The question still hung there:

“So citizen, why did you cover, protect and place yourself in danger for one from the Way?”

He liked to imagine there was some compassion from the interrogator. Whoever she was, Stephen knew she was not from the local detachment. Too cool, too rigid, too … implacable? Doesn’t really matter he reflected further – he had no answer and now things were escalating.

After the back and forth, after whatever they do when the ruddy green light scans you, he clearly had provided her with no acceptable answers … and since answers were required to establish intent, Stephen knew the weekend – at the very least – was now lost.

The Hover Bed

“Citizen, I do not deny your apparent veracity in your recall of the events that transpired and which – as a result – have brought you to the attention of the Delvers. It is apparent, as well, that your motivations are uncertain and it is possible that you have been compromised.”

As Stephen replayed the conclusion of the interrogation, every word was spoken in monotone cadence until the word ‘compromised.’ It’s distinctly possible his predilection toward the dramatic might have dressed the word in a nuance not readily attributable to a Delver … but … there were too many buts as far as he was concerned …

18 years old, backpack packed, Stephen was leaving the crap life he’d led and was going to get away from the Draft – as was his right when he turned Majority.

Stevie, don’t do it. You know that just because you can do it, it’s not necessarily the most … prudent decision.

She pleaded pronouncing ‘prudent’ strategically. He knew she meant well, but he had seen the vid-span and the results of being deployed into the Zone was … brutal. He almost swore his reply, but he knew she only wanted him safe. Knowing it, however, didn’t change what he was about to do …

Ma, I know you want the best for me, but I’m not going to the Zone! There’s no way in hell that I’m going to end up like him – no matter how much they say they take care of him, he’s not in there and you know it! He’s a shell and I’m not going to make someone a Zom’b and sure as hell I’m not wanting to become one!

They stared at each other – she knew her son and he knew her, his mother. Her head sunk, just a bit. Tears had been exhausted since he had returned from the Zone and Stephen did not want to talk about him. They’d seen what Decommissioning looked like and he was leaving. With resignation, she nodded.

“Okay,” she said walking over to the bureau. “Take this credcard, you’ll need it. And … Stevie … whatever you do, DO NOT get caught up with the Way. You know what that means, if you do …

It wasn’t a question or a judgement, neither a challenge nor recrimination: it just was what it was.