Breed Book 4, Part 15

Well, fudge. I started this not expecting I’d get to the 1/4 of a novel point while protests were still ongoing, an embarrassing failure of imagination, for a writer. Regular readers will notice I’ve struggled the last four years to finish even a first draft of anything; irregular readers will, too, provided they’ve maintained object permanence, and if not, hello for the first time you remember!

I’m going to try and keep going. I’ll admit, the steam went out of the balloon a bit after I got through the dramatic part of the protest. But fuck Yoda, try I will, to keep going. First up is the mirrored side of these first fourteen chapters, what Rox and her outlaws are up to while the rest of the gang protest. After that, we’ll roll into an assassination plot, probably going back to the usual back and forth. Not sure where this goes, honestly, but with luck I’ll ride the train all the way through to the end.

Without luck, I will be hit by a hearse dragging behind it a trailer full of open ladders and extra fragile mirrors, driven by a black cat; fingers crossed, everybody.


Mahmoud got drunk, once, when his ability first started to manifest. He thought he was insane. He could hear the toaster complaining about the brand of bagels they bought, knew the television wasn’t happy with the extension cord it was plugged into. His dad drank, to take the edge off, to take all the crap he dealt with in his day to day and cram it down deep enough he could still be a dad, still provide emotionally for his family. Mahmoud needed that, if only for an afternoon, one single, solitary afternoon where it didn’t feel like his brain was melting, when he didn’t have to be terrorized about the day when his family found out and had him committed. He puked his guts out, so comically his dad laughed at him rather than punish him further. But that afternoon, for the first time in a long time, he couldn’t hear the machines, couldn’t feel their… not exactly thoughts, but noise. Buzzing.

Being in Guantanimo was a lot like that. For one, they had him buried deep, in the ground, with thick concrete walls. This entire wing of the prison had been redesigned with technopaths like him in mind, because if they could get so much as a radio signal, they could communicate with the outside world, and tell them what, exactly, had been done to them. In Mahmoud’s case, an American minor was spirited away without any notification for his family; they believed he died during an attack on an NSA base compiling information on other Breed like him. His friends, too, believed he was gone. Otherwise, he liked to tell himself, at least when the drugs were starting to wear thin and he could think straight, they’d have come for him. It was a white lie he told himself, one that in his worse moments he struggled to believe. He’d known them only a few weeks, and yes, they broke into a government facility together, but they left him behind, to die. Okay, so, more he locked them out and himself in, and told them to go… but sometimes the worst voice in your head is your own.

The other way that Guantanimo was like being a drunk was the cocktail they kept in his IV, a steady drip of meds designed to keep him from thinking straight, so if say a plane flew too close, or a boat with a radio sailed nearby, he couldn’t hijack it. The drugs made his body feel like sludge, which at least made it harder to tell when he went to the bathroom. He didn’t have enough muscle control to hold anything in, so his body just periodically dropped his waste, but the drugs made it harder to know when it ran down his leg. It was a small mercy, the only kind that he got in this place.

Back before they started drugging him, he was on a hunger strike. Periodically, they’d force-feed him, hold him down and sedate him, then keep holding while they shoved a tube down his throat. It was the worst thing that had ever been done to him, and yet, it was better than surrender, better than letting win. Sometime after the drugs they installed a feeding tube in his side. Sure, it was another violation, but it felt gentler, somehow, maybe because it didn’t come with regular intervals of being brutalized by the guards; in fact, they’d beaten him less, since it was installed, because of the paperwork involved if it got infected.

His old life- really, his only life, because existing in this cell sure as hell didn’t qualify- felt like a dream, It was so distant. He remembered the warmth of the sun on his face, the smile of his friends, the tingle of new electronics he was hearing for the first time. Only the last one wasn’t a memory, and it wasn’t new.

He remembered a debate among technopaths at the school, one where they realized midway through that the debate was down to the fact that technopaths pick up on different things, but no two electronics are alike. Small, subtle differences in the soldering, imperfections in the molding and various other tiny introductions of chaos into production meant each was unique. Sure, if you got two from the same production line, on the same day, produced within minutes they might be close, in the same way siblings often bear a strong resemblance to one another. But he recognized this cell phone, even if he remembered hearing electronic chatter that it’s owner was dead.

That didn’t matter. A signal meant he could call out, meant he could tell his friends he was alive, meant… he could say goodbye. It was suicide, breaking into a U.S. base on Cuban soil. He couldn’t ask them to, couldn’t even tell them enough that they could attempt it. So far as they knew, he’d been dead this whole time. He was a ghost already. No point in making his friends ghosts, too. But it was nice, the thought that he could at least tell them what they meant, could hear them, one last time, before finally letting go.

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