Breed Book 3, Part 28

“This resume looks amazing,” Liz with HR said, setting the page down, and leaning back in her chair behind her desk. “We’ve known that since you emailed it to us. But we’re more than just some DARPA contractor, and you’re more than a resume with a security clearance. So tell me why you want to work here, Mikaela.”

Mikaela pondered a moment. “Because I want to leave the world a better place than I found it. That’s why I’ve been drawn to work in technologically advanced fields, and likewise why I prefer to work in concert with the public sector.”

“But not directly for the public sector?”

“Government work is good, important, and necessary. But oftentimes by design, it moves slowly and deliberately. Private industry by contrast is designed to be quick and responsive. That’s why they make such perfect partners; we can sprint ahead and find the best solutions to the problems facing our great country, and government is there to vet those solutions, and make sure that anything we put in place nationally is as thoughtful as it needs to be to succeed scaled up. I prefer to be on the bleeding edge of that divide.”

“And why is that?” Liz asked, glancing back down at the resume.

“The main reason is growing up, I’ve seen the dangers of moving too slow. Whether we’re talking about reactions to the AIDS crisis, any of a series of drug epidemics, or even international terrorism, problems don’t go away. They metastasize, and grow, and the longer you wait to address them, the more out of control they become. And I’m smart, and part of a new generation of stewards, so I have a responsibility and a duty to push for solutions.”

“Do you know who I’ve found really thrives here?” Liz asked.

“I don’t, but I’m looking forward to finding out.”

“People who know who they are. Some of them just want to play with high-tech toys, some want to change the world- but knowing thyself, and being true to that, means we can put you to work in the place best suited to fit both what you want and what we need. And that’s why I think you’re going to be such a great fit, here.” Liz put out her hand, and Mikaela shook it. “And you happen to be in real luck, because we’re really expanding. We’ve had some interesting results from a DARPA project, and we just got news today that we’re getting a grant from the DOJ to test whether or not the project might have implications for domestic policing and law enforcement, so we’re in the process of staffing up in a big way. And most importantly what that means for you is that you’re going to have your pick of the litter, at least until I can find a few more diamonds in this rough,” Liz lifted a stack of resumes, pretending to struggle under their weight. “Your email said you could start today, so I hope we haven’t been too forward, but if you take this,” she produced a business card from her desk drawer with four digits scrawled on it, “down to room 329, Walt can get you oriented. That keycode will get you through the doors today, and hopefully by end of business we’ll be able to get you your own keycard.”

Mikaela looked down, and saw a hand reaching out of the mirrored locket dangling from her bag between her feet. “Um,” she said, starting. “Is there anything you can tell me about this DARPA project?”

“Me?” Liz laughed. “Heavens, no. Other than it’s big, expensive, and has defense applications. Beyond that,” she shrugged.

Mikaela glanced back down, as the hand stuffed a keycard into her bag, before retreating back into the locket. “Um, is there a bathroom around here? I’d like to freshen back up, before meeting my new coworkers, if that’s all right.”

“Of course,” Liz said. “To get to 329 you’ll take a right. Before you hit the door with the keypad, right before, there’s an alcove to the left, with facilities.” Mikaela stood. “It was such a pleasure meeting you, and I’m so glad I’ll be seeing more of you.”

“It was my pleasure meeting you,” Mikaela said, and shook her hand. She retrieved her bag and left in a hurry. She walked briskly down to the bathroom, and locked herself in a stall, before opening the locket. The Mikaela inside it pulled herself out, expanding as she did so. She was still wearing a set of rabbit pajamas.

“That was dangerous.”

“I got the keycard, didn’t I?” the duplicate asked.

“Yeah,” Mikaela admitted.

“I was not comfortable crawling under her desk like that.”

“Yeah, well, if you’d come through wearing something other than feety pajamas maybe we could have switched places. Speaking of which,” Mikaela opened the stall door, to check her reflection in the mirror above the sink. A new duplicate crawled through, this time wearing the same formal wear she was.

“Was that so hard?” the third Mikaela asked.

“I was cold, and it was early,” the original duplicate said, before flipping an eared hood petulantly over her hair. “I’m going to go take a nap.” She started pushing her way back into the locket.

Mikaela handed her purse to the remaining duplicate, who held it open while she reached inside and removed the keycard. “Any questions?”

“I’m working an internship while you get to embark on some espionage. I’m sure I’ll muddle through. Just stay safe. And take this.” She handed her the locket. “I’m not sure if Captain Bunnysuit will be much use, but maybe the locket’s a luck charm, at least.”

“Thanks,” the original Mikaela said. “I’ll leave first. Then you count fifty alligators before coming out.” “You got it.”

Breed Book 3, Part 27

“How do you do it?” Cris asked Angela, as much to drown out the sounds of children crying echoing off the walls as anything. He looked back at her, and she was gone. “Is that you telling me you grow numb to it?”

“At least for little moments,” she said, as the light-bending wall around her fell away. “You steal moments for yourself, to steel yourself for the rest of the day. But really, you do it because you don’t really have a choice,” she said with a shrug.

“I mean it, though. You’ve survived here for more than a month. I’ve been here a little over a week, and it’s hard not to just burn the whole damn world down.”

“Maybe we should,” Angela said. “Maybe a world that could do this- let alone actually would- should burn.”


“Don’t worry,” she said with a light laugh. “I’m not the terrorist type.”

“Wheh,” Cris said, pantomiming wiping away sweat.

“But…” she turned, taking in the concentration camp’s nesting doll cages, every inch of space on the floor covered by children sleeping under foil sheets on thin rubber mats- those that weren’t part of a mournful chorus of weeping. “This is the kind of thing words like ‘Never again’ were meant to prevent. I guess I’d admit it’s a step or two removed from ovens designed for people, but it’s still- how the hell are they getting away with this? How the hell have we not rioted, burned down every ICE and DHS facility, and demanded better of our government?”

“I don’t think I blame ‘us,’” Cris said. “I think there’s a lot of people whose power depends on supporting people on their side, even if they’re caging children. I blame them, for being willing to trade their sacred duty for clout. And maybe, at the margins, we could have marched more, we could have chanted louder, we could have been arrested with more frequency. But without declaring war on the federal government, I don’t think we were going to move these people. They don’t have shame. Or compassion. They just have hate, and anger, and greed.”

“Then why haven’t we fought them?” she asked. “How else do you beat people who only understand rage and violence?”

“Because they’ve built this system where if we fight back, we’re terrorists, rioters, and every other awful thing they’ve ever said about us. If we fight them, we lose allies, and the protection that comes with their sympathy.”

“So it’s hopeless?”

“No. But it’s complicated. It’s not about any one victory. There’s an entire… industry of hate at this point. And it has to be taken apart, piece by piece. Some of that work can be done through voting. I need to believe, in this moment, that some of it can be done through peaceful means. But if it can’t… we might need another revolution.”

“That’s some seditious talk.” “In the face of this kind of… cruelty… maybe that’s the only kind of talk that makes sense.”

Breed Book 3, Part 26

It was good Mikaela had only recently cut her hair to let it grow out naturally. It meant that her hair fit nicely under a wig, one that ironically enough resembled her treated hair, though it had the kind of impossible sheen she’d never managed to get herself, no matter what chemical combination she tried. A year ago, she’d have killed for her hair to look like this, but now, all she could see was her father’s look of approval. That pissed her off, not because she blamed him, but because she knew what they’d both given up for his idea of safety, and it was right to be angry about that.

She smoothed down a blouse that her aunt would have worn twenty years ago, and tried to remind herself that she wasn’t going to have to look like this for long. She just had a job to do.

“You look ten years older than me,” Laren said from the doorway.

“I assume that isn’t a compliment.”

“In this instance it is,” Laren said. “Few things in this world scare white people like a young black woman. Still too inexperienced to know the place they want to put you in, still too idealistic to accept that correction quietly. Personally, it makes me like you more. But you are going undercover in the land of respectability politics, disapproving of low-hanging pants and white people still mostly agreeing with Bill Cosby- except on the subject of mixology and pharmaceuticals. You ready?”

“I think I’m primped out.”

“Great. Because we don’t want to be late.” Mikaela grabbed her jacket and a fancy portfolio her aunt had got her as a high school graduation present and followed Laren out her front door. They walked out to thecurb, where Laren was parked.

“I got you the best in imaginable,” Laren said, handing her a stack of printed pages as she slid into the driver’s seat, “under the circumstances. One of the hardest things, dealing with government contractors, is security and clearances. But if someone’s already worked for another government vendor, that slices right through a lot of the red tape. And companies love nothing more than short-changing the bureaucracy. The page on top is your resume. Study it on the way.”

“Will this hold up?”

“If I gave that to the FBI? No. But to the level of scrutiny your average HR drone is going to put you through? Of course. And you’ve got the blood, right?”

“You’re weirdly concerned about the blood.”

“I had to score it off a coworker, and one of the caveats of me getting it was I had to draw it myself; makes me a little extra invested.”

“You really think this is going to work?”

“I hope so. I put in a hell of a lot of work for it to blow up. That, and if we can’t make something stick, not only is that hillbilly militia getting away free and clear, but so will the members of the Drump administration who gave them secret weapons developed on the public dime to attack your school. And that’s good for almost no one, save for the people who sell lynchin’ rope and bullets with slurs carved into them. Either we stop them dead, here, or things get worse.”

Breed Book 3, Part 25

“I have a plan,” Ben said, leaning over a table in the center of the room, where there was a map of the surrounding city streets.

“I’m afraid,” Rui said. “And I’m not just saying that to give you shit.”

“No,” Ben said, nodding, “me, too. I’ve gotten used to leaning on Rox, and Anita, and Laren; we all have, more, I think, than I really realized, until there was the prospect of us not being able to. We’re all scared. We should be. Those ICE agents will shoot to kill; they’d probably do so just seeing us in the streets, but especially with us busting into their facility. We need to be afraid, at least afraid enough to be cautious.”

Loving this pep talk,” Rui said; “okay, that time was just me giving you shit.” Sonya elbowed him in the stomach.

“Thanks, Sonya” Ben said.

“I’m just disappointed I didn’t think to do that sooner,” she said with a shrug.

“Cris has gotten us some really useful intel. We’ve got a pretty good idea about guard rotations, typical patrol routes, even some insight into vulnerabilities. Now, this is what I’m thinking. Transformer for this neighborhood is about a block north. Sonya should be able to blow that with relatively little fuss. I took a car around the perimeter, and it didn’t look like they posted anyone near it; maybe they patrol it, but it’s public infrastructure, out in the open. What’s the longest delay you can set for one of your boomlets?”

“I think fifteen minutes, once. But I’d been practicing. Eight’s pretty standard.”

“Then we’ll assume 8. That will get you more than enough time to get clear,” he made an arc with a piece of pink chalk from the generator, first away from the facility, then looping back towards it. “Cris is pretty sure they’ve got an onsite backup generator. It’s going to be big, with a large diesel reservoir; he’s pretty sure he can smell it on the eastern side of the facility. Rui, you’ll drop in from the air, stay as gaseous as possible to avoid detection. I’ll get as close as I can to the building, and about a minute before Sonya cuts the power, I’ll start shaking things.”

“So when they lose power, they think it’s an earthquake,” Rui said. “That’s a solid plan. Or at least a solid start.”

“Yep. You’ll let the generator kick on, then overheat it; it’ll look like the generator blew under the strain. The rest is up to Cris. He’s spent his time there getting to know what people can do. He’s got them organized into two groups he thinks we ought to be able to lead away. Sonya’s going to blow a hole in the south wall here,” he marked the map with an X, “Rui will burn a hole in the north,” he picked up a blue piece of chalk, and marked another. “ If you can safely make sure ICE can’t follow, do it, but either way we meet up on the street side, where we’ll flee underground.”


“It’s the best place to lose them; I can collapse the tunnels behind us, and if I do it right, can even trap our pursuers to slow them up.”

“Are we sure?” Sonya asked.

“About what?” Ben asked.

“That we shouldn’t wait for Rox.”

“No,” Ben said, a slightly mischievous glint in his eye, but it faded. “But waiting comes with a lot of risks. ICE are paranoid, constantly running drills and taking turns testing their security. They also routinely split kids up and take them to different facilities, largely to keep the kids off balance. And, not to put too fine a point on it- but these are kids, some of them toddlers. They don’t know everything, but as a formerly precocious little bastard, I can tell you kids always know more than you think, and may not know well enough not to let something drop in front of a guard. And…” he hesitated, “Cris is in a bad way.”

“I thought you said he was healed up,” Rui said.

“Physically, yes. But this place is full-bore psychological warfare. Being locked in a cage with a sea of weeping children… we need to get him out of there. We need to get all of them out of there.”

“Which we can’t do if we die,” Rui said gravely.

“So we don’t die,” Ben said. “If you want you can try and get Rox on the phone. She hasn’t been answering- which we knew was a possibility, because they are out in the Canadian wilderness. Believe me… I wish this would keep.”

“It won’t,’ Sonya said, touching his arm. “We need to do this,” she said, turning to Rui.

“Okay,” he said, putting up his hands. “I just didn’t want us wandering into this half-cocked.”

They both turned and looked at Ben, who was confused. “Oh… you were waiting for me to make a full-cocked joke of some kind, weren’t you?”

“Yeah,” Rui said. “But the moment’s kind of passed.” “I’ll make two next time, to make up for it.”

Breed Book 3, Part 24

There was a knock on Irene’s door. Irene tensed, and Tucker rolled off his chair, into a crouch. Mikaela stopped at a mirror beside the door, and helped a duplicate crawl out of it. The duplicate immediately flattened herself against the wall, as Mikaela checked through the peephole. “False alarm,” she said, and unlocked the door.

Laren entered, stopping to do a double-take when she noticed Mikaela’s duplicate. “That’s weird,” Laren said. “You know that’s weird, right?” The double put out her tongue, before climbing back inside the mirror.

“Weird feels normal the longer you do it,” Mikaela said with a shrug. 

“Can I borrow your multiple friend?” Laren asked neither of them in particular.

“Are you asking because otherwise it would be a kidnapping?” Tucker asked.

“I’m asking to be polite, and because something tells me making any kind of joke, among 3 white women, about renting or putting a down payment on the sole woman of color in the room, would be in poor taste.”

“I’ve got some Puerto Rican ancestry,” Tucker offered.

“Mazel tov.”

“Though the question stands,” Laren reiterated a little testily.

“She’s a free woman. You cool, Kae?”

“Sure,” Mikaeka said. “I’m pretty sure I could pull an extra out of each lens of her aviators; I’ll be fine. Can you drop me off at my place when we’re done?”

“Sure,” Laren said.

“Text me when you’re home safe,” Tucker said.

“I will,” Mikaela said, shutting the door behind herself. She followed Laren down to a rented black sedan with tinted windows. Laren opened the passenger side door for her, before getting in on the driver’s side.

“So, I’m assuming you aren’t just here to show off your rental car,” Mikaela said.

“I’m starting a ride share for bored government agents,” Laren deadpanned. “How would you like a job?”

“I’m not actually a Fed, so…”

“Sorry, only the first half of that was a joke. The job offer is legit. Though I suppose it’s more that I’m offering to put the resources of my position behind securing you the job.”

“Is the job being confused by you? Because I feel like I’m already doing that at a professional level.”

“Heh. No. See, in my spare time I’ve tracked down that big, weird, egg portal thing that militia brought to your campus. It was a DARPA project, but I found the local vendor, or, really, the local assembler. Parts come from all over- and I mean all over; thing is full of rare earth metals from every corner of the globe… and some that don’t seem to come from this globe at all. Once they realized it was Feds snooping, that vendor stopped talking. Odds are good they’re having an old fashioned shred-a-thon as we speak. But digital archives are a much tougher nut to crack. Our IT specialist verified they have a RAID set up- is that gibberish to you?”

“I think I’ve heard the word in relationship to MMOs?”

“Wrong raid. A RAID is a randomly…. um, no, a redundant array of independent disks. It’s basically storing copies of all of your eggs across several baskets, so even if your drunk uncle steps on one basket, you’ll still have copies of all your eggs.”

“Sounds like there’s a story behind that analogy.”

“I grew up on a farm and had a drunk uncle. He died of liver failure. The end.”


“No. But what the RAID means is to get rid of all of the incriminating data, they’re going to have to not just trash a drive and a backup, but all of their drives. Which means they need replacements, and to copy the rest of their data will take time, which buys us a little- but not much. I pulled a favor and sidelined their first shipment of drives; it’ll be a day or two before they realize something happened. But we’re on the clock, here.” 

“Why me? I could think of any number of students whose abilities would be more useful for this. Mai probably top of the list.”

“She’s indisposed. And they have protocols to weed out some of your more common or problematic abilities. They shuffle you through a room full of people practically screaming awful thoughts at you, is why I didn’t ask Tucker. They fuck with your electronics to weed out the technopaths. I can’t imagine how they’d prove you’re Breed without a DNA test, which they cannot legally require- though they do their damnedest to skirt those rules. If they push it, there’s something in the glovebox for you.”

She gave the latch a push, and the glovebox door dropped open, revealing a chromed Sig Sauer. “A gun?”

“No. The gun is mine, for dealing with unhelpful passengers. But beside the gun, is a little vial.”

“Is that blood?” she asked, holding the vial up to the sun’s light.

“It’s even the right type.”

“How would you know?”

“Ask me no questions, I’ll tell you no lies.”

“I’m beginning to think even the good parts of the government need an eye kept on them.”

“You have that concern in common with the Founding Fathers, bunch of paranoid dead racists. And me, actually. But time wasn’t on our side. I get that it’s a violation, and blah, but nobody knew the pardon was coming down, so we didn’t have a robust plan B in place; we’re scrambling here.”

“We’ll table whether or not I’m foolish enough to do what you want… what is it that you actually want?”

“Simplest solution? Get us a way into their network. A technopath with ten minutes could get everything we need. The how… is slightly less straight-forward.”

“Why’s that?”

“Because they’ll search you. And we’re fairly certain that the servers, at least, are in a hardened room- read: concrete, thick, no digital signal in or out. So you’re likely going to need to improvise. Maybe a lot. But… you’re the one person who can smuggle in back-up. Two heads, better than one, that whole spiel. And if need be, you can be in two places at once. Or more. But if we can prove that the Drump administration gave those yahoos experimental defense department tech- let alone prove their government was building it in the first place- that could do a lot of good. You in?”

“How are they going to want me to do my hair?” “We’ll figure something out.”

Breed Book 3, Part 23

Note: I promise it is a freak coincidence that this chapter involves telling a Chris he is, indeed, a good enough man.


Ben could scarcely remember when he last felt so alone. It had to be before the school, before he met his friends. He drew a long, slow breath, and found it. When his parents died, when his tiny world was shattered, and he hid in their home, trying to get away from the despair, trying to get away from everything that was trying to swallow him whole. He cried for hours, before his brother finally found him. He was nearly catatonic, barely registered his brother picking him up and carrying him to his room. And he held him there, for hours still, until he felt he could breathe again, until he felt he could feel again. It didn’t salve the loss that burned him whenever he remembered it, but it did make him feel a little less alone against its encroaching dark.

A tear slid down his face as he realized he would never have that again with his brother. And that was why he so desperately needed to hear from Cris, to make sure at least one person he cared about was still alive.


Ben’s hand shot out for the radio, knocking it off the table, sending it clattering across the linoleum floor. He dove for it an instant later, crashing loudly over his chair as he did. He keyed the radio. “Cris?” he asked, his voice trembling more than he was comfortable.

There was a broken laugh on the other end, halfway to a sob. “Ben,” Cris said. “Thank God. I’ve been trying to get you for days. Asshole ICE must have broken the radio when they beat the crap out of me. I had to reopen the cut in my arm with the prong of a plastic fork. Which is mostly to say that it worked about as well as an Anita plan usually does, I guess.”

“Everything okay?”

“No,” Cris said, emotion clawing at his voice. “Things are pretty damn far from okay here. I mean, you expect bad things when you hear the words ‘child prison,’ but… the reality is still worse than you can possibly imagine. But… I guess it’s been a revelatory experience. You’ve heard that the lord works in mysterious ways, right? I think I finally get that. I’ve always been more lover than fighter, but I think it’s safe to say I’ve also been jealous. Because when it comes to a fight, to stopping injustice, there’s very little I can do. I’ve wished I had your ability, or really anybody else’s. And I don’t think I could be here if I did. If it were in my power, even now, even calmer after a bit of time here, I would bring this place down on my head in a heartbeat, like Samson. And the last thing these kids need is another trauma; I can’t even process what would happen if I got even one of them hurt.”  

“I don’t know about God,” Ben said. “I’ve seen enough lately, if there is one, he’s a prick, and I’m not interested in what he’s selling. But you… you’re a good guy, Cris. Better than me- better than most. Sometimes rage is the right response to a tragedy. But, a wise man knows how to apply that rage, and when, so the damage doesn’t fall on the innocent.”

“Yeah,” Cris said. “Is Rox there? We need to get these kids out of here.”

“And you,” Ben said. “But there’s… look, we got another call. Rox and Anita went north. The plan was to wait for them to get back, but… I’m not doing that. I can hear it in your voice. We’re not sitting on this. I hear what you’re going through, and I’m not going to leave you to wallow in it.”

“Speaking of… do you want to talk about it?”


“Whatever it is you’re going through.”

“I don’t know…”

“You don’t know what you’re going through, or you don’t know if you want to talk about it?” He paused, before adding, “Or you were going to deny knowing what I was talking about.”

“That,” Ben said, shame flattening his voice.

“I know you try to protect us. Because you’re big, because you’re strong. Because that means people naturally look at you as someone protective. But you don’t always have to be. I learned that myself. Healing people, it wasn’t just a physical job. Because with hurt usually comes… hurt, but emotional, psychological. I think long-term I’ve done more good listening to people than laying hands on them. You don’t have to be made out of stone to be there for us; in fact, if you try, some day you’re going to fail. Because you can’t be strong all the time. And if you can’t be honest about how you feel, and what you need, your strength may fail when you need it most.”

“I hear you.”

“You don’t have to tell me what it is, Ben. However much you want to say, I’m here for you- at least until my battery dies.”

“I don’t-“ he stopped a moment, to collect himself, “how do you go on, in the face of it all?”

“I think that’s a more complicated question than it sounds. But I can tell you, these last few years, there are days when the weight of the world is just too much, even feeling like we’re only holding up a small part of it, and that you’re all helping me carry the weight… so I find something smaller. I can’t carry what I feel like I’m supposed to. So I find something else. Someone who needs help, someone I can help, even if I can barely put pants on through the thick depression. The first night here, that was finding a little girl I could help. I couldn’t save her; I couldn’t even break myself out. But I made her feel a little less alone that night. And she saved me as much as I helped her. And tonight Ben, that was you, with me. Hearing a friendly voice, remembering that there’s a world outside of this place that isn’t completely centered around abject cruelty and dehumanization… I can breathe a little easier tonight. The world can be a better place, but we build that world one brick at a time, together. So find a brick. Then find another. And one day, you’ll look up, and be amazed at the totality of the good that you’ve done. But for today, just find a brick, like you did with me.”

“We’re going to get you out of there. I meant what I said.” “I know,” Cris said.

Breed Book 3, Part 22

Tucker put his hand over the little kettle sitting atop the hot plate. “That’s probably okay,” he said, wrapping his sleeve around his hand because he didn’t trust the metal handle on the kettle. He poured tea into three small cups, about half-full, before the kettle was empty. He handed one each to Irene and Mikaela, then picked up the third for himself and sipped. It was so hot he recoiled the moment it hit his tongue. “Liddle hod,” he said. “Mide hab burd my tug.”

“I know what he’s trying to say,” Irene said, furrowing her brow, “but why did it sound so filthy when he said it?”

“Tucker has a gift for filth,” Mikaela said, almost beaming.

“Stopbid, you’ll meg me bludge,” Tucker said.

“You can speak to us telepathically, if you have to; or you could, you know, not speak, for a whole of a couple of minutes while your tongue recovers.”

Tucker stuck out his tongue, winced, and said, “owuh.”

“I really want to say, ‘Sorry,’” Irene said. “I feel… well, I feel like a kid, like I just screamed in the middle of the night about a monster under my bed. And you two… you came running, which was really sweet.”

“Shh,” Mikaela said. “We all freak out sometimes. And we are all still kids some of the time, and still need help, and not to feel like we’re all alone in a world that is peopled with monsters. Besides, I haven’t had a run like that in ages.”

“A panigt one in the wrong kind ub shoes?” Tucker attempted.

“Still not quite intelligible,” Mikaela said. “But if you’re offering me a ride home later I wouldn’t say no.”

“Wine dot?” Tucker asked, then frowned.

“Should I read anything into that potentially leading phrasing?” Irene asked. “Not that I mean to pry. And you two are adorable together- not together together- I mean… I’m just trying to gossip to keep my mind off things, I think.”

“That’s… fair,” Mikaela said. “But we don’t have to talk about serious shit, if you don’t want to.”

“I think I kind of… have to,” Irene said. “Like I can’t pretend it isn’t happening. And I called you both out here, so at least maybe we can make the trek worth both your whiles.”

“That works, too.”

“I think… it feels like a few years ago, when it looked like we were going to get another Justice on the Supreme Court, and Breed protections would be read into the law. And like it felt like it was over. The battle, the war. It wasn’t going to be okay for people to discriminate against us anymore. And it would be a while before that translated to real, actual change… but we were on the precipice of it…”

“And then it got yanked away,” Mikaela said.

“Right. This could have been the end of it. That we defended the campus without loss of life on either side, that we retook our space with minimal injuries, even- that was kind of a beacon. It made it harder for them to paint us as monsters, or a threat. This is the opposite, it’s the Bad Signal. Like when Drump said at his rallies he’d pay the legal bills of any of his supporters who beat up a Breed- only taken way past that. He’s saying he’ll use the powers of his office to shield anyone willing to commit hate crimes against us… I think I’m going to be sick,” Irene said.

“It is sickening,” Mikaela agreed.

“But you were ride the first time,” Tucker began. “People did sid up and take notice. Drump really is the last thrashing gasp of a dying agenda, one based on misogyny, transphobia, homophobia, racism- and probably other bigotries I’m forgetting; it’s a white soon-to-be minority trying desperately to cement its control before it no longer can. We can beat them- and that has them terrified. That they’re willing to go this far- that they backed Drump and are backing him still, three years into one of the worst presidencies ever- they know this was their last hail Mary attempt. And it’s going to fail. We can help make sure it fails, by being strong, by caring, by meeting their hate and indifference with compassion and empathy. By making the world a better place, not just for people like us, but also for people expressly different. And this hurts. We could have started our better world already, three years ago, or even today. It isn’t fair that they’ve gotten to delay it again. But that better world is coming- we just have to help build it.”

“I miss his tongue being burnt,” Irene said.

“Me, too,” Mikaela said, grinning wide. “Screw you both,” Tucker said, angrily taking a pull from his cup. “Aw, fugh.”

Breed Book 3, Part 21

Anita was thinking twice about this plan, especially the part where Rox dropped her off at the foot of a mile plus uphill climb. They’d spent a lot of time in hiding, and even in some of Linc’s wilderness shelters, there weren’t a lot of opportunities for cardio that didn’t also risk giving their position away. She was breathing heavy, her body hurting more than she wanted to admit, especially not to the kids she spent all of her time with these days.

“You smell the same,” Mayumi said, emerging from behind a tree. “Caught your scent from halfway across campus. Thought I must have been crazy. Of course, the last time you saw me, I didn’t remember me, let alone anybody else. Since I got the drop on you, I assume you didn’t scry for me.”

“Don’t scry for me, Argentina,” Anita said, halfway to a tune.


“I was afraid of what I’d see. Afraid I’d lose my nerve.”

“You worried I’ll hurt your feelings? Or just hurt you?” Anita didn’t respond as Mayumi stalked around her. “I debated pretending I didn’t know you. Try to figure out what you want, what game you’re playing this time. But I do know you, well enough not to expect you to tell me the truth, whether or not I’m a drooling homunculus.”

“I’m not sure that’s fair.”

“I’m sure it isn’t unfair.”

“That’s probably fair.”

“I should probably break all your limbs, drive you to Idaho and drop you at a Federal building; that I think would be fair.” Anita’s muscles tensed; she was really beginning to question the wisdom of coming unarmed. “But I’m trying not to be that person anymore. So we’ll walk back to the grocery store at the bottom of the hill, and give you a chance to explain to me why I shouldn’t indulge every angry impulse I’m feeling right now.”

“Because you’re a better person than me.”

“I am. Or I’d leave you with an infected gut wound, crippled and alone in a ditch.”

“I never literally did that.”

“Sounds like you’re arguing semantics to me. And that’s as likely as not to convince me to kill you and just be done with it.”

“You probably remember enough to know I’d be lying if I said you used to be fun.”

“That’s right.”

“You used to be less severe.”

“I was catatonic half the time. The other half I was being forced to do missions against my will or consent. The rest I was sobbing uncontrollably over the other two.”

“Still the math prodigy I remember.”

“Still too stupid to know when to keep your mouth shut. You used me.”

“You were a tool. And so was I. We were all being used, all the time. I don’t bitch about the missions you dragged me along for.”

“That’s because I wasn’t running those missions. I was just another tool, even then.”

“We both have a lot of scars from what they had us do.”

“The difference is most of yours were self-inflicted. You may have hated what we were doing, but at least you had a choice.”

“Did I? Could I have just upped stakes and gotten a job bagging groceries? They pumped billions into us. None of us got to walk away.”

“And yet?” Mayumi gestured at the open air they were both breathing.

“Neither of us walked, Mai. They owned us. For years. Eventually, more responsible people in the government asked questions about our deniable ops, and they pulled the plug. I went back to the Canadian Armed Forces; they sent you back to the Japan Self-Defense Forces, neither of whom really knew what to do with us. We both ended up doing wet work for a while, until we slipped the chain; we were enough trouble they didn’t bother looking for us afterward. That made us luckier than most of them. But make no mistake, we were all dogs lashed to the same sled. I was never the one holding the whip.”

“Yeah,” Mayumi said hotly. “Suppose that’s fair.”

“Besides, this isn’t about me. There’s a missing kid. Though I’m not going to lie. It might be about us.”

“I don’t date older women.”

“That was kind of a joke? Did it hurt?”

“My teeth, a little. Quit stalling, before I hurt yours.”

“The project we have such fond memories of being a part of. The kid disappeared a couple of klicks away.”

“Project’s long gone. Shriveled up and blown away. Most of the records destroyed, most of the personnel unpersoned.”

“Yeah. It’s probably not them. But it’s walking over our graves, nonetheless. I honestly wasn’t sure if it was better or worse to tell you ahead of time- at least as far as getting you to come and help.”

“Ahead of time, definitely. Because if I got there and realized where we were- well I’d probably feel bad enough to put your corpse in a hole, after I calmed down, but I can’t make any promises.”

“That mean you’re going to reward my honesty by helping out?”

“There’s a kid?” Mayumi asked.

“Feral, according to the reports.”

“They’d have a field day.”

“If so, so will we.”

“I’m in,” Mayumi said, “but there’s no joy in this for me.”

“Nor me. Can I say something?”

“Might be your funeral.”

Anita closed her eyes. “I’ll live. I nearly shat myself, first time I saw you on campus. I thought they’d tracked me down, sent you, either to bring me in, or to finish me. Either way, it was going to be the most painful day of my life. And then you stared right through me, like I was a ghost, or you were. And then I laughed at myself. You are a tiny, sprightly little thing; you barely break five feet. Though I’ve seen what you can do with those five feet… Anyway, it was after that that I looked into what happened to you; I knew you didn’t talk much back then, and I knew you didn’t remember much, mission to mission; I think they briefed me on that, once, but frankly they liked to keep all of us drugged and deprived between missions, because it kept us pliable. I didn’t know what they’d done to your head, or the extent of what that did to you. I was jealous, when I first saw you at the school. You getting to start over. Live a normal life. Be an actual fucking kid. Have other kid friends. I’m sorry, truly, that you’ve lost even a little of that innocence. But it feels really fucking good not being alone with what we went through. I can’t tell these fucking kids. They probably wouldn’t believe it. And even if they did- Christ, you can’t forgive me. Imagine how they’d react?”

“Yeah,” Mayumi said. “I know what you mean. But that only buys you so much rope. I’m not going to hesitate to pull on it.”

“Ooh. My safe word is M & Ms.”

“That feels like three words.”

“I like to be very safe,” she said.

“Then you should stop teasing me.”

“You know, you used to be fun.”

“You’re talking about a few minutes ago, when I kind of made a joke.”

“Yep. And only that once, for that one sentence. But I’m an optimist. Maybe you’ll tell another kind of joke again some day.”

“I wouldn’t bet my life on it,” Mayumi said. “And I wouldn’t count that.”  

Breed Book 3, Part 20

Mikaela slept in, and when she finally did wake, it was to the sound of sweet little birds chirping outside of her window, greeting the noonday sun. It was a warm day, but with just enough of the crispness of morning to be invigorating. She remembered growing up, her father put the fear of the legal system into her, telling her it didn’t work for people like them, only against. But today her dad was wrong, and consequently, today, the world was right. Even waking up in yesterday’s clothes somehow felt right.

She kicked her feet out, found her shoes where she’d left them and began to tie them as she bounced happily on the edge of the bed to a song she couldn’t quite remember.

She even greeted the sound of her phone buzzing as a positive. It meant one of her friends needed her, and she had always appreciated being needed. The ID said it was Irene, and she answered. “Hey, Irene,” she said, the sing-song of her voice echoing the tune of the bird outside her window.

“He, uh,” Irene’s words came quick, punctuated, like she was trying to speak after a long sprint, or while being choked.

“Irene?” Mikaela asked, her pulse quickening. “Are you okay?”

“No,” she whimpered, her voice going higher. She made more noises that came out like grunts.

“Irene? Irene. I’m coming to you. It’ll be okay.” Mikaela grabbed her keys and wallet and ran out the front door, unlocking her phone as she went. She managed to tap off a message to Tucker to the speeding tempo of her pounding feet: “Irene called, freaking out, but can’t get a word out. Help!”

“She’s panicking.” Tucker’s text came back. “Having trouble breathing, and so, trouble talking.”

“911?” Mikaela texted back.

“No,” Tucker said. “Panic attack. Even if she manages to pass out, autonomic nervous system will regulate her breathing. She’ll be okay.”

“Unless the reason for her panic is an attack,” Mikaela said.

“She’s safe,” Tucker replied. “But she is going to need us.”

Mikaela didn’t have long to contemplate what Tucker meant as she leapt over a hole at the edge of a curb, landing on the sidewalk on Irene’s block. Tucker’s car pulled around the corner and parked in one of the spots in front of Irene’s apartment building as she passed.

“We need to be ready for a fight?” Mikaela asked, winded.

“You ran here? You made good time. And you do glisten pleasantly in this light.” Mikaela raised her eyebrows to emphasize her question. “Not inside, no.”

Tucker led the way up the stairs. He tried the door, and it opened. Irene was sitting in a chair with her head between her knees, gulping for air. “You okay?” Mikaela asked, dropping to one knee so she could rub Irene’s back.

“None of us are,” Tucker said, nodding in the direction of Irene’s laptop.

Scrolling across a screen showing video of the President, smiling as he walked past a line of flags, was a chyron that read, “Drump pardons militia who invaded Breed school.” “He’s declared open season on us,” Irene gasped. “We’ll never be safe again.”

Breed Book 3, Part 19

“I never gave you this number,” Anita said angrily.

“I guess you knew I’d call,” Laren said. “And I got it from GPS data. One of the benefits of you keeping in remote locations, there aren’t a lot of phones to pick it out from.”

“I’m surprised you didn’t come in person; you annoy me more in person, which I know matters to you.”

“I don’t have nearly the problem with you that you have with me,” Laren said, her smile evident in her voice.

“Maybe. But I am, for lack of a better word, your rival. Being some of the only powered adults around a bunch of kids who, whatever they may think, desperately need guidance.”

“I’m not sure what you’re talking about,” Laren said.

“Maybe I’m mistaken; sometimes realities can bleed together. Or maybe I just know something you don’t- or at least are playing at not knowing. But fine. I won’t belabor the point.”

“Good. You’ve belabored enough for one evening already, I’d think.”

“So why’d you call me, directly? You usually pass intel through Rox.”

“Well, I did, and I didn’t. She told me your team is somewhat spoken for. I think a smaller team could handle what I’m bringing to you, which is that a Breed kid has gone missing up in Canada, in the relative wilderness near the U.S. border.”

“You can’t mean-”

“I don’t mean anything,” Laren said. “Because I don’t know anything for certain. But there were definitely some… red flags in the files. A lot of redacted, need to know, you don’t have clearance for this bullshit, but a lot of it rhymes with what I’ve been able to access in your files. So I thought you’d want in. Just as importantly, we’re going to need a tracker, and I thought you might have an in with one- one who would have a similar interest as you in ferreting out what’s going on in Canada.”


“You’ve got an in with her. I don’t. Rox… might, but getting her in and out of that campus, even relying on her luck…”

“You like stacking the deck, I get it. And I have every reason to want to go. Only… I don’t. You have no idea what I’ve done to try and forget that place.”

“I think you forget I work for the government. We have a very thorough record of just what you’ve done. And believe me or not on this, but Anita, I think you need this. I think you’ve spent years running from what happened, and you may never be whole without standing up to it.”

“Or maybe I’ll just never be whole,” Anita said angrily.

“Maybe. And I can’t force you to do anything. I won’t even pressure you. But there’s a scared, feral kid missing up in the great white north. It would help if you went with Rox. And I don’t just mean it would help the kid.”

“I’ll think about it.”

“That’s all I was asking for. I imagine she’ll be there any second.”

“You ready?” Rox asked, poking her head around the corner.

Anita hung up her phone. “I haven’t decided if I’m going yet.”

“Oh,” Rox said, “why’s that?”

“Because it could get… personal. In a way I’m not sure I’m ready for.”

Rox sat down opposite her. “You want to talk about it?”

Anita took a deep breath, and let it out slowly as she pondered how much she was willing to say. “My ability… isn’t completely natural. Growing up in Vancouver, I could see a little, but never clearly, or very far ahead. I enrolled in a program. There were seven of us, representing the seven most advanced countries in the world at the time. They partnered up, looking for both a solution to the nascent Breed problem, but probably more importantly, trying to figure out a way to weaponize us- to make that problem into a strength. According to the propaganda they just wanted to put us through our paces, figure out what we could do, and see if there was any way to help us do it better. The truth turned out to be a lot more Mengele than Lalanne. They broke us down, physically, mentally, sometimes at the genetic level; and I’m not talking boot camp. I’m talking the kind of utter personal destruction some of us never came back from, and those of us who are… functional bear some pretty damn deep scars.”

“Is that why you’re…”

“We all cope with trauma differently. Turns out I’m an anxious talker. And I’m anxious almost all the time.”

“Even assuming there are government agencies there, it can’t be the same program, though, right? It’s been,” she paused, starting at Anita, “years, since then, right?”

“You were trying to do the math to figure out if it was ‘decades?’ I hate children…” she glared. “Though you have a point. Clandestine military/intelligence programs aren’t known for putting down long-term roots.” She sighed. “No promises, but… I’ll think about it. In the meantime, I’ll talk to Mai. Hopefully she doesn’t remember me too well.”

“Or she’ll definitely want to punch you?”

“Or she definitely won’t work with me.”

“But if she doesn’t remember you at all…” “Yeah, we have to hope we’re in that sweet spot. Or she’s not helping, and I’m getting the hell kicked out of me.”