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Breed: Twenty


  07:52:00 pm, by Nic Wilson   , 1892 words  
Categories: Breed

Breed: Twenty

?Thanks, for coming with me,? Mahmoud said from inside the quiet car. ?After the day I've had, I think I would have been a quivering puddle by now without you.?
?It's no big deal,? Rox said noncommittally.
?Don't minimize. That's why it's been good having you here. Because you haven't treated me like a kid, like these are kid problems and the adults have better, more important, more adult things to deal with, when all I've wanted to do is shut down. I think I did, for most of the day. I, I got insanely close to admitting what I brought to school was a bomb.?
?But it wasn't.?
?But it's hard to remember that. When you've had hours of someone yelling at you, promising it will all go away, that you can leave just as soon as you admit to something you didn't do. Interrogation is a form of torture- especially at a black prison. I couldn't call my parents, and any time I asked for a lawyer they'd tell me something about working to get me a phone call. When I could feel each one of them had a cell phone in their pockets, that there were dozens of working landlines in the place.?
?It's bullshit,? Rox said.
?I know. That's why I wanted you to ride with me. Because even though you didn't say anything, I could tell you were thinking it.? He sighed hotly. ?I mean, they're not wrong, to want to protect us. But what they don't understand, what I don't think adults ever really understand, is that they can't protect us. The ignorance and fear and even violence, it's such an indelible part of this world. What happened to me, what happened in Newtown. We don't grow up in a vacuum, away from the impacts of their decisions. They can't shield us from these things- not without changing the world. And for whatever reason, that just seems like too much of a hassle to most of them.?
?We could crash their protest,? Rox said.
?Maybe. It might just mean a premature cancellation of the protest- which sets us all back. I'm skeptical that a protest accomplishes anything. What did Black Lives Matter accomplish, other than deeper retrenchment and additional racial tension? Not that I'm saying they were wrong. But the 'other side' in this is a group who want to 'conserve' their way of life. It's a group that wants to keep things the way they are, who like to be able to casually use racial slurs or deny gays even the dignity of buying the wedding cake they want, just because that's the way it's always been, it's the way they're comfortable. When you ask them to stop hurting people, their reaction is pretend they're the ones being oppressed. To them, protest is an act of violence; not the kind that will make them think, but the kind that will get someone killed when they retaliate.?
?What's our recourse, then??
?I don't know. Wait for the next plague to wipe out the oldest, most virulent bigots??
?And that it comes before they push us into an all-out race war.?
?Breed war,? Mahmoud corrected.
?Unless it all fractures along out-group lines. What if it wasn't just transhumans, but also Latinos, people with African and Asian ancestry, LGBTQs, basically everyone, demanding acceptance and dignity together.?
?It'd be great,? he said, ?if it doesn't come at the other end of a gun.?
?This is your spot,? the driver said as the car pulled up to the curb.
?I'm really glad I got to meet you,? Rox said, and hugged him.
?Don't say teary-eyed goodbyes yet,? Mahmoud said. ?I get the feeling I'll be sticking around.?
He slid out of the car, and Rox followed.
?Wait,? the driver said. ?I'm supposed to drive you home.?
?Yeah,? she said, ?well, you can't. I'm walking. I need the air. But thanks for the offer.?
The hotel still had lights on, but the rest of the city, with the exception of plentiful street lamps, was dark. The wind made the night less bearable, but at least she was still bundled from the game. It seemed like days had passed since then.
She took out her phone, to distract herself from the chill. She missed a text from Elijah, and her heart started thumping quickly. He was in Seattle. She dialed him, and each second had to fight harder to keep from believing he'd been hurt.
?Hey, Rox,? he said, picking up. ?I'm glad you called. Everything that's happening here.?
?I know,? she said. ?I just left Seattle.?
?They canceled school, like it was a snow day. It was insane. The air outside our apartment was choked in smoke for most of the day.?
?So you weren't outside, in the protest??
?My mom wouldn't let me. But I kept up on it with the local news, and the radio, and did what I could to spread the word on social media.?
?Today's been such a disaster,? she said, and realized it wasn't just the cold slowing her down.
?I know,? he said. ?People are angrier and more scared than they've ever been.?
?So they blame us??
?Some do. A lot. I guess it's kind of harder to parse, when there's so much conflict swirling around. But it feels like a lot of people here are looking at it through the lens of the World Trade Organization 'riot.' People still remember the police gassing and arresting crowds of bystanders- not even protesters, just people going about their daily lives. But nationally, it's ugly.
?Cox spent most of the day stirring up anti-transhuman sentiment. They keep repeating how the 'protests' were just a smokescreen, an excuse to finally cut loose on a world that doesn't give us our due. To show everyone how powerful we are, to make them afraid of us for a reason.
?It's weird, because every transhuman I know just wants to be left alone, to live out their lives in obscurity and play video games, listen to music, date awkwardly. They think we want to rule them by fear, because it's the only thing they could think to do with power.
?In a funny way, though not the way they'd expect, it forces my hand. Thinking about it, what I realized is registration's a lot like gun control. I think every gun owner ought to go through classes to get a license, and that their guns should all be registered with the government. At the same time it maybe makes me see some nuance in that argument I hadn't before- it's different when it's your name on one of the government's lists; of course, there isn't anyone in Congress advocating we round up gun owners and put them in internment camps they way some want to do with us. But the principal remains the same. The only way we get past this fear is to stop being scared of each other. We trust, or we prepare for war. And there's already been too much hurt. Even if that's the way the wind is blowing, it can't be the way I go.?
?Aren't you scared??
?Terrified. But I try to put myself in someone else's shoes, you know, a guy who's probably my neighbor who spent the day in fear, huddled around his children to protect them from someone like me he's convinced was going to kick in his door to hurt them. If exposing myself, if making myself vulnerable is the only way to make him feel safe, maybe it's worth it. I hope so, anyway.?
?I'm really not sure.?
?Me, neither. But I think that's just the fear talking. And if we keep letting it rule us, there isn't any chance for peace.?
?You shouldn't,? Rox said. ?I can't explain it, but sometimes I get this tingling sensation.?
?I don't know that I know you well enough for the puberty talk,? Elijah said.
?Don't be a jerk. My ability, most of the time it functions automatically, I don't concentrate or think about the outcomes I want, they just happen. But every once in a while I get this intuition that something is going to go badly unless I intervene. I don't always understand how I should intervene, but right now, it feels like something bad will happen if you go through with this.?
?Something bad will happen if we survive the night. Something bad will happen because life is a series of bad things happening, interspersed with better things happening. But we can't live our life based on what bad may come, but the good we want to last beyond us.?
?Please,? she said, on the verge of tears.
?I can't. I know what might happen. But I also know what happens when good people do nothing. But thank you. For talking to me. For caring. I know this won't be the last time we talk, but thank you, for trying to talk me out of it.?
?Yeah,? she said. ?I should go. It's late.?
?Sure. You have a good night, Rox. And take care of yourself.?
She wanted to throw her phone as she hung up, but she forced herself to gently slide it back into her pocket. She had been wandering blind, not paying attention to where she was gone. But her ability must have kicked in, because she'd actually discovered a quicker way back to her parent's.
That was the moment she heard a boot splash into a puddle behind her.
It was late enough there weren't other people on the streets. She hadn't seen anyone on her entire walk, which had been just as well, since she wouldn't have wanted anyone to hear how close she came to breaking down.
But the same intuition that led her to plead with Elijah now told her she needed to get home, quickly. She started with a few wider steps before launching into a run. She thought she could hear boots splashing through the puddles behind her, coming just as quickly as she was running, but she'd ran often enough in the rain to know that the echoes of it played tricks.
She darted down an alley she'd used as a shortcut before. Normally the gate was open, but normally, she was passing that way during daytime. The fence was shut, and she was caught flat-footed. That was how she knew that the splashes at the entrance weren't her own noises thrown back at her.
She started to turn back, when she was knocked to her knee.
She felt a gun barrel pressed against the back of her head, then heard the slide of an automatic pulled backward, chambering a round, then the clack of the trigger. But the hammer didn't fall. The gun was jammed.
She put her foot against the brick wall to her left, leapt off it and used her momentum to kick her pursuer in the face. He dropped both his gun and his phone. She grabbed the gun, and reached into her pocket for her own phone. Then she heard more boots splashing in her direction. She looked at the gun, and wasn't sure if it was going to work, and didn't want to have to test it. So she scooped up his phone and climbed over the fence, and disappeared into the rain.

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