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.”  

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