Breed Book 3, Part 10

Mikaela opened the door to Tucker’s car and slid inside. “Was beginning to think we’d have to pick you up at the corner store,” Tucker said, nodding at the rearview mirror, “because there’s our girl.”

Mikaela tossed a bag into the back as Irene opened the back door and sat behind Tucker. “You already got snacks,” she said, her voice creaking. “And a fidget spinner.”

“I felt bad,” Mikaela started, and Tucker cleared his throat, “about taking your pen earlier.”

“It’s okay. If I hadn’t had you two keeping me company for the trip down here, I’d have chewed every nail and cuticle off my hands. You helped distract me, is what I’m saying. And I appreciated it.”

“How’d it go with the prosecutor?” Tucker asked, pulling the car away from the curb.

“She was really nice.,” Irene replied. “And she said it went about as well as it could. Especially the parts where the defense opened the door for us. She said it was a really good sign he hardly had any questions on cross; it means the testimony was so devastating that more questions would just increase the damage. Still, I’m shaking.”

“You want your pen back?”

“I want to be less of a neurotic mess, if I’m being honest.”

“I have a pen,” Mikaela held it out to her, before putting a sucker in her fingers next to it, “or a lollipop.”

“I could make you sleep the whole way home,” Tucker said.

“Might that make me incontinent?” Irene asked.

“Only if that’s what you really want.”

“I might have something to say about that,” Mikaela said.

“Why?” Tucker asked. “It’s my backseat and her front seat, respectively.”

“I think I’d rather, remember this, if that makes any sense,” Irene said. “Whatever happens next. This feels like a moment I can use. I got a chance to stand up for us. And I did.”

“And we are both really proud,” Mikaela said.

“And a little jealous.”

“Was that why you were rallying so hard for me to wet myself?” Irene asked.

“Either you two have a stranger friendship than I realized, or this is some really weird flirting,” Mikaela said.

“She’s just jealous,” Tucker said, and Irene burst out laughing.

“There is nothing to be jealous of,” Irene said, barely containing more laughter.

“There isn’t?” Tucker whimpered.

“Now he’s just fucking with you.”

“I’m not sure Tucker’s ever not fucking with anyone,” Mikaela said. “We both love him and hate him for it.”

“Aw,” Tucker said, “really?”

“No. It’s mostly just hate.”

Breed Book 3, Part 9

“I feel bad,” Ben said, as another blow landed on Cris, this time delivered from a baton.

“Watching a gang of fascists beat your friend half to death will do that,” Rox said.

“It’s not like this was a practical joke we played on him,” Rui said. “If one of us is getting into ICE detention, it was going to be this way. And Cris can at least undo the damage done. Any of the rest of us would have spent several weeks in traction with broken hands, ribs, ow,” he winced, “dislocated limbs and I really hope that wasn’t his eyeball coming out of the socket.”

“We… might have to intervene,” Sonya said. “I think our plan fails if they beat him all the way to death.”

“Wait,” Anita said from the back seat. “I think Rox’s luck just intervened for us.” A police siren squelched as a patrol car drove through an intersection, and rolled to a stop beside the ICE agents. “Unless of course the local bacon and federal ham decide to stomp together.”

“We may have to intervene,” Rox said, “if Anita just jinxed us.”

“I shouldn’t be able to. Your whole thing is your supposed to be our lucky rabbit’s foot.”

“Yeah, well, you’re a black cat crashing through thirteen mirrors and rolling under thirteen ladders; I can only do so much, is what I’m saying.”

“Seems like it’s enough, for now,” Rui said. The cops were lifting the kid off the pavement, and took him to their squad car. The ICE agents walked Cris back to their SUV.

“Unless they give him the Freddie Gray treatment, and he dies in transport,” Ben said.

“I’m beginning to think that maybe this wasn’t the best-thought plan ever,” Sonya said.

“I think we’re just highlighting that when you go up against the brutal agents of the fascist police state, there’s going to be violence,” Rox said. “That’s why we’ve got to do what we can to keep Cris safe.” She started the van, and pulled into the street, about a quarter mile from where the ICE SUV was pulling into the road. “We still getting GPS off of Cris?”

“Yeah,” Anita said, “but I wouldn’t trust his life with it.”

“Noted. But if we don’t give ICE a little distance, they’ll catch onto us, and then we’ll all be in worse trouble.”

“Still feel like I should be behind the wheel; I’ve got tactical driving training.”

“And my powers might not have helped you. Shit.” Too late, Rox realized she was rolling through a stop sign at a four-way stop just as the patrol car arrived there from the opposite direction. She locked eyes with the officer driving, and suddenly he tilted, as his front passenger tired blew out loudly. Rox continued through the stop as the cop got out to examine the damaged tire.

“Show-off,” Anita muttered.

“It’s passive,” Rui said. “Her power works with or without her.”

“Though it’s less chaotic than it used to be,” she admitted. “Used to be if somebody said something mean behind my back in proximity, they’d face-plant within a dozen steps. It’s gotten a lot less… petty since.”

“I maintain she’s gotten less petty,” Sonya said. Rox’s eyebrow went up, as she side-eyed her from the driver’s seat.   

“That is the other reason we chose this location,” Rui broke in, “because we’re a couple of miles from an ICE facility. They’ll drop him off before they do anything else. Probably learned that keeping a Breed with unknown abilities in the backseat is just asking to get a laser bolt shoved through the back of your seat.” They were all silent a moment. “I’m going to assume we’re all wishing we could shove a laser bolt through the back of their seats about now.”

Breed Book 3, Part 8

Note: It’s Thursday, so this is your last Breed until Monday. There will be three more MCU pitches coming your way, though, so you don’t have to go to bed lonely over the weekend. Frack; apparently this didn’t post yesterday. So have it late, I guess.


“That was tense,” Tucker said. “And intense. I think I’m both angrier than I’ve ever been… and sadder. And given the last few years those are not low bars.”

“Yeah,” Mikaela said. “On the one hand- hoe-lee-crap, did Irene do a good job. On the other hand, my heart is fucking breaking for her. After last year, to be revictimized again… I guess we’ve all had to grow up, and quick. But she’s a kid. An actual fucking baby. I imagine me, what, four years ago, trying to deal with what she has, with the tiniest fraction of the poise and grace she just did and I- God, I just want to cry and I can’t because she’s going to come out here any minute and we’re supposed to be her support network and how the hell would that work if I’m sobbing?”

Tucker smiled. “It’s not too late for you to pull a duplicate out of the mirror and then hide in the trunk and sob the whole trip home.”

“It’s kind of good you’re a dude, now; because you’re a dick.”

“Let’s be fair- I was always a dick. You just used to enjoy being dicked around more than you do, now. And, to the extent I have the capacity to not be a dick, I’m saving that up for Irene. She just gave us probably our best damn chance of convicting those bigoted assholes and keeping us all safe. She’s all of our fucking hero,” Tucker sniffled, “aw, fuck, now you’re getting me all emotional.”

“Maybe that’s not so bad, though,” Mikaela said. “Maybe after all of that, what she’s really going to need is a big old cry. And to be held.” Tucker eyed her. “Platonically held. I’m fairly certain she does not swing my way.”

“I’m just busting your lady-balls,” Tucker said. “But I’ve kind of been thinking. When she was attacked, the way we handled it…”

We didn’t handle it. The Dean did.”

“Sure. But we were there. And he’s a he. And you’re not. I haven’t always been. We have perspective. And, right now I’m just kicking myself that because of that, what happened, what she just described- what if all of that hit her harder because of what we did?”

“Shit,” Mikaela said.  

“And… I think for us- as in, all of us- it was the right call. If bigots like Drump could have spent the last year crowing about us not even being safe at the school, and at the same time finally have even on tiny piece of evidence to justify the way he’s demonized all of us as rapists … but just because it was better for the rest of us, doesn’t mean it didn’t hurt Irene. Doesn’t mean we were right to go along with it.”

“Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have interceded, and made sure it was her call, top to bottom. Because look at what she did in there? I have no doubt she would have chosen the greater good, even though it hurt her. And maybe she did. Maybe she feels like she did. I just feel awful that I can’t know it, now. Like, even if you tried to read her, people paper over details like that. By now I’m sure she’s convinced, consciously, that it was as much her idea as anything. But that doesn’t mean we didn’t hurt her- doesn’t mean she isn’t still holding onto to those scars, and getting hurt worse by this dumpster fire of a world we’ve failed so badly at protecting her from.”

“Whoa there, cowboy,” Tucker said. “Look, I know you feel like an elder statesman because you can legally buy a beer, but we’re barely adults, and we really can’t take all that much credit for this absolute shit-show of a world. Unless you think pubescent us should have taken over the world and remade it in our horny, lesbian image.”

“We definitely should have. Probably would have been a gay old time. With me we’d have an army, and you could control anyone we couldn’t intimidate with that army.”

“I’m not entirely sure teenaged, noodle-armed you would be all that intimidating. Adorable, absolutely, but take over the country scary?”

“You could have made me seem more intimidating.”

“Starting to sound less like a partnership.”

“Yeah, screw it. We won’t track down a time machine and take over the world. But you know what I mean. She shouldn’t have had to deal with any of this.” “Neither should we,” Tucker said. “We all deserve better. Best we can do is try to make sure those who follow us get what we deserved.”

Breed Book 3, Part 7

“I legitimately can’t tell if I pulled the short straw,” Cris said, “or if the rest of you heard me saying I wanted to do more and interpreted that as being a sacrificial lamb.”

“Some of it was all the Jesus talk,” Ben said.

You were the one who brought up- you know what? Nevermind. Because either way, this is something. It’s something stupid. Dangerous. Crazy.”

“Ah,” Sonya said.

“Sorry. Reckless.”

“Thank you.”

“That’s our brand,” Rox said. “If you wanted us to reinvent the entire wheel, that would have at least entailed a longer conversation.”

“All I’m going to say is if I get killed in ICE custody, I won’t be healing any of you again.”

“That sounds fair. Now, Laren’s brief says that ICE come through this neighborhood practically daily. The corner’s a popular haunt, both for local gangs and dealers, but also just for the kids who live in the area. ICE don’t much care if they’re roughing up innocent LatinX citizens or if they’re, you know, criminals. And when they do come through, it’s pretty much always this time of day, around shift change for the local PD, so they get a few extra minutes to stomp the crap out of their targets- though half the time it sounds like the cops join in if they do get called.”

“I am not looking forward to getting stomped.”

“You can heal yourself almost instantly,” Ben said.

“The stomping still hurts. And I’m not assuming that they won’t have some kind of dampening field when I’m in custody.”

“Well, it looks like we’re in luck, and you’re out of it,” Sonya said from the front passenger seat. They could see several men in ICE armor kicking someone on the ground, holding up his hands.

“Let me out here,” Cris said. “We don’t want it obvious I got out of this van.”

“Right,” Rox said, stopping on the other side of the street. Cris slipped out, and the van rolled away, before turning down the street.

“Everything okay?” Cris asked.

“Sir, I’m going to suggest you keep your distance. We’re detaining dangerous –”

“Que pasa?” Cris asked. He tried to get a look at the person being held on the ground. “Cuantos años tienne?” he asked.

“Don’t think I like your tone.”

“No quiero tu cara, puta.”

“Now ‘puta’ I hablo, Pablo,” the agent said, extending a baton and advancing on Cris.

“Crap,” he muttered, ducking the first swing of the baton. That was when he saw enough of the kid on the ground to realize he wasn’t even in high school, and there was a growing pool of blood beneath him. “This is really going to hurt,” he whispered, before diving onto the pavement. He had his hand outstretched, like he was stealing a base, which meant he couldn’t break his fall at all. It did mean he managed to heal the kid a little before the first baton blow hit him. But the burst of light that traveled from his hand to the kid gave the game away.

“Breed freak!” one of the ICE agents yelled, before kicking him.

Cris couldn’t really get his bearings, as blows rained down on him, but he comforted himself that at least they were laying off the kid. He managed to catch the kid’s eyes, and saw a cut on his head that had healed when Cris touched him. “You’ll be okay,” Cris started to mouth to him, but was cut off by a blow from a baton in the face.

Breed Book 3, Part 6

Content Warning: I’ve always gone back and forth and content warnings. A part of me hates anything beyond like TV ratings, with very vague warnings, because I want to be able to surprise the reader; but I recognize the stress and discomfort that brings to readers, and I hate that, too. The compromise I think I’m going to try out is this; in blog form, I’ll flag moments that seem like they push the envelope at all, like this one, and in the print version, I’ll include a content warning at the front of the book, maybe with links back to it from warning-worthy chapters. That way, if you’ve got something you want to either avoid or want advance knowledge of, you get it, but if you’d rather have the surprise, you can have that, too. I’m weighing whether, in that case, it makes sense to include a synopsis, as an example for this chapter: Irene testifies at the trial of the militia men who invaded the campus, discussing in harrowing terms being hit by one, then overhearing others discuss sexually assaulting her class mates. It hit her harder, because she was assaulted the year before by a classmate.


Irene felt penned in by the witness stand. It reminded her too much of being locked in a broom closet with several other students, and she pushed the thought out of her mind.

“Ms. Trellane,” the prosecutor said, “you’ve driven down from Bellingham to be here with us today. You’re one of literally hundreds of students and faculty taken hostage at gunpoint by the defendants-“

“Objection,” defense counsel said, “prosecution is testifying.”

“Sustained,” the judge said.

“Right.” A thin smile spread over the prosecutor’s lips. “Were you taken hostage at gunpoint during the events of the siege of your school?”

“I was.”

“And are those who, among other things, took you hostage, in this courtroom?”

“Yes,” Irene said.

“Could you point them out for us.” Irene pointed at the co-defendants seated at a table with their lawyers. “Let the record show the witness has pointed out the defendants as her hostage takers.”

“Which ones?” Defense counsel asked.

“Wait your turn, counselor,” the judge admonished.

“Go ahead, Ms. Trellane. Point out which men you saw personally, and then tell us what you saw them do.”

Irene swallowed. “The man with sideburns, the moustache, and the asymmetrical patches of grey at his temples. He was the one who directed me, and several other students, at gunpoint, into a closet at the school. I don’t know much about guns, but he had a long gun, with a, with the hinge, that breaks down the middle.”

“An overunder shotgun. I call attention to exhibit 17C, a Blaser F16 overunder shotgun, registered to the defendant Ms. Trellane identified, Mr. Wagner Hegel. Mr. Hegel’s fingerprints were the only ones on the gun, trigger, stock, as well as on the shell in either barrel. Mr. Hegel was also found with several matching shells on his person at the time of his arrest. Now, Ms. Trellane, was Mr. Hegel alone?”

“No. He did seem to be he oldest one there, and in a position of authority, a least over those who were with him. Those included the shorter man with dark hair seated at the end of the table-

“Mr. Bartholomew.”

“And the taller man with glasses and light brown hair.”

“The one nearer us, or closer to Mr. Bartholomew?”

“Closer to us.”

“That would be Mr. Batts. All three were taken into custody at the same location by campus police. And you only saw those three?”

“Like I said, they put us in a closet.”

“You were hesitant to go into the closet, were you not?”

“Yeah,” Irene said, and looked down at the rail separating her from the prosecutor.

“Could you tell the court why that was?”

“They had guns, and not our best interests at heart, I suspected. But also… I was assaulted on campus last spring.”

“I’m entering into the record a report of that altercation, filed on April 3rd of that year,” the prosecutor said, before turning back towards Irene. “Because of that attack, when told, at gunpoint, to go into the closet, you hesitated?”

“Yes,” Irene said softly.

“Now let me back up, a moment. Mr. Hegel was armed. What about Mr. Batts and Mr. Bartholomew?”

“Mr. Bartholomew had a handgun; I don’t think I ever saw him without it in his hand, and I don’t recall seeing a holster for it. The gun had a cylinder. Shiny, silver, with a black scope on it, about,” Irene held her hands about a foot apart.

“That sounds like a description of a Taurus revolver, belonging but not registered to Mr. Bartholomew. The gun had been cleaned recently, but not well; his fingerprints were found inside the revolver at several places only accessible while the weapon is disassembled, exhibit 17F. What about Mr. Batts?”

“Mr. Batts had two weapons.” Irene noticed that, subtly, the defense counsel leaned forward in his seat. “One was a knife, tied to his leg in a black plastic sheath. I never saw him remove it. On the other side he had a handgun, small, a lot smaller than the revolver. It was also in a black plastic, holder, and it looked sort of plastic, too. At first I wasn’t sure what it was.”

“Is this it?” The prosecutor handed her a photograph of the gun.

“I think so.”

“That’s a Ruger. Found on the person of Mr. Batts, fingerprints on the holster, not on the gun, the magazine or any bullets. He reported it stolen last December in a home robbery. Did you ever see Mr. Batts touch the gun?”

Irene’s eyes narrowed. “No. Once or twice his hand kind of hovered over the holster. And there was one time, when they were trying to get us to go into the closet, when he was tapping on the holster impatiently. But I never saw him draw the gun. The other two never put their guns down; he never picked his up.”

“That would explain why the gun had no fingerprints on it.”

“He also had gloves,” Irene said. “Purple cleaning gloves, tucked under his belt and kind of hanging out from under it.”

“So these three armed men were trying to intimidate you into the closet. What happened next?”

“I froze, for a moment, remembering the attack.”

“Then what happened?”

“Mr. Hegel hit me.”

“Hit you how?”

“With his hand.”

“With an open or closed fist?”

Slowly, she balled her fist, and the word came out ragged, “Closed.”

“If you need to take a break,” the prosecutor prompted.

“I’m okay,” Irene said, though she wasn’t sure if that was true.

“Can you describe for us the injury.”

“It broke two bones, around the eye;  the cheek and the, I guess eyebrow. It wasn’t too bad, that day; it hurt, but only swelled up a little. But by the next day I woke up and I couldn’t open the eye.”

“I’m entering into the record exhibit 79A, records from the campus clinic corroborating the injuries Ms. Trellane describes.” She leaned in. “Go on.”

“I think, the other students helped me into the closet. I was still a little in shock, moving slowly, but they grabbed my arms and ushered me into the closet, kind of shielding me from attack.”

“What happened after that?”

“We tried to talk, quietly, among ourselves. We tried calling the police; they didn’t take our phones, but none of us could get a signal.”

“I would point out exhibit 68A, an illegal cell signal blocker, as well as repeaters for said blocker, 68B through F, found at the campus. They seem to have been ordered by Mr. Schultz, who claimed they were to be used for academic purposes, and paid with a credit card by Mr. Batts. Fingerprints belonging to six of the men seated at defense counsel were found on the equipment. And what about your abilities, Irene?”

“I can do weird stuff with my voice, even float, if I concentrate enough.”

“I mean, the school is, primarily, one focused on the instruction of gifted students, what some scholars have called Breed abilities. President Drump himself has likened those abilities to weapons of mass destruction. So how could a poorly armed, poorly organized militia take five of you- let alone a whole campus- hostage?”

“Our abilities wouldn’t work. And for most of us, they’re just useless talents, like being able to wiggle your ears or turn your eyelids inside out. Some students can use a computer without a mouse and keyboard, some of us can talk without using our mouths. But we aren’t soldiers, or SWAT. And outside of life or death situations, the textbook answer in a crisis is still not to act.”

“I’m sorry, textbook?”

“Maybe a poor choice of words. But the handbook, when we go through orientation. They warned us about just this kind of situation, and that, most of the time, advice from experts is still to remain calm and passive. It’s only if you believe that you’re going to be killed that the equation changes, like on the hijacked planes on 9/11.”

“So even if your abilities were working, you would not have tried to fight back?”

“Not until it was clear that they meant to harm us.”

“Wouldn’t you classify the damage done to your eye socket and cheekbone ‘harm’?”

“Sure. But I expected to live through it. And that’s the goal in a hostage situation. To live through it. Everything else becomes secondary.”

“So you and these other four students, you were all hunkered down inside this closet. Would you tell the court what happened next?”

“My hearing’s pretty good. I think- really, a friend I have who’s pre-med has a theory- that since my ability works with sonics, that I subconsciously protect myself from all the various little ways people’s hearing gets damaged over time.”

“Ms. Trellane has been examined by a regionally renowned ENT specialist who can back that up, if the defense requires verification; I’ll sum up the findings, her hearing is superb, into the 99th percentile. What did you hear?”

“Mr. Hegel left. I didn’t catch all of it; they were whispering, and talking over one another. There was some kind of device he needed to see to, so he left. After that, I heard the other two talking. They were louder, now. One of them tried to be quieter, even tried to get the other one to be quiet, but he refused. I don’t know which was which; they hardly spoke before they put us into the closet. But the one with the deeper, louder voice, he was the one who,” she stopped, her lip quivering. “He suggested they separate us. He said he,” her breathing was speeding up, “he thought he could teach us to fucking respect them. He said he wanted the redhead, unless her face got too fucked up. Then the other one laughed, and said he’d take the black bitches.”

“What did you do?” the prosecutor asked, as the rest of the court sat in stunned silence.

“I had us move, so two of us were leaned against the door, to it would be harder for them to get it open. And I said, ‘We can’t let them separate us.’”

“What happened after that?”

“We stayed there. A couple of times they tried to open the door, and we pushed against it so they couldn’t get in. They yelled at us, threatened us. We pretended like we couldn’t hear them through the door. Pretended we were just stupid, silly schoolgirls who didn’t have any idea what was going on, played at being oblivious. Each time they stormed off. Once or twice they told us if we didn’t move they’d shoot through the door. The others wanted to listen to them, but… I refused to move.”

“Did you think, if you let them inside, that the men who held you at gunpoint and threatened you would assault you?”

“Objection, calls for speculation,” the defense counsel argued.

“I’ll rephrase. Were you afraid, if they got in, that they would hurt you and the other students?”

“I knew they would,” Irene said, her voice quaking with angry defiance. “That’s why I refused to let them in.”

“I’m sorry, Ms. Trellane, that that happened to you. It happened because we failed to protect you, and those other students. But we can clarify, today, that what happened to you was not okay. We can tell people who might consider doing something similar in the future, that they will be held responsible for their actions. I know nothing can make up for our failure to protect you, but I hope that will be a start. Nothing further from this witness at this time.”

Breed Book 3, Part 5

Note: There’s a new method to my madness. I’ve found, in finishing the last book, that the back and forth nature of the story opens it up to a new kind of drafting. What I do is I edit a chapter for Group A, then write the next chapter for group A, all in the same day. That way I’m always a couple chapters ahead, once I get into a nice rhythm, and it makes it easier to keep the momentum going. Not sure it would work with other stories, but it’s really helped me keep on task, when even the rage wasn’t enough.


“What the fuck was that?” Sonya asked angrily.

“I do miss her,” Cris said, emotion nearly choking the words from him.

“I meant about you ‘getting it.’”

Cris swallowed. “I do. We’re reacting. It’s what we did at that NSA facility. What we did in Moscow. And she’s acting. There aren’t mornings when you wake up, your sense of right and wrong bloodied from the day before, where you just want to throw a punch?”

“Whoa,” Ben said, throwing up his meaty hands. “What would Jesus do, man?”

“I’m not Jesus,” Cris said, his voice flattened by anger. He exhaled hotly. “I don’t do those things, obviously. But I want to, sometimes. And I’m not sure… I guess it weighs on me. What if Mira’s doing the right thing for the wrong reasons, and we’re siting on our hands for the wrong ones, too- namely for our own moral superiority? What would Jesus do, Ben? He wouldn’t stand by while injustice and hate rampaged across the land. He would help. I don’t know how, exactly, but I think he’d do more than I have- more than I’ve figured out how to do. And that, more than anything, weighs on me. It’s worrying to me it doesn’t seem to weigh on the rest of you.”

“I hate to break it to you, but you’re not the only one with Catholic guilt here,” Rox said, “ever-so-lapsed as I may be.”

“I think we all struggle, just trying to get by in all this,” Ben said, gesturing madly around the room. “The world in on fire, literally, in some places. There’s a megalomaniac who wants to lock most of us away, and basically has the power to, and now, come to find out, the asshole’s actually doing it.”

“And worse,” Sonya said, touching Cris’ shoulder. “There isn’t a one of us doesn’t wake up wishing we knew how to do more, how to put things right, how to make the world make sense again. I’m sorry I snapped at you. I’m so fucking angry at Mira right now. And I think I know, too- and it terrifies me- that it could have been me. If things had happened a little differently, if I was the one who got separated- some nights I dream about what I could do with my ability if I stopped trying to take the high ground. It would be so easy. Any one of us could make Timothy McVeigh look like an amateur with a half an hour. And with the way Drump and so many- so many assholes have treated us- I know it’s wrong, down to the very core of my being, but when one of us snaps and hurts people, it will not have been unprovoked, a thousand-fold. And if I didn’t have you, it might have been me. If anything happened to the rest of you, it maybe still could be.”

They started to move together for comfort, but Laren stopped Ben with a hand on his shoulder. “Ben,” she said, “a word before you join the others in a chorus of Kumbuya.”

“You, uh, know they’re just blowing off steam, right?” Ben asked, his expression suddenly serious.

“I didn’t hear anything,” she said. “And I’m not sure you’ll want to acknowledge hearing what you’re about to.”


“Your brother’s gone. Your whole tribe is gone.”

“Gone to…” his eyebrows shot up, “oh,” he said, so softly she couldn’t hear it.

“They were attacked. So far as we can ascertain, it wasn’t humans.”


“You’re pretty remote here. That’s why we chose the location. No cell towers in range, only the one fiber optic line in or out. Which means you haven’t heard this.” She played him a sound, like a violin string, but shrill, like it was screaming. Then they heard the sound of a human scream, and a man yelling. Panic, hysteria, and the sound of blood and bodies hitting the dirt.

“Jesus,” he said.   

“Your brother tried to call you. We think he died before the call connected. I’m not going to show you the pictures, or the video, but.. suffice to say there aren’t weapons known to man that would explain what happened. It’s a shitshow; Grand Badger’s always been under joint jurisdiction of the Bureaus of Indian and Breed Affairs. I got looped in, early, which is how I got the recording, and the other digital evidence. But DHS is pulling rank, now, and freezing the rest of us out. Some of the elders we inherited from agencies are whispering they might just disappear the rest of the evidence. Or if it fits Drump’s narrative, maybe the leak it to the press in the most damaging way possible. I don’t know what’s going to happen; might be nothing for a while. But when it does, it’s going to be loud, and ugly. And you deserved to know, . You okay?”

“Did it hurt?”


“James. Dying.”

“It didn’t look peaceful, but… your brother was a good man. So if there’s even a little justice in this world, it didn’t hurt.” “There isn’t,” Ben said.

Breed Book 3, Part 4


Irene had been clicking her pen since Tucker’s car left Bellingham, sometimes in time with the music, at others, Mikaela assumed, to the rapid beating of her heart. “I’m nervous,” Irene said finally, folding over the back seat.

“It doesn’t take a psychic,” Tucker said.

“You damn near wore out the spring in that pen,” Mikaela said.

“Shit,” Irene said. “Sorry.”

“It’s okay,” Mikaela said warmly. “It’s okay to be worried. It’s okay to let that worry manifest in slightly obnoxious ways. This is kind of a big deal.”

“Not helping,” Tucker said, a little too loudly.

“I know it is,” Irene said. “That’s why I’m anxious. What these men did- it wasn’t just threatening to the campus, or students. It was a statement, to make sure that every single one of us, no matter where we went, no matter who we became, or no matter where  people like us are now- we aren’t safe. We need consequences, because otherwise it will be a beacon to people like them, declaring open season on people like us. Societal sanction, saying the rest of humanity stands with us against people who would intimidate us. Only… humanity are kind of selfish, frightened jerks, a lot of whom would kind of rather we just went away and stopped making them feel like they aren’t always at the top of the food chain, anymore. So it’s kind of an uphill thing.”

“Yeah,” Mikaela said, “but when they asked us what happened, you were the one who caught their eye. They had a whole campus full of witnesses, and they chose you. They have faith you can deliver for us- and so do we.”

“That helps,” Irene said, beginning to click the pen again unconsciously. The third click broke through her fugue, and she grimaced. “Sorry,” she said, and handed the pen into the front seat.

“It’s okay,” Tucker said. “We’ll get you a fidget spinner for the drive home.”

“You think I’ll still be nervous on the trip home?”

Tucker smiled. “Unless your testimony is so awing they decide to skip large swaths of the trial, including jury deliberations and closing statements, I think we’ll all be driving home wondering how it will turn out.”

“Crap,” Iren said. She started to fidget, balled her hands and tensed all the muscles on her face before relaxing them. “Could I have my pen back?”

“Sure,” Mikaela said, handing it back to her. “There isn’t, uh, anything you could do?”

“Messing with brain chemistry isn’t something I do lightly,” Tucker said. “She might get up on the stand sounding like she’s on horse tranquilizers. Or enough cocaine to kill half of Wall Street.”

“I think I’ll be okay without,” Irene said. “And after last year… I’m kind of looking forward to having my day in court.”

Breed Book 3, Part 3

“Think I’ve got it,” Laren said, taking a step back from the TV. An instant later and Mira appeared, both on the tablet Laren was holding, as well as the screen.

“This is weird, I know,” Mira said, in an echoing stereo that prompted Laren to mute the tablet. “It’s been too long. I didn’t tell Laren everything, because I didn’t want her to cut me out.”

“Smart,” Laren said.

“I wanted to see you, at least like this. I knew if I was there… I might never be able to leave. And I don’t know if I’m ready for that…”

“Ahem,” Laren said into her fist, steadying the tablet with her other hand.

“Right. I wish I could handle this myself. But it’s delicate. It’s the kind of thing that- if Raif and the rest got caught, even on film, attacking one of these camps… if it’s kids, it’s harder to spin. You know?”

“They don’t,” Laren said, “because you’re dancing around the point.”

“Yeah. It’s hard to even say, it’s so… gutting. Like, this country’s never been perfect; I’m a black woman, so that isn’t a news flash to me. But this… it takes one of the most evil things we ever did and takes it a step further. At the border, they’re separating children from their parents. Kids of all ages, going into separate facilities, sometimes hundreds of miles apart. I’ve heard the administration is even trying to permanently adopt the kids out to Americans, to make the separation permanent. A shiver runs down my spine at the abject inhumanity. The story hasn’t broke yet, but it’s going to- I tried telling a few reporters, and they all but told me they were working on their own variation on the piece- with better sourcing than I was offering.”

“Seems dismissively dickish to me,” Rox said.

“Thank you!” Mira said with a smile. But as quickly as it came, the smile faded, and Mira sighed. “It won’t be enough. The bigots who back this president will continue to back him, and that soulless 40% is enough to keep the Republicans in his pocket. Nothing will happen. Again. Unless you can make it happen. It’s… really good to see you, all of you, if only for a moment. I miss you. And I love you. And if there’s anything I can do to help, let me know.”

“The other bit,” Laren said.

“Yeah.” Mira steeled herself. “I’ve heard they’re sterilizing Breed women.”

“What?” Sonya asked, her voice creaking loudly.

“Like, with that cleaning powder stuff?” Cris asked, his tone betraying his lack of hope for that outcome.

“Hysterectomies, is what I’ve heard. I can’t verify it. Rumor is it was one doctor, not on staff, but anyone related clammed up the moment I asked anything about it.”

“You were there?” Rox asked.

“Got a tip. I knew the delicacy involved, and that I couldn’t take it to Raif. I had to know… as much as I could. Because if I took it to someone else, and it was nothing… I burn a bridge. If I brought it to all of you, and I was wrong… I might have gotten you hurt. And I don’t know how I’d live with that.”

“It wouldn’t be the first time you hurt us,” Ben said.

“That’s not fair,” Mira started.

“Maybe,” Rox said. “But it’s not not fair, either.”

“Fine,” Mira said. “I love you, all of you. And I get why you’re pissed.”

“We aren’t all pissed,” Cris said. “I get it. But we do miss you. Don’t stay away too long.”

“I miss you, too,” she replied, and both screens went dark together.

Breed Book 3, Part 2


“The whole world is on fire,” Mikaela said under her breath, slumping into the cushions on the couch.

“The wild fires? There’s still smoke all over the campus.” Drake asked as he closed the front door, then jumped over the back of the couch and landed bumpily beside her. “Fucked up, right? Or did you mean Iago getting smoked?”

“I meant-“

“It’s no fair playing basketball with you,” Iago said from the door, dripping with sweat. “You never get tired. It’s like trying to outrun a cheetah.”

“Cheetahs are sprinters, dude; I was a distance runner. And if anything, I’ve lost a step since my ability set in.”

“Hot as balls,” Iago said, ignoring him, sticking his head in the freezer.

“Can’t you control temperature?” Tucker asked, stomping down the stairs. He walked through the kitchen and hit Iago with the fridge door as he procured a water.

“It’s not the same, especially not controlling something as finicky as body temperature. Or maybe it doesn’t work like that… I don’t know. I can freeze myself, but I still feel the same temp.”

“Could all of you just shut up for fifteen seconds?” Mikaela snapped.

“Uhhhhhhhhhh,” Tucker said, stopping mid-step.

“I don’t think that counts as shutting up,” Iago whispered to him.

Mikaela rolled her eyes, and turned the volume up on the television. “taking you to our reporter on the ground, but first we should stress that this is live footage of an active and brutal murder scene, where it appears that every tribal member of the Grand Badger reservation has been slain. The tribe is famous for it’s saturation of members with so-called Breed abilities. Police are combing the area for leads and any information about suspects, but at this time we can say that the footage is graphic and disturbing, and should not be viewed by children of all ages.” Mikaela turned off the TV as soon as the first bloodied image flashed on the screen. “Christ,” Tucker whispered. “That was Ben’s tribe.”

Breed Book 3, Part 1


1) I finished Subnautica the day I offered to delete my save. It was a slightly empty gesture. Ain’t I a stinker?

2) I live just outside the area in the Northwest where they’re evacuating. It’s possible I’ll have to pause and run from fire.

3) I had serious trouble getting this done, because I fell back into my pitches from last year. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have.

4) Maybe partially due to smoke inhalation, or maybe just because clean living can’t indefinitely stave off a sinus infection, I’m getting sick. I’ll endeavor to fight through it, but posting lag may happen. I’ve already given the pitches all a once-over, so if I can summon the wherewithal, I’ll still post those if I can’t keep up.

One: Prologue

Nights like tonight the star seemed to weigh extra heavy on James Tso’s chest. Between half the reservation being a Superfund site, and the fact that they had the highest concentration of Breed anywhere on the planet, they didn’t get a lot of visitors, especially not this late at night- and the few they did usually needed to be set right before going on their way. Half the town called him when the unknown truck rolled in; the other half were already waiting for him on Main Street.

There was an older man with some kids, most no older than James’ brother. The older guy was James’ age, carried himself like a man spent time in the military- but not so much time he rose to the kind of officer sits behind a desk. He smiled as James put his truck into park and got out. “The man we’ve been waiting for,” Raif said. “You got some real loyal people here, chief. Insisted we wait until you arrived before they’d hear us out.”


“These people do look up to you. But you’re also the police chief, aren’t you?”

“Sheriff. Tso.”

“Tso? Hmm. You’re brother’s a good kid. Stubborn. Obstinate. More food-motivated than anyone I ever met, save for maybe my mom’s Pomeranian.”

“What about Ben?” James asked, the mention of his brother coming across as a threat.

“Whoa, there, Sheriff. No need to put the spurs to me. We’re all friends here- or at least, I’d like for us to be.”

“Then maybe you should understand that showing up in our quiet little town in the dead of night don’t come across as friendly-like.”

“That’s fair. It is early. Or late. Depending. But I’m afraid this just wouldn’t keep. Our people are at war. It’s a war we didn’t start, but there is a warmonger in the White House aching for a chance to turn the might of the Federal Government on us. I served overseas; I’ve seen that might turned on innocents, watched girls and boys turned into a steaming soup. We wait for their war machine to warm up, and we won’t stand a chance, not even with all the miraculous things our people can do.”

“Our people?” James asked. “Casper there don’t like too native to me,” he nodded in the direction of a lanky, light-skinned kid standing just behind Raif, who refused to make eye contact.

“No. Sorry. I mean Breed. You. Me. An outright majority of your good citizens here. We have… an opportunity, while the iron’s hot, to put the world back on its axis. But we can’t afford to squander it, either. It’s now, or never. Which is why I didn’t come here to take ‘No’ for an answer.”

“How about this, then? You take ‘Get the fuck off our reservation, before I whup you in front of your acolytes’ for an answer.”

“Now, Sheriff, I was told you were a reasonable man. Reasonable to a fault, even.” A young girl hid her phone as Raif walked past. He stopped, and stooped to her level, unaware of James’ hand going to his gun. “Go ahead. Film this. I’m not a shy man. Not a proud one, either; I’m not in this for me. I’m in this because I’ve seen what happens to minorities who hope for the best from good white folk. You shouldn’t need that shooter, James,” Raif turned back towards the Sheriff. “No,” he smiled, “I’m not psychic. But were I you, I’d have been itching for that iron myself. But I really don’t want us to be anything but pals.”

“Then why don’t you skip ahead to your reasonable ask, then; and if we don’t reason into joining you, then you can reasonably fuck off.”

“I can see I’ve touched a nerve; I apologize for that, truly. So I’ll level with you: we’re not here asking for you to join a mailing list, or participate in some pissant march. Drump is a monarch, in all but title; the only thing he’ll understand is heads rolling- especially his own.”

“I think you’re done here,” James said, flicking the catch on his holster.

“I think you haven’t heard me out. We need to make noise. I’d like to cut the head off the snake, show them that you don’t come at the Breed unless you’re ready for them to come at you. I think we’ve got one shot at this, before they start rounding all of us up and putting us in cages. We take the fight to Drump, to his DHS head, to Miller, and anyone else willing to pit the rest of America- indeed, the rest of humanity- against us.”

“You got a card,” James said, “you can leave it in the dirt. Anyone with any interest can pick it up. We’ll call you. But you’ve pestered these good folks more’n enough for one evening. Now I got to insist you disperse.”

“I always knew there’d be one of you,” Raif said, his smile turning sinister, “one of you that would need to be made an example of.” He turned to his pale companion. “Colby. Do it.” 

It started as a low hum in James’ ears, a hum that quickly became pain, a radiating pain that seemed to emanate from his bones and roll through his tendons and muscles. He tried to draw, but the gun slipped through his fingers like they were liquid. “Som-bitch,” James managed, taking several drunken steps towards Colby. His muscles were pudding, his bones a not-quite-set gelatin. But he continued to lurch forward, each step taking twice as much concentration while covering half the distance.

He managed to get his cowboy boot into Colby’s midsection, and when he bent over, put his heel into his face. For an instant the pain and disorientation stopped, before crashing back into him even harder. The weight of it was crushing, so much so that he fell to his knees. He couldn’t get up, but managed to get his phone out of his pocket, and unlock it with his finger. “Call Ben,” he said weakly. He felt wet, and warm, and heard a woman’s scream. He could see a pool spreading out beneath him, and in the dark he thought it might be blood.

“Ben?” he was interrupted by hacking that sent red chunks into the dirt. “Ben I’m…” he couldn’t force another word out, or hold himself up a second longer, and dropped violently to the earth.