Oct. 2nd, 2011

It was bright but cold in the high towers. Sirella sat with her mother in the spa and discussed matters in hushed voices. In the high towers, somebody was always listening.

"Zulka's a good match," insisted Nuadha. "He's young, promising, and a member of Third family. Do you realize what it would mean if we could cement the Third and Fifth families together? We could be Second, and in line for the top spot, with luck."

"I know," said Sirella blankly, looking at her toes in the pedicure bath. "I still don't want him."

"Such a selfish daughter!" clucked Nuadha. "Doesn't care about family or politics or anything but herself! You'd throw everything away for stupid emotions. Hormonal imbalances. Imagine!"

"Mother," implored Sirella, "I want to feel something."

"You do?" Nuadha glanced over her daughter shrewdly. "Very well, if that's what it'll take to bring you around. There are ways, you know. It's never worth it, but there are ways." She sucked her teeth pensively.

**

There was a place in the warrens Dasha liked to go. It was a tea shop. It was crowded and the tea was worse than what she could get at home, but nobody there knew her or her clansmen. She could meet Davin there in safety.

She peeked in the bead-stranded doorway but didn't see him. He had promised to come. Disappointed, she backed out through the curtain. Strong hands grabbed her from behind. She shrieked, flailing and kicking, and squirmed around to face her assailant. Laughing eyes, intensely blue, locked with hers.

"Davin!" scolded Dasha, pummeling his chest, but she couldn't help blushing and smiling. "You scared me to death, you fiend."

"Then I must have caught you being naughty," Davin teased. Dasha snuggled up into his strong arms.

"Not as naughty as I'd like to be later," she purred. Just then bright lights shone in both the lovers' faces, blinding them.

"Dasha, Machinist Green Nine?" demanded a harsh voice. "Here, step away from her, lad."

"Who wants her, then?" said Davin stubbornly. Men dragged him away, men wearing SecForce armbands. Their chief turned Dasha's face in his gloved hands and smiled crudely.

"Well, now," said the policeman, holding Dasha's face where the overhead camera could plainly see her square-on. "That doesn't really matter, does it?"

He was right. It didn't.

**
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