As we barrel toward the August 29 premiere of Rayguns Over Texas at LoneStarCon 3 (aka the 71st Annual World Science Fiction Convention) in San Antonio, I am presenting book excerpts, one contributor per day.
Today’s selection comes from Stina Leicht‘s “Texas Died for Somebody’s Sins But Not Mine.”
Introverted programmer Una Dallas spends an illicit night with a co-worker. Campbell-nominee Stina Leicht explores what horrible secret prevents her from fulfilling her desires.
The name etched into the black plastic desk plate read ‘George W. Templeton, Human Resources.’ Unfortunately, the blonde man sitting behind the dated beige Herman Millar desk was scowling.
“Patent Number U.S. Dallas 2,457,972-1, Can you explain why you left the building last night? Was there a fire?” Templeton knew there hadn’t been an emergency of any kind, of course—that was obvious by his tone.
Focusing on the grey industrial carpet, Dallas attempted to think of an explanation that wouldn’t condemn Paul or herself. “I — I wanted to feel the rain on my face.” It sounded lame even to her.
Templeton paused. “At four in the morning?”
Ah. He only has my keycard record to go by. Dallas decided on a half truth. “I’m sorry. I — I couldn’t sleep. So, I decided to watch the rain. I stepped outside for just a minute. But the door slipped in my hands and closed before I could catch it. It was just for a minute. It won’t happen again.”
“I see,” he said, apparently too busy reading the file resting on the beige plastic desktop to look up. “Your performance record is impressive.”
“If you say so, sir.”
“Three years. That’s a long time for someone like you.”
“I suppose so.”
He frowned again. “How the hell would you know?”
Dallas clamped her mouth shut and held her breath. She returned her gaze to the close grey carpet. Templeton could be a total bastard when he wasn’t addressed with just the right amount of diffidence.
“I told Human Resources this was a bad idea, allowing you to remain in your position this long. There were bound to be complications. But they said your performance record exceeded that of the others. And the Cost Report indicated it was well worth the risk. I don’t know why I let them convince me. I suppose I’m just too kind for my own good.”
“Thank you very much for letting me stay.”
“Did I say you could speak?”
Dallas tensed up, preparing for the worst.
“You’re nothing. You’re a transgenetic. You’re not real. I programmed you. Me. There isn’t a single thing inside your skull that I didn’t put there. Understand? I could put a bullet in your brain right now, and no one would care.” Templeton smiled to himself. Getting up, he walked around the desk. “Well, the cost analysis would take a momentary hit. But I could replace you within a week. In a few months, this place will be filled with others just like you.” Quick as a snake, he snatched up her hand and held it up at an awkward angle. “I can do anything to you I want.”
“No! Please don’t, sir! Please!”
He released her in disgust and went back to his chair. “Remember your place, then.”
“Yes, sir. I will.” If there were a God for transgenetic humans Dallas would have prayed many times over. But there wasn’t. What God would have a creature without a soul?
Excerpt from “Texas Died for Somebody’s Sins But Not Mine” © 2013 by Stina Leicht.