Letting Life Lead
“You can’t. It’s social suicide.” Henri slapped his hands on the glass table, toppling an unbreakable cup which spun to the floor. “Petition again at least.”
“You knew I’ve been planning this.” Sela adjusted and smoothed her neat forest green pantsuit. “I’m following the rules.”
“It’s a loop-hole. A tenuous one at that. Just — for all our sakes — go see the council again.”
“Okay then, humor me. Why should I?” She crossed her arms.
“For our family. You can’t just do whatever you want.” Henri paced, punctuating his palm with a finger as he rattled off a thousand protests. “Seriously, driving a hover bus down there?”
Sela’s soft shoes made no sound on the glossy white floor. She instructed the computer to produce a thumbchip she’d prepared. The thin, blue acrylic rectangle fit neatly in her palm. She wiped sweat from her free hand on her thigh, let out a breath, and pressed her print into it. The glowing red whorls laughed. Her stomach lurched. Her lying hand didn’t shake when she held the thumbchip out to her spouse.
“It’s all arranged,” she said.
Henri stared. “What you on about?”
“It just needs your print and our marriage and social contracts are severed. I’ve approved transfer of a very generous portion of my own assets and all of our combined assets to you.” She offered it again but his arms hung limp. “The lawyer’s guarantee is hard-coded. Nothing will come back on you, our girls, or anyone we know. I’ve transferred plenty of social points to you to compensate for any blow back.”
Henri’s shoulders slumped.
“It’s thorough. You can read it. Do you want your own lawyer?”
“I can have you committed.”
She grabbed his right hand and placed the thumbchip in it. His arm hung there, immobile, even after she stepped back. “You could try.”
“If I sign this, you can’t come back. You’d have nothing up here.”
“You’d cut all ties with your family–your friends–for a bunch of soot workers?”
If he didn’t accept, she could return as she pleased. Their girls had their own separate lives, they’d be fine. Sela moved to the wall and waved her arm to turn it from opaque to clear. The loft view was, as always, pristine. Blue skies, white walls, glass, and green hanging gardens.
“For children who have so little.” She hung her head, smiling. “Mostly for me. I can do something worth remembering. Maybe I like the rush of imperfection.”
She side-eyed Henri. He flipped the thumbchip through his fingers, his mouth pressed in anger and his eyes uncertain. Most people wouldn’t have hesitated to take what everyone in the upper tiers coveted: power, status, security. She’d amassed quite a large bank of all three.
“I never thought you’d actually do it.”
Henri hadn’t come with much of his own when they married. It was quite the scandal, but Sela always had wealth to spare for covering indiscretions. One could buy their way out of just about anything, except maybe a ship off planet. She would need to be on the council for such designs, but that was a cesspit even a dung beetle would shun.
“I’ve got to go. It takes a while to get to the sub tiers and I want to double-check everything,” she said.
“I suppose you had that damned hover bus painted an obnoxious yellow.”
Henri was scowling, but Sela grinned. “With big black letters.”
“You’re wasting your time. The schools won’t let those urchins in.”
“My school will. The law states that children who are bused in must be accommodated.”
The people who lived in the bottom levels of the city deep beneath the earth had lacked transportation and a sponsor. They weren’t allowed to build schools but nothing was written against a private sponsor transporting children. She’d bought the old school on tier one and its systems upgraded. It was a long time in the making for an army of one. At least, so far.
Sela thought to kiss Henri, but that wasn’t them anymore. He was still standing in the same spot, twiddling the chip, and staring out the window. The loft’s transport elevator door slid shut behind Sela.
“Pod, level 1. Education District 1.”
AUTHORIZED. PREPARE FOR TRANSPORT.
She checked her watch for the beep of Henri’s contract acceptance or the buzz of his refusal. The whoosh of descent pressed air from her lungs, but hope stayed.
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