Breed Book 4, Part 45


“My favorite plans are the ones I don’t get a say in,” Rui said.

“You can have input into the plan,” Rox said. “But I’m taking the hemming and hawing off your plates. I promise you I get it; I think if it were just me I’d be having the same internal conversation. But it’s not. I have a responsibility to all of you. And we have a responsibility to every other kid who’s growing up like us, who may not be in a position to defend themselves when the shit storm hits if one of us kills a President- even one as monumentally stupid, ignorant, lazy and incompetent as this one.”

“You forgot gross,” Sonya added. “Not a fat-phobic thing, but his whole predatory vibe; he can’t even stop horn-dogging at his daughter in public.”

“And greedy,” Ben said.

“And cowardly,” Anita added.

“And delusional,” Cris said.

“And bigoted,” Rui said.

“I think that was covered in ‘ignorant,’” Rox said.

“I know, but I don’t think it covered the depth of his bigotry. He doesn’t dog-whistle; he puts his MLA to a dog’s ringpiece and screams through it at the top of his lungs. I’m sure it’s also some kind of animal cruelty.”

“The point here is that this isn’t going to come hardest down on adults who can defend themselves. It’s going to hit kids. There’s more Breed kids being born every day; the next generation will be at least double the size of ours. Which means there’s going to be even more of them in vulnerable situations. Besides, I think he’s going to lose in November, and that is going to rip open that hole he’s tried to fill with boasts about crowd size and tearing down the first black President’s legacy. His entire administration has been him trying to prove he was better than a black guy- the one who got reelected. It’ll break him, and no one deserves that ego blow as much as this guy.”

“What if he doesn’t?” Anita asked. “What if there are just enough crooked Republicans out there to rig it for him, and the Democrats cave, again, and let baby have the bottle he stole.”

“Even then,” Rox said, “there’s a difference between a very public execution by a Breed who wants the world to know we can take down Presidents, and Anita sneaking into the White House November 4th and making it look like a heart attack.”

“You’re joking, right?” Sonya asked.

“Merely noting there’s a difference, primarily in the safety of our people. In both cases, I have to use the talents and privilege I have to stand up for people who can’t, for whatever reason. But we also have a duty, to the next generation, to be an example of how to make it in this world. If we can, we’ll leave them a better world, but if we can’t, we at least have to show them how they can leave one for the generation after them.”

“I’m still not sure I like it,” Anita said.

“November 5th work better with your schedule?” Sonya asked.

“I mean that separating him from his guard, that opens up new chinks in their armor to exploit, and puts all of our eggs in the one basket.”

“Maybe,” Rox agreed. “But they aren’t going to work with us. If we had weeks, maybe months, we could do a softer approach, prove that we could breach their security and then try to convince them that we want to strengthen it. But we don’t have the time. We don’t know when Raif’s plan is going down, just that it’s soon. Even without Mira, I think he’ll plow ahead. But that means improvisation, and desperation. That means his people are going to be angrier, and we need to be extra careful. And we don’t have to remove the Secret Service, we just need to be able to operate independent of them. Because I get the feeling they’re not going to get the nuance that some of us are on their side. The absolute last thing we want is to be caught between them and Raif, with both sides shooting at us.”

Breed Book 4, Part 44


“Fox news has obtained exclusive footage of an attempted Breed terrorist break-out at Gauntanamo,” said a doughy man, barely audible over the volume of his bow-tie. In a shaky phone video, Rui could be seen strafing overhead, setting buildings on fire. The focus shifted jerkily to Ben, who knocked down a prison wall, causing mostly brown men to scurry out of a building. “Anonymous sources claim no terrorists were released as a part of this action, and further claimed that all of the Breed terrorists, a phrase which to this reporter, feels redundant, were all either captured or killed in the assault. Officials at the Pentagon and White House refused to comment on the basis of national security.”

“Pucker Carlson can exclusively eat dicks,” Drake said. “In fact, that might explain his disposition.”

“Okay, but what does any of that tell you?” Mikaela asked.

“That Fox news somehow gets more bigoted and cranky with every passing day in parallel with their target demo?” Iago asked.

“That Fox’s elderly viewership must be getting easier to fool in direct correlation with how intellectually lazy and sloppy they get?” Tucker asked.

“I think I could bag on them all day,” Drake said, “but suspect you had a real point.”

“Yep. Release of a shaky hand-shot footage means that this wasn’t an official release; the government wanted to keep it quiet. They probably knew it was a loser- at best they look incompetent for the break-in succeeding. Two, we know nobody died, so whoever leaked this knew that the story was a dog, and had to spice it up by making the military response look more capable.”

“Then why release anything?” Iago asked.

“Because they’re just that bigoted,” Tucker said. “They got their butts handed to them by people their Dear Leader told them are their inferiors. They couldn’t prove their worth, so they need to use the story to stick it to us, instead.”

“You sound pretty damn sure.”

“I’m not reading any minds from half a world away. But I’ve known the type. It doesn’t matter if it’s rational. Their fragile ego demands satisfaction, even if it’s them who ends up bleeding for it.”

“This could get people killed,” Mikaela said.

“That’s always the hope, isn’t it?” Tucker asked. “It’s stochastic terrorism. The more hate they pump into the atmosphere, the more likely someone will take them seriously and attack a pizza parlor for harboring a pedophile ring, or attack women for having the audacity not to date literally any incel who pisses on her shoes, or shoot up a campus for Breed students for existing. And it doesn’t matter if it’s not one-to-one, either, in fact, that’s preferable. That way right-wing nutjobs can incite random violence as a business model on Fox, without ever being tied to any particular incident. But the fear for those of us who are on their radar is real, and persistent. They get to use fear as a weapon, but get to deny it as polite discourse.”

“You sound kind of like you want to burn down a news station.”

“Only one? I guess I’m better at hiding my anger than I realized.”

Breed Book 4, Part 43


“Oh, fuck my head,” Cris said, groaning on the couch.

“That is exactly what it feels like,” Sonya said. “Did somebody fuck my head last night? And just skip the foreplay, gentility or even a pretense of civility.”

“You have no idea how many of my buttons you’re pushing right now,” Anita said without removing her face from the seat of a recliner. “Most prominently the one marked ‘blinding white-hot migraine.’”

“Close,” Laren said, stretching in the doorway, her skin glistening under a dewy layer of perspiration, “but I think the culprit was grain alcohol.”

“Would someone put me out of my misery and shoot her?” Anita asked.

“Okay,” Rui said, groaning, “I get why she isn’t hung-over,” he pointed at Rox (or at least one of her) as she walked in behind Laren, “even if I kind of hate her in this moment. But you had nearly as much to drink as Tso. And I’m pretty sure even half of what he did to that poor, unsuspecting toilet violated the Geneva Conventions.”

“I hate myself for asking,” Sonya said, preemptively wincing, “but you’re bifurcating based on orifices, aren’t you…”

“I’m more preoccupied with the fact that not only did they escape last night unscathed, but they went for a run this morning,” Cris said. “By the way, I can help with hangovers. Upset stomachs will have to wait until I’ve got something non-fermented in my stomach, first.”

“But I have rumblies in my tumblies,” Ben said, though it was hard to make out over the gurgling in his belly.

“Rui,” Rox said, clapping to a chorus of groans, “get Ben back in the bathroom, or you’re going to have to help him burn his underwear.”

“I can’t imagine why I would have dreamed it, so I think we did that last night already- though I can’t remember why,” Rui managed to get to his feet, swaying noticeably.

“Cris, your first job this morning is getting everyone fighting fit. We’re going to war this morning, every last one of us. Because fuck the entire concept of a moral taint, and Tso I swear to god if you chortle-”

“Heh,” Ben chuckled to himself, “immoral taint.”

“Why did I invite that on us? Anyway, we’re not wimpy philosophers. We eat moral quandaries for breakfast, but also bagels, which we grabbed on our run.” She lifted a small bag for emphasis. “To wit: this is only a conundrum if you focus on our culpability, whether or not we need to feel bad about ourselves. Well, we’re already a dangerously self-loathing bunch, so I’m less worried, there. The rest of us, though? All the poor fucking kids back at the school, or the even less fortunate ones who haven’t made it there yet, or even can’t? If we let this shit happen, it hurts them, maybe in ways it will take their entire lifetimes to walk back.

“But beyond the fact that I know you’re all tough enough to handle the difficult question: you don’t have to. Because I am dictating. It’s the right thing to do, for the most fucked up of reasons- because it will make life harder for our friends and families if we don’t. But I’m taking it out of your hands. I’m telling you to suck it up and do it. Blame me for it if you need to- hate me for it even. But know that we’re helping a lot of people who couldn’t help themselves. Even if, given half the chance, I’d light the bigoted prick on fire myself.”

“What does being given half a chance to light someone on fire look like?” Ben wondered aloud, leaning so far on Rui’s shoulder they both looked ready to topple.

“I think them falling asleep when you’ve got ready access to matches and maybe lighter fluid,” Sonya offered.

“What if we feel really strongly about not helping?” Rui asked.

“You leave,” Rox said. “Maybe even join Raif. But I don’t think any of you will do that. Because you know I’m right. And even if you can’t know, completely, you know it’s better to think I could be, and have that cover, than to place that kind of bet without it.”

Breed Book 4, Part 42


“Fuck statues,” Mayumi said.

“This is going to be one of those conversations where I’m stuck being the white person, isn’t it?” Demi asked.

“Aren’t you always a white person?”

“Yeah, but sometimes I get stuck being the token white person. Which sucks, given that I’m a Breed like you, too, subject to the same discrimination. When those assholes stormed the campus with guns, they’d have shot me as readily as any of you. Okay… probably they’d have shot not-white-passing minorities first, because of compounding bigotries, but you know what I mean.”

“I do. I take it from your reaction you think statues are a loaded topic.”

“Isn’t everything these days? But really, I just… I like statues. There’s something to their use in art and architecture that speaks to me, on a primal level. I’m not saying I’m for keeping around monuments to Confederates or Nazis or eugenecists or whatever. I think whether or not we tear down the ones to slave owners who were also pivotal national figures is probably a longer conversation, but also likely an evolving one. Like, I’m from Washington state, originally, the eastern side, outside Walla Walla. At some point we may well have to decide to rename the state, because, while Washington did some good things in his life, he had slaves- he had slaves’ teeth. There’s a rot, at the sole of our nation’s founding, and I get that we might have to core out some things we might actually miss before we can truly heal from that.”

“Then what’s the problem, since you seem to be arguing both sides at this point?”

“I think what it comes down to is our history is complicated, because our history makers were complicated. Jefferson, Washington- if it were as simple as tossing the ones who were problematic, that might be one thing, but with that approach eventually our history would be just as incomplete as Washington’s smile without stolen teeth. And ultimately I’m not sure how that should work. Because we can’t just pare back our history until it’s beautiful and idyllic; that would be erasing hundreds of years of pain that is, frankly, not ours to forgive or forget. I mean, fuck Confederates, and their racist-baiting, ahistorical participation trophy monuments. Tear those down, today, no question. But there are more complicated conversations to be had about the rest, and how we handle it, and I don’t feel bad for acknowledging that.”

“I agree, history is complicated,” Mayumi began. “But statues aren’t complicated. They are a celebration, a commemoration; we can keep our complicated past without putting those figures literally up on a pedestal. I was born in Japan. Raised… somewhat internationally, but that was home for a long time. And we had a complicated history, too. We did things to the Chinese that would make some Nazis blush, and all too often our way of dealing with it was pretending like it didn’t happen. But it did- I know because that ‘research’ was built on in what they eventually did to me; that fucked me up, for a long time. The only way to deal with a complicated history is to accept its complications, and what those imply about you, and your country, and everything else you think you know about the world. It sucks, it hurts, but it’s the only right way forward.”

“I don’t know,” Demi said.

“Okay, think about it this way. The public square belongs to everyone, right?”


“Now, let’s say the Italians and Greeks in Bellingham band together to sponsor a stature for a public park of Hercules. Hercules was a hero, of course, but also a rapist, on a truly mythic scale. Now, someone who was assaulted might be hurt by them being allowed to put up a statue celebrating a rapist, right? I hope it doesn’t feel like I’m weaponizing your past, because I promise that’s the farthest from what I want to be doing.”

“It’s okay,” Demi said gently. “And I take your point. The public square has to be for everyone; we can’t pick and choose who should just suck it up, or it’s not really a public space- it’s a public space for the privileged and the few.”

”Right. Of course, there’s a complication. Because there’s people who even to this day would object to a statue to Martin Luther King, Jr. – racists, mostly, but they exist. John McCain voted against an MLK holiday not that long ago- and remember he was a relative moderate in his party. And you’re right. For some of these complicated figures, it’s a conversation, and not a simple one. King can’t be where we draw the line on statues, or there will be only statues of him. But to finally give context to what I blurted out at the beginning, if it comes down to a person not feeling welcome in a public space because of who they are, and tearing down a monument to an old, dead, white person whose bigotry is no longer acceptable- fuck the statue. I side with the living, feeling person every time.” “Oh. Well, yeah. When you put it like that, yeah. I don’t like statues enough to want anyone to suffer for them- and the kind of person who does is the last person who should be making that decision. Fuck statues, and fuck anyone who cares more about an image in bronze or stone than a flesh and blood person.”

Breed Book 4, Part 41


“She won’t tell us anything?” Cris asked.

“Only that she won’t tell us anything,” Sonya said with a shrug.

“This is a real big fucking problem,” Laren said.

“I know,” Anita said sloppily. “You’ve barely touched your Mai Tai.”

Laren jabbed it three times. “Happy?”

“That is the most you’ve turned me on since I met you,” Anita said.

“This couldn’t be happening at a worse time. I’ve heard through channels that they’re panicking. They can feel the election slipping through their grasp by normal means, so they’re pushing for less conventional solutions. The kind that are really bad for democracy, liberty, and all of you.”

“They’ve agreed to my armistice plan?” Ben asked. “The one where instead of forty acres and a mule we get forty acres of chili dogs?”

“That would be really bad for all of us,” Cris agreed. “Really bad for the cholesterol, in particular.”

“Somehow worse,” Laren said. “A grab bag of feds are going to be deployed to put a stop to the BLM protests; you may have heard about their test-run in Washington already. The plan is to have them wear nondescript uniforms with no identifying marks whatsoever, so they have extreme deniability- up to and including denying feds were ever even there. Using privately purchased armor and gear, so even that can’t give them away.”

“And leaving the door open for non-government militia types to cosplay as feds,” Rox said, as the true horror of the idea dawned on her. “Protestors won’t know the difference, won’t have a chance in hell of fingering either the cop or the supremacist responsible for violence. This is a license for fascism, given to fed and neo-nazi alike.”

“That’s pretty much the sum of it,” Laren said.

“Anything that can be done?” Rui asked.

“Pray? Plan B is, of course, do nothing.”

“I know I tend to be the slow man, here, but I don’t think doing nothing has gotten us much traction,” Ben said.

“She means it literally,” Anita said. “As in don’t stop Raif. Let him kill a President.”

“I don’t think you have nearly enough Mai Tai for this conversation,” Ben said.

“Exactly how much liquor do you think you need to get drunk?” Anita asked.

“I think he recognizes, correctly, that we’re going to need a hell of a lot more if we’re really thinking about what it sounds like we’re thinking about.”

“No,” Cris said. “We aren’t thinking about it.”

“That’s one vote against,” Rui said. “Anyone else want to wade prematurely into this quagmire?”

“I’m not laying out moral absolutism,” Cris said. “I’m saying I’ve known all of you for too long to think this is seriously on the table. But if you’re going to force me to, fine, I’ll quote at you: ‘The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.’”

“Yeah, but that quote is at best sexist,” Sonya said.

“Actually, John Stewart Mill was pretty feminist; in the 19th century he talked about how women were essentially slaves- and was also an abolitionist.”

“But what if both are evil?” Rui asked. “If refusing to act, and allowing something evil to happen to an evil man is wrong, but so is helping him, in the knowledge he will use his continued existence to mete out continued harm to others, including innocent people… what is the right thing to do?”

“Drink,” Rox said.

“If we drink every time Rui says something straddling the line between wise and up his own ass, we’re all dying of alcohol poisoning,” Sonya said. “Tonight.”

“No. I mean, for tonight, we drink. Tomorrow, everyone decides for themselves. We can do a secret ballot, we can just show or don’t. I don’t think I can dictate how we do this. But it needs to be done, whatever the outcome. But for tonight? I know I for one need to stop being so goddamned sober, or the weight of all of this is going to crush me.”

“I’ll drink to that,” Laren said, and downed her Mai Tai in two quick gulps.

“Second time,” Anita said, “and this blows away the first.”

“Am I going to have to mace you?”

“Only if we’re skipping the foreplay,” Anita said, punctuating it with two quick pumps of her eyebrows.

Breed Book 4, Part 40


“The trench coat was a stupid idea,” Mayumi said.

“It matches my fedora,” Demi said, dipping it at the shorter woman.

“Also stupid.”

“It also does this,” Demi spun in a circle, trailing the coat in her wake.

“Wow,” Mayumi said. “Now I’m sold.”


“No. Now I’m beginning to think you’re stupid.”

Without warning, rain began to pound down on them from the perpetually dark sky.

“Not so stupid now,” she said, flipping up her collar to help direct the rain from the brim of her hat down the outside of the coat.

Mayumi removed a small umbrella from a belt loop, extended it then held it over her head; it handily caught the rain and directed it away from her. “Plus,” she said, taking a breath, “mine cost a lot less, is far less conspicuous, and won’t make it all but impossible to defend myself if we get attacked.”

Demi scowled. “You used to be fun.”

“That is a filthy assault on my character and I will not have it. I bite my thumb at you.”

“Okay, that’s a pretty fun response. I can’t stay mad at you.”

“Especially not when we have an emergency to respond to,” Mayumi said.

“How-” Demi stopped, as her phone started to buzz, “did you do that?”

“I grew a new organ that’s sensitive to EMF changes.”

“You did that while I was picking out a trench coat, didn’t you?”

“Most of it. Some of it bled over into us eating hot dogs.”

“Maybe I am wasting my life.”

“The message?”

“Right. It’s a map. And I’m just now realizing I don’t know Seattle. At all.”

“Here,” Mayumi said, taking her phone. “I… may have run an op or two out of Seattle.”

“I hate how much more effortlessly cooler than me you are,” Demi said.

“Now you see why I don’t need a trench coat. Come on. It’s moving. We need to run.”

Mayumi started sprinting. Demi was struggling, trying to keep hold of both her coat and her hat, then flung both to the wind and chased after her. “Not a word,” Demi said, as she matched Mayumi’s speed. “Though I bet that looked cool.”

“There,” Mayumi said, hydroplaning to a stop.

“Wait,” Demi said, trying to come to a rest beside her, skidding over a curb and landing in a large puddle at the edge of a street. “You know, even though I was already soaked, that still sucked.”

“That black car,” Mayumi said.

“The one that looks worryingly like an undercover police car?”

“It’s a Crown Victoria, yeah,” Mayumi said. “Regular plate, though; not that long ago Washington got wise to the fact that having a plate that didn’t need tags gave the game away. But they’re accelerating. Can you stop them?”

“This is a shit-load of water and a not completely empty street between us and them.”

“It’s a yes or no question,” Mayumi said.

“I like to think of it as pass/fail.” Demi clawed at the air, and electricity leaped from a powerline above the car through its engine block.

“Holy shit,” Mayumi said.

“I guess, to answer your question as asked, no, I couldn’t hit it from here. But I didn’t have to.”

“Wasn’t what I was holy shitting,” Mayumi said, showing her the map. “Their cell disrupter is down. And we’ve got wifi. Here.” Mayumi tossed her back their phone. “I’m going to try and keep them from getting away.”

“But didn’t I-” the car squealed loudly from a block away, but the engine restarted. “Shit.”

“Call the cops,” Mayumi called, barely audible over the torrent of rain.

“Yeah, yeah,” Demi said, slowing down enough to dial the phone.

“911,” the dispatcher began, “what’s the nature of your emergency?”

“I just saw a black Crown Vic that I think was part of the shootings in and around Capitol Hill the past few days.”

“What makes you think they were part of the shootings in Capitol Hill?” the dispatcher asked.

“They had a gun?”

“Are you asking me?”

“Pretty sure it was a gun. Pointed it out a window at pedestrians.”

“But didn’t fire?”

“Is that what the Seattle police do? Wait for gunfire before responding?”

The dispatcher sighed. “Please stay on the line until officers arrive on the scene.”

Mayumi put her hand through the front passenger window. An instant later, a hand clad all in black, including gloves, pushed through the hole holding a boxy, blued semi-automatic. The gunman tried to push the weapon into her, but she pulled the arm down, smashing it into jagged daggers of glass. She pushed the arm until it hyperextended at the elbow and went limp, dropping the gun in the street as she and the car continued.

The driver peeled right, clipping her with the side of the car and scraping her along a pole as they passed. “You okay?” Demi asked, standing over her.

“Don’t let them get away,” Mayumi gasped, struggling to her feet. “I’ll survive.”

Demi didn’t hear it, and was already running. The car leapt the curb, trying to take a hard right, losing traction in the rain. It was enough of a slowdown for Demi to smack into the side of the car, her momentum knocking it onto two wheels before it slapped loudly back down on four.

She grabbed the door by the frame just beneath the window and torqued, hoping to pull the car off its path. Instead the door tore clean off its hinge, leading her to stagger backwards as the car sped away. “Well, crap,” she muttered. Then she had an idea, and started to spin again, released the door in an arc. It had been years since she threw discus, but it flew true, crashing through the rear window of the car and rocking the car as it turned down another side street.

“Hell of a throw,” Mayumi said breathlessly.

“You sound awful,” Demi said.

“Still forcing my ribs back out through my lungs. Which hurts more than I remembered.”

“We didn’t catch them,” Demi said.

“No. But I don’t think they’re coming back.”

“Not without a tank, at least.”

“Do the Seattle police have a tank?” Mayumi asked.

“That question’s going to keep me up at night for a whole host of reasons.”

Breed Book 4, Part 39


“So what are we doing?” Ben asked, hiding behind a parked car to avoid a burst of gunfire.

“We’re keeping Mr. Statutory Rapist away from Rox and Mira,” Rui said, carefully not to give Raif a shot.. “Well, you’re keeping me from doing that by asking inane questions because you slept through the part where we planned it, then ignored me while I went over the plan because you were enraptured with a chilli cheese burrito.”

“I remember the burrito,” Ben said wistfully.

“I’m going to haunt you when you inevitably get me killed,” Rui said.

“Not as much as that burrito will,” Anita said over a walkie. “I know you two are supposed to be bait, on account of losing the coin toss, but I meant more distraction than fish in a barrel.”

“How did we end up as bait again?” Ben asked.

“Because I let you flip the coin.”

“That wasn’t it.”

“You also picked tails even though I’ve never seen you flip anything but heads.”

“I’m due a tails. Statistically.” Another volley of fire struck the front of the car near Ben. “I think I may be forming a plan. Lean left,” Ben said. “Give him a hot foot. Draw just enough attention for me to knock him on his ass.”

“And if he shoots me?”

“Then I’m sure he’ll get me next, and you can kick my ass in Heaven.”

“I’m very amused you think we’re both getting in…” Rui said. He saw a tree a few feet from Raif, and pushed a wave of heated air towards it, lighting several low-hanging branches.

“I said a hot foot-” Rui leaned out again, even as Raif peppered the car with rounds. Rui pushed plasma along the ground, flash-frying a puddle into steam and catching Raif’s right sneaker. “I should boss you around more often,” Ben said, sending a shockwave through the asphalt. With Raif distracted, the movement beneath his feet made him stumble.

“So we’re doing our part,” Rui said into the walkie. “Where’s-” he was cut-off, as the cars to either side of Raif were lifted off the ground by small explosions. Immediately, gunfire chased Raif away from his vehicle into an alleyway. “Showoffs,” Rui said into the walkie. “I should probably,” Rui kicked off the ground, his entire body and his clothes becoming a heated a plasma.

“Negative,” Anita said over the walkie Ben was holding. “Just heard from Rox. She’s got Mira to agree to sit this one out. And if we follow Raif we’ve got a better chance of catching a bullet from D.C.’s finest/most racist than of ending the evening with Mai Tais. So I say we skip straight to the Mai Tais instead.”

“Which one was a Mai Tai?” Rui asked, landing and transmuting back into a solid.

“How do you not know that?” Sonya asked, crouching beside him.

“Because I left Brazil when I was thirteen, and even then it’s not like we all spend our lives on the beaches

“Why not?”

“Because it’s a real, functional country. Okay, so, not right this second, it’s not, because of how badly we’ve dealt with the pandemic, but neither is this one.”

“Ouch,” Sonya said, “but fair.”

“And it’s got rum in it,” Ben said. “And cure-a-cow-”

“Curaçao,” Sonya corrected.

“Along with almond and lime.”

“That does sound good,” Rui said. “Or maybe I’ve just been shot at a lot tonight- and a lot recently, come to think of it- so maybe I just really need a fucking drink.”

“You fugitives aren’t old enough to drink,” Anita said, disarming the alarm on their van.

“I still don’t understand why we got that,” Rui said. “The alarm is worth more than the van you installed it in.”

“Ah, but if we hadn’t gotten it, the van would have either been stolen or used as a communal toilet by a group of homeless people last week. Either way, well worth the hundred whatever bucks.”

“I’m not sure you could get the smell of urine even more strongly caked into that upholstery.”

“It’s not just that it was a urine smell, it’s really unhealthy urine. I don’t know the whole story, but infections that went years without treatment, probably some late-stage liver failure; can I say, as a Canadian, fuck your for-profit healthcare system.”

“Not mine,” Rui said, “Brazilian.”

“I mean, I technically have citizenship both in the tribe and in the US, but I’ve always considered the tribe more

“I still count it,” Anita said. “And you?”

“Yeah,” Sonya said, half scowling. “I’ve got no excuse, other than I voted for Bernie when I had the chance.”

“Regardless, this greedy system is bad and you should feel bad.”

“I do.”

“Me, too,” Ben said. “Half-bad, at least.”

“Anyway, I’m doing you a massive favor sparing you, even if I already had to smell it and still kind of can. It’s all I can do not to jam a hot poker up my nose.”

“All the way?” Rui asked. “Or just into the sinuses?”

“Either way, it would just become the last smell I could remember, which somehow makes it more vivid. So I need that drink at least as much as the rest of you.”

“So,” Ben said, swallowing. “I hate to have a one-track mind, here, but Mira? You didn’t say she was coming with us.”

“I didn’t get all the details, but it sounds like she’s still fence-sitting, though this time she’s sitting on the fence from the sidelines, which sounds like an upgrade. Ride the terrorist pine is preferable than actually being in the game-”

“Unless that’s a euphemism,” Sonya interjected. “Sorry, Ben.”

Sirens made Anita cock her head to the side. “All right, they’re playing our exit music.” She got into the driver’s seat, and the rest filed into the van.  

“So, it kind of feels like we only slowed them down,” Rui said as she started the engine.

“Well, the good news is he’ll ditch the gun. He’ll have to, to get through the police cordon. Bad news is we have to ditch ours, too- mine, I guess.” She threw her pistol into a bush as they passed. “But we should have an easier time replacing handguns; less regulations, more per capita than assault rifles. Unless he decides to go old school, pick up a long gun. But that changes the game; if he’s sniping there’s really only a handful of models that will get the job done- especially against a group of prepared, organized defenders like the Secret Service. I mean, if he were a professional I might be sweating, but I’ve seen his service record. He’s an acceptable shot, but he’s not even a designated marksman. It was probably always a baby blanket, anyhow.”

“So we’ve maybe got our friend out of a collision path with treason,” Sonya said.

“But otherwise left their assassination plot in progress,” Rui said.

“Half of us deserves a drink, the other half needs one.”

“I have a solution,” Ben said. “We’re all drinking for two tonight.” “Sometimes even a stopped clock. First round of doubles is on Tso.”

Breed Book 4, Part 38


 “Welcome to the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest, formerly CHAZ. You can call me Violet.”

“That’s a pretty name,” Demi said, stepping over a pile of cardboard that had been used to mark off the edges of a mural, and was covered in paint splatters.  

“I was named after my aunt. Fox rotted her brain; cancer rotted the rest of her after.”

“Oh. I’m sorry.”

“I wish I could be. But she died right before Drump was elected, and definitely would have voted for him. It’s kind of hard not to see it as her body stopping her from doing something inhumanly cruel- one last little kindness my old aunt did for me, before my new aunt decided to start calling me all the slurs they inundated her with under the pretense of ‘news.’ You two are from Bellingham, right?”

“I’m not sure how you know that,” Demi said.

“Well, you I recognize from your Instagram; Demi, right? Her I remember from some viral video of that militia that stormed your school. She beat one of those rednecks within an inch of his inbred life.”

“Not to be argumentative,” Demi said, “but she was holding back.”

“That doesn’t surprise me, or take anything away from the absolutely brutal way you realigned his entire belief system; any delusions about being part of any kind of master race are surely dashed now. Not that I would have trusted my own obsessive indexing of internet video as definitive; our geeks had you profiled before you crossed the border into the CHOP. I just remembered both of your digital fingerprints enough to volunteer to talk to you, to put a friendly face forward when we made our ask.”

“What do you need?” Mayumi asked.

“There’s been a series of shootings, the first couple in CHOP, the last just outside it- but close enough to it for everyone to pretend otherwise. The shootings have shaken the entire CHOP; some want us to invite the cops back in; the others just want all of us to pack it in- the mayor included. We want the shootings to stop. CHOP is probably on borrowed time, anyway, but we want it to end on our terms, not because someone’s taking advantage. And Mayumi, we believe, though haven’t been able to verity it, is former military. Not exactly a cop, but likely the closest facsimile likely to walk through our doors in the next few days.”

“Seattle’s not a small city,” Mayumi started. “Even the area around Capitol Hill is more than the two of us can cover.”

“For that we might have a solution. The last victim was a technopath. We think he was singled out because he noticed a cell phone dead zone- that they’re using a blocker. Kills cell phones, wifi.”

“I don’t think either of us can track that,” Demi said.

“No, but we’ve got a couple of technopaths in the CHOP. And they can call you.”

“Unless we’re already in the dead zone.”

“No, even then. See, this,” Vi handed her a walkie, “isn’t going to be hit by the scrambler. It’s been customized, amplified. Would probably work from Portland with a large enough battery.”

“Maine, or Oregon?”


“What do you think, Mai?” Demi asked. “Why not? It’s been days since I last got shot.”

Breed Book 4, Part 37


“Hey,” Rox said, giving a slight wave of her hand.

Mira dropped the can of lighter fluid on the sidewalk. Flames and smoke were billowing out of the Target, swirling around the Starbucks inside the entryway behind her. “Fuck are you doing here?”

“I would ask you, but I think the answer’s kind of the same: I followed the smoke. So why’d you set a Target on fire?”

Mira held out a half-crushed Starbucks coffee cup. Scrawled on the side was the word “ISIS.” “Technically,” Mira said, throwing the cup down, “I only set fire to the Starbucks inside the Target.”

“Noted. We might want to,” Rox nodded away.

“Yeah,” Mira said, and they started walking together, out of the shopping center parking lot. “How did you find me?”

A cop car blared by with its lights and sirens on. “Same way they didn’t,” Rox said. “Mahmoud got me close enough my ability did the rest.”

“You and your god-damned luck,” Mira said. “Wait, Mahmoud? He’s alive?” Her voice crackled with energy.

“We found him in Guantanamo, when we were breaking out the people the Drump Administration stole from the concentration camps.”

“Jesus, that’s fucked up.”

“Yeah. So. I hear you’re here to kill a President.”

“Mikaela told,” Mira said, her voice hollow.

“Wasn’t that what you wanted?” Rox asked, confused.

Mira said. “Yeah. But also ‘no.’ Aren’t you pissed? They find out the virus kills minorities, then they try to reopen the country. We exposed that family separation was a discriminatory shell game meant to find Breed, and they just spirit them away. I spent my whole life trying not to scare white people. Not to dress in ways that would make them uncomfortable, or wear my hair or groom myself in ways that would give them cause to discriminate against me. And it never worked. It was never enough. And it was always, somehow, my fault. I don’t agree with everything Raif’s done. I don’t know if I agree with any of it. But we were doing something. We weren’t just taking it, just letting ourselves and other people get hurt, over and over again. There’s a shelf-life on this shit; I think a part of me wants out before it kills me, or I do something I can’t forgive myself for. But the rest of me really wanted Mikaela to get it. To understand, maybe even respect it, a little- even if she couldn’t agree on the means, at least see that we were doing the same as her, the same as you, just trying to do good by our community.”

“Maybe she wants exactly what you want: a way out for you that isn’t a body bag. Maybe she sees that you want to do the right thing, you just need someone you care about and respect to talk some sense into you.”

“Yeah, but where would we find such a paragon of human virtue?” Mira asked, grinning.

“You don’t have to do this. Whatever this is. We’d take you back, in a second. And we’re fugitives, too, accused of shit at least as bad.”

“Yeah, but you didn’t actually do most of it.”

“Maybe,” Rox said. “But I don’t care. Ben doesn’t care. Rui won’t care. Cris might care, but his Christian ass will have to forgive you or burn in hellfire. We love you. All of us. And our hearts bleed every day knowing you’re out there, hurt, and separated from us. Come home- even if our home is now kind of a traveling circus.”

“Is Ben the elephant? I swear, that man shits like an elephant.”

“You’re the one who slept with him. And this is already way more than I wanted to know about your relationship.”

“What if there’s no going back?” Mira asked.

“I ask myself that every day. And I don’t know. I don’t know if we’ll ever be able to have normal lives again. We may not even be safe going back to the school. But… I can think of a worse group of people to be stuck in exile with.”

“I’ll think about it,” Mira said, “with a caveat. I can’t help you. I meant what I told Mikaela. I’m not sure this should be stopped. I’m out. I’ve been thinking about telling Raif that since Florida. But I can’t help you stop them; it would solve so much. I don’t think I could live with myself if I intervened on that… bigot’s behalf.”

“I have a counter-offer: you come back with me. You can stay as neutral as you need to, but while you’re thinking about it? Come back with me. See your friends. It would do all of them so much good to know you’re okay- to see it.”

“Because that would make the decision for me. If I went back, I could never leave. And I don’t want to be love-bombed, no matter how genuinely. I have to make this choice myself. But I hope… I hope I can take you up on it. The hardest thing about all of this was knowing you were all still out there, still okay, and that I couldn’t be with you. I just hope I can live with that choice.”

Breed Book 4, Part 36


“I feel weird about this,” the young woman said, pausing in the dormitory hall. 

“It’s Aishah, right?” Tucker asked.


“This is weird,” Tucker said, smiling. “You were kidnapped by your government, thrown in a black site prison, and rescued by people that same rogue government have labeled terrorists. And now you’re helping your fellow kidnappees settle into a college dorm where none of you were previously enrolled. It’s just weird, top to bottom.”

“That is,” Aishah agreed. “But it’s not what I meant.”

“You’ll have to excuse Tucker; he’s not a mind-reader,” Mikaela said with a snort.

“You are, aren’t you?” Aishah asked. He nodded, looking deflated. “It’s weird because I don’t like attention. I shrink when people look at me, and now I’ve got hundreds of refugees looking to me like I’m some kind of leader. Just because that strange woman handed me a gun in Guantanamo.”

“That is weird,” Mikaela said, with a smile. “But also… mostly not. Anita knows things, about all of us. She can see… versions of the future, I guess, you could call them- though she calls them drafts. She’s possibly nuts, too. But what she saw, in you, was important; the way you handled yourself made other people see it, too. And even if right now it feels uncomfortable, other people need to keep seeing in you what they saw that day. At leas for a little bit.”

“I know,” she said, staring out one of the dorm windows, at a group of students throwing a frisbee in the field several stories below. “We’ve all been ripped, from our homes, from our families, from our lives. I can see they just need some normalcy. I’m just not sure I can give it to them.”

“We’re here, to help,” Tucker said. “And if you want to transition out of a leadership role, we’ll help with that.”

“I’m not sure,” Aishah said. “Just because I don’t like it, that doesn’t mean I can shirk it, you know?”  

“Definitely,” Mikaela said.

“So I guess, you were giving me a tour.”

“Right,” Tucker started walking again. “Most of you missed the onslaught of the virus; so memes about not being able to find toilet paper or hand sanitizer will be Greek to you. On the plus side, we have ample supply of both for you, here. Some of the technopaths retrofitted our HVAC systems, so that every dorm room has its own air supply.”

“It makes most of the buildings from the outside look like they’re being devoured by mutant robot squids, but it provides as much safety as we can have, without having to send vulnerable students home,” Mikaela said. “Some did go home, but this school stayed at least somewhat open, because they knew that a lot of the people here are here because they had nowhere else to go.”

“The cafeteria is staffed by student volunteers, all closely monitored; our best interventions are still tech-based, though some of the other telepaths have been trying to telepathically isolate the virus; it’s challenging, because it’s a needle in a haystack. Viral thought is… primitive. Most telepaths can’t even communicate with animals, and the further back down the evolutionary ladder the less simple it is. Other volunteers deliver the food. People with accelerated immune systems or other abilities that make infection or spread less likely are encouraged to pitch in, but everybody has to decide for themselves. And at least so far, we’ve been doing a really good job of sustaining ourselves while keeping quarantine.”

“Any infections?”

“A couple. Traced back to a delivery truck. Guy was a super-spreader, personally responsible for like a hundred cases in a week from here to Seattle. But they were isolated, given the best care available, and recovered. Currently no infections at the school, but we’re staying vigilant, anyway.”

“Oh?” Aishah asked.

“Not sure if you heard about the militia that invaded the school. Well, after those ‘very fine people’ were pardoned by the President, one of them sent a box of infected items to our Dean. It was flagged by staff, and turned over to the authorities, but…”

“Shitheads will weaponize this,” Aishah said.

“Yeah,” Tucker said.

“Are we safe here?” Aishah asked, fear trembling in her voice.

“We’ve had our fair share of problems,” Mikaela said softly. “But this is also the largest concentration of Breed in the world. I think we could more than hold our own against anything short of a full government inva-“ Mikaela stopped when she recognized the tears welling in Aishah’s eyes. “Oh, God, I’m sorry.” She reached out, and Aishah latched onto her with surprising speed.

“I don’t want to be afraid,” Aishah said raggedly.

“But you were taken once, and of course you’re worried about it,” Mikaela said. “I think, right now, they couldn’t get away with storming the school. The optics of it, especially during a pandemic…”

“We also have contingencies,” Tucker said. “We can’t get everyone out; there are volunteers, among the students and most of the staff, to stay and buy time for the rest to escape. That’s one of the reasons we’re this far north- so we can flee across the border if necessary.”

Aisha sniffled, before straightening. “How do you volunteer?”

“Are you sure that’s something you want to do?” Tucker asked.

“Last time, I didn’t raise my fists. I told myself I had to be a model minority, not make a fuss, that it would only end in them doing worse to more of us. Then they put us in cages, and when they couldn’t keep us there any longer, they spirited us out of the country to Guantanamo. We aren’t human to them, and no amount of acting good, and right and submissive can change that. I won’t do that again. If there is a next time, I need to go down swinging.”

“Okay,” Tucker said. “Then we’ll need a few things. We need to know what your ability is; usually, we see it as polite not to ask until someone’s ready to talk about it, but for this we need to know, because we have to set you up with an advisor, to train. Because we do have to restrain ourselves, or we’ll validate a lot of their fears about us. And ultimately, we don’t want to hurt anyone. This is defensive. So we want to be as good as we can be at causing exactly the amount of damage we intend to.”