Story by Geoff Tuffli
++++ DATE 13.1.2469
++++ TIME 17:25 Solar Standard Time
++++ LOCATION Kracatena, Triton, Neptune
Keep it cool, Miyu told herself. Uneven spoils the balance.
The oscillations of the sled reverberated through her prone body like the palpitations of the heart beat of some giant, monstrous creature. And indeed, there probably was some truth to that, as Miyu's sled slipped through the old unused transit tubes that formed the early arteries of the earliest days of Triton's colonization.
The sled was barely as long as Miyu herself, the parallel conducting rails reacting against the transit tubes themselves as a kind of inverted railgun allowing the sled to accelerate to staggering speeds that tested the very limits of human reaction times in the tight tunnels. At the prow of the sled was a light and a proximity sensor; in front of Miyu's face was a tiny readout that fed her precious little information to make corrections; her subcutaneous node transmitted the presentation feed.
Her speed was good, too, clocking a mean of 512 kilometers per hour so far, but she still had a ways to go, and coming up fast was the third of six places where her current tunnel converged with another one, this one for half a klick. Beyond that the converged tunnel would split again, and she'd have a choice. Slow and steady, or faster and riskier through a narrower tunnel. Miyu's sled lurched as the electomagnetic generator hiccuped, and she slid close to one of the walls.
Idiot, she chided herself. Way too close that time.
In her ear the presentation feed roared with a cheer.
"Now, that was a tight call," Nick Czar's always slightly sly voice exclaimed in her ear through the feed. "Four of five Miyu Onbekend just about tossed out her port armature with that last one!" To Miyu he almost sounded disappointed; the audience tuned in always with the unspoken hope that one of the sleds would crash.
For Nick Czar, that would only improve his own personal blog ratings. For Miyu, the price hardly seemed worth it, but if she had wanted to live forever she would have gone to school to be a transit comptroller.
Her sled dipped into the convergence, and sure enough, coming up behind her from the other tunnel was one of the other sleds. Miyu glanced at her rearward camera to see who it was, but the other sled's forward light was too bright. No matter.
The other sled was gaining fast, however, and almost too late Miyu saw what they were going for. She had assumed they were just going to try to pass her, but as she saw the other sled drifting in her wake but slightly to the side she understood what was about to happen. Sure enough, the other sled suddenly rocked forward beside her, attempting to disrupt her own sled's ability to react against the transit tube's wall.
Both sleds twisted, Miyu's wrenching violently up, the other sled to the right.
Miyu narrowed her eyes. Fine. You want to play that game, asshole? Instead of trying to completely correct her sled's vector, she instead let her sled's rear drift left just as she angled her prow down.
The result was murderous. Miyu's sled's new orientation put her starboard rail reacting at an angle against the top of the other sled just as it was attempting its own recovery. The feedback caused the other sled to buckle, then flip, crashing in eerie silence into the side of the airless tunnel. Miyu allowed herself a faint smile.
This time the feed in her ear went berserk. "Holy hells, did you see that?" Nick Czar yelled. "I'm not sure exactly what just happened, so we'll have to check the replay, but the result has four of five Miyu Onbekend now in the lead, taken from two of five Hammer Castillo who is now plastered, and I mean plastered on the side of the A15 tube!"
Some racers disliked the distraction of the feed in their ear, but Miyu considered the annoyance still a useful source of actionable intelligence. Castillo was now officially out, and she also knew now she was in the lead position, which meant she just needed to keep a cool even keel for the rest of the race.
After that, it wasn't even close. The rest of the race finished in a blur. Miyu burst through the finish point, the dilating port hissing with escaping air as her sled braked hard on the other side, her own pulse easing up only reluctantly from the giddy high from the flood of adrenaline coursing through her system.
Her sled green-lit the outside pressure, and she popped the top, standing up like the conquering hero she felt like. There on the deck waited a tight group of mechanics who rushed over to her sled. Beside them were the journalists. Miyu undid her helmet. Price of fame, I guess, she thought wryly, though if she was being honest, she did rather like the attention, even if it wasn't at all why she raced.
Nick Czar stood there, an oddly calculating look in his eyes that made Miyu uneasy. The moment seemed to pass, and Nick's face lit up in a wide smile as he stepped forward, thrusting out one hand up to shake hers. "Congratulations, Ms. Onbekend. That was quite a move you pulled off there. I'm wondering if you might answer a few personal questions? That okay?"
Miyu smiled. "Sure thing."
"Excellent," Nick Czar almost purred. "You've been racing professionally for only four years, do I have that right?"
"And what," Nick Czar said, cocking his head, "Did you do before you raced?"
Miyu shrugged. "Well, you know. Nothing special. I worked as a data analyst."
"For Galadriel Systems, I think your record says, right?"
Something gnawed at the edge of Miyu's awareness. "Yes," she answered. Where is this going? she wondered.
Nick Czar rubbed his hands together, looking apologetic for the cameras. "See, there's a problem there. When my producer checked with them, they had a record of your employment there, but when we asked around, nobody could remember you. Like at all. If I didn't know better, it would almost seem like, well, someone had planted your employment there."
Miyu's head spun. What is he talking about? It was insane. "I worked in the Downton Group, with Arton Lee."
The short presenter shook his head. "Nope. At least, he doesn't remember ever working with you. We checked."
"What exactly are you accusing me of?" Miyu said. "Do you think I faked my employment credentials?" Lee said he didn't remember me? Why would he do that? In her mind, she could see his tall, lanky, Outer Worlder frame, straight as in his ID photo.
But Nick Czar was shaking his head. "Well, now there's the story. I actually don't think you did."
Miyu blinked. "I don't understand."
"Do you by chance remember that childcare center bombing six years ago in Cipango?"
A sudden flare of anger rose up within her. They hadn't known about the childcare center. It was the political offices of the Social Blue Alliance party. Miyu stopped. What? Where did that thought come from? Her mind was desperately trying to connect the emotion and thought with her own memory.
But Nick Czar was already continuing. "See, two of the terrorists were caught there. A Haumean cell. You don't have any family here, do you, by chance?"
Miyu's head was spinning. "My parents are dead," she said in a haze. "My brother lives on Io."
Nick Czar shook his head. "That's what your record says," he agreed. "But we couldn't find any record of him ever existing. Here, Io, or anywhere." He wagged his finger at her. "Two of the terrorists of that tragedy six years ago were caught by the authorities. Caught, tried, and sentenced. Do you remember what that sentence was?" he asked with a carefully scripted facsimile of empathy on his face. Miyu opened her mouth, but Nick Czar was already barreling ahead. "I'll tell you what the sentence was. It was the death penalty. The death of personality. Personality reconstruction. Complete, of course, with new identity and plastic surgery. We're civilized on Triton, after all."
He made a show of looking sad. "But civilization isn't always justice, and the ghosts of those eight children have haunted a lot of people since then. Out an airlock is what most people thought you should have gotten."
Miyu stumbled, hand reaching out to the wall. "I don't...remember. It's not true. I have a brother. My name is Miyu Onbekend."
"No," Nick Czar disagreed. "Your name is Kazue Tyler. You are thirty-three years old. You have no siblings. You were born on Titan, but grew up in foster care after your mother was sent to Hyperion. You came to Triton on a university scholarship when you were sixteen, and six years ago, you were involved in planting a bomb that murdered eight children. Eight innocent lives."
Miyu could barely see, her breath coming fast. We didn't know about the childcare center, her mind wailed, but as soon as the thought came she had no idea where the thought had come from, no context for it.
The journalists and crews were staring at her now, and Miyu could feel the weight of the camera eyes on her. "I don't remember," she whispered.
"No, you don't," Nick Czar said with a frown. "And that may be the greatest injustice of it all." He turned to the cameras. "We'll be back in a minute, folks, after the following advertisement placements. Don't go away! We have some very special guests from Ms. Onbekend's past ready to give their exclusive reactions to this set of developments. You will not want to miss this!"
The cameras paused. "Sorry about that," Nick Czar said as he walked over to her. "By the way, fantastic race there. You really are one of the best racers I have ever seen. It's been a genuine pleasure meeting you."
Miyu sank to her knees, thoughts stumbling over each other in a jumbled mass that made no order and set no sense. Her mind spun as guilt and fear and anger warred with each other within her.
Who am I?