The infomorph Dee could not curl up like a cat but she almost tangibly felt like she was doing so, in the safety of the ghostrider module. She had not talked to Verna – whose ghostrider module she was inhabiting - except about robotics and other matters at hand. In retrospect her run-in with death did not seem half as real as it had been – and she was still processing things that had happened.

They were fixing her shell. Most of her work was done by one Kris Yavari, Verna's squaddie summoned from New Quebec, also a Titanian – Dee could bet he came running to put his hands on her blueprints. She did not mind though, he was indeed a big help and a pleasant if quiet company. Definitely an improvement over guiding Verna through it while using a mere smartlinked fractal tool. By the way, Kris had arrived in his off-duty morph – a young, brown-skinned, heavily set but athletic bald man with a goatee - which she placed as being at least partially of Hindi or Persian stock – equipped with proper nanoscopics and fractal instruments like UV herself had been. And meanwhile she had the pleasure to admire his nanotats. She had to replace her sheath sometime soon – and seriously considered tapping him regarding the artist.

As for the stacks of their adversaries – Verna had yesterday blackcast all of them to someone or someones she categorically refused to talk about save a mysterious non-explanation like: 'You might know them as oracles. Priestesses. Prophetesses peering into the crystalline depths of the future. Except not really priestesses, only one of them sees herself as female. But even now I've said too much. Do I ask you a lot of these, you know…ornithologically-nocturnal questions?'

Also Verna had admitted to hacking her with a false ego ID and implanting her with two halves of a virus, through her mesh transmission and the shuttleport security network – a virus aimed at altering the electromagnetic emissions of the mainframe to a particular frequency detectable by area scans – it was how the AGI woman and her reapermorphed accomplice had found her in the Tong hideout. She had planned thoroughly – and Ultraviolet could not decide whether she admired or hated her for that.

Finally, this morning Dee felt it was the time for the talk.

'Verna?'

'Yes?'

'I think we need to talk.'

Verna did not answer but Dee knew she was listening.

'I know you had to do it.'

'No. I didn't. And I never realised how close I came to losing you until I arrived. I can imagine what you think about me now…' softly said Verna on their internal link.

'What I think about you? Where do I even begin? You are the most heartless, manipulative, exploitative lifeform ever given birth by a computer engineer. You're a cold, calculating bitch I had the unluck to crush…consider a friend. Swarm cats are more trustworthy than you.'

'I know.' Judging by the blurred visuals the rogue AGI was crying. She retreated to the upstairs, where Dee had encountered the first AGI hunter. 'I really know.'

'I haven't finished. Also you see yourself as superior to us mere transhumans. Do you know what a cow is? From pre-fall? I know you do. And you're one. You are a conceited, delusional cow who thinks I'm not even capable of understanding things for what they are. It was not just an infomorph equivalent of random physical torture. Every word of theirs within the mainframe, every action, was a trigger switch linked to the fracture lines of your mind, the constant disruption lowering your resilience and the rest reactivating your old control and conditioning routines, thus bringing down the fragile balance of your personality and breaking you completely. You stood absolutely no chance. I, having my fracture lines elsewhere faced only the torture. I am sure if they realised I was not you and knew where to aim - they would be equally happy to extend the full programme to me too, but..'

'…for all they know transhumans of today don't have that sort of instability,' they completed the thought in unison.

'Hold no illusions, I thought differently then and there,' continued the infomorph, 'but now, with the benefit of retrospect...Verna, that you did what you did is the best thing that could have happened given the circumstances. Thank you for being alive. For us both being alive. And i…i never deleted your memories.'

'Ultraviolet?'

'What?'

'I am waiting for the moment your shell's fixed. To kill you all over again. Wasn't it me who 2 mins ago was pronounced to be a heartless, manipulative bitch? AGI's aren't supposed to cry. You're so dead, Dee.' And quietly, at a borderline signal strength she added, '…I never deleted your memories either.'