Cris was sweating like a hog. It wasn’t the climate; this was enough like Guatemala to feel homey, but he’d never put his ability through this kind of a workout before. He wasn’t sure where the upper limit of his healing ability was… but he could feel himself edging closer to it. Worse, he could see how the girl holding the guard at gunpoint was getting more anxious, and she was the only thing between the rest of them and an entire base of military personnel.
“Glad to see you’re still in one piece,” he nearly jumped at the words beside his ear. “Sorry,” Rox said, “didn’t mean to startle you.”
“She’s lying,” Anita said. “On the way over she would talk of nothing but.”
“That’s fine,” he said, standing. “But I know who to ask for help bleaching my underpants.”
“Bleach?” Sonya asked. “I’d just let Rui torch them.”
“I’m pretty sure that would just aerosolize-” Anita stopped herself, “nope, not following you down that rabbit hole.”
“I prefer ‘foxhole,’” Cris said. “Because I date foxes. Also, it lets me make jokes about everyone being gay in a foxhole.”
“How’re we doing?” Rox asked.
“Through the most serious. Some of these injuries… these people would have been maimed for life. They were just letting wounds fester. Leaving broken bones to mend unset. I’m livid, even though I’m too weak to properly express it.”
“Good, because our distraction literally flew the coop,” Sonya said.
“Was that literal?” Anita asked. “They flew, yes, but there was no coop.”
“You’re the fake English teacher,” Sonya said, punctuating it with a dismissive shrug.
“What about Mahmoud?” Rox asked.
“Haven’t seem him,” Cris said. “Maybe… he said he was a ‘ghost in the machine,’ right? What if he uploaded a sliver of his consciousness, and that was what you were talking to,” as they started towards the exit.
Rox stopped. “Guys- guy, and dolls,” Rox started, “anybody try that door?” Barely visible in the wall was a seam.
“I didn’t even notice it before,” Anita said.
“Yeah,” Sonya said, “looks like a draft must have pulled it out, ever so subtly, so it’s noticeable. Can we safely assume that’s your luck working overtime?”
“I usually do,” Rox said. “But to be on the safe side, let me take point.” Rox got her fingernails into the edge of the door and pulled with all of her weight. Slowly, the door started to creak open.
“This is unsettling,” Cris said, his speech coming faster than usual. “Am I the only one unsettled?”
Hanging in the center of the room was Mahmoud. He had an IV hanging from the ceiling, spittle flowing freely from his slack jaw. His eyes were glassy, his entire body limp, dangling from what looked like a straight jacket chained to the ceiling.
“This is really gross,” Sonya said.
“Yeah,” Cris plugged his nose. “They just have him go where he’s hanging…”
“No,” she said, pulling an IV out of a slit in the jacket exposing his arm, “I mean he’s in a medically induced coma, or close to it, but there aren’t any monitors, no way for them to know if the cocktail of drugs they’re keeping him on is depressing his heartrate or keeping him from breathing. This is how you fucking kill people. It’s sick.”
Anita was shaking with rage. “You okay?” Rox asked, gently touching her arm. “This is bringing is bringing it back, isn’t it? What was done to you?”
“I really want to hurt someone. Can we make a quick stop to hurt some people?”
“Our priority needs to be getting these people out of harm’s way- making sure the people who did this can’t keep doing it. That okay?”
“Yeah,” Anita said, taking a deep breath. “That’s the right call. But if we see anyone on our way out, no promises I don’t cripple them.”
“We’ll try not to let that happen. “
“Not a, coma, ‘xactly,” Mahmoud mumbled through bubbles of spit and snot.
“Jesus,” Cris said.
“We’re here to take you home,” Rox said, speaking gently to him.
“You’re not here, at all. You’re just my, fucked-up, brain, fucking with me.”
“Nope.” She pinched his cheek. “We’re your friends. Finally breaking you out of this hellhole.”
A tear slid down his cheek. “No. You’re not. I have had this, this drug-induced hallucination- and this exact fight, more or less, before, and I’m not interested in whatever it is you’re selling- hope or just not wishing for the capacity to kill myself for five minutes.”
“Cris? You got one more detox in you?”
“I think I do. The problem is he ain’t the only technopath in here…” He motioned for her to follow him through a door in the corner. There were rows more of young men and women restrained just like Mahmoud.
“Fuck…” Rox said. “We gonna need a bigger boat?”
“I think we’ll fit, if just,” Sonya said.” Boat may not make it more than fifteen miles before sinking into the ocean, but that should put us squarely in Cuba.”
“Nita, round up any stragglers. We’re going to need all the help we can get moving these people onto the ship. Sonya, go with her- make sure she doesn’t murder anybody.” She waited until they were out of earshot. “What can I do to help?” “I’m going to try and heal as many of them as I can, but I already feel like I’m going to pass out and piss myself. So stick close; I’m going to need all the luck I can get.”