Breed Book 3, Part 35

Angela was the last person through the door into the warehouse. She started when Ben began to talk, using his power to slightly amplify the volume of his already large voice. “We’re going to be piling onto 4 buses.” He gestured to 4 decommissioned school buses behind them, their paint fading and their school insignia blacked out. “Anyone with experience driving a big truck, come stand over here. Sonya, you want to coordinate with our possible drivers?

“Sure,” she said, and nodded.

“The rest of you, we raided the local dollar stores, lost and founds and donation centers for clothes. Find something that fit as best you can and dump your uniforms in one of these red, metal barrels. Cris, if you can oversee people getting changed.”

“Happily,” he said, walking towards the piles of clothes spread across the floor.

“Rui? You’re sure we’re good with these buses?” Ben asked.

“The church we borrowed them from was very cooperative. Even set us up some digital footprints, so if the cops ask about the camp we’re busing to, they’ll find social media posts about it. They wanted to do more- but I talked them down. We get to leave town, no reason for them to expose themselves to harassment from Drump’s thugs after we’re gone.”

“That reminds me,” Ben said, turning back towards children. “If anybody asks, we’re congregants of the Church of the Good Shepherd, and we are going to a Campground called Lakawana, just over the Canadian border.”

“Is somebody going to ask?” Sonya asked, sauntering back over to him.

“Hopefully not,” Ben said. “How’s our luck holding?”

“We have five potential drivers. Two of which are underage-and I mean don’t have a learner’s permit kinds of underage. But they’ve driven buses, and in her case,” she pointed at a very short girl about 14, “drove one of the last Kodak runs with her dad. I figure we put the most experienced drivers at the front and back of the caravan, and the others will cope.”

“And who are the most experienced drivers?” he asked.

“One, I think, is going to be me. Drove a tractor a couple of times at my grampa’s ranch in Wyoming. Only hit one fence post, which was pretty good, since I couldn’t see over the wheel at the time.”

“You’re not filling me with confidence.”

“Well… next time maybe we should try and liberate some actual adults at the same time, because we’ve got slim pickings. But I can handle driving stick; the rest is really just about remembering that a bus is overlong and turns like it- and can’t be taken through most drive-thrus.”

“I’d feel better if we had Rox’s luck,” Ben said. “Wouldn’t we all?” Rui said with a shrug. “But the plan’s solid. While we’re still in this state, people will assume we mean the black church we borrowed the buses from. Closer to the border, there’s a different church with the same name- and I gave them a big donation to set up a potluck for us. If we pick up a tail, we stop in for a home-cooked meal. We don’t, and we call and tell them to enjoy the food without us. It’s about as fool-proof as a plan like this can be- you know, without completely co-opting random chance. I never really thought about how much having Rox around was like cheating until we didn’t anymore. But we can do this. We’re going to do this. Because these kids deserve better than to be thrown in another fucking cage  And if it comes to the worse, there’s always plan C: I hop out of the bus and burn the tires off any approaching police vehicle, and damage any choppers to the point they have to set them down.” Ben stared at him, stunned. “I meant what I said. These kids aren’t going back. .”

Breed Book 3, Part 34

There was only one locked stall in the women’s bathroom. Mikaela approached the door, and tapped out five knocks to the rhythm of ‘Shave and a Haircut.” After a moment, two knocks came back in reply. “Am I in there?” Mikaela asked.

The door unlatched, and her duplicate emerged. “That would have been a really weird question to ask if I wasn’t you,” Mikaela’s duplicate said. “I assume, from you being here, that the plan went awry.”

“Quite awry. I’m going to lunch. I… think their physicist might come to the school to continue his research.”

“That’s… not the plan as I remembered it.”

“No. It’s a new plan, or at least an additional embroidery to the old one, for which we’re going to need a little more help.” She opened the locket, and the bunny dupe climbed back out of it.

“I kind of expected she’d have changed by now,” the first duplicate said.

“I hoped she hadn’t. Because here’s the plan. We’re going to put up her bunny ear hood, and cake on makeup. Then she’s going to distract the guard. When he gives chase, you can sneak down the restricted hallway and give the technopaths access to the servers. Once Bunny gets far enough away, she ducks into a bathroom and climbs back into the locket,” she handed it over to the duplicate. “If possible, I’d like the locket back- so try to make it to that first bathroom. Otherwise I can probably pick it up later at the lost and found.”

“I’m not thrilled with being bait,” Bunny said.

“I would think of you more as a wascally wabbit,” Mikaela said.

“Which makes the guard Elmer Fudd,” she said, “okay, I’m sold.”

Mikaela put down a toilet seat cover, then guided her to sit down on the toilet. She handed her duplicate her foundation. Then she used some pins to conceal Bunny’s hair, while holding the hood and ears in place. “So what are we going for?” Mikaela’s duplicate asked. “On a scale from one to an extra in Rocky Horror?”

“Oh, we’re giving her the full Frank Furter.”

“Uh… is this the kind of thing you should be asking my consent for?” Bunny Mikaela asked.

The duplicate sighed. “Feety pajamas and blissfully unaware of Rocky Horror… it doesn’t feel like we’re even duplicates.”

“Well, not all duplicates are created equal; not all parallel earths, either. Our Rocky Horror was basically fascist propaganda, so I never saw it, just like I never saw Birth of a Nation.”

“That’s… weird.”

“Apparently otherwise just as transgressive, at least by reputation… but life’s too short.”

“Okay,” the duplicate said, “you need to stop talking. And it’s mostly so I don’t jab out your eye with this eyeliner pencil, and not just because I find your entire reality kind of depressing. Though it’s also that.”

Breed Book 3, Part 33

Cris found it strange being behind Angela’s invisible wall. It added a shimmering layer to the world, like looking through a fish tank filled with clear water. He reminded himself that while he could see out, no one could see in as ICE agents streamed out of the warehouse, forming up on the opposite side of the street. Their weapons swept across the gathered children as they searched in vain. When the barrel landed on Angela her breath went out of her, and she swayed.

“What’s wrong?” Cris whispered.

“Can’t… keep it up,” she said, straining. “But I think,” she took in a broken breath, “I can tip over the wall onto them.”

“Wait,” he said. “Don’t. If we let them make us hate them the way they hate us, they win.”

“No,” she croaked. “They only win if we use our power on them like they’ve used theirs on us. I can hate them however deeply I need to get through this sick world they’ve trapped us in- and if I have to a crush a few of them, that’s still me choosing not to crush as many of them as I can.” The anger in her words was undercut by her growing weakness; she was barely on her feet as she finished, and gasped, stumbling forward, nearly falling into the street.

Cris held up his hand, and leaned towards her, whispering in her ear. “Let me try something,” he said. “Can’t believe I didn’t think of this sooner.” His hands started to glow- a glow that didn’t penetrate beyond Angela’s invisible wall- a glow that entered her back, and seemed to flicker in her eyes. An instant later her back straightened, and she squared her feet.

“I’m good,” she said. “Now get the show on the road. I can’t hold this all night.”

Cris pointed towards the hole, even though it didn’t look much like one. Cris, or at least a figment that looked like him, peered out through the storm drain.

“There!” One of the ICE agents yelled, shining a light in after him, and firing off a volley of shots.

Cris heard himself yell, “Come on, we’re out of time,” from the storm drain, before the street collapsed inward.

“Get this manhole open,” the agent in charge yelled, and wedged a knife under the cover to lift it enough to remove it. He started to climb down, before stopping abruptly. “Shit. Cave in blocked the tunnels. Call the NSA. We’re going to need to know where the nearest access points are.” He climbed back out, and two agents slid the cover back in place. “Let’s go,” he barked. “We’re going to need to split into multiple teams. Think the sewers here are on a grid, so we’ll need blocks in all of the cardinal directions…” he trailed off as the agents filed back inside.

“How we doing this, boss?” Angela asked.

“If they’re massing at the nearest manholes,” Ben said, “that means we just have to make it a few blocks. We do that, then head diagonally… we should be able to evade them.”

“Can you keep us hidden while we move?” Cris asked Angela.

“I feel like I could bench press a moose right now.” “I’ll keep you juiced up. Ben, take point, since you know where we’re headed. Rui, Sonya, you’ve got the rear; if anything happens, you cover our escape. Angela and I will make sure everybody stays hidden. Everybody, we’re doing great. We’re almost home.”

Breed Book 3, Part 32

Mikaela waited for the guard to leave, for him to point to the end of a hall and tell her, “Just beyond there,” and then go the other direction, so she could double back. But he stayed with her as they wended through the labyrinthine halls of the third floor. Half of the labs looked more like vaults, or like they opened into a submarine, complete with heavy, reinforced doors. “Feels like a prison,” the guard said around his gum. “A lot of these rooms are pressurized. One even creates a vacuum inside the lab.”

At the end of one of those halls, Mikaela spotted her duplicate, still winding her way towards the lab herself. “What’s this one?” Mikaela asked, stepping in front of the guard and drawing his attention to a strange looking door.

“Accoustics. Listen.” He tilted his ear towards the wall. Most of the labs they had passed were fairly quiet, but here it went a step beyond that, to a lack of any kind of noise whatsoever. “The entire lab is covered in foam triangles to soak up ambient sound. You’ll never really know earie silence until you stand in the middle of that lab at midnight.”

Mikaela glanced back down the hall, which was thankfully empty. The guard escorted her past another four labs before turning to a door and opening it. He held it for her, then stepped inside behind her. “Got one of your little lost sheep,” he said.

A man with sparse hair buzzed short to mask its thinning and thick glasses didn’t look up from his work, but said, “Ah, I’d heard from a little bird I’d finally be getting some assistance.”

“This is Ed,” the guard said. “See ya, Ed.”

“Edward,” he said, as the guard shut the door. “And he neglected to mention your name.”


“And how do you feel about the militarized application of science?” he asked, again without looking up from his work.

“That kind of covers an overbroad swath. I don’t have a problem with medical science making war less deadly or debilitating. I do have an ethical concern where science makes it easier to kill people.”

He smiled, and pivoted towards her. “Science is apolitical. Aphilosophical. Amoral. All of those with an A. It isn’t ours to grapple with the ethics of how or why or if this technology can be used. We’re here to understand the laws undergirding it, probe the mysteries and answers it leads to.”

“But should it be? Should we ask whether we should, before we grapple with if we can? Because once we do- whatever we make, will be used- Pandora’s box is already irrevocably opened. Not asking the question first is how we become Death, destroyer of worlds.”

“I suppose Oppenheimer would agree with you, albeit in hindsight. Of course, essentially none of us will ever be personally responsible for as much devastation as he was- and that’s ignoring the forever lingering possibility of a nuclear exchange. But I would argue that ignorance is simply another box we open. Pandora’s box opens a slew of potentialities- but they are known– or at least knowable. The other box is filled with Lovecraftian horror, always hidden, always unknown, but nonetheless destructive.”

“That feels like a false equivalence.”

“There’s the rub, isn’t it?” he said with a smile. “We can’t know whether they’re equivalent, unless we measure. We can’t measure without opening the box. But, as a scientist, I take comfort in the idea that what is known can be dealt with, can be worked upon, can be solved. The unknown, by contrast, is always a surprise, always impossible to adequately prepare for. Perhaps I would be better at offering an example of this work.”

He turned toward the chrome object at the center of the room. “This egg is, for lack of a simpler way to explain it, a bridge between worlds. Not one we can traverse, not at present, but one which connects to other parallel worlds. It is, perhaps least messily understood as opening an artificial wormhole. It connects with other possibilities. A side effect, however, is that it has been shown to impact Breed abilities… which has led some of my colleagues to theorize that said abilities are tied to the multiverse. The specifics as to how aren’t understood, but there are some theories- that Breed tap into other realities through micro-wormholes, either drawing on exotic energy from parallel dimensions, or simply incorporating some genetic material from humanoid species with abilities on different but similar Earths. And of course, it could be an entirely mixed bag, too, with different methods accounting for different abilities.”

“You can shut down Breed with this.”

“Just their abilities. Leveling the playing field, as it were. But that’s honestly an accidental side impact. More importantly, understanding the nature of Breed abilities is essential. Because there will be a Breed with something approaching nuclear capabilities. Maybe they’d use that ability for good. Maybe they’d use it for ill. Most terrifyingly, maybe they would not be able to control themselves at all. That box, I’m afraid, is open, whether we care to look inside it; understanding might be the only thing that could save us all.”

“And who qualifies as ‘us’?” Mikaela asked bitterly.

“I mean Breed like you, and the rest of humanity.” He paused, refusing to let any indication of how he felt about the observation leak, waiting to see if she’d react. When she didn’t, he continued. “We’ve already seen Breed abilities that beggar the imagination. It is a mathematic probability that a Breed will be born with the power to tear the planet in half- the timing of it is the only real question. And if one who can is a mathematic certainty, and the Breed population is growing at an accelerated if not yet exponential rate, then it is only a matter of time before we reach someone who might– as in, someone with the power and the will to consider it; in that case, there is still the possibility their better angels save us, in the way that we have not had a nuclear war- yet. But again, as the Breed population does reach exponential growth- which the models suggest it will, and within my lifetime- it is only a matter of time before we have not just an individual who might destroy the world, but one who must– whether by conviction or an inability to control themselves.”

“And what would you do about it?”

“Do?” he asked, pondering. “I’m not interested in making that decision. I also don’t understand the problem well enough to know what possible solutions might look like.”

“And what if the answer was genocide? What if the only way to save humanity was murder on a mass scale.”

“I’ll point out, first, that the increasing growth of Breed populations suggests that, within a hundred years, your people are humanity. But to grapple with the question I think you’re truly asking, you cannot save humanity with inhumanity. If that appears to be the answer… then the answer is wrong, and you need to keep looking. Put another way, if you’re Truman, holding a nuclear warhead, Japanese intransigence at the end of the war might look like a nail to the hammer in your hand. But just because mass death is at hand, does not make it the only, leave alone the best, solution.”

“Are you sure?” she asked, skepticism peeking through her voice. “Because I’m positing the trolley problem, and it sounds like you’re shrugging.”

“No,” he said. “I’m stating that the hill the trolley’s on is of unknown length, and the trolley is traveling at an unknown speed. On a long enough timeline, we will barrel into someone, without question. But that situation doesn’t demand a way to murder only the few to save the many; that situation calls for inventing breaks.”

A smile crept over her lips. “Have you ever thought about teaching?”

“No. Students are, no offense, given your likely age- idiots. My talents would be wasted parroting a textbook to ingorami ninety percent of whom are incapable of understanding it.”

“I think you misunderstand. I’m suggesting something more in a research capacity. The foremost intelligences on the planet are Breed minds- they would be at your disposal. I’m saying you could continue your work- but without having to hand it immediately to jack-booted thugs who would definitely use it to stamp on the necks of people like me.”

“I’m… intrigued. What would you have me do?”

“You and I? We’ll go to lunch off site. Then we’ll go to the school, and you’ll meet some students. If you like what you see, you quit this job and work with them. All the research, none of the atomic bomb.”

“And if I don’t?”

“You come back to work tomorrow, and get back to destroying worlds. But first, where’s the nearest bathroom?”

Breed Book 3, Part 31

Note: Because we all worked so hard to make changes this year, I want to catch us up. I think what that means is I’ll keep posting through this weekend, and next Friday. Then we’ll be back to Monday-Thursday.


“Got a little overexcited?” Rui said, causing Ben to start. “I hear that happens to young men entering their prime.”

“It was a gas main,” Ben said, deflated.

“That may not be a problem,” Cris said, stepping out from behind Rui. “I’ve been thinking… about alternatives. Angela?” He bellowed, and she started towards him “I’m also going to need any telepaths or telekinetics, front and center. Doesn’t matter how good you are- this is a team effort.”

“Angela?” Ben asked, as a series of small explosions erupted around the facility.

“I figured some chaos would be helpful in covering our exit,” Sonya said, “though I didn’t think the plan was for you to literally cover our exit.”

“Impressive wordplay,” Cris said, “but we need everyone on the sidewalk across the street. Pack in as close as you can, please. And everybody, we need silence. We’re going to get you home, to your moms, dads or whatever family we can; but we can only do that if we win this high stakes game of hide and seek.”

Everyone worked on crowding the kids onto the sidewalk, except for Cris and Angela. She was standing in the middle of the road, holding the bridge of her nose, keeping her eyes shut tight. “Can you do this?” Cris asked.

“I don’t know,” she said. “I’ve never done anything as big as hold back a building full of federal agents before. I wasn’t planning on an encore performance this soon.”

“Well this time, you don’t have to hold them back- you just have to keep them from seeing us.”

“Oh, is that all?” she asked. “You know before I met you I never made anything bigger than me invisible.”

“Well, before I met you, I’d never rescued a whole bunch of kids from a racist government before. It’s a big day for both of us.”

“I’ll try.”

“I believe in you.” He smiled, and she knew it, even though she could barely see the moonlight glinting off the whites of his eyes. He jogged to the sidewalk, overflowing with children. “Telepaths, what you’re going to do is imagine me. You’re going to put the image of me, scrambling into that hole. An instant later, the rocks collapse, and block the hole.”

“So it will look like we escaped underground?” a young girl asked. “Where it smells?”

“Exactly. Telepaths, I want you to join hands, and then minds. Because you’re coordinating, not just with each other, but also with the telekinetics. They’re going to lift the rubble up, and hold it where it used to be, so at a glance it looks like the road is intact. The telepaths will do the rest of the work, there, make it look like it hasn’t exploded yet. I know this is going to be tough. But as soon as they leave, we can run. And once we run, we can make sure they never find you again.”

“Won’t they see us?” a small boy whimpered.

“It’s okay,” Rui said, kneeling to pat the boy’s head. The boy ran at him, pushing his head under Rui’s chin and squeezing him so hard he could scarcely breathe.

“Angela’s going to make us invisible,” Cris said. “That’s why we have to stay quiet. So they think we’ve all gone, when really we’re right here. We’re really close to being free- and we’ll get there together.” Cris turned his back to the crowd, and stepped onto the curb. 

“If this doesn’t work,” Rui whispered to Ben, holding his hands over the ears of the boy still clinging to him, “I’m burning these agents alive. There is not a single innocent person working in that building.” “Well, let’s hope it doesn’t come to that,” Ben said.

Breed Book 3, Part 30

Mikaela hated the way her heels clacked on the linoleum; it made her feel like she was being followed. Then she heard a step out of synch with her own, and spun on her heels. Occasionally her dupes liked to sneak up on her, so she half-expected to be confronted with one of them, smiling wryly at her paranoia. But this was a guard, wearing a blue shirt and a stun gun on his belt.

“Oh,” she said, gasping breathily. “It’s my first day,” she said. “And I think I got lost.”

The guard tongued a wad of gum into his cheek, like it was chewing tobacco, swallowed and said, “Well, might be able to help you get where you’re going, if you tell me where you’re supposed to be.”

“Um,” she said, taking a moment to parse him, “I think I was supposed to find room 329. I had what were probably serviceable directions, only I got turned around when I went to the bathroom. Think I must have taken a wrong turn at Albuquerque.”

“Like Bugs Bunny,” he said, with a partial smile under a sparse moustache. “This hallway won’t get you to 329; you’d need to go back the way you came to get there, then take a left at the T. Only there’s a problem, because this hallway is restricted access. Anyone who comes down here needs special privileges- the kind they don’t give out on somebody’s first day. Which means I’ll have to notify your supervisor.”

“Please,” she said, “please don’t.”

“Why not?” he asked, anger rising in his voice. “Way I see it, at this point, you get in trouble with your boss, or I get in trouble with mine.”

“Because it’s my first day. It’s real easy, on a first day, if you get the wrong attention, for it to become your last day. And if anybody asked me, I’d tell them you put the fear of god into me, right after helping me find where I was supposed to go. I don’t think you’d get into any trouble over that.”

“Hmm,” he said, squinting at her and pursing his lips. “You don’t seem a bad sort,” he said, “and sometimes good folks just need an honest break.” He pulled the wad of gum out of his cheek and bit aggressively into out. “Come on. I’ll walk you down to the labs.”

“The lab?” Mikaela asked. “Sure enough. The entire third floor is all laboratory spaces. They’ve got climatology labs, metrology labs, a sonics lab… if there’s an energy going into or coming out of a piece of technology, or a circumstance for equipment to work in, they’ve got a method to simulate and test. I don’t think I’m familiar with 329, but it’ll be in the cluster of labs on the third floor.”

Breed Book 3, Part 29

God damn. We did it. And by we I really mean all of you. I’m crying, here, so damned proud of all of you. I know some of us just did our parts. But some of us went so far above and beyond it’s hard to even quantify, to the point where I feel like I need to say thank you, and single at least some of you out. First, people of color, including special mention of indigenous and Black Americans; you have been mistreated by this country for centuries, and continue to work harder than anyone to save it. We will never be able to repay what we owe you, but I hope we’ll have a chance to make a dent. And I’d also like to single out the young voters, who turned out in a way I never imagined possible; you helped us secure a future for the country, and I only hope we can make it the future you deserve. I’m not downplaying anyone else’s role, here, and I would emphasize that this was a team effort, and a team win- that each and every one of us helped make this world better. It took all of us to cross this finish line.

Now, I need to dry my eyes, because I owe you all some damn updates…


(will post as soon as it’s ready)

Ben was leaning against a stop sign, waiting for a signal. Every car that passed, ever clack of a shoe on the pavement, made him think that it was over, he’d been found out, and was about to get shot in the back, but the shot never came.

He checked his watch. Sonya was running late. Only by forty-five seconds, but each one felt like a lifetime. Some of that was because every second he saw a different variation of how it played out, his brother, always a protector, standing between harm and his people the best he could figure how. But each time, he figured wrong, and each time, he died screaming, right before the same happened to everyone else.

He felt a hand on his arm, gentle, feminine, and recognized it from the day before, even without turning. “Sorry,” Sonya said, a little winded. “Got cat-called a block up and had to double-back to lose the creep. Figured it wouldn’t do to drag attention to our little party.”

“Before or after you set it?” He asked, anxiously checking his watch.

“Oh. Shit.”

He turned, arms outstretched. He pushed harder than he usually did, hard enough he felt the shaking in his bones an instant before he heard the scrape of rock on concrete as the ICE facility’s foundations shuddered. “Go,” he said, and Sonya was off, running towards the darkness on the left side of the facility. An instant later her boomlet exploded with what amounted to a loud pop- the agents indoors likely wouldn’t even hear it through the walls. The lights behind Ben went out, followed an instant later by the lights in the facility.

He heard a loud thump as the generator rolled over and the lights came back on. A moment later it started to scream, before black smoke rolled off the far end of the facility, and it went silent. The lights in the building went out a second time, and remained off.

Ben caught an ICE agent poking his head out of the exit. He rubbed his hands, like he was trying to get warmed up, even though in the darkness he probably wasn’t visible. Ben knew there were a half-dozen kids inside whose job it was to slow down the ICE agents; he hoped they were disciplined enough to wait for the guard to come back, or all hell could break loose. The agent closed the door, and latched it behind himself. Ben counted a couple of alligators before shaking the ground again.

He wanted to run inside, kick the door in, and bloody the first agent he saw. Hell, he wanted to bloody every agent inside, for what they’d done to Cris, and every unfortunate kid in their care. Or maybe he just needed an excuse to bloody someone- anyone. If anyone else had been there with him, keeping things running, ostensibly in charge, he might have run inside and indulged his darker instincts. But those kids needed him to keep his head more than he needed to cave in someone else’s, so he turned on his heels.

There were two potential points of entry into the sewers below. The manhole cover was easier, and he could probably move that himself. But climbing down a ladder was going to take time- time they probably didn’t have with a hundred kids in tow. No, there was a storm drain not far from the cover, small enough to fit the smaller kids, but not big enough for the bigger ones. He was going to need to widen that.

Ben closed his eyes, focusing on the task at hand. His power usually worked like water, a flow of power from him, about as easy to control as a river. What he needed here was precision, and he wondered if he should have given this job to Sonya or Rui. But they wouldn’t have been able to do it before the rendezvous without getting unwanted attention, and they were going to need that exit quick once they arrived. He exhaled, pushing softly at first. The concrete held, and he pushed harder, trying to match the force with equal amounts of care. It cracked, and so did a smile, before an explosion knocked him into the air, and he landed in a painful sprawl in the middle of the street.

Ben cast about, looking for his attacker, but the world was dark. He couldn’t imagine an ICE agent lobbing a grenade into the blackness on a hunch, so he pulled out his phone and used it to light the street. Sure enough, there was a crater where the storm drain had been. Concrete and asphalt had collapsed into the hole, blocking off the tunnel they’d planned to use for their escape. “Well,” Ben said, biting his lower lip, “fuck.”