Muun is up before her mother. She lies in bed waiting. She slows her breathing, practicing.

"Muun!" says her mother.

Muun is out of bed and down the stairs, dressed in no time flat.

"Don't forget!" says her mother. "The balancer is fixed!"

"Yes, mom!" Muun shouts back, keeping the sarcastic edge out of it. She opens the freezer. Organic blueberries and goji berries. Strawberries. She drops a handful of each in the balancer. Fresh kale, as little parsley as she can get away with and a carrot. She locks the lid and taps the button. Her mother comes in the room, leaning on the doorjamb in her robe. Muun takes the mug from the coffee maker and hands it to her mother.

Her mother smiles. "You seem more balanced and you haven't even tasted the shake."

The whirring balancer stops. It is not nearly as noisy as the old blenders and bullets. Muun opens it and pulls out her smoothie. "Do you want me to start yours?" she says.

"No," says her mother. "Thank you." She sips her coffee.

Muun sits at the table and sips the smoothie. It is blue-black and thick and cold. It does taste good.

"The shop said that they had not seen a balancer crap out under the warranty unless it was smashed. And ours was not smashed or dropped."

Muun nods. She is half way through the smoothie. Her mother starts adding ingredients to her own.

"I did tell them that you drank a few of my balances. They said that that was not terribly unusual in teens who have lost a parent."

"Dead, mom. He isn't lost."

Her mother starts the balancer whirring.

Muun gets up and puts her glass in the sink. She eyes her mother and then runs water into the glass. "Gotta go." She grabs her pack from the hook. Her mother is putting the glass in the dishwasher. Muun gives her a quick hug.

"Have a good day." says her mother. "Stay safe."

Muun books. She heads for school. There are a couple of drones overhead but she can't be sure any are trained on her. There are more near the school. Some veer off when a teen goes inside. Others hover and wait.

Muun goes in the door and heads for her first class. She hands in the excuse. The teacher slides it into the reader, which chirps. "I am glad that you are helping in the library." says her teacher and lets her go with a nod. Muun is quick down the hall, into the library. Drobee is there as planned, she hears his voice arguing with the librarian in the old stacks, actual paper books since they have a rich school. Muun is through the room and in the door at the back. Drobee will find the book on the floor behind the stack and let the librarian go.

She turns on a pen light. Not her cell, she has disabled the camera and tracking. She is in the basement. They found this as the loophole: the phone and school will register that she is here, but not exactly where. She has saved the excuse for months and they recoded the date.

Muun looks for the pile of bricks. There it is. She leans against the wall and slides down. She lifts the center brick in the pile. A paper packet is inside. She opens it and slips the six tablets out. Four for now and two in four hours: penicillin. An antibiotic, to kill the balancing probiotics that she is given every morning. She is so excited. She holds the four for a moment and slowly puts them on her tongue. The penicillin is bitter but she lets it dissolve slowly in her mouth, savoring it. What will she be like by tomorrow morning, with her internal flora disrupted and changed..... a monster?

SciFiQuest 3016: SWHHY

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