a rescue goes awry...when do they not?
He himself had gone Citizen only months ago. Half his friends were partying upstairs, already immersed and comfortable in the city.
For him no plastic badge of Citizenship could erase the haunting terror those glass eyes invoked.
His driver whistled as the cyborgs turned past them. They approached the seedier parts of the city.
“Gate’s up ahead. Those ‘borgs really change when you get to the slums.”
“Different people.” If Jerry saw the disparity...he’d be outraged.
What was crazy was that for Citizens, ascension meant the actual euphemism. The cyborgs in the inner city had been polished to a gleam, decorated with family tokens. Here the word had bitter irony. Cedric watched the van ease before a hut.
“Quickly,” he said, pulling the children inside. "Time is running out." Their mother’s face a terrified rictus.
They had minutes before the children’s Tags went off. Barely enough to reach a dead zone, to attach fake badges.
“Where’s Jerry?” asked one boy.
Cedric shook his head.
“Jesus,” the driver swore. “What were they in for?”
“Theft.” Cedric’s fist tightened. “Ascension age got lowered.”
The dead zone loomed a black expanse of rubble. Radio stuttered dead. Lights went out.
“Shit,” said the driver. And then the van exploded.
Ash and debris floated down. Cedric coughed, staggering up. No!
The first cyborg lifted a child out, slung him over its shoulder. Black silhouettes picking apart the burning van.
How they found them proved self-evident. Memory shocked through Cedric, his hands shaking. So that’s why Citizens approved of ascension. Totally different from corpse-like robots in the slums! He stared at the hidden chrome lines in his arms, traced their cold indifference with his finger. Remembered his first order, Jerry’s face screaming for mercy.