Author : David Barber

“Yes,” answered Moreau. “A landmark legal verdict.”

Absently he trailed a fingertip between the vorpal racer’s eye-nacelles and down the streamlined wedge of her face. They had opened windows but the crowded room still sweltered beneath the lights. His touch might have been intended to calm her.

Networkers and mediafolk proffered their mikes and lenses, hoping for headlines, willing Moreau to outrage them.

“All winners make sacrifices,” he replied offhand to another question. In her case, gonads, gut and breasts. Also a much-reduced lifespan, but he did not say this. “The New Olympics insist competitors are human. Which is to say, at least the 98% we share with the DNA of apes.”

The vorpal shifted – they do not sit – easing her limbs into new postures of discomfort.

“An arbitrary limit, but otherwise where would be the skill, the art? Just geneered cheetahmorphs cruising at two hundred miles an hour.”

His questioner hesitated, not sure if she had a sound bite or not, and if she did, what it meant.

Moreau shrugged. “I understand you can still find the Old Olympics on some midnight channel. Feel free to watch them wallow in the pool or lumber down the track.”

His gaze returned to the teenage networker at the front, the one who challenged him earlier about his vorpals having no choice.

“I love to hear the media preach. A skin as pale as yours – there are viral fixes now, by the way – courts melanoma. Did your parents choose? My vorpals have discovered what they are. They live to run, since I bred them so – unlike the ancestors who fashioned you so carelessly.”

The vorpal trembled beneath his hand. They found it torture to be still.

“One final question.”

“No,” he snapped, before the reporter was finished. “Manimals were my grandfather’s work, his knife as crude as athletes training years to shave a second from their times. All that pain was pointless, based on an out-dated paradigm. You demand the fastest and the best, a race that vorpals won. Soon humankind will metastase into something new.”

More than one networker typed that, though none believed it.

“Why don’t you let the creature speak for itself?”

A lens or two turned at the shout from the back, but most lingered on Moreau, awaiting his reaction.

“She is not a creature. The Supreme Court ruled today that Atalanta here is human and has the same rights as you.”

“Because animals can’t speak!” More heads turned. The man shrugged off his jacket to reveal a t-shirt spelling out a warning from God.

“I protected Atalanta from the media because of her youth, but perhaps it is time she answered questions herself.”

There was a rustle of anticipation.

“She communicates via a keyboard, since vocal chords restrict the flow of air at speed.”

“So, Atlanta…”

“Her name is Atalanta. Read your Greek mythology.”

Chairs tumbled and there was a gasp of alarm as the protestor pushed his way to the front.

The vorpal sees it all, the spittle flying from the man’s mouth as he bawls his slogan, the gun he tugs from his pocket, and her hearts thunder.

She vaults over people posed like statues, through an open window, into blinding sunlight and much too late there is the rumble of a shot, and lethargic screams.

She accelerates smoothly across the grass, strides lengthening, until her feet barely seem to touch the ground. Father has promised her the freedom of a run. Her limbs pump faster and faster and ecstasy swells in her beyond any comprehension of the Slow.