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Deus Ex: Icarus Effect [Paperback]

James Swallow
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

JAMES SWALLOW is an award-winning New York Times bestselling author. He has written extensively for the Warhammer Universe, Horus Heresey and Blood Angels books. He has also written for Star Trek Voyager. Swallow is also one of the lead writers on Deus Ex 3. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

ONE

Maison deBeers--Geneva--Switzerland

From the window of the great house it was possible to see the summit of Mont Blanc on a good day, a clear day when the sky was a perfect shade of teal and unhindered by clouds. There still were days like that, once in a while. Those moments that were rare and becoming rarer still, when clouds gray as oil-soaked wool graced Geneva's ornate streets with a moment of weak sunshine; but for the most part, the city remained wintry and wet, as summers became something that were spoken of by parents and grandparents to children with no experience of such things.

The house was fifteenth century, and it stood witness to the turning of the gray clouds above the city, just as it had to the republic of John Calvin, the rise of the Catholics, the fascist riots, and the gathering of nations. Like the blue sky, the house was a relic from an age so far removed from the now, it seemed as if it were something drawn from mythology. It stood undimmed by the acid rain that pitted and wormed into the bones of its fellows. The bricks and mortar of the building resisted the march of time and the polluted atmosphere, protected by a layer of polymerized industrial diamond a few molecules in thickness.

It pleased the man who lived here to toy with the idea that a thousand years from now, this place might still be standing while the rest of the city had come to dust. In his more fanciful moments, he even imagined it might become some sort of monument. The owner of the house did not consider this to be arrogance on his part. He simply thought it right, as he did about so many of the choices he made.

A trim man of solid stock, he resembled a captain of industry, a scion of blue bloods from the old country, a man of mature wealth--and he was all those things. He had a patrician face, fatherly after a fashion, but tainted by something that those who knew him well would call a sense of superiority. He walked the halls of the great house in the same manner he did the halls of the world--as if he owned them.

An assistant--one of a dozen at his beck and call, faceless and interchangeable--fell into step as he crossed the reception hall. Her shoes were beetle black, matching the discreetly flattering cut of her business suit and the cascade of her sharply fashioned hair. He registered her without a word, her footsteps clacking across the mosaic flooring.

"Sir," she began, "all connections have been secured. The gallery is ready for you."

He graced her with a nod. He expected no less.

The woman frowned slightly. "In addition . . . Doctor Roman has confirmed he will be arriving on schedule for your--"

"I know why he's coming." The flash of irritation was small, but any such sign from him was so forbidding that it sent his staff into silence.

He resented the small, unctuous physician and the minor indignities the man forced him to suffer each time he visited the house; but age was not a kind companion and the advance of years was taking its toll. If he were to remain at the top of his game--and more important, maintain his leadership of the group--it would be necessary for him to ensure his own fitness, and so these little moments of ignominy were his trade-off. He was no fool; all the others, his protege in Paris first among them, watched like hawks for signs of weakness. Today would be no different.

As they reached the paneled doors of the gallery, he looked properly at the young woman for the first time and smiled, forgiving her. "Thank you, my dear," he said, the softened vowels of his native Southern drawl pushing through. "You're dismissed."

She nodded as the doors closed on her, and he heard the gentle metallic click of hidden machinery inside the frame as it sealed closed. The gallery was decorated with walls of smoky, dark wood that shone in the half-light through the arched windows. Works in watercolor, oils, some portraits, others still life or landscape, hung in lines that ranged around the room. Deep chairs of rich red leather were positioned about the floor, and he noted that a silver tray with cups and a cafetière of his favorite Saint Helena were waiting for him. He sat and poured a generous measure, savoring the aroma of the coffee as the lamps above seven of the paintings flickered in unison.

Panes of shimmering color formed in front of each of the works, shifting and changing from interference patterns to something approximating human faces. Presently, ghostly busts of five men and two women gained form and false solidity, projected from concealed holographic emitters hidden in the brass lamps. He saluted them with his cup and they nodded back to him, although he knew that none of them were seeing his real, unvarnished image. The sensor that picked up his face used software to parse the virtual avatar the others saw, advanced suites of pattern-matching programs that did away with tells and flattened vocal stress inflections; in this way he showed them only the aspects of him that they needed to see.

Data tags showed their locations in the corner of each image; Hengsha, Paris, Dubai, Washington, Singapore, Hong Kong, New York. Among them he saw the protege, the politician, the thinker, and the businessman, the ones he distrusted and the ones he trusted to lie. He enjoyed another purse-lipped sip of the rich Saint Helena and put down the cup. "Ladies and gentlemen, welcome. Let's begin, shall we?"

As he expected, his protege spoke first. "The current project is proceeding as expected. I'm pleased to report that the issue we had with the Hyron materials has now been dealt with."

"Good," he murmured. "What about the deployments of our agent provocateurs for the active phase?"

"I've staged the operatives in all the standby locations," said the politician, hissing as sibilance caught his words through the link from the American capital. "We're ahead of schedule." The other man cleared his throat. "In addition, the distribution channels are now all in place."

He looked toward the businessman. "The media?"

The man in Hong Kong nodded once. "Our control there remains firm. We're already embedding liminal triggers in multiple information streams. I won't bore you with the details."

He nodded. The demonstrations and confrontations they had gently encouraged were a regular feature on the global news cycle. He turned slightly in the chair and glanced at the feed from Hengsha. "What about production?"

The Asian woman's face tensed. "Testing has proven . . . problematic. I've gone as far as I can, but until I have updated schematics for the--"

Before she could finish, the dry English accent of the scientist issued from the Singaporean link. "We've been through this. Is it necessary for me to explain once again? This is not an exact science. I told you from the start there would be delays. The work is an iterative process. In any event, I am about to acquire some new . . . resources that will speed things along."

He held up a hand to silence the woman before she could frame a retort. "We all understand the circumstances. But we also all understand the importance of this project. I'm sure no one wants to be the participant who slows down the hard work of everyone else." His eyes narrowed and he gave the scientist and the woman a level look. "Solve whatever problems the two of you have and move forward. We've invested too much time and resources in this to lose ground at this late stage."

"Of course," said the woman. The scientist said nothing, only nodded.

He felt that something needed to be said, and so he stood. "My friends. My fellow perfectibilists." He smiled again, amusing himself with the use of the archaic term. "None of us harbor any illusions about the delicacy of our work. The burden of governance, the stewardship upon us is great, perhaps at this moment in history greater than any of our group have ever had to shoulder. Humanity is becoming malleable, and we see battle lines being drawn across our society . . . We alone see this where others do not, and the great responsibility, as ever, falls to us. And so we must have a unity of purpose, yes?"

A series of nods followed his words. They all knew what was at stake. The group was on the cusp of the next great iteration, the placement of the next flagstone in the path that stretched from the day of first foundation in old Ingolstadt, to that glittering human tomorrow a thousand years hence. He felt a tingle of rare excitement in his fingertips; so much of what they did was slow, so gentle and subtle that it was like a breath of wind upon the sails of society. It shifted the path of humanity by degrees, an infinitely long game that measured its turns in years, decades, generations.

But once in a while, a point of criticality would approach. A moment of importance that would act as a fulcrum for the future.

The fall of Constantinople. A sunny June morning in Sarajevo. The detonation of the first atomic bomb. The two burning towers. These and all the others. For those with foresight and the will to act for the greater good, the elite who could lead mankind through the darkness, these moments represented the rise of opportunity. The group's very existence was predicated on times such as these--and if these critical incidents did not occur in the weave of world events by a process of natural evolution, then it was only right that they create them.

He nodded to himself. They were the breath of wind on the sails, indeed. But they were also the hand upon the tiller.

He looked across at the face that ghosted before Turner's Scarlet Sunset, the other woman watching carefully from the towers of Dubai. "The . . . impediments," he began, with a sniff. "I'm sure we don't need to discuss names and all. Specifics we can leave to you, yes?"

The olive-skinned woman nodded. "I have it in hand, Lucius," she said, showing her rank to the others with her casual use of his first name. "The last pieces are being placed upon the board as we speak." She smiled, and there was no warmt...
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