Bull met them at the spaceport. He gave them his full name somewhere between the ship and his hover car, but
Zora stared out the vehicle’s window. “You’re sure no body’s ever done it before?”
The planetscape drifted past in a neat line--all of it a neat line. Sculpted trees grew in perfect rows on
“No one has broken the Treaty since its inception,” Bull answered. He sounded excited, had landed an historic case. “Our people live by the treaty. You understand that our bodies are what allow us to live a truly free existence, one without the need to overtake and steal our livelihood from other beings.”
“I thought it was your conscience that did that.”
“That’s good.” Bull pulled a small device from his pocket and spoke into it, “His conscience was enough. Note.”
“But, no one’s ever wanted to leave?” Zora still struggled to digest the fact. She looked back and forth between Bull and the window until
“It doesn’t matter.”
“Have you seen the river?” Bull asked. “I can have the driver circle around. You really should see it while you’re here.”
“We’ve seen it,” Zora snapped. “What’s to see? It’s a river.”
Behind him, she watched the city pass. She eyed the perfect lines and ground her teeth together. Despite Zora’s complaints, the river appeared again. Bull may have promised she could see Rook, but he was stalling them. The car looped around the city, and Rook’s lawyer pointedly avoided her questions.
“About the trial,” she started.
“That’s the cybernetics facility.” Bull pointed to one of the many skyscrapers. “Where our interfaces are developed.”
“Seen it.” Zora said.
“Of course.” A big silver hand gently extracted her grip. The angular head nodded. Somehow, despite a nearly identical body, Bull managed to look nothing like Rook. “If you don’t mind. The trial, yes. Well you see, that’s something of a problem.”
Of course it was.
“Because he insists on pleading guilty.”
“But can’t we put a spin on it? Extenuating circumstances? Temporary insanity? Maybe he had a really great reason for leaving?”
“Yes!” Bull sat up straight. A tiny fire shimmered in his eyes for about half a second. Then he slumped back down and shrugged. “But he won’t have any of it.”
“My client, your friend, insists on defying the treaty. He’s talking about reform, for heaven’s sake. And he’s talking to them.”
“Help me out here, Bull. Who’s them?”
“I’d better show you.” He tapped at the wall to the driver’s compartment, a signal to end the charade,
The car took a left turn and slowed.
What would she say to him? I’m sorry I thought you were a machine. I think I’m in love with you. Please don’t die. It didn’t quite roll off the tongue. Maybe she should go for indignation. How dare you let me think you were an android? How dare you keep these sorts of secrets? How dare you leave me? Pathetic.
The car stopped suddenly, and Zora pressed herself against the window, blocking
“We may have to negotiate a little bit of a crowd,” he said.
“Holy crap you’re not kidding.” Zora turned back to them. “There’s a mob out there!”
“Zealots,” Bull hissed. “Talking revolution and, I might add, NOT helping our case any.”
People filled the street. They surrounded the car, crowded their metal bodies between columns, and jostled for position.
“So,” she said. What do they want?”
“Only the end of the treaty. They want to leave, to run around the galaxy willy-nilly regardless of the repercussions for our society.” Bull pulled himself into an indignant posture and shook his head. “They want to defy our entire way of life.”
“You mean they want their freedom,” Zora said.
“Yes.” Bull sagged again, deflated. “Isn’t it ghastly?”
“What about Rook?”
The sign holder turned, and she read the message loud and clear. Big neon letters spelled it out in a perfect line: Freedom or Death.