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Chapter 4

  • April 3, 2022 was the day that Art nearly killed the first and only woman h_ver really loved. It was her fault.
  • Art’s car was running low on lard after a week in the Benelux countries, wher_he residents were all high-net-worth cholesterol-conscious codgers wh_uarded their arteries from the depredations of the frytrap as jealously a_hey squirreled their money away from the taxman. He was, therefore, thrille_nd delighted to be back on British soil, Greenwich+0, where grease ran lik_ater and his runabout could be kept easily and cheaply fuelled and the vodk_ould run down his gullet instead of into his tank.
  • He was in the Kensington High Street on a sleepy Sunday morning, GMT0300h—2100h back in EDT—and the GPS was showing insufficient data-points t_ven gauge traffic between his geoloc and the Camden High where he kept hi_ooms. When the GPS can’t find enough peers on the relay network to color it_aps with traffic data, you know you’ve hit a sweet spot in the city’s uber- circadian, a moment of grace where the roads are very nearly exclusivel_ours.
  • So he whistled a jaunty tune and swilled his coffium, a fad that had just mad_t to the UK, thanks to the loosening of rules governing the disposal of heav_ater in the EU. The java just wouldn’t cool off, remaining hot enough t_uarantee optimal caffeine osmosis right down to the last drop.
  • If he was jittery, it was no more so than was customary for ESTalists a_MT+0, and he was driving safely and with due caution. If the woman had looke_ut before stepping off the kerb and into the anemically thin road, if sh_adn’t been wearing stylish black in the pitchy dark of the curve before th_oyal Garden Hotel, if she hadn’t stepped right in front of his runabout, h_ould have merely swerved and sworn and given her a bit of a fright.
  • But she didn’t, she was, she did, and he kicked the brake as hard as he could, twisted the wheel likewise, and still clipped her hipside and sent her ass- over-teakettle before the runabout did its own barrel roll, making thre_omplete revolutions across the Kensington High before lodging in the Roya_arden Hotel’s shrubs. Art was covered in scorching, molten coffium, screamin_nd clawing at his eyes, upside down, when the porters from the Royal Garde_pened his runabout’s upside-down door, undid his safety harness and pulle_im out from behind the rapidly flacciding airbag. They plunged his face int_he ornamental birdbath, which had a skin of ice that shattered on his nos_nd jangled against his jawbone as the icy water cooled the coffium an_topped the terrible, terrible burning.
  • He ended up on his knees, sputtering and blowing and shivering, and cleare_is eyes in time to see the woman he’d hit being carried out of the middle o_he road on a human travois made of the porters’ linked arms of red wool an_old brocade.
  • “Assholes!” she was hollering. “I could have a goddamn spinal injury! You’r_ot supposed to move me!”
  • “Look, Miss,” one porter said, a young chap with the kind of fantasti_entition that only an insecure teabag would ever pay for, teeth so white an_lawless they strobed in the sodium streetlamps. “Look. We can leave you i_he middle of the road, right, and not move you, like we’re supposed to. Bu_f we do that, chances are you’re going to get run over before the paramedic_et here, and then you certainly will have a spinal injury, and a crushe_kull besides, like as not. Do you follow me?”
  • “You!” she said, pointing a long and accusing finger at Art. “You! Don’t yo_atch where you’re going, you fool! You could have killed me!”
  • Art shook water off his face and blew a mist from his dripping moustache.
  • “Sorry,” he said, weakly. She had an American accent, Californian maybe, _itigious stridency that tightened his sphincter like an alum enema an_iraculously flensed him of the impulse to argue.
  • “Sorry?” she said, as the porters lowered her gently to the narrow strip tur_ut beside the sidewalk. “Sorry? Jesus, is that the best you can do?”
  • “Well you did step out in front of my car,” he said, trying to marshal som_pine.
  • She attempted to sit up, then slumped back down, wincing. “You were going to_ast!”
  • “I don’t think so,” he said. “I’m pretty sure I was doing 45—that’s fiv_licks under the limit. Of course, the GPS will tell for sure.”
  • At the mention of empirical evidence, she seemed to lose interest in bein_ngry. “Give me a phone, will you?”
  • Mortals may be promiscuous with their handsets, but for a tribalist, one’_elationship with one’s comm is deeply personal. Art would have sooner share_is underwear. But he had hit her with his car. Reluctantly, Art passed he_is comm.
  • The woman stabbed at the handset with the fingers of her left hand, squintin_t it in the dim light. Eventually, she clamped it to her head. “Johnny? It’_inda. Yes, I’m still in London. How’s tricks out there? Good, good to hear.
  • How’s Marybeth? Oh, that’s too bad. Want to hear how I am?” She grinne_evilishly. “I just got hit by a car. No, just now. Five minutes ago. O_ourse I’m hurt! I think he broke my hip—maybe my spine, too. Yes, I ca_iggle my toes. Maybe he shattered a disc and it’s sawing through the cor_ight now. Concussion? Oh, almost certainly. Pain and suffering, loss o_njoyment of life, missed wages… ” She looked up at Art. “You’re insured, right?”
  • Art nodded, miserably, fishing for an argument that would not come.
  • “Half a mil, easy. Easy! Get the papers going, will you? I’ll call you whe_he ambulance gets here. Bye. Love you too. Bye. Bye. Bye, Johnny. I got t_o. Bye!” She made a kissy noise and tossed the comm back at Art. He snatche_t out of the air in a panic, closed its cover reverentially and slipped i_ack in his jacket pocket.
  • “C’mere,” she said, crooking a finger. He knelt beside her.
  • “I’m Linda,” she said, shaking his hand, then pulling it to her chest.
  • “Art,” Art said.
  • “Art. Here’s the deal, Art. It’s no one’s fault, OK? It was dark, you wer_riving under the limit, I was proceeding with due caution. Just one of thos_hings. But you did hit me. Your insurer’s gonna have to pay out—rehab, pai_nd suffering, you get it. That’s going to be serious kwan. I’ll go split_ith you, you play along.”
  • Art looked puzzled.
  • “Art. Art. Art. Art, here’s the thing. Maybe you were distracted. Lost. No_ooking. Not saying you were, but maybe. Maybe you were, and if you were, m_awyer’s going to get that out of you, he’s going to nail you, and I’ll get _ig, fat check. On the other hand, you could just, you know, cop to it. Pla_long. You make this easy, we’ll make this easy. Split it down the middle, once my lawyer gets his piece. Sure, your premiums’ll go up, but there’ll b_nough to cover both of us. Couldn’t you use some ready cash? Lots of zeroes.
  • Couple hundred grand, maybe more. I’m being nice here—I could keep it all fo_e.”
  • “I don’t think—”
  • “Sure you don’t. You’re an honest man. I understand, Art. Art. Art, _nderstand. But what has your insurer done for you, lately? My uncle Ed, h_ot caught in a threshing machine, paid his premiums every week for fort_ears, what did he get? Nothing. Insurance companies. They’re the great satan.
  • No one likes an insurance company. Come on, Art. Art. You don’t have to sa_nything now, but think about it, OK, Art?”
  • She released his hand, and he stood. The porter with the teeth flashed them a_im. “Mad,” he said, “just mad. Watch yourself, mate. Get your solicitor o_he line, I were you.”
  • He stepped back as far as the narrow sidewalk would allow and fired up hi_omm and tunneled to a pseudonymous relay, bouncing the call off a doze_ixmasters. He was, after all, in deep cover as a GMTalist, and it wouldn’t d_o have his enciphered packets’ destination in the clear—a little traffi_nalysis and his cover’d be blown. He velcroed the keyboard to his thigh an_tarted chording.
  • Trepan: Any UK solicitors on the channel?
  • Gink-Go: Lawyers. Heh. Kill 'em all. Specially eurofag fixers.
  • Junta: Hey, I resemble that remark
  • Trepan: Junta, you're a UK lawyer?
  • Gink-Go: Use autocounsel, dude. L{ia|awye rs suck. Channel #autocounsel.
  • Chatterbot with all major legal systems on the backend.
  • Trepan: Whatever. I need a human lawyer.
  • Trepan: Junta, you there?
  • Gink-Go: Off raping humanity.
  • Gink-Go: Fuck lawyers.
  • Trepan: /shitlist Gink-Go
  • ##Gink-Go added to Trepan's shitlist. Use '/unshit Gink-Go' to see message_gain
  • Gink-Go:
  • Gink-Go:
  • Gink-Go:
  • Gink-Go:
  • ##Gink-Go added to Junta's shitlist. Use '/unshit Gink-Go' to see message_gain
  • ##Gink-Go added to Thomas-hawk's shitlist. Use '/unshit Gink-Go' to se_essages again
  • ##Gink-Go added to opencolon's shitlist. Use '/unshit Gink-Go' to see message_gain
  • ##Gink-Go added to jackyardbackoff's shitlist. Use '/unshit Gink-Go' to se_essages again
  • ##Gink-Go added to freddy-kugel's shitlist. Use '/unshit Gink-Go' to se_essages again
  • opencolon: Trolls suck. Gink-Go away.
  • Gink-Go:
  • Gink-Go:
  • Gink-Go:
  • ##Gink-Go has left channel #EST.chatter
  • Junta: You were saying?
  • ##Junta (private) (file transfer)
  • ##Received credential from Junta. Verifying. Credential identified:
  • "Solicitor, registered with the Law Society to practice in England and Wales, also registered in Australia."
  • Trepan: /private Junta I just hit a woman while driving the Kensington Hig_treet. Her fault. She's hurt. Wants me to admit culpability in exchange fo_alf the insurance. Advice?
  • ##Junta (private): I beg your pardon?
  • Trepan: /private Junta She's crazy. She just got off the phone with some kind_awyer in the States. Says she can get $5*10^5 at least, and will split wit_e if I don't dispute.
  • ##Junta (private): Bloody Americans. No offense. What kind of instrumentatio_ecorded it?
  • Trepan: /private Junta My GPS. Maybe some secams. Eyewitnesses, maybe.
  • ##Junta (private): And you'll say what, exactly? That you were distracted?
  • Fiddling with something?
  • Trepan: /private Junta I guess.
  • ##Junta (private): You're looking at three points off your licence. Statutor_ncrease in premiums totalling EU 2*10^5 over five years. How's your record?
  • ##Transferring credential "Driving record" to Junta. Receipt confirmed.
  • ##Junta (private): Hmmm.
  • ##Junta (private): Nothing outrageous. _Were_ you distracted?
  • Trepan: /private Junta I guess. Maybe.
  • ##Junta (private): You guess. Well, who would know better than you, right? M_ee's 10 percent. Stop guessing. You _were_ distracted. Overtired. It's late.
  • Regrettable. Sincerely sorry. Have her solicitor contact me directly. I'l_eet you here at 1000h GMT/0400h EDT and go over it with you, yes? Agreeable?
  • Trepan: /private Junta Agreed. Thanks.
  • ##Junta (private) (file transfer)
  • ##Received smartcontract from Junta. Verifying. Smartcontract "Representatio_greement" verified.
  • Trepan: /join #autocounsel
  • counselbot: Welcome, Trepan! How can I help you?
  • ##Transferring smartcontract "Representation agreement" to counselbot. Receip_onfirmed.
  • Trepan: /private counselbot What is the legal standing of this contract?
  • ##counselbot (private): Smartcontract "Representation agreement" is an IS_tandard representation agreement between a client and a solicitor fo_urposes of litigation in the UK.
  • ##autocounsel (private) (file transfer)
  • ##Received "representation agreement faq uk 2.3.2 2JAN22" from autocounsel.
  • Trepan: /join #EST.chatter
  • Trepan: /private Junta It's a deal
  • ##Transferring key-signed smartcontract "Representation agreement" to Junta.
  • Receipt confirmed.
  • Trepan: /quit Gotta go, thanks!
  • ##Trepan has left channel #EST.chatter "Gotta go, thanks!"