“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.”