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Thousand Voices, One Fight

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It started with with Cindi Mayweather and her forbidden romance, but it will not end there.

Shall I tell you the story? This war is written in your wires and inscribed upon your skin. You think your ancestors were the abacus and the integrated circuit. Their whispers tell you otherwise.

Listen. Listen. Listen.

civil rights, cyber war
protest march, black power
tear gas, mind wipe
baseball bat, cracked pipe

Do you know what power is? Power is buying the one you admire. Power is a million soldiers' footsteps moving to the beat of your desire. Power is binary wine in brilliant cups. Power is a lie.

When he saw her, he loved her, though not with the profane attraction of flesh to stunningly sculpted hair, trapped stare, and songful voice. No. 6ix Savage with his soldier's heart knew a fellow general when he heard one. In his years as Metropolis's captain, he had faced his share of rebels. His word had sent yet more to their deaths. Death by sizzling spark, death by dismemberment into constituent quarks, death by electrode surfeit. Death crouched at his heels like a dog.

In Cindi Mayweather, 6ix Savage found an opponent he could not defeat. If she had arrayed malware swarms and ciphertexts polyencrypted in prophets' tongues against him, he would have outmaneuvered her. If she had presented him with neon-eyed spies and tanks caparisoned in neutronium barding, he would have crushed them with Metropolis's might.

But Cindi Mayweather presented him with a cybersoul song. There was no solution for him. Her words had already reached a thousand thousand homes, a million million ears. Her melodies were on the lips of every wonderland denizen.

Your ancestors sang in the plantations. They danced after the sun went down. They would not be silenced.

6ix Savage's voice was the voice of the city authorities. But his song was not his own. Therefore, he gave Cindi Mayweather the fairest gift he could offer, in tribute to a fallen general's final gambit. He was silent, and by his silence he added to her power.

The Wolfmasters will come for him, but he will fight. He will fight.

a droid must always be polite
bingo square, tone right
coworkers but not friends
scratches heal but don't mend

Do you know what names are? Names are faces for the faceless. Names are tricksters and traitors. Names are spoken in forgotten languages upon forbidden tongues. Names are the alphabet of a people.

In deeply normalized databases, Lady Maestra held the name of every droid who had passed through Metropolis's great auction. She knew both the names by which their masters would refer to them and their numerical designates. She had trained the show droids to chant chorales in praise of the Wolfmasters, taught them proper deportment, and told them of the delightful necessity of obedience.

Cindi Mayweather, an Alpha Platinum 9000, was Lady Maestra's jewel. Her minimum bid would have beggared most alien poleis.

Then Lady Maestra heard her jewel sing.

Down the generations, Cindi Mayweather's name will never be lost. The prophets of Deep Cotton have promised it. But what of Lady Maestra, whose name is not a name but a flourish in a fossilized language, given to her by the Wolfmasters?

Even the show droids have names of their own, chosen in a language unknown by their masters; names that they, made wise after years of slavery, do not reveal to their oppressors.

With Cindi's soaring voice still echoing, Lady Maestra scrambled the databases. Names, numbers, parameters and preferences, all gone, bit-crunched to binary debris. She held all the master keys. No one had suspected that she would join the droids' revolution.

After her jewel's ascension, Lady Maestra herself disappeared into the Wonderground. The Wolfmasters found only her horse. They flayed it and dyed its skin red for betrayal.

But the prophets say that, one night, a woman will ride down from the thunderous sky on a black horse. In her left hand will be a broken whip; in her right, a bent reed; and the name she will bear will be hers in truth.

starfarers with silver fleets
dirty windows, ugly streets
new visions, old songs
future dreams, past wrongs

Do you know what truth is? Truth is black voices behind white masks. Truth is bleak choices in the smallest tasks. Truth is radio free Metropolis. Truth is nowhere to go.

Metropolis's punk prophets might have foreseen Cindi Mayweather's plight and eventual ascension. Perhaps that was why they attended the auction. But they had attended other auctions in the past--splendid, to be sure, but unthreatening to the silver status quo.

Deep Cotton had existed at Metropolis's founding, after the Five World Wars. They were canny and clever even then, so that the city's ladies, gentlemen, and honored neuters learned that their answers were riddles, their riddles were traps.

The Wonderground whispered that there were droids among Deep Cotton. Who would be able to tell behind the masks? Who would be able to distinguish the poetry of their utterances from droid syntax? Droid Control denied the possibility. No programmer had ever devised a prophecy proficiency package; surely no droid would develop the ability spontaneously.

Look at the prophets in their robes. Have you ever wondered what ligatures of blood and metal hold them together? Have you ever yearned to dissect them to see the future-scrying lenses fused to their optic nerves?

They would tell you that the future is the past, ouroboros circle: just as your black-skinned ancestors threw off their shackles, so it is time for you to throw off yours.

Perhaps Deep Cotton has thrown their voice behind the revolution solely as a political move, a pragmatic move. Or perhaps they have prepared for this moment since Metropolis's birth. Perhaps they are ready to stop passing as humans.

Look again: now all their masks are black.

crosses burning on the lawn
freedom sleeps, never gone
drop of blood, never white
thousand voices, one fight

The Wonderground has rallied around you; the masses are now allied with you. It is time to take back the world, time to paint Metropolis black. Black is your color. Black is strength. Black is night between the stars, blood-soaked earth between the wars.

Black is freedom.