Replication [first words]

Chapter 1

Katarina’s thoughtful dark eyes peered over the teacup at the motions of her machine as it prepared to print. Years of experience gave her the ability to read the machine like a human face, to know what twists of mouth might indicate a print would go sour. This orphaned machine had come to her from the network. Its owner, Katarina did not know. Likely, the person was killed or imprisoned during a federal raid. The feds would usually destroy any machines they could get their hands on, but many kept decoy rooms stocked with works in progress, broken or “expendable” machines. Brave salvage crews took on challenging missions in order to get functional parts back to the network undetected, to be assembled into hodgepodge machines by people like Katarina.

By day, Katarina worked as a schoolteacher. Her parents encouraged Katarina to downplay her exceptional engineering skills around her instructors. Students who displayed technical promise and chose not to work for the International Engineering Complex were potential targets of investigation. Her academic displays of high empathy and creativity, then, encouraged her advisers to recommend she work educating youth. She accepted this career path wholeheartedly, appreciating the opportunity to nurture those students who had not fully given their consciences over to the work propaganda. A careful rhetorician, her lectures were complex enough to not trigger suspicious students to speak against her to the authorities, but still stimulated and excited the minds of those with budding individualist sensibilities.

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