Seventh Circle (Chapter 2 - Tom, page 1 of 2)

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19 June. Beside a muddy pond near Cheltenham, England, Realm beyond the Sixth Circle.

Tom laid out the coaxial cable, taking care to follow the contours of the land. He was a big man by any standards and carried his weight well. A slimmer, older man stood nearby. Every few moments he glanced anxiously towards the road.

'There are people up by the gate.'

'Relax, Colin.' Tom looked unperturbed. 'There are always people watching. It's the price you pay for being on TV. Stop worrying. They don't know what we're doing.'

Colin fidgeted awkwardly.

'You know what I think about this whole operation. It's totally illegal. There are strict protocols on experimentation with live animals. You should see the guidelines that Brussels puts out.'

'Stop worrying.' Tom stood up. 'They're just a bunch of bureaucrats.'

He went to a van and returned with a wicker basket, which he set down on the grass beside a computer. A cat peered out. The animal's head was shaven and electrical wires protruded from a plate attached to its skull. He connected one end of the cable to the cat and the other to the computer. Lights flashed and the animal purred.

He turned to Colin.

'Our little friend seems to be enjoying it.'

'That's not the point. The law doesn't care what the cat thinks.'

Tom stroked the cat. 'If Galileo had worried about the law, he'd have been too scared to observe the moons of Jupiter and we'd still think the sun moved around the earth.'

'It's more complex than that,' Colin continued to fret. 'We could be accused of black magic. Think what that would do to our reputations.'

'I wasn't accused of black magic when I used divining rods.'

'No. You were labelled a crank.'

'Absolutely.' Tom reached for the basket. 'When I use a magnetometer, I'm being scientific. When I use divining rods, I'm a crank. People expect to see apparatus with wires sticking out of it. Well, they've got it now. Pussy's wired up and no one's going to accuse him of faking the results.'

He held the basket to his chest and strode down the slope to the pond, dragging the cable behind him. Colin watched with growing unease. His friend had made a name for himself as a celebrity archaeologist. People flocked to his excavations and there were some up by the gate now. He glanced at them then returned his attention to Tom and the cat. The animal had electrodes implanted in its brain and was sending signals down the cable to the computer. Points of light appeared on the screen.

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