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Authors: Vaughn Heppner
Tags: Science-Fiction
dehumanizing, so I don’t see how you have room to complain.”
    “We could bring you in for questioning or I could sign a paper and have you returned to the Reservation for further tests.”
    A cold stab of fear bit through me. I hated the fear, hated the Reservation and their inhuman tests. If it had been night, I might have tried for the Chief, killing him here and now. Then I would have gone after Jagiello and finished him, too.
    “It’s unwise to threaten me,” I said.
    “You used to control your emotions better. This display, it embarrasses you.”
    I bared my teeth. “You’ve tried to eliminate me three times already. Each attempt failed.”
    “I have never ordered you eliminated…yet,” the Chief said.
    I laughed. “I know Shop operatives when they’re shooting at me.”
    “Apparently, you do not. When did these incidents occur?”
    I thought about it. “Sorry,” I said, “I don’t buy your act. That would mean someone else has been trying to kill me.”
    “Precisely,” he said. “I’m curious who this someone is.”
    “You’re trying to imply you don’t know who?”
    “I imply nothing.”
    My eyes narrowed. No. I didn’t believe this cunning intriguer. Shop operatives routinely worked to shift the blame of their actions onto someone else. It was almost standard operating procedure.
    “You have a right to be wary of me,” I said. “I could hunt you, Jagiello and every Shop operative in San Francisco, killing the lot of you.”
    His lizard-like eyes seemed to darken and his breathing quickened. “You are a freak, Herr Kiel, a mutant conceived through dangerous experimentation. It is madness letting you range among the sheep. My superiors…they lack my understanding of the situation. Wisely, you have refrained from advertising your difference. Nor have you engaged in some of the foolishness the others insist on committing.”
    “You mean Kay?”
    The Chief looked away, and his right hand tightened into a fist so the knuckles became prominent. He was angry with himself. It took a second until I realized why. He’d just given away a valuable piece of information. Some of the others—by that he meant the particle accelerator survivors—engaged in activities of which he disapproved. One of the Shop’s primary goals was to keep a lid on dangerous technologies. Did those people represent such a thing?
    It was the Chief’s anger with himself that made me rethink. Could someone else have been hunting me this entire time? No. Kay had said the Shop—the Chief in particular—was still eager to have me killed. Yet his performance here…
    “I’m surprised you’ve come to me,” I said. “You know how I feel about you.” If someone else hunted me…I scowled as I said, “Kay asked for my help. I gave it to her.”
    “We know that,” he whispered.
    “Was her accident in Long Beach—a true accident?”
    “First, tell me what she carried in the box.”
    My scowl deepened. Did it even matter anymore? Keeping it secret wouldn’t help Kay now and probably not Dave, either. Yet what if I admitted to knowing where the cube was? Maybe that’s all he wanted to know. No. Maybe the Chief wanted to know if I had the cube or not, or could get it for him. Maybe the cube was so important that if he found out I’d seen it, he’d try to have me killed despite everything he’d said. Playing with the Shop while blind was a bad idea.
    What would the Chief do if he were in my place? Of course, I knew. He would spin a lie like a spider spinning a web.
    I forced away my scowl. “Since Dave is out of the picture…” I shrugged. “I wanted to get together with Kay in a romantic way. I think she was interested because of what happened to me in Geneva.”
    “Yes, yes,” the Chief said, for the first time sounding annoyed. I noticed he had minutely sat forward. He was eager, so eager he couldn’t hide it. That scared me more than any of his threats.
    “We met together for a time,” I said, “but

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