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Prompt: Criminal

"Yale, may I see your arm? I'd like to take a look at your command conditioning module."

He frowned, but she knew his conditioning wouldn't let him deny such a request if it came from her. Devon ran her thumb across one of the sensors to identify herself, opened the module with a screwdriver, and laid a wire across two of the contacts.

He winced at the sudden arc of electricity. "Devon!"

"I'm sorry," she said softly, wishing she'd been able to spare him. "But it's the only way I could think of to do this."

"Do what?"

"Disable your command module." She looked over her work and, satisfied, began replacing the cover. "You're not a criminal. I won't let you be treated like one anymore. But there's no protocol for deactivating the module, so..."

"You shorted it out." Taking his arm back, he cradled it against his chest. "You might have warned me."

She felt as guilty as she had when she was sixteen and he'd caught her sharing more than homework with a boy from school. To her surprise, he hadn't been upset. You've reached your majority, he'd said. Next time, just tell me that you want some privacy.

Uncertain now as she had been then, she risked a smile. "I wasn't sure you'd let me."

"I'm not a criminal, Devon," he answered, an echo of pain still in his voice. "I found that out for myself in the caves. I would have let you."

Now remorse did flood through her. "Then I'm really sorry."

"What's done is done, and I appreciate it. But I think I shall visit Julia for a pain block." She watched him go, absently twirling the screwdriver in her fingers. It had been an impulse, and now she realized it was poorly executed. She should have taken him to the med-tent first and administered a preventive block.

"Stop beating yourself up, Adair," said Danziger as he sat down beside her. She hadn't heard him come in. "You did the right thing."

"I know I did. I just wish I hadn't had to hurt him to do it." She shrugged. "But he's not a criminal. It had to be done."

He looked at her appraisingly for a second. "You realize that he actually still is, right? He disobeyed an order."

"He wasn't bound to obey unlawful orders! Surely a kill order wasn't lawful."

"A kill order? No. But a detain order? Yes." He took the screwdriver from her hands. It was his; he probably didn't want her to damage it. "He wasn't authorized to just let those scientists go."

"Their crime was purely political."

"A crime's a crime," he answered. "Doesn't mean it should be, but that's the way it is when the citizens decide they don't like something."

She turned to look at him. "You don't sound like you have a lot of faith in the system."

"I'm not a citizen. I don't have any say in what should be a crime." He gestured after Yale. "For what it's worth, I agree with you."

She found herself wincing, as much at his casual tone as the reminder itself. Yale wasn't the only member of their team who had suffered at the hands of the system. "You have a say in what's a crime here."

"Are you really saying we don't have to follow Station law? That's a pretty big jump, Adair."

She thought about that for a while, during which he tucked the screwdriver into his tool belt and got up to pour drinks. She took hers with a nod of thanks, but stared over the rim for a minute more. "We seem to be making our own decisions about what's right and what's wrong. We took Julia back, but the truth is that she never broke any laws."

"You just set Yale free, and that did break a law," he pointed out.

It hadn't even occurred to her until now. "Does that make me a criminal?"

"I told you I agreed with you. I don't think anyone in camp would disagree. Does that make us all into criminals?"

"No." She lapsed into silence again for a while. "But we need some sense of what's right and wrong. I used to think it was cut-and-dried, and that our legal system functioned that way, but now..." she trailed off.

"Now you're not so sure," he said, not without empathy. "So I guess it seems right and wrong can be relative after all?" It was an old argument between them, though before, it had always been purely theoretical.

She slanted a glance directly at him. "I'm not sure I'm ready for that yet. Even if I am already acting that way."

"It'll give you something to think about."

Still peering over the cup, she smiled. "That's after I get over my shock at agreeing with you."

"Hey," he quipped as he stood up. "It's all relative."