Above the Law

Churos went there alone, although he was surrounded by a scattered platoon of guards and officers all charged with the task of escorting the 5’8″ teenager to court. When the doors to the court opened, it was clear that the media circus was in full swing.

The smile that drew across his lips made some of the officers uncomfortable, but they held ground and continued escorting him to his position before the judge. Media reporters and those coming to see the show began to fall quiet even before the mallet had come down to call order to this place.

With cuffed hands, the teen remained standing before the judge who glanced down past round glasses to the seemingly ordinary defendant.

“Churos DeSoto, you have been found guilty in accordance with United Earth law of refusing to pay taxes, breaking curfew on seven accounts, and assaulting of an officer. Do you have anything to say for yourself before I sentence you, young man?”

That smile never left Churos’ face. His head lifted and he blew a strand of hair from his brown eyes. “Yeah.”

The court went silent, eager to hear his response, but the next sound that met their ears was the clanking of metal cuffs against the floor. Churos’ hands had not moved, nor had he lowered his hands beneath the podium at which he stood.

Police and guards were quick to rush the boy, yet they found their task difficult. Their grabs and shoves found only air, though the boy was clearly visible. They pulled their weapons and leveled them at the kid, and the silent standoff lasted several seconds before the judge called order. The presiding arbiter had a frightful look on his face, which would only be worsened by what the boy would say next.

“You’ve all heard the rumors, and maybe some of you know someone like me. We are here now, and we’re not going away. I’m not going to jail, your honor. I’m not going anywhere except where I want to.” The teen turned to look around at the circle of officers pointing guns at him.

“I allowed myself to be taken here because I want to bring a message to the people. Stop living trivial. Stop picking at everything you see that doesn’t fit your mold. Myself and others like me won’t conform to you, and you won’t get rid of us with bullets or force.”

In a moment of clarity a reporter blurted out amongst the pin-drop silence, “What are your demands?”

Churos turned to her and smiled. “Trust us.”

With that he turned and walked through the eastern wall onto the street. No one stopped him, no one flinched and no one knew what would happen next. For now, the game was in the hands of those like Churos DeSoto.

Springtime on the Mountain.

Matthias bounded up the mossy hill towards the cave. It had been six years since he had last seen his master. He had often found Aupta meditating in the cave when he was her student. He could picture her perfectly, curly red hair, a yellow tunic, her silver sword balanced across her knees.

There was a tiny girl inside the cave, about four or five years old. Her hair was pulled up in a cloth knot, and her bangs were cut bluntly along her forehead. She wore a white slip.

He bowed. “I am looking for Aupta.”

“Matthias.” she said his name, rolled it over in the mouth of the cave. Her little feet were bare on the stones. One of her knees was skinned and bleeding.

Matthias held his breath and counted the names of the planets he had visited silently. The little girl waited. Finally Matthias spoke. “Aupta?”

“I am Aupta. I am Auptas daughter Rille. We exist as one.”

Matthias gripped the handle of his sword. “Then she is dead.”

“The body of Aupta is in the mountain. I am her life now. I am the life of her daughter. We are merged, we are one.”

“Take me to her.”

“You are with her.” The girl shrugged, in the way little girls seldom do. “I can take you to where the body is marked.”

They walked over the mossy mountain. There was a cherry tree weeping leaves into the soft wet breeze. The petals clung to Matthias’s dark cloak. There was a mound of stones at the top of the hill. Matthias knelt beside it and touched his fingers to his head.

“She isn’t there.” said Rille. “Aupta is with me.”

“Her memories are with you. Aupta is dead.”

“You were always my most frustrating student.” said Rille and Matthias turned around. The girls face was wet with mist.

“I was never your student.”

The little girl grinned. She was missing a tooth. “Come at me Matthias.”

“I don’t attack children.”

“You were always a prude.” She sighed. “You need to know who I am. You must know, so that you can know yourself.”

“I don’t want to play these games.”

“This isn’t a game. This is who I am now Outlaw Matthias.”

“I am not an Outlaw any longer.”

“You will always be an Outlaw.” said the girl. “ The ship you landed at the temple was stolen, your sword was taken in a duel. You are a thief, a deceiver. Your father was an Outlaw. You are an Outlaw too.”

Matthias whirled around “Don’t you dare.” he said, coming towards her. “Don’t’ you dare provoke me. You left me! You left me and died and I can’t follow you!” He brought his hands down to the girl. “You are a ghost!”

Rille swept her tiny foot around his ankle and pulled his arm. Matthias lost his footing on the wet moss and slammed hard into the ground. He lay on the ground, looking at the bright grey sky. Rille leaned over him, her hair falling forward.

“I’m still your Master Matthias.”

The mist fell on Matthias’s face. “You are still my Master.” He said.

“Matthias. I had to go. My time had come and gone. Not even mountains live forever. All must change.” She turned around towards the rocky path down the mountain. “Let’s go back.” she said.

Matthias followed her down the mountain. Her movements were strange, graceful in her leaps and fumbling in her landings. She stumbled on the slick rocks and blinked back tears. She pounded a tiny fist on the rocks, and pushed herself up.

“This body. It doesn’t always do the things I remember.” she said, staring at her scratched hands. Matthias leaned down and opened his arms. His master allowed him to lift her up, to hold the part of her that was a child. They went back to the temple together.

Internal Clock.

It wasn’t until the subway stopped at Union Square that Alba noticed the difference in time.

I’ve been on this train for hours, she realized. Before the conductor’s announcement, she’d been lost in the newness of her amplified intelligence, rolling her mind around foreign concepts like a child rolls his tongue around a piece of candy. She didn’t notice time passing, though she was acutely aware of her surroundings. Now, with the implant, nothing escaped her perception.

When she glanced at her watch, seven minutes had passed. Seven?

The thought was quickly discarded as a reflection in a window launched her into an analysis of Plato, but it was resumed again, three minutes later, at 8th street. Three minutes later?

The implant had come highly recommended, although it was still in an early phase of development. She’d managed to get on the list of volunteers through university connections, and it had been surprisingly painless. A mild hangover, then nothing. Her mind raced, cross-referencing books she was certain she’d never opened, but the sensation wasn’t disorienting. Alba was lucid. Wholly lucid.

It took weeks to get to Canal street, by which point she’d developed a detailed understanding of number theory. Her watch said that seven more minutes had passed.

A fly landed on her still hand, and she watched it probe her skin with its mouth. After months, it flew away. A fly’s lifespan must seem so short, she thought, or so long. It must depend on the fly’s speed of processing information.

It took nearly a year to reach her house, by which point, Alba had aged almost twenty minutes.


Firanel felt the first stirrings at the age of thirteen. For her, it started in her temple, a slow but pervasive ache that soon spread to her jaw. By the time she told the Elders, Firanel could barely talk, but her soft voice brought praise and exultation. She had been chosen; she would become complete. Her time of change was approaching.

In the growing months, Firanel lost her speech entirely. The thin web of metal that had sprouted on her face, glittering and spiderlike, took as its root the jawbone that had prompted her to seek the Elders when the change began. She was moved to the temple, where anointed Complete Ones saw to her needs and murmured quiet prayers under their breath when she passed. Sometimes she missed being able to talk, but the Complete Ones sensed this and assured her that her other half would provide.

Each anointed one was different, their changes manifesting in different ways. Sister Daael’s right arm was entirely composed of smooth silver metal. Brother Sikvit’s eyes had atrophied entirely, replaced by glowing ocular cameras that the other half had created in his smooth sockets. Brother Mahe had to wear altered robes to accommodate his gleaming steel prehensile tail. Firanel had doubts sometimes—they were all so devoted, so serene; how could she have been chosen to be among these worthies, to have an other half? The Complete Ones all knew her thoughts. They gave her secret smiles, and each told her that she would understand soon.

The metal spread down Firanel’s throat, growing and blossoming into a lattice that soon reached her lungs. For three weeks she was sick, moaning in her pallet, soft clicking sounds issuing from her metal-filled mouth as she moved. The Complete Ones cared for her, making cold compresses for her forehead and feeding her through soft plastic tubes. At last, her other half completed the meld with her stomach, and she was able to eat again, the food broken down and digested by the new metal parts of her body. The anointed ones congratulated her, telling her it was not long now, not long.

When her time was near, Firanel went into hibernation, the only way for her other half to complete the final changes. The anointed ones placed her in the temple and held watch for her in shifts, praying over her silent body. The metal web covered the right side of her face, whirring and glittering in the soft temple light. Its arms spread across her pale skin and into her mouth, down her neck and into it, the visible portions only a small fraction of her other half’s presence within her body. When she was ready to wake, all of the Complete Ones knew. The signal traveled on airwaves particular to the chosen, calling them together, linking them for the birth of one of their own.

Firanel was aware of the link as soon as she woke. Her smile clinked when she opened her eyes, the metal bars and threads that filled her mouth brushing together to make the sound. She sat up, gazing in wonder at her new partners, her new friends. They all turned expectantly to her, waiting, ready to experience the uniqueness of the newest Complete One.

Exultant, Firanel turned to face her brothers and sisters, gazing at their half-flesh, half-metal forms. She opened her mouth, jaw unhinging, the clicking, leglike rods of segmented metal reaching outwards, welcoming her brethren through her lips. Firanel’s throat thrummed and vibrated, and from the slick metal legs inside, her new voice emerged.

One for the Road

Mikael downed the last shot of whiskey and made a hiss through his teeth. The empty plate before him stunk of what used to be near-raw steak from an underfed cow, poorly cooked and coated with nothing but a thin layer of oil.

The bartender came up to him, flipping on the air filter after coughing once or twice. The bar had begun to fill with dust again. The fallouts were always bad this time of year. “That’s your meal, slim. Time to pay up.”

Tired and sore, the man was dissatisfied with shitty food, but he still shelled out the three 9mm bullets onto the bar and tipped his hat. “Before I go, gent, mind if I could have some of your delightful bread back there? You know… for the road?”

Snatching up the bullets before the other ruffians at the bar got greedy, the greasy bartender sneered and went into the back, leaving Mikael out there all by his lonesome with a bar full of semi-empty guns.

Mikael was smart, though. Smarter than these guys anyway. He could feel the glares on his back and he knew they all wanted a piece of that ammo he’d brought in. Few people afforded Guss’ Steak and a shot of whiskey, let alone a block of carbo-bread for the road.

He began licking the edge of the shot glass and glancing around him for available exits. The fellow to his left, who was nursing a well paid-for beverage, smirked when their eyes met.

“Something on your mind?” Mikael asked.

The old fellow tipped his hat to the stranger and spoke up, “Just fancying your choice of payment, son. Was wonderin’ if I might offer you a deal.”

“Yeah? Well hurry up, my bread’ll be done compressin’ soon enough.”

With a rub of his chin the old fellow leaned over, “I gots me a skimmer outside; beautiful as can be and runs great. You’d be able to get by a ride from here to Union City on just three, maybe four of them there bullets you’re packin’.”

“How much?”

“Aw shucks. For you? I’ll let it go for eh…” The guy hesitated and Mikael knew he was going to try and skim him before he spoke up. “Four 12 gauge slugs and that there knife on your boot.”

The scoff from Mikael as the bartender came out with his bread was enough to let the guy know he wasn’t falling for it. “No thanks, mister.” He dropped a shell on the bar and nodded to the tender as he snatched up his bread. “Keep the change.”