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      The Champion
Chapter One

    For the record, I set the record.

"C'mon, kid, tell us why you did it."

It was the scared man; I think his name was Atwood. I don't know why he kept calling me 'kid,' I'm pushing thirty.

"Who put you up to it?" said the tough guy; his name was Bloom, that much I knew for sure. "You’re in a terrorist organization, right?"

"Religious or secular?" asked Mr. Reasonable. He didn’t say much, just took notes mostly. I don’t recall anybody mentioning his name. So I called him Mr. Reasonable.

"Look, you’re in a heap of trouble, son," said Bloom. "There's no way we can spare you from the knife, but we can make it easier on you, in the long run." He talked about "the knife" a lot. It didn’t scare me though, much.

"How could you do it?" asked Atwood in a high whine. You’d have thought I’d murdered his entire family. As far as he was concerned, I had.

"Five years, they estimate," said Mr. Reasonable, clucking his tongue.
"Billions of dollars," added Bloom, "just to get it down to five years. That’s the best we can hope to salvage, five years."

"They’re still trying to fix that mess those bible thumpers made up in Queen Charlotte Sound last year,” said Mr. Reasonable. "How many salmon did they kill, Atwood?"

"Estimate—conservatively—is fifty thousand. Put the whole fishing fleet out of business indefinitely. Loggers too. Can't muck up the spawning streams with logging now. Had to blast two dams in Washington State as well—"

"That’s enough Atwood," Bloom said, looking at me. I had just been noticing how comfortable my chair was, particularly for an interrogation room. "So you still claim it was an accident?" Bloom pressed. He was standing over me, glaring down, hands on his hips. He'd probably intimidated a lot of people that way, because he was a big man. I was a bigger man, however.

"Why would I do such a thing on purpose?" I said calmly, grabbing my mug of coffee from the table. As I brought it towards my mouth, Bloom knocked it out of my hand, sending it sailing across the room, smashing into the wall. We all looked at the stain on the wall, the unnatural brown of the synthesized coffee. See you couldn't produce anything that was considered a vice from natural resources, so the coffee was made from God-knows-what. Not all the sewer pipes lead out of the city, if you know what I mean. It didn't stop people from indulging their vices, though.

"Hey!" said Atwood, picking up erratic shards of porcelain from the floor. "You know how long the waiting list is for a new mug? Not to mention how much it costs to recycle the broken one. I'm not filling out the paperwork for that—"

"Shut up," said Bloom. He turned to me.

"That’s what I’m trying to figure out, kid. Why? Why?"

Talk about your vacation horror story. I was on the waiting list for three years before I got the recreation pass. Without that pass you couldn’t leave the designated habitation areas. Most of the country had severely restricted access now, ninety-nine percent man free so as to restore the natural balance, or so they hoped. Everyone had been crowded into the large cities, where intake and output could be monitored carefully: habitat for humanity, indeed.

"Doesn't make any sense at all," said Mr. Reasonable.

"Was it for kicks?" asked Bloom.

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