Exchanges in No Man's Land
by C J Paget
I think that technologies are morally neutral until we apply them. It's only when we use them for good or for evil that they become good or evil." - William Gibson.
I've always wondered what thoughts people have in those moments when they're called to weigh their lives against doing the right thing. Is there an instant of decision, of choice, of strength or weakness? Do the brave undervalue their own lives? Are they brave over and over, or are they sometimes strong, and sometimes weak? Most of all: How would I choose?
Perhaps I'm about to find out.
As I close the car door, I catch my image reflected in the tinted glass, and it freezes me. Her hair is straight and uncolored, the piercings are gone, and the Nazari-Feinstein suit is understatedly gorgeous. She looks great. I wish she didn't. It's like looking through a dimensional portal and seeing an alien you, Anastasia Kapoor: corporate fembot. It's like meeting your shadow-self composed of all the things you rejected, and finding she's living a better life than you.
"You ready?" asks Cat, looking down at something in her hands that glints silver and goes "clickity-click."
I check the load in my own weapon; a Russian PSS Silent, locally sourced. Not quite a Walther PPK, but still fairly exclusive. I thumb the safety off, and tell her, "Yes. I'm ready."
I don't know if I am: ready. When I got involved in the movement I expected marching about with banners, chanting slogans, maybe throwing the odd egg at the police. I never thought I'd be spending months in training simulations, running through abandoned buildings wearing VR goggles and shooting imaginary bullets at imaginary enemies. It was a scream at first; we were all back to being schoolgirls. Not such a scream now. Now, the gun in my hands weighs the same, feels the same as the training toys, but I know this one is different. Still, all we have to do is walk in there, get Zhirov, and take her to the airport where a charter waits to fly her to freedom, or more exactly to permanent, sisterly, house arrest. Somewhere, Louise is playing the decoy, pretending to be Zhirov for the real buyers, whom we've misdirected to a false location. Louise, whom I have lived, and loved, and laughed with. I can't shake the feeling that I'll never see her again.