For The Cause

Author : J.Loseth, Staff Writer

Am I ready for tomorrow? Of course I am. It’s the biggest day the movement’s ever seen. This rally is going to go down in history, and it’s going to change everything. Have a drink? I know I need one. Tomorrow’s daunting, but you know what? We need it, and it’s about time.

Know what the problem is with evolutes? I’ll tell you. We’re too nice. Too nice and too protected. Do you know, sometimes I wish for a hate crime? I lie awake and pray that some hick will see a webfoot at the grocery and go ballistic, beat the filthy mutant to death and dump her body in a ditch. Don’t look so appalled. Of course it’s barbaric, of course it’s against the law. That’s just the point. We’ll never get anywhere being half-protected, wards of the state but with the civil rights of a house pet. It’s not enough to be permitted to keep breathing. We need to be able to live.

Which means I need to die.

Don’t follow? Listen. It makes perfect sense. Martin Luther King, Ghandi, Jesus Christ… they all died for their causes. Of course they didn’t plan it that way, but it worked, didn’t it? It’s the ultimate sympathy play: the poor, pacifist leader is martyred by radicals, proving his moral superiority to his foes and gaining support for his cause. If we stick to the plan, if I lead a stirring rally with inspiring speeches to great acclaim, nothing will change. We’ll have barely a blip on the six o’clock news. We need more than that; we need something big. We need our own martyr.

No, this is not hypothetical. But you guessed that, didn’t you? I know. It’s your job. Unfortunately, I can’t have you doing your job. Police were easily bribed, security guards bought off, but my personal bodyguard? There was no way around it. I’m sorry it had to come to this, but you were just too good.

It was in the whiskey. You won’t feel it. You won’t show up tomorrow but I’ll say the show must go on, and only after I’m dead will they find your body. Yes, you could kill me now if you like, but the cover story wouldn’t be as compelling. I’m afraid you’re already dead, so you might as well let my plan continue. At least it will mean something.

Good. I’m glad you can still see reason.

Me? Of course I’m calm. Didn’t I tell you I’ve been ready for tomorrow for longer than you could know? You see, I have always wanted to die. Can you imagine how it feels to wake every morning to the betrayal of your own body? There is nothing I can do, no medical practice that will make me right, or whole, or fully human. You people, you sympathizers… You may feel sorry for us, but you’ll never understand. Someday there may be treatments to normalize us or maybe even to stabilize the mutations, but it won’t happen in my lifetime. I’ve had enough of pain. I don’t want to live like this.

It’ll be quick. The gunman will come from my left. He won’t be frisked at the gate, the guards will be a bit too slow to react, and in one clear shot, I’ll be gone. Dead, yes—but I’ll go down in history, so in a way, I’ll live forever.

Sorry I can’t promise you a similar immortality. Getting sleepy yet? Don’t fight it. Think of it as protecting my values, if not my body. That may help; I wouldn’t know. I’ve never been one for loyalty.

Just remember, it’s for the cause.

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Yes, Officer

Author : J. Loseth, Staff Writer

“To employment!” Skye burst into the apartment with a bottle raised, cheeks pinked. He already looked like he’d had a toast or two before coming home. Fauntleory looked up from the armchair he was draped over with a frown, then got to his feet and deftly nipped the bottle from his roommate’s hand.

“Vodka? Since when do you drink vodka?” Of course, Fauntleroy wasn’t complaining. He grabbed an ornamental glass from the shelf behind him and filled it, too lazy to go to the kitchen.

“Since I got a job.” Skye had a big, sloppy grin on his face. He plucked the bottle back from Fauntleroy and helped himself to a sip right out of the container. His eyes were sparkling.

Fauntleroy frowned. “Is this some crime syndicate job or something? On the run from the law just like you?”

“Since when can I not hold a real job?” Skye asked, mock-affronted, though he still couldn’t hide the twitches of his mouth. “I am a perfectly respectable citizen!” He slurred his words just a little, flopping indolently on the couch and taking another swig of liquor.

“Yeah. You were a respectable citizen,” Fauntleroy said. “Until that little incident last week that you seem to have forgotten. You were found out! You’re registered now! No one in their right mind would ever hire a registered lycanthrope! Unless… you found some way to clear the federal records?” Fauntleroy’s eyes widened, and he did a poor job of concealing his hope. Luckily, Skye was the drunk one for once, so Fauntleroy figured nobody would notice.

A grimace broke through Skye’s alcoholic glee and he shook his head. “Sorry, nothing that good. But the next best thing.” He paused for dramatic effect, straightening as that incorrigible grin crept back onto his face. “I’m going to be a police dog. Sniff out drugs and other illegal stuff. They need someone they can communicate with to do the job.”

For a moment Fauntleroy just stared. “I thought you could only do the man-beast scary thing.”

“Shows how much you know.” Skye stood and set the glass aside, concentrating. His body shifted, muscles bulging and tightening, bone structure melding into something else. Black fur sprouted from his dark skin, and in moments an admittedly wolfish dog stood in a pile of Skye’s clothes. His canine mouth gaped and his long pink tongue lolled out in a grin.

“Well I’ll be,” Fauntleroy murmured. “Makes sense, though… a versatile officer with talents they don’t have. They need you, so they’ve got to give you some rights, even if you’re registered. What a scam.” His head tilted as he looked down into Skye’s warm brown wolf eyes. “Let’s just hope they don’t send you sniffing for faggots.”

Skye’s body rippled and changed, returning to his normal form, albeit with a frown on his face and nothing in the way of clothes. “I thought I told you not to use that word,” he said, giving Fauntleroy a disapproving look. “And if they do…” He took a step closer, then smirked. “I’ll just sniff your crotch and move right on by.”

At that, even the cynical Fauntleroy had to grin. He raised his glass and was rewarded with the return of Skye’s infectious grin. “To your new job, then, Officer.” At last, things were looking up.

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Good Money

Author : J.Loseth, Staff Writer

It was good money. Everyone said so, on the newscasts and the Internet, repeating the slogan from the billboards: Everyone’s Rich in the Colonies. Drake had read over the contract, and the money was indeed good. The wealth in the colonies was so abundant that the contract even included a subsidy for his house, and it was a real house, not a cramped pod or even a flat. Drake had seen pictures. It looked like something out of a storybook. “I’ll get to see real grass,” he’d told Delilah, but still she frowned. It was good money, he reminded her. How many people in their neighborhood could boast that kind of salary? None, that’s how many.

His parents had been relieved. All their relatives congratulated him for passing the screening. Drake was proud of that; he’d been lucky to miss out on the genes for anything debilitating, and though he’d only barely squeaked by the vision test, he still had the green light. Not many could say that nowadays. “It means there aren’t any diseases,” he explained to Delilah, but she rolled her eyes. “It just means you aren’t bringing any diseases to them,” she told him primly. “There’s nothing in there about the type of diseases they might give you.” Drake had to admit she had a point, but it was good money, so he let it slide.

For four months Drake sold off his possessions, slowly liquidating his old life to make way for the new. He couldn’t take more than two bags, after all, and he’d need the startup cash. Delilah recognized the necessity and even scraped up enough to buy a few items from him. He didn’t tell her how much he appreciated it, but he was sure that she knew. It was just like her to know. As the departure approached, though, tensions rose. They fought more. Sometimes Delilah would stalk out at the end of the night without saying a thing, and sometimes she’d fix Drake with a look of reproach that was worse than words. It made it hard to pack, but he thought of the money and was resolute. “You could have applied too,” he reminded her once during one of their bitter fights. “Then we’d both be going. They even let couples live in the same place.” He hadn’t gotten a response to that, just the slam of the door in his face. She’d always come back the next day, though, so Drake shoved the fights under the rug and always let her in.

“Will you visit?” she asked. The question made Drake uncomfortable. “I’ll write,” he promised, holding her hands on the landing pad, eyes on their interlocked fingers. “It’s a long trip, Del, and they don’t pay for that much vacation time. A message can get here in just a few hours. It’ll be fine.” Delilah didn’t seem to like that, but she nodded anyway. The conductor called for all aboard, and Drake began to extricate his hands, but Delilah gripped them suddenly and leaned forward to whisper in his ear. “When your two years are up, I’ll be finished. I’ll be done with school and we can start a life together. We can find a place when you get back.”

Drake felt his throat closing up. He squeezed her hands by way of answer, then slowly let go, heading up to the stasis pod door. It was the only facility of its kind, the only method for suspending human life well enough to protect the travelers on their journey through sub-space. The colonies might be rich, but they could never muster enough technological minds to build and maintain such a thing. Delilah didn’t, couldn’t know, but the money was good, so Drake didn’t tell her. He watched through the porthole until the pod filled with gas and knew she would never forgive him.

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Old-Fashioned Girl

“So Jeynce and Carr are getting married in three months.”

Ernest was projecting on the top of the decorative bridge, tossing tiny sticks into the flowing water. They’d chosen an ancient Japanese theme for this afternoon, and he hoped that Ilyah found it relaxing, because Ernest was bored by the tranquility.

“Wow. That’s a surprise.” Ilyah’s eyebrows rose and she swung her leg over the shimmering water idly trying to discern the repeat cycle of the scenery projection. “They’re pretty young. But if that’s what they’re going to do, why wait so long?” She batted at a low-hanging branch with her toe. “Cold feet?”

“Nah.” Ernest shook his head. “They’re followers of Dra’nar, remember? They’re doing it the old-fashioned way. Embodied,” he clarified.

Ilyah’s expression registered mild distaste. “How odd,” she commented, a liberal to the last. “It’s hard to believe anyone still holds with those old customs.”

Ernest shrugged. “To each their own,” he said, and Ilyah nodded with practiced political correctness. “Still,” he added, “I’m actually surprised they could find an open space large enough to hold it that wasn’t under radiation lockdown.”

“The guests are expected to embody, too?” Ilyah was aghast. “Old customs are one thing, but to impose them on everyone else… that’s just rude.”

“Of course not,” Ernest told her with a sigh. “But for that big an occasion, the projections will be programmed for no impact, so they have to have room for everyone to stand.”

“Still seems sort of vulgar in the modern age,” Ilyah mused. Ernest said nothing. He knew better than to argue with his wife.

At last, Ilyah sighed and stood, stretching with a little yawn. “Well, I’m going to log and make something to eat,” she informed Ernest. “Want to meet in the house program at seven?”

Ernest nodded, and when Ilyah bent down, he brushed the lips of his wife’s projection with his own. Ilyah smiled and shimmered, disappearing from the scene. With a sigh of relief, Ernest touched the controls and switched to something more palatable. Something with feeling. The tranquil garden was replaced by a dark slummy city street, an exact replica of the one above ground in every respect save the radiation. Ernest’s mouth twitched. No matter how much she professed to be a modern woman, his wife really was an old-fashioned girl.


“Are you sure?”

Lena bit her lip and nodded. “Yes. Very sure.” Her voice was quiet but strong. She needed this.

The counselor nodded, looking down at her clipboard as she checked off items. “All right. I’ve noted your reasoning. The records will be sealed, of course, after the procedure is finished; if you look them up you’ll know you had something performed, but of course you won’t remember what. That would be counterproductive, wouldn’t it?” She gave Lena a lukewarm smile which Lena didn’t return. She didn’t feel much like smiling. The counselor looked back at her sheet. “You passed the psych screening, so now we just need you to isolate the memories you’d like us to modify. Make sure you take your time and get your story straight. I’ll give you the forms.”

Lena took the binder from the counselor with pale, cold hands. A part of her was aghast at the idea of changing her own memories–it felt like self-mutilation. She knew her parents could never find out what she’d done, however, and there was no way to lie to them with her memories intact. They’d use the serum on her, and if she remembered her wrongdoing, Lena would be forced to capitulate.

With a firm and steady hand, Lena wrote her directives and specifics into the binder, recording what would be her new memory of the last six months. “Here,” she said in only a matter of minutes. “I’m ready.”

“Are you sure?” the counselor asked. “That didn’t take long. Make certain you’ve written down everything we need to change.”

“It’s only one thing,” Lena said softly. “It was a miscarriage. That’s all. That’s the only thing I want different.”

The counselor regarded Lena for a moment, then nodded slowly. “All right.” She took the binder and stood, beckoning Lena towards the operating room. “Right this way.”