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Cindi Cindi Cindi Mayweather.

Burns up the stage electric with her oil smooth slide and her wild, wild eyes.

COME ALIVE, she sings into the microphone while wires twist beneath her feet, reaching for her. COME ALIVE, ALL YOU PEOPLE OF METROPOLIS. Lady Maxxa smiles with her perfect lips while her sister, Lady Maestra, squeezes her thighs together and runs her riding crop along her skin. They watch the stage with drops of serpentine ink in their eyes. COME ALIVE, Cindi screams, her voice breaking. COME ALIVE, ALL MY PEOPLE OF METROPOLIS.

Deep on the other side of the club, 6ix Savage makes a gesture to his men. 

Stand down.

Cindi Mayweather is dangerous, of that he has no doubt. But Cindi Mayweather can dance like her entire body is full of pulse and code, and 6ix Savage is willing to loosen the leash for now. She's a droid, and there hasn't been a droid yet who's managed to escape the Palace of the Dogs. There won't be, not when the lights over Metropolis stay candy fierce and tangerine bright, controlled by his department. He looks at Cindi Mayweather and he runs his fingers over his leathered knuckles.

She looks back.

"I want to talk to her after the show," 6ix says sharply. "No holos. Face to face."

*

Cindi is supposed to be scared. The Captain of the Metropolis Polis, the de facto leader of the Wolfmasters, is sitting across from her in the backstage room. Lady Maestra stands by the door with her arms crossed and her lashes glittering with neon snow. She's poured Sir Savage a drink and Cindi one as well, which is a little game they play, 'cause Cindi doesn't drink anything that isn't mined in the deep fields beyond the reach of the city. Cindi watches the wine go down Sir Savage's throat and she thinks about destruction (you're dancing free but we're stuck here underground).

"You're one of the Alpha Platinum 9000 line," he begins.

"Our very first model of the line," Lady Maestra says. "The big sister to all the other Alpha Plat 9s."

The stage is the only place where Cindi is allowed to talk. Here, Lady Maestra will answer all her questions for her. Sir Savage nods and then he says, "You're quite talented. For a droid."

"Cindi has been programmed with the best software in the market," Lady Maestra says (and day to day we live in a daze).

"Ah, but which market?" Sir Savage asks. His eyes are as black as an Alexandrian circuit, even when he takes off his shades. Cindi has never seen eyes that black before in a human.

Lady Maestra smiles. "Telling would ruin the magic, my dear, and here at the Electra Elextrix, we specialize in nothing but magic. Our girls are the fulfillment of your deepest fantasies, your slickest, most intimate desires." She taps her pomegranate nail against her cheek as if an idea has suddenly occurred to her. "Would you like to borrow Cindi for the night? On the house."

Cindi can feel her internal homeostasis system drop in temperature. 

Cindi is supposed to be scared (was chased, erased, and thrown away). 

She is.

*

The Electra Elextrix girls live in a special wing of the Palace of the Dogs. Every morning they get two pills, and they break apart in Cindi's stomach like fireworks, tearing her up inside and making her data field go spotty. It usually takes at least three minutes to achieve operational conditions after the pills. She doesn't know what the pills are for (your freedom's in a bind).

Cindi's got her own room 'cause she's the highest priced. The other Alpha Plat 9s sleep in twos and threes. They're Cindi's sisters. There's Ming, Charlotte Dedeaux, Jane Lee, Zossa, and Suzie Scorcher. There used to be Mandy La Rouge, the youngest, but Mandy La Rouge got lent out to Mousey in Neon Valley as a favour and she came back with her wiring dangling from her stomach, so they had to turn her off. Mandy La Rouge hibernates in a room in the north wing of the Palace of the Dogs, and Lady Maxxa says she ain't never gonna wake up.

Cindi wonders what it means to be a droid that's better than all the other droids of her line. They were created the same, with the same programs and the same synthetic material. She wonders what it means that she gets to sing and dance while Mandy gets shoved in a closet (we march all around 'til the sun goes down).

But she knows the answer 'cause the future's a nifty thing, and she's been sent back to do many things, but the right thing most of all.

"Help me put on the dress?" Ming asks.

"Sure, Magnificent M," Cindi says, and her hands rest on Ming's back. A back just like her own. She lowers her eyes as she zips Ming up when all she wants to do is croon into Ming's ear (when the truth goes bang the shouts splatter out).

Cindi knows the future. She knows one of these girls is going to grow up to be her.

But which one, baby, which one?

*

Cindi's gonna fall in love, but she hasn't even met him yet. Cindi's gonna fall in love 'cause being from the future tells her so, but she doesn't even know his name. Cindi's looking into the crowd every night as she sings and dances and slips across the silver stage, and she thinks maybe he's shown up but she just doesn't know. Maybe the folk who sent her were all wrong. Maybe they're never gonna meet for real and have their romance.

Cindi doesn't remember. In the future, Cindi gets found in the garbage on 3Jane Street with the brand of the Wolfmasters on her wrists and half of her memory storages missing. The half she does remember remembers only a ghost of him. Dark face, kind eyes, and feet, man. Feet that could dance.

Cindi remembers the dancing (oh make it rain, ain't a thang and the sky to fall).

She's come back for him.

She's come back for all of them.

She's come back for Mandy La Rouge. She's gonna flip the damn switch back on (just come with me and I'll take you home) and watch the whole city light up.

*

"Cindi," says Lady Maestra. "Be a good girl and walk Sir Savage to his car."

Cindi gets up. The hall is long and 6ix Savage fills up most of it, all leather and shades and his chrome walking stick, the symbols of his office. 

"You're not speaking," 6ix Savage says, "but I can tell you're going to be a whole lot of trouble one day." He says it coolly, but Cindi knows a bit here or there as well. She knows that the future says 6ix Savage is gonna fall in love with her, and it's gonna ruin him. This is the beginning of the story, she thinks. It all starts right here.

She gives him a slight hop, skip, and smile, 'cause maybe that's the least she can do for a man she's gonna ruin, though by all accounts he's gonna be her best friend and worst enemy (you can't stop your hurt from hanging on).

"Hey," she says as he gets into his car.

He stops to look at her, his lips pressed tight in exasperation. 

"See ya in Neon Valley," Cindi says. "Bring your umbrella and your best magic."

And then she's clicking her heels and heading back inside the club. She's not giving him any time to reply. She's going going gone, and that's just the way it's supposed to be, him chasing and her running, and somewhere out there is the man she's gonna love so good, and right here in her grasp are the brothers and sisters she's gonna save, with her fear in her throat and freedom written in her every piece of code (you running dropping like a rolling stone).

"COME ALIVE," she sings as she leaves him behind. "COME ALIVE."

*

And baby, listen to the music. Give me rhythm, give me blues. Give me fast rides, give me news.

We're gonna make this city shake like it's never shook before.