Sylvie Knows


The clincher came about twenty years ago, when she was barely 18. The United Planets peace keeping force approached her to help out on an unsolved murder case at one of the asteroid belt bases. In a matter of hours she was able to solve with apparent ease what the police couldn't in nearly six months of very thorough investigating. Taken to the crime scene, she got a "feeling" about the killer-and when shown a group of suspects not only did she hear the noise and screams of the crime transpire in her head, but she saw it as well in vivid detail-and she felt the sweaty nervousness of the murderer as he stood there under the harsh lights of the line up.

Proclaimed a wunderkind, the person now called Sylvania Latour quickly became one of the most sought after resources in the solar system for solving the unsolvable. And for being able to predict what people might or might not do. Government officials would eagerly pay her way to attend formal dinners and other functions just to get a sense of who was lying, who was stalling, or who was planning something dangerous.

Being wined and dined was exciting at first, but the novelty quickly dissolved when the threats started coming in-threats against her life or the lives of her parents or siblings if she didn't stop her work. Threats so serious that the United Planets took her under their protection, moving her about, providing aliases, providing cosmetic surgeries, altering certain patterns in her DNA — and, yes, even performing an operation that would make her unrecognizable and hopefully undetectable to anyone seeking to do her harm. It was a life that became increasingly intolerable — scary, un-centered, and purposeless. She spent more time running from angry people than she did using her powers to help innocent people, and that was, as they say, "the clincher."

And so fifteen years ago, she took the name Sylvania Latour and stowed away on a supply barge to Titan, slipped off into the crowded Base, and from there, by various means of transport, shimmied herself out to Sedna where she was able to use some previously forged documents to make her way onto the Base, towards the kitchen, and firmly into the hearts of her Canteen customers.

For fifteen years, not a day went by when she didn't enjoy her new freedom. She loved creating her wildly eccentric persona every morning, she loved playing with the kids and their families, she loved cooking, she loved serving, she loved-period. It never seemed to cross anyone's mind that Sylvie would delve into a human psyche beyond a crock of baked beans or a bowl of soup. Somehow on Sedna, unlike Earth when she was younger, people felt safe with Sylvie. And, more importantly, she felt safe with them — no one made demands on her; indeed, no one expected more from her than a miraculous ability to distinguish a knockwurst from a hot dog.

And then today, the stranger enters the canteen and things change.

She looks up at the clock — still running on a vaguely human 24-hour cycle. Thirteen hundred hours, the height of the luncheon rush, but she smiles. She still gets a charge from seeing how many she can serve in an hour. Her record is 234 people: Every order entered perfectly into the food replicators, every meal served appropriately hot or cold, every item plated to perfection with just the right touch of garnish. Just perfect. And always with that great smile.

Familiar faces and a few new always rotated through the canteen. Most sat at tables and a few preferred the counter where they read novels or the news on their PalmPads. But today, the stranger enters, walks through the bustling tables, and sits at the end of the mottled-yellow Formica-topped counter. Dressed in the grey jumper of a Base technician, he easily fit in: Nordic blond hair, chiseled face, lean body — the look that most GenAlts had, those men and women genetically altered and enhanced to remain physically strong even in the low gravity of most off-Earth colonies and mining operations.

Of course, that's what made Sylvania Latour so deliciously fun — she didn't care about gravity or size. She ate what she pleased and delighted in her politically, scientifically, and philosophically incorrect weight. After years of psychological agony, mainly at the hands of the United Planets, Sylvie was carefree and happy, having fun with her empathic powers rather than being bewildered (or terrorized) by them.

Well, until today. Until now, when the tech guy sits down at the counter-Norse as a fiord and inscrutable as a stone vault.

Sylvie hasn't seen him before-probably a newbie just off today's boat — so as she approaches she tries to read him.

He looks up from his PalmPad and those chlorine blue eyes give her a start. She's not quite sure why, but they do. A chill runs through her. And then she realizes. She can't "hear" him. Nothing. Blank. She focuses. Nothing. This has never happened to her and it's completely unsettling.



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