Author : David Henson

Ro and Ju are holding hands on a platform under a busy leviway when a sparrow lands nearby. Ro releases Ju’s hand, draws his DeathRay, and fires. The sparrow glows brightly, then disappears.

“Nice shot,” Ju says. Ro steps back and shoots her in the forehead. She glows briefly before the light dissipates. “Mmmm, I love that tingly feeling. Your turn.” She shoots Ro under his right eye.

He flares momentarily and smiles. “I’ve about got my father talked into coding this baby up to full power so it’s not just a bird and butterfly killer.” He twirls his gun back into its holster just as a woman wearing Bluecone Party colors and another showing Redrods walk past each other, hands twitching by their DeathRays.

Ro glances up. “Here he comes. Same time here tonight?” Ju nods.

The hoverbike glides down. “Hello, Sir,” Ju says. Ro’s father revs his bike’s magneton. Ro hops on, and the two soar to the leviway.

Weaving through traffic, they pass a Bluecone candidate hologram with spray-flamed devil horns. Ro’s techpath implant chirps, and he accepts his father’s thought: Real jerks, whoever did that. A few seconds later they pass a hologram of the Redrod candidate with a flaming tail. Better, Mr. Mio thinks to his son. Ro doesn’t transmit anything back to his father.


Ro’s father laser-knifes his steak. “Ro was with that Liette girl again.”

“You know her parents are Redrods.” Ro’s mother stares at him. His techpath implant chirps. He ignores it and goes to his room.


Ju is waiting for Ro when he glides his father’s hoverbike to the platform. She secures her mother’s bike with a force field and climbs on behind Ro. They rise to the nearly deserted leviway. When they reach the Bluecone hologram, the horns are barely smoldering. Ro swings close, and Ju retraces them with fresh spray-flame. Then they hit the devil-tailed Redrod hologram and a few others from both parties before returning to the platform. They dismount and embrace. Ro steps back, draws his DeathRay, and playfully shoots Ju between the eyes. She begins to glow, then suddenly gasps and vanishes.

Ro screams. “Ju! What happened?” He chirps her implant. Nothing. He jumps onto the bike and streams home.


“You!” Ro shouts at his father. “You knew I liked to shoot her. You coded my DeathRay up to full power without telling me so I’d vaporize her for real. Just ’cause her folks are Redrods.”

“I didn’t,” Ro’s father says.

“You did. Well, I won’t live without her.” Ro activates his tech-kinesis implant, and his father’s DeathRay flies into Ro’s outstretched hand. He fires the weapon into his chest, glows brightly, then disappears — just as Ju bursts into the room.


Ro’s mother and father are on their knees, wailing. After several minutes, Mr. Mio turns toward Ju. “What are you doing here? Ro said you were dead. Blamed me.”

“Get out,” Ro’s mother shouts.

“Not yet.” Mr. Mio stands. “Tell me exactly what happened.”

Ju struggles to breathe. “A horrible prank … a joke. I snuck out with my mom’s invisibility cloak. When Ro shot me, I activated it so it’d look like … He took off so fast. I tried to … What have I done?”

Ro’s father approaches Ju. “Filthy Redrods.”

Ju holds out her hand, and Mr. Mio’s DeathRay flies to her. “I can’t live without him.” She fires the weapon into her chest, glows brightly, and, with a final sob, is gone.