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 Shasta sat cross legged on the wooden porch of her family's house, the light of Lost Earth reflected on the screen of her tablet as it rested in her lap. If she looked up, she'd be able to see the great brown, white and blue marble hanging over her head, enormous in comparison to the tiny Moon, both out of reach.

Stay focused, she thought. She touched the stylus to the display again, modifying the blueprint of the Barachetta roadster she'd found. Chop the exhaust there, increase the size the pistons, and then reshape the bonnet to fit the supercharger…

"Whatcha doing, Shas?" Her morph, Ratfink, a four foot tall brown rat wearing shredded jeans, a leather jacket, with a toothpick perpetually jammed between his teeth, looked down at her work, eyebrows raised in curiosity. Ratmorphs weren't popular on the Ring, lacking the general cuteness most morphs tried to project. Shasta had chosen his current form precisely because it wasn't cute.

"You're hooked into the same network that my tablet is, Ratfink. Can't you see what I'm doing?" Shasta shot back.

Ratfink gave her an eye roll. "I can see what yer doing. Why are ya doing it?"

"I'm gonna build a car."


"Because I want to."

Ratfink looked around. The little house was set on an acre of land, the long walk leading to a pedestrian path that wound around the trees towards the community center. "But there's no place to drive a car," the morph pointed out.

"I know." When Shasta had woken up on the Ring, she'd quickly figured out that cars weren't part of the Great and Powerful Groupmind's agenda. If the Ring's billions of trapped humans wanted to go anywhere, they could walk, ride their bike, take a tram, or travel in a golf cart (automated and voice directed, no steering wheel required). Long distances were handled by hyper trains running on maglev tracks embedded in the Ring's lower structure. Cargo was delivered by hand by morphs, physically walking it from the nearest cargo delivery station. The widest paved roads were in the center of towns, and they were for pedestrians only. Walking and biking paths were more the rule.

A road, and a car to travel it, was freedom. Shasta knew the Groupmind would never allow that.

"Well, what's the point then?" Ratfink demanded, the pushy little shit.

"I just. Want. To have. A car," Shasta said slowly. "I don't even have to drive it anywhere. It just can sit in the middle of the living room. Hell, maybe I'll build a new house and put it my bedroom, so I can fuck in the backseat like my grandparents did." She pointed to the engine diagram. "It's going to be internal combustion anyway, and I know the Groupmind doesn't allow gasoline to be refined anymore." She'd ridden in a gasoline car. Once. It'd had been her late uncle's, hidden away in a shed after the last round of Environmental Survival Laws had gone into effect and the last of the gassers had been broken up. He'd powered it up and taken her for a spin on his farm's gravel service roads. She'd been twelve, and it had been the most terrifying and wonderful experience of her life, hearing the engine roar in her ears, so different than the nice, polite electric sedan that her parents owned.

Shasta wondered what had happened to her uncle's car. Had the Groupmind broken it up for scrap and melted it back to the car's component elements? Was it sitting even now in the crumbled remains of her uncle's barn, with a millenia and a half of rust making it little more than a strange metal sculpture? She could ask the Groupmind. It could probably tell her exactly what happened to it. For the sake of that memory her uncle had given her, she decided to let its fate remain a mystery.

"So it's, like, a hobby project?" Ratfink asked.

"Yeah," she lied.

"Whaddya you need to complete it?"

"I've got a parts and tools list on my tablet."

"Got it," Ratfink announced, no doubt instantly downloading it. "A construction unit will be along in an hour t' build the shop for ya. Just tell me where ya want it."

"You're an asshole, Ratfink," Shasta said flatly. "That was private."

"Ain't no privacy on the Ring," the ratmorph said with a shrug. "And I only am, because ya need me to be."


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