THE TEAR CATCHERS

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Chapter 20: Rebel Children

Redfair for Governor, that’s what the sign along Baron Street says. The wall beside it corkscrews open, leaving a circular portal. A woman in a dark suit stops me as I step inside. I’m here to volunteer, I tell her. She sticks a Vote Redfair pin on my sweatshirt and walks me through a photon scanner. I follow the crowd to the front of the hall, where a staff of hundreds orbit the man himself, Congressman Redfair. Lights suspended from the ceiling high above carve shadows around the ridges of his face.

“When man’s vice threatened to annihilate the world God created, God decided to send a mighty flood and wipe clean the canvass of his own creation. Just like man is to God, coders are the work of our own restless ambition,” Redfair says, waving his arms like a conductor. Cranking up the intensity when he wants to provoke a reaction from the crowd, and scaling it back until you could hear a snowflake fall outside when he wishes to emphasize a point.

James Redfair, if I didn’t know better, I’d say he was one of us, bred for the art of manipulation and trained to exploit every human weakness. I’m not certain where he’s going with this speech, but I’m guessing he’s about to swing the wrecking ball in my direction.

“There were no frontiers left to tame, no worlds left to conquer. We had stretched the universe as far as we could, so we looked inward and tried to stretch ourselves. Our intention was noble – to make life better for all mankind. But what did the coder do? He reached up, and with the very hands we gave him, choked the life from us.” Redfair pauses, letting the chants of “First drafts aren’t rough drafts!” fill the silence.

When the refrain reaches a frenzied pitch, Redfair clears his throat for his big finale. “From our economy and our culture to the very building blocks of the human genome, the coder squeezed it all and kept everything for himself. They are not the shepherds of this world, we are. It’s time to stop protecting them and open the floodgates. We will send our own waves right through the corridors of their privileged estates and reclaim their DNA for humanity, so every man, woman, and child can share in the riches of accelerated evolution. This province was an empire once, and with the tireless effort all of you have given me, I know it will be again!”

Redfair’s supporters ignite with applause. A cart housing five life-sized human replicas is brought to the floor. There’s one of Atherton, and Dreama, and the CEOS of the three other major families. Each one is stood up and paraded in front of the crowd, before getting shoved to their knees, a rope that resembles a strand of DNA slipped over their eyes. One of Redfair’s bodyguards hands him a long blade, which Redfair uses to separate Atherton’s head from his body. I can’t say the thought never crossed my mind, but a mock execution of my own brother in front of a bloodthirsty crowd is a little unnerving.

“This, ladies and gentlemen, is the future of the elite,” Redfair says, setting me squarely in his sights as he hands the blade off to one of his volunteers.

The horde sweeps me to the front of the room, all of them clamoring to take a stab at one of their tormentors. I push my way free, but it’s like battling an infectious disease. The more you fight it, the more it adapts to consume you. The crowd finally squeezes me to the margin, and when I turn around, I’m standing face to face with the Congressman.

“I remember you, from the protest outside the Proofstock building.” He glances down at my t-shirt and jeans. “You look different, but I never forget a face, especially one that took so many valuable years of human ingenuity to create.”

“Is that really how you see us? As your rebel children?”

“I see you for what you are. I could turn around right now and tell all my supporters one of our precious elites has graced us with her presence. I wonder how that would be.”

“Why don’t you?” I ask, taking a step closer to him. There’s no time for fear or second-guessing, the room in my mind where Greymore lives is where all the decisions are being made now.

Redfair tilts his head and grins, as if he’s seeing me with different eyes now. “It’s a long drive from Tearcatcher Bay, and no bodyguards to accompany you, there must be something you want to say to me.”

“You’re dealing in currency you don’t understand. It’s cost the lives of your own people, thousands of them by now. Return the infant to me, right now, and no one has to know you’re the source of the leak.”

“Hold your tongue, Ms. Tearcatcher.” His eyes widen, and all the warmth saps from his face. “I don’t think you fully understand the gravity of the position in which you find yourself.”

“I understand it fine. In fact, I could turn around right now and tell all your supporters how the blood of the infected stains your hands, not ours. I wonder how that would be.”

“I know how your kind does business, and truth speak, I admire it, because I was brought up the same way. I didn’t claw my way from the city council to the Congress of this land by laying down for every schoolyard bully. Say whatever you want to whomever you like. No one will believe you. In my business, it’s all about the public trust. I’ve got it, and you never will.”

“What about the infected who are dying, and all those still to come? Will you add them to the body count when you’re collecting the dead after you set loose your great flood. Give the child to me, and I can manufacture a cure.”

Redfair waves over the woman in the dark suit. “Thank you for your support, Ms. Tearcatcher. Always nice to meet a constituent.”

“People are all the same, you know, coders and first drafts. You’re no different than Atherton. You’re two little boys fighting over the same toy. You’d do anything to get your hands on it, and he’d do anything to make sure it stays in his war chest.”

“How dare you cluster me with them! You want to know what I have I common with your kind? We all breathe the same air.” Redfair wraps his hand around my throat, lifting me off my feet as he slowly squeezes. “Don’t worry, I would never take from you that which belongs to us all,” he says, dropping me back over the floor.

The woman in the dark suit grabs my arm. Redfair taps the campaign button on my sweatshirt. Don’t forget to vote, he says, the smile returning to his face. I rub my throat and stare back into Redfair’s lifeless eyes as she drags me to the door.

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