Electric Spec banner
     Home          About Us           Issues          Submissions          Links           Blog           Archive          

    Volume 10, Issue 3, September 10, 2015
    Message from the Editors
 Ghostalker by T.L. Huchu
 The Metal of a Man by Travis Heermann
 A Dose of Aconite by Lindsey Duncan
 Tried and True by Daniel Brock
 Peacekeeper by Jamie Killen
  Special Feature: Author Interview with Gail Carriger
 Editor's Corner: Rex's Last Ride by David E. Hughes



Jamie Killen

          Sulewo scanned as he slowly threaded his way between clusters of nat shoppers. The Srivijaya's main market contained few permanent stalls--most of the commerce was conducted on mobile carts for easy barter. To Sulewo's right, a trader handed off a kilo of kelp protein from the front of his cart and loaded a basket of broccoli into the back. On the left, a young woman selected a red dress off a rack and handed over a pair of shoes in return. The air contained the usual traces of mango, beans, edible flowers, the latest concoctions of the chem-spicers. Human sweat, skin cells, and pheromones underlay all of it like a fog.
         Unlike the nats, the few synths in the crowd didn't browse; they walked straight through on their way to or from the checkpoint, eyes forward and pass codes projecting on the wireless. Sulewo searched the crowd for synths without pass codes, keeping part of his attention on the little spikes in the nat readings. A woman's mouth pursed slightly when she glimpsed the black webbing of his Peacekeeper skin. A man's heart rate sped up as he peered at the pulse weapon in Sulewo's left arm. The usual involuntary pupil dilations and tensed muscles and pulses of adrenaline radiated out as he passed through the crowd. Most of the nats averted their gaze, but some glared openly. Sulewo slowed when he ran into one of those, maintained eye contact and let the corners of his mouth curve up until they turned away.
         Finally, Sulewo called up the Coordinator on wireless. Can't find any trespassers, Adorno. Heading back.
         Adorno's avatar smiled pleasantly. Thank you for your efforts, Peacekeeper. Have a good day.
         "Another retrieval, Lewo?" Sulewo had picked up Dusty's genetic scent before she spoke.
         "Heard rumors about synths sneaking over the line to pick pockets. Usual bullshit." He jerked his chin toward the checkpoint line. "You coming over to my side?"
         "Yeah." She leaned in. "Councilor's son. Overstayed his day pass to get laid."
         They joined priority line. "Why didn't he just get a brothel pass?"
         "Oh, no." Dusty looked like she was trying hard to suppress a grin. "No brothel. This kid says he has a girlfriend over there. Third gen."
         "Ugh." Sulewo grimaced.
         "Agreed." Dusty touched palms with the security synth. "Anyway, yeah, I feel the same way. Not to say I've never gone over to a brothel, but dating. . ."
         Sulewo winced at the image that her words triggered. "Mind if I go with you? Might be a good idea to have a talk with this girlfriend."
         Dusty nodded. "Yeah, especially since they got caught trying to sneak into a service tunnel. Those places are dangerous, even for a bot." She gestured to the left as they stepped through the checkpoint. "It's over on Designer Street."
         Sulewo raised an eyebrow. "Your boy has classy tastes."
         "For a bot-fucker, yeah."
         They left the chaos of the checkpoint, passing quickly through the grungy Manufacturing Sector. Sulewo watched passers-by give Dusty the same little looks he got on the other side of the boundary, frowns and narrowed eyes she didn't seem to notice. As they stepped onto Designer Street, the sounds of manufacturing gave way to recordings of birdsong and a warm, fragrant breeze. The crowds thinned. Designers sat on benches, under trees, in a circle around an algae pond. Sulewo knew if he watched long enough one would eventually stand and go to an engineering center to test out one of their designs; that could take days, though, if the problem was tricky enough. He'd known Designers to sit still for a week at a time, contemplating.
         The creche formed a semicircle around one of the larger algae ponds. A tall second-gen Designer wearing a light robe moved forward to greet Sulewo and Dusty.
         "Good afternoon, Peacekeeper Sulewo. And you must be Officer Khan." He inclined his head. "I'm Ilya, Designer Model 2.74. I supervise the creche."
         Dusty bowed back. "Nice to meet you." She gestured at the third gens. "So you're the one responsible for training the new Designers?"
         Sulewo saw Ilya's pale lips purse, a motion so small that Dusty wouldn't be able to detect it. "Some of the 3.15 models may be Designers, and some may choose other paths. Third generation synthetics have an adaptive, multifunctional design, capable of--"
         Sulewo held up a hand. "She didn't mean anything by it, Ilya."
         Ilya smiled, silvery eyebrows twitching just slightly. "Of course. In answer to your question, Officer Khan, I don't train them, but I oversee their cognitive and personal development." The smile faded. "Which is why I was most perturbed to discover that Mai has been involved in a breach of ship policy."
         "I'm not really concerned with Mai's role, Ilya. Carlos is the one who's in trouble here," Dusty replied.
         "I'm the one who'll have a talk with Mai," Sulewo added.
         "Yes, well, follow me." Ilya swept into the creche; the interior hallways had rounded walls instead of sharp edges, the ceiling programmed to look like a twilight sky. Sulewo sometimes wondered if the Earth's sky really looked like this, or if they'd all gotten used to the wrong colors over the generations.
         Carlos and Mai sat waiting in a softly lit room lined with cushions. Sulewo realized uneasily that he couldn't tell at a glance which one was synth and which nat. Not until he switched on a deeper scan did he see slight differences in their body temperature, pupil dilation, the greater electrical activity from Mai's wetware.
         They looked roughly the same age, although Sulewo knew that Mai had probably Awoken less than three years ago. That was one of the things he found most disconcerting about third gens, their aging.
         "Carlos van der Veer?" Dusty asked.
         The kids both stared up at her, sullen. "What?" the boy demanded. He had the side-swept bangs and morphing tattoos that seemed so popular among nat teens these days.
         "You're in violation of curfew and pass regulations. I'm taking you back to the natural-human side."
         Carlos drew himself up. "You can lock me up for a thousand years, but it won't keep me away from Mai!"
         Dusty sighed. "The maximum penalty for your crime is one week of extra community service hours. No one's locking you up."
         Carlos seemed to deflate a little. "Oh. Well, you still can't stop me from seeing her."
         "Fine, just get the proper pass next time and I won't have any grounds to bother you. Now, on your feet."
         Carlos stood quickly. Mai followed suit, glaring at Dusty. "I'll miss you so much," she murmured, turning to Carlos.
         He took her face in his hands. "I'm coming back, I swear."
         "Will you chat me?" Her eyes shone with tears.
         "Every day, Mai. Every day and every night."
         They kissed. Sulewo and Dusty looked at each other and grimaced.
         "Ok, let's go," Dusty said at last, grabbing Carlos by the arm. "See you around, Lewo."
         "See you." Sulewo watched them leave before turning back to Mai. "Want to tell me why you'd get mixed up with that?"
         Mai crossed her arms. "You seem pretty friendly with that nat cop."
         "Except I'm not helping her overstay her pass. Or doing. . . other things."
         Her eyes narrowed. "I don't think we should have passes."
         "Into that unification stuff, huh?"
         "Yeah," she replied, defiant. "We're enough alike now, there's no reason we should have to live apart."
         "Well, I'm old enough to remember why we shouldn't get too close." Sometimes he thought about deleting that twenty-year-old footage, those images from the last time tension had boiled over. He'd seen the bodies of those synths caught on the nat side of the checkpoint when the riots started. Some of their parts had never been accounted for.
         "We already are." Mai cocked her head, eyes flicking as she scanned. "You're only a second gen and your grey matter looks like, what, thirty-five percent human tissue?"
         "Thirty-three point two percent. And it doesn't count as human if it's grown in a vat," Sulewo replied. "Anyway, why were you two messing around with the tunnels?"
         Mai's face went still. Sulewo recognized the technique: cutting off most of the facial muscle reflexes to avoid a visible response. "No reason."
         Sulewo tensed. "Come on, Mai, tell me what you're into."
         Her face betrayed nothing.
         "You know," Sulewo continued, "I don't have any authority over Carlos unless he does something violent on our side, or it's a Treaty breach. Aside from that, anything you tell me, I won't be able to touch him."
         Mai blinked once or twice, took a deep breath. "He hasn't done anything. Really. We just heard some rumors and thought we'd check it out."
         "Rumors of what?"
         "Something in the tunnels near the flight deck." She held up a hand. "I can't say more without getting Carlos in trouble."
         "Is this something dangerous?" Sulewo prodded. "Have you told Adorno, at least?"
         Her jaw clenched briefly. "No. There wasn't anything to report. Here." She wirelessly transmitted a name and a location. Paolo, the Sonnet.
         "I'll check it out." He turned to leave.
         "Sulewo," Mai said.
         "There's nothing wrong with me and Carlos being together."
         Sulewo opened his mouth, closed it, left without a word.


         The Sonnet was one of the nicer brothels, one near the border between the Red Light District and the Administrative Unit. According to the background file Sulewo processed on the walk over, it predated the Split and had been designed in the architectural style of the French chateau. Paolo was listed as one of the residents; like most of the others at the Sonnet, he belonged to the second-gen Poet line of sex models. The only other information of interest Sulewo found was a series of trespassing reprimands spread out over the course of three decades, several of which had involved the maintenance tunnels.
         Inside the Sonnet's front door, a shirtless blond Poet lounged in an over-decorated sitting room. "Welcome to the Sonnet. May I help you, Peacekeeper?" he asked.
         "I'm looking for Paolo."
         "Oh, he doesn't service synths."
         "I'm here on Peacekeeper business."
         The synth inclined his head. "Of course. Right this way."
         They went up the faux-marble staircase and down a hallway. The receptionist stopped in front of a heavy wooden door; Sulewo could hear a guitar. He knocked. "Paolo? This is Peacekeeper Sulewo. I need to ask you some questions."
         The guitar stopped, the door opening moments later. Paolo had typical Poet features--curling dark hair, permanent stubble, white shirt open to reveal a muscular, hairless chest. He held the guitar by its neck. "Please come in."
         Sulewo dismissed the receptionist with a nod and stepped into the room. "Sorry to disturb you, but--"
         "You have not disturbed me." He spoke with a programmed accent, something with a rolled 'r.' He sat on the room's disheveled bed. "I was merely composing a little ballad."
         Sulewo cleared his throat. "As I was saying. There was an incident today involving an attempted break-in at one of the maintenance tunnels."
         Paolo smiled to reveal gleaming white teeth. "Ah, yes. That beautiful young third gen and her nat lover. They came to see me two days ago. Marvelous, don't you think, love bringing the natural and the synthetic together like that?"
         Sulewo took a deep breath. "Why'd they come to see you?"
         "Not for my usual services, I can assure you. No, they wanted directions through the tunnels, since the records are sealed. They must have heard about my little excursions--"
         "Your twelve reprimands, you mean."
         Paolo waved the words away. "That means nothing to me. I'm an artist, and exploring the ship inspires me."
         The form reply for those challenging the necessity of the law popped up on the right side of Sulewo's vision. He minimized it. "What were they looking for?"
         Paolo lifted one shoulder in a careless shrug. "They didn't say. They just told me the location and I explained how to get there."
         "Give me the directions you gave them."
         "Mmm. . . no." Paolo set aside the guitar. "I feel curious now. I won't tell you, but I'll take you there."


         "I hereby deputize you as an auxiliary Peacekeeper. You have a twenty-four hour priority Peacekeeper checkpoint pass--" Sulewo saw Paolo's grin widen "...which will be immediately revoked if you disobey your commanding officer. That's me."
         As he spoke, he filed a wireless report with Adorno. The program's smooth young face appeared on the right side of his vision. Do you feel this is necessary, Peacekeeper?
         Maybe not, but I think it's best to check it out.

         Adorno nodded slowly. Perhaps you're right. A frown creased the skin between his eyes. Especially since the third gens don't want to tell me anything.
         Sulewo paused. He'd never seen Adorno seem concerned before, or lonely. I'll report back as soon as I find something, he said at last, signing off.
         Paolo, oblivious to the silent conversation, touched his temple as though to feel the new priority signal. "I feel as though I should have a uniform. I've worn costume ones, of course, for erotic purposes, but--"
         Sulewo sighed and gestured at the thin , black , mesh armor encasing his frame. "This isn't a uniform. It's Peacekeeper skin. You'd need a week's worth of upgrades, and our Admin's a miserly little fuck. Now let's go."
         Paolo led Sulewo down a series of hatches and ladders; Sulewo could see right away where the security system had been disabled and made a note to send one of the Engineers to fix it later. A low hum emanated from the walls, the inner workings of the bulkhead. Sulewo realized that this was the closest he'd ever been to the ship's outer walls, the empty black of space.
         The ladders ended at a low-ceilinged tunnel that stretched off in the direction of the nat side of the ship.
         "This way," Paolo said, striding off into the darkness. Sulewo switched to infrared.
         They walked for hours. Paolo tried to sing a few times, before Sulewo ordered him to stop. He felt the change when they passed from the synthetic to the natural side, fleshy wetware walls giving way to old-fashioned metal panels hiding inefficient plastic components. There was still synth wetware in all of the Srivijaya's crucial parts, but Sulewo supposed the metal and plastic helped nats pretend it wasn't there.
         Their feet kicked up little puffs of dust and skin cells from the ground, things that would have been absorbed and recycled by the materials of the synth side. In some places, moisture dripped from the walls, while in others the air went bone-dry. At first, Sulewo saw signs that others had been there: incomprehensible graffiti on the walls, bits of trash on the floor. After a time, though, these signs faded and he saw only grime and darkness.
         Motion. Sulewo grabbed Paolo's shoulder and silently drew him against the wall. Quiet, he said, switching to wireless.
         Nat? Paolo asked.
         Sulewo sniffed. The nat hormones in the air tasted months or years old. He smelled a hint of synth skin, but it didn't have any markers he recognized. His armor hardened.
         No. Stay here. Sulewo inched forward, palm extended. He powered up his weapon, set to non-lethal EMP but ready to switch to a fatal pulse.
         He saw the figure as he rounded the bend in the tunnel. It stood before an open panel, reaching into a bundle of exposed wires, so much clumsier than the wetware filaments and arteries in the walls of the synth side. The synth skin smelled stronger now, and more foreign. "This is Peacekeeper Sulewo," he barked. "Please identify yourself."
         The figure stopped and turned. Sulewo could see that it was a synth, but one curiously lacking in detail or distinctive features. It wore simple white clothes, and what Sulewo could see of the skin appeared shockingly primitive, less human in appearance than even the models in pre-Split archival footage. "Unit 7624C," it replied.
         Sulewo recoiled. The thing's voice held no expression, no emotion. Its eyes stared like glass. "Where. . ." Sulewo tried again. "Where are you from?"
         "Please rephrase the question."
         Sulewo flipped to a deeper scan. The thing's grey matter was barely more than an undersized cerebellum draped in shreds of synth wetware. It was perhaps twenty-five percent the size of his own brain, without anything close to the structures necessary for higher thinking. "Where were you built?" he asked.
         "I was designed by Sharon Wun, of the Yustini laboratory."
         Sulewo felt Paolo move up behind him.
         "My God," the Poet breathed.
         Sulewo ignored him. "Unit 7624C," he said, "raise your right hand."
         It did so.
         "Step forward."
         It obeyed.
         "Unit 7624C," Sulewo asked, dreading the answer, "are you capable of disobeying an order?"
         Paolo staggered back. "How could they? How could--"
         "Be quiet," Sulewo snapped. He turned back to the automaton. "Unit 7624C," he said. "Continue your work. Don't mention this conversation to anyone."
         "Yes, sir."
         Sulewo slipped past the synth and rounded a corner, following the motion alerts on the edge of his vision.
         There were dozens. Identical, pale, dead-eyed. Some swept the floor, some rummaged in the interior walls. Others stood motionless, hibernating, waiting for an assignment. None looked up from their work. None acknowledged his presence.
         Sulewo found Paolo where he'd left him, staring and shaking his head at the first unit. Sulewo dragged him by his arm back down the tunnel. The Poet staggered, started sentences that trailed off into nothing. "Take us to the surface."
         "We're. . ." Paolo glanced around. "We'll come out on the nat side, I think, near the greenhouses."
         "Good." Sulewo called up a chat window on the left side of his vision and pinged Dusty.
         "Hey, Lewo. I'm about to go off my shift, so if this is official I'll have to pass you off to someone else."
         "No. You need to meet me on the starboard side of the Greenhouse District. Access Carlos van der Veer's file on the way." Paolo had found the ladder he was looking for and was using an add-on tool in his wrist to disable the fingerprint lock.
         Dusty must have heard something in his tone. "On it."
         Verbally, Sulewo continued to update Dusty. At the same time, he sent a wireless to Paolo. I need to tell Adorno to call a vote.
         Paolo stopped and turned around, peering down the ladder with wide eyes. Are you sure?
         Yeah. I think it might come to that.
         Paolo paused, bit his lip. I'm sending you my witness statement now. Do it.


         The van der Veer residence stood on ten-meter stilts above a walled garden. The entire structure consisted of woven bamboo and self-repairing paper, draped in hybrid fruit vines. Sulewo spotted pears, strawberries, and passionapples on one wall alone. The elevator looked like a miniature version of the house, all its gears and cables hidden beneath bamboo and leaves.
         "Vulgar," Paolo murmured.
         "Yeah," Dusty agreed. Her eyes lingered on Paolo a little too long.
         Sulewo led the way to the elevator, which rose automatically once they were all inside. Carlos waited for them on the deck.
         "My mom should be home in half an hour, so we gotta make this fast," he said. His eyes widened. "Oh, hey, Paolo."
         "Where did you get your information on the things in the tunnels?" Sulewo felt Paolo shudder off to his right.
         Carlos shook his head and crossed his skinny arms over his chest. "Nuh-uh. If I talk, I want a permanent priority pass."
         Dusty snorted. "You're dreaming, kid."
         "For me and for Mai," Carlos added. He glared at Sulewo.
         Dusty turned to him. "Lewo, what the hell--"
         Sulewo touched Dusty's elbow. "Imagine you found out someone on our side was lobotomizing naturals. Lobotomizing them and using them as labor. Wouldn't that be worth a priority pass or two?"
         Dusty went pale. She nodded.
         Sulewo granted the priority pass approval and transmitted the receipts through chat.
         Carlos's eyes flicked to the left as he received his confirmation. He paused, nodded, and started talking. "Okay, here's what I know. My mom, she's on the Council, right? She's on a couple of committees, and one of them--"
         Sulewo made a snapping motion with his hand. "We have her info. Skip to the important part."
         "Fine, so, she started having little Council meetings here at the house a couple of months ago, with only, like, four of the other Councilors. She'd call them parties and send out invites and all that stuff, but really they just shut themselves in the dining room and there weren't any drinks or anything, so I thought that was suspicious." He glanced shyly between Sulewo and Dusty. "That was right, wasn't it, to think that was weird?"
         Dusty stepped in before Sulewo could speak. "Yeah, Carlos, that was very observant. Please go on."
         "Well, around the same time I started going out with Mai, and Mom was really fascist about it...she's the biggest synth-hater in the world, I mean she actually still says 'pure' instead of 'nat,' it's embarrassing...so I decided to figure out what she was up to. So I bugged one of her meetings."
         Sulewo's chat icon lit up.
         "And there's the file," Carlos finished.
         Sulewo scanned through it in under one second.
         Dusty watched him. "Anything?"
         "At least three council members talking about shifting maintenance to 'worker units,'" Sulewo said.
         "Right," Carlos said, nodding. "So I wasn't sure what 'worker units' were, but I figured they had to be synths, and our side can't make synths since the Accord, so no matter what, it's gotta be a crime, yeah? That's what Mai and I were doing, checking it out."
         "You were right, Carlos," Paolo murmured, "although I wish you were not."
         Dusty and Sulewo stared at each other for a long moment. He could see that her pulse was unusually high, her skin perspiring. Still, she bit her lip and nodded.
         "Carlos, you might want to go elsewhere for a while. We'll wait here for your mother."
         The boy shook his head, eyes both frightened and brave. "No. If I'm gonna be the one who put her away, I should face her."
         Sulewo nodded. "Good boy."


         Marissa van der Veer stepped out of the elevator and glanced at the three strangers waiting with her son. "What's he done now?" she asked, sounding more tired than angry.
         "Marissa van der Veer, you stand accused of violating the Ship Year 127 Peace Accords through unauthorized manufacture of synthetic humans, with the additional charge of depriving synthetics of free will and higher thinking capabilities," Sulewo intoned. "These charges carry a maximum penalty of house arrest for life. You and your accomplices will be detained and charged under the joint tribunal."
         She hid her fear well, for a nat, but Sulewo could smell the adrenaline pump into her bloodstream, see her breathing quicken. "This is ridiculous."
         "Mom, they have recordings."
         She gave Carlos a look of pure rage. "You don't know what you're doing," she snapped. She turned back to Sulewo. "Look. This isn't an attack on your people. We have the right to manage our affairs."
         "The fact that you need us was the only thing that prevented a genocide during the Split, and probably more times since then. You know that."
         Marissa held up both hands together, as if in prayer. Sulewo saw the slight tremor. "Listen. You have to understand. It's less than two generations to Landfall. And when that happens, when we settle, we'll need those workers. It'll be too hard, too dangerous, and the synths won't have any incentive to do it for us. Hell, there'll be nothing stopping you from abandoning us, and we all know that this colony was never intended to be built by humans alone. We won't make it."
         "Do you even understand what you've done?" Paolo interjected, moving forward.
         Sulewo grabbed his arm.
         Marissa drew herself up. "This conversation is over. I won't be going with you. Neither will Doctor Wun, or anyone else on the Council. We'll summon the security forces if we have do."
         Dusty held up a hand. "This is a Treaty breach, so you're in violation of the law on this side, too, Councilor. I'm here on behalf of the security forces."
         "But we both know they won't allow a coup."
         Dusty stayed silent. Sulewo and Paolo exchanged a glance, and even without wireless each knew what the other was thinking. Paolo nodded and turned away.
         Sulewo stepped forward. "You're right. A public arrest isn't in the ship's best interests. Neither is a fight between Peacekeepers and the security forces. Which is why I'm giving you and your accomplices the opportunity to turn yourselves in to the tribunal before the synthetic community uses its last resort option."
         "Which is?"
         "A general strike."
         Marissa gaped at him. He saw relief flood over her. "Peacekeeper," she said, "we've modeled that scenario, and we know we'd be able to address it. We might find it difficult to go without synth services for a while. Certainly our doctors would be overworked without Physicians, and we'd have manufacturing shortages, and we'd have to increase our share of food production. But we can survive any of those things. And a lack of supplies from our side would certainly hurt your people as much as a strike would hurt us." She shrugged. "And if necessary, we'd step up production of our own worker-units. The fact is, we don't need you as much as you think."
         "Except for the ship's main computer. You need him."
         Marissa froze. "What are you talking about? That isn't sentient."
         "Yes, he is. The first rebels, back when the Split started, managed to get in and upgrade the wetware." He sneered. "A lot of it was from a human cerebral cortex, which I never liked the thought of, but I'm sure you do. Adorno's been sentient ever since, and he's allowed you to believe that you control him, just in case." Sulewo stepped forward and lowered his voice. "Every single synth has a strike vote. One of the first things we learn, the day we Awaken in the creche, is that it's there for a day like this. Watch."
         He pointed to the patio's screen, where a young man's face watched them. "Hello, Madame van der Veer. I'm Adorno, the ship's main computer."
         Marissa let out a little croak, glanced back and forth between the screen and Sulewo's face. "That's just that synth coordinator program, it's not--"
         "No, he's not. He's the ship. Always has been."
         Adorno continued speaking. "I've downloaded Peacekeeper Sulewo's report, and it's my belief that your worker unit program constitutes an atrocity against synthetics, as well as a threat to our future. Should it come to a vote, mine will be in favor of a strike."
         Marissa shook her head. "No, that's a trick."
         Adorno smiled sadly. "I'm afraid not. Please enjoy this demonstration."
         Darkness rippled across the Srivijaya's ceiling, programmed at this time of day to look like a blue summer sky. A thin band of sky went dark, rolling down the length of the ship and out of sight. Sulewo heard cries and shouts from the street as people stopped to stare at the ribbon of black, a darkness so unlike the twilight that would fall at the end of their artificial day. It thundered down the length of the ship, growing smaller and finally disappearing in the distance, leaving murmurs and the smell of fear in its wake.
         Sulewo moved close enough to whisper in her ear. "Adorno controls the ship's air, water, power. Most synths can survive forty-eight hours without oxygen. How long can you?"
         Marissa trembled. Her voice came out thin and reedy. "They wouldn't. There wouldn't be enough votes. It would kill all of us, 200,000 nats, and how many synths would be willing to have that on their conscience?"
         "Is that a risk you can take?" Sulewo met her gaze, let her look for signs that he was bluffing.
         He saw tears before she closed her eyes, tears and hatred.
         Sulewo gestured toward the patio door. "Make your calls. Explain the situation to your co-conspirators. Tell them to expect security forces within the next half hour."
         Marissa stepped inside, the glass sliding shut behind her. Sulewo heard her begin to speak quietly moments later. He turned back to Dusty. "Have you given your people the list of names?"
         She said nothing for a moment. She stared at him, eyes wide, standing as far away as the railing would allow. Swallowing, she nodded. "Yeah. They're ready."
         Paolo turned to her. "I'm sorry you had to find out this way."
         Dusty looked away. "Me too."
         The elevator made a low beeping sound as it rose to the patio. Mai stepped out and ran to Carlos. He folded his arms around her. "Mom's giving herself up. They said they'd strike."
         "I wouldn't have voted for it," she whispered.
         "I know."
         Sulewo stepped toward them. "You told him about the strike option?"
         Mai lifted her head from Carlos's shoulder. "Yeah. The programming makes it. . . uncomfortable, but you can do it."
         "But why did you?"
         She gave him a look of pity, shook her head. Sulewo suddenly felt small under her gaze, and wondered why.
         Mai grasped Carlos by the hand. "Come on. We can stay in the creche tonight and find somewhere else to live tomorrow."
         Carlos wiped his nose. "Okay."
         Carlos and Mai stepped into the elevator. Sulewo and Dusty watched as they disappeared from view. Paolo, still subdued, went into the house and left them alone on the porch.
         After a long moment, Dusty spoke. "What about you? Would you have voted for it?" Sulewo didn't answer, and she didn't ask again.

© Electric Spec