An oppressive heat filled the streets. The skies were open and blue and had been for weeks, not even a fluffy white cloud had sailed across to cast a soupçon of shade in all that time. The sun blazed, spending its fury on the towers and streets of Tal Malloran, and the populace of the city sweltered. The streets were largely empty; here and there a white-shrouded figure hurried along, performing an errand that couldn’t wait any longer, but no one left their houses voluntarily until the sun went down and the heat bled back out of the city and into the star-pricked night sky.
Office workers travelled in early before the sun had really got into its blowtorch act, and left late in the evening, often sitting out in street cafés and bars to wait until the heat had fallen to where public transport was tolerable. The demand for air conditioning was high, and in the towers of the Electricity Plant the workers there sweated even though it was cool, trying to maintain power across a network that now had a permanent daytime peak that lasted for hours longer than they’d planned for initially. The Electrician General, a corpulent man with a ruddy complexion and hands burned black from electrical discharges, had deployed installation crews across the roofs of the city, fitting solar panels everywhere there was a space and feeding the power back into the electrical grid. The cost was high, but while the heatwave persisted the air-conditioning price was returning the money almost as fast as he spent it.
In Restator Square a huge stone fountain sprayed water eighteen feet into the air and the cafés and restaurants around the edges all had ancient shade trees outside under which they set out their chairs and tables. The only direct sunlight fell on the fountain water, where it was said to purify it, and on a few of the paving stones around it. The square, despite the heat, was a relatively cool and delightful place to spend time, and it was full of tourists and locals who didn’t have jobs to go to. Chatter echoed around mingling with the splash of water and the occasional sussuration of an errant breeze in the leaves of one or other of the trees. At the Café Rougepeau white aproned waiters moved near-silently around, delivering dishes of delicate, chilled sandwiches, bowls of sorbet, or glasses of iced tea and cellared beers. At a table outside, near the trunk of a tree so old that it had probably seen Restator Square grow up around it, sat a pale young man by himself. A guitar-shaped leather case was on the chair to his left, and a soft cap was on the table next to a half-eaten salad. He held a fork in his left hand, which was poised half-way to his mouth with a tomato quarter speared on it, and he appeared to be thinking.
Something shuffled in the branches of the tree above, and he seemed to wake up. The fork continued its path to his mouth, and he ate the tomato, enjoyed its tart sweetness. Then, with a crash and a small shower of leaves, someone fell into the seat opposite him.
“Lissa,” he said, looking at the newcomer. He was also a young man, a little thinner than the diner, a little shorter, with dark hair and dark eyes. In his hand – the diner noticed the painfully thin wrists – he held a leather wallet, and around that wrist, small but still loose, was the gem-studded copper bracelet that marked out a Psychic Go player. “Where’ve you come from this time?”
Lissajous opened the wallet and inspected the money in there. Eventually he took out a note and waved at the shadow-hugging waiters. “Eskdrill Street,” he said. “There’s a temple there. Iced Tea please.” This last was addressed to the waiter, who then turned to look at the original diner. He shrugged, and tapped his glass of beer. “Another,” he said.
“It’s not a Temple, though,” continued Lissajous. “I was inside, and although there’s some neat artwork at the back, behind the altar and in the vestry, there’s nothing by Deumon.”
“Did they know you were inside?”
“Simon!” Lissajous looked mildly offended. “Of course they didn’t, you know I’m better than that.”
“Yeah, I know. But what’s going to happen if you do get caught? They’ve got the temple-hounds after all.”
“I can outrun a dog,” said Lissajous confidently. “Well, I can definitely get up high before it catches me, and then I can outrun it, easy. But it’s not going to happen, I know.” He tapped the bracelet on his wrist.