Author : Julian Miles, Staff Writer

“Have you seen what they do? Have you?”
He’s right in my face, so I priv-jolt him and uplink for a Poliz.
To my surprise, he drops to one knee and bows his head: “Ow! Chica, you didn’t have to zap me.”
I take a step back: “Too much drama, chico. You’re losing the message in your body words.”
He looks up at me. His eyes are blue, like the sky used to be. Saw that in scans of pics gramma had, before she died. I’da liked some of her old-time stuffs, but mama don’t got the credit to pay for extra space.
“What’s ‘body words’?” He sounds proper interested.
“Little ways you move when you speak and listen. Poliz taught my mama that. Part o’ the smarts for spotting crims.”
He nods, the smiles: “You sayin’ I should keep back a bit, maybe talk nicer?”
“Yeah. Script yourself a vid, run it on your glove.”
That’s one momentous glove. Right up to his elbow.
“Good call, but my glove ain’t no dev. It’s m’hand, chica.”
Am I having a stupid today? Eyes like sky and a half-proz arm: “You’re Kennira. Look right like your description on the truant board.”
He bows as he stands up, which is a fierce move: “The arm is easy for the prefects to remember. Like m’eyes.”
I cancel the uplink.
Mama’s audio-only with me in seconds: “Leela, problem?”
Shoulda guessed, mama got my dev on monitor.
“Spooked myself, mama. Worry not.” If I end with “no worries”, hell comes down. I done it once, to show off. Ruined the party. Got me credit for drugs seized, got me grounded by mama, lost me a crop o’ friends.
Now he’s not climbing me to preach, I can look him in the throat. Tall boy; me being near two metres.
“So, what do they do?”
I get a kick from watching him unravel that. Then he smiles again.
“Them who lug the Ambro you wear from the ground. How they live. How many die.”
“Whyfer you care?”
“M’brother’s there. Got a twenty-year for the fight that took my arm. Justice decided that loss was enough penalty for seven-year-old me.”
“How could I help?”
“Splash a link across your social. Make it viral for a week.”
“Link to what?”
“Petition board. There are links there to get further in, but people can choose.”
That catches him. The look on his face is so good, my giggle gets out before I can stop it.
“Freakin’ how?”
“Papa runs the ghost servers it flits around on. And my Ambro was a gift from Ch’lalla itself. No one died for it.”
His eyes are prettier when they’re wide: “You know a Sanskritii shaman beetle?”
I hand him the piece that came off my bracer. As he touches it, it glows a little brighter. I feel a tickle in my mind: Ch’lalla approves.
“And with your touch, now Ch’lalla knows you. That’s why merchant Ambro is always mined. Any Ambro overground is still linked to the shaman that secreted it, and gifting it forms a sacred bond between giver and getter.”
He smiles. Oh, mama. I’ve done a daft thing while showing off, again.
“Sacred bond?”
The tickle in my mind turns to tinkling laughter: I’ve been set up!
“Kennira, if you ever tell how we met, I’ll hurt you something grievous. Now, wanna meet Ch’lalla, blind date arranger from Sanskrit Nine?”
His laughter folds him up. I find myself laughing too. This might actually work.