Stick and Bones

by Phil Geusz

Can a slave be freed entirely by the efforts of others? Or must he free himself, lest the chains remain locked around his heart?

Simeon Bolivar carries the taint of slavery in every cell of his body—he's been genetically engineered to serve as unpaid labor and hope for nothing more. He's also the teen-aged son of two of the leaders of the Uprising that in theory set him free. But his parents were murdered on the brink of true victory and his people continue to live half-free in a broken society plagued by slums, drugs and murderous gangs. Does Simeon have what it takes to finish his parent's work and bring about true freedom? Or will his people fester in their hell-hole forevermore?


Romeo was smiling too as he powered up the car and got ready to pull out into traffic. But he didn't move us an inch. For the real game was only just beginning. It'd taken me weeks to plan this job, and Sammy'd sunk a lot of resources into it as well. My cohorts might be perfectly happy with a quarter-share of a bag that might or might not be filled with cash in return for so much risk and toil, but Icertainly wasn't.

Not when there were far more valuable items at hand for the taking.

I'd chosen our waiting-spot very carefully indeed; while the check-cashing guards might guess that a getaway car was involved, we were far enough away that they could only guess which one of dozens we might be waiting in. Plus, their building was brightly-lit while we were lurking in the shadows. On top of that, the theft had been a small one, relatively speaking. It wouldn't make sense to denude the main treasure of most of its guards in order to chase a single cash-bag. So as anticipated no one else followed to support the greyhound, who now lay unconscious amid his widely-scattered teeth. Instead, like anyone else would do, they waited for the police-snake at the intersection to come to life and call for backup. Its blue lights had long-since turned themselves on, and the beast was even now tracking bunny-spoor down the sidewalk.

“Come on…” I whispered under my breath. It was very hard indeed to just sit and wait at the scene of a crime instead of instantly fleeing as my lapine ancestors had for so many thousands of generations before me. “Come on…”

Then it happened. The same police-beetle that’d investigated the death of the snake we'd killed earlier came roaring up. Because we'd left it only a few blocks away it was the first responder, and even more importantly it was travelling all by itself, along a predictable route. Romeo might've been a pincushion, but he could drive like a motherfucker. The car had been waiting in reverse-gear for over a minute; now he goosed the throttle and rammed us ass-backwards into the speeding beetle. WHAM! The impact was a lot worse than when the dog hit the door; I'd been worried we'd be knocked silly. But Sammy had predicted there'd be no problem and as always he was right. Little Weiner was thrown pretty hard, but didn’t give a shit. All he cared about was the fresh stick waiting for him in the floorboards.

Instead of stopping after hitting the beetle, Romeo kept his foot mashed flat to the floor so that, skidding and protesting all the way, the beetle was forced out of the street and down the alley across the way. The car steered funny with the beetle locked to its bumper but somehow Romeo managed, only striking the wall a couple of glancing blows along the way. The alley was a dead-end, and as instructed my driver rammed the beetle into the wall hard at the end, kicking up a shower of sparks I hoped was the nasty thing's primary batteries shorting out.

“All right!” I declared, hopping out and lighting my minitorch. Now was my time. The turret was trying to deploy itself, though the mechanism was too fucked up from the collision for it to operate, again just as planned. Beetles weren't armored, though I hadn't a clue as to why not; if I'd designed the fuckers they sure as hell would've been. So it took only a few seconds to slice open the sheet metal and access the innards of the beast. There were five black boxes, just as Sammy had told me there'd be. With a quick snip-snip, they became mine. Then I slashed through the gun-mount and tipped the whole thing over on top of the stolen car's ruined trunk and tack-welded it into place. People would notice, yes. But we had less than a mile to go before we hit the river, and with any luck even the police-snakes wouldn't be able to do anything more than watch us race by and ram through the barbed-wire. Once we got there the Ninth Street Avengers would be waiting for us with open arms. Sammy could make cheap-shit stenguns all day long, sure enough. But a police -issue machine-cannon was another story entirely.This was worth all the time, risk, and effort we'd poured into the operation, and more. Not a tiny bag of maybe-cash.

“All right!” I declared one last time as I hopped back into the half-ruined getaway car and slapped the dashboard. “If this piece of shit'll just get us back to the Zone, you guys can party all fucking week long, my treat.”



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