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In which some mysteries begin to clear up, while the noose tightens.



May 1, 1987

Albert suggested it might be wise to pack, since we would probably be evicted in the morning, and met with general agreement. Lucky headed off for Chandler's place, having changed her mind and decided to get there under her own power. I spent most of the night running every name in the SysGen file through the computers, and came up with nothing at all, too distracted by worry to make much headway.
    We all pretty much knew what was going to happen, I think. This morning the Globe was the best of the lot, reporting the facts in a relatively neutral manner. The Herald, on the other hand, headlined "Lucky Charm: Threat or Menace?" and the television news shows were out for all our blood. The Globe also promised its public full background stories on all of us, now that so many unpleasant hidden things were coming to light—not something I really want to think about. The series is scheduled to come out over the next week.
    The picketers were the worst of it. No one seemed ready to incite a riot, but they were out there at the Rowes dock, holding hand-lettered signs and demanding our immediate departure. One teenager wearing a Revolution t-shirt (with a big black X sprayed over the front) held a sign that simply said "Liars."
    My own mood could probably be best described as evil; I was very tired, lingeringly furious, and increasingly inclined to let the fickle citizens of Boston rot in a pit of their own digging. They want us out, fine. We'll leave, and they can send the poor police against Chimera or whoever it is still running around loose out there. Like I said, I don't have a whole lot to lose, but I'm worried about the others, though they seem to be taking it pretty well so far. Lucky is with Chandler, which reassures me. The morning passed like the quiet before a storm.
    There were some police over there, keeping an eye on the crowd. The news mentioned a few other protest rallies in other parts of the city. The senate committee spent the night in session, trying to find a resolution to the mess. A group of "concerned parents" has planted themselves outside the State House to make their feelings known.
    "So what will happen now?" Promethean asked me after a while.
    "I don't know," I admitted. "Most likely, nothing good. Start brushing up your résumé."

[Perspective switch: Lucky]

    It was still early when a disturbance appeared in the crowd on the other side of the water. Winters and a handful of uniforms got into a boat and headed across the water. The three of us went out to meet her. The noise from the crowd grew considerably louder as soon as we appeared; someone had a pair of binoculars. I waved, feeling blackly cheerful.
    "This is not quite what I had in mind when I envisioned free speech," Promethean observed.
    "Welcome to America."
    "If you allow people to say anything, you have to be prepared for them to say stupid things," Scott offered resignedly. My, but he learns quickly.
    The boat growled to a halt and our guests disembarked.
    "Hi," Winters said warily.
    "Good morning," I offered back.
    "Sorry I blew up on the phone last night."
    "Understandable." A part of my inner tension eased; she might still be planning to arrest us, but at least she had cooled down to some emotional level below the rage I had heard in her voice last night.
    "Is Lucky here?"
    "She's not here right now."
    She looked for a moment as if she was considering asking where she might be, but then nodded. "Okay. Um. Here's the situation. This is state property. With your charter rescinded, and the general—suspended, sorry—and the general uneasiness of the situation—"
    "We're already packed," I interrupted her.
    Another nod. "Thank you, for making this easier. I have managed to finagle a couple of things. The hoverbikes were a gift specifically to your organization, not the state, through New Horizons, which leaves it in a loophole area. If you want to take them, use them during the period of suspension, that's OK. If they decide to actually fully rescind the charter, then things are going to get messy, but I've cleared you take them right now. I've also managed to pull enough strings to make sure that you can keep your phones."
    "Thank you," I blinked, somewhat surprised by this effort on our behalf.
    "I think this is a really stupid idea," Winters went on confidingly. "We've already increased the overall police force in the city, expecting something to go wrong. Thank god, nothing has yet."
    "Good idea."
    "But you're still all free citizens, so should something come up, I hope that you'll keep the city's best interests at heart..."
    "...Despite the unfortunate current circumstances. I'd hate to see another giant robot show up and you guys go, 'Sorry.'" She mimed a theatrical shrug.
    "Well, they could probably sue us if we broke any buildings this time," I pointed out.
    She winced. "Don't mention that. Is there anything else inside that you need?"
    "All of Phoenix's stuff is still in his room," Scott piped up.
    She waved at her escort. "These four men are here to be a police guard on the building, to make sure that no one gets in, gets access to the technology, takes any of your personal effects."
    We all kept straight faces, somehow.
    "Would you like us to give you a tour of the security system before we leave?" I offered. The moral high road seemed the best route to take, and if those poor suckers were going to be stuck guarding the place, best if they knew how things worked, or god knows what they might do by accident.
    "That might be a wise idea," she agreed.
    "Might be helpful. Winters, could I speak to you for a moment?" I added.
    "Sure. Why don't you guys go in with Scott and Promethean, all right?" The others headed into the base. The uniforms were clearly unhappy, either at being around us at all, or at the job they were being asked to do.
    "Yeah?" she inquired as we started a slow circuit of the little island.
    "I understand Scott told you about me." I realized as I said it that I didn't feel nearly as uncomfortable as I had expected to. I think he did me a favor.
    She nodded. "And in retrospect, after last night, I understand why you want to not bring this up in casual conversation."
    "Or even un-casual, most of the time, but that's not the issue. The Globe wants to do little personal histories on all of us, as I'm sure you've heard."

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© 1999 Rebecca J. Stevenson