Yori rubs the thumb and forefinger of his prosthetic hand together, listening to the soft rasp of carbon fiber. He tsks at the small girl staring sullenly at him from underneath her bedsheets.

"I'll get there in a second, as long as you don't interrupt."

He stands and stretches.

"So the brave young boy is getting ready to sneak out one night to go see his parents. He's not happy anymore. The lessons he was getting were getting darker-all about death and war. He hasn't seen his friends or family in a long time. But the City catches him, and while he's trying to escape he loses control of his powers and is horribly injured. The City saves him, because they want him too much to let him die. But they are angry with him. They want a way to make him do what they want. So when they fix him, they secretly leave him broken. He needs to use his powers to stop his head from caving in because they implanted a magnet in his bone graft. He needs to use his powers to stop his heart from stopping, because there's a circuit in his arm that will kill him with a fatal shock if he lets it close. He needs to use his powers to stop a spring-loaded needle in his leg fro killing him with poison. And so, for nearly a year, the boy is constantly tired and afraid, because he is always straining and using his powers to stop himself from dying, and cannot use them to escape again. He wonders where his parents are, because he has not heard from them for a long time..."

Yori begins pacing, limping restlessly from one end of the room to another.

"The boy's ESPer powers grow-he is always using them, and like a muscle, they expand with his constant exertion. When he can finally use them again, to do things other than stop his own body from killing him, The City makes him an offer.

"Work for us, and we'll give you everything you could ever want. We'll make you whole again. If you don't, we will do bad things to you."

It was a very easy choice for the boy. Even though he hated the City for what they had done to him and for taking away his family for so long, he wanted dearly to be able to live his life again, to see friends and maybe see his parents once more. He ran errands for the City, worked to keep the city safe, and did everything he could to make them trust him. After all, if he was a good boy, they'd let him see his parents again."


Yori stops pacing and stares at the ceiling.

"One day, a City official comes to the boy. He tells him some sad news, that his parents passed away yesterday; there was a car crash, so sorry. And the boy wept, and cried, and was very sad. But he kept working for the City, not because he wanted to see his parents anymore, but because he wanted to worm his way into the heart of the City. Because he knew that it was the City that had killed his parents, and he would find a way to make the City pay dearly for that transgression. But he couldn't do it now, becuase they had him on a leash; if he betrayed them, the pieces of him that the City owned would kill the rest of him. He worked very hard, for many years, and finally ended up in charge of a project that he knew would eventually bring him in contact with many ESPers. The boy, now a man, knew that he would have only one way to beat the City, and that would be to find somebody who could give him back his missing parts and break away the chains keeping him from cutting the City's throat."

Yori is quiet for a long while while he stares at the ceiling. Finally, he turns to Shiki, resting his chin on his hand. His gaze is inscrutable, and his face is a careful mask.

"Such a sad story. Alas, we will never know if the boy succeeded. Now, little girl...

I have an offer to make you. On a completely unrelated note, of course, since a story is just that; a story.

I'm tired of living with prosthetics. They're a pain to take care of and I dislike having to look like a cyborg with a limp. So, if you would be willing to use your powers to give me back my missing limbs and the chunk of skull I had to have replaced with a steel plate, I'd be willing to give you something back in return. Such as your freedom."


Yori smiles again. For once, it seems genuine, the smile tugging on one corner of his mouth as he tries to keep his face neutral.

"You could see your friends again; your family, if you have one. Go back to doing whatever it is small children do these days, presumably eating ice cream in the park and playing hopscotch or something. Or you can say no, and I can walk away; quite understandable, considering the last time we met. But then you would be stuck here, and your friends and family will never know what happened to you because you will vanish off the face of the earth. The spoiler here is that you will be dead within a week; something entirely out of my control at this point."

"It's entirely up to you."


Yori pulls a chair up and sits, and stares levelly at the girl in the bed.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

The drone floating over the rundown buildings in District 19 would be bored if it could be. But since it didn't quite have the level of sentience to do so, instead it swept over the same few blocks of crumbling infrastructure that it had been assigned to, looking for something new. There wasn't anything, of course; it had swept its search sector twenty two times already.

But orders were orders. Still, there was nothing out of the ordinary here. Just a bunch of old warehouses, some condemned apartments, and what used to be a small park, now filed with rusted out cars and what seemed to be (as suggested by the chemical spectrometer the drone was sniffing around with) a meth lab hidden underneath some tarps. The drone flew lazily across the sky, giving the dying part of the city another look.

Such a shame. If the drone could feel sadness, it would have sighed. But alas. There was no such emotional response. It peered through its sensors at the old apartment buildings. Broken windows, torn curtains, busted lightbulbs. It stared down at the warehouses. They were the same picture of disrepair; weeds growing through cracked asphalt, graffiti on the walls, a high-tech air-filtration unit on each roof, and rusting aluminum siding.

Waaaaaait.

The drone banked and turned back, taking a second look. The advanced equipment was well camouflaged, but it was definitely out of place. The drone beeps its find back to the control center.

If drones could feel pride, it would.