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      The Champion
Chapter One

    Sure, some people still flaunted the rules for kicks. You could hire an illegal guide and spend the morning riding elephants bareback in northern India, the afternoon swimming with gray whales in the Gulf of California, and by nightfall you're camping among the big cats of the Serengeti. Supersonic air travel was the norm. Not that they let civilians fly anywhere.

"You've killed us all!" shouted Atwood.

"Sit down, Atwood," said Mr. Reasonable, calmly. "Please." Atwood took a seat, running his spindly fingers though his comb-over in a huff.

"Like I said, we can't spare you from the knife," said Bloom. "So I know you don't have much incentive to turn evidence. But we can make things easier on you, in the long run."

"The knife" was the punishment for mucking up the ecosystem.

See they had it all figured out, down to the second. How long the Earth would sustain us. Oh, it changed all the time, you could go into any bar or café or shopping mall and watch the clock, although most people ignored it. They wanted us to be aware. They had no idea what it did to our morale, though. Morale is integral to survival.

"So you say you're not part of any group?" asked Mr. Reasonable. I shook my head.

"Bullshit!" shouted Bloom. "Are you centrally governed, or do you operate in cells?"

"’Cause we can cut you a deal," continued Mr. Reasonable, nonplussed, "if you have any information..." He let the offer hang in the air. I smiled and shook my head, puffing air out through my nose.

"You smug bastard!" Bloom grabbed the collar of my shirt with both hands. "Why'd you do it?"

"Five years!" shouted Atwood.

Five years was definitely knife-worthy if you think about it. Even those pseudo-Christians who poisoned all those salmon only managed to shave three months off of the survival clock. And they weren't even afraid to die, either. Went out in a hail of gunfire and all that. Me, I was very afraid to die.

Although I guess my legacy would live on. Nobody could possibly touch my record. There's a multi-trillion dollar industry to clean up a myriad of ecological problems, but they didn’t see me coming. Then again, neither did I.

"Looking through your file," said Mr. Reasonable, "I don’t see any previous run-ins with the law…upstanding citizen, it tells me. Doesn't make a lick of sense." He carried on, but I was preoccupied with "the knife" so I didn’t pay attention.

It was symbolic mostly. I mean you really don’t get much opportunity to reproduce in prison anyway. You’d think it’d be impossible, but you’d be surprised at what you can smuggle in—or out—of prison. A refrigerated, carbon-fiber mini-canister, inserted into the right orifice, could waltz right out of there and to a willing recipient. It had happened. It was all over the news.

So they chopped them right off so you couldn't reproduce. You mucked up the future of the race, so they took your future away. They could use chemicals or a laser or something to do it—that's what they did to your unfortunate descendents if you had any—but the knife was more symbolic. Chopped them right off. I won’t even get into what they do to the women who are convicted of eco-terror. They considered me a terrorist, because they refused to believe I didn't do it on purpose. Can't say I blame them, though. The circumstances were a statistician's wet dream.

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