I noticed the first serious gap in my memory eleven days after my training accident.
Before that, the memory lapses had just been small things: forgetting what high school I'd attended, blanking on who gave me my angel pendant. Little things that nagged at me when I tried to sleep at night, but that I forgot during the day.
Until I found a secret message wadded up in the toe of my sock.
I almost didn't read it. I was running a little behind schedule for my morning workout, and my instructor hated people who were late. Anaximander would be ten minutes early for his own death. I, however, was of the opinion that if Anaximander wanted me in the gym at 6:20 AM he should say, “Angel, be there at 6:20 AM,” not 6:30 AM.
Every morning I played a little game with myself, seeing if I could arrive exactly on time, neither early nor late, preventing a lecture from Anaximander while still annoying him.
I was already a couple minutes late when my big toe encountered something in my sock. Impatiently, I yanked off the sock and pulled out the offending object.
I was about to throw it away when I noticed that it was a piece of paper neatly folded into a square, not a piece of lint as I had assumed. Frowning, I opened it. Pinholes in the paper spelled out three words: Violet Eyes Lie.
For half an instant I knew what the words meant--and then the world flipped on me. I dropped down through murky green water like a stone. My hands and legs thrashed and struggled, but didn't bring me closer to the surface. Pressure in my lungs, stopped breath; water getting darker and colder as I fell away from the light--
An eyeblink and I was back in my plain all-white bedroom at SilverDollar.
I hated it when that happened. Really, really hated it.
I took a deep breath, swallowing back the thick nausea that had risen in my throat. I rubbed my hands down my sweat pants. My hands were damp, but my clothes weren't. See? I told myself. You're safe and dry. You're not drowning.
Grimly, I forced myself to look back down at the message--Violet Eyes Lie--but its meaning now frustrated me.
I hurried into the tiny bathroom and washed away the greasy sweat that had sprung up on my skin. I sluiced the meager cup of water dispensed by the conservation sink over my face and stared at my reflection. My eyes were a purple-blue that could be called violet. Was the message calling me a liar? Why? I couldn’t remember telling any lies lately--nothing major anyway. Telling Anaximander I’d eaten a bran muffin, when I'd actually eaten a doughnut, didn't count.
I couldn’t remember lying, but what if I had and just didn't remember? A cold talon of fear scratched down my spine at the possibility.
I reread the message a third time. Violet Eyes Lie. The message seemed vaguely hostile to me, a threat.
But, if it was a threat, sent by some unknown enemy, why hide it in such an inobvious place, where it might never be found? Why not send an anonymous email? Or write it in blood-red lipstick on the mirror if email wasn't dramatic enough?
Secrecy was the only reason I could think of to hide the message. The sender of the message had wanted to be sure I, and nobody else, found it.
I automatically picked up a Clean-comb and started running it through my short blonde hair, trying in vain to think of someone who might have left such a message. I’d only been employed by the SilverDollar Mining Company for two weeks, and, other than Anaximander, I only knew a few other employees casually. People to sit with at lunch or shoot a few hoops with after work. At eighteen, I was SilverDollar's youngest employee by a good six years, which kind of inhibited instant friendships.
I tried to picture Anaximander breaking into my room to leave mysterious messages in my sock drawer, but the image wouldn’t gel. Anaximander was far too dignified.
I put down the comb, my hair now clean and shiny after having been de-oiled by the Clean-comb, but my expression unhappy. Reluctantly, I faced the truth. I knew who had sent the message, and it wasn’t Anaximander. I had recognized the note’s handwriting as soon as I’d seen it.
I had written it.
I tried to convince myself that it was impossible to identify handwriting made up of pinpricks, but I didn’t believe it. The "t" had been crossed at a jaunty angle and the top of the "s" was smaller than the bottom, both habits of mine. The message had been written by me, Angel Eastland, and not only had I forgotten what it meant, I couldn’t remember writing it in the first place.
I touched the bandage on my forehead, and the blonde girl in the mirror did the same. I had no memory of the training accident in which I'd hurt myself, but the doctor had told me that spot amnesia wasn't unusual with head injuries so I hadn't been concerned. But this was more than spot amnesia. Chilled, I wondered what else I had forgotten. Something important?
A sick feeling rode low in my stomach. Something was very wrong inside my own head.
The correct thing to do at that point would have been to go to the infirmary to tell Dr. Clark what had happened, but something inside me balked at the idea. My breath came quicker as if I was afraid. Why didn't I want to go to the doctor?
Five seconds later a soothing, plausible reason occurred to me. I couldn't go to the doctor even if I wanted to; it was too early in the morning. My pulse eased up.
I looked at my watch, saw that I was late for my workout with Anaximander, and slammed out the door.
Four steps down the hall, I stopped, compelled to go back for the note. The door to my quarters had a card-lock, and the only thing that was likely to enter my room while I was gone was the housecleaning robot that came through the vents under my bed, but I felt better with the message in my pocket.
I sprinted down the red-and-white tiled halls, going from the Blue Section where staff quarters were, past Gray (Work) and into Yellow Section (Exercise and Recreation). I stopped running once I turned down the last hallway so my breathing was under control when I arrived.
Anaximander frowned at me. “Angel, you’re late. On the job, timing is everything.” He saw nothing ironic about wasting the next ten minutes lecturing me for being six minutes late.
Although it was notoriously hard to read Augmented people, Anaximander didn’t seem to possess a sense of humour or much for emotions at all. A tall, black man with a shaved head, he rarely smiled, and his silver eyes, with their Augmented vision, gave nothing away.
I briefly considered confiding in him, but decided against it. Anaximander spent a couple hours a day training me to be a security investigator like he was, and did a diligent job, but I was always aware that he was also testing me to see if I was worth SilverDollar’s money.
There was no one at SilverDollar I could confide in.
I fought against the current of homesickness that threatened to sweep me away. I focussed on Anaximander; he had information I needed. "How did I hurt my head?" I asked.
Anaximander stopped, thrown off-balance by the abrupt change of subject. "You fell."
Had I imagined a slight pause before he spoke? "Fell from where? Were you with me?"
"A rope. We were rope climbing."
I accepted that in silence, but the answer felt unsatisfying, sparking no memories.
"Being late is also unprofessional." Anaximander picked up his lecture where he'd left off.
My mind wandered. Why had the message been written in pinpricks? Hadn't I had access to a pen?
“Okay, let’s get started,” Anaximander said long minutes later.
We did stretches and warm-up exercises for ten minutes. Anaximander had Augments in his legs, which meant that he could run me and any other un-Augmented person into the ground, but I was a lot more flexible than he was. I usually took pleasure in proving it, sitting and bending forward until my head touched the floor, but today the rote exercises irritated me. I was dying to get back to my room and examine the message again, maybe do a computer search on "Violet Eyes Lie."
"Enough warm-up," Anaximander said. "Let's go outside and do a five-mile run."
The restless thing inside me sat up and howled at the thought of yet another run. Boring, boring, boring. "Why?"
Anaximander turned his silver-eyed stare on me like a weapon. "Running is an excellent cardiovascular exercise."
I cut him off. "No. I mean, why do I have to be in such great shape? What does it have to do with my job?" From what I'd been told, a security investigator acted like a troubleshooter, an outsider sent in to figure out what was causing the problem with a mining operation.
For a moment I thought I'd stumped Anaximander, but then he said smoothly: "Your fitness training is in case something goes wrong on the job. If you uncover some saboteurs, your life may depend on being able to run five miles faster than they can."
I didn't buy it. Did neither I, nor the hypothetical saboteurs, have an aircar? But I didn't argue the point because it gave me an opportunity to twist things to my advantage. "Running while being chased is different than just running. Let's practice chasing!" I threw excitement into my voice.
Anaximander was unmoved. He crossed his arms. "What do you have in mind?"
I noticed that the other employees using the gym that morning were all looking our way, curious. I pitched my idea to them. "The maze. One of us chases the other into the maze. We each carry volleyballs. The first to either nail their opponent or reach the exit wins."
Grins and encouraging comments broke out.
"Sounds like fun."
"You show her, Anaximander!"
"I'll race you if he won't."
I raised a challenging eyebrow at Anaximander. "Well?"
"Throwing a volleyball isn't very similar to taking down an opponent," he observed.
I shrugged. "Okay. No volleyballs. We pretend that we have Knockout patches, and we try to tag each other. Are we on?"
A cool nod. "Yes. Who goes first? The person being chased has the advantage."
I was feeling generous. "I'll chase you. You can have a ten-second head start."
The maze was in one of the gardens surrounding SilverDollar's facility. I'd jogged past it with Anaximander but never gone inside. The walls were concrete, eight-feet high and muralled with mining scenes. Very tacky.
Most of our audience followed us outside, tracking through the dewy grass, and I chose Ben, a thin, dark-bearded techie whom I'd played basketball with, to stand as timekeeper.
"Wait," I said, just as Anaximander was about to enter. I smiled at him. "Care to make a bet on the outcome?"
He shook his head. "I don't bet."
"Anyone else?" I looked hopefully at Ben.
"You're hell on wheels on the basketball court," Ben said. "I'd bet on you if you were going first, but no way can you win going second. I've seen you two run together." Ben politely didn't mention Anaximander's many Augments, which would help him.
"It's a bet then," I said, swinging my arms to keep the muscles loose in the April morning chill. "Winner gets to use the loser's employee debit card for one day."
The others whistled appreciatively.
Ben insisted on a maximum spending allowance, but accepted the bet. I tried not to show my relief. The bet was the best way that I'd thought of to get my hands on someone else's debit card.
Anaximander looked impatient. "Can we start now?"
Ben clicked his stopwatch. "Go!"
Anaximander vanished into the maze. I listened for his footsteps, but heard only a faint patter. I couldn't tell which way he'd gone.
Ten seconds ticked by. "Go!" Ben shouted.
I entered the maze at a crouched run. The entrance bottleneck was the most obvious place for an ambush, and when I saw movement ahead of me I threw myself into a dive.
On the floor, I saw that it wasn’t Anaximander’s tall black form up ahead, but my own reflection in a mirror. Only the outside of the maze was painted; inside all the walls were mirrored, throwing off infinities of possible turns. It took my eyes a moment to sort out the two true choices available to me: left, then straight-ahead or right, then straight-ahead.
Anaximander could follow two possible strategies, running flat-out for the exit or lying in ambush. It all depended on whether or not he knew the maze. I didn't see Anaximander as the type to be intrigued by a maze, but if he had walked through it even once he would be able to call up the memory from his Memory Recorder Augment and navigate it perfectly. If he didn't know the maze, he risked losing time in a cul-de-sac and being tagged by me when he reversed, so ambush was the better option.
If so, he was sure to be waiting just beyond one of the passages. If I chose wrongly, he'd tag me as soon as I poked my head around the corner. If I chose correctly the game would become more complicated with the two of us hunting each other.
My odds of winning were less than fifty percent.
I’ve always hated losing. So I changed the rules.