Breed Book 3, Part 39

“It’s cold,” Mayumi said, her breath visibly hanging in the air.

“That’s Canada for you,” Anita said. “Except that weird freak part that’s warm for some reason. The Savage Land.”

“I think you mean the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia.”

“You’re not fooling me. Okanaga is in Japan. I’m pretty sure we ran a mission there once, and crawled from izakaya to izakaya.”

“That was Okinawa and- I can’t do this with you right now. No,” she said, glaring, “I won’t do this with you, ever.”

“Too close to feeling fun?” Anita asked.

“This is weird,” Rox said, turning to Mayumi. “I think you said ten words the entire time we were at school together. And that was, nearly bantering.”

“I’m trying to use my words, instead of my fists,” Mai said. “Anita’s a particular challenge, in that regard.”

“Trust me, I know.” Anita’s mouth dropped open. “But she’s… her heart’s usually in the right place.”

“No,” Mai said. “You’re in the right place. For whatever angle she’s playing.”

Anita stopped, her balled fists shaking. “That’s enough,” she said, louder than she meant to be. She spun around, fast enough she caught even Mai by surprise. “Why are you so goddamned angry at me?”

“Should I?” Rox gestured in the general direction of away.

“No. Because if she makes good on her threats I at least want a witness that I was trying to reason with her. So tell me, Mai. Do you think I had any more idea than you what I was signing up for? Do you think the Canadian government were any more candid with me about the nature of the clandestine, illegal, unethical experimentation they were going to put all of us through? Do you think I was somehow in on the joke that ruined both our lives, or that I was somehow so much less naive than you that I’m responsible for what happened? You were older than me, for Christ’s sake-” her gaze flicked angrily towards Rox, “shut up, I know she’s aging better than I am.” She turned her attention back to Mayumi, and became louder still, “So tell me, aside from being in command of missions slightly more often than you were, what the fuck about me makes you so homicidally pissed off?”

Mai closed her eyes, and took in a long, deep breath, which she held, and continued holding, for what must have been ten seconds. Finally she let it out through grit teeth. She took another, this time shallower. “That’s a fair question,” Mai said. “And maybe you’re right. Maybe why I’m so upset, maybe why I’m training so much of that upset at you, is because you coped a lot better than I did. You joked, you laughed, you found a way to get through the day to day that I couldn’t. Some of that was… me,” she swallowed, “but some of it was what they made me do. They forced me to forget everything. Who I was. What I’d done. How they were able to control my body at the molecular level, or what that felt like- how vulnerable- how violated– that made me feel.” Her voice was hollow, ragged, like a drop of rain would shatter her. “But over time, the process worked worse and worse, like trying to grow scar tissue over an existing scar. It wouldn’t hold. I was remembering more and more, and it was driving me out of my damned mind. And it seemed like the less well I held together, the better you seemed to be coping. Out of all of us, you seemed like you were the one who was functional, if not entirely sane. But I can smell it on you now. See it in the little tremors the stock human eye isn’t sensitive enough to see. You’re a wreck, on the level of the emotional disaster I was then- even now. You’ve just always been better at hiding it.” She took in another deep breath, staring angrily at the ground, before piercing Anita with her eyes. “I don’t like you,” she concluded. “But you’re right. It’s not you I’m angry with. Somehow that doesn’t make me like you more.”

“Still not counting that as a joke.”

“I’ll try harder next time.”

“I feel like I’ve missed something,” Rox said. “Maybe a lot of somethings. But we’re here to track down a kid. So stop sniffing Anita, and see if you-”

“I found him already,” Mai said. “Right where neither of us wanted to find him.” She pointed north by northwest. “Worse, there’s definitely a government installation there.”


“Certain supplies. No one would buy them in that combination other than a government purchaser, trying overly hard to get the biggest bang for the public buck. Damn place reeks of government cheese.”

“Is it a brie?” Anita asked. “I’ve got a really nice Okinawan Valley wine that would go great with a brie.”  

“If you kill her, I’m not helping you dig the hole,” Rox said.

“Fine,” Mayumi said, and started in the direction of the boy’s scent.

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