(A Black Mirror fanfic)
"Ladiiiiiies and gentleman..." he drumrolled, "You've seen Sports Syndee! You've seen University Syndee and Graduation Day Syndee! You've seen blitzed-on-tequila-and-falling-off-the-bar Syndee! You've even seen oh-god-turn-off-the-streaming-how-long-can-you-wear-those-pyjama-pants-before-the-legs-stop-bending Syndee! But have you seen..." With a flourish, he flicked the video onto the screen, "Business Glam Syndee!"
She ducked her head and showed her teeth as if she were smiling. "Shut up, Kev. I hate you," she said under the news-channel fanfare.
Mel plopped down on the settee beside her. "Oh, come on, darling, we need to see this. You worked hard for that award and we all suffered for it, didn't we?"
The poreless, talking-head version of her continued on, unruffled. "The problem I saw was the problem MASS solved and created again: we didn't see the combatants as people---"
"Ooh, very deep," Bran hooted.
Shutupshutupshutup. She wanted to get away from these idiots. She wanted to get back to her people. These weren't her people. They hadn't been...
...running crouched through the underbrush, piss-scared, stinking, three weeks from the nearest hot shower, itching and burning in places she'd never even felt, exhausted, but so close, so close, if she could just keep up...
...placing the sack on the rickety, propped-up card table like an offering to a capricious idol and trying not to scurry backward as they dumped it out, trying to breathe normally as they grunted approval at the contraband and luxuries: sweeties, tobacco, contraceptives (who the hell thought denying them access to contraceptives was a good idea, that's what she wanted to know), anti-biotics. She'd bought her way into the camp with "womanly" goods. (She herself could testify before a jury that after a certain amount of time had elapsed without it, you jolly well would risk your life and your comrades for proper shampoo, conditioner, and moisturizer.)
...realizing the child was suppressing whimpers because she was standing between it and a naked, frizzy-haired doll, and the child was afraid of her. Picking up the doll and holding it out. "Is this yours? What's her name? She looks very brave." The child, snatching the doll out of her hands. Forcing herself to smile openly, breathe normally.
...sitting by the fire, the child drowsing in her lap, the mother pursing her lips. "I know. It's not what you wanted. It's not what anyone wants. But is this reality so good to you? You'll be protected. You'll be comfortable. She..." petting the child's head, "...she can grow up. Or not, she doesn't have to grow up. She can stay young forever. It will be her choice, Sofi."
...over, and over again and forcing the words not to feel hollow in her throat, forcing the speech to throb with life, keep the syllables from rattling against each other, making them make sense. She wants to turn her translator on, let it do the fucking talking, but she had to feel it in her heart, make them feel what she saw so clearly ...
A cushion hit tapped her head. "'Talk of a Nobel Peace Prize with the expansion of her program,'" Bran parroted the smooth voice of the announcer, "I wonder, can your head get any bigger?"
"Shut up, Bran. Do you know, the highest career kill-count for any other ground soldier since the war was.. 173? Syndee's bagged and tagged---" Mel's eyes unfocused briefly as she accessed one or another of Sydnee's fan sites (or was it a hate site? The hate sites tended to be more accurate in their counts) "---505 on her last personal trip out. She is become death, destroyer of worlds."
"She's become bug spray! Syndee kills roaches dead. The kids check in to Syndee, but they don't check out."
She stood up. "I'm sorry. I have a headache. I have to go. Pudding's in the freezer, knock yourself out. Last one out, tell Kixi to lock up."
A pasted-on regretful smile on the outside and a more sincere, somewhat malicious internal smile as she watched Bran realize that they weren't going to be sleeping together that night.
The technician's hands were too soft, but efficient against her skin. "Back so soon, luv?"
"It's a relief, honestly. These are my people, you know?"
The ceiling went dim and was replaced by a garden filled with tremendous roses. Sofi and Emma and even the doll were untangled, clean, glowing, the picture of health and having what looked like a picnic by a fountain. Syndee oofed when Emma collided with her stomach.
These people. Her people. Around her body, lights danced like fireworks celebrating the end of yet another war to end all wars.