The Constituents of The Republic of E.A.R.T.H.

It is on the occasion of a new society evolved from an unlivable state of affairs, that we, The New Members of the Republic of Every, Additional, and Respective Traditional Humanities (Also known as E.A.R.T.H.) do propose for a reorganization for a better life for this and every generation of the state of the world's population. To this extent, the following articles will be enforced as of the date, day 001 of the new evolution year, 50K, 000.

Article I: To ensure a sustainable supply of nutrients, space, materials, and other necessities, a system for control of the population shall henceforth be put into effect. It is agreed by the citizens and participants in the state that said action be recognized and enforced, and that further effects may be applied in the event that more restrictions are deemed necessary.

Section 1: It shall be decreed, for every even numbered year, all-encompassing, that Newborns shall be required to be surgically adapted to prevent any childbearing in later life.

TOP DOWN

D50k052.12.01T0600hrs

Detective Elysia Mazda opened her eyes. The sound of the alarm was in her left ear from where she slept. Once open, she found herself gazing at the bare, white wall of her locker. Odd, she thought, when she distinctly remembered falling asleep facing away from the wall. She must have turned over in her sleep.

But Elysia didn't have time to worry about that. Not with the obnoxious buzzer starting to get louder, like it always did when she didn't turn it off right away. If it got any louder, it would eventually alert security to come up and check on her. Elysia had signed up for the feature when she'd gotten this alarmer, figuring that if she got attacked or mugged or anything of the sort, at least there'd be some kind of lead when her alarmer went off and finally alerted a guard.

Also, it seemed like a good idea, given that, being in a job which required her to deal with those that broke laws and the like, it might at least be useful to have a feature like this. One never knew.

Body feeling sluggish, Elysia rolled over and pushed the button on her alarmer to turn it off. As soon as the buzzing subsided, Elysia reached to the next shelf down and picked up her keys. She always kept her alarmer on the top shelf in her lockers – she'd forget if she didn't – and she always kept her basic necessities for every day on the shelf directly below it. She had her key and her wallet, her badge and her gun, and behind all of that, she had her briefcase. It wasn't all that special of a case, and she never took out her work at home, but she still brought it back because she didn't trust anyone in the office to not disturb her desk.

Besides... well, it wasn't really potentially illegal material, but it would still be pretty embarrassing.

Then, directly below that shelf, Elysia always kept a few personal things that she considered to be for work. All of her gear for her official police uniform – an old, blue and gray one piece suit that remained folded at almost all times and was gathering dust from the fact that Elysia never wore it, given that her day-to-day tasks were as a detective, not a uniformed officer – as well as handcuffs, nightstick, a knock-out gas spritzer, and four books. Stacked neatly on top of each other towards the back of the shelf, there was a book on law, a book on history, a book on human psychology, and a book on forensics.

On the mattress of her locker was Elysia's newest book, open to the fourth chapter with notes and placemakers dotted through the first quarter of the book, already. Elysia closed it. She'd be taking it with her to work, anyhow.

Her keys in hand, Elysia sat up and stretched as best she could. Her head brushed the ceiling of her locker – almost knocking the bare lightbulb loose from where she'd secured it to the ceiling with adhesive to stop it from swinging loosely from the entwined string and wire – and her back was stiff and sore from the mattress. If she hadn't taped the lightbulb into place, it would swing around too much, and when it swung, it would always flutter on and off with each movement of the string – it's secured position was the only one that ensured it would turn on and then stay on when she needed it.

Elysia sighed and cranked the switch around a few times. The lightbulb wasn't working, again, this morning. Oh well, at least it was in the morning, when she had light streaming in through the narrow slit of a window at the end of her locker – she'd had the lightbulb suddenly flicker off at nighttime, when she was either trying to read or just get ready to go to sleep. That was always a pain.

But that wasn't important. Elysia knew that they were supposed to conserve energy – if they didn't, it only caused trouble for everyone else. By not minding that her light sometimes didn't work, she was doing her duty as a citizen – the same way that going to work and never complaining about the foodshares or the cramped space that was her locker was her duty as a citizen.

She wasn't unhappy about life in this locker, but she certainly wasn't happy.

Without spending another second on the thought, Elysia flipped open her drawer and started to pull out her garments. Out of the drawer, she lifted her folded and pressed suit pants, shirt, and the bra she'd gotten from her last supply package. Then, all of her clothes and keys wrapped in one arm, she unlocked the door to her locker and pushed it forward. Outside, it landed in the hallway with a loud whump that made her wince, but she still pulled on her plastic shoes and crawled out.

As Elysia started to stand up, she abruptly felt her head bump into something so hard, she almost sat back down again. Rubbing the top of her skull, ruefully, Elysia looked up to see the door of her upstairs neighbor's locker open. From over the corner of the door, a round, pudgy, freckled face with mousy brown hair grinned at her.

"Guh'mornin', 'Lys'a." The round face said, her hair flopping down, around the sides of her head. Elysia sighed and looked down, crawling out more cautiously before she closed her own locker door.

"Morning, Gracie." She mumbled back, still feeling more than a little dazed. Good Morning, You Lazy, Sloppy, Inconsiderate Drone. Good Morning, And Thank You For Making Me Hit My Head On Your Locker Door, Again. Actually, No, It's Not A Good Morning, Gracie – Why Can't You Leave Me Alone. All of this, Elysia wanted to say, but didn't as she looked back at her upper locker neighbor.

Gracie continued to smile, and her face followed Elysia's movements until she finally crawled out of harm's way and stood fully up. Gracie was, indeed, kneeling on her door, half-in and half-out of her locker. She was a Whole woman with a body just like her face, and completely covered in a ruffled, frilly muumuu that only made her freckly skin seem pastier. The inside of her locker was draped with tacky, pink curtains and lace – how she kept it pinned up, Elysia didn't know. Elysia had been living in the locker under Gracie's for two years, now. She was used to the woman's eccentricity, even if she hadn't quite gotten to liking it, yet. Elysia figured Gracie wasn't quite worth getting attached to – the woman had lost her job several months ago and hadn't yet found replacement work. In the meantime, she'd put in application after application for scouting, as though hoping a scouting would eliminate her need for a job.

"Hey, 'Lys'a, I heard yer alarmer go off. Y'all neva' set it earlier than y'all needa. I ain't neva' heard y'all up so early, neither." Gracie pushed, when it was obvious that Elysia wasn't going to start a conversation. She was smiling as though she expected her great detective neighbor to be impressed, "What're y'all doin' up so early, anyhow?"

None Of Your Business, You Worthless Muckraker. Because I Was Hoping Getting Up Earlier Meant I Would Be Able To Avoid You. Elysia didn't say that.

"I just thought I'd leave a little earlier, that's all." Elysia explained, starting down the hallway, impatiently. Her alarmer had read six-o-two when she'd left.

"Hey, 'Lys'a! Y'all gonna shower, now?" Gracie pressed. Elysia looked back over her shoulder. She didn't want to shout and wake up any other neighbors.

"I signed up for the six-o-five time slot, last night." She hissed. Gracie was still hanging out of her locker, anxiously.

"I just worry about y'all – y'all brough' back a book las' night, too."

Elysia wanted to roll her eyes and stamp her feet with impatience, but she knew better. If she was late for her time slot because Gracie wouldn't leave her alone and just let her go, in peace, Elysia was going to scream and punch somebody. She really meant it, this time.

But, no, Elysia reminded herself – Gracie wasn't that bad. She wasn't nearly as agitating as some suspects and interviews she'd had. Even if she did insist on always talking for at least ten minutes whenever she saw Elysia, and even if she was inane and rambling and nosy, and even if...

"It was for work. We've been getting a lot of cases, lately, with perpetrators committing crimes against science. My supervisor thinks that if we do some research on their backgrounds, we can stay one step ahead of them."

Gracie's double-chinned jaw dropped.

"Y'all are readin' them anti-science books? Shit, what if a Sweeper raids y'all place, 'Lys'a? Y'all gonna geddit, bad!" She wasn't even trying to keep her voice down, now. Frustrated, Elysia paced back down to Gracie's locker.

"I've got permission from my supervisor and a slip showing that I've gotten approved permission to have that book – just for research purposes, until we've gotten this influx under control. I even signed a release form that I'd return it after I'm finished."

Gracie looked unconvinced.

"Y'all still worryin' me – wastin' a material ticket on something like a book."

"It's one book, Gracie, and I'm not even going to keep it."

"But y'all got some pretty mats, already. I don' wanna see y'all gettin' the recap just 'cuz y'all was over y'all mat-limit for a... a... a piece o' paper or..."

"Gracie, I'll be fine. I keep track of my material records, I only spend my tickets when I really need something, and when I'm done, I send the things in on a Renewal Day. I'm not going to get recapped. You don't need to worry about me." Not that it was any of Gracie's business what Elysia did with her mat-tickets, but if it ended the conversation sooner, that was fine with Elysia.

Gracie pouted a little, then pulled back into her locker and slammed her door up. Elysia had grown used to it, both from work and from this tired existence of cohabiting with such women as Gracie.

She wasn't unhappy with it, but she certainly wasn't happy.

Galloping with silent light-footedness that she'd earned from years on the force, Elysia pelted down the hallway, whizzing past the stacks of other lockers until she came to the single walk-in room at the end.

The clock over the revolving door read six-o-four and forty-seven seconds. She'd made it.

Elysia pushed through the revolving door to hear the loud, rushing air sound of the drier shutting off and a cheerful, almost obnoxious humming coming from the drying stall. Inside, Elysia was a big groan – if someone was in the drying stall, that meant she would have to ask them to get out so she could take her shower. Talking to the other women on her floor was something Elysia never looked forward to. Resigned, Elysia raised a hand and knocked on the door.

"Who is it?" It was the voice of Arubella Fawn – the most eligible Whole woman in the city. Row 3, North interior wall, top locker. It was common knowledge that she'd been scouted by Breedsmen more frequently in a year than most other women were asked in a decade, and Arubella certainly didn't mind shoving that in the faces of every other woman in this building.

Elysia had to remind herself of her position to swallow her pride.

"It's Elysia Mazda."

The door opened. Arubella hadn't yet started to dress – Elysia could see everything about the ideal breeding body that had earned her the title. Topped by a perfect heart-shaped face and flowing hair the color of flax, Arubella had a slightly tanned, supple body with perfectly structured bones and curves that fit them without a single wrinkle or ounce of fat anywhere. Her collarbone stuck out from her chest and drew a perfect line between her smoothly round, elevated breasts. The flat belly formed an exact, almost statistician bell shape down her abdomen and cupped at hips without a single trace of hair, downy or otherwise, and her long legs were curved almost as sharply and flawlessly as her body did. Her skin was glimmering with the first traces of it's natural oil starting to come out and remoisturize after the shower, leaving a perfect sheen in a natural, glass-like fashion.

"Oh, hi 'Lysia." Those perky, curved lips smiled, like Arubella was indulging Elysia a luxury of just being able to stand close to her. As though she thought Elysia should feel grateful to be able to smell her – not that Elysia wanted to. Even Arubella's voice went up to a helium-diet squeak. Elysia bit her tongue and simply said,

"Hi, Aruba."

Hello, And Thank You For Ruining My Morning. Hello, You Pompous, Self-Absorbed, Vain, Irritating...

Elysia turned her gaze down to the floor, as though Arubella would see what she was thinking.

Without another word or glance, Arubella sauntered out, taking her clothes with her into one of the toilet stalls to dress.

Elysia set her clothes down on the dry floor and began to strip from her pajamas. Her mood was nice and ruined now – it usually was whenever she had the misfortune to bump into Arubella anywhere, but the shower and lavatory were the places she just flaunted like nobody's business. Now, Elysia couldn't help but regret and obsess over her own body.

Her shirt came off. Glancing down, Elysia saw a ridge of curve just before the top of her breasts, sloping tops and off-centered nipples with dot-like pores and miniscule bumps, like permanent pimples that ran both the perfect curve and asymmetrical to their roundness, a torso that clung to her ribcage but a tummy that protruded with a curve like a warped sheet of metal, both outlined with fine but dark hairs that drew the gaze down towards her nethers.

Off with her pants. The downy hair on her upper half pointed like an arrow to the bristling, coarse hair over each centimeter of her lower body's skin. Spots of dark ingrown hairs on her legs grew in distinct lines in the shallow curves where her muscles separated from the bone and her knees bulged like the bones themselves had cut clear through her skin and were hanging out. The only place below her navel that had no hair were her hips and posterior.

Of course, it wasn't just her body. Elysia knew she had a peculiar face, too. It was just as thin as her fine-boned hands, wrists, and ankles, but the features ran in a long oval. Straight, thin hair dripped from her scalp in the same colors as chocolate and caramel sauce – her mother used to joke that Elysia looked so sweet, she could just eat her up, made even stranger for Elysia, given that she had no idea what caramel or chocolate were – mixing together and barely brushed her shoulders, framing her face like a much younger girl. In reality, Elysia had been born in 50K 025, just a little over twenty-seven years ago.

Elysia lifted one hand to her bosom, then put another over the bulge in her front. She wasn't unhappy with her body, but she certainly wasn't happy.

But that didn't matter. Into the shower she got, pressing the button on the door that read 'Check-in'. The fogged glass of the door slid shut and the water spat out of the faucet in a rough stream that almost felt like a fire hose. Elysia coughed and gagged, but quickly shook the water out of her face and turned a few times. The water was lukewarm – probably because Arubella had just finished, so Elysia guessed there could be some advantages to coming in to shower after the old cow – and sheared against Elysia's skin like a shaving razor. It was as though all of her dead skin and the dirt were being scraped clear off of her body with the keen edge of a blade. The warmth didn't last long, and Elysia felt herself shivering as the blast turned quickly icy.

There was a succession of beeps from the buzzer over the door. Pushing her sopping hair out of her face, Elysia slipped to the other side of the stall and held both her hands under the soap dispenser. In a moment, the water clicked off and a dripping foam spat out of the dispenser into Elysia's hands. It prickled on her skin and smelled like styrofoam, but it was what she got. Last week, their hygiene director had put a flowery smelling soft soap into the dispenser, but that had cost something. Elysia's supervisor on the force had scolded her, saying her rent had been almost over the top for the week. Presumably, all the other girls had gotten similar talking-tos from their frugal managers, so they had all agreed that inexpensive, if foul-smelling soap was a much better alternative.

She didn't pretend to understand how the system worked – the point was that it did. And if she was the one who caused trouble, she would pay for it. She would not be the one who caused trouble. Besides, it was soap, and she'd gotten enough for her whole body, today. Sometimes, the dispenser didn't work properly, and Elysia had to try and make a little handful work for the vital spots of her shower. Once or twice, it hadn't worked at all, and Elysia had to go to work without having showered properly – it had been embarrassing, to the point that she could swear everyone could smell her. It was better, she heard, than some buildings – some buildings only had soap once a week, and they had to use a special kind of rock to scrub their skin clean the rest of the week.

Elysia started to scrub as quickly as she could. She ran the foam over her face and neck, down her chest, over her shoulders and arms, onto her front and then dripped the remainder onto her back as best she could. She rubbed between her fingers and up and down her legs; into the little creases behind her knees and on both sides of her elbows, under her arms and her scalp, behind her ears and around her jaw, until she was so covered in soap that she only had her eyes and ears open to pull out of the way when the water started again. Elysia pushed her hands under the spray and felt the stringent soap vanish and run off of her arms, as though it were a coating of liquid gloves she was pouring on from elbows down.

In two minutes, she was rinsed clear of every last sud, the soap running through her toes into the drain like water, itself. Her skin glistened and glowed with the blood rushing to the surface, and when the spray switched off, she couldn't help but shudder in the violently cool air.

Shivering and trying to wring the extra water from her hair and wipe it off her arms and legs with her hands, Elysia slid the shower door open and retreated for the warmth of the blow drier. She had to press the button a few times before it started. The blower stood about five and a half feet off the ground – still reachable for Elysia's five-foot-two, but not torturous for a six-footer like Arubella. The blasts of air were heated and blew so aggressively that Elysia could see her skin being pushed against her skeleton structure by the force. Elysia's body was dry in a matter of seconds. Her hair took the full minute. Another small miracle.

It was six-ten on the button as Elysia emerged from the shower, fully dressed. Her blouse and pants were buttoned to the top of their lines and the tie hung down to her belt line. There was no belt – she didn't need one, since the waist fit her figure well enough without one. In the crook of her right arm, Elysia carried the clothes she'd worn yesterday – and slept in, overnight – and her keys dangled from her finger. This time in no hurry to walk up the hallway, Elysia stared at the passing lockers as she moved. Each locker had a door handle on the top with a latch like a car door. The locks were immediately next to these handles, automatically unlocking when the door was closed. Each locker door was the same measurement of the locker it closed off – about two and a half feet in a square – and they all had a space of another foot or so between the doors. That was the storage space for the locker's occupants, always a set of built-in drawers and three shelves. Each door had a small window and a blind that could be pulled over it, a slot under the window for mail, and a vent over the window for air. Inside, the lockers had narrow, vertical windows to the outside of the building that didn't open. Nobody wanted them to, anyway.

According to the history books, these lockers were based on sleeping cubicles from the pre-Reconstitution, back when the planet had still been divided up by countries with different governments and cultures. Those cubicles had been for sleep, maybe for reading, or work, but certainly not much else, and the economy of their space had enabled as many as seven-hundred people to sleep in a building that was only four or five stories high. Elysia's locker building was at least twenty stories and twenty lockers wide for each side of the building. That made for one-hundred and sixty lockers on each floor, and that was only the outside wall. Part of the hype for this particular apartment when it had first opened was that it was the first to have lockers on the interior side of the hallways. The corners of the building were three toilet closets and the fourth, the shower.

Elysia herself was in the bottom locker in row seventeen. Gracie was the top locker, so she had to use the steps on the outside space to climb up to her locker.

It was all organized. It was all very neat. But what did she expect – this was all that anybody could have asked for. She wasn't unhappy with this life, but, at the same time, she certainly wasn't happy with it.

In her locker, Elysia stashed her pajamas, then took her briefcase and tools. Her gun went into the special pocket in her pants that only detectives could have. Her badge went into her left breast-pocket. She turned off the power outlets – she heard that, during working hours, the lockers were completely cut off from power, anyway, so she saw no need to leave it on – then changed her shoes for the laced up flats she wore to work. Then, she crawled out.

For the second time that morning, Elysia hit her head, standing up to Gracie's open door.

"Heyya, 'Lys'a! Headin' out now?" Gracie asked. Elysia was still rubbing her head as she closed her door and stood up, this time out of the doorway.

"Yep." Isn't It Obvious, Why Are You Even Asking?

"What're y'all gonna be takin' today? Train, sidewalk, ferrycar?"

"Train." Not That It's Any Of Your Business. When Was The Last Time You Set Foot Outside The Building, Or Your Own Locker, For That Matter?

"If y'all bring in a nice Breedsman, bring one fer me, won't y'all?"

"Go back to sleep, Gracie."

Elysia turned the corner for the elevator and let Gracie out of her mind.


The platform was jammed, but in a silent, still way that came from everyone being partially asleep. Some were still in a stupor from their late night jobs and others were still half in bed.

Elysia knew – she was one of those people.

Everything about the train platform was solid gray metal. The dim lightbulbs that hung from the ceiling, connected to the pipes which housed their wires, flickered with every little jostle from the trains. Elysia had left the elevator on the underground floor and caught a side-lift to ferry her over the three city blocks to the train. There, she found herself shuffling alongside line after line of other city occupants. In front of her, there was an older man with wrinkles on the back of his neck and missing handfuls of hair in a straight black shirt and pants. Behind her, some other nameless, faceless person she did not care to turn around and see, for their stench was sufficient to tell her about them.

The train was a single, circling, never-ending stretch of machine on wheels. Instead of different cars coming and going, it was a single train that kept moving at a precise, orderly pace. It made the journey laborious and inching, but it was the only solution – otherwise, this number of people on the platform would be a hazard. Each platform was exactly the same size – thirty compartments long – from station to station, and long, orderly lines were formed at the ticket booths. Elysia's permaticket was attached to her keychain, but she could see plenty of others with their tics hanging out of their wallets. There were also plenty who had no tics, permanent or otherwise, anywhere to be seen.

At the booth, the passengers slid their tickets into the tic-locks and pushed through the rotating bars of the booth. Then, they would slip through and into the single passenger compartments of the train. The compartments had just enough room to stand straight up in, or a slight protrusion from the wall that the passenger could sit on. It was uncomfortable, at best, and suffocating, at worst. It was bad enough once you could find a seat, but it wasn't unheard of for the train to rotate two or three times before a compartment would finally open up.

Nobody claimed the system was perfect, but nobody complained when it came to how effective, how efficient, and how inexpensive it was. Besides, the common joke went, it sure beat autotraffic clogs. It was even funnier since nobody – at least nobody that Elysia knew – had ever seen an auto.

So, here Elysia found herself, half falling back asleep as she shuffled along in line, hoping that the compartments in her line stayed empty. Virtually every other occupant in line was in black, most of them being men, and a majority enormous in size. Some were big because they were tall, but even more were big simply because they were big.

Elysia was about the only woman in the crowd that was trim. Every here and there, Elysia thought she spotted another man in the crowd who weighed less than his fellows, or was less fat than he was muscle, but then the lines would shift and the individual would vanish from sight. They were likely Clean Fellows. Those kinds of men were allowed to have jobs and leisure activities that were physically active. Whole Fellows had to stay in offices and take up recreations like television and mind games and puzzles.

It was their own fault, anyway – the system was organized so that everyone had what they needed and nobody was lacking. Elysia had no sympathy for their smell and disgusting manner.

It had seemed like an eternity, but, as the clock struck seven, Elysia found herself at the front of the line, right on time for the next line of compartments to pull up and the doors to open. Elysia scanned her permaticket and pushed through the bars. A few compartments over, she could see a stoutly chap kicking at the bars of the booth and the bells starting to ring. Wordlessly, the crowd parted and let a formation of four boys in security wraps through. Elysia kept her head straight forward and got into her compartment. As the door closed and the train started to jolt forward, she could see out the window as the security trollers wrestled with the man and pulled him, bodily, away from the ticket booth.

It served him right, Elysia thought, for trying to get on without a tic.

The train glided smoothly up the ramp and into the glaring light of the sun through the cloudless sky. The sun was bright red against the yellow, musky sky, and the light pierced into the buildings like needles in a medical center into flesh. Between buildings, Elysia could see the outlines of other trains, trolleys, ferrycars, and covered standwalks that ran between buildings or whole perimeters of the city. Elysia almost pitied those people – the train might be cramped, but at least you could be guarantied a spot alone once you got on. All those other people-movers required the passengers to stand shoulder-to-shoulder, packed all the way through their journey.

With a sigh, Elysia reached into her briefcase and pulled out her book. Somehow, she wasn't quite invested in reading it. She almost wished she had brought her other books, about what Earth had been like before the Great Reconstitution.

According to the books, the sky had once been a blue, sometimes white color. It had been polluted with gases like hydrogen and nitrogen and carbon dioxide. Instead of being a comfortable warm, the Earth had been cold, frequently brought to even colder temperatures with large amounts of water falling from the sky, sometimes in liquid form, sometimes in a solid form. The people had been forced to walk outside in those conditions, to go to work, to go to social events, to go to recreational activities. There had been no such things as standwalks, which allowed passengers to simply step onto the walk and then move them from place to place. People had to use their feet for everything.

Also in those times, the books read, cities were scarce and miniscule, only barely able to support themselves. The citizens of every country had no choice but to go out of doors everyday, out into all the horrible chemicals and insects and microorganisms that floated in the air, and work themselves to the bone, just for a tiny bit of food. It wasn't like now, when citizens could stay indoors and work all day in the comfort of their offices and eat until they were full during every meal share.

Elysia pulled down the blind over her window and tiredly opened up her book.

The chapter was entitled The Lies of the Cross-People.

Section 2: Any parents that resist, defy, or otherwise evade said law will be subject to a fee, not exceeding 100,000U, a prison sentence not exceeding 50 years, both, or, in cases with permission of the judge, sterilization of both partners, and then continued procedure for the Newchild.

D50k052.12.01T0800hrs

"Mornin', Detective Mazda." Elysia looked up and saw a brown cardboard box being set down before her. The decorative pictures on the sides showed round, pink covered rings with multicolored dots spotting the pink melting mess.

The other officer was Elysia's first desk mate, a young corporal by the name of Manju Haryana. She was a beautifully sienna brown-faced girl with long, silky black hair and golden brown, glass-like eyes, standing at least a few inches taller than Elysia, even with the slight hunch in her gait as she walked. These were days when Manju came in earlier – she was alright, and got her work done, and usually brought over enough of the breakfast shares that Elysia didn't have to interrupt her work to go and get fed. Already, Elysia had been at it for an hour and the paperwork was still in a high pile on the desk.

"Hello, Corporal Haryana." Elysia replied, opening the box Manju had brought with her free hand and fishing out one of the crackers inside. It snapped in two in her mouth and gave off such a taste of saccharin that Elysia almost gagged, if it weren't for the fact that she hadn't had anything to eat since the dinner shares, last night. That had been salty bread that smelled like celery.

"They had some nice coffee, too. Lightener and sweetener already added." The next box Manju put on the desk had a spigot and a pump on the top. It smelled like coffee. Elysia put her cracker in her mouth and fished a mug out from her desk drawer.

"Thanks."

"How's the decomposition coming?" Manju asked, taking a cracker for herself and picking a sheet off the top of the pile Elysia had not yet touched. Elysia dropped her uneaten half of the cracker into her coffee, then fished it out. It didn't crumble like dust in her mouth this time, nor did it sting like an overdose of sweetener.

"Slow." Elysia answered, picking up her mug and slurping down her coffee. She was still stuck on her report – it felt like she'd been rereading the same line for the past half hour. Manju, whether she was reading Elysia's body language or just showing good work ethic, picked up her pen and started writing.

"Been scouted, lately?"

Elysia popped her cracker in her mouth with a decisive and irritated crunch and didn't answer.

Manju was still smiling.

"Remember the application I told you about? I put it in at the Bureau today."

"Oh?"

"I think it's going to be approved. I've got this nerve tingling, telling me they'll let me adopt. I can't wait."

This was what Elysia didn't like about Manju. It would have been easier to ignore the fact that all the other women on the force were Clean Ones if she didn't have to share a desk with the one Clean Woman who talked and talked and utterly obsessed over the children she could never bear. It wasn't something Manju did on purpose, or even accidentally – it was, more or less, a part of her to be concerned with having children and passing on the line. Her entire family was one of the few who had been slow in reforming to the Reconstitution.

Elysia knew – she'd studied their case in her college work before entering the force.

Her mother and father had still tried to have children, even when they were, by all legal probabilities, the worst couple for the task. Not only that, but they'd had many children – the case study Elysia's professor had focused on had a particular slant towards the space this family had taken up. It had also, apparently, been the case that lead to a revision in the laws of how children were to be housed during their development. Prior to this case, a pair of Wholes could register, apply for proper housing, and be allowed to live with their child in a compartment of two sleeping lockers conjoined by a small standing space with a kitchen – at least, for the first five years, before the child could begin to attend schooling and receive mealshares with peers.

Now, apartments for mothers and their children composed of a locker space, which then had a door opening into the kitchen, which was then shared with a different pair of mother and child in the second sleep locker. Intended for two pairs of one adult and one child. Maybe, after a certain amount of time had passed, an exception could be made if one of the mothers was scouted before the first child had reached adulthood.

But two adults and five children... It was unheard of.

Manju's parents had filled out all the necessary forms and petitions to have children during every Fertile year. Both had consulted with regular doctors, psychologists, and accountants to be absolutely sure they would not be turned down for their requests, and for four straight Fertile years, they had had children.

Finally, on their fifth application, the government had turned down their request. Manju's parents matched up, anyway. The result was that Manju had been born and was put under procedure. Then, the judge had issued a doctrine for both of her parents to go under procedure, as well, and that was the end of it.

Still, her parents did their damage – for whatever reason, Manju's parents had kept Manju living with them instead of enrolling her in a live-in school. The result was poor Manju, always wanting to adopt and marry and have a family – for someone on the force, Elysia always thought that Manju should know better, or at least know what laws and regulations were outdated and which were the current regulations in use.

The other Clean Women on the force treated her with contempt and disdain – after all, they all knew how horrible having a child was. Already, every single one of them was living in locker apartments, and that was with the few of them that there were. Trying to keep a Newchild in one of those places, not to mention once they grew up and had to get lockers of their own...

The fact that Manju didn't even seem aware of how blissfully wrong she was just made it worse.

It was only because she felt sorry for Manju and the curse her parents had foisted on her that Elysia put up with sharing a desk. Otherwise, she would have resented Manju for being one of the Clean Ones too much to allow civil conversation.

"You'll have to get matched up, first, though." Elysia put in, picking up her pen and finally starting to write. The share dealers must have added an extra shot of caffeine to the coffee, or maybe it was the lightener and sweetener, but now that she was awake, she could finally concentrate.

"I put in for a match, too. There's a Clean Fellow from the next city over who just got an approval for a room, so long as he can have a match and application for adoption approved before six months ups." Of course she had. Of course there was a Clean Fellow who'd been approved for a room. Of course she would put in an application for a match. Of course it would be approved and they could then apply for adoption.

Never mind that the last recorded approved match had been two years after Manju's birth. And matches had never been awarded to Cleans.

Elysia shrugged.

"I'm happy for you." She wasn't.

"And here, I was just thinking of putting in an application for YOU!" Elysia looked up from her work and saw the other two desk mates sliding in from around the corners. Tall and silent with a neatly trimmed gray beard was Officer Kramitz. The other was the smaller, more slender, cleanly shaved Detective Reneud, whose dark eyes and dark skin made the whites of his eyes and teeth all the more bright.

"Good Morning, Detective Mazda." Officer Kramitz nodded in Elysia's direction. His voice was thick and heavy, but his greetings in the morning were always so light, like someone who started off the day with a straight posture instead of a tired slouch. Elysia offered a brief, polite smile back.

"Hello, Officer Kramitz." Then, she looked at Detective Reneud, all trace of civil kindness vanishing, "Detective Reneud."

"How come he gets a 'Hello', and I don't?" Reneud demanded in a hurt voice, "And why can't you at least call me Pierre, like I asked you to?"

"Because, Detective Reneud, Officer Kramitz has never tried to scout me as a Breeder and because I have no desire to be scouted."

"I never said I was scouting you as a Breeder, just as..."

"Pierre."

Elysia was pleased that Reneud immediately stopped talking. She was less pleased that he did so because he was grinning so obnoxiously.

"Yes, Elysia?"

Elysia wished the desk wasn't between her and her foot so she could kick him.

"I like my job."

Reneud's smile dropped almost immediately. Ever since he'd joined the force three years ago and become her deskmate, he'd been making comments about how he would like to put in an application for a match between them. Conversely, since day one, Elysia had been saying that she had no desire to have children, even if she was a Whole.

It hadn't stopped Reneud from making his comments, even if he noticed that Elysia had never been scouted.

"I like your job, too." He said, not smiling and staring straight across the desk at Elysia. She bent her head to her paperwork, as though trying to shield her answers on a test.

"Sport." Officer Kramitz finally saw the need to interject. Elysia didn't look up, but mentally, she was all too happy to cheer him on. Reneud glanced up at his nickname, "Please stop talking and let us work."

Reneud obeyed Officer Kramitz's words, completely and without question, not seeing it when Elysia glanced up and sent Kramitz a half eye-roll, half smile. Reneud always had, ever since being assigned as Kramitz's subordinate, followed Kramitz's instructions to the letter – big or small. Elysia had only been promoted to a detective just a year ago – before that, she'd been a normal police guard under Lieutenant Prentiss, also a Clean Woman, who had been on the force for a petty three years compared to Elysia's six.

If anything, that was what aggravated Elysia about the Cleans – how easy life was for them, compared to the Wholes. They got better jobs, less rules restricting their every movement, allowances for things that would be outright denied to any other applicant, and they didn't have to be scouted or matched or selected by any Breedsmen or judge.

On the other hand, Whole Fellows were perfectly free to submit as many applications as they wanted to. Even if the government decided to reject a majority of them, it wasn't the Fellow's problem if they were approved, and they didn't have to go through the nine months of utter anguish if that happened.

In the end, it boiled down to a few simple points for Elysia's brain:

Clean Women were annoying because they were spoiled.

Whole Women were annoying because they were selfish.

Whole Fellows were annoying because they wanted to have children and didn't have to care.

Clean Fellows were not annoying because not one Clean Fellow had ever done anything to agitate Elysia.

For instance, Officer Kramitz was a Clean Fellow at she didn't know how many years Elysia's senior. Reneud was a Whole Fellow at two years her elder. Officer Kramitz had never spoken to or of Elysia poorly, nor had he ever made any untoward gestures. Reneud had been talking of putting in for a match with her since day one. It didn't take a genius to recognize the pattern.

Likewise, both Prentiss and Manju were always on about being scouted by Breedsmen – at least, talking about Elysia as though she weren't there – and matches. And, more often than not, it was in a rather demeaning tone, as though they were pitying her for so-called needing those things while they did not. Gracie, on the other hand, would always go on about wanting a match. Also a pattern.

Elysia wasn't unhappy with her job, but she wasn't happy, either.

"Detective Mazda, Detective Reneud." Speaking of the Lieutenant, that was her coming through the door, now. The only difference was that, after two years, she'd been promoted to Captain Prentiss. Which meant, among other things, that she was still Elysia's boss.

"Morning, Captain." Reneud sat up, pushing back his pile of papers. Elysia hadn't seen him even pick up a pen.

"Both of you, we've got a case."

Elysia shrugged, stood up, and slouched after the Captain, knowing full well that it was going to be a long day.

Section 3: Any persons wishing to conceive a child during an odd numbered year will be required to pass the respective trials:

Clause i: Physical, mental, and financial background check.

Clause ii: Genetic compatibility test with partner.

Clause iii: Application for childbearing license and housing (Article X) approved by judge and no less than 5 public office figures.

Clause iv: Proof of adequate employment.

Clause v: Citizens wishing to apply for childbearing must apply for a match with second Whole citizen.

Clause vi: Applications for matches will be approved by a judge, lawyer, and doctor based on compatibility of genes, financial status, and criminal background. Any one of these characteristics is grounds for denial, as is any other decision made by the judge.

Captain Prentiss' office wasn't bigger than most of the others. In fact, it was only the size of one of the closets, but still big enough that Elysia felt a distinct difference being in there. She could feel the walls so much bigger than herself, but in the way that she felt miniscule compared to everything else.

Prentiss' desk was no bigger than the ones children used in school, but it was completely her own, in a room all her own, and that little detail almost seemed to make the building all her own. That was all that was really necessary to establish a chain of command, and Prentiss knew it, and that was all that she needed.

Never mind that there was practically nothing on Prentiss' desk, except a line of pencils, pens, and a lamp. The only paper she would have had was currently in her hand. There was nothing on the walls, nor the floor. It was something that had always made Elysia curious – after all, she had miscellaneous bits and pieces of materials in her desk and in the office that she didn't keep in her locker.

On the other hand, maybe Prentiss just had fewer materials. Or she kept everything in her locker. Maybe that's why she'd been promoted to Captain so quickly, while Elysia barely made Detective. Or maybe...

Elysia and Reneud were standing, side-by-side, waiting for orders. Elysia refused to think about it. Reneud, as far as she could tell, wasn't thinking at all.

"What's the new case, Chief?" Reneud asked, his heels tightly clicked together as he bounced slowly on his toes. Their Captain was not the Chief of Police, but she did not begrudge Reneud his cheekiness. Elysia suspected she rather enjoyed it.

"A new underground movement resisting the Reconstitution." The papers were handed out, one to Elysia, the other to Reneud, "A cult that has begun garnering members for the purpose of revolting. All the classic movements that most such organizations use."

Secret meetings, special hideouts, perfectly normal and obvious codes and signals, Elysia expected. Virtually all underground movements used them, and the last two cases had been cut and paste from the others before them – the only variables had been the identities and specifics of the movements. Furthermore, this was a case from a completely different city.

Why another city would come to a different region for help from their detective squad, Elysia didn't know. A possible excuse might be that it was a case that their own investigative team couldn't handle, or that they didn't have anyone competent enough to figure it out. Of course, that was a silly excuse – all cities had equal resources and training, and all investigative forces were supplied with equal numbers of lower enforcers and higher, intelligent puzzle-solvers. The joke went that all investigative offices were so alike that, in theory, it could be entirely possible that a city halfway around the world had exactly the same people in their office as were in this one, down to names and appearances. Which, of course, was silly, given that there couldn't possibly be another office with the exact combination of Elysia Mazda, Pierre Reneud, Gordon Kramitz, Manju Haryana, and Julia Prentiss, both in appearance and behavior. Everyone knew that.

Still, Elysia understood why people said it.

Either way, she supposed as she scanned the file, it wasn't her job to question. There must be a reason, and whatever it was, Captain Prentiss must have cleared it, already. To do otherwise would be a serious breach in protocol.

Elysia scanned the file for anything else that would make this case unique enough to warrant their involvement in another city's business, before her eyes landed on the very bottom of her page.

"They've been kidnapping Newchilds?"

Captain Prentiss sighed, and scooped one of her shorter hairs back behind her ear.

"So far, it's been confined to a single materncenter and it was only two incidences in four months. It was left to the local trollers and security, but last week, five Newchilds disappeared from three materncenters. During this week, there have been sabotage incidences on public offices and government centers, so we have reason to believe that it is the work of the same organization."

Elysia continued to look over the file, wishing that the report had more concrete details. All it really did was specify where and when the incidents had occurred. It was as though the writers of the report just didn't care.

"So, you want us to go around and find out more about these incidents." Reneud surmised, picking up the papers and heading for the doorway. Captain Prentiss let him, but as Elysia turned to follow, she heard their captain clear her throat.

"Detective Mazda." Elysia stopped and turned back. Captain Prentiss paced around her desk and sat back down, pulling out a different folder entirely. Elysia saw a clear pocket with a card key secured inside, "You have an interview to attend. Second floor, Room W, cubicle 5."

Elysia took the folder without question. Interviews did happen, from time to time. She'd never had one, but others did. Nobody ever talked about what they were like, what was discussed during the interviews, or even why they had them. In all honesty, Elysia somewhat preferred it that way. If she knew what the intended purpose was for these interviews, it felt like it would taint their purpose. Besides that, she didn't want to spend all her time worrying about what her coworkers or neighbors said during any interviews they were called for.

Besides, if you had done nothing wrong, you would be fine. Everyone knew that.

The central elevator of the building shuttled Elysia eight floors down, putting her in one of the more spacious floors. The tenth floor – the floor law enforcement offices were headquartered in – was all a single room with only cubicles separating any desks and a single toilet closet. The lower floors had more space inside the pyramid-shaped office building, and the lower floors had more rooms and amenities, as a result. Room W faced the west corner of the building, and cubicle five was the furthest from the door of Room W.

Elysia ran the key through the lock on the cubicle door. It slid open just as she barely moved the latch, and Elysia stepped into the cubicle. There were no lights in the box, only a table and a single chair. Elysia didn't sit – she'd been on the force too long to take a seat without being explicitly told she could.

"Have a seat, Detective Mazda." A light turned on right next to a chair beside the wall, giving a spotlight that blinded Elysia when she sat down. All she could see was the very toes of two black shoes. They were pointed, sharp triangles – a worker who didn't spend much time on their feet, and probably a higher grade than any other job.

"Have you been informed what this is?" What kind of question was that? But Elysia didn't say that.

"Yes." She knew that, unless specified in the question, all questions were yes or no.

"What?"

"An interview."

"Very good."

Well, what did that mean? Did that mean that she wasn't actually here to be interviewed, that this was something else with the pretense of being an interview? Was she being told to not reveal that it wasn't, or was that just how interviews started, to be sure the interviewee understood what was being asked of her before the interview proceeded?

"Are you aware of what matter this is concerning?"

This was sounding more and more like a lecture from a senior officer about proper conduct or something of the like.

"No."

"Really? You cannot think of any reason that you would be called aside, specifically, when you have a case to be assigned to?"

"No."

"It didn't strike you as the least bit odd that your Captain singled you out?"

"No."

"That you were put in this remote room, on a floor you'd never been to, with a person that you did not know, nor ever would know?"

"No."

"You have no idea what this interview is even supposed to be for?"

"Standard procedure, I assumed."

During the questioning, Elysia had her mind fixed on working out what the questions themselves meant. The speaker seemed to be growing more and more agitated with each question that Elysia answered innocently. That, combined with the official tone, the badgering questions, and the high-class, desk job shoes, all pointed to an agent of the Reconstitute. Possibly a judge sent out to evaluate other public service members.

"Then, you have no marks on your record? No unauthorized material exchanges or unreported matches?"

"No."

"If we checked your bag, desk, or sent a Sweeper to your locker, would we find anything incriminating?"

"No." Elysia was starting to wonder if Gracie or one of their neighbors had decided to submit a report on Elysia. It would explain all this hassle.

"Have you submitted for matches, lately?"

"No."

"Why?"

Did this mean it was a Breedsman scouting interview? Or was there something Elysia was doing wrong by not matching up?

"My duties on the force are incompatible with the responsibilities of a Breeder."

"Detective Mazda, you are aware of Article One, Section Four, Clause Two, correct?"

"Yes."

She was starting to wonder if this was a Breedsman scouting interview. If it was, could she be recapped or otherwise punished for even that reply? Surely whoever was interviewing her wouldn't say she'd refused just because she'd failed to immediately agree...

"Have you ever been scouted?"

"No."

The questioner paced around her, the shoes clicking on the floor. Elysia knew better than to follow them.

"Do you suspect that this is a Breedsman scouting interview?"

What was Elysia supposed to say to that? If she answered no and she was right, what would the interviewer do? What would they do if she answered yes and was right?

"...I have a few different suspicions." She managed to answer, and prayed that it was a diplomatic enough reply that she wouldn't be in any real trouble – perhaps it would make her a person of interest, and if she acted up in the future, it would be a strike against her. Elysia could deal with that – she just had to be sure she would never be worthwhile of suspicion in the future.

"A real answer, Detective Mazda – do you suspect this is a Breedsman scouting interview?"

Elysia felt her gut turn over a few times – the pressure of her belt buckle was unbearable on her bladder.

"...I didn't, until that question came up."

"That's very poor detective work. We would expect better than that from you at this stage, Detective."

Elysia swallowed down the knee-jerk response that she could have been pretending in order to wheedle extra information out of them – such as the interviewer's use of 'We', which was a dead giveaway as an examiner from a government agency, and would not be in a Breedsman interviewer's list of questions – but knew that that was also a poor tool for detective work.

So, she remained silent.

Silence wasn't a detective skill. It was a skill needed to keep a clean record.

"What year were you born in, Detective Mazda?"

Elysia felt easier breathing, now.

"Fifty-K, Zero-Twenty-Five." She could respond to that, easily.

"And you have never submitted a request for a match?"

They'd been through this, already.

"Correct."

The interviewer was silent. Elysia wasn't sure if this was a good thing, or a bad thing. In a moment, however, she heard the shoes click away from her. Then, another click and the scrape of metal on metal.

The thought occurred to Elysia that she might have been wrong about this being any of the other choices for interview. Perhaps this was a simple, routine interview that was being used to examine Elysia's fitness for the force. In that case, she had thought she would be fine, given how well she'd done in keeping the rules, as well as never having any marks against her record. On the other hand, she had just been scolded for having poor detective skills. If this had been a test, she supposed that was very poor work.

On the other hand, it was a question of risk – had this been a sweeper and she had attempted to question, she would have been insubordinate. So, she kept to protocol. Protocol would always keep her out of trouble. Protocol always kept everyone out of trouble. Everyone knew that.

"You are dismissed for the day, Detective Mazda."

Elysia didn't need to be told twice as she shakily got out of her chair and stumbled towards the door that was opened, allowing a square of light to flow into the room. Enough that Elysia could see where she was going, but not enough to illuminate beyond the shoes of the interviewer. They were small – so her interviewer had been a woman.

That still told her nothing.

"And, Detective Mazda."

Elysia stopped, squarely in the door.

"It would behoove you to behave a little more appropriately for your age."

What that was supposed to mean, Elysia couldn't think.

No matter. It wasn't her job to think – her job was to follow orders. She was good at her job – that was all that mattered.

She walked out and let the door shut completely behind her.

Section 4: The government may, for any reason, employ individuals to select individuals born during odd numbered years for procedure, or for ideal breeding purposes.

Clause i: Government shall compensate said individuals with a sum not deceeding 5,000U and not exceeding 10,000U, excepting in cases where the procedure is a capital punishment.

Clause ii: Any persons who resist, refuse, or otherwise evade said law will be imprisoned for a period not deceeding 25 years, upper limit to be decided by a judge.

D50k052.12.01T1000hrs

"So, what was that about?" Reneud asked Elysia as she joined him, right in the landing before the stairs that would lead to the transportation platform. This was where the check-in desk was for all the departments, along with a single door with the sign Emergency Exit in chipping red paint. She didn't answer, taking the file from him and making for the stairs, "...Hey! Hey, Elysia!"

She wanted to say Detective Mazda, to You, Detective Reneud. But she didn't – they were on the job. It would be inappropriate to use this time to squabble over petty things like names.

The transport they had to take to the next city would have to be an autobus – instead of following rails or staying on a specific route, autobuses were independently steered vehicles that could ignore route signs and restrictions. This one would take them to a border and drop them off at the office of transfers. From there, they would find direction to the materncenter as needed.

Elysia had never been on an autobus – instead of individual compartments or a shared standing space like a train or ferrycar, there was an open space with evenly spaced seating. The driver had a compartment right next to the seats, visible to all who were there – though Elysia couldn't tell if he was a Whole Fellow or a Clean Fellow – and on each seat, there was a man whom was an exact replica of the man sitting right next to him.

If Elysia had to say, she'd rather suspect they were all Clean Fellows – something about the way they dressed and the affects of their work. They had to be, at least, in some form of hard work – be it technology to engineer food or filter air, or dictation over areas of government – because every one of them was lean, but filled out almost triangular shaped suits. Each one of them had a briefcase on the seat under their left hand.

And each and every one of their faces turned towards Elysia and Reneud as they made their way towards the only open seats in the very back. There was a grate over the back wall, and Elysia focused on the dots in the grate as she walked towards it – never once turning to meet the eyes that followed her. She could feel them – as though their gazes were hands that ran into her clothing and made the fabric chafe on her skin.

She kept her eyes on the file, not reading it, and not thinking about the stares, or how she and Reneud stood out, or any of it. That wasn't her job. And it wasn't her place to care if any of them were watching her.

Fifteen minutes later, the autobus came to a complete stop and Elysia saw the driver haul himself out of his seat, mumbling and coughing and cursing, announcing to all of the other passengers that the engine probably had a broken gasket or something of the like. Elysia closed her eyes and made a strict note not to move so much as a centimeter that could be noticeable when the driver pried the floor open enough to adjust whatever needed adjusting on the engine. This would never happen on the train – granted, trains were more inconvenient and slow, but they were all securely linked to each other, and moved along because of the central engine that kept one compartment moving, which kept the next compartment moving, which kept the next compartment moving, and so on.

Half an hour after that, the autobus had emptied and she and Reneud were the last passengers to get off inside the station at the border. The only place to go was the door of the transfer office – a sliding, black-glass entryway that was marked only by a peephole to the side. Reneud had to tap on it for the door to slide open and one of the guards inside come out to check their badges and .

Then, it was through the gate – another set of sliding, black glass doors on the other side of the office. If Elysia hadn't known which way she was supposed to go, she could have easily gotten the two doors mixed up.

The next city was supposedly just like their own. The guard inside the office informed them where to find the materncenter in question – another ride on an autobus. Another time that the two of them stood out as they sat in the back, by the grate and drew the stares of same-faced, same-bodied men who boarded after them and watched. There was even another breakdown halfway through the ride – this time, a piece of piping that had fallen off because it had been bonded to the engine with adhesive tape.

"Can you believe we're in a different city?" Reneud asked. Elysia didn't look – she really didn't want to see him looking out of the window, somehow admiring the scape of the city, not when they were supposed to be here for work. She had no need to look, and neither should Reneud.

"It's just the same as our own." She pointed out. If she wanted to look out and marvel or even see what a city looked like, she'd do it on her own time, in her own city. Of course she could – everybody could.

"Elysia..." Reneud started, but did not speak any further. All of the same-faced men on the autobus were now looking at him.

The autobus stopped at the station before the materncenter – this one was paved in pure white, like most medical buildings but this one had no doors or slots for any emergency autos. Materncenters worked by having the Whole Women coming to live in them from the time they began production to the end of production. There was no need for emergency autos. Instead, the materncenter had a single door, with guards standing at the sides and watching them. Their purpose was to ensure that no foreign bodies entered the materncenter and corrupt or injure the Whole Women or Newchilds. Thus, the duty befell these guards to ensure that any Newchilds were properly cared for and protected.

They had failed these duties. Elysia gave them no acknowledgment, where she might have before bowed or saluted these respected and important guardians of their society's future.

"Heyya." Reneud said, as they passed. Elysia kept walking, with absolutely no regard for what Reneud was doing or saying.

She had no business with what he said or did, unless it was for work.

"Newchilds been kidnapped. Know anything about that?" He was actually speaking – in friendly terms – to the guards. As though they would be able to answer him. They'd already failed. There was no point in talking to them. If they could be of any help, they would never have let the Newchilds be kidnapped.

They'd already failed.

"Detective Reneud." She called, "We're meant to report to the director of the materncenter."

She turned away and continued walking down the corridor, not bothering to look back and see if Reneud was following her or not. Her job was to meet the director.


The director's office was right next to the check desk. This was so the director could see everything that happened in the materncenter. Anyone who came in or out, any interactions with the guards, or any development recorded by the registrars was visible and within the control of the director.

Elysia, therefore, knew to stand to attention and be expected when the door to the director's office opened without her needing to knock or announce herself. In the doorway was a very tall, very thin, very pale old man. His eyes were so wide that when Elysia craned back her head to look into them, she wondered if she was perhaps looking at the lightbulbs in the ceiling for just a moment, before they blinked and she was able to realign her judgement of the room again.

Reneud joined her at her side. And, just like he had with the guards, on the autobus, and even with Captain Prentiss, immediately started to talk.

"Director Lain?" He asked, holding up the file that, technically, should have been in Elysia's grip – after all, Captain Prentiss had asked for her, specifically, even after her interview at the station, "We're from the next city over, at your request to investigate the kidnappings of the Newchilds."

Director Lain frowned at Reneud – well as he should – and turned sharply back into the office, pointing to the wall. Elysia moved swiftly to stand against the wall, as directed. Reneud hovered by the desk for a moment, before uneasily edging to stand next to Elysia.

She'd always expected he would fall apart if put anywhere but their little niche in their own city and with their own colleagues. He just didn't know how to function without those little allowances that the Captain and Officer Kramitz and Manju gave him for being a friend.

This was what he got for being a spoiled, self-absorbed Whole Fellow. You were bound to get in trouble when you acted out of line, and then expected people to excuse you. People like Reneud always found their careers ending whenever they made stupid mistakes like this. Everybody knew that.

Elysia wasn't the least bit sympathetic. She'd behaved properly and knew what to do. She wasn't out of place.

"The kidnappings have all been from the third level, usually between the hours of eleven at night and three in the morning." Lain said, acting as though Reneud were not in the room and speaking directly to Elysia.

"With all due respect, Director." Elysia asked, holding herself straight up, "Might there be any staff which has shifts during those hours?"

"We did check that – unfortunately, we had no coinciding staff during the different dates and rooms that the kidnappings took place in. There's no relationship between the two. Hence, we felt it necessary to call for support from a different district."

"I understand pulling support from detectives and all, but why a different city? Why not your own officers or detectives?" Reneud asked, leaning around Elysia as he spoke.

"The third level is where guards switch off, so it's something of a weak point. The best we can ask is for you to stand watch overnight." Lain spoke again to Elysia, completely ignoring Reneud.

"Understood, sir." She agreed, "Might I ask to see reports on the Newchilds that have already been kidnapped and any information about the Producers?"

Director Lain frowned in Elysia's direction.

"The Producers of these Newchilds in question were proceeded with." He said, simply. Elysia bowed her head, accepting this note.

"With all due respect, Director." Reneud butted in, again, "There may be a connection between the Whole Women who produced these Newchilds, and therefore, we would be able to figure out who the next target would be, and why."

Elysia ground her teeth. Where did Reneud get off thinking he could always be made an exception of?

Director Lain continued to glare, this time at Reneud.

"Those Producers have been blacklisted, Detective Reneud." Were his sharp words. At that, Reneud promptly stopped talking. Blacklists were the files of citizens whom had been officially removed from their respective cities – generally for some crime they had committed. Therefore, any files were probably gone – and those citizens did not exist if they had no files. Everybody knew that.

But the Newchilds' information was available and readily printed and handed over. All that was left was to form a stake-out.