Breed Book 4, Part 36


“I feel weird about this,” the young woman said, pausing in the dormitory hall. 

“It’s Aishah, right?” Tucker asked.


“This is weird,” Tucker said, smiling. “You were kidnapped by your government, thrown in a black site prison, and rescued by people that same rogue government have labeled terrorists. And now you’re helping your fellow kidnappees settle into a college dorm where none of you were previously enrolled. It’s just weird, top to bottom.”

“That is,” Aishah agreed. “But it’s not what I meant.”

“You’ll have to excuse Tucker; he’s not a mind-reader,” Mikaela said with a snort.

“You are, aren’t you?” Aishah asked. He nodded, looking deflated. “It’s weird because I don’t like attention. I shrink when people look at me, and now I’ve got hundreds of refugees looking to me like I’m some kind of leader. Just because that strange woman handed me a gun in Guantanamo.”

“That is weird,” Mikaela said, with a smile. “But also… mostly not. Anita knows things, about all of us. She can see… versions of the future, I guess, you could call them- though she calls them drafts. She’s possibly nuts, too. But what she saw, in you, was important; the way you handled yourself made other people see it, too. And even if right now it feels uncomfortable, other people need to keep seeing in you what they saw that day. At leas for a little bit.”

“I know,” she said, staring out one of the dorm windows, at a group of students throwing a frisbee in the field several stories below. “We’ve all been ripped, from our homes, from our families, from our lives. I can see they just need some normalcy. I’m just not sure I can give it to them.”

“We’re here, to help,” Tucker said. “And if you want to transition out of a leadership role, we’ll help with that.”

“I’m not sure,” Aishah said. “Just because I don’t like it, that doesn’t mean I can shirk it, you know?”  

“Definitely,” Mikaela said.

“So I guess, you were giving me a tour.”

“Right,” Tucker started walking again. “Most of you missed the onslaught of the virus; so memes about not being able to find toilet paper or hand sanitizer will be Greek to you. On the plus side, we have ample supply of both for you, here. Some of the technopaths retrofitted our HVAC systems, so that every dorm room has its own air supply.”

“It makes most of the buildings from the outside look like they’re being devoured by mutant robot squids, but it provides as much safety as we can have, without having to send vulnerable students home,” Mikaela said. “Some did go home, but this school stayed at least somewhat open, because they knew that a lot of the people here are here because they had nowhere else to go.”

“The cafeteria is staffed by student volunteers, all closely monitored; our best interventions are still tech-based, though some of the other telepaths have been trying to telepathically isolate the virus; it’s challenging, because it’s a needle in a haystack. Viral thought is… primitive. Most telepaths can’t even communicate with animals, and the further back down the evolutionary ladder the less simple it is. Other volunteers deliver the food. People with accelerated immune systems or other abilities that make infection or spread less likely are encouraged to pitch in, but everybody has to decide for themselves. And at least so far, we’ve been doing a really good job of sustaining ourselves while keeping quarantine.”

“Any infections?”

“A couple. Traced back to a delivery truck. Guy was a super-spreader, personally responsible for like a hundred cases in a week from here to Seattle. But they were isolated, given the best care available, and recovered. Currently no infections at the school, but we’re staying vigilant, anyway.”

“Oh?” Aishah asked.

“Not sure if you heard about the militia that invaded the school. Well, after those ‘very fine people’ were pardoned by the President, one of them sent a box of infected items to our Dean. It was flagged by staff, and turned over to the authorities, but…”

“Shitheads will weaponize this,” Aishah said.

“Yeah,” Tucker said.

“Are we safe here?” Aishah asked, fear trembling in her voice.

“We’ve had our fair share of problems,” Mikaela said softly. “But this is also the largest concentration of Breed in the world. I think we could more than hold our own against anything short of a full government inva-“ Mikaela stopped when she recognized the tears welling in Aishah’s eyes. “Oh, God, I’m sorry.” She reached out, and Aishah latched onto her with surprising speed.

“I don’t want to be afraid,” Aishah said raggedly.

“But you were taken once, and of course you’re worried about it,” Mikaela said. “I think, right now, they couldn’t get away with storming the school. The optics of it, especially during a pandemic…”

“We also have contingencies,” Tucker said. “We can’t get everyone out; there are volunteers, among the students and most of the staff, to stay and buy time for the rest to escape. That’s one of the reasons we’re this far north- so we can flee across the border if necessary.”

Aisha sniffled, before straightening. “How do you volunteer?”

“Are you sure that’s something you want to do?” Tucker asked.

“Last time, I didn’t raise my fists. I told myself I had to be a model minority, not make a fuss, that it would only end in them doing worse to more of us. Then they put us in cages, and when they couldn’t keep us there any longer, they spirited us out of the country to Guantanamo. We aren’t human to them, and no amount of acting good, and right and submissive can change that. I won’t do that again. If there is a next time, I need to go down swinging.”

“Okay,” Tucker said. “Then we’ll need a few things. We need to know what your ability is; usually, we see it as polite not to ask until someone’s ready to talk about it, but for this we need to know, because we have to set you up with an advisor, to train. Because we do have to restrain ourselves, or we’ll validate a lot of their fears about us. And ultimately, we don’t want to hurt anyone. This is defensive. So we want to be as good as we can be at causing exactly the amount of damage we intend to.”

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