It was raining on Magen that day, the dull, persistent, sheeting downpour that beat down upon the planet’s surface for thirty hours of every thirty-one hour day. Except for those resident in the highest executive towers and the aerostats of the Stockholding Directors, rising above the permanent cloud layer that enshrouded the world in gloom and oppressive heat, the omnipresent rain was as much a fact of life for the residents of the Magen Corporate’s capital world as gravity and service deductions.
The rain beat upon the roof of a hotel near Magen’s primary starport, running down in channeled cascades past the windows of its rooftop café, opened in the hope of garnering what morning breeze there was. And thus, too, it fell past the table where Rivis mor-Estaeum laid down the smart-paper with the morning’s financial results, and turned to leave. And in falling, its sound more than covered the puff of the tiny ice needler hidden beneath his jacket.
Twenty stories below, the rain fell just as heavily, slick with grime and fatter droplets washed off the edges of the buildings above. Terek 318-1224, one of the many Magen basic-labor clones waiting at an office checkpoint to begin the work day, slapped his hand to the back of his neck at a sudden, sharp sting, then muttered an imprecation as warm droplets found their way under the collar of his cheap bactry-plastic overcoat, shuffling forward in the line.
And as the tiny sliver of ice embedded in his neck melted away, a hundred thousand biological machines swam free, swarmed, and began to multiply…