Waging war on his enemies had been Sokolov’s habit and his profession for a long time, but being chivalrous to everyone else was simply a basic tenet of having your shit together as a human and as a man.
Richard’s ex-girlfriends were long gone, but their voices followed him all the time and spoke to him, like Muses or Furies. It was like having seven superegos arranged in a firing squad before a single beleaguered id, making sure he didn’t enjoy that last cigarette.
Each death meant that a particular set of ideas and perceptions and reactions was gone from the world, apparently forever, and served as a reminder to Richard that one day his ideas and perceptions and reactions would be gone too.
“As hire As, and Bs hire Cs,” the point being that as long as you continued to recruit only the very best people, they would attract others, but as soon as you let your standards slip, the second-raters would begin to seine up third-raters to act as their minions and advance their agendas.
People who had job titles and business cards could say easily where they worked and what they did for a living, but those who worked for themselves, doing things of a complicated nature, learned over time that it was not worth the trouble of supplying an explanation if its only purpose was to make small talk. Better to just go directly to airline travel.
“De gustibus non est disputandum.”
Note: “In matters of taste, there can be no disputes” (literally “about taste, it should not be disputed”).
That, as far as she could tell, was the purpose of the religion she had been brought up in: it made people feel better when really horrible things happened, and it offered a repertoire of ceremonies that were used to add a touch of class to such goings-on as shacking up with someone and throwing dirt on a corpse.
Then suddenly they were passing through a rather nice town, which she learned was Sandpoint, and which had all the indicia—brewpub, art gallery, Pilates, Thai restaurant—of a place where Blue State people would go to enjoy a high standard of living while maintaining nonstop connectivity and assuaging their guilty consciences in re global warming, fair trade, and the regrettable side effects of Manifest Destiny.
The opening screen of T’Rain was a frank rip-off of what you saw when you booted up Google Earth. Richard felt no guilt about this, since he had heard that Google Earth, in turn, was based on an idea from some old science-fiction novel.
Torrents of glowing, crystalline photos rushed across their screens, making a funny and sad contrast with the dozen or so family photographs, developed and printed through the medieval complexities of chemical photography, laboriously framed, and hung on the walls of the room.
Because guys, at least of his age, didn’t have the confidence to make major decisions from their gut like that. They had to build a superstructure of rational thought on top of it. But not Zula. She didn’t have to decide. She just had to pass on the news.
Richard fell silent for a while, wondering whether there was any way that he could delegate to an underling all meetings whose sole purpose was for the people he was meeting with to demonstrate that they were doing their jobs.
He was seriously thinking that, if he survived this, he might try to launch a new venture: a vacation services provider for wealthy, hardworking people that would work by showing up at their homes without warning and abducting them.