Dust: Chapter 09 Part 4

[So.] Atom said, sounding like he was trying to fit the pieces together in his head. [What you’re saying is that you needed to reject your gender in order to show everyone who you really were.]

Tachi was taken aback by this. “Very good Atom. That is exactly what I am saying.”

[So Dust rejected his name and Tachi rejected his gender… and you both left the organisations that trained you in order to become independents.]

It was my turn to go ‘wow’. Atom really had been paying attention.

Kitty put her two yen in too. “The thing about Dust’s name and Tachi’s gender is that they’re both labels. I myself was born in Singapore and I lived there until I was fifteen. Then when my parents divorced, my mother took me to live with her family in Melbourne. I immediately felt at home in Australia. So much so that after I was naturalised I always thought of myself as an Australian rather than a Singaporean.]

[So you had to reject your nationality.]

[I didn’t really ‘have to’ per se. Unlike Tachi’s choice which from the sounds of things immediately made him an outsider in his family and Dust’s choice which is purely cosmetic (an arsehole by any other name is still an arsehole), my choice was one I made to fit in. I didn’t want to be the ‘exotic’ Singaporean girl. I wanted to be just like all the other Asian-Australian girls at school. Sure my dad came from overseas, but this new country was my home now and where I spent the first fifteen years shouldn’t matter.]

Kitty must have realised she’d started rambling as she then vocally cleared her throat.

[The point is: Dust’s name, Tachi’s gender and my nationality are just labels, like Tachi said. Their only purpose is to tell one object from another.]

Which is how they tie in with identity.” Tachi explained. “A person’s behaviour is often determined by the behaviour other people direct towards them. This behaviour rarely has anything to do with who the recipient ‘really’ is, unless the other person has properly gotten to know you. People will look at other people and get their cues as to how to behave towards that person based on them. You would no sooner deferentially ask a young negro man of nineteen if he needs help walking up the stairs than you would high-five a sixty year-old Caucasian grandmother and ask her ‘wassup’.”

I don’t reckon I could say ‘wassup’ with a straight face anyway.”

[So.] Atom said. [What label do I need to reject?]

Our mouths opened at once, but none of us actually dared say anything. Of course. Atom was asking about identity because it was trying to work out its own.

But what the hell did that mean for the job?

I looked at Kitty and then at Tachi.

Kitty had her doe eyes on, like she wanted to pat Atom on the head and tell it everything was going to be fine. Tachi was steely faced once again, deep in thought. His insistence that we not engender Atom made a lot more sense now, but it had also made it harder to personify Atom in our minds.

Now Atom was all but insisting on personification. We would have to choose our next words very carefully.

What labels really apply to you?” I tried.

Tachi pinched his chin in thought. “Without sexual organs or hormones you don’t really have a gender.”

But you do have a nationality.” Kitty said. “Being built by a team of Japanese researchers in a Japanese facility makes it very difficult to argue that you couldn’t be Japanese. Especially considering that your ‘mother’ was herself Japanese.”

[So I need to reject my nationality?]

Not really.” Tachi said, “Dust, Kitty and myself all had to reject a label placed upon us by circumstance, but we are the kind of people who live on the fringes of society. We’ve rejected a lot more than a set a labels….

We’ve also deliberately chosen to break laws.” I interrupted. “You might not want to take your cues from us. We’re pretty much the glamorised epitome of the wrong crowd.”

[But why?]

Because it’s what we do.” I said. “Which, while we’re on the subject is how I define my identity. I live by the line ‘Freedom is what you do with what’s been done to you.’ It doesn’t matter where you come from, or who you were, all I ever care about when I meet someone is what they’ve done.”

Tachi rolled his eyes. “That’s not how it works Dust. It’s not like you decided to stare at Kitty’s assets because of her past as a hacker.”

Oh for the love of God. I am not constantly staring at her tits, I don’t treat her like a sex object and the only time I’ve ever talked down to her I was in the wrong. Can you stop talking like that’s the only thing she is to me?”

Oh?” Kitty said, I couldn’t tell from her tone whether she was offended or interested. “So what am I to you?”

You’re a valuable member of the team.” I said through gritted teeth.

Kitty put on a smug smile and seemed happy with that answer.

[What you do with what’s been done to you.] Atom said, trying the words on for size. [So what is it that you guys do?]

We provide valuable services to those who require them.” Was Tachi’s answer.

We reject what we’re told is the right thing to do and decide what that is for ourselves.” Was Kitty’s.

We’re criminals.” Was mine. “We break the law, we hurt people and we do it for our own profit. These two can blow smoke up your arse with bullshit about freedom and necessary evils all they want. The correct answer is, inescapably, that we’re criminals and where necessary, murderers.”

[You sound like you enjoy it.]

I don’t.”

[Then why do you do it?]

Because it’s what I’m good at.”

Kitty wrinkled her nose at me. “You can be good at killing people for profit?”

I’m good at assessing the strategic weaknesses of a target, be it a person, a building or an organisation. I’m good at coming up with creative ways to exploit those weakness and use them to overcome their strengths. I’m good at making plans that can bring those creative solutions into being. And finally, I’m good at executing those plans so that the desired outcomes are achieved. Sometimes that last one requires that people die, not always, and sometimes it’s only when things aren’t going to plan that anyone gets hurt.”

So you do enjoy it?” Kitty asked.

Tachi actually answered this one for me. “Confucius once said ‘He who appreciates can never be greater than he who understands. He who understands can never be greater than he who enjoys.’ In order for anyone to reach the top tier of what they do they have to enjoy it.”

Then I take it back.” I said, a grin tugging at my cheek. “Sounds like I do enjoy it.”
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