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might also conceivably have been gay, but those were
just his San Francisco regionalisms: oh, yeah, this
guy was a real-estate lawyer, all right. Yuri had met
so many that he could smell them by now.
The code and the law: they were two sister prac-
tices. One of them was logical, and humane, and rig-
orous, and the backbone of civilization. And the other
was crazy, and snarled, and corrupted, and full of
loopholes. And nobody could tell which was which.
Quintaine s nostrils ared as he stared around
the o ce. There were holes in the sheetrock, and
nobody had dusted the blinds. He jerked his thumb
over his pin-striped shoulder. "Did he have to string
the power cables right over the door frame? That s
not very feng shui."
Preston was quick to sense a slight. "I wouldn t
have guessed that the Church of Computer-Human
Symbiosis was so into feng shui."
"I never speak ill of my clients," said Quintaine, "but
after the ve solid decades those geezers have spent
immersed in game environments, Chinese set design
is the least of their problems."
This was a char ming remark, and despite the fact that
the man was a lawyer, Yuri found himself won over.
"I take it you re not a member of the church."
"My parents were members of that church," said
Quintaine. "They took me into every temple ever built
by the maestro in there ... they are all works of genius.
But if you spend enough time in the presence of a well-
nigh supernatural talent, it can get a little samey." He
had been drinking. "I m sure the world could do with
another François Roebel masterpiece, though." Quin-
taine had a long, goggling look at the workstation s ick-
ering screen. "My God in heaven! What has he done?"
"That s not a François Roebel masterpiece," said
"Okay, I can see that, but what is that thing? It looks
like a million giant ants are eating Notre Dame."
"It s a little something I just cooked up."
"You re an architect?"
Quintaine lifted a brow. " Once ?"
"I don t call myself that. Not anymore."
This remark hit Quintaine hard. "I used to call
myself a lawyer." He dropped into the o ce chair and
stared at the busy screen. "It took me a while to g-
ure it out: I don t practice law. I am a xer. I practice
all kinds of stu : Urban politics. Acquiring properties.
Managing upkeep. The piecemeal growth of holding
funds. Sweeping problems under the rug for the time
being---I m required to do a whole lot of that."
"That sure sounds like the law to me," Yuri said.
Quintaine looked up. "But I don t have any human
"It s tr ue. My only tr ue client is a large sum of
money. And the way that wealth-management system
was structured ... well, it was so complex and restric-
tive that everybody ran away from it. Even the geeks
who were supposed to own that wealth have ed into
a fantasy world. That wealth is like some vast black
bowling ball that rolls up and down Silicon Valley. Do
you guys remember that word, silicon ?"
"I loved silicon," said Yuri.
"Oh, me too," said Preston with fer vor. "Silicon
used to be 25 percent of the planet s crust!"
"So I had it gured," said Quintaine, "that we would
commission François Roebel and throw that Perma-
nent Construction Fund at him. Roebel is notorious
for never completing any building on time or under
budget. If you look at the way that construction fund
was structured---well, we re a lot better o with fan-
tastic, impossible, never-realized buildings. In today s
sustainable economy, it s the total cost of ownership
and the price of recycling that kill us."
"That s extremely interesting," said Yuri. "I hadn t
heard a lawyer frame that issue like that before."
"California state law is always well ahead of the
global and national curves."
"Yeah, that s right."
"Now that you ve come up with this exciting proposal,"
said Quintaine, confronting the workstation, "I m get-
ting a brain wave. This plan here is not even a building,
as far as I can gure. The way the str ucture keeps loop-
ing around like that---that s a process that s permanently
under construction and deconstr uction. There s no nal
state where one has to legally sign o and accept owner-
ship. So that s not a building, legally speaking. That s a
process. It s a process in permanent interoperation."
"Mr. Quintaine, you must be a pretty good lawyer."
Quintaine spun himself in the chair. "My rm
has stopped calling itself a law rm, actually. We ve
moved into another set of practices that are ... well ...
much more contemporary."
Yuri shot a look at Preston. In a gesture so subtle
as to be almost invisible, Preston brushed one nger
against his lips.
"When you ve lost control of the ow of events,"
Yuri told the mirror, "your duty is to hope
and plan for happy accidents."
"Stop muttering and complaining so much,"
Gretchen told him. She adjusted his bow tie, for the
third time. "You should try to enjoy your big night."
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