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At first I was scared. Then I was beyond scared, I lost it, lost my grip. I thought they was a bunch of gangstas, at first. Something to with the Carbon League. Don’t like my kind, seen some of the brethren at the Church even wearing the armbands and making those damn salutes and all but I never gave it a second thought. People be assholes anyway, but still here in Aris City we still keep it civil, you know?

Stomp. Stomp. WHAP! STOMP. I froze. Right behind me, getting louder. STOMP STOMP STOMP. I turned, there was a whole pack of them, all in black armor, LikeBattle, Camo-Urban, all that designer b boy shit.

“Yo fellas, I ain’t a trick. Just walking home from Church, I a Church girl, see … sister.” I called back to them, hiding the nervousness subroutine banging in my head, I emitted an Empathy Radius across the gang. Oh, ya’ll don’t know what an Empathy Radius is? It’s this protective shield we G-Droids have installed? I mean, it’s designed to grant pleasure on an owner but it also kicks in as a defense mechanism. Makes you feel humanity, intense like, humanity in all. Human enough for the league to take me as another carbon.

“Carbon Carrier Clan!” I shouted and gave the disgusting Nazi salute.

The gang did not respond. Instead they upped their pace toward her. STOMPSTOMPSTOMPSTOMP!

That’s when she lost it. And just ran.

They fired.

….

He pulled her into an Coms enclave just moments before the troops stormed through the corridor. Mae’s heart was pounding.

“What the fuck was that? And who the fuck are you?”

“They’re imperial agents. Out to get you. I’m your only hope of survival right now, so when I say any other explanations can wait till you’re safe, you probably ought to listen. Come.”

He hacked the console of the enclave like a simple log in. Teletransported them right out of the citidal.

“You just took us out. Out! No one leaves Home.”

“We just did.”

“No,” a different panic took over her body. “No. You don’t understand. I’m a droid. I cannot be outside. They’ll shut me down.”

“Oh really, how they do that?”

“Are you stupid? Take me back, they’ll shut me down.”

“They won’t shut you down, don’t worry Maisy. You’re not a droid. You’re human, as human as me or anyone else.”

The wound. It was bleeding out. She was bleeding. How could she be bleeding? Maisy passed out.

*****

She awoke in what looked like a north counties cottage, the kind of place they made historical vids about, E.M. Foster shit. She removed the knitted shawl and saw her wound had been treated, the skin discolored but the blood gone.

“How – ?”

“How did you bleed? How’d we escape? How’d we get here? Good questions, deserve an answer. You bled because, like the rest of us, you bleed. They’re after you because of a relationship they know you were implicated in — with the Brigider. We escaped because I know how. Because – ”

“Because you’re a Deviant. I know, Metaphysical Law is in my programming.” The best legal theological education, implanted within her: surprisingly useful and also in demand from a Geisha Droid. The way this man carried himself, the speed with. Which he could manipulate the nexus, the Coms, only someone with a real handle on the Coms should be.

“Hey, I like you. You’re smart.” He looked up from his cube and and paused to look her in the eye. “Yes, that’s what I am. Drink.”

He poured her a glass of water.

The water was crisp, pure. From the earth, not the endlessly recycled commodity of the desert realm. Real water, like that of the Arctic Edge. The water turned to wine, as she swallowed.

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