Note: Shows what yesterday me knew. The instant I posted about struggling to finish this monster chapter… it came together. So here it is, on time. I’m as surprised by that as you are.
“Nita?” Rox called out from behind cover. “We seem to be
missing some of our playmates. If Oleg’s here-”
“Then there’s a good chance that the rest are skulking
around, yeah. Give me some cover while I flip through the drafts.” She closed
her eyes, as Sonya threw a timed bomb near to Raif to keep him off balance.
“Behind you,” Juana said, dropping out of one of the trees,
close enough Rox felt the movement of the air she displaced. Rox drop to one
knee, then rolled to the next tree in the stand as Juana fired several shots
from an energy gun in her wake.
“Appreciate the not-very-early warning,” Rox said, diving at
Juana, hitting her in the hip and knocking both of them into a tree. Juana slid
around the tree to avoid several shots from Anita, who kneeled beside Rox.
“No problem. But you need to take Raif.” Anita grabbed her
head and forced it down, behind a root as a bullet struck where she’d been.
“There’s too much open ground between him and us; any of the rest of us get
shot in the face if we try to make it. I can handle the spook.”
“The spook?” Rox asked.
“Oh, right, sorry, skipping ahead. I wouldn’t want to ruin
the surprise. But she’s going to keep me tied up for the duration. And you’ll
have to keep an eye on Ben, or he’s going to make a mistake he won’t be able to
“I hate when you start in with this cryptic bullshit.”
“Yeah, well, bitch to the assholes who mutilated me that I
can’t see far enough into the future with enough clarity for your liking. But
do it tomorrow, when we’re not in the middle of a fucking gunfight.”
The sound of the cannon on the tank firing shook Rox out of
the conversation. She glanced in the direction of the three tanks, and saw that
the two Oleg had struck had fired on the third tank, severely damaging its
armor. “Sonya,” she yelled, “can you run interference? Rui looks like he could
use a hand.”
* * *
“Sure,” Sonya said, sprinting across the open field, “I’ve
always wanted to race at a pair of tanks, hoping Secret Service agents wouldn’t
shoot me in the back.” She spun in mid-air, flinging a timed explosive in the
direction of Raif, landing facing the tank and beginning to run again.
As she approached, she noticed the nearest tank’s turret
turning towards her. At first she assumed it was just a coincidence, that it
couldn’t be tracking her, but it overshot the stand of trees, and the Secret
Service, and was getting ever closer to sighting her in. “Oh, well that’s just dickish,”
she said, diving out of the way. She wondered, as she fell towards the nicely
manicured grass whether the tank were using any kind of an explosive shell, in
which case it wouldn’t matter if it missed, because close enough would still
catch her with fire and shrapnel; at least then her last word would be
She landed hard, rolling savagely as she heard the tank’s
shell fire. She seemed to keep going, and for a moment she wondered if the
shell’s explosion had thrown her. Finally she came to a stop, and when she
opened her eyes she could see the nearly clear sky, populated by a handful of
small, puffy clouds. “Looked like that hurt,” Rui said, offering her his hand.
“I thought you were fighting the guy in the helicopter,” she
“Was,” he said, shrugging. “But I was having a bit of a
problem; if I’m tangible, he can zap me; if I’m not I can’t hit him. I needed
something to help me break the impasse.”
“Wait,” she realized as she took his hand that he was
already transmuting his arm into a plasma again, and used it to swing her
ballistically at the helicopter. As she reached the top of the arc and felt
gravity tugging at her again, she realized the landing gear was in front of her
and swiped to grab it. “Not cool!” she yelled, hanging from the bottom of the helicopter
by one hand.
“Sorry about that,” Rui said, floating next to her. “I was
worried you’d catch a bullet if I was trying to fly you slow-mo up here.”
“And if I hadn’t caught myself?”
“I’d have caught you eventually… just further down the arc.”
“You’re going to wake up with so many boomlets in your
pants,” she said, as he helped her up onto the landing gear. “We have a plan?”
“You go left, I’ll go right. And remember that there’s a
pilot or two in there; so try not to violently crash the thing.”
“I’m also on the thing,” she said.
“All the more reason not to violently crash it, I’d think,”
he said, and flew around to the other side. Sonya crept along the landing gear,
aware of how precariously she was balanced. When she reached the cockpit door,
she leaned across. Oleg was standing in the middle of the cockpit, between two
pilots strapped into their seats; he was distracted, between controlling the
helicopter and the two tanks, and didn’t see her, or Rui smiling at her from
the opposite window. He pantomimed a three, then started holding up one finger,
then two, and on the third, he opened his door wide. A column of electricity
emanating from Oleg slapped him in the chest, and he fell.
Sonya opened her door, tossed in a boomlet, and slammed it
shut. Oleg turned slowly, trying to figure out what was happening. Just as he
saw her, the boomlet’s field dissipated, and the anti-matter inside reacted
violently with the matter in the air. The explosion knocked Oleg into the back
wall of the cockpit, where he slumped.
Sonya opened the door, and poked the nearest pilot. He was
unconscious, at least, still smoking from where Oleg electrocuted him. “Uh,”
she jabbed the copilot, who was similarly nonresponsive. “This is going to be a
problem,” she said, looking at the complex panel of controls, and the gas gauge
hovering near the red line.
“Don’t know how to fly?” Rui asked, entering the far door.
He sat on the copilot’s lap and took the stick, easing the helicopter slowly
down. “I… may have cajoled our pilot to show me how to.”
“Your family had a pilot?”
“Still does, so far as I know.”
One of the tanks fired again, this time the round penetrated
the armor of the tank enough to stop its treads from moving. “Um, that
shouldn’t be happening, right?” Sonya asked.
Rui lifted up Oleg’s hand then dropped it, and it clanged
loudly on the metal floor. “Well… he’s not conscious… but maybe part of his
unconscious is still in charge of the tanks?”
“Either way,” Sonya said, “we need to get the personnel out
of there before they get hurt.”
* * *
Anita wiped blood from her mouth. “I know who you are, why
you’re here, and I can state unequivocally we don’t have to do this,”
Anita said, putting up her hands.
“And if I’ve been looking forward to this since the last
time I kicked your ass?”
“I’d say that sounds like an odd, internally-inconsistent
revision of history; if you kicked my ass, why would you care if you got to
kick it again? Sounds more like a revenge fantasy, but you need something to
venge, which doesn’t make sense unless you lost. But if you’ve been fantasizing
about me kicking your ass all over again, I’m happy to indulge you; might even
have a set of stilettos that would make the kicking more pleasurable for you,
if that’s part of your kink.”
“You’re a horrible woman, you know that?”
“Given the company you’ve been keeping, Juana, I think the
lady doth protest too much.”
“Plus, this time, you’re gunshot. Kind of gives me an unfair
advantage; on the other hand, I never really planned to fight fair, anyway.”
“Me, neither,” Anita
said, backing around the tree.
“Running alrea-” Juana stopped, as a bullet impacted her
shoulder, pushing her back into a tree hard enough to knock the wind from her
lungs. “Fuck,” she said, sliding down the tree and sprawling.
“Hit you in the armor,” Anita said, “but there, now we’re
both gunshot. Now, I assume you’ve been briefed on what I do. So you could take
my word for it that you lose this fight, all over again, and all you get to
show for it are a couple of the not sexy kind of scars.”
“That’s wrong; all scars are sexy.”
“I’m mostly inclined to agree, but I’m not usually a
“And I know you well enough to know you’d bluff if you
weren’t going to win this fight, so your ‘insight’ is worthless to me.”
“Okay,” Anita said, removing the Kabar she wore at her hip
from its sheath. “If you’re inclined to do this, we can do this. But I’ll tell
you how your first attack is going to go; I’m going to stab your through the
forearm, in the space between the radius and ulna; I could cause you permanent
disability just by twisting it, but things are going well for us, so I don’t
think I have to. I’ll leave it where it is, because the serrated back of my
knife,” she held it up for Juana to see, “would shred the absolute shit out of
your arm if I did. You’d think that would give you an edge, right? It won’t.”
Juana advanced, forming her pistol into a long Bowie knife.
She feinted, first left, then right, then reeled back to slip the knife in
Anita’s guts, only to throw the knife at the last second into her off-hand for
a thrust from above her head. Anita caught the strike with her hand, then
buried her Kabar in Juana’s forearm. Then she kneed her in the thigh, putting
her off-balance enough to roll her over her shoulder, landing painfully on her
back on the ground.
“I’d stay down,” Anita said. “You only end up with another
cut. Oh, yeah, and then one of the Secret Service shoots you. This one misses
the vest. I’d give you even odds of bleeding out, though that’s always hard to
know. Apparently whatever message you tried to pass them through discreet
channels didn’t find them- or the agent who shoots you is as bigoted as his
boss and doesn’t care who you really are.”
“You really are a cunt,” Juana said, nursing her arm as she
dropped her blade.
“I know; my mom always told me that was one of my better
Juana narrowed her eyes. “Did you just manipulate me? Make
me use a knife, psychologically hint at how and why you’d win to nudge me into
“Huh. I don’t think that’s how my ability works,” Anita
said. “But it’s an interesting theory. No. I’m pretty sure you just didn’t
listen to reason because you’re stubborn. You can lead a horse to water, but
sometimes you can’t stop a donkey from stabbing itself in the dick.”
“I am so depressed right now that I lost to you.”
“Most tend to be. I try not to be insulted by it.”
* * *
Rox waited until Raif’s rifle clacked on an empty chamber.
He was overwhelmed, coordinating a fight against them and the Secret Service,
all while trying to remember how to be a soldier and use is ability to amp up
his comrade’s abilities. He reloaded quick, but the Secret Service kept him
pinned enough he didn’t see Rox circling around until it was too late. He tried
to spin, aiming the barrel at her, but she was already too close, and blocked
the movement of his arm, so all he could do was fire a few rounds near over her
She raised her knee, and he moved his leg to protect his
groin, only to find too late that it was a feint, and she drove her raised foot
into the knee where he was holding all of his weight. It popped out, and he
howled in pain, dropping his rifle into the dirt. He tried to stand, but
couldn’t put weight on it. “You remembered,” he said from the ground, a hint of
tenderness in his voice.
“Because I’m not a sociopath. Though back then, I thought I
was learning about my friend’s limitations, not a foe’s weakness.”
He managed to get himself propped against a tree, with his
knee at least in the right position. “I never wanted us to be enemies.”
“Then maybe you need to reexamine your life choices,” she
said. “Like declaring war on the dominant species on the planet. Even if
we were the victors, there’d be so many people dead- on both sides; there’s no
winning a genocidal war, you absolute prick.” She leaned in close. “And
know, if anything happens to my friends today, it will not matter what
hole they toss you in. I will fucking come for you, and they will never find
all the fucking pieces of you.”
He grabbed her hair, but she wrapped her forearm around his
throat, cutting off air through his windpipe. “You are such a predictable
asshole,” she said.
* * *
Ben heard the noise, the one from his brother’s last message
to him. It wasn’t the first time he heard it outside of the message; that sound
haunted his dreams, and any moment he let himself focus too much on what
happened to his home. But this wasn’t in his head. This was real, vibrating
through the air.
He was running towards it before he ever realized- past a
swarm of Secret Service agents who were more focused on the tanks they’d lost
control of than him. The noise was coming from the far side of the lawn, around
back of the White House- but coming towards him, fast. At the last-minute he
stepped to the side, and managed to latch on as the source of the noise flew
past. The noise was louder, hanging onto the spindly man’s back, enough that
Ben had to forcibly calm the movement of its waves through the air to keep it
from deafening him.
Even with Ben in tow, they were still gaining speed, heading
towards the rest of the fight. Ben knew he needed to slow, and clocked the man
in the head. That threw him off-balance, and the pair of them went rolling
through the grass, coming to the stop against one of the tanks.
Ben’s world was spinning. He never expected to hear that
sound again- both wanted it more than anything and was terrified of what he’d
do if he did. And here the source was, stunned and at his feet.
“You,” the man said, although now that he was moving slower,
Ben could see he likely wasn’t older than seventeen, “you look familiar. I
think I might have met your brother.” Ben kicked the boy across the face.
“Certainly kick like him,” he said. There was something in his voice he
recognized from childhood that reminded him of a childhood friend.
Ben covered his face with his hand and said, “You’re deaf, aren’t
you?” He didn’t respond, didn’t even seem to acknowledge the words. Ben removed
his hand, and repeated it, and he nodded. An instant later, and he was standing
behind Ben, and he heard the noise again, this time too loud and fast for him
to mitigate. He felt it in his skull, in all of his bones, like he was being
“It’s harmonics,” the other man said. “Breed physiology is
ever so slightly different from vanilla human. To a human, this would hurt,
excruciatingly, but not do any lasting damage. To a Breed, at this intensity,
it can be fatal. I don’t want it to be; I don’t want to fight at all. I just
want to put things right again.”
Ben was dizzy; there were moments until he passed out from
the pain. He concentrated, trying to isolate the phase. He’d done it before as
a party trick, but never attempted anything like this in a fight. Suddenly the
tone was gone, that sound that had haunted him barely perceptible, like music
heard through a wall. “I canceled out the tone you use,” Ben said, “using an
antiphase wave of the same amplitude.” He punched the other man in the face.
“So while you contemplate your powerlessness, why don’t you tell me why you
killed everyone in my home town.” Ben hit him again, his lip burst from
the impact, blood trickling down his pale skin.
“I’m Colby,” he said. He was trembling; they both were, and
only some of it was related to their abilities. “It wasn’t supposed to happen
like that… Raif said- I was supposed to scare them, maybe hurt them, just a
little, get them to see that the broader struggle was their struggle, too- that
just because they were relatively safe and comfortable on the reservation
didn’t mean that they could sit this out. I’d never tried to use my power on
more than one person at a time, and when Raif boosted me… it caused a chain
reaction. I was horrified, when your brother died; it was like I lit a fuse,
and after it burnt through him, it started in on the next person. I tried to
stop it, but I couldn’t. I just had to sit and watch as they died, one after
Ben hit him again, and again. “You killed everyone I
grew up with. Everyone who knew me as a kid. I don’t care if it was a fucking
accident. Because this sure as hell won’t be.” He grabbed onto Colby’s
head and squeezed. He wasn’t sure what he was doing, but everything in him told
him to push, put his thumbs through his eyes, his fingers through his windpipe
and shake the hole thing until his scrambled brains dribbled out of his ears.
* * *
“He’ll kill him,” Raif said around Rox’s forearm
against his trachea.
“Not sure we’ve had a Native American genocide of the
kind this century; seems like he’s got it coming.”
Raif swallowed around her arm, then let out a wounded sigh. “It
was my fault. I didn’t tell him I was going to augment his attack on the tribe.
He was a scared kid, kind that will go out of his way not to hurt flies, let
alone a human being; I didn’t think he was going to push it far enough, really
scare them like we needed. I though I had to push him. I didn’t realize what
“I’m not Mira; I’m a lot less inclined to give you
anything close to a pass.”
“I’m not asking for me. Colby doesn’t deserve to die
for my mistake. He’s a kid. You were all kids. I’ve done a piss-poor job or
protecting you. I don’t want his death on my head, too.”
“Goddamnit.” Rox drew her gun.
“I can make the shot if you can’t,” he said.
“Quiet, or I’ll put a round in you first,’ she said. She
tossed the pistol over her shoulder without glancing back to aim, and it struck
Ben in the side.
“Ow!” he yelled. “What the fuck?”
“I’m pretty sure he’s down, dickhead,” Rox yelled back.
Ben looked at Colby, limp in his hands, and recoiled.
“Ow,” Colby moaned from the grass.
“Oh, thank God,” he said, tears welling up in his eyes.
“Wasn’t expecting that response,” Colby whimpered.
“I’m not saying I’ve given up completely on the idea of
killing you- just that I’d feel bad if it was an accident.”
“I’m sorry,” Colby whispered.
“Yeah, well, maybe if my brother were here, he’d accept
that. He was always the better man. It’s your fault you’re stuck with me.”