Author : Julian Miles, Staff Writer

“A is for Android, B is for Blood,”

They chant so happily, without a care in the world. I love them so much, but that is exactly why I am crèche matresse. The room is huge and covered with colourful pictures of all the neo-heroes and the choices available to those who succeed.

“F is for Fractal, G is for Grunt,”

Jemima is clapping in time with perfect rhythm, tapping her heels on the off beats and nodding the quarters. She will be an entertainer. Natural gifts and predilections are so essential to a healthy adult purpose. I am better than any at spotting the indicators.

“K is for Kill, L is for Longevity,”

Gregory’s pupils dilate when he says the word ‘kill’. I always suspected that he was a cleaner like his father. Others had been squeamish when he flushed his mother for emotivating. I knew that he had merely found his vocation before his time.

“P is for Perfection, Q is for Quality,”

They are so delightful, so innocent, so soft and so very fragile. The empty chair shows where poor Michael discovered that he couldn’t take the fast way down from the family apt like his adult brother. Stupidity is genetic and in this society, self-erasing.

“U is for Ultimate, V is for Valour,”

Tomorrow they are having a trip to the bioengineering facilities, to see this year’s graduates receive their adult states. Tracey will not be coming back. Her extra-sensory abilities merit quantitative analysis. Vivisection will allow rapid assessment.

“Z is for Zanjero; this is the Alphaset.”

They finish with a shout and laughter. I raise my hand and they fall silent.

“Nigel, define Xenium for us.”

He stands up, hands by his side, head back. Excellent form.

“Xenium is what the Cygress requires of humanity, the gift of adulthood. We give it so that our emotional excess can never cause mass destruction again.”

I nod and he sits quickly.

“Samantha, define Deviance for us.”

She stands up, arms crossed and feet a shoulder width apart. I had been wondering where her predilection placed her and now I see. She will make a fine grunt.

“Deviance is when a human does not submit Xenium. The Deviance movement has it origins in the resistance to the cyber-statutes of 2419. It was confirmed as a unified resistance in 2505. While it suffered losses with the institution of the cleaner programme in 2630, today it is considered a viable threat to the Cygress. It is gaining ground and its signature is raids of incredible daring and high risk under the aegis of Commander Connor -”

She stops a fine summation to stare behind me at the portal to the crèche. I rotate my head to see which luminary has decided to join us today.

He is dressed in a brown duster coat with a neural defence headset. His utility harness is festooned with weapons and guerrilla insurgency technology. He is smiling and his eyes are clear blue. Behind him I see the rest of his team securing the corridor.

In my near-field, I can see the tip of the shell at the base of the barrel underslung on the Jensen Suppressor EMP gun. It is a massive piece of anti-cyborg hardware and I feel fear for the first time since I went to receive my adult state. His voice is a rich baritone.

“That’s as fine an introduction as we need kids. Schools out.”

I see his finger tighten on the trigger and the pulse




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