"What are you doing?"
"I'm playing golf, Kate. What does it look like I'm doing?"
He was in rare form today. "Why are you packing?"
Saiman rubbed his forehead. "Are we playing the obvious question game? I so apologize, nobody told me the rules. I'm packing, because I intend to move."
"Watch your tone," Derek said.
"Or what?" Saiman spread his arms. "You shall tear me to pieces? Spare me your threats. I assure you, under the present circumstances, they will have no effect."
I glanced at Derek. Let me handle it. Derek nodded very slightly.
I stepped closer to Saiman. The odor of scotch floated to me. "Are you drunk?"
The last time he got drunk I had to drive like a maniac across a snow-strewn city while an enraged Curran chased us across the rooftops. "I'm not drunk. I'm drinking, but I'm not drunk. Kate, stop giving me that look; I've had two inches of scotch in the last two hours. With my metabolism, it's a drop in the bucket. I'm functioning at maximum capacity. The alcohol is merely the grease for my wheels."
"You never told me why you're packing," I said. Saiman was the last person I expected to move. He loved his ridiculously overpriced apartment in the only pre-Shift high-rise still standing in Atlanta. All his business contacts were tied to the city. He had half a dozen aliases, each with his or her fingers in a different pie.
Saiman rocked back on the balls of his feet. "I'm moving because the city is about to die. And I do not intend to go down with the ship."
"MOVE THE CLOTHES IF YOU WANT TO SIT DOWN." Saiman walked to the bar, retrieved a crystal goblet and a thick glass, and splashed amber-colored scotch into it.
Neither Derek nor I moved.
Saiman sipped his drink. "It started with Alfred Dugue. French-Canadian. An unpleasant violent man, very conflicted about his sexuality. His sexual practices were ... odd."
Dear God, what would Saiman find odd? Never mind, I didn't want to know.
Saiman seemed to study his scotch. "I understand that realizing your preferences are in conflict with established norms can be traumatic, but Dugue was engaged in extreme self-loathing. Somehow between bouts of whipping himself and performing bizarre erotic rituals, he managed to build a successful enterprise shipping goods down the Mississippi. I wanted a piece of the action. I assumed the shape consistent with Dugue's type, charmed him, seduced him, and permitted him to take me home. I should've been more thorough in my research."
"Didn't go well, did it?"
Saiman's eyes brimmed with outrage. "He served me poisoned wine. When that failed, he tried to strangle me. I snapped his neck like a toothpick. It was a distasteful affair."
"I was going through his papers when I stumbled on his notes on Kamen's research. At first I dismissed it as a pipe dream. However, after running Dugue's operation for a few weeks ..."
Of course. Why was I not surprised?
"You turned into the man you killed?" Derek couldn't keep derision out of his voice.
Saiman shrugged. "He was already dead. He couldn't benefit from his company, and it couldn't be left unsupervised. I'll have you know I've greatly improved on it since it came into my possession. For one, his teamsters are now paid a living wage. Consequently, the incidents of theft are down thirty-seven percent. Soon, I shall simply sell the entire enterprise to myself, eliminating the need to perpetuate the Dugue impersonation. But I digress. I realized that Dugue wasn't fond of bets; if he invested in something, it was a sure thing. Given the obscene amount of money he'd sunk into Kamen, I revisited the matter. I went to see Adam."
"While he was under the Red Guard's supervision?"
So much for no visitors. I knew it was a shit job from the start. I knew Rene had denied me information. I could deal with it. But an outright lie went over the line. Strike one against Rene. "Go on."
"We chatted. Kamen was deeply damaged by his wife's death, a genius in his work, but practically nonfunctioning in all other areas of his life. It took me two visits to realize the machine was real. For a brief period I considered using it for my own means, but I've since come to my senses. It has to be destroyed."
I raised my hand. "Saiman, what does it do?"
He stared at me for a long moment. "You don't know?"
"Who is asking obvious questions now?"
Saiman leaned forward. "It destroys magic, Kate."
What? "You can't destroy magic. It's a form of energy--you can convert it, but it doesn't just disappear."
"You can also contain it," Saiman said. "Adam Kamen has built a device that collapses the fabric of magic in on itself. When activated, the device causes the magic around it to implode, converting it into a dense concentrated form. Think of it in terms of gas and liquid; if the magic's normal state in our world is gas, then Kamen's device pressurizes it into a liquid state."
He was crazy. "By what means?"
Saiman sighed. "I don't understand most of it. To be brutally simplistic, the apparatus is basically a cylinder with a reservoir within its core. The device must be permitted to charge during a magic wave for a certain period of time. Once the device is charged, it goes active. The actual process of magic cleansing takes very little time. Kamen's first prototype cleared an area half a mile across under ten minutes.
"The device pulls the magic inside its core, affecting a large radius directly around it. The magic enters the device and passes through a series of chambers. Each successive chamber causes it to implode further and further upon itself, so by the time it reaches the reservoir at the core, the magic is `liquid,' very dense. It occupies a very small volume in this state. When the next magic wave floods, the area affected by the device remains magic-free. I don't know why. I just know that it works."
My brain struggled to digest this. "We were told it was never tested." Saiman shook his head. "Kamen tested a small table model, the very first prototype he built. It was the size of a wine bottle and it cleared the magic in a half-mile radius. There is a spot in Sibley where there is no magic, Kate. I've stood on its edge and walked through it. I can give you the coordinates. The second prototype he had built was supposed to affect an area with a diameter of two point seven miles ..."
If the prototype I had seen in Rene's picture were activated, it could wipe out a small town. "What happens to people caught in the implosion?"
Saiman drained his glass. "I don't know. I can only tell you what Kamen told me, and so far he hasn't been proven wrong. He theorized that during the implosion anything that uses magic dies."