Glass Sky

Glass Sky by Niko Perren Read Free Book Online

Book: Glass Sky by Niko Perren Read Free Book Online
Authors: Niko Perren
to the sounds of tearing flesh and crunching bone.
    Cheng giggled from the other game pad. ‹That was hilarious, Dad. You bounced like a tennis ball.› Cheng played with violence dialed to cartoon. ‹Let’s play again.›
    They died again, barely setting foot in the chamber before the beast attacked. Jie took off his armor next round to try and match the elf’s silence, but that didn’t help either. The message on Jie’s omni itched like a mental mosquito bite. Molari Industries.
    ‹Why don’t you go in alone?› Jie suggested. ‹You’re sneakier. And my sword can’t scratch those scales anyway.› He waited at the end of the dark hallway until the elf had turned the corner, and then, with Cheng distracted, Jie summoned Molari’s message into the game world. An inked leather scroll dropped out of the ceiling, secured with a small silver padlock. He pressed his thumb to the padlock to accept Molari’s nondisclosure, and started reading.
    Tā māde! How much time have I wasted? He ripped off the headset. ‹Cheng. I’m sorry. I’ve got to go.›
    Cheng stiffened but continued playing, pretending he’d heard nothing.
    What am I going to do with Cheng? Leave him alone for the weekend? No. That’s insane! Cheng is nine.
    ‹Call Zhenzhen,› he told the omni. ‹Voice. Highest priority.› What if she has her omni turned off? What if she refuses? Please. Answer.
    Zhenzhen picked up on the fourth ring. ‹Jie? Is everything all right?› Her round face peered from the tiny screen. Spaghetti-legged sea creatures moved back and forth in the aquarium behind her. A restaurant?
    ‹I know it’s my weekend to take Cheng and I know I missed last weekend but…›
    ‹No.› Zhenzhen clamped her lips. ‹I have a life too. I’m on a date.›
    A date? A yin-yang of emotions: guilt at interrupting, happiness that she was out with somebody, a twinge of jealousy that she dated effortlessly while Jie seemed doomed to bachelorhood, more guilt at the jealousy. A waiter holding a steaming plate of tentacles appeared in the frame.
    ‹Zhen, I’m desperate.›
    She shook her head. ‹I told you. No!›
    ‹Please… I got a call from Molari Industries. Zhen, this could save my business.›
    Zhen’s head stopped in midshake. ‹Did you say Molari Industries? The disk array company?›
    Jie shrugged. ‹He mentioned something about a disk array.›
    Zhenzhen rolled her eyes in an award-worthy show of exasperation. ‹The disk array is the most important geoengineering project in history.› She waggled a finger at him. ‹You’re going to fail your voting exams again if you don’t start paying attention to current events.›
    Jie held back a sharp reply. Don't argue. Not now.
    Zhenzhen leaned and said something to her companion. She turned back to Jie. ‹I’m not doing this for you,› she said. ‹I’m doing this because I’m a responsible citizen. I’ll pick Cheng up at 23:00. He’ll be fine by himself for a few hours.›
    Jie stammered a quick thanks and turned to go back to the game room. Cheng stood at the door, highlighted against the dark by the flashing lights outside. Small. Watching.
    ‹Sorry, Cheng,› said Jie. ‹Something very important…› The excuse petered out before his son’s disappointed face. ‹Are you OK gaming until Mom comes?›
    ‹Dad! Stop treating me like a kid. I’m nine.› Cheng stalked back into the game room, but his head hung, and he dragged his feet like an old man.
     
    ***
     
    It all felt a little surreal. An hour ago he'd been gaming with Cheng, resigned to another humiliating meeting with his investors. And now he was heading to Urumchi. Jie searched the jammed street. Why hasn’t the grid routed a van to me yet? What if I don’t make the bullet? The mad carnival called Beijing swirled around him: flashing neon, colored lights, thick traffic, endless people. The building across the road pulsed in a thousand shining patterns, and a few meters away a vendor tossed pinches of

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