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Cameron Dukes knows two things for sure.

One, he is going to make a lot of money tonight.

And two, there is going to be a lot of blood.

He slips his cell out of his overalls and checks the time, careful not to be too obvious about it. They aren't allowed phones on the factory floor—phones are dirty, phones will contaminate, phones cost lives and jobs—but today is too important, and there is too much to take care of. He already has half a dozen missed calls, one of them from the organizer, Turbo. He wonders if he should take a bathroom break now, call him back. Turbo isn't the kind of guy you keep waiting. No, there are forty-three other workers in here and too many of them are watching him out of the corner of their eye. They know something's up.

Besides, it's ten to six, his shift ends in a few minutes.

He grabs the next carcass, sliding the cold, stiff body over to him. The chicken has already has its head removed, and its feet—that was somebody else's job, much to Cameron's continuing disappointment. Once upon a time, when he'd first started here, that had been his task. Three quick slaps with the hatchet, chop, chop, chop, then flick the leftovers into the blood bin. He'd been good at it. But the management hadn't been too impressed when they found him smuggling chicken heads out in his pockets, taking them home. In fact they'd freaked out big time and he'd almost lost his job. He only kept it after he convinced them he'd needed the heads for soup stock. Truth was, he didn't even know why he'd done it. He'd just lined those little heads up along the top of his fireplace, gluing them there with their sticky, drying stumps, because it had seemed funny at the time.

That's the trouble with most people, he thinks. No sense of humour.

He grabs a handful of feathers and pulls, hard. There is a satisfying rip as they come loose, the skin beneath pink and pimpled. He chucks the feathers to the side and tears out another handful, then another, working his way around the carcass until it's as smooth as a baby. He pats it, giving the clamped fold of its neck stump a flick for good measure, then sends it on its way.

Five minutes. He's impatient, his leg is jiggling so much it's knocking out a rhythm on the underside of the production table. He wipes a hand over his mouth, the rubber gloves tugging at the feathery tufts of blond hair on his chin. He hates these gloves, but if tonight goes the way he's planning, if he can find a bird to win the fight, then he can take a week off, maybe even longer. He'll have money to burn.

His sixth sense is ringing hard and it doesn't take him long to work out why. Across the room Jessey is watching him intently, those sharp eyes barely blinking. He scowls at her, baring his teeth. He can't stand that girl, she's always got her beak in everybody else's business, especially his.

This isn't the time to make a fuss, he thinks. There are more important things to focus on.

The fight, for one. He imagines their faces, Turbo and the others, when he shows up with a true warrior, a bird that will destroy the competition without even breaking a sweat. He plucks the next chicken slowly, a couple of feathers at a time, wondering if chickens do sweat. He doesn't even finish it, just tosses the messy bag of flesh back onto the conveyer as he gets to his feet. His back aches from the stupid stools they have here, making it difficult to walk. Twelve years he's been sitting on those same stools and if he doesn't do something soon then he'll be crippled by thirty. Jessey is watching him again and he shrugs.

"Six," he grunts at her, and as if agreeing with him the factory whistle blows. He grins smugly, stretching until his vertebrae crack. The next part of the plan is where it gets difficult, but he's rehearsed it a hundred times in his head, he knows where he needs to go.

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