"Go Silva, don't wait for me, I need you to get her into a cab and hold it for me before they're all taken." Ford's head was pounding and he didn't have time to argue with her so he tried to keep his tone light. She wouldn't leave if she sensed anything but calm and he needed her out of the apartment. "Your hair is ridiculous by the way." He added. It seemed to be a different set of colors each day now, an effort, he guessed, to hold onto her precious teen life for as long as possible before regulation deemed it time that she act like an adult. Today it was black with bright blue tips; it was the most mellow he'd ever seen it.

She stuck her chin out, lips pursed, but she turned toward the door and grabbed his mother's arm. "Says the man who wears pants from … what are they called again? Blue pants?"

"Blue jeans." He looked around a corner while tucking in a clean shirt and shooed them out the door.

"Whatever. Where are we going, by the way?"

"If I told you, it wouldn't be a surprise."

"Whatever, hurry up Ford, I can't bare your mother for long without you."

He knew she teased and shook his head. His mother was deaf and had dementia but they both refused to let the CADs take her to a home. He was about to go and push her out the door, but when he looked again the door was sliding shut behind her.

He dropped his jacket on a chair and raced for the bathroom mirror. Pulling out his pocket knife with one hand he probed for the lump at his collar with the other. As soon as he felt it he dove in with the blade and cried out, but didn't slow his effort. They could be tracking him already. He pulled the device free and posed to drop and smash it, but stopped. If it went dead they would know he took it out. He pocketed it and wiped up his blood hastily and smothered bandage foam over the cut before replacing his shirt. He could feel it sticking to the cotton as it crystalized and hardened. That was going to hurt later.

There was no point cleaning up the quarters, they wouldn't ever be back there. He didn't have the luxury to be sentimental either, another reason to keep Silva in the dark on the plans he'd been working on for the last four months. She was bad enough when he threw away the stubs of her used birthday candles.

She was nineteen now. His mother was determined mentally unfit and would not need a tracker, but Silva? The rules were changing all the time now, he'd have to find out if she'd been summoned for implantation, but not until absolutely necessary. It would be better if she didn't put it all together that he was now on the run.

He scanned as many faces as he could on his way down to the breezeway. What a horrible name for it. It was more like a gauntlet or stock yard. It had a regular mix of filthy aromas that no manner of cleaning could remove, despite the efforts of the newly installed ejecto sprayers that popped out of the walls and floors every now and again spewing cleansers. Most had been broken off by surprised people who'd been accidentally doused. What a waste of money.

No one looked like they were tracking him down so he pushed his way to the loading lane and spotted Silva, his mother already seated comfortably in the rail cab.

"Oh wow," Silva faked excitement, "that was so fast I could have baked a cake." Silva quipped. A common sarcastic phrase she liked, it probably ran rampant among all the teens, now that baking was prohibited under fire hazard law twenty-three dash five. All baked goods must be delivered by or picked up in your friendly local and professional bakery.

He barely noticed her snark, which he frequently annoyed her, and he supposed as a mentor he should at least pretend to deter her from doing, but he stopped trying to be a good role model long ago when she began acting more mature than he was. What he did notice was his overcoat that she must have, once again, sniched from the hall closet. Normally he let her and would made a fake fuss over it, but today it concerned him. What if authorities recognized it and mistook Silva for him …

Who was he kidding, Silva looked especially petite in it and no matter how much she'd grown since she first stole it, no one could ever mistake her for him. He couldn't remember exactly how she'd befriended him, seems all he did was say hello to the poor girl. After that she was just … there, always. She was decent company and in return for his providing her with food and shelter, she helped with his mom when he needed it.

He ushered her in the cab and gave the driver a small wad of bills. He tried to be discreet, but he knew Silva saw them. He always used his swipe card, it allowed free rides to all mechanics and engineers working on the ship Pioria, but he was worried he'd be tracked faster if he used it. She looked him in the eye with a question in the corner of her mouth, but she held on to it and squinted instead.

"Ford, where were you last night? Your mom got very agitated and I called …" He sighed. He had hoped they both slept the entire night and didn't realize he had left.

"I had to take care of something."

"You went to the ship again didn't you?" Ford's gut seized up.

"What? No." Silva half laughed and half puffed out her nose.

"You're not as sneaky as you think you are. I left your mom with Linda down the hall and went looking for you. You were long gone, but I figured with all the news of the ship you've been watching and the data you've been scanning … it was easy to guess where you went."


"Relax, I went home after a block." She held him with her pale blue eyes. "What were you doing—don't lie to me." He ran his hand down face and leaned his head back against the seat.

"Ford Wells, you tell me now." She was about to raise her voice but his face had long lost its calm and he pulled her arm to get closer to her ear.

"Soon, but not here." He tried to convey what he was feeling with a look, but she rolled her eyes. Thankfully she didn't push anymore. The cabs ran on old subway and train rails, but even so people crowded everywhere and they swayed along with its slow progress.