Breed Book 4, Part 16


Rox’s phone rang. It was dark, was all she could tell for sure, too late for civilized people to be calling. Which either meant someone uncivilized was calling, or something was very wrong. “Rox?” the voice on the phone was quieter, tinnier, younger.

“Linc?” she asked, looking at the ID.

“Just borrowing his signal, from whoever’s carrying his phone around,” the voice on the other end said. But he wasn’t speaking; it was a synthetic voice, robotic. “This is Mahmoud.”

“Bull. You died.”

“No,” the voice said, taking on a little of Mahmoud’s timbre as he remembered how to manipulate electronic signals to recreate a human voice. “That’s what they told you, so you wouldn’t look for me. It’s okay. It wouldn’t have been safe for you to. I wouldn’t want you to come, not even now.”

“Tough shit,” she said; “we don’t leave anyone behind.”

“You left me, and Mira, if I recall correctly.”

“That’s not fair. You split off, closed any avenues of pursuit. Mira… she made a choice to go with you. We thought… we hoped you’d meet us later. Christ. I still feel like I’m talking to a ghost.”

“You are. It’s okay. I’m gone. Just a ghost in the machine, now. I didn’t call to blame you. Don’t look for me. Just know that I don’t regret it. You got away. I got you away. Everything after was worth that. I’m so happy to hear your voice, to know you’re safe, to know it worked. Tell the others ‘bye.’” The line disconnected.

“Talking to yourself, boss?” Ben asked, rolling over, then falling off the couch. “Oh, right, we were trying to watch all the Star Wars back to back. Anybody make it?”

“My phone woke me up, so you’re asking the wrong person,” Rox said.

“I was going to,” Rui said, stirring from behind the couch, “but then Rise of Skywalker came on and I took a protest nap. Having that movie as the capper… it’s like eating your brussel sprouts, your broccoli, your liver and onions, your Salisbury steak and finding out your dessert is pickled garlic.”

“What’s wrong with Salisbury steak?” Ben mumbled, half asleep.

“It’s not steak, for one, it’s barely food, for two.”

“It’s breaded armpits, right? Seasoned with farts?” Sonya asked, yawning.

“Great,” Rox said, rolling her eyes, “the entire peanut gallery’s waking up.”    

Human armpits?” Rui asked.

“Is there any other kind?” Anita asked. “Animals arms don’t fall to their sides, hence, no pit.”

“What about monkeys and gorillas?” Ben asked.

“They hunch forward, so no pit.”

“I’m not sure I’m on board the declaration that it’s the crease of the arm that makes it a pit,” Cristobal said.

“My kingdom for a half-bright minion,” Rox muttered.

“Uh-oh, she’s calling us minions again,” Ben said.

“So either we’re in trouble,” Anita said, “or she’s hankering for a Despicable Me marathon again.”

“It means shut up for like thirty seconds. I just got a call.”

“Did it come from inside the house?” Ben asked.

“The next call will come from inside your colon if you do not shut up.”

“I’m pretty sure my colon would survive; your phone, not so much.”

“It was Mahmoud.”

“Ahmadinejad?” Rui asked. “What’s that old so and so been up to?”


“So, and at the risk of this sounding less serious than it is, exactly how many calls from dead people can she get before we start to worry?” Anita asked.

Rox handed her phone over to Rui. “I think we need to reexamine who we think of as dead,” Rox said.

He touched the screen, and saw the call ID. “Linc did just call her.”

“I thought she said it was Mahmoud,” Cris groaned, before falling back into a recliner. “This dream makes no sense.”

“This isn’t a dream,” Rox said. “And if I’m right, we might just have a chance to save both of them.” 

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