“I,Q” outtake #2
(In 2012 I rewrote Twinmaker: Jump from Q’s completely different perspective, giving me new insights into her character in the process. “I, Q” is a slimmed-down version of that unpublished ms. This is one of a few fun scenes that fell by the wayside.)
(equivalent to Twinmaker: Jump chapter 19)
The flash, the bang, the physical impact of the shockwave–like a giant iron fist striking Clair in the chest and throwing her backwards–weren’t simultaneous. They came in that order, spaced out over tiny slices of time that the human mind couldn’t individually distinguish. The electrical impulses in Clair’s nerves travelled at the speed of light, much faster than the ball of flame radiating outward from the structure that had once been Jesse’s home, but the chemical-soaked tissues of her brain needed time to catch up. There I had a clear advantage over her. I was surprised and shocked like her, but I was applying all my senses to the problem before Clair’s limp body hit the ground.
Was the explosion contained?
Yes. No subsequent detonations were detected.
Was the cause a missile or any kind of projectile?
No. The source of the blast was within the house. Specifically, under the living room floor.
Could it possibly be an innocent accident–an explosion of a gas tank, perhaps?
No. The Linwoods were Luddites in many ways, but they were plugged into the global energy grid. Not even the most antiquated of Dylan Linwood’s vehicles was fueled by anything as volatile as petroleum.
Was Clair in danger?
That question was more difficult to answer. She was on her hands and knees in some bushes, coughing, not far from Jesse and Zep. Her headband had come off. The air was full of soot and smoke. Spot fires raised by debris burned all around her.
Out of the smoke came a fourth figure: a solid woman with close-cut brown curls, wearing a dark-purple sweater and black jeans that, like everything around them, were now gray with ash. Her eyes were noticeably out of alignment, giving her face a lopsided cast, perhaps because of some kind of prenatal disorder. That misalignment made her easy to identify. Her name was Gemma Mallapur. She was a WHOLE activist.