It was like the vulturine face of Castor, but ... No, it could not be Castor.
The bicycler disappeared behind the house as he went north on the canal road, appeared again, then vanished behind the next house. A man stepped out of the back door of the corner house and went to the garage. Presently, he came out with a bicycle. Tingle recognized him as John Chandra. Tingle knew well his face and that of his wife, Aditi Rotwa, having seen them through the stoner windows in the basement. He stepped back so that Chandra would not look up and see him.
Even if his neighbor noticed the likeness of his face and that of Jeff Caird’s in the basement stoner, he would think only of what a remarkable coincidence it was. Tingle waited until Chandra had disappeared behind the house before he stepped out again to look for the bicycler. By then, he was gone.
“Just my nerves,” Tingle muttered.
Three minutes later, he was headed east, a part of a flow of cyclists and an occasional electric car. He had just begun to sweat when he saw out of the corner of his eye a banana peel on the sidewalk.
He zigzagged through the crowd, braked by the curb, kicked the stand, picked up the peel, and dropped it into a waste container. When he went back to the bike, he looked around. He did not see Rootenbeak and really did not expect to. There were other slobs besides Rootenbeak in Wednesday—if he was here. Nevertheless, he was shaken, and, as he pedaled away, he rebuked himself for his automatic action. He should not have stopped; he should have gone even faster.
At Thirtieth Street, he went up the ramp and rode until he came to the west side, the dark side, of the Thirteen-Principles Towers. The building, which was covered with solar panels, occupied the area bounded by Seventh, Fourth, Thirtieth, and Thirty-seventh. The main structure soared up to four thousand feet, and the thirteen towers along its perimeter added fourteen hundred feet. Tingle’s office was near the top of the tower on the northwest corner at Seventh and Thirty-seventh.
After riding down the ramp to the parking room on the third subfloor, he took an elevator to the northwest main lobby. From there, he rode in the express to the level at the top of the main building. Then he took an elevator to his level in one of the towers.
While walking down the hall leading to his office, Tingle was distracted by the view through the tall and wide windows on his right. There were six mooring masts on the roof of the main building, three zeppelins socked into three masts, and a fourth glittering orange giant was easing its nose toward a mast. Tingle stopped to watch the thing of beauty and splendor.
There were powerful updrafts alongside this building, but the zeppelins came down past them into the relatively still air over the immense roof where they had no trouble maneuvering. Moreover, they needed no landing crews to pull on ropes dropped from the ship. The pilot had at his control twelve swivable jet engines that could counterbalance any wind-thrusts. Slowly, the ship approached the socket at the top of the mooring mast, and then its nose was locked.
Tingle would have liked to watch the stoned passengers, safe from accidents and tedium, packed in nets, lowered to trucks. A glance at his wristwatch showed him that it was almost time for his prework briefing with his boss. He entered the office anteroom, where the secretary sat at his desk. The secretary looked pained and mournful, as if he had a hangover. Tingle breezed by him, saying, “Good morning, Sally!”
Hearing only a grunt, Tingle called back, “Surly, Sally?”
The secretary said, “Good morning, Maha Tingle. Maha Paz is ... “
“I know, I know. Eagerly, perhaps impatiently, waiting for me. Thank you.”
The office was dome-shaped and elegantly furnished, like the man behind the desk. Welcome Vardhamana Paz rose to his full seven feet of stature. His glittering many-colored blouse and