of oregano, toasting cheese, and yeasty bread. NEVER FROZEN! a sign boasted, but the food wasn’t made on-site, either. The decor in the green, white, and red of Italy’s flag looked equally prefabricated.

“So, um, Nike, with everything I have to do for the trip,” he murmured, as if it were an important secret, “I can’t pick up this lunch.”

She nodded and smiled thinly, expectations confirmed, and held up her hand to the scanner to pay. The prices weren’t too bad, at least. Some corporations got price-controlled supplies, and besides, only the crust was what it seemed to be, wheat flour and yeast. The rest was artificially flavored … stuff. She chose tap water as her beverage to trim the bill further. He chose coffee with his meal—synthetic but still not cheap.

She knew she’d be eating bags of chips for dinner for the next two days, and she’d never lose weight unless she could afford good food. She collected her tray and ignored the lone human staffer tidying up after the robots. If she made eye contact, they’d have to smile at her per company policy, and she knew how that felt. Would the feeling propel them to mutiny, too?

As they ate, Papa recited a monologue for his show: “What if politics was like football? One team always has the home advantage because all the games are played at that team’s home field. One team gets two balls and an anointed quarterback. Only one team has cleats. The referees wear the home-team colors. If the wrong team somehow wins, the game gets replayed. And one side always loses, even though it has lots more fans in the stands. Why can’t football be played the old-fashioned way?”

That word, old-fashioned, might cross the line. Or maybe he knew, too, what was about to happen. He might know that its color would be purple, and that could explain the violet-colored ties. But she couldn’t say that and breach the secret of the mutiny, although it probably wasn’t a very well-kept secret. She found herself fidgeting, aware of what he wasn’t saying, not that she wanted to hear it, wondering if he was in more danger than she’d thought.

“It’s going to take some work, maybe 3D graphics,” he admitted, briefly dropping his on-screen persona, who was unwary and slightly bewildered. “And I wanna find out if it’s sedition to make fun of the losing side because then it shows that there are winners and losers and what the winners are like. The losers are only angry because they can’t afford rising prices, right? So I could ask, how poor are they, in actual fact, compared to the winners?”

He thought out loud for a while about that, especially about the scarcity of actual facts, then about how even getting the real score for the game might cross the line, and why anyone bothered to play the game anyway. “We try and even if we win, we wind up losing bigger.”

Yeah, that’s what I’m afraid of. If we fail at the mutiny, it’s like a death sentence. How much will we have to do to at least earn a capital M from history, the Mutiny? We could be dead but not forgotten.

She was eating the pizza crust, not wasting a precious crumb, when he finally said:

“I need you to know something, Berenike.”

He was about to get serious. He’d used her full first name, all four syllables, bear-eh-NEE-kay, the ancient Greek form of Berenice, instead of the two-syllable nickname NIGH-key.

“I really loved your mother, I did. I love you, too. I love being with you. Her, it was just—we were two peas in a pod. You know that old saying? We were just like each other, like peas. We got on each other’s nerves. And then we fought. But hey, you know that.”

She nodded, although her parents had never seemed very much alike to her. “It’s okay, Papa.”

“I know you blame me.”

“No, I don’t.” She blamed him for a lot, but not that. “I was glad when you said you wanted a divorce.” Predictably, that announcement had triggered a vicious drama that ended with Momma’s death. An accidental overdose? Momma did use drugs. But was it a bid for attention or a deliberate suicide? Berenike and Papa would never know, and uncertainty would weigh heavier than the truth. Momma would have liked that.

And besides all the drama, if Momma had been insured—if she’d had really good insurance—she would have gotten better care and might have survived.

“Look,” he said, “I know this was hard on you, and she dragged you into this. She probably told you it was all my fault, that she gave birth to you and so you owed her. Stuff like that.”

Berenike had been subjected to a lot of stuff, so much that she had recently splurged on an online counseling AI to learn some coping techniques. It told her to question and verify everything her parents had ever said or would say. Papa was wrong about one thing, though. “She didn’t forget I was adopted.” She had never let Berenike forget that for a minute, another thing, like being overweight or having a job “any cretin could do,” that Momma thought she should feel guilty about.

He leaned back and stared at the menu on the restaurant wall. “You’re … honey, that’s … I know we always said that, but no, not exactly.”

“Not exactly?” She set down the remaining bite of crust.

“No, and I never liked that she made me lie about it.”

What kind of lie? She looked at him and waited as she tried to ratchet up her new coping techniques. This wasn’t going to be good news.

He drummed his fingers on the tabletop’s fake red wood. “Here’s what happened. We couldn’t have kids, so your mother’s parents, because they really, really wanted to be grandparents, they decided to give us a child as a gift. They bought a fertilized egg from a clinic and paid for everything, and then they wanted to claim you as their child

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