The ICE agents were barely moving, and were more and more resembling snowmen. They were caked in frozen rain, with a light dusting of fresh snow sticking to the top of that and icicles hanging off of several of them. “You almost start to feel a little bad for them,” Tucker said, grinning. “I mean, we’re entering Valley Forge levels of pitiful, here.”
“I don’t,” Izel said coldly. “But maybe that’s because I can taste the racism. It’s like blood on the back of my teeth.”
“Sounds like you may need to floss more,” Drake said from behind them, startling Izel.
“The combination of fear and hatred coming off them… you see that toxic mix in rabid dogs, but it’s horrifying in a person- let alone a person who wants to abuse his power to hurt you.”
“How are we doing?” Drake asked.
“They’re about ready to break,” Tucker said. “And I don’t just mean the fact that some of them are so frozen that if they tripped and fell they’d shatter like a crystal vase.”
“He’s right. I think they’d have given up before now if they could figure out how to. So we’re going to give them an out.”
Tucker keyed a radio. “Bring in the heavies.” Drake heard the bus’s breaks from a few blocks over, then saw as it rounded the corner. It was filled with students he recognized from the campus.
“Our heaviest hitters,” Izel said. “The ones who could stand up to the punishment if it became a brawl.”
“Also the ones with the most bulletproof paperwork,” Tucker added. “It would sort of defeat the point if we accidentally got somebody deported.”
The bus continued past them, and turned around in the cul-de-sac surrounded by the apartment complex the ICE agents were marching for. It stopped at an angle across the street, and students began to empty out of the bus. They formed a line, covering the road, the sidewalks, and any reasonable path towards the apartments. “That’s our cue,” Tucker said. “You want to-” Drake touched both of their arms, and they teleported to the front of the group.
“You look awful, Officer… Louie?” Tucker said, and peered at him a moment.
“It’s not spelled that way in China; it’s by no means the worst Romanization I’ve seen. Also, you’re in our way.”
“Really?” Tucker asked. “Because it kind of looks like air is in your way at this point. I’ve seen spinsters with walkers finishing a 10k with more spring in their steps.” This time the agent peered at Tucker. “My two queer great aunties; even into their 70s they were a couple of fitness buffs. But my point: about the only thing you could march successfully for right now would be a hot cocoa. As it happens, we at the school heard about your misfortunes, and raided our cafeteria to bring you some at your office. You weren’t there, but we heard through the grapevine you were headed this way. So we commandeered you a bus.” The students who had been standing in front of the bus’s door parted.
“I’m afraid we can’t throw in the towel just yet,” Louie said, stiffening. “I’ve heard reports that apartment complex is full of Breed that are illegally in this country.”
“Really?” Tucker asked. He pulled up his phone. “Because the school is very thorough about vetting our students’s paperwork, including student visas, and fully 84% of the residents of that complex are students at our school. I’ve just emailed you copies of all of their documentation, by the way.”
“How?” he asked. “Cell towers have been dark since this morning.”
“I’ve got four bars,” Tucker said, showing him the phone. Louie checked his phone, and saw a massive email waiting in his inbox. “Maybe your office is in a dead spot. Or maybe whatever happened has been fixed.”
“Maybe,” he said. He dialed through. “Hello, this is Agent Louie with ICE. I need to report an illegal gathering.” Izel opened her bag, and produced several sheets of paper, which Tucker handed to Louie. “It’s a protest?” Louie asked. “They paid the fee and have all the proper permits.” He hung up. “I don’t believe in coincidence,” he seethed.
“And if you could use your red hot rage to thaw out some of your comrades, maybe you’d be in a position to do something about it. Though I’d humbly suggest that isn’t the case.” Tucker raised his hand over his head and snapped his fingers. A student standing at each wheel lifted the bus over their heads, until it was suspended eight feet in the air. “I thought a lot about what I’d say, threats we could make. Like we could Roanoke you, disappear even the memory that there ever was an ICE office in Bellingham, wipe the memory of anyone who ever came looking and delete any record any of you ever existed. Then we’d have to track down your families, and wipe all their memories. It’s exhausting just thinking about it. And I think it’s already dawning on you the mistake you’ve made coming here today.” Tucker snapped again, and the bus was set gently back down.
“The bus holds forty eight; it took four to lift a school bus. Agent Louie, you jumped into the lions’ den here,” Tucker continued. “You thought you could handle what you were calling down- felt you could get away with violating the rights of some immigrant students without anyone ever being the wiser. You were wrong. We can let bygones be bygones. You don’t have to risk your life, and theirs,” Tucker led his eyes to his fellow agents, “over an error. But this isn’t happening like you wanted. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not so long as any of us are above ground to resist you. So friendly advice- and I promise it’s the last that you’ll hear from me- get on the bus. Go back to your office. You really don’t want to hear us roar.” Louie popped the button strap holding his sidearm in a shoulder holster. Tucker held up his hand for them to wait.
One of the ICE agents broke lines, and started towards the bus. As he put one foot on the first step, he turned back towards Louie. “Sorry,” he said with a shrug.
“You made him do that. Puppeted him.”
“Nope,” Tucker said. “I gave the agents you corralled into this a chance to do the right thing.” Two more crossed the line, and a third, and two more. “Sometimes that’s all it takes.” Louie flexed his hand over his pistol, before letting it fall empty to his side.
“You better not be lying about that hot chocolate,” he said, “or I’m coming back.”
“I’m not,” Tucker said. “It’s even still hot.” Louie got on, last, and the doors closed behind him.
“I don’t like this,” Izel said, as the bus pulled away. “They shouldn’t get to just walk away like this.”
“They’re not. The technopaths are going to ruin as many of their lives as possible. Just showing up for something like this means they can’t be trusted with the job they have. The few we can’t find dirt on we’ll watch. Maybe we’ll have to catfish them, maybe we just have to wait until they hit financial skids, and can use that to get their clearance yanked. But the men who marched here today aren’t getting off scot free, Izel. I’m just disappointed sling-shotting them into the sun, which would have been more satisfying, is probably wrong somehow.” “I’m disappointed about that, too, now,” Izel said, smiled and waved as the bus rolled away.