Breed Book 3, Part 51

Rox grabbed a white coat off a hook beside the door into the lobby. She heard the jangling of keys, and felt inside the pocket. There were moments, often lost amid the chaos, where it was good to be her.

Then she saw something, a picture, one she’d seen before. In the lobby. Behind the receptionist. She stared at his old face, his military buzzcut; his nameplate at the bottom of the frame seemed almost incidental: Garrity. That’s when it fell into place. He was in charge of their program, the one that had mutilated and traumatized Anita and Mai for years. One of them must have seen the picture, maybe both of them, and in that moment, decided to make a run for it. And now they were loose in this base, the three of them, rushing to reach Garrity or that poor kid first.

She closed her eyes and stared walking. She’d tried this once before, trying to let her ability guide her. She ended up bumping into several walls, ending up with a fat lip and a cut through her eyebrow. There was a car accident on her usual route; a car hit the coffee stand she stopped at for a mocha every morning. She could never tell if that was her ability saving her, or if it was her ability reaching out and killing so it looked like it had.

Right now she didn’t have a lot of choice, so she started walking.

With her eyes shut, she had plenty of space to focus on screwing up. They may not have been the most powerful Breed, but they were, between them, two of the most destructive.

She tried playing the moment over again in her mind. Had it been Mai who started the run for the door? Or was it Anita shooting out the camera? Or maybe they’d both been playing her from the beginning, using her luck and her connections to get them inside, where they had always planned to ditch her.

No. She rejected that. Whatever her faults, Rox’d spent too much time with Anita to think she would manipulate her like that. She must have chased Mai, using her ability to flip through drafts on the fly to try and figure out where the little murder machine was headed- and just as crucially, if there was any way to stop her if she managed to catch her.

She was walking for too long. Up inclines, and down winding, twisting turning descents. She never encountered a patrol, or so much as bumped into a wall. She was beginning to wonder if she’d somehow wandered into the gym and found the world’s smoothest treadmill when she realized she could hear breathing, and had the sensation of someone being close. There was someone there, low to the ground, but definitely absorbing ambient noise in a distinctly human shape. “Well?” a voice she recognized asked. “You going to open your eyes and help me?” she asked.

It was Mai.

Breed Book 3, Part 50

“I don’t get why I’m here,” Drake said, shivering against the cold.

“In case one of ours gets spotted,” Izel said. “The meteoropaths have to be pretty close, along the route the ICE gestapo are takin, to keep the weather pattern relatively contained; if we froze the whole city we’d cause a lot of accidents- especially with that kind of a freak storm- no pun intended. But that means a certain degree of vulnerability. We’ve got them linked up with telepaths, who can push the agents away with some mental suggestions, but probably not if a whole group of them at once decide to pay attention.”

Drake frowned. “’Mind control’ is a misnomer,” Tucker explained. “Most of the time, in most senses of the word, we don’t really do that. It’s more about… influence, and misdirection. You get enough telepaths together, and you can force your will on someone. But the mind isn’t really designed for that sort of… flexibility. You push someone too hard and they’ll break. Maybe they just experience it as trauma- it is essentially a mental assault. But that’s kind of the best-case scenario. You can break entire thought processes, brain structures- you can lobotomize someone for all intents and purposes without trying if you aren’t cautious. So mostly we stick to a gentle push. Suggestion. Not dissimilar to hypnosis, really. Convincing someone that what you want from them is what they wanted to do in the first place.”

“Which isn’t to say telepathy isn’t one of the more scary powerful abilities out there,” Izel said. “I can link your memories such that your knees stop working every time you hear the word ‘purple.’ I can convince your neurons to link up in new ways- either to make you a lot dumber or a lot smarter.”

“But it’s a lot like programming, or maybe hacking,” Tucker interjected. “There are a lot of ways that the human brain takes shortcuts. Most of our minds and our memories are about linkages, connections. It’s functionally a whole different language. But once you learn to speak it, there’s a lot you can do with it.”

“But not always quickly,” Izel added.

“Look, over there!” Tucker pointed over Drake’s shoulder, and he turned to look. “See, trying to convince you to do that telepathically would require me to connect with some portion of you that would want to see something over there, then convince your mind that that something might be over there, and feed that suspicion until it was worth the effort to look.”

“I think I got it. Having telepaths run interference is like having a deflector shield- it’ll maybe save you from a little indirect attention, but not from a hail of gunfire.”


“I really hope there isn’t a hail of gunfire,” he said.

“Us, too. But you’re here, in part, to make sure that can’t become a possibility- or at least remove our people from the line of fire if it becomes one.”

“So I’m their exfiltration option. K.” He disappeared, and reappeared an instant later, sliding on a heavier coat. “Much better. I swear, I’m going to spend a week in a warm bath. And meteoropaths?”

“Nothing to do with meteors; well, a little, I guess,” Tucker said with a shrug. “It technically means they control things high in the atmosphere. Though I don’t know of anyone who controls both- it’s just a quirk of the language.”

“You two are central command, right?”

“Sure,” Tucker said.

“I should be at the front. Wherever they’re most likely to get spotted.”

“That will make them a lot easier to spot,” Izel said.

“Right. But if I’m there, then I can pull everybody ought quickly as possible. If I’m here… then we’ve got a whole other pair of brains involved in the decision tree, when seconds- even microseconds- may be the difference. Point me to the tip of the spear.” Tucker closed his eyes, and shared an image from the mind of the telepath nearest the approaching ICE line. “Got it,” he said, and was gone.

Breed Book 3, Part 48

“We’re sure this is safe?” Izel asked, watching CCTV footage on her phone.

“The technopaths have got it locked down. Demi left the one camera alive, so we could see if- crap.”

Agents in riot gear started to pour out of the front of their office building. “It’s okay,” Izel said. “We knew it was a long shot we could dissuade them entirely- if only because their fragile egos wouldn’t be able to take loses so completely without at least a whimper. We’ve got plans in place for this… though…” agents continued to stream out of the building, “I don’t know if we accounted for quite so many of them. Damn. That’s a lot more brownshirts than I was expecting.”

“Yeah,” Tucker said solemnly. “There always seem to be too many of the worst kinds of people.”

“I don’t know,” Izel said. “It’s kind of clarifying. These aren’t just cogs in a racist machine. These are the hardcore- the ones who it isn’t enough they got to legally prosecute some dodgy cases against immigrants. They’re breaking the law, because their bigotry is that controlling. I mean, no Nazis marching through the streets is preferable. But if there have to be Nazis, I’d prefer them in the street. At least then we can march against them.”

Breed Book 3, Part 47

“So…” Rox said, leaving the word to dangle.

“We’re going in,” Mai said.

“What she said,” Anita said, emerging from behind a bush.

“Why am I not surprised you were eavesdropping?” Rox asked.

“Something about the hyperaggressive, hypercompetent nearly unkillable death machine still having half a girl-boner for my early demise feels like it warrants a little TLC.”

“She does have a point.”

“Yeah. But never driven deep enough to pierce anything vital. Yet.”

“Fine,” Rox said. “But we do this my way, or not at all.”

“Because you could stop us?” Mai asked, bemused.

“Actually,” Anita said with a smile, “all she really has to do is stamp her foot and our own rotten luck will stop us.”

“Besides,” Rox soothed, “my way makes more sense. I get that the two of you are my elders- and I mean that in the you have my respect for all you’ve done and lived through meaning of the word. But I also know what this place put the both of you through. Given half a chance, one or both of you would blow the whole damn place up- maybe without even checking to make sure there aren’t others like the boy we’re here to find inside.”

“Shit,” Anita said. “I hadn’t even considered that.”

“I had,” Mai said coldly, and the both of them stared at her. “What? That’s why I decided against blowing the place up- unless or until we could make sure there aren’t going to be any unexpected casualties.”

“Point being,” Rox reasserted herself, “you two are compromised in a way I am not. So it makes sense for all of us to get on the same page now, and let me Jiminy Cricket you both through this. Sound fair?”

“Sure,” Anita said. “You do kind of look like Ukulele Ike in this lighting.”

“That’s probably preferable to you saying I look like a cricket.”



“No promises,” she said crisply. “You take point. I’ll try and keep things under wraps. But frankly… if we walk into an abattoir… I’m not sure how cool I can keep.” “Okay. Most important ground rule is this: we don’t kill anybody we don’t have to. Until we know exactly what’s going on here, we use minimum force necessary to do the job- and not an ounce more. If either of you can’t live with that, you might as well stay out here.”

Breed Book 3, Part 46

Tucker didn’t spend much time in the computer labs. Mostly, that was because there were several computers in the apartment he shared with his brother and Drake. Also the technopaths were a cliquish bunch- though to be fair, so were the telepaths.

He could feel the way their minds were linked up across their devices; it was in a lot of ways analogous to telepathy, but also similar to any computer network. He could see thousands of operations being performed every second, though he couldn’t follow what was going on.

“You’re lucky I recognized you,” Ryan said without turning his wheelchair to face Tucker as he entered the room. “Otherwise I might have hit you with one of our countermeasures. I’m not sure what they’d do to a brain; they’re more designed to attack an electronic infiltrator. But a human mind also isn’t so different from a computer that I’d want to invite a viral process into one- other than scientific curiosity.”

“Aside from your trigger finger getting itchy, how are things going?” Tucker asked.

“We’ve got our hooks in the phone grid. We’re waiting until the last possible second to take it down; the fewer people have to be impacted the better, and it’ll make it harder for them to work around the issues. We’ve also taken over every radio transmitter in a mile radius around their offices, the apartment building, and their likely route. We can fill the airwaves with so much radio traffic they won’t be able to hear themselves monolog.

“We’ve tanked their internet. The plan had been to take it down completely; probably tie up an agent roaming the hell that is broadband customer service phone trees. But we came up with something more clever this morning: we crashed them down to dial-up speeds. Since they’re still technically getting internet, it’s a different problem- one with a hundred different issues to chase down. All the while their emails and intel load like it’s 1999. Doing the same thing to their cell phones was trickier, but we took over the cell towers nearby and route all of their traffic- phone and data- through us.

“Demi fried everything plugged in at their offices, too, so they’d already been thrown back into the dark ages- but we’re keeping them from making any progress.”

“And you think it’ll hold?”

He grinned. “I’ll put it this way. The NSA poked some feelers in this morning, probing for infiltration. We’ve sent them on a goose chase that will send them on a time-release quest around the globe. First it’ll look like a Chinese infiltration, then the Russians spoofing the Chinese, then the Israelis spoofing the Russians spoofing the Chinese as revenge for backing Iran… anyway, it ping-pongs over the next five weeks before tracing back to an NSA terminal using Edward Snowden’s somehow resurrected credentials. The only conclusions available at that point are that it was an inside job of terrifying proportions, or that they got so thoroughly outclassed that letting the public know they’re basically a failed security agency is their only other option besides covering it up. Which is irrelevant, because all of the relevant intel will by that point have been erased.

“And because we had more volunteers than we needed, I’ve got a B-team running counter-int. They do background checks on Feds, but there are limits to the amount of time, effort, or invasiveness the government is willing to do, all of which pales in comparison to what Google and Facebook know about each and every one of us, to say nothing about international hackers or other online ne’er-do-wells. Current figures look like we can probably clear a third of these agents out just shining a light on their actual nefarity- a little tax-cheating here, a kiddie porn collection there. One of these freaks writes immigrant snuff fantasies; maybe that’s not enough to get him canned, but they sure as hell can’t leave him in the field once that comes to light. And becomes a trending topic on social media.”

“This is all terrifying,” Tucker said.

“It is. It’s also the same basic toolset used by social media companies and the NSA. We’re just better at it. And we’re using it to defeat bigots- so we’re doing it for a good cause, and not for capitalism. Besides, ICE weaponized social media first. They called down this thunder- it’s a little late for them to get squeamish about getting electrocuted.”

Breed Book 3, Part 45

“I have good news and bad news. Preferences?” Rox asked.

“Bad first,” Mai said.

“We’re waiting for intel.”

“The good, then,” Anita said.

“We haven’t been told to fly a kite yet.”

Anita smiled, despite herself. Mai grunted, and walked away. “What?” Rox asked. “That was a little funny.”

“Don’t take it personally,” Anita said. “Being here… it holds a special place for us. Like whatever the opposite of the heart is- where the hate lives, and the fear. Her sense of humor’s always been stunted, but here… it’s extra unforgiving.”

“Still, maybe I should,” Rox walked off in pursuit of her.

“She’s wrong,” Mai said, emerging from behind a tree. “I’m not afraid. Or angry. I’m focused. If they brought that boy here… it isn’t for anything good. I can’t undo what Garrity- what was done, to me, to Anita, or the rest of us. But we can save this boy. We will.” She balled her fist and smashed it into the tree she’d been hidden behind. The bones of her hand were mangled, shards of broken bone torn through the skin as blood flowed freely through the open wounds.

“Can’t you, um, heal?” Rox asked, trying not to look directly at the carnage.

“Right now? I don’t want to. I need the distraction… it’s the only thing keeping me from kicking that door in and murdering everyone who might harm that kid.”

“Sure we couldn’t get you a whisky sour or something instead?”

“Would only make me sleepy,” she replied.

“We’ll get him out. I promise.”

“You can’t. He might already be dead- or at least wish that he were. Don’t promise me things you can’t deliver.”

Rox’s phone went off. “Speaker, please,” Laren said, and she obliged her. “We’ve hit a snag. The guy I knew in Canadian Defense retired to become a Mountie- I shit you not. And while he still owes me, he doesn’t have the reach he used to. All I’ve been able to verify so far is it’s definitely a government installation, but also definitely the kind of government op that pretends not to be government until hauled before whatever the Canadian equivalent of a Senate subcommittee is.”

“So what do you think we should do?” “You’re the lucky lady. It’s up to you. But it’s rolling dice either way. Could be they stole the kid to test their skyscraper-sized Breed hunting robots. Or, since it’s Canada, maybe they just brought him in to give him some free health care and an education in politeness. And, shoot. Looks like ICE’s air cover is actually plinking away at us. I mean, the jackass is using a pistol out the door- so he’s about as likely to hit anything as I am to shoot off the back of Lincoln’s skull from here, but still, I should probably fire back some suppression before they get brave even to come closer, or smart enough to use something with an effective range that covers more than a quarter of the distance. Adios.” The call disconnected.

Breed Book 3, Part 44

Drake knocked on Demi’s door, which was ajar enough it creaked open. She was bent over gathering clothes, wearing a matching pair of lacy underthings. “If you wanted a peek, all you had to do was ask, perv,” she teased, standing up slowly, deliberately posing at him.

“And what if I can only get off if I don’t get invited in?” he asked, trying his best to focus his attention out the window.

“That’s extra. Unless it’s a vampire fetish thing- then it’s extra and you pay the dry cleaning costs. You have no idea how hard it is to get fake blood stains out of everything.” She threaded her legs through a pair of jeans, then pulled on a purple top.

“I feel like there’s an interesting story in that.”

“I don’t bite and tell. Well, unless you ask really nicely. And call me mistress.”

“Um, it’s nippy,” he warned awkwardly. “You might want a jacket.”

“And if I’d prefer it if you keep me warm?” she whispered in his ear.

“Iago asked the same,” he deadpanned.  

“Maybe those jeans are just very flattering.”

“Maybe,” he said. “Take my hand.” She reached for him, and for a moment she held it, and they looked at each other, before he transported her to the ICE facility. “Your hands are warm,” he said.

“Yours were cold,” she said, as he pulled away.

“Yeah. I should have brought gloves. Iago took a lot longer than I expected.”

“Dicking around?”

“No more than usual. But actually freezing an engine block takes more doing that I would have guessed.”

“We’ll try and make up some of the lost time, then,” she said, and walked straight to where a power line entered into the building. Electricity arced from either palm into the line, and she closed her eyes. “Your typical electropath could maybe fry a third of the electronics in the place before they tripped the circuit breaker. This, though… it’s feeling your way through their entire system, sort of mapping it, right? I can bridge their breaker, and burn out anything plugged in.”

“Won’t that look… wrong?”

“I thought about that. When we’re done, I’ll hit the line with lightning, send it arcing across the concrete; it’ll leave a telltale scorch mark. From there any appraiser would call it an act of God.”

“And how long until-” all at once the building was filled with lights and sparks, before going dark.

“Not long,” she said, pivoting towards him. “Your hand?” she put hers out and he took it. Then she pointed, without looking, back at the powerline. Lightning crashed into the line, leaving a seared streak along the wall and concrete. “Now take me back to my place so I can get out of these clothes.”

“You are an incorrigible tease.”

“I didn’t say you weren’t invited.”

“No, but you know my day’s spoken for.”

She leaned into him as they teleported. “We’ll just have to find a day where you aren’t spoken for, then,” she said, then gave him a shove, and he stumbled out of her bedroom. She stripped off her shirt and threw it at the door, knocking it closed.

Breed Book 3, Part 43

“You know, it’s been a slow week until tonight,” Laren said. Rox could hear commotion in the background.

“Am I interrupting?” Rox asked.

“I can multitask,” Laren said. “Your friends busted Cris out of detention, and now I’m laying down a false trail to distract Paul Gleeson.”

“The guy from Maniac Cop 3?”

“I honestly can’t decide whether to be proud or scandalized by you knowing that.”

“We’ve spent a lot of time on the road. We watch a lot of late night cable in seedy motels.”

“Anyway, while your friends are heading in one direction we’re off in another- getting seen enough to pull focus. If we do get pulled over, I might have to go, abruptly.”

“Sounds like you might not be in a position to help us, then.”

“Why? I’m not driving. I can still make phone calls. While texting. I have multiple burners for just that reason.”

“Well, we found where the boy ended up. And it’s where we didn’t want to find him.”

“In West Virginia?”

“In a certain clandestine military base.”

“That’s what I meant; it’s the West Virginia of Canada.”

“That… was not clear at all.”

“Neither is the continued existence of a West Virginia.”

“It broke away from Virginia proper because it didn’t want to join the Confederacy.”

“Then why is it the racist Virginia now?”


“It was rhetorical. What can you tell me, by way of intel?” Laren asked.

“I thought I was calling you for intel.”

“Knowing as much as I can helps me ask the right questions, as opposed to trying to read the lint in my own belly button.”

“Definitely governmental, with guards posted. They seem to want to stay off grid- hewing to the idea that flying under the radar is a better defense than building an ostentatious fortress.” “Great. So we’re not just going to find the answers Googling. Look, I’ll make a few phone calls, and call you back. Unless I end up in Gitmo. In which case it could be a little while before I can access a phone.”

Breed Book 3, Part 42

“It’s too early,” Iago groaned, covering his head with his comforter. “Wake me when the sun’s come out.”

“Can’t,” Drake said. “Cause there’s a schedule and I’m on the hook for a long day and that day only gets longer the more you bitch and moan and stall. Now put on pants or I’m teleporting you into a women’s studies class in your tighty whities.”

“Not cool.”

“That’s on you; you’re the one in charge of bringing the cool.”

“That was embarrassing. I’m embarrassed for you.”

“Yeah,” Drake said pushing a pair of jeans into Iago’s chest, “be embarrassed walking.”

Iago dropped to a cold concrete parking lot as the wind bit into the skin of his exposed legs. “Damnit,” he muttered, jamming his legs into his pants. “What if they see us?”

“That’s the point of getting up at 4 AM to do this.”

“And their cameras?” he asked, pointing at closed circuit camera mounted to the corner of the building.

“Ryan recorded yesterday’s feed, and will loop those over today. Now the sooner you do your thing, the sooner you can get into a hot bath, or back in bed.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Iago crawled under the nearest ICE vehicle. “How much do you know about engines?”

“They make the wheels on the bus go round and round?”

“I’m not sure how plausibly deniable this is going to be if we just freeze the entire block solid.”

“I think the point is just for it to be deniable enough that they can’t make the case that we fired the first shot.”

“Okay.” He put his hands to either side of the engine, dropping the temperature precipitously. Frost began to form on the metal pieces, then on the plastic pieces. He pushed harder, forcing moisture from his own fingertips that gathered as ice on the exposed components. When he was done the engine was a solid block. “Took a lot of out me,” he said. “D’you bring-”

Drake handed him a sports drink. “And I’ve got a stack of them in the fridge, if you go through that one.”

“I will,” he said. “Takes more moisture to freeze an engine than I would have guessed.” He stopped. “Won’t they know this wasn’t natural?”

“Freeze the ground and their windows. Who are they going to believe? Meteorologists? Or their own eyes.”

Breed Book 3, Part 41

“For a while you made me really self-conscious,” Anita whispered as they made their way through a thick layer of brush. “I’d seen you track a man by the distinct tang of his body odor for thirty miles. I couldn’t imagine hygiene that would be good enough for you.”

“I remember that,” Mai said. “And I remember stopping you.”

“You did,” Anita said, nodding. “You told me the smell of blood from scrubbing away so much of my skin was distracting. You kind of sort of implied it drove you crazy, like you were part Great White or something. In the moment, I had to fight a laugh, because I was about 85% certain you were joking… but then there was a 13% chance you meant it, whether or not it was actually true.”

“That doesn’t add up to 100%,” Rox noted from behind them.

“No,” Anita agreed. “The rest was the possibility she was just sleep-deprived or doped up. They really weren’t all that judicious with the pharmaceuticals. Especially not with her. If she started to get loopy, her body would take over and start dismantling whatever they put in her system. On a good day the techs could ride that line and keep her fuzzy. On a bad day they’d pump her full of enough tranqs to kill a whole herd of tatankas.”

“The trucks?” Rox asked.

“I hate the young,” Mai said.

“Yeah, well at least you still get to look and feel vital. I have to hate the young and feel like I’m sixty.”

“You aren’t?” Mayumi and Rox asked at the same time.

“I hate the young-looking just as much,” Anita amended.

Mayumi held up her hand, and her voice became an even quieter whisper. “There’s the entrance. Guard’s been here for hours.”

Through the brush they could see a small concrete building carved into the side of a stone outcropping, noticeable only because of the man in black paramilitary gear standing out front of it and the squared corners where the concrete met the rock. “How…” Rox started.

Mayumi glared at her. “The surrounding air reeks of his bad breath. And his cologne. It’s a cheap Old Spice knock-off; offensively spiced. From the build-up, given that the wind is pretty mild tonight, he’s been patrolling around this area for hours to waft that much of his stink through the air.”

“You see why I got all crazy about hygiene?” Anita asked.

“Yeah,” Rox said. “I’m beginning to wonder if I put on deodorant this morning, just as a first point of self-consciousness.”

“Not enough,” Mayumi said, “but that’s fine. All of you stink. The human baseline is stink. And most of the time, I just tell my nose to be less acute so I don’t have to drown in it.”

“I guess it makes sense you could do that,” Anita said.” Much more sense than either of us trying to Howard Hughes our way to a good smell.”

“It’s pretty much not possible. Even most smells that are pleasant to the human nose are cloying to mine. It’s like having someone spritz perfume directly up my nose.”

“And the kid’s smell?” Rox asked.

“Weaker. But it ends here. We’re probably lucky, that he’s a pretty rank kid, and that the weather’s been mild, or there might not have been a trace of him.”

“Crap,” Rox said. “That means we need to break in there. Which means I should get in touch with Laren, and see if she can get us any intel on what’s behind that ominous-looking metal door. Could be we need a plan. Might even need to wait for the rest of our team to show.”

“No,” Mayumi said tensely, overlapping with Anita.

“We’re not waiting.”

“Yeah,” Rox said. “I kind of figured you’d both say that. So let me make a phone call, and see what, if anything, we can do to make it so we’re not charging in there completely blind.”

“Isn’t blind luck your thing?”

“I don’t doubt that I will walk out of there relatively unscathed. But it’s not a blanket immunity for everyone who shared a bagel with me. The two of you could take a bullet two steps in; hell, my ability sometimes makes that more likely, if the bullets ricochet away from me. So we’ve got to be smart.”

“I’m not worried,” Mayumi said. “I’m very difficult to kill. And I don’t think either of us would miss her all that much,” she said, nodding towards Anita.

“As the most likely woman to die in a fool-hardy, rushed plan, I’m all for us getting our ducks in a row,” Anita said. “Or for just sending Mayumi in to sort shit out.”

“Now where have I heard that one before,” Mai said, raising an eyebrow.

“It’s not my fault you’re virtually indestructible,” Anita said with a shrug. “If I could shrug off gunshot wounds, regrow limbs and just generally not be bothered by getting the hell kicked out of me, I’d volunteer to go in alone.”

“No you wouldn’t.”

“I wouldn’t, but I am the kind of person who would claim that as a defense mechanism.”

“Okay. I’m making an executive decision,” Rox said, taking out her phone. “I’m calling Laren. You two don’t kill each other until I’m off the phone.”

“Does that mean we can’t start fighting while she’s on the phone, or just no killing blows until then?” Anita asked. “Don’t tempt me,” Mayumi said.