Zak shook his head as he watched the kid from the back seat. He figured him as a v-warrior. Too many hours of virtual war games and now he thought he was macho. If the kid was afraid of the Zone, he sure didn’t want to ever go to war against the Orkensha.

“...Prime Minister Sarte, however, assured the Orkensha government that Minister Hakkim’s statement was in no way a threat and that he remains totally committed to settling the current border dispute by diplomatic and peaceful means.

“While the energy corporations may not agree with the Prime Minister’s commitment to a peaceful solution with the Orkenhsa, the latest polls indicate that Aragne voters continue to support the Prime Minister. With the elections only days away, Prime Minister Sarte gained several more points and now enjoys a forty-four percent rating in the polls.

“Senator Jayme Donovan moved up two points in the polls to a thirty percent rating, which inches him ahead of Representative Collin Martel, who trails the polls with twenty-one percent.

“When this election campaign began it appeared as though it was going to be a much closer race between the Freedom Party candidate, Torrin Kapp, and the Prime Minister. But the sudden and tragic death of Senator Kapp in a car accident a month ago changed all that. The Freedom Party’s popularity has dropped drastically with the appointment of Representative Collin Martel to take Senator Kapp’s place...”

Zak was pleased to hear that the Prime Minister was still on top. Sarte was the only logical candidate for the country. Zak had met Jayme Donovan while still in ASID. He was a pretentious, self-absorbed, superficial man in Zak’s opinion. As for Collin Martel... Well, the Freedom Party lost any chance for victory with the death of Torrin Kapp.

The subject of the news changed and Zak became less interested in listening, although it was difficult not to considering the volume of the comm.

“...Adan Eirubadhon, a spokesman for EAST Group, said today that the organization intends to lobby in Parliament with the hope to convince the government to make the manufacturing and sale of androids illegal...”

“Right on!” Kam said, as animated now as he had been while listening to the electro music before. “Screw those metal headed SHIAM. Gather every last one of the fraggin’ things up and melt ‘em down!”

EAST Group had initially been an Elvish organization, although lately it had gained in popularity and was becoming a more inter-racial affiliation. Its members objected to the development of artificial intelligence, particularly when it mimicked sentient intelligence. That made the EAST Group the sworn enemy of the SHIAM. Zak didn’t entirely disagree with their sentiment, or Kam’s for that matter. The SHIAM had the potential to become a very real threat to Aragne society. Initially SHIAM had been used primarily to replace Human workers in performing hazardous jobs. They were used extensively within the mining and nuclear energy industries. But it hadn’t taken long for other areas of commerce to see the value of a Human-like work force minus the Human factor.

The use of SHIAM labor was steadily increasing within the manufacturing sector. And lately they were showing up even retail and service industries. Cabbies had been hit particularly hard by this new trend, as there were now more SHIAM cab drivers than Human drivers in Sol Kappur. More and more businesses were finding the idea of having a work force free of unions and labor laws appealing. Where it was all heading, Zak had no idea. But he did know that the situation was potentially dangerous. You can only push people so far before they decide to push back. EAST Group was the first indication of that.

As he gazed out the window at the hypnotic glitter of city lights, Zak tried to relax his mental tension with little success. The missing SHIAM was further proof of the potential danger androids posed. It was out there loose somewhere, without any safety protocols.

“...Now, on to sports. Big news from the Aragne Football League today. The Sol Kappur Dragons announced that they have closed a deal that will send quarterback Jeramia Bonn to the Tiersep Tigers in exchange for defensive end Josef Gharu and linebacker Torrence Tailor. The trade surprised...”

“All right! Josef Gharu is ass kickin’, man!” The kid was still fluttering around in his seat like a butterfly on joy juice.

As they travelled on the lightning flashes increased. If the lightning grew much worse, the city would be closing the upper travel lanes again. Rolls of thunder could now be heard over the blaring music that had once again repossessed the air waves. Kam continued to gyrate as though he was made of rubber and his entire nervous system had short-circuited.