Chapter Two

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Across the dining area, Bess observed the tiny girl surrounded by the trash bots with morbid curiosity. She was always wearing some revolting shade of pink on her nails, like it was a compulsion, mixing the color out of whatever dirt or fruit material she could find. Offering that napkin was mostly to Bess's own advantage since she wouldn't have to consider the color's dissonance with the feel of the place every time they crossed paths.

In a way, she also found herself feeling a certain amount of sympathy for her. She always seemed sad, turning to obsessive behaviors like nail painting and arranging things in precise orders to cope with something. Then again, a girl that needed to be kept in solitary confinement and surrounded by guards around the clock must be guilty of something awful, so perhaps it was a festering guilt driving her mad.

Thanks to the repression drugs they were all shot up with as part of the experimental program the Yard was charged with, none of the girls remembered what they'd done that deserved being sent for reformation. The purpose of wiping detainees' memories was apparently based on studies which indicated behavior modification was easier to accomplish when the bad behavior wasn't there to fall back on.

It was pretty easy to guess the behavior, though. In her own pack, Jiada couldn't help lifting whatever random thing she could fit into her pocket that didn't belong to her, and Jessie was a little too fascinated with the flames under the cooktop burners for comfort. Bess knew she had a temper and the strength to make it dangerous, so together they were a hot mess of criminality high on estrogen.

"It's our day in the Golden Beyond, remember?" Jiada chimed, breaking Bess's thought trance.

"Heh," she grunted back.

"What crawled up your cavity?"

Jiada's impatience almost matched Bess's, but they both knew challenging one another's temper would never lead to anything good. They'd exceeded all their warnings, and the next fight they indulged would result in a full seven Earth-year season of hard labor patching up the facility from scrap deliveries.

"Calm ya tits," she scowled. "Good for you gettin' somethin' outta lookin' at fuzzy orange clouds through a dome, but keep all that joy to yourself, cupcake."

"Fine, but hear this," Jiada chirped, choosing to ignore Bess's rough manner. "The Prime Minister is coming in today. So, we'll be able to see the ships come in!"

"Oooh, Enceladean royalty popping out for a look-see at the world above the ice, eh?" Jessie chimed in with dispassionate sarcasm, picking at the matted straw-like food scraps on her tray.

"His son is poof! Gone without even a note telling daddy not to worry," Jiada continued, giddy and reveling in the misfortune. "They don't exactly get along," she clarified, assuming the other two weren't caught up on Saturnian gossip.

"Where'd ya hear that?" Bess challenged. "That can't be public knowin'. He'd nevah allow it!"

"Oh," Jiada giggled. "You know how it goes. Somebody's got some orders on a paper and maybe they forget 'em in the bathroom." She gave a wide grin, displaying the miniature artwork still attached to the surfaces of her teeth from her life before the Yard.

"Seems to me like a lot of people do their forgetting in the bathroom anymore," Jessie commented dryly.

"Yeah? Well at least no one's been spontaneously combusting into flames after I've had it out with 'em," Jiada spat back.

As the two glared at one another, the sound of rocket thrusters landing with a heavy payload roared overhead, killing any competing noise. Jiada appeared to be cursing at the missed opportunity to see the implied landing taking place, but anything attempted was lost to the decibel assault from the outside craft.

Apparently caught off guard by the arrival, all the cyborgs abandoned the dining hall quickly and headed towards the air lock exits. The three women at the table made deliberate eye contact with one another, indicating their mutual understanding of taking advantage of the chaotic situation. A side head jerk from Bess signaled the start of their movement, and they all rose together, heading towards the janitorial room. 

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