above the market. A basket flew from it and arced towards the oblivious crowd. It spasmed in mid-air, then spun and continued earthwards at a slower, uneven pace. Dancing precariously as it descended, its wire-mesh caught and skittered on the building’s rough hide. It scrabbled at the wall, sending paint and concrete dust plummeting before it. The sun shone through uneven cloud-cover with a bright grey light. Below the basket the stalls and barrows lay like untidy spillage. The city reeked. But today was market day down in Aspic Hole, and the pungent slick of dung-smell and rot that rolled over New Crobuzon was, in these streets, for these hours, improved with paprika and fresh tomato, hot oil and fish and cinnamon, cured meat, banana and onion. The food stalls stretched the noisy length of Shadrach Street. Books and manuscripts and pictures filled up

Selchit Pass, an avenue of desultory banyans and crumbling concrete a little way to the east. There were earthenware products spilling down the road to Barrackham in the south; engine parts to the west; toys down one side street; clothes between two more; and countless other goods filling all the alleys. The rows of merchandise converged crookedly on Aspic Hole like spokes on a broken wheel. In the Hole itself all distinctions broke down. In the shadow of old walls and unsafe towers were a pile of gears, a ramshackle table of broken crockery and crude clay ornaments, a case of mouldering textbooks. Antiques, sex, flea-powder. Between the stalls stomped hissing constructs. Beggars argued in the bowels of deserted buildings. Members of strange races bought peculiar things. Aspic Bazaar, a blaring mess of goods, grease and tallymen. Mercantile law ruled: let the buyer beware. The costermonger below the descending basket

looked up into flat sunlight and a shower of brick particles. He wiped his eye. He plucked the frayed thing from the air above his head, pulling at the cord which bore it until it went slack in his hand. Inside the basket was a brass shekel and a note in careful, ornamented italics. The food-vendor scratched his nose as he scanned the paper. He rummaged in the piles of produce before him, placed eggs and fruit and root vegetables into the container, checking against the list. He stopped and read one item again, then smiled lasciviously and cut a slice of pork. When he was done he put the shekel in his pocket and felt for change, hesitating as he calculated his delivery cost, eventually depositing four stivers in with the food. He wiped his hands against his trousers and thought for a minute, then scribbled something on the list with a stub of charcoal and tossed it after the coins. He tugged three times at the rope and the basket began a bobbing journey into the air. It rose above the lower roofs of surrounding buildings, buoyed upwards

by noise. It startled the roosting jackdaws in the deserted storey and inscribed the wall with another scrawled trail among many, before it disappeared again into the window from which it had emerged. Isaac Dan der Grimnebulin had just realized that he was dreaming. He had been aghast to find himself employed once again at the university, parading in front of a huge blackboard covered in vague representations of levers and forces and stress. Introductory Material Science. Isaac had been staring anxiously at the class when that unctuous bastard Vermishank had looked in. "I can’t teach this class," whispered Isaac loudly. "The market’s too loud." He gestured at the window. "It’s all right." Vermishank was soothing and loathsome. "It’s time for breakfast," he said. "That’ll take your mind off the noise." And hearing that absurdity Isaac shed sleep with immense relief. The raucous profanity of the bazaar and the smell of cooking came with him into the day.

He lay hugely in the bed without opening his eyes. He heard Lin walk across the room and felt the slight listing of the floorboards. The garret was filled with pungent smoke. Isaac salivated. Lin clapped twice. She knew when Isaac woke. Probably because he closed his mouth, he thought, and sniggered without opening his eyes. "Still sleeping, shush, poor little Isaac ever so tired," he whimpered, and snuggled down like a child. Lin clapped again, once, derisory, and walked away. He groaned and rolled over. "Termagant!" he moaned after her. "Shrew! Harridan! All right, all right, you win, you, you…uh… virago, you spit-fire…" He rubbed his head and sat up, grinned sheepishly. Lin made an obscene gesture at him without turning around. She stood with her back to him, nude at the stove, dancing back as hot drops of oil leapt from the pan.

The covers slipped from the slope of Isaac’s belly. He was a dirigible, huge and taut and strong. Grey hair burst from him abundantly. Lin was hairless. Her muscles were tight under her red skin, each distinct. She was like an anatomical atlas. Isaac studied her in cheerful lust. His arse itched. He scratched under the blanket, rooting as shameless as a dog. Something burst under his nail, and he withdrew his hand to examine it. A tiny half-crushed grub waved helplessly on the end of his finger. It was a refflick, a harmless little khepri parasite. The thing must have been rather bewildered by my juices, Isaac thought, and flicked his finger clean. "Refflick, Lin," he said. "Bath time." Lin stamped in irritation. New Crobuzon was a huge plague pit, a morbific city. Parasites, infection and rumour were uncontainable. A monthly chymical dip was a necessary

prophylactic for the khepri, if they wanted to avoid itches and sores. Lin slid the contents of the pan onto a plate and set it down, across from her own breakfast. She sat and gestured for Isaac to join her. He rose from the bed and stumbled across the room. He eased himself onto the small chair, wary of splinters. Isaac and Lin sat naked on either side of the bare wooden table. Isaac was conscious of their pose, seeing them as a third person might. It would make a beautiful, strange print, he thought. An attic room, dustmotes in the light from the small window, books and paper and paints neatly stacked by cheap wooden furniture. A dark-skinned man, big and nude and detumescing, gripping a knife and fork, unnaturally still, sitting opposite a khepri, her slight woman’s body in shadow, her chitinous head in silhouette. They ignored their food and stared at each other for a moment. Lin signed at him: Good morning, lover.

Then she began to eat, still looking at him. It was when she ate that Lin was most alien, and their shared meals were a challenge and an affirmation. As he watched her, Isaac felt the familiar trill of emotion: disgust immediately stamped out, pride at the stamping out, guilty desire. Light glinted in Lin’s compound eyes. Her headlegs quivered. She picked up half a tomato and gripped it with her mandibles. She lowered her hands while her inner mouthparts picked at the food her outer jaw held steady. Isaac watched the huge iridescent scarab that was his lover’s head devour her breakfast. He watched her swallow, saw her throat bob where the pale insectile underbelly segued smoothly into her human neck…not that she would have accepted that description. Humans have khepri bodies, legs, hands; and the heads of shaved gibbons, she had once told him.

He smiled and dangled his fried pork in front of him, curled his tongue around it, wiped his greasy fingers on the table. He smiled at her. She undulated her headlegs at him and signed, My monster. I am a pervert, thought Isaac, and so is she. Breakfast conversation was generally one-sided: Lin could sign with her hands while she ate, but Isaac’s attempts to talk and eat simultaneously made for incomprehensible noises and food debris on the table. Instead they read; Lin an artists’ newsletter, Isaac whatever came to hand. He reached out between mouthfuls and grabbed books and papers, and found himself reading Lin’s shopping list. The item a handful of pork slices was ringed and underneath her exquisite calligraphy was a scrawled question in much cruder script: Got company??? Nice bit of pork goes down a treat!!! Isaac waved the paper at Lin. "What’s this filthy arse on about?" he yelled, spraying food. His outrage was

amused but genuine. Lin read it and shrugged. Knows I don’t eat meat. Knows I’ve got a guest for breakfast. Wordplay on "pork." "Yes, thanks, lover, I got that bit. How does he know you’re a vegetarian? Do you two often engage in this witty banter?" Lin stared at him for a moment without responding. Knows because I don’t buy meat. She shook her head at the stupid question. Don’t worry: only ever banter on paper. Doesn’t know I’m bug. Her deliberate use of the slur annoyed Isaac. "Dammit, I wasn’t insinuating anything…" Lin’s hand waggled, the equivalent of a raised eyebrow. Isaac howled in irritation. "Godshit, Lin! Not everything I say is about fear of discovery!"

Isaac and Lin had been lovers nearly two years. They had always tried not to think too hard about the rules of their relationship, but the longer they were together the more this strategy of avoidance became impossible. Questions as yet unasked demanded attention. Innocent remarks and askance looks from others, a moment of contact too long in public-a note from a grocer-everything was a reminder that they were, in some contexts, living a secret. Everything was made fraught. They had never said, We are lovers, so they had never had to say, We will not disclose our relationship to all, we will hide from some. But it had been clear for months and months that this was the case. Lin had begun to hint, with snide and acid remarks, that Isaac’s refusal to declare himself her lover was at best cowardly, at worst bigoted. This insensitivity annoyed him. He had, after all, made the nature of his relationship clear with his close friends, as Lin had with

hers. And it was all far, far easier for her. She was an artist. Her circle were the libertines, the patrons and the hangers-on, bohemians and parasites, poets and pamphleteers and fashionable junkies. They delighted in the scandalous and the outre. In the teahouses and bars of Salacus Fields, Lin’s escapadesbroadly hinted at, never denied, never made explicitwould be the subject of louche discussion and innuendo. Her love-life was an avant-garde transgression, an art-happening, like Concrete Music had been last season, or ‘Snot Art! the year before that. And yes, Isaac could play that game. He was known in that world, from long before his days with Lin. He was, after all, the scientist-outcast, the disreputable thinker who walked out of a lucrative teaching post to engage in experiments too outrageous and brilliant for the tiny minds who ran the university. What did he care for convention? He would sleep with whomever and whatever he liked, surely!

That was his persona in Salacus Fields, where his relationship with Lin was an open secret, where he enjoyed being more or less open, where he would put his arm around her in the bars and whisper to her as she sucked sugar-coffee from a sponge. That was his story, and it was at least half true. He had walked out of the university ten years ago. But only because he realized to his misery that he was a terrible teacher. He had looked out at the quizzical faces, listened to the frantic scrawling of the panicking students, and realized that with a mind that ran and tripped and hurled itself down the corridors of theory in anarchic fashion, he could learn himself, in haphazard lurches, but he could not impart the understanding he so loved. He had hung his head in shame and fled. In another twist to the myth, his Head of Department, the ageless and loathsome Vermishank, was not a plodding epigone but an exceptional bio-thaumaturge,

who had nixed Isaac’s research less because it was unorthodox than because it was going nowhere. Isaac could be brilliant, but he was undisciplined. Vermishank had played him like a fish, making him beg for work as a freelance-researcher on terrible pay, but with limited access to the university laboratories. And it was this, his work, which kept Isaac circumspect about his lover. These days, his relationship with the university was tenuous. Ten years of pilfering had equipped him with a fine laboratory of his own; his income was largely made up of dubious contracts with New Crobuzon’s less wholesome citizens, whose needs for sophisticated science constantly astounded him. But Isaac’s research-unchanged in its aims over all those years-could not proceed in a vacuum. He had to publish. He had to debate. He had to argue, to attend conferences-as the rogue, the rebellious son. There were great advantages to renegacy.

But the academy did not just play at being oldfashioned. Xenian students had only been admitted as degree candidates in New Crobuzon for twenty years. To cross-love openly would be a quick route to pariah status, rather than the bad-boy chic he had assiduously courted. What scared him was not that the editors of the journals and the chairs of the conferences and the publishers would find out about Lin and him. What scared him was that he be seen not trying to hide it. If he went through the motions of a cover-up, they could not denounce him as beyond the pale. All of which Lin took badly. You hide us so you can publish articles for people you despise, she had signed at him once after they had made love. Isaac, in sour moments, wondered how she would react if the art-world threatened to ostracize her. That morning the lovers managed to kill the nascent argument with jokes and apologies and compliments

and lust. Isaac smiled at Lin as he struggled into his shirt, and her headlegs rippled sensuously. "What are you up to today?" he asked. Going to Kinken. Need some colourberries. Going to exhibition in Howl Barrow. Working tonight, she added mock-ominously. "I suppose I won’t be seeing you for a while, then?" Isaac grinned. Lin shook her head. Isaac counted off days on his fingers. "Well…can we have dinner at The Clock and Cockerel on, uh…Shunday? Eight o’clock?" Lin pondered. She held his hands while she thought. Gorgeous, she signed coyly. She left it ambiguous as to whether she meant dinner or Isaac. They piled the pots and plates into the bucket of cold water in the corner and left them. As Lin gathered her notes and sketches to go, Isaac tugged her gently onto him, on the bed. He kissed her warm red skin. She

turned in his arms. She angled up on one elbow and, as he watched, the dark ruby of her carapace opened slowly while her headlegs splayed. The two halves of her headshell quivered slightly, held as wide as they would go. From beneath their shade she spread her beautiful, useless little beetle wings. She pulled his hand towards them gently, invited him to stroke the fragile things, totally vulnerable, an expression of trust and love unparalleled for the khepri. The air between them charged. Isaac’s cock stiffened. He traced the branching veins in her gently vibrating wings with his fingers, watched the light that passed through them refract into mother-of-pearl shadows. He rucked up her skirt with his other hand, slid his fingers up her thigh. Her legs opened around his hand and closed, trapped it. He whispered at her, filthy and loving invitations.

The sun shifted above them, sending shadows of the window-pane and clouds moving uneasily through the room. The lovers did not notice the day move.

Chapter Two
It was 11 o’clock before they disentangled. Isaac glanced at his pocket-watch and stumbled around gathering his clothes, his mind wandering to his work. Lin spared them the awkward negotiations that would surround leaving the house together. She bent and caressed the back of Isaac’s neck with her antennae, raising goose-bumps, and then she left while he still fumbled with his boots. Her rooms were nine floors up. She descended the tower; past the unsafe eighth floor; the seventh with its birdlime carpet and soft jackdaw susurrus; the old lady who never emerged on the sixth; and on down past petty thieves and steel workers and errand-girls and knife-grinders. The door was on the other side of the tower from Aspic Hole itself. Lin emerged into a quiet street, a mere passageway to and from the stalls of the bazaar.

She walked away from the noisy arguments and the profiteering towards the gardens of Sobek Croix. Ranks of cabs were always waiting at their entrance. She knew that some of the drivers (usually the Remade) were liberal or desperate enough to take khepri custom. As she passed through Aspic the blocks and houses grew less salubrious. The ground undulated and rose slowly to the southwest, where she was heading. The treetops of Sobek Croix rose like thick smoke above the slates of the dilapidated housing around her; beyond their leaves poked the stubby high-rise skyline of Ketch Heath. Lin’s bulging mirrored eyes saw the city in a compound visual cacophony. A million tiny sections of the whole, each minuscule hexagon segment ablaze with sharp colour and even sharper lines, super-sensitive to differentials of light, weak on details unless she focused hard enough to hurt slightly. Within each segment, the dead scales of decaying walls were invisible to her, architecture reduced to elemental slabs of colour. But a

precise story was told. Each visual fragment, each part, each shape, each shade of colour, differed from its surroundings in infinitesimal ways that told her about the state of the whole structure. And she could taste chymicals in the air, could tell how many of which race lived in which building: she could feel vibrations of air and sound with precision enough to converse in a crowded room or feel a train pass overhead. Lin had tried to describe how she saw the city to Isaac. I see clearly as you, clearer. For you it is undifferentiated. In one corner a slum collapsing, in another a new train with pistons shining, in another a gaudy painted lady below a drab and ancient airship…You must process as one picture. What chaos! Tells you nothing, contradicts itself, changes its story. For me each tiny part has integrity, each fractionally different from the next, until all variation is accounted for, incrementally, rationally.

Isaac had been fascinated for a week and a half. He had, typically, taken pages of notes and sought books on insectile vision, subjected Lin to tedious experiments in depth-perception and distance-vision; and reading, which impressed him most, knowing as he did that it did not come naturally to her, that she had to concentrate like someone half-blind. His interest had quickly waned. The human mind was incapable of processing what the khepri saw. All around Lin the duckers and divers of Aspic filled the streets on their way to scrape for money, stealing or begging or selling or sifting through the piles of rubbish which punctuated the street. Children scampered by carrying engine parts cobbled together into obscure shapes. Occasionally gentlemen and ladies strode by with an air of disapproval on their way Somewhere Else. Lin’s clogs were wet with organic muck from the street, rich pickings for the furtive creatures peering

from drains. The houses around her were flat-roofed and looming, with plank walkways slung across gaps between houses. Getaway routes, alternative passageways, the streets of the roofworld above New Crobuzon. Only a very few children called names at her. This was a community used to xenians. She could taste the cosmopolitan nature of this neighbourhood, the minute secretions of a variety of races, only some of which she recognized. There was the musk of more khepri, the dank odour of vodyanoi, even, from somewhere, the delicious taste of cactacae. Lin turned the corner onto the cobbled road around Sobek Croix. Cabs waited all along the iron fence. A massive variety. Two-wheelers, four-wheelers, pulled by horses, by sneering ptera-birds, by steam-wheezing constructs on caterpillar treads…here and there by Remade, miserable men and women both cabdriver and cab.

Lin stood before the ranks and waved her hand. Mercifully, the first driver in line geed his ornery-looking bird forward at her signal. "Where to?" The man leaned down to read the careful instructions she scrawled on her notepad. "Righto," he said, and jerked his head, motioning her in. The cab was an open-fronted two-seater, giving Lin a view of her passage through the south side of the city. The great flightless bird moved with a bobbing, rolling run that translated smoothly through the wheels. She sat back and read over her instructions to the driver. Isaac would not approve. At all. Lin did need colourberries, and she was going to Kinken for them. That was true. And one of her friends, Cornfed Daihat, was having an exhibition in Howl Barrow. But she would not see it.

She had already spoken to Cornfed, asking him to vouch that she had been there, should Isaac ask (she could not foresee that he would, but she might as well be safe). Cornfed had been delighted, flicking his white hair out of his face and flamboyantly begging eternal damnation for himself should he breathe a word. He clearly thought she was two-timing Isaac, and considered it a privilege to be part of this new twist to her already scandalous sex life. Lin could not make it to his show. She had business elsewhere. The cab was progressing towards the river. She swayed as the wooden wheels hit more cobblestones. They had turned onto Shadrach Street. The market was to their south now: they were above the point where the vegetables and shellfish and overripe fruit petered out. Swelling fatly above the low houses before her was the Flyside militia tower. A vast, filthy, pudgy pillar, squat and mean, somehow, for all its thirty-five storeys. Thin windows like arrow-slits peppered its sides, their

dark glass matt, immune to reflection. The tower’s concrete skin was mottled and flaking. Three miles to the north Lin caught a glimpse of an even taller structure: the militia’s hub, the Spike, that punctured the earth like a concrete thorn in the heart of the city. Lin craned her neck. Oozing obscenely over the top of the Flyside tower was a half-inflated dirigible. It flapped and lolled and swelled like a dying fish. She could feel its engine humming, even through the layers of air, as it strained to disappear into the gun-grey clouds. There was another murmur, a buzzing dissonant with the airship’s drone. Somewhere nearby a support strut vibrated, and a militia-pod streaked northwards towards the tower at breakneck speed. It careered along way, way above, suspended from the skyrail that stretched out on either side of the tower, threaded through its summit like wire through some colossal needle, disappearing to the north and the south. The pod slammed to a sudden stop against the buffers.

Figures emerged, but the cab passed on before Lin could see any more. For the second time that day Lin luxuriated in the taste of cactus-people sap, as the pterabird loped towards the Greenhouse in Riverskin. Shut out of that monastic sanctuary (the twisting, intricate panes of its steep glass dome looming to the east, in the heart of the quarter), despised by their elders, small gangs of cactus youth leaned against shuttered buildings and cheap posters. They played with knives. Their spines were cropped in violent patterns, their spring-green skin savaged with bizarre scarification. They eyed the cab without interest. Shadrach Street dipped suddenly. The cab was poised on a high point, where the streets curved sharply down away from it. Lin and her driver had a clear view of the grey, snow-specked jags of mountains rising splendidly to the west of the city. Before the cab trickled the River Tar.

Faint cries and industrial drones sounded from dark windows set into its brick banks, some of them below the high-water mark. Prisons and torture-chambers and workshops, and their bastard hybrids, the punishment factories, where the condemned were Remade. Boats coughed and retched their way along the black water. The spires of Nabob Bridge appeared. And beyond them, slate roofs hunching like shoulders in the cold, rotten walls held at the point of collapse by buttresses and organic cement, stinking a unique stink, was the shambles of Kinken. Over the river, in the Old City, the streets were narrower and darker. The pterabird paced uneasily past buildings slick with the hardened gel of the home-beetle. Khepri climbed from windows and doors of the refashioned houses. They were the majority here, this was their place. The streets were full of their women’s bodies, their insectile heads. They congregated in cavernous doorways, eating fruit.

Even the cabdriver could taste their conversations: the air was acrid with chymical communication. An organic thing split and burst under the wheels. A male, probably, thought Lin with a shudder, imagining one of the countless mindless scuttlers that swarmed from holes and cracks all around Kinken. Good riddance. The shying pterabird balked at passing under a low arch of brick that dripped stalactites of beetle mucus. Lin tapped the driver as he wrestled with the reins. She scrawled quickly and held up her pad. Bird not too happy. Wait here, I’ll be back five minutes. He nodded gratefully and extended a hand to help her down. Lin left him trying to calm the irritable mount. She turned a corner into Kinken’s central square. The pale exudations that drooled from rooftops left street-signs

visible at the edges of the square, but the name they declared-Aldelion Place-was not one that any of Kinken’s inhabitants would use. Even the few humans and other non-khepri who lived there used the newer khepri name, translating it from the hiss and chlorine burp of the original tongue: the Plaza of Statues. It was large and open, ringed by ramshackle buildings hundreds of years old. The tumbledown architecture contrasted violently with the great grey mass of another militia tower looming to the north. Roofs sloped incredibly steep and low. Windows were dirty and streaked with obscure patterns. She could feel the faint therapeutic humming of nurse-khepri in their surgeries. Sweet smoke wafted over the crowd: khepri, mostly, but here and there other races, investigating the statues. They filled the square: fifteen-foot figures of animals and plants and monstrous creatures, some real and some that had never lived, fashioned in brightly coloured khepri-spit. They represented hours and hours of communal

labour. Groups of khepri women had stood for days, back-to-back, chewing paste and colourberries, metabolizing it, opening the gland at the hindpart of their beetle-heads and pushing out thick (and misnamed) khepri-spit, that hardened in the air in an hour to a smooth, brittle, pearly brilliance. To Lin the statues represented dedication and community, and bankrupt imaginations falling back on cod-heroic grandiosity. This was why she lived and ate and spat her art alone. Lin walked past the fruit and vegetable shops, the handwritten signs promising home-grubs for hire in large uneven capitals, the art-exchange centres with all the accoutrements for the khepri gland artist. Other khepri glanced at Lin. Her skirt was long and bright in the fashion of Salacus Fields: human fashion, not the traditional ballooning pantaloons of these ghettodwellers. Lin was marked. She was an outsider. Had left her sisters. Forgotten hive and moiety.

Damn right I have, thought Lin, defiantly swishing her long green skirt. The spittle-store owner knew her, and they politely, perfunctorily, brushed antennae. Lin looked up at the shelves. The inside of the store was coated in home-grub cement, rippling across walls and blunting corners with more care than was traditional. The spittle goods perched on shelves that jutted like bones from the organic sludge were illuminated by gaslight. The window was artistically smeared with juice from various colourberries, and the day was kept out. Lin spoke, clicking and waving her headlegs, secreting tiny mists of scent. She communicated her desire for scarletberries, cyanberries, blackberries, opalberries and purpleberries. She included a spray of admiration for the high quality of the storekeeper’s goods. Lin took her wares and left quickly.

The atmosphere of pious community in Kinken nauseated her. The cabdriver was waiting, and she leapt up behind him, pointed north-east, bade him take them away. Redwing Hive, Catskull Moiety, she thought giddily. You sanctimonious bitches, I remember it all! On and on about community and the great khepri hive while the "sisters" over in Creekside scrabble about for potatoes. You have nothing, surrounded by people that mock you as bugs, buy your art cheap and sell you food dear, but because there are others with even less you style yourselves the protectors of the khepri way. I’m out. I dress how I like. My art is mine. She breathed easier when the streets around her were clean of beetle cement, and the only khepri in the crowds were, like her, outcasts. She sent the cab under the brick arches of Spit Bazaar Station, just as a train roared overhead like a

great petulant steam-powered child. It set off towards the heart of the Old Town. Superstitiously, Lin directed the cab up towards Barguest Bridge. It was not the nearest place to cross the Canker, the Tar’s sister; but that would be in Brock Marsh, the triangular slice of the Old City wedged between the two rivers as they met and became Gross Tar, and where Isaac, like many others, had his laboratory. There was no chance at all he would see her, in that labyrinth of dubious experiments, where the nature of the research made even the architecture untrustworthy. But so that she need not even think of it for a moment, she sent the cab to Gidd Station, where the Dexter Line stretched out to the east on raised tracks that stretched higher and higher above the city as they moved further from the centre. Follow the trains! she wrote, and the cabdriver did, through the wide streets of West Gidd, over the ancient and grand Barguest Bridge, across the Canker; the cleaner, colder river that flowed down from the Bezhek

Peaks. She stopped him and paid, with a generous tip, wanting to walk the last mile herself, not wanting to be traceable. She hurried to make her appointment in the shadow of the Ribs, the Bonetown Claws, in the Thieves’ Quarter. Behind her, for a moment, the sky was very full: an aerostat droned in the distance; tiny specks lurched erratically around it, winged figures playing in its wake like dolphins round a whale; and in front of them all another train, heading into the city this time, heading for the centre of New Crobuzon, the knot of architectural tissue where the fibres of the city congealed, where the skyrails of the militia radiated out from the Spike like a web and the five great trainlines of the city met, converging on the great variegated fortress of dark brick and scrubbed concrete and wood and steel and stone, the edifice that yawned hugely at the city’s vulgar heart, Perdido Street Station.

Chapter Three
Opposite Isaac on the train sat a small child and her father, a shabby gent in a bowler hat and second-hand jacket. Isaac made a monster face at her whenever she caught his eye. Her father was whispering to her, entertaining her with prestidigitation. He gave her a pebble to hold, then spat on it quickly. It became a frog. The girl squealed with delight at the slimy thing and glanced shyly up at Isaac. He opened his eyes and mouth wide, mumming astonishment as he left his seat. She was still watching him as he opened the door of the train and stepped out onto Sly Station. He made his way down and onto the streets, wound through the traffic for Brock Marsh. There were few cabs or animals in the narrow twisting streets of the Scientific Quarter, the oldest part of the ancient city. There were pedestrians of all races, as well as bakeries and laundries and guildhalls, all the sundry services any community needed. There were

pubs and shops and even a militia tower; a small, stubby one at the apex of Brock Marsh where the Canker and the Tar converged. The posters plastered on the crumbling walls advertised the same dancehalls, warned of the same coming doom, demanded allegiance to the same political parties as elsewhere in the city. But for all that apparent normality, there was a tension to the area, a fraught expectancy. Badgers-familiars by tradition, believed to have a certain immunity to the more dangerous harmonics of hidden sciences-scampered past with lists in their teeth, their pear-shaped bodies disappearing into special flaps in shop doorways. Above the thick glass storefronts were attic rooms. Old warehouses on the waterfront had been converted. Forgotten cellars lurked in temples to minor deities. In these and all the other architectural crevices, the Brock Marsh dwellers pursued their trades: physicists; chimerists; biophilosophers and teratologists; chymists; necrochymists; mathematicians; karcists and metallurgists and vodyanoi shaman; and those, like Isaac, whose research did not fit neatly into

any of the innumerable categories of theory. Strange vapours wafted over the roofs. The converging rivers on either side ran sluggishly, and the water steamed here and there as its currents mixed nameless chymicals into potent compounds. The slop from failed experiments, from factories and laboratories and alchymists’ dens, mixed randomly into bastard elixirs. In Brock Marsh, the water had unpredictable qualities. Young mudlarks searching the river quag for scrap had been known to step into some discoloured patch of mud and start speaking long-dead languages, or find locusts in their hair, or fade slowly to translucency and disappear. Isaac turned down a quiet stretch of the river’s edge onto the decaying flagstones and tenacious weeds of Umber Promenade. Across the Canker, the Ribs jutted over the roofs of Bonetown like a clutch of vast tusks curling hundreds of feet into the air. The river sped up a little as it bore south. Half a mile away he could see Strack Island breaking its flow where it met the Tar and

curled away grandly to the east. The ancient stones and towers of Parliament rose hugely from the very edges of Strack Island. There was no gradual incline or urban scrub before the blunt layers of obsidian shot out of the water like a frozen fountain. The clouds were dissipating, leaving behind a washed-out sky. Isaac could see the red roof of his workshop rising above the surrounding houses; and before it, the weed-choked forecourt of his local, The Dying Child. The ancient tables in the outside yard were colourful with fungus. No one, in Isaac’s memory, had ever sat at one of them. He entered. Light seemed to give up the struggle halfway through the thick, soiled windows, leaving the interior in shadows. The walls were unadorned except by dirt. The pub was empty of all but the most dedicated drinkers, shambolic figures huddled over bottles. Several were junkies, several were Remade. Some were both: The Dying Child turned no one away. A group of emaciated young men lay draped across a

table twitching in perfect time, strung out on shazbah or dreamshit or very-tea. One woman held her glass in a metal claw that spat steam and dripped oil onto the floorboards. A man in the corner lapped quietly from a bowl of beer, licking the fox’s muzzle that had been grafted to his face. Isaac quietly greeted the old man by the door, Joshua, whose Remaking had been very small and very cruel. A failed burglar, he had refused to testify against his gang, and the magister had ordered his silence made permanent: he had had his mouth taken away, sealed with a seamless stretch of flesh. Rather than live on tubes of soup pushed through his nose, Joshua had sliced himself a new mouth, but the pain had made him tremble, and it was a ragged, torn, unfinished-looking thing, a flaccid wound. Joshua nodded at Isaac and, with his fingers, carefully held his mouth closed over a straw, sucked greedily at his cider.

Isaac headed for the back of the room. The bar, in one corner, was very low, about three feet from the ground. Behind it, in a trough of dirty water, wallowed Silchristchek the landlord. Sil lived and worked and slept in the tub, hauling himself from one end to the other with his huge, webbed hands and frog’s legs, his body wobbling like a bloated testicle, seemingly boneless. He was ancient and fat and grumpy, even for a vodyanoi. He was a bag of old blood with limbs, without a separate head, his big curmudgeonly face poking out from the fat at the front of his body. Twice a month he scooped the water out from around him and had his regulars pour fresh buckets over him, farting and sighing with pleasure. The vodyanoi could spend at least a day in the dry without ill-effects, but Sil could not be bothered. He oozed surly indolence, and chose to do so in his filthy water. Isaac could not help feeling that Sil debased himself as a kind of aggressive show. He seemed to relish being more-

disgusting-than-thou. In the early days, Isaac had drunk here out of a youthful delight in plumbing the depths of squalor. Mature now, he frequented more salubrious inns for pleasure, returning to Sil’s hovel only because it was so close to his work, and, increasingly, unexpectedly, for research purposes. Sil had taken to providing him with experimental samples he needed. Stinking piss-coloured water slopped over the edges of the tub as Sil wriggled his way towards Isaac. "What you having, ‘Zaac?" he barked. "Kingpin." Isaac flipped a deuce into Sil’s hand. Sil brought down a bottle from one of the shelves behind him. Isaac sipped the cheap beer and slid onto a stool, grimacing as he sat in some dubious liquid. Sil sat back in his tub. Without looking at Isaac, he

began a monosyllabic, idiot conversation about the weather, about the beer. He went through the motions. Isaac said just enough to keep the discourse alive. On the counter were several crude figures, rendered in water that seeped into the grain of the old wood before his eyes. Two were rapidly dissolving, losing their integrity and becoming puddles as Isaac watched. Sil idly scooped up another handful from his tub and kneaded it. The water responded like clay, holding the shape Sil gave it. Scraps of the dirt and discoloration of the tub eddied inside it. Sil pinched the figure’s face and made a nose, squeezed the legs to the size of small sausages. He perched the little homunculus in front of Isaac. "That what you’re after?" he asked. Isaac swallowed the rest of his beer. "Cheers, Sil. Appreciate it." Very carefully, he blew on the little figure until it fell

backwards into his cupped hands. It splashed a little, but he could feel its surface tension hold. Sil watched with a cynical smile as Isaac scurried to get the figurine out of the pub and to his laboratory. Outside the wind had picked up a little. Isaac sheltered his prize and walked quickly up the little alley that adjoined The Dying Child with Paddler Way and his workshop-home. He pushed open the green doors with his bum and backed into the building. Isaac’s laboratory had been a factory and a warehouse years ago, and its huge, dusty floorspace swamped the little benches and retorts and blackboards that perched in its corners. From the two corners of the floor came yelled greetings. David Serachin and Lublamai Dadscattrogue-scientists like Isaac, with whom he shared the rent and the space. David and Lublamai used the ground floor, each filling a corner with their tools, separated by forty feet of empty wooden boards. A refitted waterpump jutted from the floor between their

ends of the room. The construct they shared was rolling across the floor, loudly and inefficiently sweeping up dust. They keep the useless thing out of sentimentality, thought Isaac. Isaac’s workshop, his kitchen and his bed, were on the huge walkway that jutted out from the walls halfway up the old factory. It was about twenty feet wide, circumnavigating the hall, with a ramshackle wooden railing miraculously still holding from when Lublamai had first hammered it in. The door slammed heavily shut behind Isaac, and the long mirror that hung beside it shuddered. I can’t believe that thing doesn’t break, thought Isaac. We must move it. As always, the thought was gone as soon as it had come. As Isaac took the stairs three at a time, David saw how he held his hands and laughed. "More of Silchristchek’s high art, Isaac?" he yelled.

Isaac grinned back. "Never let it be said I don’t collect the best!" Isaac, who had found the warehouse all those years ago, had had first pick of the working space, and it showed. His bed and stove and chamberpot were in one corner of the raised platform, and at the other end of the same side were the bulky protuberances of his lab. Glass and clay containers full of weird compounds and dangerous chymicals filled the shelves. Heliotypes of Isaac with his friends in various poses around the city and in Rudewood dotted the walls. The warehouse backed onto the Umber Promenade: his windows looked out over the Canker and the Bonetown shore, gave him a splendid view of the Ribs and the Kelltree train. Isaac ran past those huge arched windows to an esoteric machine of burnished brass. It was a dense knot of pipes and lenses, with dials and gauges shoved roughly wherever they would fit.

Ostentatiously stamped on every component of the whole was a sign: property of nc university physics dept. do not remove. Isaac checked and was relieved to see that the little boiler at the machine’s heart had not gone out. He shoved in a handful of coal and bolted the boiler closed. He placed Sil’s little statue on a viewing platform under a glass bell, and heaved at some bellows just beneath it, siphoning out the air and replacing it with gas from a slender leather tube. He relaxed. The integrity of the vodyanoi waterpiece would hold a little longer, now. Outside vodyanoi hands, untouched, such works would last perhaps an hour before slowly collapsing back into their elemental form. Interfered with, they dissolved much more quickly: in a noble gas more slowly. He had perhaps two hours to investigate. Isaac had become interested in vodyanoi watercraeft

in a roundabout way, as a result of his research in unified energy theory. He had wondered whether what allowed vodyanoi to mould water was a force related to the binding force that he sought, that held matter together in certain circumstances, dispersed it violently in others. What had happened was a common pattern of Isaac’s research: a byway of his work had taken on a momentum of its own, and had become a deep, almost certainly short-lived, obsession. Isaac bent some lens-tubes into position and lit a gasjet to illuminate the waterpiece. Isaac was still piqued by the ignorance surrounding watercraeft. It brought home to him, again, how much mainstream science was bunk, how much "analysis" was just, description-often bad description-hiding behind obfuscatory rubbish. His favourite example of the genre came from Benchamburg’s Hydrophysiconometricia, a hugely respected textbook. He had howled when he read it, copied it out carefully and pinned it to his wall. The vodyanoi, by means of what is called their

watercraeft, are able to manipulate the plasticity and sustain the surface tension of water such that a quantity will hold any shape the manipulator might give it for a short time. This is achieved by thevodyanois’ application of an hydrocohesive/aquamorphic energy field of minor diachronic extension. In other words, Benchamburg had no more idea how the vodyanoi shaped water than did Isaac, or a street urchin, or old Silchristchek himself. Isaac pulled a set of levers, shifting a series of glass slides and sending different coloured lights through the statuette, which he could already see beginning to sag at the edges. Peering through a high-magnification eyepiece, he could see tiny animalculae squirm mindlessly. Internally the water’s structure changed not at all: it merely wanted to occupy a different space from its usual. He collected it as it seeped through a crack in the stand. He would examine it later, though he knew from

past experience he would find nothing of any interest in it. Isaac scribbled notes on a pad beside him. He subjected the waterpiece to various experiments as the minutes went by, piercing it with a syringe and sucking some of its substance away, taking heliotypic prints of it from various angles, blowing tiny air-bubbles into it, which rose and burst out of its top. Eventually he boiled it and let it dissipate in steam. At one point Sincerity, David’s badger, ambled up the stairs and sniffed at his dangling fingers. He stroked her absently and when she licked his hand, he yelled to David that she was hungry. He was surprised by the silence. David and Lublamai had left, presumably for a late lunch: several hours had passed since he had arrived. He stretched and paced over to his pantry, throwing Sincerity a twist of dried meat, which she began to gnaw happily. Isaac was growing conscious of the

world again, hearing boats through the walls behind him. The door swung open and shut again below. He trotted to the top of the stairs, expecting to see his colleagues returning. Instead, a stranger stood in the centre of the great empty space. Air currents adjusted to his presence, investigated him like tentacles, sending a whirligig of dust spinning around him. Spots of light littered the floor from open windows and broken bricks, but none fell directly on him. The wooden walkway creaked as Isaac rocked, very slightly. The figure below jerked its head back and threw off a hood, hands clasped to its chest, very still, staring up. Isaac gazed in astonishment. It was a garuda. He nearly stumbled down the stairs, fumbling with the rail, loath to take his eyes off the extraordinary visitor

waiting for him. He touched earth. The garuda stared down at him. Isaac’s fascination defeated his manners, and he stared frankly back. The great creature stood more than six feet tall, on cruel clawed feet that poked out from under a dirty cloak. The ragged cloth dangled down almost to the ground, draped loosely over every inch of flesh, obscuring the details of physiognomy and musculature, all but the garuda’s head. And that great inscrutable bird face gazed down at Isaac with what looked like imperiosity. Its sharply curved beak was something between a kestrel’s and an owl’s. Sleek feathers faded subtly from ochre to dun to dappled brown. Deep black eyes stared at his own, the iris only a fine mottling at the very edge of the dark. Those eyes were set in orbits which gave the garuda face a permanent sneer, a proud furrow. And looming over the garuda’s head, covered in the rough sackcloth it clasped about itself, projected the

unmistakable shapes of its huge furled wings, promontories of feather and skin and bone that extended two feet or more from its shoulders and curved elegantly towards each other. Isaac had never seen a garuda spread its wings at close quarters, but he had read descriptions of the dust-cloud they could raise, and the vast shadows they threw across the garuda’s prey below. What are you doing here, so far from home? thought Isaac with wonder. Look at the colour of you: you’re from the desert! You must have come miles and miles and miles, from the Cymek. What the spit are you doing here, you impressive fucker? He almost shook his head with awe at the great predator before he cleared his throat and spoke. "Can I help you?"

Chapter Four
Lin, to her mortal horror, was running late. It did not help that she was not an aficionado of Bonetown. The cross-bred architecture of that outlandish quarter confused her: a syncresis of industrialism and the gaudy domestic ostentation of the slightly rich, the peeling concrete of forgotten docklands and the stretched skins of shantytown tents. The different forms segued into each other seemingly at random in this low, flat zone, full of urban scrubland and wasteground where wild flowers and thick-stemmed plants pushed through plains of concrete and tar. Lin had been given a street name, but the signs around her crumbled on their perches and drooped to point in impossible directions, or were obscured with rust, or contradicted each other. She concentrated to read them, looked instead at her scribbled map. She could orient herself by the Ribs. She looked up

and found them above her, shoving vastly into the sky. Only one side of the cage was visible, the bleached and blistered curves poised like a bone wave about to break over the buildings to the east. Lin made her way for them. The streets opened out around her and she found herself before another abandoned-looking lot, but larger than the others by a huge factor. It did not look like a square but a massive unfinished hole in the city. The buildings at its edge did not show their faces but their backs and their sides, as if they had been promised neighbours with elegant façades that had never arrived. The streets of Bonetown edged nervously into the scrubland with exploratory little fringes of brick that petered quickly out. The dirty grass was dotted here and there with makeshift stalls, foldaway tables put down at random places and spread with cheap cakes or old prints or the rubbish from someone’s attic. Street-jugglers chucked things around in lacklustre displays. There were a few

half-hearted shoppers, and people of all races sitting on scattered boulders, reading, eating, scratching at the dry dirt, and contemplating the bones above them. The Ribs rose from the earth at the edges of the empty ground. Leviathan shards of yellowing ivory thicker than the oldest trees exploded out of the ground, bursting away from each other, sweeping up in a curved ascent until, more than a hundred feet above the earth, looming now over the roofs of the surrounding houses, they curled sharply back towards each other. They climbed as high again till their points nearly touched, vast crooked fingers, a god-sized ivory mantrap. There had been plans to fill the square, to build offices and houses in the ancient chest cavity, but they had come to nothing. Tools used on the site broke easily and went missing. Cement would not set. Something baleful in the halfexhumed bones kept the gravesite free of permanent

disturbance. Fifty feet below Lin’s feet, archaeologists had found vertebrae the size of houses; a backbone which had been quietly reburied after one too many accidents onsite. No limbs, no hips, no gargantuan skull had surfaced. No one could say what manner of creature had fallen here and died millennia ago. The grubby print-vendors who worked the Ribs specialized in various lurid depictions of Gigantes Crobuzon, fourfooted or bipedal, humanoid, toothed, tusked, winged, pugnacious or pornographic. Lin’s map directed her to a nameless alley on the south side of the Ribs. She wound her way to a quiet street where she found the black-painted buildings she had been told to seek, a row of dark, deserted houses, all but one with bricked-up doorways and windows sealed and painted with tar. There were no passers-by in this street, no cabs, no traffic. Lin was quite alone.

Above the one remaining door in the row was chalked what looked like a gameboard, a square divided into nine smaller squares. There were no noughts or crosses, however, no other mark at all. Lin hovered in the vicinity of the houses. She fidgeted with her skirt and blouse until, exasperated with herself, she walked up to the door and knocked quickly. Bad enough that I’m late, she thought, without pissing him off even more. She heard hinges and levers slide somewhere above her, and detected a tiny glint of reflected light over her head: some system of lenses and mirrors was being deployed so those within could judge whether those without were worthy of attention. The door opened. Standing before Lin was a vast Remade. Her face was still the same mournful, pretty human woman’s it had always been, with dark skin and long plaited hair,

but it supplanted a seven-foot skeleton of black iron and pewter. She stood on a tripod of stiff telescoping metal. Her body had been altered for heavy labour, with pistons and pulleys giving her what looked like ineluctable strength. Her right arm was levelled at Lin’s head, and from the centre of the brass hand extended a vicious harpoon. Lin recoiled in astonished terror. A large voice sounded from behind the sad-faced woman. "Ms. Lin? The artist? You’re late. Mr. Motley is expecting you. Please follow me." The Remade stepped backwards, balancing on her central leg and swinging the others behind it, giving Lin room to step around her. The harpoon did not waver. How far can you go? thought Lin to herself, and stepped into the dark.

At the far end of an entirely black corridor was a cactacae man. Lin could taste his sap in the air, but very faintly. He stood seven feet tall, thick-limbed and heavy. His head broke the curve of his shoulders like a crag, his silhouette uneven with nodules of hardy growth. His green skin was a mass of scars, three-inch spines and tiny red spring flowers. He beckoned to her with gnarled fingertips. "Mr. Motley can afford to be patient," he said as he turned and climbed the stairs behind him, "but I’ve never known him relish waiting." He looked back clumsily and raised an eyebrow at Lin pointedly. Fuck off, lackey, she thought impatiently. Take me to the big man. He stomped off on shapeless feet like small treestumps. Behind her, Lin could hear the explosive bursts of steam and thumps as the Remade took the stairs. Lin

followed the cactus through a twisting, windowless tunnel. This place is huge, Lin thought, as they moved on and on. She realized that it must be the whole row of houses, dividing walls destroyed and rebuilt, custommade, renovated into one vast convoluted space. They passed doors from which suddenly emerged an unnerving sound, like the muffled anguish of machines. Lin’s antennae bristled. As they left it behind, a volley of thuds sounded, like a score of crossbow bolts fired into soft wood. Oh Broodma, thought Lin querulously. Gazid, what the fuck have I let you talk me into? It was Lucky Gazid, the failed impresario, who had started the process leading Lin to this terrifying place. He had run off a set of heliotypes of her most recent batch of work, hawked them around the city. It was a regular process, as he attempted to establish a reputation among the artists and patrons of New

Crobuzon. Gazid was a pathetic figure forever reminding anyone who would listen of the one successful show he had arranged for a now-dead aether sculptress thirteen years previously. Lin and most of her friends viewed him with pity and contempt. Everyone she knew let him take his heliotypes and slipped him a few shekels or a noble, "an advance on his agent’s fee." Then he would disappear for a few weeks, to emerge again with puke on his trousers and blood on his shoes, buzzing on some new drug, and the process would begin again. Only not this time. Gazid had found Lin a buyer. When he had sidled up to her in The Clock and Cockerel she had protested. It was someone else’s turn, she had scribbled on her pad, she had "advanced" him a whole guinea only a week or so ago; but Gazid had interrupted her and insisted she retreat from the table with him. And as her friends, the artistic elite of

Salacus Fields, laughed and cheered them on, Gazid had handed her a stiff white card stamped with a simple crest of a three-by-three chessboard. On it was a short printed note. Ms. Lin, it said. My employer was most impressed with the examples of your work your agent showed him. He wonders whether you might be interested in meeting him to discuss a possible commission. We look forward to hearing from you. The signature was illegible. Gazid was a wreck and an addict of most things going, who could not help going to any lengths to secure money for drugs; but this was not like any scam that Lin could imagine. There was no angle for him, unless there was indeed someone wealthy in New Crobuzon prepared to pay for her work, giving him a cut. She had dragged him out of the bar, to catcalls and whoops and consternation, and had demanded to know what was going on. Gazid was circumspect at first, and

seemed to rack his brains to think of what lies to spout. He realized quite quickly that he needed to tell her the truth. "There’s a guy I buy some stuff from occasionally…" he started shiftily. "Anyway, I had the prints of your statues lying around…uh…on the shelf when he came round, and he loved them and wanted to take a couple away, and…uh…I said ‘yeah.’ And then a while later he told me that he showed them to the guy who supplies him with the stuff I sometimes buy, and that guy liked them, and took them away, and showed them to his boss, and then they got to the kind of top man, who’s huge into art-bought some of Alexandrine’s stuff last year-and he liked them and wants you to do a piece for him." Lin translated the evasive language. Your drug dealer’s boss wants me to work for him??? she scrawled. "Oh shit, Lin, it’s not like that…I mean, yeah, but…"

Gazid paused. "Well, yeah," he finished lamely. There was a pause. "Only…only…he wants to meet you. If you’re interested he has to actually meet you." Lin pondered. It was certainly an exciting prospect. Judging by the card, this was not some minor hustler: this was a big player. Lin was not stupid. She knew that this would be dangerous. She was excited, she could not help it. It would be such an event in her art-life. She could drop hints about it. She could have a criminal patron. She was intelligent enough to realize that her excitement was childish, but not mature enough to care. And while she was deciding that she didn’t care, Gazid named the kinds of sums the mysterious buyer was quoting. Lin’s headlegs flexed in astonishment. I have to talk to Alexandrine, she wrote, and went back inside. Alex knew nothing. She milked the kudos of having

sold canvases to a crime boss for what she could, but she had only ever met an at-best middle-ranking messenger, who had offered her enormous sums for two paintings that she had just finished. She had accepted, handed them over, and never heard anything again. That was it. She had never even known the name of her buyer. Lin decided that she could do better than that. She had sent a message through Gazid, down the illicit conduit of communication that led fuck-knewwhere, saying that yes, she was interested, and would be prepared to meet, but she really must have a name to write in her diary. The New Crobuzon underworld digested her message, and made her wait a week, and then spat back an answer in the shape of another printed note, pushed under her door while she slept, giving her an address in Bonetown, a date, and a one-word name:

Motley. A frenetic snapping and clatter sifted into the corridor. Lin’s cactacae escort pushed open one dark door among the many, and stood aside. Lin’s eyes adjusted to the light. She was looking into a typing pool. It was a large room with a high ceiling, painted black like everything in this troglodytic place, well-lit with gaslamps, and filled with perhaps forty desks; on each was a bulky typewriter, at each a secretary copying from reams of notes by their sides. Mostly human and mostly women, Lin also caught smell and sight of men and cactacae, even a pair of khepri, and a vodyanoi working at a typewriter with keys adapted for her huge hands. Around the room Remade were stationed, mostly human, again, but of other races too, rare as xenian Remade were. Some were organically Remade, with claws and antlers and slabs of grafted muscle, but most were mech, and the heat from their boilers made the

room close. At the end of the room was a closed office. "Ms. Lin, finally," boomed a speaking-trumpet above its door as soon as she entered. None of the secretaries looked up. "Please make your way across the room to my office." Lin picked her way between the desks. She looked closely at what was being typed, hard though it was, and harder in the odd light of the black-walled room. The secretaries all typed expertly, reading the scribbled notes and transferring them without looking at their keyboards or their work. Further to our conversation of the thirteenth of this month, read one, please consider your franchise operation under our jurisdiction, terms to be arranged. Lin moved on. You die tomorrow, you fuck, you wormshit. You’re going to envy the Remade, you cowardly

cunt, you’re going to scream till your mouth bleeds, said the next. Oh…thought Lin. Oh…help. The door to the office opened. "Come in, Ms. Lin, come in!" The voice boomed from the trumpet. Lin did not hesitate. She entered. Filing cabinets and bookshelves filled most of the small room. There was a small, traditional oil painting of Iron Bay on one wall. Behind a large darkwood desk was a folding screen illustrated with silhouettes of fish, a large version of the screens behind which artists’ models changed. In the centre of the screen, one fish was rendered in mirrored glass, giving Lin a view of herself. Lin hovered uncertainly in front of the screen. "Sit, sit," said a quiet voice from behind it. Lin pulled up the chair in front of the desk.

"I can see you, Ms. Lin. The mirrored carp is a window on my side. I think it’s polite to let people know that." The speaker seemed to expect a response, so Lin nodded. "You’re late, you know, Ms. Lin." Devil’s Tail! Of all the appointments to be late to! Lin thought frantically. She began to scribble an apology on her pad when the voice interrupted her. "I can sign, Ms. Lin." Lin put down her pad and apologized profusely with her hands. "Don’t worry," said her host disingenuously. "It happens. The Bonetown is unforgiving to visitors. Next time you’ll know to leave earlier, won’t you?" Lin agreed that she would, that that was exactly what

she would know to do. "I like your work a great deal, Ms. Lin. I have all the heliotypes that made their way from Lucky Gazid. He is a sad, pathetic, broken cretin, that man-addiction is very sad in most of its forms-but he does, strangely enough, have something of a nose for art. That woman Alexandrine Nevgets was one of his, wasn’t she? Pedestrian, unlike your own work, but pleasant. I’m always prepared to indulge Lucky Gazid. It will be a shame when he dies. It’ll doubtless be a sordid affair, some dirty stubby knife gutting him slowly for the sake of small change; or a venereal disease involving vile emissions and sweat caught from an underage whore; or perhaps his bones will be broken for snitching-the militia, after all, do pay well, and junkies can’t be choosers when it comes to income." The voice that floated over the screen was melodious, and what the speaker said scanned hypnotically: he spoke everything into a poem. His sentences lilted on gently. His words were brutal. Lin

was very afraid. She could not think of anything to say. Her hands were still. "So having decided that I like your art I want to talk to you to discover whether you would be right for a commission. Your work is unusual for a khepri. Would you agree?" Yes. "Talk to me about your statues, Ms. Lin, and don’t worry, were you about to, that you might sound precious. I have no prejudices against taking art seriously, and don’t forget that I started this conversation. The key words to bear in mind when thinking how to answer my question are ‘themes,’ ‘technique’ and ‘aesthetics.’ " Lin hesitated, but her fear drove her on. She wanted to keep this man happy, and if that meant talking about her work, then that was what she would do. I work alone, she signed, which is part of my…

rebellion. I left Creekside and then Kinken, left my moiety and my hive. People were miserable, so communal art got stupidly heroic. Like Plaza of Statues. I wanted to spit out something…nasty. Tried to make some of the grand figures we all made together a little less perfect…Pissed off my sisters. So turned to my own work. Nasty work. Creekside nasty. "That is exactly as I had expected. It is even-forgive me-somewhat hackneyed. However, that doesn’t detract from the power of the work itself. Khepri spit is a wonderful substance. Its lustre is quite unique, and its strength and lightness make it convenient, which I know is not the sort of word one is supposed to think of in connection with art, but I am pragmatic. Anyhow, to have such a lovely substance used for the drab wishfulfilment of depressed khepri is a terrible waste. I was so very relieved to see someone using the substance for interesting, unsettling ends. The angularity you achieve is extraordinary, by the way."

Thank you. I have powerful gland technique. Lin was enjoying the licence to boast. Originally I was a member of the Outnow school which forbids working on a piece after spat out. Gives you excellent control. Even though I have…reneged. I now go hack while the spit is soft, work it more. More freedom, can do overhangs and the like. "Do you use a great deal of colour variation?" Lin nodded. "I saw only the sepia of the heliotypes. That is good to know. That is technique and aesthetics. I’m very interested to hear your thoughts on themes, Ms. Lin." Lin was taken aback. Suddenly she could not think what her themes were. "Let me put you in an easier position. I’d like to tell you what themes I am interested in. And then we can see if you’d be right for the commission I have in mind." The voice waited until Lin nodded ascent.

"Please tilt your head up, Ms. Lin." Startled, she did so. The motion made her nervous, exposing as it did the soft underbelly of her beetle head, inviting harm. She held her head still as eyes behind the mirror-fish watched her. "You have the same cords in your neck as a human woman. You share the hollow at the base of your throat beloved by poets. Your skin is a shade of red that would mark you out as unusual, that’s true, but it could still pass as human. I follow that beautiful human neck up-I have no doubt you won’t accept the description ‘human,’ but indulge me a minute-and then there is… there is a moment…there is a thin zone where that soft human skin merges with the pale segmented cream underneath your head." For the first time since Lin had entered the room, the speaker seemed to be searching for words. "Have you ever created a statue of a cactus?" Lin shook her head. "Nonetheless you have seen them up

close? My associate who led you here, for example. Did you happen to notice his feet, or his fingers, or his neck? There is a moment when the skin, the skin of the sentient creature, becomes mindless plant. Cut the fat round base of a cactus’s foot, he can’t feel a thing. Poke him in the thigh where he’s a bit softer, he’ll squeal. But there in that zone…it’s an altogether different thing…the nerves are intertwining, learning to be succulent plant, and pain is distant, blunt, diffuse, worrying rather than agonizing. "You can think of others. The torso of the Cray or the Inchmen, the sudden transition of a Remade limb, many other races and species in this city, and countless more in the world, who live with a mongrel physiognomy. You will perhaps say that you do not recognize any transition, that the khepri are complete and whole in themselves, that to see ‘human’ features is anthropocentric of me. But leaving aside the irony of that accusation-an irony you can’t yet appreciate-you would surely recognize the transition in other races from your own. And perhaps in the human.

"And what of the city itself? Perched where two rivers strive to become the sea, where mountains become a plateau, where the clumps of trees coagulate to the south and-quantity becomes quality-are suddenly a forest. New Crobuzon’s architecture moves from the industrial to the residential to the opulent to the slum to the underground to the airborne to the modern to the ancient to the colourful to the drab to the fecund to the barren…You take my point. I won’t go on. "This is what makes the world, Ms. Lin. I believe this to be the fundamental dynamic. Transition. The point where one thing becomes another. It is what makes you, the city, the world, what they are. And that is the theme I’m interested in. The zone where the disparate become part of the whole. The hybrid zone. "Could this theme interest you, d’you think? And if the answer is yes…then I am going to ask you to work for me. Before you answer, please understand what this will mean.

"I will ask you to work from life, to produce a model-life-size, I fancy-of me. "Very few people see my face, Ms. Lin. A man in my position has to be careful. I’m sure you can understand. If you take this commission I will make you rich, but I will also own a part of your mind. The part that pertains to me. That is mine. I do not give you permission to share it with any. If you do, you will suffer greatly before you die. "So…" Something creaked. Lin realized that he had sat back in his chair. "So, Ms. Lin. Are you interested in the hybrid zone? Are you interested in this job?" I cannot…cannot turn this down, thought Lin helplessly. I cannot. For money, for art…Gods help me. I cannot turn this down. Oh…please, please let me not regret this. She paused, and signed her acceptance of his terms. "Oh, I am so glad," he breathed. Lin’s heart raced. "I

really am glad. Well…" There was a shuffling sound behind the screen. Lin sat very still. Her antennae moved tremulously. "The blinds are down in the office, aren’t they?" said Mr. Motley. "Because I think you should see what you will be working with. Your mind is mine, Lin. You work for me now." Mr. Motley stood and pushed the screen to the floor. Lin got half to her feet, her headlegs bristling with astonishment and terror. She gazed at him. Scraps of skin and fur and feathers swung as he moved; tiny limbs clutched; eyes rolled from obscure niches; antlers and protrusions of bone jutted precariously; feelers twitched and mouths glistened. Many-coloured skeins of skin collided. A cloven hoof thumped gently against the wood floor. Tides of flesh washed against each other in violent currents. Muscles tethered by alien tendons to alien bones worked

together in uneasy truce, in slow, tense motion. Scales gleamed. Fins quivered. Wings fluttered brokenly. Insect claws folded and unfolded. Lin backed away, stumbling, feeling her terrified way away from his slow advance. Her chitinous headbody was twitching neurotically. She shook. Mr. Motley paced towards her like a hunter. "So," he said, from one of the grinning human mouths. "Which do you think is my best side?"

Chapter Five
Isaac waited, facing his guest. The garuda stood silent. Isaac could see it was concentrating. It was preparing to speak. The garuda’s voice, when it came, was harsh and monotone. "You are the scientist. You are…Grimnebulin." It had difficulty with his name. Like a parrot trained to speak, the shaping of consonants and vowels came from within the throat, without the aid of versatile lips. Isaac had only ever conversed with two garuda in his life. One was a traveller who had long-practised the formation of human sounds; the other was a student, one of the tiny garuda community born and raised in New Crobuzon, which grew up shouting the city slang. Neither had sounded human, but neither had sounded half so animal as this great birdman struggling with an alien tongue. It took Isaac a moment to understand

what had been said. "I am." He held out his hand, spoke slowly. "What is your name?" The garuda looked imperiously at his hand, then shook it with a strangely fragile grip. "Yagharek…" There was a shrieking stress on the first syllable. The great creature paused, and shifted uncomfortably, before continuing. It repeated its name, but this time added an intricate suffix. Isaac shook his head. "Is that all your name?" "Name…and title." Isaac raised an eyebrow. "Am I, then, in the presence of nobility?" The garuda stared at him blankly. Eventually it spoke

slowly without breaking his gaze. "I am Too Too Abstract Individual Yagharek Not To Be Respected." Isaac blinked. He rubbed his face. "Um…right. You have to forgive me, Yagharek, I’m not familiar with…uh…garuda honorifics." Yagharek shook his great head slowly. "You will understand." Isaac asked Yagharek to come upstairs, which he did, slowly and carefully, leaving gouges in the wooden stairs where he gripped with his great claws. But Isaac could not persuade him to sit down, or to eat, or to drink. The garuda stood by Isaac’s desk, while his host sat and stared up at him.

"So," said Isaac, "why are you here?" Again, Yagharek gathered himself for a moment before he spoke. "I came to New Crobuzon days ago. Because this is where the scientists are." "Where are you from?" "Cymek." Isaac whistled quietly. He had been right. That was a huge journey. At least a thousand miles, through that hard, burning land, through dry veldt, across sea, swamp, steppe. Yagharek must have been driven by some strong, strong passion. "What do you know about New Crobuzon’s scientists?" asked Isaac. "We have read of the university. Of the science and industry that moves and moves here like nowhere else.

Of Brock Marsh." "But where do you hear all this stuff?" "From our library." Isaac was astonished. He gaped, then recovered. "Forgive me," he said. "I thought you were nomads." "Yes. Our library travels." And Yagharek told Isaac, to Isaac’s growing amazement, of the Cymek library. The great librarian clan who strapped the thousands of volumes into their trunks and carried them between them as they flew, following the food and the water in the perpetual, punishing Cymek summer. The enormous tent village that sprung up where they landed, and the garuda bands that congregated on the vast, sprawling centre of learning whenever it was in their reach. The library was hundreds of years old, with

manuscripts in uncountable languages, dead and alive: Ragamoll, of which the language of New Crobuzon was a dialect; hotchi; Fellid vodyanoi and Southern vodyanoi; high khepri; and a host of others. It even contained a codex, Yagharek claimed with discernible pride, written in the secret dialect of the handlingers. Isaac said nothing. He was ashamed at his ignorance. His view of the garuda was being torn up. This was more than a dignified savage. Time to get me down my library and learn about the garuda. Pig ignorant bastard, he reproached himself. "Our language has no written form, but we learn to write and read in several others as we grow," said Yagharek. "We trade for more books from travellers and merchants, of whom many have passed through New Crobuzon. Some are native to this city. It is a place we know well. I have read the histories, the stories." "Then you win, mate, because I know shit about your

place," said Isaac despondently. There was a silence. Isaac looked back up at Yagharek. "You still haven’t told me why you’re here." Yagharek turned away and looked out of the window. Barges floated aimlessly below. It was difficult to discern emotion in Yagharek’s scraping voice, but Isaac thought he could hear disgust. "I have crawled like vermin from hole to hole for a fortnight. I have sought journals and gossip and information, and it led me to Brock Marsh. And in Brock Marsh it led me to you. The question that led me has been: ‘Who can change the powers of material?’ ‘Grimnebulin, Grimnebulin,’ everyone says. ‘If you have gold,’ they say, ‘he is yours, or if you have no gold but you interest him, or if you bore him but he pities you, or if a whim takes him.’ They say you are a man who knows the secrets of matter, Grimnebulin." Yagharek looked directly at him.

"I have some gold. I will interest you. Pity me. I beg you to help me." "Tell me what you need," said Isaac. Yagharek looked away from him again. "Perhaps you have flown in a balloon, Grimnebulin. Looked down at roofs, at the earth. I grew up hunting from the skies. Garuda are a hunting people. We take our bows and spears and long whips and we scour the air of birds, the ground of prey. It is what makes us garuda. My feet are not built to walk your floors, but to close around small bodies and tear them apart. To grip dry trees and rock pillars between the earth and the sun." Yagharek spoke like a poet. His speech was halting, but his language was that of the epics and histories he had read, the curious stilted oration of someone who has learnt a language from old books. "Flight is not a luxury. It is what makes me garuda.

My skin crawls when I look up at roofs that trap me. I want to look down at this city before I leave it, Grimnebulin. I want to fly, not once, but whenever I will. "I want you to give me back flight." Yagharek unclipped his cloak and threw it away across the floor. He stared at Isaac with shame and defiance. Isaac gasped. Yagharek had no wings. Strapped across his back was an intricate frame of wooden struts and leather straps that bobbed idiotically behind him as he turned. Two great carved planks sprouted from a kind of leather jerkin below his shoulders, jutting way above his head, where they hinged and dangled down to his knees. They mimicked wing-bones. There was no skin or feathers or cloth or leather stretched between them, they were no kind of gliding apparatus. They were only a disguise, a trick, a prop on which to drape Yagharek’s incongruous cloak,

to make it seem as if he had wings. Isaac reached out for them. Yagharek stiffened, then steeled himself and let Isaac touch them. Isaac shook his head in astonishment. He caught a glimpse of ragged scar tissue on Yagharek’s back, until the garuda turned abruptly to face him. "Why?" breathed Isaac. Yagharek’s face creased slowly as he screwed up his eyes. A thin, utterly human moan started from him, and it grew and grew until it became a bird of prey’s melancholy war-cry, loud and monotonous and miserable and lonely. Isaac gazed on in alarm as the cry became a barely comprehensible shout. "Because this is my shame!" screamed Yagharek. He was silent for a moment, then he spoke quietly again. "This is my shame."

He unclipped the uncomfortable-looking bulk of wood from behind him, and it fell with a flat clatter to the floor. He was nude to the waist. His body was thin and fine and tight, with a healthy emaciation. Without the looming bulk of his fake wings behind him, he looked small and vulnerable. He turned slowly, and Isaac caught his breath as the scars he had glimpsed were brought into view. Two long trenches of flesh on Yagharek’s shoulderblades were twisted and red with tissue that looked as if it were boiling. Slice marks spread like small veins from the main eructations of ugly healing. The strips of ruined flesh on either side of his back were a foot and a half long, and perhaps four inches at their widest point. Isaac’s face wrinkled in empathy: the torn holes were criss-crossed with rough, curving slice marks, and Isaac realized that the wings had been sawed from Yagharek’s back. No single, sudden cut

but a long, drawn-out torturous disfigurement. Isaac winced. Thinly hidden knobs of bone shifted and flexed; muscles stretched, grotesquely visible. "Who did this?" breathed Isaac. The stories were right, he thought. The Cymek is a savage, savage land. There was a long silence before Yagharek responded. "I…I did this." At first Isaac thought he had misunderstood. "What do you mean? How the fuck could you…?" "I brought this onto me." Yagharek was shouting. "This is justice. It is I who did this." "This is a fucking punishment? Godshit, fuck, what

could…what did you do?" "Do you judge garuda justice, Grimnebulin? I cannot hear that without thinking of the Remade…" "Don’t try to turn it round! You’re absolutely right, I’ve no stomach for the law in this city…I’m just trying to understand what happened to you…" Yagharek sighed, with a shockingly human slump of the shoulders. When he spoke, it was quiet and pained, a duty that he resented. "I was too abstract. I was not worthy of respect. There…was a madness…I was mad. I committed a heinous act, a heinous act…" His words broke down into avian moans. "What did you do?" Isaac steeled himself to hear of some atrocity. "This language cannot express my crime. In my tongue…" Yagharek stopped for a moment. "I will try

to translate. In my tongue they said…they were right…I was guilty of choice-theft…choice-theft in the second degree…with utter disrespect." Yagharek was gazing back at the window. He held his head high, but he would not meet Isaac’s eyes. "That is why they deemed me Too Too Abstract. That is why I am not worthy of respect. That is who I am now. I am no longer Concrete Individual and Respected Yagharek. He is gone. I told you my name, and my name-title. I am Too Too Abstract Yagharek Not To Be Respected. That is who I will always be, and I will be true enough to tell you." Isaac shook his head as Yagharek sat slowly on the edge of Isaac’s bed. He cut a forlorn figure. Isaac stared at him for a long time before speaking. "I have to tell you…" said Isaac. "I don’t really… uh…Plenty of my clients are…not entirely on the right side of the law, shall we say? Now, I’m not going to pretend that I even slightly understand what you did, but

as far as I’m concerned it’s not my business. Like you said, there’s no words for your crime in this city: I don’t think I could ever understand what it was you’d done wrong." Isaac spoke slowly and seriously, but his mind was already racing away. He began to speak with more animation. "And your problem…is interesting." Representations of forces and lines of power, of femtomorphic resonances and energy fields were beginning to leap into his consciousness. "It’s easy enough to get you into the air. Balloons, force manipulation and whatnot. Even easy to get you up there more than once. But to get you up there whenever you want it, under your own steam…which is what you’re after, yes?" Yagharek nodded. Isaac stroked his chin. "Godspit…! Yes…now that is a much more… interesting conundrum." Isaac was beginning to retreat into his computations. One prosaic part of his mind recalled that he had no

appointments for some time, and that meant he could immerse himself in research for a little while. Another pragmatic level did its job, evaluating the importance and urgency of his outstanding work. A couple of pisseasy analyses of compounds that he could put off more or less indefinitely; a half-promise to synthesize an elixir or two-easy to get out of…apart from that, it was only his own research into vodyanoi watercraeft. Which he could put to one side. No, no, no! he contradicted himself suddenly. Don’t have to put watercraeft aside…I can integrate it! It’s all about elements arsing about, misbehaving… liquid that stands free, heavy matter that invades the air…there’s got to be something there…some common denominator… With an effort he brought himself back to his laboratory, realized that Yagharek was staring at him impassively. "I’m interested in your problem," he said simply.

Immediately Yagharek reached into a pouch. He held out a huge handful of twisted, dirty gold nuggets. Isaac opened his eyes wide. "Well…uh, thank you. I’ll certainly accept some expenses, hourly rates, etc…" Yagharek handed Isaac the pouch. Isaac managed not to whistle as he weighed it in his hand. He peered into it. Layer on heavy layer of sifting gold. It was undignified, but Isaac felt almost spellbound. This represented more money than he had ever seen in one place, enough to cover a lot of research costs and still live well for months. Yagharek was no businessman, that was certain. He could have offered a third, a quarter of this and still had almost anyone in Brock Marsh panting. He should have kept most of it back, dangled it if interest waned. Maybe he has kept most of it back, thought Isaac, and his eyes widened even further.

"How do I reach you?" said Isaac, still gazing at his gold. "Where are you living?" Yagharek shook his head and was silent. "Well, I have to be able to reach you…" "I will come to you," said the garuda. "Every day, every two days, every week…I will make sure you do not forget my case." "No danger of that, I assure you. Are you really saying I can’t get messages to you?" "I do not know where I will be, Grimnebulin. I shun this city. It hunts me. I must keep moving." Isaac shrugged helplessly. Yagharek stood to leave. "You understand what I want, Grimnebulin? I do not want to have to take a potion. I do not want to have to wear a harness. I do not want to climb into a contraption. I do not want one glorious journey into the clouds, and an earthbound eternity. I want you to let me leap from the earth as easily as you walk from room to

room. Can you do that, Grimnebulin?" "I don’t know." Isaac spoke slowly. "But I think so. I’m your best bet, I reckon. I’m not a chymist, or a biologist, or a thaumaturge…I’m a dilettante, Yagharek, a dabbler. I think of myself…" Isaac paused and laughed briefly. He spoke with heavy gusto. "I think of myself as the main station for all the schools of thought. Like Perdido Street Station. You know it?" Yagharek nodded. "Unavoidable, ain’t it? Fucking massive great thing." Isaac patted his belly, maintaining the analogy. "All the trainlines meet there-Sud Line, Dexter, Verso, Head and Sink Lines; everything has to pass through it. That’s like me. That’s my job. That’s the kind of scientist I am. I’m being frank with you. Thing is, you see, I think that’s what you need." Yagharek nodded. His predatory face was so sharp, so hard. Emotion was invisible. His words had to be decoded. It was not his face, nor his eyes, nor his bearing (once again proud and imperious), nor his voice that let Isaac see his despair. It was his words.

"Be a dilettante, a sciolist, a swindler…So long as you return me to the sky, Grimnebulin." Yagharek stooped and picked up his ugly wooden disguise. He strapped it to himself without obvious shame, despite the indignity of the act. Isaac watched as Yagharek draped the huge cloak over himself and stepped quietly down the stairs. Isaac leant thoughtfully on the railing and looked down into the dusty space. Yagharek paced past the immobile construct, past haphazard piles of papers and chairs and blackboards. The light beams that had burst through walls pierced by age were gone. The sun was low, now, behind the buildings across from Isaac’s warehouse, blocked by massed ranks of bricks, sliding sideways across the ancient city, lighting the hidden sides of the Dancing Shoe Mountains, Spine Peak and the crags of Penitent’s Pass, throwing the jagged skyline of the earth into silhouettes that loomed up miles to the west of New Crobuzon.

When Yagharek opened the door, it was onto a street in shadow. Isaac worked into the night. As soon as Yagharek left Isaac opened his window and dangled a large red piece of cord from nails in the brick. He moved his heavy calculation engine from the centre of its desk to the floor beside it. Sheafs of programme cards spilt from its storage shelf to the floor. Isaac swore. He patted them together and replaced them. Then he carried his typewriter to his desk and began to make a list. Occasionally he would leap upright and pace over to his makeshift bookshelves, or rummage through a pile of books on the floor, till he found the volume he was looking for. He would take it to the desk and flick through from the back, searching for the bibliography. He laboriously copied details, stabbing with two fingers at the typewriter keys. As he wrote, the parameters of his plan began to

expand. He sought more and more books, his eyes widening as he realized the potentiality of this research. Eventually he stopped and sat back in his chair, pondering. He grabbed some loose paper and scrawled diagrams on it: mental maps, plans of how to proceed. Again and again he returned to the same model. A triangle, with a cross firmly planted in the middle. He could not stop himself grinning. "I like it…" he murmured. There was a knock at the window. He rose and paced over to it. A small scarlet idiot face grinned at Isaac from outside. Two stubby horns jutted from its prominent chin, ridges and knobs of bone unconvincingly imitated a hairline. Watery eyes gazed above an ugly, cheerful grin. Isaac opened the window onto the rapidly dwindling

light. There was an argument between klaxons as industrial boats fought to crawl past each other in the waters of the Canker. The creature perched on Isaac’s window-ledge hopped up into the open window-frame, grasping the edges with gnarled hands. "Wotcher, captain!" it gabbled. Its accent was thick and bizarre. "Saw the red wossname, scarf thing…Says to meself, ‘Time for da bossman!’ " It winked and barked stupid laughter. "Wossyer pleasure, captain? Atcher service." "Evening, Teafortwo. You got my message." The creature flapped its red batwings. Teafortwo was a wyrman. Barrel-chested creatures like squat birds, with thick arms like a human dwarf’s below those ugly, functional wings, the wyrmen ploughed the skies of New Crobuzon. Their hands were their feet, those arms jutting from the bottom of their squat bodies like crows’ legs. They could pace a few clumsy steps here and there balancing on their

palms, if they were indoors, but they preferred to careen over the city, yelling and swooping and screaming abuse at passers-by. The wyrmen were more intelligent than dogs or apes, but decidedly less than humans. They thrived on an intellectual diet of scatology and slapstick and mimicry, picking names for each other gleaned without understanding from popular songs and furniture catalogues and discarded textbooks they could just about read. Teafortwo’s sister, Isaac knew, was called Bottletop; one of his sons Scabies. The wyrmen lived in hundreds and thousands of nooks, in attics and annexes and behind hoardings. Most picked a living from the margins of the city. The huge dumps and rubbish-heaps at the outskirts of Stoneshell and Abrogate Green, the wastescape by the river in Griss Twist, all swarmed with wyrmen, squabbling and laughing, drinking from stagnant canals, fucking in the sky and on the earth. Some, like Teafortwo, supplemented this with informal

employment. When scarfs flapped on roofs, or chalk marks defaced walls near attic windows, the odds were that someone was calling some wyrman or other for a task. Isaac foraged in his pocket and held up a shekel. "Fancy earning this, Teafortwo?" "Betcha, captain!" shouted Teafortwo. "Look out below!" he added and shat loudly. The stool spattered on the street. Teafortwo guffawed. Isaac handed him the list he had made, rolled into a scroll. "Take that to the university library. You know it? Over the river? Good. It’s open late, you should catch ‘em open. Give that to the librarian. I’ve signed it, so they shouldn’t give you any trouble. They’ll load you up with some books. Think you can bring them back to me? They’ll be pretty heavy." "No problem, captain!" Teafortwo swelled his chest like a bantam. "Big strong lad!"

"Fine. Manage it in one go and I’ll slip you a bit more moolah." Teafortwo clutched the list and turned to go with some rude childish yell, when Isaac grabbed the edge of his wing. The wyrman turned, surprised. "Problem, boss?" "No, no…" Isaac was staring at the base of his wing, thoughtfully. He gently opened and closed Teafortwo’s massive wing with his hands. Under that vivid red skin, horny and pockmarked and stiff like leather, Isaac could feel the specialized muscles of flight winding through the flesh to the wings. They moved with a magnificent economy. He bent the wing through a full circle, feeling the muscles tug it into a paddling, scooping motion that would shovel air out and under the wyrman. Teafortwo giggled. "Captain tickle me! Saucy devil!" he screamed. Isaac reached for some paper, having to stop himself from dragging Teafortwo with him. He was visualizing the wyrman wing represented mathematically, as simple

component planes. "Teafortwo…tell you what. When you get back, I’ll toss you another shekel if I can take a few heliotypes of you and do a couple of experiments. Only half an hour or so. What do you say?" "Lovely-jubbly, captain!" Teafortwo hopped onto the window-sill and lurched out into the gloaming. Isaac squinted, studying the rolling motion of the wings, watching those strong muscles unique to the airborne send eighty or more pounds of twisted flesh and bone powering through the sky. When Teafortwo had disappeared from sight, Isaac sat and made another list, by hand this time, scribbling at speed. Research, he wrote at the top of the page. Then below it: physics; gravity; forces/planes/vectors; unified field. And a little below that, he wrote: Flight i)

natural ii) thaumaturgical iii) chymico-physical iv) combined v) other. Finally, underlined and in capitals, he wrote PHYSIOGNOMIES OF FLIGHT. He sat back, not relaxed but poised to leap. He was humming abstractedly. He was desperately excited. He fumbled for one of the books he had fished from under his bed, an enormous old volume. He let it topple flat onto the desk, relishing the heavy sound. The cover was embossed in unrealistic fake gold. A Bestiary Of The Potentially Wise: The Sentient Races Of Bas-Lag. Isaac stroked the cover of Shacrestialchit’s classic, translated from the Lubbock vodyanoi and updated a hundred years ago by Benkerby Carnadine, human merchant, traveller and scholar of New Crobuzon. Constantly reprinted and imitated, but still unsurpassed. Isaac put his finger on the G of the thumb-index and

flipped the pages, until he found the exquisite watercolour sketch of the Cymek bird-people that introduced the essay on the garuda. As the light ebbed from the room he turned on the gaslamp that sat on his desk. Out in the cool air, away to the east, Teafortwo beat his wings heavily and grasped the sack of books that dangled below him. He could see the bright glimmer of Isaac’s gasjet, and just beyond it, outside the window, the sputtering ivory of the streetlamp. A constant stream of night-insects spiralled it like elyctrons, finding their occasional way through a crack in the glass and immolating themselves in its light with a little combustive burst. Their carbonized remains dusted the bottom of the glass. The lamp was a beacon, a lighthouse in that forbidding city, steering the wyrman’s way over the river and out of the predatory night. In this city, those who look like me are not like me. I made the mistake once (tired and afraid and

desperate for help) of doubting that. Looking for a place to hide, looking for food and warmth at night and respite from the stares that greet me whenever I set foot on the streets. I saw a young fledgling, running easily along the narrow passageway between drab houses. My heart nearly burst. I cried out to him, this boy of my own kind, in the desert tongue…and he gazed back at me and spread his wings and opened his beak and broke into some cacophonous laughter. He swore at me in a bestial croaking. His larynx fought to shape human sounds. I cried out to him but he would not understand. He yelled something behind him and a group of human street-children congregated from holes in the city, like spirits spiteful to the living. He gesticulated at me, that bright-eyed chick, and he screamed curses too fast for me to understand. And these, his comrades, these dirty-faced roughnecks, these dangerous brutalized amoral little creatures with pinched faces

and ragged trousers, spattered with snot and rheum and urban dirt, girls in stained shifts and boys with jackets too big, grabbed cobblestones from the earth and pelted me where I lay in the darkness of a decaying threshold. And the little boy whom I will not call garuda, who was nothing but human with freakish wings and feathers, my little lost non-brother threw the stones with his comrades and laughed and broke windows behind my head and called me names. I realized then as the stones splintered my pillow of old paint that I was alone. And so, and so, I know that I must live without respite from this isolation. That I will not speak to any other creature in my own tongue. I have taken to foraging alone after nightfall when the city quiets and becomes introspective. I walk as an intruder on its solipsistic dream. I came by darkness, I live by darkness. The savage

brightness of the desert is like some legend I heard a long time ago. My existence grows nocturnal. My beliefs change. I emerge into streets that wind like dark rivers through cavernous brick rockfaces. The moon and her little shining daughters glimmer wanly. Cold winds ooze like molasses down from the foothills and the mountains and clog the night-city with drifting rubbish. I share the streets with aimlessly moving scraps of paper and little whirlwinds of dust, with motes that pass like erratic thieves under eaves and through doors. I remember the desert winds: the Khamsin that scourges the land like smokeless fire; the Fohm that bursts from hot mountainsides as if in ambush; the sly Simoom that inveigles its way through leather sandscreens and library doors. The winds of this city are a more melancholy breed. They explore like lost souls, looking in at

dusty gaslit windows. We are brethren, the citywinds and I. We wander together. We have found sleeping beggars that clutch each other and congeal for warmth like lower creatures, forced back down evolutionary strata by their poverty. We have seen the city’s night-porters fish the dead from the rivers. Dark-suited militia tugging with hooks and poles at bloated bodies with eyes ripped from their heads, the blood set and gelatinous in their sockets. We have watched mutant creatures crawl from sewers into cold flat starlight and whisper shyly to each other, drawing maps and messages in the faecal mud. I have sat with the wind at my side and seen cruel things, wicked things. My scars and bonestubs itch. I am forgetting the

weight, the sweep, the motion of wings. If I were not garuda I would pray. But I will not obeise myself before arrogant spirits. Sometimes I make my way to the warehouse where Grimnebulin reads and writes and scrawls, and I climb silently to the roof, and I lie with my back to the slate. The thought of all that energy of his mind channelled towards flight, my flight, my deliverance, lessens the itching in my ruined back. The wind tugs me harder when I am here: it feels betrayed. It knows that if I am made whole it will lose its night-time companion in the brick mire and midden of New Crobuzon. So it chastises me when I lie there, suddenly threatening to pull me from my perch into the wide stinking river, clutching my feathers, fat petulant air warning me not to leave it; but I grip the roof with my claws and let the healing vibrations pass up from Grimnebulin’s mind through the crumbling slate into my poor flesh. I sleep in old arches under the thundering

railtracks. I eat whatever organic thing I find that will not kill me. I hide like a parasite in the skin of this old city that snores and farts and rumbles and scratches and swells and grows warty and pugnacious with age. Sometimes I clamber to the top of the huge, huge towers that teeter like porcupine spines from the city’s hide. Up in the thinner air, the winds lose the melancholy curiosity they have at street level. They abandon their second-floor petulance. Stirred by towers that poke above the host of city light-intense white carbide lamps, smoke-burnished red of lit grease, tallow twinkling, frenetic sputtering gas flare, all anarchic guards against the dark-the winds rejoice and play. I can dig my claws into the rim of a building’s crown and spread my arms and feel the buffets and gouts of boisterous air and I can close my eyes and

remember, for a moment, what it is to fly.

Part Two:Physiognomies of Flight

Chapter Six
New Crobuzon was a city unconvinced by gravity. Aerostats oozed from cloud to cloud above it like slugs on cabbages. Militia-pods streaked through the heart of the city to its outlands, the cables that held them twanging and vibrating like guitar strings hundreds of feet in the air. Wyrmen clawed their way above the city leaving trails of defecation and profanity. Pigeons shared the air with jackdaws and hawks and sparrows and escaped parakeets. Flying ants and wasps, bees and bluebottles, butterflies and mosquitoes fought airborne war against a thousand predators, aspises and dheri that snapped at them on the wing. Golems thrown together by drunken students beat mindlessly through the sky on clumsy wings made of leather or paper or fruit-rind, falling apart as they flew. Even the trains that moved innumerable women and men and commodities around New Crobuzon’s great carcass fought to stay above the houses, as if they were afraid of the putrefaction of architecture.

The city thrust upwards massively, as if inspired by those vast mountains that rose to the west. Blistering square slabs of habitation ten, twenty, thirty storeys high punctuated the skyline. They burst into the air like fat fingers, like fists, like the stumps of limbs waving frantically above the swells of the lower houses. The tons of concrete and tar that constituted the city covered ancient geography, knolls and barrows and verges, undulations that were still visible. Slum houses spilt down the sides of Vaudois Hill, Flyside, Flag Hill, St. Jabber’s Mound like scree. The smoky black walls of Parliament jutted from Strack Island like a shark’s tooth or a stingray’s jag, some monstrous organic weapon rending the sky. The building was knotted with obscure tubes and vast rivets. It throbbed with the ancient boilers deep within. Rooms used for uncertain purposes poked out of the main body of the colossal edifice with scant regard for buttresses or braces. Somewhere inside, in the Chamber, out of reach of the sky, Rudgutter and countless droning bores strutted. The Parliament was

like a mountain poised on the verge of architectural avalanche. It was not a purer realm that loomed vastly over the city. Smokestacks punctured the membrane between the land and the air and disgorged tons of poisonous smog into that upper world as if out of spite. In a thicker, stinking haze just above the rooftops, the detritus from a million low chimneys eddied together. Crematoria vented into the airborne ashes of wills burnt by jealous executors, which mixed with coaldust burnt to keep dying lovers warm. Thousands of sordid smoke-ghosts wrapped New Crobuzon in a stench that suffocated like guilt. The clouds swirled in the city’s filthy microclimate. It seemed as if all of New Crobuzon’s weather was formed by a massive, gradual crawling hurricane that centred around the city’s heart, the enormous mongrel building that squatted at the core of the commercial zone known as The Crow, the coagulate of miles of railway line and years of architectural styles and

violations: Perdido Street Station. An industrial castle, bristling with random parapets. The westernmost tower of the station was the militia’s Spike, that loomed over the other turrets, dwarfing them, tugged in seven directions by taut skyrails. But for all its height the Spike was only an annex of the enormous station. The architect had been incarcerated, quite mad, seven years after Perdido Street Station was completed. He was a heretic, it was said, intent on building his own god. Five enormous brick mouths gaped to swallow each of the city’s trainlines. The tracks unrolled on the arches like huge tongues. Shops and torture chambers and workshops and offices and empty spaces all stuffed the fat belly of the building, which seemed, from a certain angle, in a certain light, to be bracing itself, taking its weight on the Spike, preparing to leap into the enormous sky it so casually invaded.

Isaac did not look with eyes clouded by romance. He saw flight wherever he looked in the city (his eyes were swollen: behind them buzzed a brain wired with new formulae and facts all furnished to slip gravity’s clutches), and he saw that it was not an escape to a better place. Flight was a secular, profane thing: simply a passage from one part of New Crobuzon to another. He was cheered by this. He was a scientist, not a mystic. Isaac lay on his bed and gazed out of his window. He followed one flying speck after another with his eyes. Scattered around him on the bed, spilling onto the floor like a paper tide, were books and articles, typewritten notes and long sheaves of his excited scrawl. Classic monographs nestled under the musings of cranks. Biology and philosophy jostled for space on his desk. He had sniffed his way along a contorted bibliographical trail like a bloodhound. Some titles could

not be ignored: On Gravity or The Theory Of Flight. Some were more tangential, like The Aerodynamics Of The Swarm. And some were simply whims that his more respectable colleagues would surely frown at. He had yet, for example, to browse the pages of The Dweomers That Live Above The Clouds And What They Can Tell Us. Isaac scratched his nose and sipped the beer balancing on his chest through a straw. Only two days working on Yagharek’s commission, and the city was completely changed for him. He wondered if it would ever change back. He rolled onto his side, rummaged around underneath him to shift the papers that were making him uncomfortable. He tugged free a collection of obscure manuscripts and a sheaf of the heliotypes he had taken of Teafortwo. Isaac held those prints in front of him, examined the intricacies of the wyrmen musculature that he had made Teafortwo show off.

Hope it’s not too long, Isaac thought. He had spent the day reading and taking notes, grunting politely when David or Lublamai yelled greetings or questions or offers of lunch up to him. He had munched some bread and cheese and peppers which Lublamai had dumped on his desk in front of him. He had gradually shed layers of clothing as the day grew warmer and the little boilers on all the equipment heated the air. Shirts and kerchiefs littered the floor by his desk. Isaac was waiting for delivery of supplies. He had realized early in his reading that for the purposes of this commission there was a massive hole in his scientific knowledge. Of all the arcana, biology was his weakest. He was quite at home reading about levitation and countergeotropic thaumaturgy and his beloved unified field theory, but the prints of Teafortwo had made him realize how little he understood the biomechanics of simple flight.

What I need’s some dead wyrmen…no, some live one to do experiments on…Isaac had thought idly, staring at the heliotypes the previous night. No…a dead one to dissect and a live one to watch flying… The flippant idea had suddenly taken a more serious shape. He had sat and pondered for a while at his desk, before taking off into the darkness of Brock Marsh. The most notorious pub between the Tar and the Canker lurked in the shadow of a huge Palgolak church. It was a few dank streets back from Danechi’s Bridge, which joined Brock Marsh to Bonetown. Most of the denizens of Brock Marsh, of course, were bakers or street-sweepers or prostitutes, or any of a host of other professions unlikely ever to cast a hex or look into a test-tube in their lives. Similarly, the inhabitants of Bonetown were, for the most part, no more interested in grossly or systematically flouting the law than most of New Crobuzon. Nevertheless, Brock Marsh would always be the Science Quarter:

Bonetown the Thieves’ District. And there where those two influences met-esoteric, furtive, romanticized and sometimes dangerous-was The Moon’s Daughters. With a sign depicting the two small satellites that orbited the moon as pretty, rather tawdry-looking young women, and a façade painted in deep scarlet, The Moon’s Daughters was shabby but attractive. Inside, its clientele consisted of the more adventurous of the city’s bohemians: artists, thieves, rogue scientists, junkies and militia informants jostling under the eyes of the pub’s proprietor, Red Kate. Kate’s nickname was a reference to her ginger hair, and, Isaac had always thought, a damning indictment of the creative bankruptcy of her patrons. She was physically powerful, with a sharp eye for who to bribe and who to ban, who to punch and who to ply with free beer. For these reasons (as well, Isaac suspected, as a small proficiency with a couple of subtle thaumaturgical glamours), The Moon’s Daughters negotiated a successful, precarious trail evading any of the competing

protection rackets in the area. The militia raided Kate’s establishment only rarely and perfunctorily. Her beer was good. She did not ask what was being discussed in huddles and knots at corner tables. That night, Kate had greeted Isaac with a brief wave, which he had returned. He had gazed around the smoky room, but the person he had been seeking was absent. He had made his way to the bar. "Kate," he shouted over the din. "No sign of Lemuel?" She shook her head and handed him, unbidden, a Kingpin ale. He paid and turned to face the room. He was rather thrown. The Moon’s Daughters was Lemuel Pigeon’s office, as near as dammit. He could usually be relied on to be here every night, wheeling, dealing, taking a cut. Isaac guessed he was out on some dubious job or other. He paced through the tables aimlessly, looking for someone he knew.

Over in the corner, grinning beatifically at someone, wearing the yellow robes of his order, was Gedrecsechet, the librarian of the Palgolak church. Isaac brightened and headed towards him. He was amused to see that the forearms of the scowling youth arguing with Ged were tattooed with the interlocking wheels that proclaimed her a Godmech Cog, doubtless attempting to convert the ungodly. As Isaac drew closer the argument became audible. "…if you approach the world and God with one iota of the rigour and the analysis you claim, you’d see that your pointless sentientomorphism would simply be untenable!" Ged grinned at the spotty girl and opened his mouth to reply. Isaac interrupted. "Pardon me, Ged, for butting in. Just wanted to say to you, young Flywheel, whatever you call yourself…" The Cog tried to protest, but Isaac cut her off.

"No, shut up. I’ll say this very clearly…piss off. And take your rigour with you. I want to talk to Ged." Ged was giggling. His opponent was swallowing, trying to maintain her anger, but she was intimidated by Isaac’s bulk and cheerful pugnacity. She gathered herself to go with a semblance of dignity. As she stood, she opened her mouth with some parting shot she had clearly been preparing. Isaac preempted her. "Speak and I’ll break your teeth," he advised amiably. The Cog closed her mouth and stalked off. When she was gone from view both Isaac and Ged burst into laughter. "Why do you put up with them, Ged?" howled Isaac. Ged, crouched like a frog before the low table,

rocked back and forth on his legs and arms, his big tongue flapping in and out of his huge loose mouth. "I just feel sorry for them," he tittered. "They’re so…intense" Ged was generally held to be the most anomolously good-humoured vodyanoi anyone had ever met. He had absolutely none of the glowering snappiness typical of that cantankerous race. "Anyway," he continued, calming down a little, "I don’t mind the Cogs nearly as much as some. They don’t have half the rigour they think they do, of course, but at least they’re taking things seriously. And at least they’re not…I don’t know…Compline or Codling Brood, or something." Palgolak was a god of knowledge. He was depicted either as a fat, squat human reading in a bath, or a svelte vodyanoi doing the same, or, mystically, both at once. His congregation were human and vodyanoi in roughly equal proportions. He was an amiable, pleasant deity, a

sage whose existence was entirely devoted to the collection, categorization, and dissemination of information. Isaac worshipped no gods. He did not believe in the omniscience or omnipotence claimed for a few, or even the existence of many. Certainly there were creatures and essences that inhabited different aspects of existence, and certainly some of them were powerful, in human terms. But worshipping them seemed to him rather a craven activity. Even he, though, had a soft spot for Palgolak. He rather hoped the fat bastard did exist, in some form or other. Isaac liked the idea of an inter-aspectual entity so enamoured with knowledge that it just roamed from realm to realm in a bath, murmuring with interest at everything it came across. Palgolak’s library was at least the equal to that of the New Crobuzon University. It did not lend books, but it did allow readers in at any time of the day or the night, and there were very, very few books it did not allow access to. The Palgolaki were proselytizers, holding that

everything known by a worshipper was immediately known by Palgolak, which was why they were religiously charged to read voraciously. But their mission was only secondarily for the glory of Palgolak, and primarily for the glory of knowledge, which was why they were sworn to admit all who wished to enter into their library. Which was what Ged was gently complaining about. The New Crobuzon Palgolak Library had the best collection of religious manuscripts known in the world of Bas-Lag, and it attracted pilgrims from a huge variety of religious traditions and factions. They thronged the northern ends of Brock Marsh and Spit Hearth, all the worshipping races of the world, in robes and masks, sporting whips, leashes, magnifying glasses, the whole gamut of religious paraphernalia. Some of the pilgrims were less than pleasant. The viciously anti-xenian Codling Brood, for example, was growing in the city, and Ged saw it as his unfortunate sacred duty to assist these racists who spat and called

him "toad" and "riverpig" in between tracing passages from their texts. Compared to them, the egalitarian Godmech Cogs were a harmless sect, even if their belief in the mechanicity of One True God was aggressively asserted. Isaac and Ged had had many long arguments over the years, mostly theological, but also over literature and art and politics. Isaac respected the friendly vodyanoi. He knew him to be fervent in his religious duty of reading and, accordingly, hugely knowledgeable about any subject Isaac could think of. He was always at first a little circumspect with opinions about the information he shared-"Only Palgolak has enough knowledge to offer analysis" Ged would proclaim piously at the start of an argument-until three or so drinks had obscured his religious non-dogmaticism and he would hold forth at the top of his voice. "Ged," Isaac asked. "What can you tell me about the

garuda?" Ged shrugged, and he grinned with pleasure at imparting what he knew. "Not very much. Bird-people. Live in the Cymek, and the north of Shotek, and the west of Mordiga, reputedly. Maybe also on some of the other continents. Hollow bones." Ged’s eyes were fixed, focused on the remembered pages of whatever xenthropological work he was quoting. "Cymek garuda are egalitarian…completely egalitarian, and completely individualistic. Hunters and gatherers, no sexual division of labour. No money, no rank, although they do have sort of uninstitutional ranks. Just means you’re worthy of more respect, that sort of thing. Don’t worship any gods, although they do have a devil-figure, which may or may not be a real eidolon. Dahnesch, it’s called. Hunt and fight with whips, bows, spears, light blades. Don’t use shields: too heavy to fly with. So they sometimes use two weapons at once. Have the occasional rumble with other bands or species,

probably over resources. You know about their library?" Isaac nodded. Ged’s eyes glazed with an almost obscene look of hunger. "Godspit, I’d love to get to that. It’ll never happen." He looked glum. "Desert’s not really vodyanoi territory. Bit dry…" "Well, seeing as you know so arsing little about them, I might as well just stop talking to you," said Isaac. To Isaac’s astonishment, Ged’s face fell. "Joke, Ged! Irony! Sarcasm! You know fucking loads about them. At least compared to me. I’ve been browsing Shacrestialchit, and you’ve just exceeded the sum of my knowledge. Do you know anything about… uh…their criminal code?" Ged stared at him. His huge eyes narrowed.

"What you up to, Isaac? They’re so egalitarian… well…Their society’s all based on maximizing choice for the individual, which is why they’re communistic. Grants the most uninhibited choice to everyone. And as far as I remember the only crime they have is depriving another garuda of choice. And then it’s exacerbated or mollified depending on whether they do it with or without respect, which they absolutely love…" "How do you steal someone’s choice?" "No idea. I suppose if you nick someone’s spear, they don’t have the choice of using it…What about if you lie about where some tasty lichen is, so you deprive others of the choice of going for it…?" "Maybe some choice-thefts are analogies of stuff we’d consider crimes and some have absolutely no equivalent," said Isaac. "I’d imagine so." "What’s an abstract individual and a concrete

individual?" Ged was gazing at Isaac in wonder. "My good arse, Isaac…you’ve made friends with some garuda, haven’t you?" Isaac raised one eyebrow, and nodded quickly. "Damn!" Ged shouted. People at the surrounding tables turned to him with brief surprise. "And a Cymek garuda…! Isaac, you have to make him-him? her?come and talk to me about the Cymek!" "I don’t know, Ged. He’s a bit…taciturn…" "Oh please oh please…" "All right, all right, I’ll ask him. But don’t get your hopes up. Now tell me what the difference is between a fucking abstract and concrete individual." "Oh, this is fascinating. I suppose you aren’t

allowed to tell me what the job is…? No, didn’t think so. Well, put simply, and as far as I understand it, they’re egalitarian because they respect the individual so much, right? And you can’t respect other people’s individuality if you focus on your own individuality in a kind of abstract, isolated way. The point is that you are an individual inasmuch as you exist in a social matrix of others who respect your individuality and your right to make choices. That’s concrete individuality: an individuality that recognizes that it owes its existence to a kind of communal respect on the part of all the other individualities, and that it had better therefore respect them similarly. "So an abstract individual is a garuda who forgot, for some time, that he or she is part of a larger unit, and owes respect to all the other choosing individuals." There was a long pause. "Are you any wiser, Isaac?" asked Ged gently, and broke off into giggles.

Isaac wasn’t sure if he was or not. "So look, Ged, if I said to you ‘second-degree choice-theft with disrespect,’ would you know what a garuda had done?" "No…" Ged looked thoughtful. "No, I wouldn’t. Sounds bad…I think there are some books in the library that might explain, though…" At that moment, Lemuel Pigeon strode into Isaac’s view. "Ged, look," Isaac interrupted hurriedly. "Beg pardon and all that, I really have to have a word with Lemuel. Can I talk to you later?" Ged grinned without rancour and waved Isaac away. "Lemuel…a word in your ear. Could be profitable." "Isaac! Always a pleasure to deal with a man of science. How’s the life of the mind?"

Lemuel leant back in his chair. He was dressed foppishly. His jacket was burgundy, his waistcoat yellow. He wore a small top hat. A mass of yellow curls burst out from under it in a ponytail they clearly resented. "The life of the mind, Lemuel, has reached something of an impasse. And that, my friend, is where you come in." "Me?" Lemuel Pigeon smiled lopsidedly. "Yes, Lemuel," said Isaac portentously. "You too can forward the cause of science." Isaac enjoyed bantering with Lemuel, although the younger man made him a little uneasy. Lemuel was a chancer, a snitch, a fence…the quintessential gobetween. He had carved a profitable little niche for himself out of being a most efficient middle-man. Packages, information, offers, messages, refugees, goods: anything that two people wanted to exchange without actually meeting, Lemuel would courier. He was

invaluable to those like Isaac who wanted to dredge the New Crobuzon underworld without getting their feet wet or their hands dirty. Similarly, the denizens of that other city could use Lemuel to reach into the realm of the more-or-less legal without beaching, flopping helplessly at the militia’s door. Not that all of Lemuel’s work involved both worlds: some was entirely legal or entirely illegal. It was just that crossing the border was his speciality. Lemuel’s existence was precarious. He was unscrupulous and brutal-vicious when necessary. If the going ever got dangerous, he would leave anyone with him in a trail of his dust. Everyone knew that. Lemuel never hid it. There was a certain honesty about him. He never pretended that you could trust him. "Lemuel, you young science fiend, you…" Isaac said. "I’m conducting a little research. Now, I need to get hold of some specimens. I’m talking anything that flies. And that is where you come in. See, a man in my position can’t be trogging around New Crobuzon

looking for fucking wrens…a man in my position should be able to put the word out and have winged things fall into his lap." "Put an ad in the newspapers, Isaac old chum. Why’re you talking to me?" "Because I’m talking plenty plenty, and I don’t want to know where it comes from. And I’m talking variety. I want to see as many different little flying things as I can, and some of them ain’t easy to come by. Example…if I wanted to get hold of, say, an aspis…I could pay some buccaneer of a ship’s captain top dollar for a mange-ridden half-dead specimen of same…or I can pay you to arrange for one of your honourable associates to liberate some poor stifled little aspis from some fucking gilded cage up in East Gidd or Rim. Capiche?" "Isaac old son…I begin to understand you." "Of course you do, Lemuel. You’re a businessman. I’m looking for rare flying things. I want things I’ve

never seen before. I want inventive flying things. I will not be paying top whack for a basket full of blackbirdsalthough please don’t take that to mean that blackbirds aren’t wanted. Blackbirds are welcome, along with thrushes, jackdaws and what have you. Pigeons, Lemuel, your very own namesake. But what’s even more welcome are, say, dragonfly-snakes." "Rare," said Lemuel, looking intently at his pint. "Very rare," agreed Isaac. "Which is why serious amounts of dosh would change hands for a good specimen. You get the idea, Lemuel? I want birds, insects, bats…also eggs, also cocoons, also grubs, anything which is going to turn into a flying thing. That could be even more useful, actually. Anything which looks set to be up to dog-sized. Nothing too much bigger, and nothing dangerous. Impressive as it would be to catch a drud or a wind-rhino, I don’t want it." "Who would, Isaac?" agreed Lemuel. Isaac stuffed a five-guinea note into Lemuel’s top

pocket. The two men raised their glasses and drank together. That had been yesterday evening. Isaac sat back and imagined his request worming its way through New Crobuzon’s criminal alleys. Isaac had used Lemuel’s services before, when he had needed a rare or forbidden compound, or a manuscript of which there were only a few copies in New Crobuzon, or information on the synthesis of illegal substances. It appealed to Isaac’s sense of humour to think of the hardest elements of the city’s underworld earnestly scrabbling for birds and butterflies in between their gangfights and drugs deals. It was Shunday the next day, Isaac realized. It had been several days since he had seen Lin. She didn’t even know about his commission. They had a date, he remembered. They were meeting for dinner. He could put his research aside for a little while and tell his lover everything that had happened. It was something he

enjoyed, emptying his mind of all its accumulated odds and ends, and offering them to Lin. Lublamai and David had gone, Isaac realized. He was alone. He undulated like a walrus, scattering papers and prints all over the boards. He turned his gasjet off and peered up out of the dark warehouse. Through his dirty window he could see the great cold circle of the moon and the slow pirouettes of her two daughters, satellites of ancient, barren rock glowing like fat fireflies as they spun around their mother. Isaac fell asleep watching the convoluted lunar clockwork. He basked in the moonlight and dreamt of Lin: a fraught, sexual, loving dream.

Chapter Seven
The Clock and Cockerel had spilt out of doors. Tables and coloured lanterns covered the forecourt by the canal that separated Salacus Fields from Sangwine. The smash of glasses and shrieks of amusement wafted over the dour bargemen working the locks, riding the sluicing water up to a higher level, taking off towards the river, leaving the boisterous inn behind. Lin felt vertiginous. She sat at the head of a large table under a violet lamp, surrounded by her friends. Next to her on one side was Derkhan Blueday, the art critic for the Beacon. On the other was Cornfed, screaming animatedly at Thighs Growing, the cactacae cellist. Alexandrine; Bellagin Sound; Tarrick Septimus; Importunate Spint: painters and poets, musicians, sculptors, and a host of hangers-on she half-recognized. This was Lin’s milieu. This was her world. And yet

she had never felt so isolated from them as she did now. The knowledge that she had landed the job, the huge request they all dreamed of, the one work that could see her happy for years, separated her from her fellows. And her terrifying employer very effectively sealed her isolation. Lin felt as if suddenly, without warning, she was in a very different world from the bitchy, gameplaying, lively, precious, introspective Salacus Fields round. She had seen no one since she had returned, shaken, from her extraordinary meeting in Bonetown. She had missed Isaac badly, but she knew that he would be taking the opportunity of her supposed work to be drowning himself in research, and she knew also that for her to venture to Brock Marsh would anger him greatly. In Salacus Fields, they were an open secret. Brock Marsh, though, was the belly of the beast. So she had sat for a day, contemplating what she had agreed to do.

Slowly, tentatively, she had cast her mind back to the monstrous figure of Mr. Motley. Godspit and shit! she had thought. What was he? She had no clear picture of her boss, only a sense of the ragged discordance of his flesh. Snippets of visual memory teased her: one hand terminating in five equally spaced crabs’ claws; a spiralling horn bursting from a nest of eyes; a reptilian ridge winding along goats’ fur. It was impossible to tell what race Mr. Motley had started out as. She had never heard of Remaking so extensive, so monstrous and chaotic. Anyone as rich as he must be could surely afford the best Remakers to fashion him into something more human-or whatever. She could only think that he chose this form. Either that, or he was a victim of Torque. Lin wondered if his obsession with the transition zone reflected his form, or if his obsession came first. Lin’s cupboard was stuffed with her rough sketches

of Mr. Motley’s body-hastily hidden on the assumption that Isaac would stay with her tonight. She had made scrawled notes of what she remembered of the lunatic anatomy. Her horror had ebbed, over the days, leaving her with crawling skin and a torrent of ideas. This, she had decided, could be the work of her life. Her first appointment with Mr. Motley was the next day, Dustday, in the afternoon. After that, it was twice a week for at least the next month: probably longer, depending on how the sculpture took shape. Lin was eager to begin. "Lin, you tedious bitch!" yelled Cornfed and threw a carrot at her. "Why are you so quiet tonight?" Lin scrawled quickly on her pad. Cornfed, sweetheart, you bore me.

Everyone burst into laughter. Cornfed returned to his flamboyant flirtation with Alexandrine. Derkhan bent her grey head towards Lin and spoke softly. "Seriously, Lin…You’re hardly speaking. Is something up?" Lin, touched, shook her headbody gently. Working on something big. Taking up a lot of my mind, she signed at her. It was a relief to be able to speak without writing every word: Derkhan read signing well. I miss Isaac, Lin added mock-forlornly. Derkhan creased her face sympathetically. She is, Lin thought, a lovely woman. Derkhan was pale, tall and thin-though she had gained a small gut as she passed into her middle years. Though she loved the outrageous antics of the Salacus set, she was an intense, gentle woman who avoided

being the centre of attention. Her published writing was spiky and merciless: if Derkhan had not liked her work, Lin did not think she could have been Derkhan’s friend. Her judgements in the Beacon were harsh to the point of brutality. Lin could tell Derkhan that she missed Isaac. Derkhan knew the true nature of their relationship. A little over a year ago, when Lin and Derkhan were strolling together in Salacus Fields, Derkhan had bought drinks. When she handed over her money to pay, she had dropped her purse. She had bent quickly to retrieve it, but Lin had beaten her to it, picking it up and pausing only very slightly when she saw the old, battered heliotype of the beautiful and fierce young woman in a man’s suit that had fallen from it onto the street, the xxx written across the bottom, the lipstickkiss. She had handed it back to Derkhan, who had replaced it in the purse without hurrying, and without looking Lin in the eyes. "Long time ago," Derkhan had said enigmatically, and

immersed herself in her beer. Lin had felt she owed Derkhan a secret. She had almost been relieved a couple of months later when she found herself drinking with Derkhan, depressed after storming out of some stupid row with Isaac. It had given Lin the opportunity to tell Derkhan the truth that she must already have guessed. Derkhan had nodded with nothing but concern for Lin’s misery. They had been close since then. Isaac liked Derkhan because she was a seditionist. Just as Lin thought of Isaac, she heard his voice. "Godshit, everyone, sorry I’m late…" She turned and saw his bulk pushing through tables towards them. Her antennae flexed in what she was sure he would recognize as a smile. A chorus of salutation greeted Isaac as he

approached them. He looked straight at Lin and smiled at her privately. He caressed her back as he waved at everyone else, and Lin felt his hand through her shirt clumsily spell out I love you. Isaac yanked a chair over and forced it between Lin’s and Cornfed’s. "I’ve just been to my bank, depositing a few sparkly little nuggets. A lucrative contract," he shouted, "makes a happy scientist with very bad judgement. Drinks on me." There was a raucous and delighted crowing of surprise, followed by a group yell for the waiter. "How’s the show going, Cornfed?" said Isaac. "Oh splendid, splendid!" shouted Cornfed, and then bizarrely added, very loud, "Lin came to see it on Fishday." "Right," said Isaac, nonplussed. "Did you like it, Lin?" She briefly signed that she had.

Cornfed was only interested in gazing at Alexandrine’s cleavage through her unsubtle dress. Isaac switched his attention to Lin. "You would not believe what’s been happening…" Isaac began. Lin gripped his knee under the table. He returned the gesture. Under his breath, Isaac told Lin and Derkhan, in truncated form, the story of Yagharek’s visit. He implored them to silence, and glanced around regularly to make sure that no one else was listening in. Halfway through, the chicken he had ordered arrived, and he ate noisily while he described his meeting in The Moon’s Daughters, and the cages and cages of experimental animals he expected to arrive at his laboratory any day soon. When he was finished, he sat back and grinned at them both, before a look of contrition washed over his face, and he sheepishly asked Lin: "How’s your work

been going?" She waved her hand dismissively. There’s nothing, dear heart, she thought, that I can tell you. Let’s talk about your new project. Guilt passed visibly over his face at his one-sided conversation, but Isaac could not help himself. He was utterly in the throes of a new project. Lin felt a familiar melancholy affection for him. Melancholy at his selfsufficiency in these moments of fascination; affection for his fervour and passion. "Look, look," Isaac gabbled suddenly, and tugged a piece of paper from his pocket. He unfolded it on the table before them. It was an advertisement for a fair currently in Sobek Croix. The back was crisp with dry glue: Isaac had torn it from a wall. mr. bombadrezil’s unique and wonderful fair,

guaranteed to astound and enthral the most jaded palate. The palace of love; The hall of terrors; The vortex; and many other attractions for reasonable prices. Also come to see the extraordinary freakshow, the circus of weird. monsters and marvels from every corner of Bas-Lag! seers from the fractured land; a genuine weaver’s claw; the living skull; the lascivious snake-woman; ursus rex, the man-king of the Bears; dwarf cactus-people of tiny sizes; a garuda, bird-man chief of the wild desert; the stone men of Bezhek; caged daemons; dancing fish; treasures stolen from the gengris; and innumerable other prodigies and wonders. Some attractions not suitable for the easily shocked or those of a nervous disposition. Entrance 5 stivers. Sobek Croix gardens, 14th Chet to 14th Melluary, 6 to 11 o’clock every night. "See that?" Isaac barked, and stabbed the poster with his thumb. "They’ve got a garuda! I’ve been sending requests all over the city for dubious bits and bobs, probably going to end up with loads of horrible disease-riddled jackdaws, and there’s a fucking

garuda on the doorstep!" Are you going to go down? signed Lin. "Damn right!" snorted Isaac. "Straight after this! I thought we could all go. The others," he said, his voice dropping, "don’t have to know what it is I’m doing there. I mean, a fair’s always fun anyway. Right?" Derkhan grinned and nodded. "So are you going to spirit the garuda away, or what?" she whispered. "Well, presumably I could arrange to take heliotypes of it, or even ask it to come for a couple of days to the lab…I don’t know. We’ll organize something! What do you say? Fancy a fair?" Lin picked a cherry tomato from Isaac’s garnish and wiped it carefully clean of chicken stock. She gripped it in her mandibles and began to chew.

Could be fun, she signed. Your treat? "Absolutely my treat!" boomed Isaac, and gazed at her. He stared at her very close for a minute. He glanced round to make sure that no one was watching, and then, clumsily, he signed in front of her. Missed you. Derkhan looked away for a moment, tactfully. Lin broke off the moment, to make sure that she did it before Isaac. She clapped loudly, until everyone at the table was staring at her. She began to sign, indicating Derkhan to translate. "Uh…Isaac is keen to prove that the talk of scientists being all work and no play is false. Intellectuals as well as dissolute aesthetes like us know how to have a good time, and thus he offers us this…" Lin waved the sheet, and threw it into the centre of the table where it was visible to all. "Rides, spectacles, marvels and coconut shies, all for a mere five stivers, which Isaac has kindly

offered to underwrite…" "Not for everyone, you sow!" Isaac roared in mockoutrage, but he was drowned out by the drunken roar of gratitude. "…offered to underwrite," continued Derkhan doggedly. "Accordingly, I move that we drink up and eat up and hightail to Sobek Croix." There was loud, chaotic agreement. Those who had finished their food and drink gathered their bags. Others tucked with renewed gusto into their oysters or salad or fried plantain. Trying to organize a group of any size to do anything in synchronicity was an epic struggle, Lin reflected wryly. It would be some time before they set off. Isaac and Derkhan were hissing to each other across the table in front of her. Her antennae twitched. She could pick up some of their murmurs. Isaac excitedly talking politics. He channelled his diffuse, undirected, pointed social discontent into his discussions with

Derkhan. He was posing, she thought with amused pique, out of his depth, trying to impress the laconic journalist. She could see Isaac pass a coin carefully across the table, and receive a plain envelope in return. Undoubtedly the latest issue of Runagate Rampant, the illegal, radical news-sheet for which Derkhan wrote. Beyond a nebulous dislike of the militia and the government, Lin was not a political being. She sat back and looked up at the stars through the violet haze of the suspended lantern. She thought about the last time she had been to a fair: she remembered the mad palimpsest of smell, the catcalls and screeches, the rigged competitions and cheap prizes, the exotic animals and bright costumes, all packed together in a seedy, vibrant, exciting whole. The fair was where normal rules were briefly forgotten, where bankers and thieves mingled to ooh, scandalized and titillated. Even Lin’s less outrageous

sisters would come to the fair. One of her early memories was of creeping past ranks of gaudy tents to stand next to some terrifying, dangerous, multicoloured ride, some giant wheel at the Gallmarch Fair twenty years ago. Someone-she never knew who, some khepri passer-by, some indulgent stallholder-had handed her a toffee-apple, which she had eaten reverentially. One of her few pleasant memories of childhood, that sugared fruit. Lin sat back and waited for her friends to finish their preparations. She sucked sweet tea from her sponge and thought of that candied apple. She waited patiently to go to the fair.

Chapter Eight
"Come try, come try, come try your luck!" "Ladies, ladies, tell yer fellers to win you a bouquet!" "Spin in the Whirligig! It’ll spin your mind!" "Your likeness affected in only four minutes! No faster portraiture in the world!" "Experience the hypnagogic mesmerism of Sillion the Extraordinary!" "Three rounds, three guineas! Stand for three rounds against ‘Iron Man’ Magus and take home three Gs! No cactus-people." The night air was thick with noise. The challenges, the shouts, the invitations and temptations and dares sounded around the laughing party like bursting balloons. Gasjets, mixed with select chymicals, burnt red, green, blue and canary yellow. The grass and paths

of Sobek Croix were sticky with spilt sugar and sauce. Vermin scampered from the skirts of stalls into the dark bushes of the park clutching choice morsels. Gonophs and cutpurses slipped predatory through the crowds like fish through weeds. Indignant roars and violent cries sounded in their wake. The crowd was a moving stew of human and vodyanoi, cactus, khepri, and other, rarer breeds: hotchi and strider and stiltspear and races the names of which Isaac did not know. A few yards out from the fair, the darkness of the grass and trees was absolute. The bushes and boughs were fringed with bunting of ragged paper, discarded and ensnared and slowly shredded by the wind. Paths criss-crossed the park, leading to lakes and flower beds and acres of untended growth, and the old monastic ruins at the centre of the huge common. Lin and Cornfed, Isaac and Derkhan and all the others strolled past enormous contraptions of bolted

steel, garishly painted iron and hissing lights. Delighted squeals sounded from little cars swinging on flimsylooking chains above them. A hundred different manically cheerful tunes sounded from a hundred engines and organs, an unsettling cacophony that ebbed and flowed around them. Alex munched honeyed nuts; Bellagin salted meat; Thighs Growing a watery mulch delicious to cactuspeople. They threw food at each other, caught it in their mouths. The park was thronging with punters, throwing hoops over poles, firing children’s bows at targets, guessing under which cup the coin was hidden. Children screamed with pleasure and misery. Prostitutes of all races, sexes and descriptions sashayed exaggeratedly between the stalls or stood by the beerhalls, winking at passers-by. The party disintegrated slowly as they passed into the heart of the fair. They hovered a minute while Cornfed

showed off his archery. He ostentatiously offered his prizes, two dolls, to Alex and a young, beautiful whore who cheered his triumph. The three disappeared arm in arm through the crowd. Tarrick proved adept at a fishing game, pulling three live crabs from a big swirling tub. Bellagin and Spint had their futures read in the cards, squealing in terror when the bored witch turned over The Snake and The Old Crone in succession. They demanded a second opinion from a wide-eyed scarabomancer. She gazed theatrically at the images skittering across the carapaces of her pattern beetles as they bumbled through their sawdust. Isaac and the others left Bellagin and Spint behind. The remnants of the party turned a corner beside the Wheel of Destiny and a roughly fenced-off section of the park came into view. Inside a line of small tents curved away from view. Above the gateway was a crudely painted legend: the circus of weird. "Now," said Isaac ponderously. "Reckon I might have a little look at this…"

"Plumbing the depths of human squalor, ‘Zaac?" asked a young artist’s model whose name Isaac could not remember. Besides Lin, Isaac and Derkhan, only a few others of the original group were left. They looked mildly surprised at Isaac’s choice. "Research," Isaac said grandly. "Research. Fancy joining me, Derkhan? Lin?" The others took the hint with reactions ranging from careless waves to petulant flounces. Before they all disappeared, Lin signed rapidly to Isaac. Not interested in this. Teratology more your thing. Meet you at the entrance in two hours? Isaac nodded briefly and squeezed her hand. She signed goodbye to Derkhan and trotted off to catch up with a sound-artist whose name Isaac had never known. Derkhan and Isaac stared at each other.

"…and then there were two," sung Derkhan, a snatch of a children’s counting song about a basket of kittens that died, one by one, grotesquely. There was an additional charge to enter the Circus of Weird, which Isaac paid. Though hardly empty, the freakshow was less crowded than the main body of the fair. The more monied the punters inside looked, the more furtive their air. The freakshow brought out the voyeur in the populace and the hypocrisy in the gentry. There seemed to be some kind of tour starting, which promised to view each exhibit in the Circus in turn. The bawls of the showman bade the assembled stick close together and prepare themselves for sights such as mortal eyes were not meant to see. Isaac and Derkhan hung back a little and followed the troupe. Isaac saw that Derkhan had a notebook out and a pen poised.

The bowler-hatted Master of Ceremonies approached the first tent. "Ladies and gents," he whispered loudly and huskily, "in this tent lurks the most remarkable and terrifying creature ever seen by mortal man. Or vodyanoi, or cactus, or whatever," he added in a normal voice, nodding graciously to the few xenians in the crowd. He returned to his bombastic tones. "Originally described fifteen centuries ago in the travelogues of Libintos the Sage, of what was then just plain ol’ Crobuzon. On his trips south to the burning wastes, Libintos saw many marvellous and monstrous things. But none more terrifying than the awesome…mafadet!" Isaac had been sporting a sardonic smile. But even he joined the mass gasp. Have they really got a mafadet? he thought as the MC drew back the curtain from the front of the little tent. He pushed forward to see. There was another, louder gasp, and people at the

front fought to move back. Others shoved to take their place. Behind thick black bars, tethered by heavy chains, was an extraordinary beast. It lay on the ground, its huge dun body like a massive lion’s. Between its shoulders was a fringe of denser fur from which sprouted an enormous serpentine neck, thicker than a man’s thigh. Its scales glistened an oily, ruddy tan. An intricate pattern wound up the top of that curling neck, expanding to a diamond shape where it curved and became an enormous snake’s head. The mafadet’s head lolled on the ground. Its huge forked tongue nicked in and out. Its eyes glistened like jet. Isaac grabbed Derkhan. "It’s a fucking mafadet," he hissed in amazement. Derkhan nodded, wide-eyed. The crowd had drawn back from the front of the

cage. The showman grabbed a barbed stick and poked it through the bars, goading the enormous desert creature. It gave forth a deep, rumbling hiss and batted pathetically at its tormentor with a massive forepaw. Its neck coiled and twisted in desultory misery. There were small screams from the crowd. People surged at the little barrier before the cage. "Back, ladies and gents, back, I beg of you!" The showman’s voice was pompous and histrionic. "You are all in mortal danger! Don’t anger the beast!" The mafadet hissed again under his continued torments. It wriggled backwards along the floor, crawling out of range of the vicious spike. Isaac’s awe was waning fast. The exhausted animal squirmed in undignified agony as it sought the rear of the cage. Its threadbare tail lashed the stinking goat carcass presumably provided for its nourishment. Dung and dust stained the mafadet’s

pelt, along with blood that oozed thickly from numerous sores and nicks. Its sprawled body twitched a little as that cold, blunt head rose on the powerful muscles of the snake-neck. The mafadet hissed and, as the crowd hissed in turn, its wicked jaws unhinged. It tried to bare its teeth. Isaac’s face curled. Broken stubs jutted from the creature’s gums where cruel fangs a foot long should have glinted. They had been smashed out of its mouth, Isaac realized, for fear of its murderous, poisonous bite. He gazed at the broken monster whipping the air with its black tongue. It laid its head back down. "Jabber’s arse," Isaac whispered to Derkhan with pity and disgust. "Never thought I’d feel sorry for something like that." "Makes you wonder what state the garuda’s going to

be in," Derkhan replied. The barker was hurriedly drawing the curtain on the miserable creature. As he did so he told the crowd the story of Libintos’s trial by poison at the hands of the Mafadet King. Nursery tales, cant, lies and showmanship, thought Isaac contemptuously. He realized that the crowd had only been given a snatch of a view, a minute or less. Less chance anyone will notice how moribund the poor thing is, he mused. He could not help but imagine the mafadet in full health. The immense weight of that tawny body padding through the hot dry scrub, the lightning strike of the venomous bite. Garuda circling above, blades flashing. The crowd were being shepherded towards the next enclosure. Isaac was not listening to the roar of the guide. He was watching Derkhan jot quick notes.

"This for RR?" whispered Isaac. Derkhan looked around them quickly. "Maybe. Depends what else we see." "What we’ll see," hissed Isaac furiously, dragging Derkhan with him as he caught sight of the next exhibit, "is pure human viciousness! I fucking despair, Derkhan!" He had stopped a little way behind a group of dawdlers who were gazing at a child born without eyes, a fragile, bony human girl who cried out wordlessly and waved her head at the sound of the crowd. she sees with inner sight! proclaimed the sign over her head. Some before the cage were cackling and yelling at her. "Godspit, Derkhan…" Isaac shook his head. "Look at them tormenting that poor creature…" As he spoke, a couple turned from the exhibited child with disgust in their faces. They turned as they left

and spat behind them at the woman who had laughed the loudest. "It turns, Isaac," said Derkhan quietly. "It turns quickly." The tour guide strode the path between the rows of little tents, stopping here and there at choice horrors. The crowd was breaking apart. Little clots of people milled away under their own volition. At some tents they were stopped by attendants, who waited until a sufficient number had congregated before unveiling their hidden pieces. At others the punters walked right in, and shouts of delight and shock and disgust would emanate from within the grubby canvas. Derkhan and Isaac wandered into a long enclosure. Above the entrance was a sign rendered in ostentatious calligraphy. A panoply of wonders! Do You dare enter the museum of hidden things? "Do we dare, Derkhan?" muttered Isaac as they passed into the warm dusty darkness within.

The light ebbed slowly into their eyes from the corner of the makeshift room. The cotton chamber was full of cabinets in iron and glass, stretching out before them. Candles and gasjets burned in niches, filtered through lenses that concentrated them into dramatic spots, illuminating the bizarre displays. Punters meandered from one to another, murmuring, laughing nervously. Isaac and Derkhan wandered slowly past jars of yellowing alcohol in which broken body parts floated. Two-headed foetuses and sections of a kraken’s arm. A deep red shining jag that could have been a Weaver’s claw, or could have been a burnished carving; eyes that spasmed and lived in jars of charged liquid; intricate, infinitesimal paintings on ladybirds’ backs, visible only through magnifying lenses; a human skull scuttling in its cage on six insectile brass legs. A nest of rats with intertwined tails that took it in turns to scrawl obscenities on a little blackboard. A book made of pressed feathers. Druds’ teeth and a narwhal’s horn. Derkhan scribbled notes. Isaac gazed avariciously

about him at the charlatanism and cryptoscience. They left the museum. To their right was Anglerina, Queen of the Deepest Sea; to their left Bas-Lag’s Oldest Cactus-Man. "I’m getting depressed," said Derkhan. Isaac agreed. "Let’s find the Bird-Man Chief of the Wild Desert quickly, and fuck off. I’ll buy you some candyfloss." They wound through the ranks of the deformed and obese, the bizarrely hirsute and the small. Isaac suddenly pointed above them, at the sign that had come into view. king garuda! lord of the air! Derkhan tugged at the heavy curtain. She and Isaac exchanged glances, and entered.

"Ah! Visitors from this strange city! Come, sit, hear stories of the harsh desert! Stay a while with a traveller from far, far away!" The querulous voice burst out of the shadows. Isaac squinted through the bars before them. A dark, shambolic figure stood painfully and lurched out of the darkness at the back of the tent. "I am a chief of my people, come to see New Crobuzon of which we have heard." The voice was pained and exhausted, high-pitched and raw, but it made nothing like the alien sounds that burst from Yagharek’s throat. The speaker stepped out of obscurity. Isaac opened his eyes and mouth wide to bellow in triumph and wonder, but his shout mutated as it began and died in an aghast whisper. The figure before Isaac and Derkhan shivered and scratched its stomach. Its flesh hung heavy off it like a pudgy schoolboy’s. Its skin was pale and pockmarked with disease and cold. Isaac’s eyes wove all over its

body in dismay. Bizarre nodes of tissue burst from its bunched toes: claws drawn by children. Its head was swathed in feathers, but feathers of all sizes and shapes, jammed at random from its crown to its neck in a thick, uneven, insulating layer. The eyes that peered myopically at Isaac and Derkhan were human eyes, fighting to open lids encrusted in rheum and pus. The beak was large and stained, like old pewter. Behind the wretched creature stretched a pair of dirty, foul-smelling wings. They were no more than six feet from tip to tip. As Isaac watched, they halfopened, jerked and twitched spastically. Tiny pieces of organic muck spilt from them as they shuddered. The creature’s beak opened and, underneath it, Isaac caught a glimpse of lips forming the words, nostrils above. The beak was nothing but a roughly made fixture shoved and sealed into place like a gasmask over the nose and mouth, he realized. "Let me tell you of the times I have soared into the air

with my prey…" began the pathetic figure, but Isaac stepped forward and held up a hand to cut it off. "Please gods, enough!" he shouted. "Spare us this…embarrassment…" The false garuda staggered backwards, blinking in fear. There was silence for a long time. "What’s the matter, guvnor?" whispered the thing behind bars eventually. "What’d I do wrong?" "I came here to see a fucking garuda," rumbled Isaac. "What d’you take me for? You’re Remade, mate…as any fool can see." The big dead beak clicked together as the man licked his lips. His eyes darted left and right nervously. "Jabber’s sake, squire," he whispered pleadingly. "Don’t go complaining. This is all I got. You’re

obviously a gentleman of education…I’m as close as most get to garuda…all they want’s to hear a bit about hunting in the desert, see the bird-man, and that way I earn." "Godspit, Isaac," whispered Derkhan. "Go easy." Isaac was crushingly disappointed. He had been preparing a list of questions in his mind. He knew exactly how he had wanted to investigate the wings, which muscle-bone interaction currently intrigued him. He had been prepared to pay a good rate for the research, had prepared to get Ged to come down to ask questions about the Cymek Library. To be faced instead with a scared, sickly human reading from a script that would have disgraced the lowest playhouse depressed him. His anger was tempered with pity as he stared at the miserable figure before him. The man behind the feathers nervously clutched and unclutched his left arm with his right. He had to open that preposterous beak to

breath. " ‘Stail," Isaac swore softly. Derkhan had walked up to the bars. "What did you do?" she asked. The man looked around again before answering. "Did thieving," he said quickly. "Got caught trying to get an old painting of a garuda from some ancient cunt out in Chnum. Worth a fortune. Magister said since I was so impressed with garuda I could-" his breath caught for a moment "-I could be one." Isaac could see how the feathers of the face were shoved ruthlessly into the skin, doubtless bonded subcutaneously to make removal too agonizing to consider. He imagined the process of insertion, one by torturing one. When the Remade turned slightly to Derkhan, Isaac could see the ugly knot of hardened flesh on his back where those wings, torn from some

buzzard or vulture, had been sealed together with the human muscles. Nerve endings bonded randomly and uselessly, and the wings moved only with the spasms of a long drawnout death. Isaac’s nose wrinkled at the stench. The wings were rotting slowly on the Remade’s back. "Does it hurt?" Derkhan was asking. "Not so very much any more, miss," the Remade answered. "Anyway, I’m lucky to have this." He indicated the tent and the bars. "Keeps me eating. That’s why I’d be obliged more’n I can say if you’d refrain from telling the boss that you clocked me." Did most who came here really accept this disgusting charade? wondered Isaac. Were people so gullible as to believe that something as grotesque as this could ever fly? "We’ll say nothing," said Derkhan. Isaac nodded curtly in agreement. He was full of pity and anger and

disgust. He wanted to leave. Behind them, the curtain swished and a group of young women entered, laughing and whispering lewd jokes. The Remade looked over Derkhan’s shoulder. "Ah!" he said loudly. "Visitors from this strange city! Come, sit, hear stories of the harsh desert! Stay a while with a traveller from far, far away!" He moved away from Derkhan and Isaac, gazing at them pleadingly as he did so. Delighted screams and astonishment burst from the new spectators. "Fly for us!" yelled one. "Alas," heard Isaac and Derkhan as they left the tent, "the weather in your city is too inclement for my kind. I have caught chill and temporarily cannot fly. But tarry and I will tell you of the views from the cloudless Cymek skies…" The cloth closed behind them. The speech was

obscured. Isaac watched as Derkhan scribbled in her notepad. "What are you going to turn in?" he asked. " ‘Remade Forced by Magister’s Torture into Living as Zoo Exhibit.’ I won’t say which one," she answered without looking up from her writing. Isaac nodded. "Come on," he murmured. "I’ll get that candyfloss." "I’m fucking depressed now," said Isaac heavily. He bit at the sickly-sweet bundle he carried. Wisps of sugar fibres stuck to his stubble. "Yes, but are you depressed because of what’d been done to that man, or because you didn’t get to meet a garuda?" asked Derkhan. They had left the freakshow. They munched earnestly as they walked past the garish body of the fair. Isaac pondered. He was a little taken aback.

"Well, I suppose…probably because I didn’t meet a garuda…But," he added defensively, "I wouldn’t be half so depressed if it’d just been a scam, someone in a costume, something like that. It’s the…fucking indignity of it that really sticks in the craw…" Derkhan nodded thoughtfully. "We could look around, you know," she said. "There’s bound to be a garuda or two here somewhere. Some of the city-bred must be here." She looked up, uselessly. With all the coloured lights, she could hardly even see the stars. "Not now," said Isaac. "I’m not in the mood. I’ve lost my momentum." There was a long, companionable silence before he spoke again. "Will you really write something about this place in Runagate Rampanfi" Derkhan shrugged, looked around briefly to make sure no one was listening.

"It’s a difficult job, dealing with the Remade," she said. "There’s so much contempt, prejudice against them. Divide, rule. Trying to link up, so people don’t… judge them as monsters…it’s really hard. And it’s not like people don’t know they’ve got fucking horrendous lives, for the most part…it’s that there’s a lot of people who kind of vaguely think they deserve it, even if they pity them, or think it’s Gods-given, or rubbish like that. Oh, Godspit," she said suddenly, and shook her head. "What?" "I was in court the other day, saw a Magister sentence a woman to Remaking. Such a sordid, pathetic, miserable crime…" She winced in remembrance. "Some woman living at the top of one of the Ketch Heath monoliths killed her baby…smothered it or shook it or Jabber knows what…because it wouldn’t stop crying. She’s sitting there in court, her eyes are just…damn well empty…she can’t believe what’s happened, she keeps moaning her baby’s name, and the Magister sentences her. Prison, of course, ten

years I think, but it was the Remaking that I remember. "Her baby’s arms are going to be grafted to her face. ‘So she doesn’t forget what she did,’ he says." Derkhan’s voice curdled as she mimicked the Magister. They walked in silence for a while, dutifully munching candyfloss. "I’m an art critic, Isaac," Derkhan said eventually. "Remaking’s art, you know. Sick art. The imagination it takes! I’ve seen Remade crawling under the weight of huge spiral iron shells they retreat into at night. Snailwomen. I’ve seen them with big squid tentacles where their arms were, standing in river mud, plunging their suckers underwater to pull out fish. And as for the ones made for the gladiatorial shows…! Not that they admit that’s what they’re for… "Remaking’s creativity gone bad. Gone rotten. Gone rancid. I remember you once asked me if it was hard to balance writing about art and writing for RR? She turned to look at him as they paced through the fair.

"It’s the same thing, Isaac. Art’s something you choose to make…it’s a bringing together of…of everything around you into something that makes you more human, more khepri, whatever. More of a person. Even with Remaking a germ of that survives. That’s why the same people who despise the Remade are in awe of Jack Half-a-Prayer, whether or not he exists. "I don’t want to live in a city where Remaking is the highest art." Isaac felt in his pocket for Runagate Rampant. It was dangerous even to hold a copy. He patted it, mentally thumbing his nose to the north-east, at Parliament, at Mayor Bentham Rudgutter and the parties squabbling over how to slice up the cake amongst themselves. The Fat Sun and Three Quills parties; Diverse Tendency, whom Lin called "comprador scum"; the liars and seducers of the Finally We Can See party; the whole pompous bickering brood like all-powerful six-year-olds in a sandpit.

At the end of the path paved with bon-bon wrappers, posters, tickets and crushed food, discarded dolls and burst balloons, stood Lin, lounging by the entrance to the fair. Isaac smiled with unfeigned pleasure at seeing her. As they neared her she stood straighter and waved at them. She sauntered in their direction. Isaac saw that she had a toffee-apple gripped in her mandibles. Her inner jaw chewed with gusto. How was it, treasure? she signed. "An unmitigated arsing disaster," Isaac huffed miserably. "I’ll tell you all about it." He even risked grasping her hand briefly as they turned their backs on the fair. The three small figures disappeared into the dimly lit streets of Sobek Croix, where gaslight was brown and half-hearted where it existed at all. Behind them the enormous imbroglio of colour, metal, glass, sugar and

sweat continued to pour its noise and light pollution into the sky.

Chapter Nine
Across the city, through the shady alleys of Echomire and the hovels of Badside, in the lattice of dust-clogged canals, in Smog Bend and the faded estates of Barrackham, in towers in Tar Wedge and the hostile concrete forest of Dog Fenn, came the whispered word. Someone’s paying for winged things. Like a god, Lemuel breathed life into the message and made it fly. Small-time hoods heard it from drug dealers; costermongers told it to decayed gentlemen; doctors with dubious records got it from part-time bouncers. Isaac’s request swept through the slums and rookeries. It travelled the alternative architecture thrown up in the human sumps. Where putrefying houses loomed over courtyards, wooden walkways seemed to self-generate, linking them together, connecting them to the streets and mews

where exhausted beasts of burden hauled third-rate goods up and down. Bridges jutted like splinted limbs across cess-trenches. Isaac’s message was couriered across the chaotic skyline in the paths of the feral cats. Little expeditions of urban adventurers took the Sink Line train south to Fell Stop and ventured into Rudewood. They walked the deserted train tracks as long as they could, stepping from slat to wooden slat, passing the empty, nameless station in the outlands of the forest. The platforms had surrendered to green life. The tracks were thick with dandelions and foxgloves and wild roses that had shoved pugnacious through the railway gravel and, here and there, bent the tracks. Darkwood and banyan and evergreen crept up on the nervous invaders until they were surrounded, enclosed in a lush trap. They went with sacks and catapults and big nets. They hauled their clumsy urban carcasses through the tangled roots and thick tree-shadows, yelling and tripping and breaking branches. They tried to pinpoint

the birdsong that disoriented them, sounding on every side. They made faltering, useless analogies between the city and this alien realm: "If you can find your way through Dog Fenn," one might say fatuously and wrongly, "you can find your way anywhere." They would spin, look for and fail to find the militia tower of Vaudois Hill, out of sight behind the trees. Some did not return. Most came back scratching at burrs, stung and torn and angry, empty-handed. They might as well have hunted ghosts. Occasionally they triumphed, and some frantic nightingale or Rudewood finch would be smothered with rough cloth to a chorus of ludicrously overblown cheers. Hornets buried their harpoons into their tormentors as they were swept into jars and pots. If they were lucky, their captors remembered to pierce airholes in the lids. Many birds and more insects died. Some survived,

to be taken into the dark city just beyond the trees. In the city itself, children scaled walls to pull eggs from nests in decaying gutters. The caterpillars and maggots and cocoons they kept in matchboxes and bartered for string or chocolate were suddenly worth money. There were accidents. A girl in pursuit of her neighbour’s racing pigeon fell from a roof, breaking her skull. An old man scrabbling for grubs was stung by bees until his heart stopped. Rare birds and flying creatures were stolen. Some escaped. New predators and prey briefly joined the ecosystem in New Crobuzon’s skies. Lemuel was good at his job. Some would only have plumbed the depths: not he. He made sure that Isaac’s desires were communicated uptown: Gidd, Canker Wedge, Mafaton and Nigh Sump, Ludmead and The Crow.

Clerks and doctors, lawyers and councillors, landlords and men and women of leisure…even the militia: Lemuel had often dealt (usually indirectly) with New Crobuzon’s respectable citizenry. The main differences between them and the more desperate of the city’s inhabitants, in his experience, were the scale of money that interested them and the capacity they had not to get caught. From the parlours and dining rooms there were cautious murmurings of interest. In the heart of Parliament a debate was taking place about levels of business taxation. Mayor Rudgutter sat regally on his throne and nodded as his deputy, Montjohn Rescue, bellowed the Fat Sun party’s line, poking his finger aggressively across the enormous vaulted chamber. Rescue paused periodically to rearrange the thick scarf he wore around his neck, despite the warmth. Councillors dozed quietly in a haze of dust motes.

Elsewhere in the vast building, through intricate corridors and passages that seemed designed to confuse, suited secretaries and messengers brushed busily past each other. Little tunnels and stairs of polished marble bristled from main thoroughfares. Many were unlit and unfrequented. An old man pulled a decrepit trolley along one such passage. With the bustling noise of Parliament’s main entrance hall receding behind him, he dragged the trolley behind him up steep stairs. The corridor was barely wider than his trolley: it was a long, uncomfortable few minutes until he had reached the top. He stopped and wiped sweat from his forehead and around his mouth, then resumed his trudging plod along the ascending floor. Ahead of him the air lightened, as sunlight tried to finger its way around a corner. He turned full into it, and his face was splashed with light and warmth. It gushed in from a skylight and, beyond that, from the windows of the doorless office at the corridor’s end.

"Morning, sir," croaked the old man as he reached the entrance. "Good morning to you," came the reply from the man behind the desk. The office was small and square, with narrow windows of smoked glass that looked out over Griss Fell and the arches of the Sud Line railway. One wall was flush with the looming dark bulk of Parliament’s main edifice. Set into that wall was a small sliding door. A pile of crates teetered in the corner. The little room was one of the chambers that jutted from the main building, high over the surrounding city. The waters of the Gross Tar surged fifty feet below. The delivery man unloaded his trolley of parcels and boxes in front of the pale middle-aged gentleman sitting before him. "Not too many today, sir," he murmured, rubbing his moaning bones. He went slowly back the way he came,

his trolley jouncing lightly behind him. The clerk sifted through the bundles and rattled out brief notes on his typewriter. He made entries in an enormous ledger labelled "acquisitions," skimming the pages between sections and recording the date before each item. He opened up the packages and recorded the contents in a typewritten day-list and in the big book. Militia reports: 17. Human knuckles: 3. Heliotypes (incriminating): 5. He checked for which department each collection of items was bound, and he separated them into piles. When one pile had grown big enough, he put it in a crate and carried it over to the door in the wall. It was a four-by-four-foot square, which hissed with a rush of siphoned air and opened at the behest of some hidden piston when he tugged a lever. At its side was a little slot for a programme card. Beyond it a wire cage dangled beneath Parliament’s

obsidian skin, with one open side flush with the doorway. It was suspended above and on either side by chains that swung gently, rattled and disappeared into an eddying darkness that loomed off without remission in all directions that the clerk could see. The clerk lugged the crate up into the passageway and slid it along into the cage, which pitched a little under the weight. He released a hatch which closed sharply, enclosing the crate and its contents with woven wire on all sides. Then he closed the sliding door, reached into his pocket and pulled out the thick programme cards he carried, each clearly marked: Militia; Intelligence; Exchequer, and so on. He slid the relevant card into the slot beside the door. There would be a whirr. Tiny, sensitive pistons reacted to the pressure. Powered by steam driven up from the vast basement boilers, gentle little cogs rotated the length of the card. Where their spring-loaded teeth found sections cut from the thick board, they slotted

neatly inside for a moment, and a minuscule switch was thrown further along the mechanism. When the wheels had completed their brief passage, the combination of on-off switches translated into binary instructions that raced in flows of steam and current along tubes and cables to hidden analytical engines. The cage jerked free of its moorings and began a swift, swinging passage beneath the skin of Parliament. It would travel the hidden tunnels up or down or sideways or diagonally, changing direction, transferring jerkily to new chains, for five seconds, thirty seconds, two minutes or more, until it arrived, slamming into a bell to announce itself. Another sliding door opened before it, and the crate was pulled out into its destination. Far away, a new cage swung into place outside the clerk’s room. The Acquisitions clerk worked quickly. He had logged and sent on almost all the assorted oddities before him within fifteen minutes. That was when he saw one of the few remaining parcels shaking oddly. He

stopped scribbling and prodded it. The stamps that adorned it declared it newly arrived from some merchant ship, the name obscured. Neatly printed across the front of the package was its destination: Dr. M. Barbile, Research and Development. The clerk heard a scraping. He hesitated a moment, then gingerly untied the string that bound it and peered inside. Inside, in a nest of paper shavings that they nudged fitfully, were a mass of fat grubs bigger than his thumb. The clerk recoiled and his eyes widened behind his glasses. The grubs were astonishingly coloured, beautiful dark reds and greens with the iridescence of peacock feathers. They floundered and wriggled to keep themselves on their stubby, sticky legs. Thick antennae poked from their heads, above a tiny mouthpiece. The hind part of their body was covered in multicoloured hairs that bristled and seemed coated in thin glue.

The fat little creatures undulated blindly. The clerk saw, too late, a tattered invoice attached to the back of the box, half-destroyed in transit. Any invoiced package he was supposed to record as whatever was listed, and send on without opening. Shit, he thought nervously. He unfolded the torn halves of the invoice. It was still quite legible. SM caterpillars x 5. That was all. The clerk sat back and pondered for a moment, watching the hairy little creatures crawl over each other and the paper they sat in. Caterpillars? he thought, and grinned fleetingly, anxiously. He kept glancing at the corridor before him. Rare caterpillars…Some foreign breed, he thought. He remembered the whispers in the pub, the winks and nods. He’d heard a chap at his local offering money

for such creatures…The rarer the better, he’d said… The clerk’s face wrinkled suddenly in avarice and fear. His hand hovered over the box, darting back and forth inconclusively. He got up and stalked over to his room’s entrance. He listened. There was no sound from the burnished corridor. The clerk returned to his desk, calculating risk and benefit frantically. He looked closely at the invoice. It was stamped with an illegible crest, but the actual information was handwritten. He fumbled in his desk drawer without giving himself time to think, his eyes darting constantly back to the deserted passage outside his doorway, and brought out a paper-knife and a quill. He scratched with the sharp knife at the straight line on the top and the end of the curl on the bottom of the 5 on the invoice, gently, gently, shaving them away. He blew away paper- and ink-dust, smoothed the roughened paper carefully with the feathered end of his quill. Then he turned it around and dipped the fine point in his inkwell. Meticulously, he straightened the curling

base of the digit, converting it into crossing lines. Eventually, it was done. He straightened up and squinted critically down at his handiwork. It looked like a 4. That’s the hard bit, he thought. He felt about him for some container, turned his pockets inside out, scratched his head and thought. His face lit, and he pulled out his glasses case. He opened it and filled it with shredded paper. Then, his face wrinkling with anxious disgust, he pulled the edge of his sleeve down over his hand and reached into the box. He felt the soft edges of one of the big caterpillars between his fingers. As gently and quickly as he could, he plucked it squirming from its fellows and dropped it into his glasses case. Quickly, he closed the case around the frantically twitching little creature and fastened it. He buried his glasses case at the bottom of his briefcase, behind mint-sweets and papers and pens and

notebooks. The clerk retied the string on the box, then sat back quickly and waited. His heart was very loud, he realized. He was sweating a little. He breathed deeply and squeezed his eyes closed. Relax, now, he thought soothingly to himself. That’s your bit of excitement over. Two or three minutes passed, and no one came. The clerk was still alone. His bizarre embezzlement had gone unnoticed. He breathed easier. Eventually he looked again at his forged invoice. It was, he realized, very good. He opened the ledger and entered, in the section marked R&D, the date and the information: 27th Chet, Anno Urbis 1779: From merchant ship X. SM caterpillars: 4. The last number seemed to glare at him as if it was written in red.

He typed the same information onto his day-sheet before picking up the resealed box and carrying it over to the wall. He opened the sliding doors and leaned into the little metal threshold, pushed the box of grubs into the waiting cage. Gusts of stale, dry air billowed onto his face from the dark cavity between the hide and guts of Parliament. The clerk pulled the cage shut and closed the door before it. He fumbled for his programme cards, eventually pulling the one marked R&D from the little pack with fingers that still trembled, just a little. He slotted it into the information engine. There was a juddering hiss and a ratcheting sound as the instructions fed along pistons and hammers and flywheels and the cage was pulled vertiginously up, away from the clerk’s office, beyond Parliament’s foothills, into the craggy peaks. The box of caterpillars swung as it was tugged through the darkness. Oblivious to their journey, the

grubs circumscribed their little prison with peristaltic motion. Quiet engines transferred the cage from hook to hook, changing its direction and dropping it onto rusted conveyor-belts, retrieving it in another part of Parliament’s bowels. The box spiralled invisibly around the building, rising gradually and inexorably towards the high-security East Wing, passing through mechanized veins to those organic turrets and protuberances. Finally the wire cage dropped with a muted chime onto a bed of springs. The vibrations of the bell ebbed into the silence. After a minute the door to the shaft snapped open and the box of larvae was yanked brusquely into a harsh light. There were no windows in the long white room, only incandescent gasjets. Every cranny of the room was visible in its sterility. No dust, no dirt invaded here. The cleanliness was hard and aggressive. All around the perimeter of the room, white-coated

figures were huddled in obscure tasks. It was one of those bright, hidden figures who untied the box’s string and read the invoice. She gently opened the box and peered inside. She picked up the cardboard box and carried it at arms’ length through the room. At the far end one of her colleagues, a thin cactacae with his spines carefully secured beneath thick white coveralls, had opened the large bolted door for which she was heading. She showed him her security clearance and he stood aside to let her precede him. They walked carefully down a corridor as white and sparse as the room from which they had come, with a large iron grille at the far end. The cactus saw that his colleague was carrying something gingerly in both hands, and he reached past her and fed a programme card into an input slot in the wall. The slatted gate slid open. They entered a vast dark chamber.

Its ceiling and its walls were far enough away to be invisible. Weird wails and lowing sounded distantly from all sides. As their eyes adjusted, cages walled with dark wood or iron or reinforced glass loomed at them irregularly in the enormous hall. Some were huge, the size of rooms: others were no larger than a book. All were raised like cabinets in a museum, with charts and books of information slotted before them. White-clad scientists moved through the maze between the blocks of glass like spirits in a ruin, taking notes, observing, pacifying and tormenting the cages’ inhabitants. Captive things sniffed and grunted and sang and shifted unreally in their dim prisons. The cactus walked briskly off into the distance and disappeared. The woman carrying the grubs made her way carefully through the room. Things lunged at her as she walked past and she shuddered with the glass. Something swirled oleaginously through a huge vat of liquid mud: she saw

toothy tentacles slapping at her and scouring the tank. She was bathed in hypnotic organic lights. She passed a small cage smothered in black cloth, with warning signs plastered ostentatiously on all sides and instructions on how to deal with the contents. Her colleagues drifted up to her and away again with clipboards and children’s coloured bricks and slabs of putrefying meat. Ahead, temporary black wooden walls twenty feet high had been thrown up, surrounding a floor-space forty feet square. Even a corrugated iron ceiling had been hammered over the top. At the padlocked entrance to the room-within-a-room stood a whitesuited guard, his head braced to take the weight of a bizarre helmet. He carried a flintlock rifle and a backslung scimitar. At his feet were several more helmets like his. She nodded to the guard and indicated her desire to enter. He looked at the identification around her neck. "You know what to do, then?" he asked quietly.

She nodded and put the box carefully on the floor for a moment, after testing that the string was still tight. Then she picked up one of the helmets by the guard’s feet and slipped the unwieldy thing over her head. It was a cage of brass pipes and screws that slotted around her skull, with one small mirror suspended a foot and a half in front of each of her eyes. She adjusted the chinstrap to keep the heavy contraption steady, then turned her back on the guard and fiddled with the mirrors. She angled them on their swivelling joints until she could see him clearly directly behind her. She switched focus from eye to eye, testing the visibility. She nodded. "All right, I’m ready," she said, and picked up the box, untying it as she did so. She stared intently into the mirrors while the guard unlocked the door behind her. When he opened it he averted his eyes from the interior. The scientist used her mirrors to walk backwards quickly into the dark room.

She was sweating as she saw the door close in front of her face. She switched her attention again to the mirrors, moved her head slowly from side to side to take in what was behind her. There was a huge cage of thick black bars filling almost the whole space. From the dark brown light of burning oil and candles she could make out the desultory, dying vegetation and small trees that filled the cage. The gently rotting growth and the darkness in the room were thick enough that she could not see the far side of the room. She scanned quickly in the mirrors. Nothing was moving. She backed quickly up to the cage, to where a small tray slotted back and forth through the bars. She reached behind her and tilted her head up such that the mirrors angled down and she could see her hand groping. It was a difficult, inelegant manoeuvre, but she managed to grip the handle and tug the tray out towards

her. She heard a heavy beating in the corner of the cage, like thick rugs being slammed quickly together. Her breath came faster and she fumbled to pour the grubs onto the tray. The four little undulating lozenges slipped in a shower of paper debris onto the metal. Immediately, something changed in the quality of the air. The caterpillars could smell the inhabitant of the cage, and they were crying out to it for succour. The thing in the cage was answering. These cries were not audible. They vibrated in wavelengths other than sonar. The scientist felt the hair all over her body bristle as the ghosts of emotions fleeted through her skull like half-heard rumours. Snippets of alien joy and inhuman terror wafted in her nostrils and ears and behind her eyes, synaesthetically. With trembling fingers she pushed the tray into the cage.

As she stepped away from the bars, something stroked her leg with a lascivious flourish. She gave a moaning grunt of fear and yanked her trouser out of reach, clamped down on her terror, resisted the instinct to look behind her. In her head-mounted mirrors, she glimpsed dark brown limbs uncurling in the rough undergrowth, the yellowing bone of teeth, black ocular pits. The ferns and scrub rustled and the thing was gone. The scientist knocked brusquely on the door as she swallowed, holding her breath until it was opened and she stumbled out nearly into the arms of the guard. She snatched at the clasps under her head, pulling herself free of the helmet. She stared intently away from the guard while she heard him closing and locking the door. "Is it done?" she whispered eventually. "Yes." She turned back slowly. She could not look up, but

kept her eyes firmly on the floor, checking that he told the truth by looking at the base of the door, then slowly and with a rush of relief raising her line of sight to eyelevel. She handed the helmet back to the guard. "Thanks," she murmured. "Was it all right?" he asked. "Never," she snapped, and turned. Behind her, she thought she heard a massive fluttering through the wooden walls. She walked briskly back through the chamber of strange animals, realizing halfway through that she still clutched the now-empty box in which the grubs had come. She folded it and put it in her pocket. She pulled the telescoping gate closed behind her on the massive chamber full of shadowy, violent shapes.

She returned the length of the scrubbed white corridor and at last back into the Research & Development antechamber, through the first heavy door. She pushed it closed and bolted it, before turning happily to join her white-suited fellows staring into femtoscopes or reading treatises or conferring quietly by the doors that led to other specialist departments. Each had a legend stencilled on it in red and black. As Dr. Magesta Barbile walked back to her bench to make her report, she glanced briefly over her shoulder at the warnings printed on the door she had taken. Biohazard. Danger. Extreme Caution Required.

Chapter Ten
"Are you a dabbler in drugs, Ms. Lin?" Lin had told Mr. Motley many times that it was difficult for her to speak when she was working. He had affably informed her that he got bored when he was sitting for her, or for any portraits. She didn’t have to answer him, he had said. If anything he said really interested her, she could save it up for afterwards and discuss it with him at the end of the session. She really mustn’t mind him, he had said. He couldn’t possibly stay still for two, three, four hours at a time and say nothing. It would drive him mad. So she listened to what he said and tried to remember one or two remarks to bring up later. She was still very careful to keep him happy with her. "You should give them a try. I’m sure you have, actually. Artist like you. Plumbing the depths of the psyche. Such-like." She heard a smile in his voice.

Lin had persuaded Mr. Motley to let her work in the attic of his Bonetown base. It was the only place with natural light in the whole building, she had discovered. It was not only painters or heliotypists who needed light: the textures and tactility of surfaces that she evoked so assiduously in her gland-art was invisible by candlelight, and exaggerated in gasjets. So she had wrangled with him nervously until he had accepted her expertise. From then on, she was greeted at the door by the cactus valet and led to the top floor, where a wooden ladder dangled from a trapdoor in the ceiling. She came and went into the attic alone. Whenever Lin arrived she would find Mr. Motley waiting. He would stand in the enormous space a few feet from where she pulled herself into his view. The triangular cavity seemed to stretch at least a third the length of the terrace, a study in perspective, with the chaotic agglutination of flesh that was Mr. Motley poised at its centre.

There were no furnishings. There was one door leading to some little corridor outside, but she never saw it open. The attic air was dry. Lin trod over loose boards, risking splinters with every step. But the dirt on the large dormer windows seemed translucent, admitting light and diffusing it. Lin would gently sign for Mr. Motley to position himself below the wash of sun, or cloudlight. Then she would pace around him, reorienting herself, before continuing with her sculpture. Once she had asked him where he would put a lifesize representation of himself. "It’s nothing for you to worry about," he had answered with a gentle smile. She stood before him and watched the lukewarm grey light pick out his features. Every session before she started she would spend some minutes making herself familiar with him again. The first couple of times she had come here, she had been sure that he changed overnight, that the shards of

physiognomy that made up his whole reorganized when no one was looking. She became frightened of her commission. She wondered hysterically if it was like a task in a moral children’s tale, if she was to be punished for some nebulous sin by striving to freeze in time a body in flux, forever too afraid to say anything, starting each day from the beginning all over again. But it was not long before she learnt to impose order on his chaos. It felt absurdly prosaic to count the razorsharp shards of chitin that jutted from a scrap of pachyderm skin, just to make sure she had not missed one in her sculpture. It felt almost vulgar, as if his anarchic form should defy accounting. And yet, as soon as she looked at him with such an eye, the work of sculpture took shape. Lin would stand and stare at him, switching focus rapidly from visual cell to cell, her concentration fleeting across her eyes, gauging the aggregate that was Mr. Motley through the minutely changing parts. She carried dense white sticks of the organic paste she would

metabolize to make her art. She had already eaten several before arriving, and as she took the visual measure of him, she would chew rapidly on another, stolidly ignoring the dull, unpleasant taste, and rapidly passing it through her headbody to the sac inside the hindpart of her headthorax. Her headbelly would swell visibly as she stored up her mulch. She would turn and pick up the beginnings of the work, the three-toed reptile claw that was one of Mr. Motley’s feet, and she would tie it into place on a low bracket. Then she would turn back and kneel, facing her subject, opening the little chitin case protecting her gland and fastening the nether lips at the rear of her head-body with a gentle slup onto the edge of the sculpture behind her. First, Lin would gently spit a little of the enzyme that broke down the integrity of the already hardened khepri-spit, returning the edge of her work-in-progress to a thick sticky mucus. Then she would focus hard on the section of the leg she was working on, taking in

what she could see and remembering the features out of her sight, the exoskeletal jags, the muscular cavities; she would begin gently to squeeze the thick paste from her gland, her sphincter-lips dilating and contracting and extending, rolling and smoothing the sludge into shape. She used the opalescent nacre of the khepri-spit to good effect. At certain places, though, the hues of Mr. Motley’s bizarre flesh were too spectacular, too arresting, not to be represented. Lin would glance down and grab a handful of the colourberries arrayed on her pallet before her. She would take them in subtle combinations and quickly eat them, a careful cocktail of redberries and cyanberries, say, yellowberries and purpleberries and blackberries. The vivid juice would be spat through her headguts, down peculiar intestinal byways and into an adjunct of her main thoracic sac, and within four or five minutes she could push the mixed colour into the diluted kheprispit. She would smear the liquid froth into careful position, slopping astonishing tones in suggestive

patches and scabs, where it coagulated quickly into shape. It was only at the end of hours of work, bloated and exhausted, her mouth foul with berry acid and the musty chalk of the paste, that Lin could turn and see her creation. That was the skill of the gland-artist, who had to work blind. The first of Mr. Motley’s legs was coming along, she had decided, with some pride. The clouds just visible through the skylight moiled vigorously, dissolving and recombining in scraps and shards in new parts of the sky. The air in the attic was very still, by comparison. Dust hung motionless. Mr. Motley stood poised against the light. He was good at staying very still, as long as one of his mouths kept up a rambling monologue. Today he had decided to talk to Lin about drugs. "What is your poison, Lin? Shazbah? Tusk has no

effect on khepri, does it, so that’s out…" He ruminated. "I think artists have an ambivalent relationship with drugs. I mean, the whole project’s about unlocking the beast within, right? Or the angel. Whatever. Opening doors one thought were jammed closed. Now, if you do that with drugs, then doesn’t that make the art rather a let-down? Art’s got to be about communication, hasn’t it? So if you rely on drugs, which are, I do not care what any proselytizing little ponce dropping a fizzbolt with chums at a dancehall tells me, which are an intrinsically individualized experience, then you’ve opened the doors, but can you communicate what you’ve found on the other side? "Then on the other hand, if you remain stubbornly straight-edged, keep sternly to the mind as she is more usually found, then you can communicate with others, because you’re all speaking the same language, as it were…but have you opened the door? Maybe the best you can do is peer through the keyhole. Maybe that’ll do…"

Lin glanced up to see which mouth he was speaking from. It was a large, feminine one near his shoulder. She wondered why it was that his voice remained unchanged. She wished she could reply, or that he would stop talking. She found it hard to concentrate, but she thought she had already extracted as good a compromise as she would get from him. "Lots and lots of money in drugs…of course you know that. D’you know what your friend and agent Lucky Gazid is prepared to pay for his latest illicit tipple? Honestly, it would astonish you. Ask him, do. The market for these substances is extraordinary. There’s room for a few purveyors to make quite tidy sums." Lin felt that Mr. Motley was laughing at her. Every conversation he had with her wherein he disclosed some hidden details of New Crobulon’s underworld lore, she was embroiled in something she was eager to avoid. I’m nothing but a visitor, she wanted to sign frantically. Don’t give me a streetmap! The

occasional shot of shazbah to come up, maybe a jolt of quinner to come down, that’s all I ask…Don’t know about the distribution and don’t want to! "Ma Francine has something of a monopoly in Petty Coil. She’s spreading her sales representatives further afield from Kinken. D’you know her? One of your kind. Impressive businesswoman. She and I are going to have to come to some arrangement. Otherwise it’s all going to get messy." Several of Mr. Motley’s mouths smiled. "But I’ll tell you something," he added softly. "I’m taking a delivery very soon of something that should rather dramatically change my distribution. I may have something of a monopoly myself…" I’m going to find Isaac tonight, decided Lin nervously. I’m going to take him out to supper, somewhere in Salacus Fields where I can touch his toes with mine. The annual Shintacost Prize competition was coming up fast, at the end of Melluary, and she would have to

think of something to tell him as to why she was not entering. She had never won-the judges, she thought haughtily, did not understand gland-art-but she, along with all her artist friends, had entered without fail for the last seven years. It had become a ritual. They would have a grand supper on the day of the announcement, and send someone to pick up an early copy of the Salacus Gazetteer, which sponsored the competition, to see who had won. Then they would drunkenly denounce the organizers for tasteless buffoons. Isaac would be surprised that she was not taking part. She had decided to hint at some monumental work-in-progress, something to keep him from asking questions for some time. Of course, she reflected, if his garuda thing’s still going on, he won’t really notice if I enter or not. There was a sour note to her thoughts. She was not being fair, she realized. She was prone to the same kind of obsessing: she found it difficult, now, not to see the

monstrous shape of Mr. Motley hovering at the corner of her vision at every hour. It was just bad timing that Isaac should be obsessed at the same time as her, she thought desultorily. This job was swallowing her up. She wanted to come home every night to freshly mixed fruit salad and theatre tickets and sex. Instead, he scribbled avidly in his workshop, and she came home to an empty bed in Aspic Hole, night after night. They met once or twice a week, for a hurried supper and a deep, unromantic sleep. Lin looked up and saw that the shadows had moved some way since she had come into the attic. Her mind felt foggy. Her delicate forelegs cleaned her mouth and eyes and antennae in quick passes. She chewed what she had decided would be the day’s last clutch of colourberries. The tartness of the blueberries was tempered by the sweet pinkberries. She was mixing carefully, adding an unripe pearlberry or a nearly fermenting yellowberry. She knew exactly the taste she was striving for: the sickly, cloying bitterness of a colour

like vivid, greying salmon, the colour of Mr. Motley’s calf muscle. She swallowed and squeezed juice through her headgullet. It squirted eventually onto the shimmering sides of the drying khepri-spit. It was a little too liquid: it spattered and dribbled as it emerged. Lin worked with it, rendering the muscle tone in abstract streaks and drips, a spur-of-the-moment rescue. When the spit was dry she disengaged. She felt a sticky seal of mucus stretch and snap as she pulled her head away from the half-finished leg. She leaned to one side and tensed, pushing the remaining paste through her gland. The ribbed underbelly of her headbody squeezed itself out of its distended shape, into more usual dimensions. A fat white glop of khepri-spit dropped from her head and curled on the floor. Lin stretched her gland-tip forwards and cleaned it with her rear legs, then carefully closed the little protective case below her wingtips.

She stood and stretched. Mr. Motley’s amiable, cold, dangerous little pronouncements broke off sharply. He had not realized she was finished. "So soon, Ms. Lin?" he cried with theatrical disappointment. Losing my edge if not careful, she signed slowly. Takes a lot out of you. Got to stop. "Of course," said Mr. Motley. "And how is the meisterwork?" They turned together. Lin was pleased to see that her impromptu recovery from the watery colourberry juice had created a vivid, suggestive effect. It was not entirely naturalistic, but none of her work was: instead, Mr. Motley’s muscle seemed to have been thrown violently onto the bones of his leg. An analogy perhaps close to the truth. The translucent colours spilt in uneven grots down

the white that glinted like the inside of a shell. The slabs of tissue and muscle crawled over each other. The intricacies of the many-textured flesh were vivid. Mr. Motley nodded approvingly. "You know," he ventured quietly, "my sense of the grand moment makes me wish there was some way I could avoid seeing anything more of this until it’s finished. I think it is very fine so far, you know. Very fine. But it’s dangerous to offer praise too early. Can lead to complacency…or to the opposite. So please don’t be downhearted, Ms. Lin, if that is the last word I say, positive or negative, on the matter, until the very end. Are we agreed?" Lin nodded. She was unable to take her eyes from what she had created, and she rubbed her hand very gently over the smooth surface of the drying khepri-spit. Her fingers explored the transition from fur to scales to skin below Mr. Motley’s knee. She looked down at the original. She looked up at his head. He returned her gaze with a pair of tiger’s eyes.

What…what were you? she signed at him. He sighed. "I wondered when you’d ask that, Lin. I did hope that you wouldn’t, but I knew it was unlikely. It makes me wonder if we understand each other at all," he hissed, sounding suddenly vicious. Lin recoiled. "It’s so…predictable. You’re still not looking the right way. At all. It’s a wonder you can create such art. You still see this-" he gesticulated vaguely at his own body with a monkey’s paw "-as pathology. You’re still interested in what was and how it went wrong. This is not error or absence or mutancy: this is image and essence…" His voice rang around the rafters. He calmed a little and lowered his many arms. "This is totality." She nodded to show that she understood, too tired to be intimidated.

"Maybe I’m too hard on you," Mr. Motley said reflectively. "I mean…this piece before us makes it clear that you have a sense of the ruptured moment, even if your question suggests the opposite…So maybe," he continued slowly, "you yourself contain that moment. Part of you understands without recourse to words, even if your higher mind asks questions in a format which renders an answer impossible." He looked at her triumphantly. "You too are the bastard-zone, Ms. Lin! Your art takes place where your understanding and your ignorance blur." Fine, she signed as she gathered her things. Whatever. Sorry I asked. "So was I, but not any more, I think," he replied. Lin folded her wooden case around her stained pallet, around the remaining colourberries (she needed more, she saw) and the blocks of paste. Mr. Motley

continued with his philosophical ramblings, his ruminations on mongrel theory. Lin was not listening. She tuned her antennae away from him, felt the tiny ructions and rumblings of the house, the weight of the air on the window. I want a sky above me, she thought, not this ancient dusty brace of beams, this tarred, brittle roof. I’m walking home. Slowly. Through Brock Marsh. Her resolution increased as her thoughts progressed. I’ll stop at the lab and nonchalantly ask Isaac to come with me, and I’ll steal him away for a night. Mr. Motley continued sounding. Shut up, shut up, you spoilt child, you damn megalomaniac with your crackpot theories, thought Lin. When she turned to sign goodbye, it was with only

the faintest semblance of politeness.

Chapter Eleven
A pigeon hung cruciform on an X of darkwood on Isaac’s desk. Its head bobbed frantically from side to side, but despite its terror, it could only emit a bathetic cooing. Its wings were pinned with thin nails driven through the tight spaces between splayed feathers and bent hard down to pinion the wingtip. The pigeon’s legs were tied to the lower quarters of the little cross. The wood beneath it was spattered with the dirty white and grey of birdshit. It spasmed and tried to shake its wings, but it was held. Isaac loomed over it brandishing a magnifying glass and a long pen. "Stop fucking about, you vermin," he muttered, and prodded the bird’s shoulder with the tip of the pen. He gazed through his lens at the infinitesimal shudders that passed through the tiny bones and muscles. He

scribbled without looking at the paper beneath him. "Oy!" Isaac looked round at Lublamai’s irritated call, and left his desk. He paced to the balcony’s edge and peered over. "What?" Lublamai and David were standing shoulder to shoulder on the ground floor, their arms folded. They looked like a small chorus line about to burst into song. Their faces were furrowed. There was silence for some seconds. "Look," began Lublamai, his voice suddenly placatory, "Isaac…We’ve always agreed that this is a place we can all do the research we want to do, no questions asked, back each other up, that sort of thing…right?" Isaac sighed and rubbed his eyes with the thumb and

forefinger of his left hand. "For Jabber’s sake, boys, let’s not play old soldiers," he said with a groan. "You don’t have to tell me we’ve been through thick and thin, or what have you, I know you’re arsed off, and I don’t blame you…" "It smells, Isaac," said David bluntly. "And we’re treated to the dawn chorus every minute of the day." As Lublamai spoke, the old construct wheeled its way uncertainly behind him. It stopped and its head rotated, its lenses taking in the two poised men. It hesitated a moment, then folded its stubby metal arms in clumsy imitation of their poses. Isaac gesticulated at it. "Look, look, that stupid thing’s losing it! It’s got a virus! You’d better have it trashed or it’ll self-organize; you’ll be having existential arguments with your mechanical skivvy before the year’s out!" "Isaac, don’t change the fucking subject," said David irritably, glancing round and shoving the construct,

which fell over. "We all have a bit of leeway when it comes to inconveniences, but this is pushing it." "All right!" Isaac threw up his hands. He looked slowly around. "I suppose I sort of underestimated Lemuel’s abilities to get things done," he said ruefully. Circumscribing the entire warehouse, the whole length of the raised platform was crammed with cages filled with flapping, crying, crawling things. The warehouse was loud with the sounds of displaced air, the sudden shifts and fluttering of beating wings, the spatter of droppings, and loudest of all, the constant screech of captive birds. Pigeons and sparrows and starlings registered their distress with their coos and calls: feeble on their own, but a sharp, grating chorus en masse. Parrots and canaries punctuated the avian wittering with squawked exclamation marks that made Isaac wince. Geese and chickens and ducks added a rustic air to the cacophony. Hard-faced aspises flung themselves through the air the short distance of their cages, their little lizard bodies banging against the

chickenwire fronts. They licked their wounds with their tiny lions’ faces and roared like aggressive mice. Huge glass tanks of flies and bees and wasps, mayflies and butterflies and flying beetles sounded a vivid aggressive drone. Bats hung upside down and regarded Isaac with fervent little eyes. Dragonfly-snakes rustled their long elegant wings and hissed loudly. The floors of the cages had not been cleaned and the acrid smell of birdshit was very strong. Sincerity, Isaac saw, was wobbling up and down the room shaking her striped head. David saw where Isaac was looking. "Yeah," he shouted. "See? The stink’s making her miserable." "Fellows," said Isaac, "I appreciate your forbearance, I really do. It’s give and take, isn’t it? Lub, remember when you were doing those experiments in sonar and you had that chap in banging that huge drum for two days?" "Isaac, it’s already been nearly a week! How long’s

it going to be? What’s the schedule? At the very least clean their mess up!" Isaac looked down at the irate faces below him. They were very pissed off, he realized. He thought quickly for a compromise. "Fine, look," he eventually said, "I’ll clean them out tonight-I promise. And I’ll work flat fucking out…I know! I’ll work hard on the loud ones first. I’ll try and get rid of them within…two weeks?" he finished lamely. David and Lublamai expostulated, but he interrupted their jeers and catcalls. "I’ll pay a little extra rent for the next month! How’s that?" The rude noises died down instantly. The two men stared at him calculatedly. They were scientific comrades, the Brock Marsh bad boys, friends; but their existence was precarious, and there was limited room for sentimentality where money was concerned. Knowing that, Isaac tried to forestall any temptation they might have to seek alternative space. He, after all,

couldn’t afford the rent here alone. "What are we talking?" asked David. Isaac pondered. "Two extra guineas?" David and Lublamai looked at each other. It was generous. "And," said Isaac casually, "while we’re on the subject, I’d appreciate a hand. I don’t know how to manage some of these…uh…scientific subjects. Didn’t you do some ornithological theory once, David?" "No," said David tartly. "I was an assistant to someone who did. I was bored shitless. And stop being so transparent, ‘Zaac. I’m not going to resent your pestilential pets any less if you involve me in your projects…" He laughed with a trace of genuine humour. "Have you been taking Introductory Empathic Theory, or something?"

But despite his scorn, David was ascending the stairs, with Lublamai behind him. He paused at the top and took in all the jabbering captives. "Devil’s Tail, Isaac!" he whispered, grinning. "How much has this lot set you back?" "Haven’t entirely settled with Lemuel yet," said Isaac dryly. "But my new boss should see me all right." Lublamai had joined David on the top step. He gesticulated at a collection of variegated cages in the far corner of the walkway. "What’s over there?" "That’s where I keep the exotica," said Isaac. "Aspises, lasifly…" "You’ve got a lasifly?" exclaimed Lublamai. Isaac nodded and grinned.

"Don’t have the heart to do any experiments with the beautiful thing," he said. "Can I see it?" " ‘Course, Lub. It’s over there behind the cage with the batkin in it." As Lublamai trooped over between the tightly packed cases, David looked briskly about him. "So where’s your ornithological problem, then?" he asked and rubbed his hands. "On the desk." Isaac indicated the miserable, trussed pigeon. "How do I make that thing stop wriggling. I wanted it to at first, to see the musculature, but now I want to move the wings myself." David stared levelly at him as if at a halfwit. "Kill it."

Isaac shrugged hugely. "I tried. It wouldn’t die." "Oh for fuck’s sake…" David laughed exasperatedly, and strode over to the desk. He wrung the pigeon’s neck. Isaac winced ostentatiously and held up his massive hands. "They’re just not subtle enough for that sort of work. My hands are too clumsy, my sensibilities too damned delicate," he declared airily. "Right," agreed David sceptically. "What are you working on?" Isaac was instantly enthusiastic. "Well…" He strode over to the desk. "I’ve had fuckall luck with the garuda in the city. I heard rumours about a couple living in St. Jabber’s Mound and Syriac,

and I sent word that I was willing to pay good moolah for a couple of hours’ time and some heliotypes. I’ve had absolutely nil response. I’ve whacked a couple of posters up in the university as well, asking for any garuda student ready and willing to drop by here, but my sources tell me there’s been no intake this year." " ‘Garuda aren’t…adept at abstract thought.’ " David imitated the sneering tone of the speaker from the sinister Three Quills party, which had held a disastrous rally in Brock Marsh the previous year. Isaac and David and Derkhan had gone along to disrupt proceedings, hurling abuse and rotten oranges at the man on stage to the delight of the xenian demonstration outside. Isaac barked in recollection. "Absolutely. So anyway, short of going to Spatters, at the moment I can’t work with actual garuda, so I’m looking at the various flight mechanisms you…uh…see around you. Amazing variation, actually." Isaac sheafed through piles of notes, holding up

diagrams of finches’ and bluebottles’ wings. He untied the dead pigeon and delicately traced the movement of its wings through a rolling arc. He pointed wordlessly at the wall around his desk. It was covered with carefully rendered diagrams of wings. Close-up sections of the rotating joint at the shoulder, pared-down representations of forces, beautifully shaded studies of feather patterns. Here too were heliotypes of dirigibles, with arrows and question marks scrawled on them in dark ink. There were suggestive sketches of the mindless men-o’-war, and hugely enlarged pictures of wasps’ wings. Each was carefully labelled. David moved his eyes slowly over the hours and hours of work, the comparative studies of the engines of flight. "I don’t think my client’s too fussy about what his wings-or whatever-look like, as long as he can get airbound as and when." David and Lublamai knew about Yagharek. Isaac had asked them for secrecy. He trusted them. He had told them in case Yagharek visited when they were in the warehouse, although so far the garuda had managed to avoid them on his fleeting visits.

"Have you thought about just, y’know, sticking some wings back on?" said David. "Remaking him?" "Well, absolutely, that’s my main line of enquiry, but there’re two problems. One is what wings? I’ll have to build them. Second is, do you know any Remakers prepared to do that on the quiet? The best biothaumaturge I know is the despised Vermishank. I’ll go to him if I fucking have to, but I’ll be sorely desperate before I do that…So at the moment I’m doing preliminary stuff, trying to work out the size and shape and power-source of something that would hold him up at all. If I go that way, eventually." "What else have you got in mind? Physicothaumaturgy?" "Well, you know, UFT, my old favourite…" Isaac grinned and shrugged self-deprecatingly. "I have a feeling his back’s too messed up for easy Remaking, even if I could get the wings sorted out. I’m wondering about combining two different energy fields…Shit,

David, I don’t know. I’ve got the beginnings of an idea…" He pointed vaguely at a roughly labelled drawing of a triangle. "Isaac?" Lublamai’s yell sailed over the relentless squawks and screeches. Isaac and David looked over at him. He had wandered on past the lasifly and the pair of gild-parakeets. He was pointing at a smaller set of boxes and cases and vats. "What’s all this?" "Oh, that’s my nursery," shouted Isaac with a grin. He strode towards Lublamai, pulling David with him. "I thought it might be interesting to see how you progress from something that can’t fly to something that can, so I managed to get hold of a bunch of neonates and unborns and baby things." He stopped by the collection. Lublamai was peering into a small hutch at a clutch of vivid cobalt eggs. "Don’t know what they are," said Isaac. "Hope it’s something pretty."

The hutch was on the top of a pile of similar openfronted boxes, in each of which a clumsy little handmade nest contained between one and four eggs. Some were astonishing colours, some a drab beige. A little pipe coiled away behind the hutches and disappeared over the railings into the boiler below. Isaac nudged it with his foot. "I think they prefer it warm…" he muttered. "Don’t really know…" Lublamai was bending down to peer into a glassfronted tank. "Wow…" he breathed. "I feel like I’m ten again! Trade you these for six marbles." The tank’s floor writhed with little green caterpillars. They munched voraciously and systematically on the leaves stuffed rudely around them. The stems were crawling with little bodies. "Yeah, that’s quite interesting. Any day now they

should go into their cocoons, and then I think I’m going to ruthlessly cut them open at various stages to see how they transmogrify themselves." "Life as a lab assistant is cruel, isn’t it?" murmured Lublamai into the tank. "What other disgusting grubs do you have?" "Bunch of maggots. Easy to feed. That’s probably the smell that’s got Sincerity upset." Isaac laughed. "Some other grubs that promise to turn into butterflies and moths, horribly aggressive water-things that I am told turn into damask-flies and what have you…" Isaac pointed at a tank full of dirty water, behind the others. "And," he said, swaggering over to a little mesh cage some feet away, "something rather special…" He jabbed his thumb at the container. David and Lublamai crowded round. They gazed with open mouths. "Oh, now that is splendid…" whispered David, after

a while. "What is it?" hissed Lublamai. Isaac peered over their heads at his star caterpillar. "Frankly, my friends, I have not an arsing clue. All I know is that it’s huge, pretty, and not very happy." The grub waved its thick head blindly. It shifted its massive body sluggishly around the wire prison. It was at least four inches long and one inch thick, with bright colours slapped randomly around its chubby cylindrical body. Spiky hairs sprouted from its rump. It shared its cage with browning lettuce leaves, little snips of meat, slices of fruit, paper strips. "See," said Isaac, "I’ve tried to feed the thing everything. I’ve put in as many herbs and plants as exist, and it doesn’t want any of them. So I tried it on fish and fruit and cake, bread, meat, paper, glue, cotton, silk…it just roots aimlessly around being hungry, staring at me accusingly."

Isaac leaned in, planting his face between David’s and Lublamai’s. "It obviously wants to eat," he said. "Its colour’s fading, which is worrying, both aesthetically and physiologically…I’m at a loss. I think the beautiful thing’s going to sit there and die on me." Isaac sniffed matter-of-factly. "Where did you get it from?" asked David. "Oh, you know how this stuff works," said Isaac. "I got it from a cove who got it from a man who got it from a woman who got it…and so on. I’ve no idea where it came from." "You’re not going to cut this open, are you?" " ‘Stail, no. If it lives to build a cocoon, which I’m afraid I doubt, I’ll be very interested to see what comes out. I might even donate it to the Science Museum. You know me. Public-spirited…So anyway, this thing’s not really much use to me for research. Can’t even make it

eat, let alone metamorphose, let alone fly. So everything else you see around you-" he spread his arms wide, wriggled his wrists to take in the room "-is grist to my counter-gravitational mill. But this little geezer-" he pointed at the listless caterpillar "-this is social work." He grinned widely. There was a creaking from below. The door was being pushed open. All three men lurched dangerously over the side of the walkway and peered down, expecting to see Yagharek the garuda, with his false wings under his cloak. Lin peered up at them. David and Lublamai started in confusion. They were embarrassed at Isaac’s sudden cry of irritated welcome. They found something else to look at. Isaac was scurrying down the stairs. "Lin," he bellowed. "Good to see you." When he reached her he spoke quietly.

"Sweetheart, what are you doing here? I thought I was going to see you later in the week." As he spoke he saw her antennae quivering miserably, tried to temper his nervous irritation. It was clear that Lub and David understood what was going on-they’d known him a long time: he did not doubt that his evasion and hints about his love life had left them guessing reasonably close to the truth. But this was not Salacus Fields. This was too close to home. He might be seen. But then, Lin was clearly miserable. Look, she signed rapidly, want you to come home with me, don’t say no. Miss you. Tired. Difficult job. Sorry for coming here. Needed to see you. Isaac felt anger and affection jostle. This is a dangerous precedent, he thought. Fuck! "Hang on," he whispered. "Give me a minute."

He raced up the stairs. "Lub, David, I’d forgotten I’m supposed to be out with friends this evening, so someone’s been sent to fetch me. I promise I’ll muck out all my little charges tomorrow. On my honour. They’re all fed, that’s taken care of…" He was looking around him rapidly. He forced himself to meet their eyes. "Right," said David. "Have a nice evening." Lublamai waved him away. "Right," said Isaac heavily, looking around him. "If Yagharek comes back…uh…" He realized he had nothing to say. He grabbed a notebook from the desk and bounced downstairs without looking behind him. Lublamai and David studiously did not watch him go. He seemed to carry Lin with him as if he was a gale, billowing her helplessly with him through the door and into the darkening streets. It was only as they left the warehouse, when he looked at her clearly, that he felt

his own irritation diminish to a low burn. He saw her in all her exhausted dejection. Isaac hesitated a moment, then took her arm. He slipped his notebook into her bag, which he snapped closed. "Let’s have us a night," he whispered. She nodded and leaned her headbody against him, briefly, held him tight. They disengaged, then, for fear of being watched. They walked to Sly Station together slowly, at a lovers’ pace, a few careful feet apart.

Chapter Twelve
If a murderer stalked the mansions of Flag Hill or Canker Wedge, would the militia waste any time or spare resources? Why, no! The hunt for Jack Half-aPrayer proves it! And yet, when the Eyespy Killer strikes in Smog Bend, nothing happens! Another eyeless victim was fished from the Tar last weekbringing the number killed to five-and not a word from the blue-clad bullies in the Spike. We say: it’s one law for the rich, another for the poor! Around New Crobuzon the posters are appearing demanding your vote-should you be lucky enough to have one! Rudgutter’s Fat Sun huffs and puffs, Finally We Can See spout weasel-words, the Diverse Tendency lies to the oppressed xenians, and the human dust of the Three Quills spread their poison. With this sorry crew as the "choice," Runagate Rampant calls on all "winners" of the vote to spoil their ballots! Build a party from below and denounce the Suffrage Lottery as a cynical ploy. We say: votes for all and vote for

change! The vodyanoi stevedores of Kelltree are discussing strike action after vicious attacks on wages by the dock authorities. Disgracefully, the Guild of Human Dockers has denounced their actions. We say: towards an allrace union against the bosses! Derkhan looked up from reading as a couple entered the carriage. Casually and surreptitiously, she folded her copy of Runagate Rampant and slipped it into her bag. She sat at the very front end of the train, facing backwards, so she could see the few people in her carriage without appearing to spy on them. The two young people who had just entered swayed as the train left Sedim Junction and sat quickly. They were dressed simply but well, which marked them out from the majority of those travelling to Dog Fenn. Derkhan pegged them as Veruline missionaries, students from the university up the road in Ludmead, descending piously and sanctimoniously into the depths of Dog Fenn to

improve the souls of the poor. She sneered at them mentally as she took out a little mirror. Glancing up again to ensure she was not observed, Derkhan looked critically at her face. She adjusted her white wig minutely, and pressed at her rubber scar to make sure it was solid. She was dressed carefully. Dirty and torn clothes, no hint of money to attract unwanted attention in the Fenn, but not so fouled as to attract the opprobrious wrath of travellers in The Crow, where she had started her journey. Her notebook was on her lap. She was taking some time during her journey to make preparatory notes on the Shintacost Prize. The first round was taking place sometime at the end of the month, and she had in mind a piece for the Beacon about what did and did not get through the early stages. She intended to make it funny, but with a serious point about the politics of the judging panel. She stared at her lacklustre beginning and sighed.

Now, she decided, is not the time. Derkhan stared out of the window to her left, across the city. On this branch of the Dexter Line, between Ludmead and the industrial zone of New Crobuzon’s south-east, the trains passed at about the midpoint of the city’s tussle with the sky. The mass of roofs was pierced by militia towers in Brock Marsh and Strack Island, and far away in Flyside and Sheck. Sud Line trains passed south beyond the Gross Tar. The bleached Ribs came and went beside the tracks, towering over the carriage. Smoke and grime built up in the air until the train seemed to ride on a smog tide. The sounds of industry increased. The train flew through clutches of vast, sparse chimneys like blasted trees as the train passed through Sunter. Echomire was a savage industrial zone a little way to the east. Somewhere below and a little to the south, realized Derkhan, a vodyanoi picket is probably massing. Good luck, brothers.

Gravity pulled her to the west as the train turned. It broke off from the Kelltree Line and veered away to the east, gearing up to leap the river. The masts of tall ships in Kelltree swung into view as the train turned. They teetered and swayed gently in the water. Derkhan glimpsed the furled sails, the massive paddles and yawning smokestacks, the excited, tightly reined seawyrms of trading ships from Myrshock and Shankell and Gnurr Kett. The water boiled with submersibles carved from great nautili shells. Derkhan turned her head to stare as the train arced. She could see the Gross Tar over the roofs to the south, wide and relentless and bristling with vessels. Antique ordinances stopped the large ships, the foreign ships, half a mile downriver of the confluence of Canker and Tar. They collected beyond Strack Island, in the docklands. For a mile and a half or more, the north bank of the Gross Tar thronged with cranes loading and unloading constantly, bobbing like massive feeding birds. Swarms of barges and tugs took the transferred

cargos upriver to Smog Bend and Gross Coil and the mean slum-industries of Creekside; they hauled crates along New Crobuzon’s canals, linking minor franchises and failing workshops, finding their way through the maze like laboratory rats. The clay of Kelltree and Echomire was gouged by fat square docks and reservoirs, huge culs-de-sac of water that jutted into the city, linked by deep channels to the river, thronging with ships. There had once been an attempt to replicate the Kelltree docks in Badside. Derkhan had seen what remained. Three massive stinking troughs of malarial slime, their surfaces broken with half-sunk wrecks and twisted girders. The rattle and boom of the tracks beneath the iron wheels changed suddenly as the steaming engine hauled its charges onto the great girders of Barley Bridge. It veered a little from side to side, slowing on the unkempt tracks as it rose as if with distaste over Dog Fenn.

A few grey blocks rose from the streets like weeds in a cesspool, their concrete seeping and rotten. Many were unfinished, with splayed iron supports fanning out from the ghosts of roofs, rusting, bleeding with the rain and the damp, staining the skin of the buildings. Wyrmen swirled like carrion crows over these monoliths, squatting on the upper floors and fouling their neighbours’ roofs with dung. The outlines of Dog Fenn’s slum landscape bloated and burst and changed every time Derkhan saw them. Tunnels were dug into the undercity that stretched in a network of ruins and sewers and catacombs below New Crobuzon. Ladders left against a wall one day were hammered into place the next, reinforced after that, and within a week had become the stairwells to a new storey, thrown precariously between two drooping roofs. Wherever she looked, Derkhan could see people lying or running or fighting on the roofscape. She stood wearily as the smell of the Fenn seeped into the slowing carriage.

As usual, there was no one to take her ticket at the station exit. Had it not been for the profound consequences of discovery, however small the possibility, Derkhan would never have bothered buying one. She flung it down on the counter and descended. The doors of Dog Fenn Station were always open. They had rusted into position, and ivy had anchored them against the walls. Derkhan stepped out into the squalls and stench of Silverback Street. Barrows were thrown against walls slick with fungus and rotting paste. All manner of wares-some of surprisingly high qualitywere available here. Derkhan turned and walked deeper into the slum. She was surrounded with a constant hubbub of shouts, advertising that sounded more like riotous assembly. For the most part, it was food that was announced. "Onions! Who’ll buy my fine onions?" "Whelks! Stick to whelks!" "Broth to warm yer!"

Other goods and services were plainly available on every streetcorner. Whores congregated in wretched, raucous gangs. Filthy petticoats and tawdry flounces of stolen silk, faces smeared white and scarlet over bruises and broken veins. They laughed with mouths full of broken teeth and sniffed tiny stains of shazbah cut with soot and rat-poison. Some were children who played with little paper dolls and wooden quoits when no one watched them, pouted lasciviously and tongued the air whenever a man walked by. The Dog Fenn streetwalkers were the lowest of a despised breed. For decadent, inventive, obsessive, fetishized corruption and perversion of the flesh, the connoisseur looked elsewhere, in the red-light zone between The Crow and Spit Hearth. In Dog Fenn, the quickest, simplest, cheapest relief was available. The clients here were as poor and dirty and diseased as the tarts.

At the entrances to clubs already ejecting comatose drunks, industrial Remade worked as bouncers. They teetered aggressively on hooves and treads and massive feet, flexing metal claws. Their faces were brutalized, defensive. Their eyes would lock at the taunts from a passer-by. They took gobs of spit in the face, unwilling to risk their jobs. Their fear was understandable: to Derkhan’s left a cavernous space opened in an arch below the railway. From the darkness came the reek of shit and oil, the mechanical clank and human groans of Remade dying in a starving, drunken, stinking huddle. A few ancient, tottering constructs staggered through the streets, clumsily ducking the rocks and mud thrown by ragged street-children. Graffiti covered every wall. Rude poems and obscene drawings jostled with slogans from Runagate Rampant and anxious prayers: Half-a-Prayer’s coming! Against the Lottery! Tar and Canker spread like legs | City wonders

where her Lover went | Cos now she’s being Ravished blind | lay the Prick that is the Government! The walls of churches were not spared. The Veruline monks stood in a nervous group and wiped at the scrawled pornography that had appeared on their chapel. There were xenians in the crowds. Some were being harassed, notably the few khepri. Others laughed and joked and swore with their neighbours. On one corner a cactus was arguing fiercely with a vodyanoi, and the mainly human crowd was catcalling equally for both sides. Children hissed and called for stivers from Derkhan as she walked past. She ignored them, did not pull her bag closer to herself and identify herself as a victim. She stomped aggressively into the heart of Dog Fenn. The walls around her suddenly sealed over her head as she passed under rickety bridges and ersatz rooms

thrown up as if by aggregated filth. The air in their shadow dripped and creaked ominously. A whoop sounded from behind her, and Derkhan felt a rush of air on her neck as a wyrman dived acrobatically through the short tunnel and took off again into the sky, cackling madly. She stumbled as he passed and fell against a wall, adding her voice to the chorus of abuse that travelled in the wyrman’s wake. The architecture she passed seemed governed by rules quite distinct from those in the rest of the city. There was no functional sense here. Dog Fenn seemed born of struggles in which the inhabitants were unimportant. The nodes and cells of brick and wood and palsied concrete had gone rogue, spreading like malignant tumours. Derkhan turned into a mildewed brick cul-de-sac and looked around her. A Remade horse stood by the far end, its hind legs enormous piston-driven hammers. Behind it, a covered cart was backed nearly to the wall. Any one of the dead-eyed figures loitering around could

be militia informers. It was a risk she would have to take. She walked around to the back of the cart. Six pigs had been loaded out of the cart into a makeshift pen open on the side nearest the wall. Two men were chasing the pigs comically around the little space. The pigs squealed and screeched like babies as they ran. The pen led onto a semicircular opening about four feet high set into the wall at ground level. Derkhan peered through this space into a foetid hole ten feet below, barely lit with gas-jets that flickered unreliably. The burrow boomed and hissed and gleamed red in the gaslight. Figures came and went below her, bent double under dripping burdens like souls in some lurid hell. A doorless opening to her left led Derkhan down steep stairs towards the sunken slaughterhouse. The spring warmth was magnified here as if by infernal energy. Derkhan sweated and picked her way through swinging carcasses and slicks of congealing

blood. At the back of the room a raised belt dragged heavy meathooks along the ceiling in a remorseless circuit, disappearing into the darker bowels of the charnel-house. Even the glints of light from knives seemed filtered through ruddy gloom. Derkhan held a posset to her nose and mouth and tried not to gag at the rancid, heavy stench of blood and warm meat. At the far end of the room, she saw three men congregated below the open arc she had seen from the street. In this dark and stinking place, the Dog Fenn light and air that spilt through from above was like bleach. At some unspoken signal, the three slaughtermen stood back. The pig-men in the alley above had got hold of one of the animals, and in the midst of a rising wave of curses and grunts and terrified sounds, they hurled her enormous weight through the opening. The pig screamed as she pitched into the darkness. She was

rigid with terror as she hurtled towards the waiting knives. There was a sick-making crack and snap as the sow’s stiff little legs shattered on flagstones slimy with blood and shit. She collapsed on legs bleeding from bone-shards, thrashing and screeching, unable to run or fight. The three men moved forward with practised precision. One leaned on the pig’s rump in case she jack-knifed, another pulled back her head by those lolling ears. The third man split the skin of her throat with his knife. Her cries ebbed quickly with the gouts and wash of blood. The men hauled her huge, twitching body onto a waiting table by which a rusted saw leaned. One man saw Derkhan. He nudged another. "Ay ay, Ben, you dark horse, you rogue! It’s your fancy tart!" he shouted good-naturedly, loud enough for Derkhan to hear. The man he spoke to turned and waved at her.

"Five minutes," he yelled. She nodded. Her posset was clamped to her mouth as she swallowed back bile and spew. Again and again the massive, terrified pigs dropped from the alley in a flailing organic mess, legs folded in unnatural angles against their guts, again and again they were cut open and bled dry on ancient wooden stands. Tongues and flaps of ragged skin dangled, dripping. The channels cut in the abattoir floor burst their banks as a swamp of dirty blood lapped against buckets of giblets and bleached, boiled cows’ heads. Eventually, the last pig had fallen. The exhausted men swayed where they stood. They were awash with gore, and steaming. There was a brief conference and raucous laughter, and the one called Ben turned away from his fellows and approached Derkhan. Behind him, the two remaining men split the first carcass and swept innards into a huge trough. "Dee," said Flex quietly, "I’ll not kiss you hello." He

gestured briefly at his saturated clothes, his bloody face. "I’m obliged," she replied. "Can we get out of here?" They ducked under the jerkily progressing meathooks and picked their way towards the dark exit. They took stairs up towards ground level. The light became less livid as the blue-grey tint of the sky filtered through dirty skylights in the narrow corridor’s ceiling, a long way above. Benjamin and Derkhan turned into a windowless room filled with a tub, a pump and several buckets. Some tough robes hung behind the door. Derkhan watched quietly as he stripped off his fouled clothes and threw them in a pail with water and powdered soap. He scratched himself and stretched luxuriously, then pumped water vigorously into the tub. His naked body was streaked with oily blood as if he was newborn. He shook some of the soap under the sputtering pump, swirled the cold water to make suds. "Your mates are very understanding about you just

up and taking a fuck-break, aren’t they?" said Derkhan mildly. "What have you told them? Did I steal your heart, you mine, or are we in a purely business arrangement?" Benjamin sniggered. He spoke with a strong Dog Fenn accent, in distinction to Derkhan’s uptown tones. "Well, I’ve been working an extra shift, ain’t I? I’m already working over my time. I told them you’d be along. Far as they’re concerned you’re just a tart who’s taken to me, and I to you. That wig, afore I forget, is a marvel." He grinned lopsidedly. "Suits you, Dee. You look a smasher." He stood in the tub, slowly lowered himself into it, goose-bumps peppering him. He left a thick scum of blood on the surface of the water. Gore and grime lifted slowly from his skin and billowed lazily towards the surface. He closed his eyes a minute. "I won’t be long, Dee, I promise," he whispered.

"Take your time," she replied. His head slid below the bubbles, leaving thin fronds of hair to coil on the surface and be sucked slowly under. He held his breath a moment, then began to scrub his submerged body vigorously, coming up and sucking air, then ducking below again. Derkhan filled a bucket with water and stood behind the bath. As he broke the surface she poured it slowly over his head, rinsing him free of bloody soap stains. "Oooh, lovely," he muttered. "More, I beg you." She obliged him. Eventually he stepped out of the bath, which looked like the site of violent murder. He tipped the slimy residue into a sluice hammered into the floor. They heard it slosh through the walls. Benjamin stepped into a rough robe. He wagged his head at Derkhan.

"Shall we get down to business, love?" He winked at her. "Just tell me what services you require, squire," she replied. They left the room. At the end of the passage, picked out in the wash from the skylight, was the little room where Benjamin slept. He closed and locked the door behind them. The room was like a well, far taller than it was wide. Another grubby window was set into the square ceiling space. Derkhan and Benjamin stepped over the flimsy mattress to the ramshackle old wardrobe at its foot, a relic with a decaying grandeur at odds with the slum setting. Benjamin reached inside and swept a few greasy shirts out of the way. He reached into the fingerholds drilled strategically in the wardrobe’s wooden back, and with a little grunt, lifted it away. He turned it gently sideways and laid it on the cabinet’s floor. Derkhan looked into the small brick doorway

Benjamin had uncovered while he reached onto a little shelf in the wardrobe and took down a matchbox and a candle. He lit the candle in a burst of sulphur, shielding it from the cool air that wafted from the hidden room. With Derkhan behind him, he stepped through the wardrobe and lit up the office of Runagate Rampant. Derkhan and Benjamin lit the gaslamps. The room was large, dwarfing the adjoining bedroom. The air inside was heavy and sluggish. There was no natural light. High above, the frame of a skylight was visible, but the glass was painted over in black. Around the room were dotted tumbledown chairs and a couple of desks, all covered in paper and scissors and typewriters. On one chair sat an inactive construct, its eyes dim. One of its legs was crushed and ruined, bleeding copper wire and splinters of glass. The wall was papered with posters. Stacks of mouldering Runagate Rampants lined the room. Against one damp wall was the unwieldy-looking press, a huge iron thing coated in grease and ink.

Benjamin sat at the largest desk and tugged a chair over next to him. He lit a long, drooping cigarillo. It smoked profusely. Derkhan joined him. She jerked her thumb at the construct. "How’s that old thing?" she asked. "Too bloody noisy to use during the day. I have to wait till the others have gone, but then the press is hardly silent itself, so that makes no difference. And it ain’t half a relief not to have to spin that damn wheel over and over and over all fucking night, once a fortnight. I just chuck a bit of coal in his innards, point him at it, and have a snooze." "How’s the new issue?" Benjamin nodded slowly and pointed at a bound pile beside his chair. "Not too bad. Going to print off a few more. We’re running a little thing about your Remade in the freakshow."

Derkhan waved her hand. "It’s not a big story." "No, but it’s…y’know…toothy…We’re leading on the election. ‘Fuck the Lottery,’ in slightly less strident terms." He grinned. "I know it’s pretty much the same as last issue, but that’s the time of year." "You weren’t a lucky winner in the lotto this year, were you?" asked Derkhan. "Your number come up?" "Nah. Only once in me life, years ago. Ran out to the ballot clasping me prize voucher proudly and voted Finally We Can See. Youthful enthusiasm." Ben sniggered. "You don’t qualify automatically, do you?" "Devil’s Tail, Benjamin, I don’t have that kind of money! I’d give a damn sight more to RR if I did. No, and I didn’t win this year, either."

Benjamin split the string on the pile of papers. He shoved a handful at Derkhan. She picked up the top copy and glanced at the front. Each copy was a single large sheet of paper folded in half and half again. The font on the front page was about the same size as that used in the Beacon or the Quarrel or any other of New Crobuzon’s legal press. However, inside the folds of Runagate Rampant stories and slogans and exhortations jostled with each other in a thicket of tiny print. It was ugly but efficient. Derkhan pulled out three shekels and pushed them across to Benjamin. He took them with a murmur of thanks and put them in a tin at the front of his desk. "When are the others coming?" asked Derkhan. "I’m meeting a couple in the pub in an hour or so, then the rest this evening and tomorrow." In the oscillating, violent, disingenuous and repressive political atmosphere of New Crobuzon, it was a necessary defence that except in a few cases, the writers for

Runagate Rampant did not meet. That way the chances of infiltration by the militia was minimized. Benjamin was the editor, the only person on the constantly shifting staff whom everyone knew, and who knew everyone. Derkhan noticed a pile of roughly printed sheets on the floor by her seat. Runagate Rampant’s fellow seditionist papers. Halfway between comrades and rivals. "Anything good?" she asked, and indicated the stack. Benjamin shrugged. "The Shout’s rubbish this week. Decent lead in Forge about Rudgutter’s dealings with the shipping companies. I’ll get someone to chase it, actually. Apart from that it’s slim pickings." "What do you want me to get onto?" "Well…" Benjamin flicked through papers, consulted his notes. "If you can just keep your ear to the ground

about the dock strike…Canvass opinion, try and get a few positive responses, a few quotes, you know. And how about five hundred words on the history of the Suffrage Lottery?" Derkhan nodded. "What else’ve we got coming up?" she asked. Benjamin pursed his lips. "There’s some rumour about Rudgutter having some illness, dubious cures: that’s something I’d like to chase, but you can tell it’s been filtered by Jabber knows how many mouths. Still, keep an ear open. There’s something else as well…very tentative at this stage, but interesting. I’m talking to someone who claims they’re talking to someone who wants to blow the whistle on links between Parliament and mob crime." Derkhan nodded slowly and appreciatively. "Sounds very tasty. What are we talking? Drugs?

Prostitutes?" "Shit, sure as eggs Rudgutter’s got fingers in every fucking pie you can think of. They all have. Churn out the commodity, grab the profit, get the militia to tidy up your customers afterwards, get a new crop of Remade or slave-miners for the Arrowhead pits, keep the jails full…nice as you like. I don’t know what this grass has in mind particularly, and they’re fucking nervous, apparently, ready to do a bunk. But you know me, Dee. Softly softly." He winked at her. "I won’t let this one get away." "Keep me posted, won’t you?" Derkhan said. Benjamin nodded. Derkhan bundled her collection of papers into a bag, hiding them under assorted detritus. She stood. "Right. I have my orders. That three shekels, by the way, includes fourteen copies of Double-R sold." "Good stuff," said Benjamin, and found a particular

notebook among the many on his desk to record the fact. He stood and gestured Derkhan through the doorway and the wardrobe. She waited in his tiny bedroom as he shut off the lights in the press. "Is Grimwhatsisname still buying?" he asked through the hole. "That scientist geezer?" "Yes. He’s quite good." "I heard a funny rumour about him the other day," said Benjamin, emerging through the wardrobe, wiping his oily hands on a rag. "Is he the same one who’s after birds?" "Oh, yes, he’s doing some experiment or other. You been listening to criminals, Benjamin?" Derkhan grinned. "He’s collecting wings. I think he makes it a point of principle never to buy things officially when he can go through illicit channels." Benjamin shook his head appreciatively.

"Well, the cove’s good at it. He knows how to get word out." As he spoke, he was leaning into the wardrobe and tugging the wooden rear back into position. He fastened it and turned to Derkhan. "Righto," he said. "We’d best get into character." Derkhan nodded curtly, and ruffled her white wig somewhat. She undid her intricate shoelaces. Benjamin untucked his shirt. He held his breath and swung his arms from side to side, until he went deep red. He exhaled in a sudden burst, and breathed hard. He squinted at Derkhan. "Come on," he said imploringly. "Cut me some slack. What of me reputation? You could at least look tired…" She grinned at him and, sighing, rubbed her face and eyes.

"Oooh, Mr. B," she squeaked absurdly. "You’re the best I ever had!" "More like it…" he muttered, and winked. They unlocked the door and stepped out into the corridor. Their preparations had been unnecessary. They were alone. Far below, the sound of meat-grinders could be heard.

Chapter Thirteen
When Lin woke with Isaac’s head next to hers, she stared at it for a long time. She let her antennae flutter in the wind from his breath. It had, she thought, been much too long since she had enjoyed the sight of him like this. She rolled slightly to her side and stroked him. He muttered and his mouth set. His lips pursed and popped open as he breathed. She ran her hands over his bulk. She was pleased with herself, pleased and proud at what she had effected last night. She had been miserable and lonely, and she had taken a risk, angering Isaac by coming unbidden to his side of town. But she had managed to make the evening work. Lin had not intended to play on Isaac’s sympathy, but his anger had turned so quickly to concern at her demeanour. She had realized with a vague satisfaction that she was visibly exhausted and low, that she did not

have to convince him of her need for mollycoddling. He was even recognizing emotions in the movement of her headbody. There was one positive side to Isaac’s attempts not to be seen as her lover. When they walked the streets together, without touching, at a gentle pace, it mimicked the shyness of young humans courting. There was no equivalent for khepri. Headsex for procreation was an unpleasant chore carried out for demographic duty. Male khepris were mindless scarabs like the females’ headbodies, and to feel them crawling and mounting and rutting one’s head was something Lin was glad not to have experienced for years. Sex for fun, between females, was a boisterous, communal business, but rather ritualized. The signs of flirtation, rejection and acceptance between individuals or groups were as formal as dances. There was nothing of the tongue-tied nervous eroticism of young humans. Lin had steeped herself enough in human culture to

recognize the tradition that Isaac was pulled back to when they walked together through the city. She had been enthusiastic about sex with her own kind before her illicit cross-affair, and intellectually she scorned the wasteful, pointless stammered conversations she heard from humans in snatches around New Crobuzon. But to her surprise, she felt that same coy and uncertain companionship from Isaac sometimes-and she rather liked it. It had grown the previous night, as they walked cool streets towards the station, and rode across the top of the city towards Aspic Hole. One of the best effects, of course, was to make the sexual release, when it was finally possible, all the more charged. Isaac had grabbed her as the door closed, and she had squeezed him back, wrapping her arms around him. Lust came quickly. She had held him back, opened her carapace and made him stroke her wings, which he did, with trembling fingers. She made him wait while she enjoyed his devotion, before pulling him to her bed. She

rolled with him, till he lay on his back. She threw off her clothes and tugged his from him. She mounted him and he stroked her hard headbody, ran his hands down her body, over her breasts, clutching at her hips as they moved. Afterwards he made her supper. They ate and talked. Lin told him nothing of Mr. Motley. She was uneasy when he asked her why she was so melancholy that night. She began to tell him a half-truth about a vast, difficult sculpture that she could show no one, that meant she would not compete in the Shintacost Prize, that was draining her away to nothing, in a space in the city she had found and could not tell him. He was attentive. Perhaps it was studied. He knew Lin was sometimes offended by his absent-mindedness when he was on a project. He begged to know where she was working. Of course, she would not tell him. They went to bed wiping away crumbs and seeds.

Isaac clutched her in his sleep. When she woke, Lin spent long slow minutes enjoying Isaac’s presence, before rising and frying bread for his breakfast. When he rose to the smell, he kissed her neck and headbelly playfully. She stroked his cheeks with her headlegs. Do you have to work this morning? she signed at him from across the table, while her mandibles chewed grapefruit. Isaac peered up from his bread a little uneasily. "Uh…yeah. I really do, sweety." He munched at her. What? "Well…I’ve got all this stuff at home, all these birds and whatnot, but it’s a bit ridiculous. See, I’ve studied pigeons, robins, merlins, Jabber knows what else, but I’ve not yet seen a fucking garuda up close. So I’m going to go hunting. I’ve put it off, but I think the time’s

come. I’m going to Spatters." Isaac grimaced and let that sink in. He took another big bite. When he had swallowed, he looked at her from under his brows. "I don’t suppose…D’you want to come?" Isaac, she signed immediately, don’t say that if you don’t mean it because I do want to come and I’ll say yes if you’re not careful. Even to Spatters. "Look…I really…I do mean it. I’m serious. If you’re not working on your magnum opus this morning, come and knock about." The conviction in his voice strengthened as he spoke. "Come on, you can be my mobile lab assistant. No, I know what you can do: you can be my heliotypist for the day. Bring your camera. You need a break." Isaac was getting bolder. He and Lin left the house together, without him displaying any signs of unease. They wandered a little way north-west along Shadrach Street, towards the Salacus Fields Station, but Isaac became impatient and hailed a cab on the way. The

hirsute driver raised his eyebrows at Lin, but he kept any objections quiet. He inclined his head while he murmured to his horse, indicating Isaac and Lin inside. "Where to, guv?" he asked. "Spatters, please." Isaac spoke rather grandly, as if making up in his tone of voice for his destination. The driver turned to him incredulously. "You’ve got to be joking, squire. I ain’t going into Spatters. I’ll take you as far as Vaudois Hill, but that’s your lot. Ain’t worth my while. Down Spatters way, they’ll have the wheels off me cab while I’m still driving." "Fine, fine," said Isaac irritably. "Just get us as close as you dare." As the rickety hansom cab rolled across the cobbles through Salacus Fields, Lin caught Isaac’s attention. Is it really dangerous? she signed nervously.

Isaac glanced round, then answered her with signs himself. He was much slower and less fluent than her, but using signing he could be ruder to the cabdriver. Well…just fuck poor. They’ll nick whatever’s going, but not especially violent. Arsehole here’s just cowardly. Reads too many…Isaac faltered and screwed up his face with concentration. "Don’t know the sign," he murmured. "Sensational. Reads too many sensational papers." He sat back and looked out of the window at the skyline of Howl Barrow that wobbled unsteadily to his left. Lin had never been to Spatters. She knew it only by its notoriety. Forty years previously, the Sink Line had been extended southwest of Lichford, past Vaudois Hill and into the spur of Rudewood that abutted the southern reaches of the city. The planners and moneymen had built the tall shells of residential blocks: not the monoliths of nearby Ketch Heath, but impressive nonetheless. They had opened the railway station, Fell

Stop, and had started building another in Rudewood itself, before anything more than a narrow strip around the railway had been cleared. There had been plans for another station beyond that, and the tracks had extended into the forest accordingly. There had even been tentative, absurdly hubristic schemes to extend the rails hundreds of miles south or west, to link New Crobuzon to Myrshock or Cobsea. Then the money had run out. There had been some financial crisis, some speculative bubble had burst, some trade network had collapsed under the weight of competition and a plethora of too-cheap products no one could buy, and the project had been killed in its infancy. The trains had still visited Fell Stop, pointlessly waiting a few minutes before returning to the city. Rudewood quickly reclaimed the land south of the empty architecture, assimilating the nameless empty station and the rusting tracks. For a couple of years, the trains at Fell Stop waited empty and silent. And then, a few passengers had started appearing.

The empty integuments of grand buildings began to fill. Rural poor from Grain Spiral and the Mendican Foothills began to creep into the deserted borough. The word spread that this was a ghost sector, beyond Parliament’s ken, where taxes and laws were as rare as sewage systems. Rough frameworks of stolen wood filled the empty floors. In the outlines of stillborn streets shacks of concrete and corrugated iron blistered overnight. Inhabitation spread like mould. There were no gaslamps to take the edge off the night, no doctors, no jobs, yet within ten years the area was dense with ersatz housing. It had acquired a name, Spatters, that reflected the desultory randomness of its outlines: the whole stinking shantytown seemed to have dribbled like shit from the sky. The suburb was beyond the reach of New Crobuzon’s municipality. There was an unreliable alternative infrastructure: a self-appointed network of postal workers, sanitary engineers, even a kind of law. But these systems were inefficient and partial at best. For the most part, neither the militia nor anyone else

went in to Spatters. The only visitors from outside were the regular trains appearing at the incongruously wellmaintained Fell Stop Station, and the gangs of masked gunmen who appeared sometimes at night to terrorize and murder. The Spatters street-children were particularly vulnerable to the ferocious barbarism of the murder-squads. The slum-dwellers of Dog Fenn and even Badside considered Spatters beneath their dignity. It was simply not part of the city, nothing but a strange little town that had grafted itself onto New Crobuzon without a byyour-leave. There was no money to entice industry, legal or illicit. The crimes in Spatters were nothing but small-scale acts of desperation and survival. There was something else about Spatters, something that brought Isaac to visit its unwelcoming alleys. For the past thirty years, it had been New Crobuzon’s garuda ghetto. Lin watched the huge towerblocks of Ketch Heath.

She could see tiny figures riding the updrafts that they created, swirling above them. Wyrmen, and maybe a couple of garuda. The cab was passing under the skyrail that dipped gracefully out of the militia tower that loomed near to the blocks. The cab pulled to. "All right, guv, this is where I stop," said the driver. Isaac and Lin disembarked. On one side of the cab was a row of neat white houses. Each was fronted with a small garden, most of which were assiduously maintained. The street was lined with shaggy banyan trees. Opposite the houses, on the other side of the cab, was a long thin park, a strip of greenery three hundred or so yards wide that sloped steeply down and away from the street. This thin slip of grass acted as a noman’s-land between the polite houses of Vaudois Hill inhabited by clerks and doctors and lawyers, and the crumbling chaos beyond the trees, at the bottom of the hill: Spatters.

"It’s no fucking wonder Spatters isn’t the most popular place, is it?" breathed Isaac. "Look, it’s ruined the view for all these nice people up here…" He gave an evil grin. In the distance, Lin could see that the edge of the hill was split with the Sink Line. The trains passed through a chasm cut into the parkland of the hill’s western flank. The red brick of Fell Stop Station loomed out over the quagmire of Spatters. In this corner of the city, the tracks were only fractionally above the level of the houses, but it did not take much architectural grandeur for the station to tower over the surrounding makeshift dwellings. Of all Spatters’ buildings, only the refitted towerblock shells were taller. Lin felt Isaac nudge her. He pointed at one clutch of blocks, close to the railway. "See that?" She nodded. "Look up top." Lin followed his fingers. The bottom half of the big buildings looked deserted. From the sixth or seventh

floor up, however, wooden boughs poked at odd angles out of crevices. The windows were covered with brown paper, unlike the empty sockets. And way up on the flat roofs, at nearly the same level as Lin and Isaac, little figures were visible. Lin followed Isaac’s gesture up into the air. She felt a jolt of excitement. Winged creatures were visible sporting in the sky. "Those are garuda," Isaac said. Lin and Isaac walked down the hill towards the railway lines, bearing slightly to their right to arrive at the garudas’ looming makeshift eyries. "Almost all the garuda in the city live in those four buildings. There probably aren’t two thousand in the whole of New Crobuzon. That makes them about… uh…nought point fucking nought three per cent of the population…" Isaac grinned. "I’ve been doing my research, see?"

But they don’t all live here. What about Krakhleki? "Oh sure, I mean, there are garuda that get out. I taught one once, nice geezer. There’s probably a couple in Dog Fenn, three or four in Murkside, six in Gross Coil. Jabber’s Mound and Syriac each have a handful, I’ve heard. And once or twice a generation, someone like Krakhleki makes it big. I’ve never read his stuff, by the way. Is he any good?" Lin nodded. "Right, so you’ve got people like him, and others…you know, what’s the name of that fucker…the one in the Diverse Tendency…Shashjar, that’s the one. They stick him in to prove the DTs are for all xenians." Isaac made a rude noise. " ‘Specially the rich ones." But most of them are here. And when you’re here, it must be difficult to get out… "I’d suppose so. Bit of an understatement, in fact…" They crossed a brook and slowed as they approached the out-lands of Spatters. Lin crossed her

arms and shook her headbody. What am I doing here? she signed sardonically. "You’re expanding your mind," said Isaac cheerfully. "Important to learn how other races live in our fair city." He tugged at her arm until, mock-protesting, Lin allowed him to drag her out of the shade of the trees and into Spatters. To get into Spatters, Isaac and Lin had to cross rickety bridges, planks thrown across the eight-foot ditch that separated the township from Vaudois Hill park. They walked in single file, their arms sometimes outstretched for balance. Five feet below them, the trench was filled with a noisome gelatinous soup of shit and pollutants and acid rain. The surface was broken with bubbles of fell gas and bloated animal corpses. Here and there bobbed rusting tins and knots of fleshy tissue like tumours or aborted foetuses. The liquid undulated rather than

rippled, contained by a thick surface tension so oily and strong that it would not break: the pebbles that fell from the bridge were swallowed without the slightest splash. Even with one hand clapped over his mouth and nose against the stench, Isaac could not contain himself. Halfway across the plank he let out a bark of revulsion that turned into a retch. He controlled himself before he puked. To stagger on that bridge, to lose one’s balance and fall, was too utterly vile a thought to consider. The taste of the slurry in the air made Lin feel nearly as queasy as Isaac. B

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