Breed Book 4, Part 11

Eleven

Tucker knew his plan was insane. Even with the Dean’s help, even with all of the telepaths working in tandem, it was still a ludicrous endeavor, uniting the consciousness of the entire protest. But even that was a cake-walk, compared to ensuring each person maintained their discreet identity, and could communicate one to one with everyone else. They were at the same time of one mind, and thousands.

And so long as he didn’t focus on any one person, Tucker could feel all of them at once. He could feel Mikaela’s love of her father, and his outpouring affection for her, a bright light even in a sea of roiling emotions, even as dozens of her duplicates filled out the ranks of the crowd. He could feel Mayumi and Demi’s increasing warmth, and the glow of Iago and Drake so high in the sky there were hidden by the clouds.

On the front flanks were those with the most bombastic abilities, especially the kinetics: hydro, pyro, electromagnetic. Demi was there, with Mayumi, feeding off one another’s energy while trying desperately not to set off the fireworks too soon.  

Not a hundred feet in front of them was the police line, which was also Tucker’s to monitor. If the cops panicked and started shooting, all bets were off. The electromagnetikinetics had never tried to deflect let alone stop bullets, so the telepaths had to be their early warning system. They had to push it as far as they could, but without igniting the police powder keg.

“Everybody ready?” Tucker asked, his voice trembling even in his own head.

He was barely prepared for the answer that came, forceful, defiant, joyful, liberating: “Yes.”

An instant later they vocalized, nearly ten thousand voices strong, “Our lives matter.” The words were punctuated by rolling thunder as the clouds overhead turned from gray to black, and all but blotted out the sky. An instant later, and a hundred lightning strikes at once pounded the protestors, caught harmlessly by the electrokinetics. The pyrokinetics stole heat from the lightning to singe the very air, building a dozen dragons each the size of a city bus that did battle in the sky for a moment before forming lines for one final charge, all discharging in a fireball that filled the air between the city blocks, stopping just shy of igniting the skyscrapers to either side, but remaining in midair, crackling menacingly. Finally, the clouds opened, dousing the fireball. The deluge continued, ending in a ceiling of water stories tall ten feet over the police line, and building until it was nearly as big as the skyscraper at their backs.

Suddenly the air heated, hot enough the moisture began to evaporate, only for it to coalesce in the shape of a spire at the corner of the block.

“Boys, the finale’s all yours,” Tucker said.  

“If this doesn’t work, don’t let anyone make any jokes about how I died on Iago’s giant ice dick,” Drake said.

“No promises.” The spire began to tip, racing towards the gathered police line. At that height and speed, Tucker couldn’t see him, but knew Drake was riding it down towards street level. When it was a dozen feet from impact, the spire disappeared. Thunder rolled again, and the lights in the city went out, only for lights on the buildings surrounding the protestors to flicker back on, the rooms’s lights spelling out, “Our lives matter.”

Breed Book 4, Part 10

Ten

“Thanks for calling me,” Irene said.

“We called like all but literally everyone,” Mikaela said.

“Yeah, well, everyone doesn’t always include me.”

“Other than literally,” Iago said, and Drake elbowed him. “Ow. I mean, we’re happy to have you.” He elbowed Drake back. “And that was for you. Because you don’t need a big, beefy man to look out for you patriarchally.”

“Quick,” Mikaela said, “nobody point the irony in that one out to him.”

“Damnit,” he said.

“It was a nice thought,” Irene said, “if confused and convoluted.”

“Though speaking of everyone,” Demi said, looking at a bus pulling up. Keane, their dean, was the first one out.

“We chartered a few buses. It’s not the entirety of the student body- I insisted anyone with conditions that might be exacerbated by viral exposure continue quarantine- but anyone who hadn’t gone home to shelter is here. What do we need?”

“Mostly bodies,” Mikaela said. “Last night, they thought they could intimidate us into silence. So tonight, we have to show them that we aren’t going away, that this problem isn’t getting swept back under the rug this time. They have to deal with us, and contend with the issues animating us.”

“I admire your restraint… but I’m not sure it gets the job done. This is about more than solidarity- every other city in the country has that down. But we represent the greatest congregation of Breed in the world. We need to draw this line unmistakably, and I may have an idea as to how.” Mikaela barely heard the last few words, because she was focusing through the crowd to a man exiting out an aging Taurus.

“Dad?” she asked. “I, I need a moment, okay?”

“By all means,” Tucker said. “We’ll hold down the fort. And probably have to expand the fort to fit all these new settlers.”

Mikaela made excellent time through the crowd, and didn’t question it until she was nearly halfway to her father. In subtle ways, the crowd was parting for her, or otherwise moving out of her way, like someone was coordinating them around her. Mikaela spun on her heels, and Tucker shrugged playfully.

“I’m not late, am I?” her father asked, jamming his car keys into a pocket.

“Dad. I wasn’t sure you’d come.”

“You texted. Of course, I came.”

“I didn’t mean-”

“You did. And it’s okay. I might not always have; but I would have at least called, tried to talk you out of it. But… you’re not going to be talked out of this.”

“No, dad.”

“I… I like what you’ve done with your hair.”

“Really?” she touched her textured hair self-consciously. Cutting her chemically-straightened locks was still recent enough she didn’t expect the feel. “I thought you’d hate it.”

He smiled. “I might have… but I saw your post about it. I know what went into that decision, what it means to you, and that it wasn’t made lightly. I meant it. I like it like this. You’re more… you; that makes you more beautiful.” He let out a ragged sigh. “I never wanted to deny you that. I thought I could keep you safe from a world that hurt me too often, takes too often. I… I never realized I was binding you with my hopes, that my expectations were another invisible chain. I hope it’s okay, that I’ve been reading your posts.”

“I posted publicly because I needed it said, even if I didn’t think you’d ever read it.” She sniffed. “It’s a little scary; I told myself you wouldn’t, which I think let me be more open, and more vulnerable. But you’re here. And I know you’ve been protecting me my whole life. And I made it to now, healthy and mostly happy, in part because of that. I know you did the best you could, and it’s natural to have some regrets; I wish I’d been more open with you earlier. But this?” she spun, gesturing to the crowd gathering around them, and the police line coalescing opposite the protestors. “None of this is your fault.”

“A little is,” he said with a shrug. “Every day, we get a little more complicit as we go. I wanted to protect you from all of this, from the world, and I was stubborn and naïve enough to think I was pulling it off. But I’ve been reading your other posts, too, the last few days, and you’re right. We don’t need to be protected. We need a better world. We deserve one. And it’s up to us to make it. So of course I came. Maybe if I’d come sooner, I could have actually protected you.” “Dad, this struggle is the work of generations, and possibly might never be done. So don’t worry about how long it took you to get to the right place, just be in that right place, with me.” She took his hand and squeezed. “Just, stay behind me. Because I have the sneaking suspicion things could get pretty crazy before the night is up.”

Breed Book 4, Part 09

Nine

Drake looked defeated as he trotted back to his friends. “They’re still ‘processing’ us,” he said, adding finger quotes.

“It’s an intentional disruption,” Mikaela said. “They keep us here, overnight, nowhere to sleep, no food, barely any water- the whole point is to make it as close to impossible for us to show at the next protest.”

“Sounds about right,” the sergeant who arrested them the previous day said, stepping up behind Drake.

“Have you been here all night?” Demi asked.

“Hah. No. I worked my shift, went home, had a beer, and a shower and slept in my own bed, then had a hearty breakfast, a sensible lunch. It’s just my shift all over again now. Now, seeing as it’s now three, I’ve been instructed to inform you you’re free to go, without charges. But, if you’re picked up again, we will charge you with felony rioting- and I mean if we pick you up anywhere in Seattle, even if you’re miles away from the riot.”

“I think you mean protest,” Mikaela said.

“Tomato, toe-mah-to. As a good-will gesture, we’ve waived the tickets on your vehicle, to better streamline you getting out of town. I know you’re all college students- you belong in school. But if you insist on staying out here, in the real world, there will be real-world consequences for your actions. I sincerely hope I never see you again. I believe all of your personal items are in this bucket, here.” She sat down a white plastic bucket, turned and walked away.

“So what are we going to do?” Drake asked.

“I could eat a whole cow’s worth of cheeseburgers,” Iago said. “Just use the condiments to stick buns on the sides of it and unhinge my jaw…”

“My mouth is watering at that description, even through smelling the cow,” Demi said, “how messed up is that?”

“The smart play might be for us to go back to Bellingham,” Mikaela said. “But fuck that.”

“Butt-fuck that?” Drake asked.

“I don’t have time to play with you, now. I’m not leaving. I’m not getting intimidated. And I’m not leaving other people to fight my fucking battles for me.”

“Yeah. Butt-fuck that,” Demi said, nodding emphatically.

“Let’s make some calls.”

“While walking to the nearest eatery.”

“Fine. Yes. We’ll get something to eat, and enough caffeine to mess up Iago’s cowburger.”

“Wow,” Iago said, splaying his fingers by his head to show that his mind was blown. “Cowburger. Why don’t we call them that, instead of hamburger?”

“Big Pork,” Tucker said over-seriously. “Even when you’re not eating pig, they want you thinking about it.”

“I’m going to eat so much goddamned bacon it’ll be disgusting,” Demi said.    

Breed Book 4, Part 08

Eight

“Operation Brown Thunder?” Iago asked.

“I really wish you’d stop calling it that,” Tucker said. “And it’s still a fallback position.”

“Then it’s good we haven’t needed it, right?” Drake asked.

 “Good in the moment.”

“What’s bad in the longer term?”

“The bad is I’ve caught enough background thought off these cops to know that what the FBI’s said holds true, even in the relative liberal bastion of Seattle- human/white supremacists have infiltrated the police. It’s not every one, but it’s some of them, and what’s worse is they’re evangelizing, working on their colleagues to make them more bigoted and violent.”

“Collective mind-wipe?” Demi asked sardonically.

“A mind isn’t a hard drive, I can’t just format them.”

“And even if we did, it’d be pretty clearly a Breed attack on police.”

“Counter-attack,” Drake said solemnly. “You can’t exactly claim they didn’t fire the first shot. Maybe it’s time we fight back with equal ferocity.”

“You,” the voice came from ten-feet away, but it felt like it was shouted from beside them, and echoed in the parking structure. They turned as a group, to see one of the officers pointing with two fingers into their group. At first none of them recognized him, or knew who he was pointing at. No one except Mayumi, who knew him even through the eye he shot out. Despite her years in the field, despite her training, she shivered involuntarily.

“Don’t,” Demi said, as she started towards him.

“I’ll be okay,” Mayumi said, straightening her spine. Her hands were still zip-tied behind her, and he used that to hold her arms at the elbow and lead her towards a squad car- no- not just a car, but the one she was put in after being shot. There was still a splotch of her blood on the trunk where her head was slammed down, blood still flowing from her eye socket, so they could check her ties. He opened the rear door. “Get in.”

“Where are we going?” she asked.

Anger flashed in his eyes, but he forced it down. “Just in. Sergeant said we should have a chat.” When she was clear of the door, he shut it, then got into the front seat on the passenger side. “She said I should start with an apology. And that just saying that wouldn’t count. I shouldn’t have shot you. And I’m sorry for that.”

There was a tremor in his voice. “You feeling okay?” she asked.

“I’ve had the worst day,” he said, then chuckled. “But look who I’m talking to.”

“I think we’re both lucky, all told, about today. You made a mistake, but because I am who I am, and because I put myself in your path, the damage wasn’t permanent. So while it’s maybe not the best day I’ve ever had, I feel like I got a chance to help where I was needed.”

“You’re being a lot more… reasonable than I expected. Or than I think I’d be in your seat.”

“I don’t have any animus towards you. I know I look young, but I served in the Japan Self-Defense Forces. I know what it’s like to be asked to do too much with too little, and have to bear the human consequences of that short-coming. And it feels personal. It feels like you failed. But the truth is, you haven’t. You did the best you could with what you had, with limited and inadequate training, the wrong equipment and otherwise.”

“I shot you in the face with a rubber bullet.” His statement was full of anger, shame and self-pity; there was a menace in it, too, though she couldn’t place whether or not it was pointed at her or himself.

“And if it were just you, then maybe you’d have a point. But it’s not. Pick up a paper, and it’s happening across the country, in cities large and small. This isn’t a question of bad apples at this point- it’s systemic. We asked too much, as a society, used our police as a catch-all for a whole host of societal problems with often contradictory solutions. The police are a sack of hammers, so of course every problem looks like a nail, but the cops aren’t the ones who took on all of these not-nailing responsibilities. We need to pull back on what we’re asking, for you and for the rest of us.”

“And if the violence doesn’t abate?” he asked with a heavy sigh.

“Then we do what we have to, to stop it. If that’s a complete dissolution and rebuild, if that’s shrinking the police until they’re just a tactical response unit, so-be-it. You’re a person of color. How do you feel about the prospect of one of your kids ending up on the wrong side of a police baton? Or a rubber bullet. This I not a cops vs. society thing. This is your society, too. I want a more just world for you and your family, too.”

“Okay, now I feel really badly I shot you,” he said, with a laugh tainted by a sniffle.

“You should,” she said, and let the answer linger in the silent car for a moment.

“I feel like I can’t breathe,” he said.

“You should feel bad, but you shouldn’t internalize that guilt and let it make you worse at what you do. You should remember it, learn from today. We aren’t enemies. We’re neighbors. And we just want our neighbors safe, in or out of uniform.”

He got out of the car, walked around to her door, then opened it. He helped her out by the elbow, far more gently then when he put her in. She felt a pinch behind her, only to realize he’d cut away her ties. “I have a daughter. She’s mouthy, even at eight. I can’t sleep, sometimes, worrying about her getting mouthy with another officer.” He looked down at his badge, still covered with black electrical tape, and peeled it off, then removed a similar piece of tape on his name tag, revealing the name “R. Johnson.”

“Next time,” Mayumi said, “leave the uniform at home and march on our side of the line.”

He smiled wistfully, and Mayumi started back towards her friends, still circled, and trying not to look like they’d been staring at her the entire time.

“So Operation Ice Dick-Slap a Cruiser is off?” Drake asked mockingly.

“For now,” Iago said.

“There were many and varied- and varying in quality- rescue plans in the offing,” Demi said to Mayumi, before hugging her. “Which is to say we were worried about you.”

“That’s sweet,” she said. “But I could handle myself.”

“We saw,” Mikaela said. “He looked nearly… human getting out of that car.”

“I had to soft-pedal it for him. Cops often don’t seem to grasp that there’s an implied threat to having a conversation with someone while they’re armed and you’re cuffed in the back of their car.”

“Or maybe they’ve spent so much time throwing their weight around that they just assume it’s normal,” Mikaela said. “Maybe they act like violent counter-protestors to peaceful demonstrations against their own excesses because force is the only language they speak anymore, at least collectively.”

“I think he heard me,” Mayumi said. “And that’s too high a bar, to think we can sit down every cop- or even every problem cop- with someone they tried to kill. But it’s a start.”

“Operation Brown Thunder?” Iago asked.

“I really wish you’d stop calling it that,” Tucker said. “And it’s still a fallback position.”

“Then it’s good we haven’t needed it, right?” Drake asked.

 “Good in the moment.”

“What’s bad in the longer term?”

“The bad is I’ve caught enough background thought off these cops to know that what the FBI’s said holds true, even in the relative liberal bastion of Seattle- human/white supremacists have infiltrated the police. It’s not every one, but it’s some of them, and what’s worse is they’re evangelizing, working on their colleagues to make them more bigoted and violent.”

“Collective mind-wipe?” Demi asked sardonically.

“A mind isn’t a hard drive, I can’t just format them.”

“And even if we did, it’d be pretty clearly a Breed attack on police.”

“Counter-attack,” Drake said solemnly. “You can’t exactly claim they didn’t fire the first shot. Maybe it’s time we fight back with equal ferocity.”

“You,” the voice came from ten-feet away, but it felt like it was shouted from beside them, and echoed in the parking structure. They turned as a group, to see one of the officers pointing with two fingers into their group. At first none of them recognized him, or knew who he was pointing at. No one except Mayumi, who knew him even through the eye he shot out. Despite her years in the field, despite her training, she shivered involuntarily.

“Don’t,” Demi said, as she started towards him.

“I’ll be okay,” Mayumi said, straightening her spine. Her hands were still zip-tied behind her, and he used that to hold her arms at the elbow and lead her towards a squad car- no- not just a car, but the one she was put in after being shot. There was still a splotch of her blood on the trunk where her head was slammed down, blood still flowing from her eye socket, so they could tie her. He opened the rear door. “Get in.”

“Where are we going?” she asked.

Anger flashed in his eyes, but he forced it down. “Just in. Sergeant said we should have a chat.” When she was clear of the door, he shut it, then got into the front seat on the passenger side. “She said I should start with an apology. And that just saying that wouldn’t count. I shouldn’t have shot you. And I’m sorry for that.”

“You feeling okay?”

“I’ve had the worst day,” he said, then chuckled. “But look who I’m talking to.”

“I think we’re both lucky, all told, about today. You made a mistake, but because I am who I am, and because I put myself in your path, the damage wasn’t permanent. So while it’s maybe not the best day I’ve ever had, I feel like I got a chance to help where I was needed.”

“You’re being a lot more… reasonable than I expected. Or than I think I’d be in your seat.”

“I don’t have any animus towards you. I know I look young, but I served in the Japan Self-Defense Forces. I know what it’s like to be asked to do too much with too little, and have to bear the human consequences of that short-coming. And it feels personal. It feels like you failed. But the truth is, you haven’t. You did the best you could with what you had, with limited and inadequate training, the wrong equipment and otherwise.”

“I shot you in the face with a rubber bullet.” His statement was full of anger, shame and self-pity; there was a menace in it, too, though she couldn’t place whether or not it was pointed at her.

“And if it were just you, then maybe you’d have a point. But it’s not. Pick up a paper, and it’s happening across the country, in cities large and small. This isn’t a question of bad apples at this point- it’s systemic. We asked too much, as a society, used our police as a catch-all for a whole host of societal problems with often contradictory solutions. The police are a sack of hammers, so of course every problem looks like a nail, but the cops aren’t the ones who took on all of these not-nailing responsibilities. We need to pull back on what we’re asking, for you and for the rest of us.”

“And if the violence doesn’t abate?” he asked with a heavy sigh.

“Then we do what we have to, to stop it. If that’s a complete dissolution and rebuild, if that’s shrinking the police until they’re just a tactical response unit, so-be-it. You’re a person of color. How do you feel about the prospect of one of your kids ending up on the wrong side of a police button? Or a rubber bullet. This I not a cops vs. society thing. This is your society, too. I want a more just world for you and your family, too.”

“Okay, now I feel really badly I shot you,” he said, with a laugh tainted by a sniffle.

“You should,” she said, and let the answer linger in the silent car for a moment.

“I feel like I can’t breathe,” he said.

“You should feel bad, but you shouldn’t internalize that guilt and let it make you worse at what you do. You should remember it, learn from today. We aren’t enemies. We’re neighbors. And we just want our neighbors safe, in or out of uniform.”

He got out of the car, walked around to her door, then opened it. He helped her out by the elbow, far more gently then when he put her in. “I have a daughter. She’s mouthy, even at eight. I can’t sleep, sometimes, worrying about her getting mouthy with another officer.” He looked down at his badge, still covered with black electrical tape, and peeled it off, then removed a similar piece of tape on his name tag, revealing the name “R. Johnson.”

“Next time,” Mayumi said, “leave the uniform at home and march on our side of the line.”

He smiled wistfully, and Mayumi started back towards her friends, still circled, and trying not to look like they’d been staring at her the entire time.

“So Operation Ice Dick-Slap a Cruiser is off?” Drake asked mockingly.

“For now,” Iago said.

“There were many and varied- and varying in quality- rescue plans in the offing,” Demi said to Mayumi, before hugging her. “Which is to say we were worried about you.”

“That’s sweet,” she said. “But I could handle myself.”

“We saw,” Mikaela said. “He looked nearly… human getting out of that car.”

“I had to soft-pedal it for him. Cops often don’t seem to grasp that there’s an implied threat to having a conversation with someone while they’re armed and you’re cuffed in the back of their car.”

“Or maybe they’ve spent so much time throwing their weight around that they just assume it’s normal,” Mikaela said. “Maybe they act like violent counter-protestors to peaceful demonstrations against their own excesses because force is the only language they speak anymore, at least collectively.”

“I think he heard me,” Mayumi said. “And that’s too high a bar, to think we can sit down every cop- or even every problem cop- with someone they tried to kill. But it’s a start.”

Breed Book 4, Part 07

Seven

“That was intense,” Iago said, as Tucker, the last of their group, arrived.

“Anybody seen,” Demi stopped, then pointed at Mayumi, sitting in the open back seat of a squad car. “There she is.” Demi quickly led their way through a growing crowd of protestors, milling about in small groups, all looking shell-shocked.

“It’s good to see you,” Mayumi said.

“And now in stereo?” Iago said.

“You’re kind of wishing they’d shot out your eardrums, aren’t you?” Tucker asked.

“Just a little,” she smiled, but moving her face seemed to aggravate her wounds, so she followed it with a grimace. “Do we have a plan?”

“Well,” Iago said, feigning concentration, “the plan was to get arrested and find you. So mission accomplished.”

“Was there anything else after that part?”

“Improvise and try to survive?” Mikaela said.

“That’s probably the important bit, I guess. They take everybody else’s phones?”

“Yeah,” Tucker said, still distracted.

“We figured we’d wait to think through an escape plan- if necessary- until we could talk to you,” Mikaela said.

“I’m going to put a pin in ice dick,” Mayumi said.

“I think they call that a Prince Albert,” Demi said.

“Drake, how many people can you teleport at a time?” Mayumi asked, ignoring her. “Max, life or death.”

“Usually one, maybe two,” Drake replied.

“Doesn’t help us in an emergency, then.”

“So unless we get advance warning, and can sneak people out the back in small groups…” Mikaela trailed off.

“And even then, they’ve got our details,” Tucker said. “We bust out of custody and we might as well run off and join Rox’s runaways.”

“I could probably pull enough duplicates out of reflective surfaces to run interference.”

“Much as I like the idea of them coming face to face with a literal army of black women, that’s going to read as an escalation. “

“I assume we want a nonviolent solution, so I’m out,” Mayumi said.

“If we were outside, and it were raining, maybe I could have made electricity arc between them like a hellish damn lightning strike…” Demi said.

“So Iago, can you knock the ceiling down with a giant ice dick- or anything hot or cold related?”

“Same basic problem with plausible deniability,” he replied.

“So, Tucker, what have you got?”

“Telepathy works a lot like the rules of Inception meets hypnosis. I can convince them to do something they wouldn’t do, but I can’t make them believe it was something they would do. Over time, you can manipulate someone into becoming what you want, it’s just slow, subtle work. I brute-force these cops minds and it will leave the equivalent of a broken window; mind-control isn’t the obvious explanation, but they’ll probably blame it on Breed and react with more violence. But there might be a more, well, not elegant, solution, exactly, but subtler. If it’s looking like the cops are taking a turn for the violent, I could take over their autonomic nervous system, and make them shit themselves.”

“Violently?” Iago asked.

“Depending on what they’ve got in proximity to their colon. On that note, I’ll start priming the pump; unless they’re ready to use the bathroom, I can’t just make them, spontaneously. What I can do is start their bowels moving overtime. Shouldn’t take too long, and they’ll have some uncomfortable cramping in the interim, too.”

“If we have to get out of here through force, it was always going to be messy; I prefer this kind of mess to violence,” Mikaela said. 

“You just say that because you aren’t the one who’s going to have to launder their drawers,” Iago said.

Breed Book 4, Part 06

Six

“I’m not sure this was our brightest idea, ever,” Mikaela said, marching in a line with her hands zip-tied behind her back.

“Hey, you said you wanted to get arrested,” Drake said, and shrugged. “You didn’t specify how.”

“I hadn’t anticipated the frog-march,” Demi said, “or I would have stretched after the ride down.”

“And I would have worn more comfortable shoes,” Tucker said. “Crap. We’re here.” They were being led to the parking structure connected to the police station.

“Should I be wetting myself that they’re taking us to a parking garage?” Iago asked.

“It’s not a great sign,” Tucker said, “but so far no one’s planning on shooting us. So that’s a plus.”

“Any of them fantasizing about it?” Mikaela asked.

“Was hoping you wouldn’t ask that. Yeah. Though you’d probably never feel safe again if you knew how often cops do.”   

“We should space out,” Mikaela said. “We don’t want them knowing we’re together any more than they have to, or they might be more inclined to separate us.”

Police vehicles were positioned in a rough circle, to create a pen. Iago and Drake were sent to the left, Mikaela and Demi were sent to the right. The female officer doing the sorting paused with Tucker. “If it’s a gender thing,” Tucker said, “I belong with the men.”

“It’s a frisking thing,” she said. “You want a man to do it, go left. There’s a woman on the right. Your call.”

Tucker followed his brother and Drake. “Trouble?” Iago asked.

“Nothing out of the ordinary,” Tucker said, but there was something in his voice.

“It’s okay, you know that?” Iago asked, squeezing his brother’s shoulder. “To be freaked, to be hurt. I heard what you said, earlier, and you need to know it, too. It’s okay to be you. Even if sometimes who you are is vulnerable, and wounded.”

Tucker wrapped his arms around his brother,” You are such a jackass,” he sniffed.

“Hey, we all have our strengths. And you know if anyone looks at you sideways, I’ll crush them with a giant ice dick.”

“I thought you were tired of us bringing that up.”

“He’s decided to own it in a misguided attempt to take back his power,” Drake said.

“Cut the chatter,” an officer barked as Drake stopped in front of him. ”Phones, keys in the bucket, then put your hands against the car, legs shoulder-width apart.” Drake complied, was patted down, then Iago.

Both Tucker and the officer paused for a long moment, and stared at each other, before the officer had Tucker put his hands on the squad car.  Tucker flinched as the officer’s hand touched his back, waiting for the threat, or for the hand to slide where it shouldn’t be. He forced himself to breath, to maintain the veneer of calm when he felt anything but, because he could hear enough of the officer’s thoughts without trying to know that the worst thing he could do was react to any of it. The officer quickly finished patting Tucker’s legs, and instructed him to follow Iago and Drake.

Breed Book 4, Part 05

Five

“Shit,” Tucker said. It was the first moment Mikaela noticed Mayumi was missing; she’d been engrossed in the speaker, in her passion, in her fury.

The next instance a shot rang out. The crowd parted, and Mikaela watched as Mayumi struck the pavement. “I couldn’t stop him fast enough,” Tucker said. “Mayumi. What do we-”

“Leave it,” Mikaela said, and sighed. The crowd around them was panicking, already trying to find an exit the police hadn’t cut off. “This sucks, but if there had to be violence, I don’t think they can throw anything at her she can’t take. Jesus, even I don’t like how cold that sounded.”

“It’s wrong,” Tucker said. “But you’re also right- in that Mayumi agrees with you. Poor kid. I’m quieting some of her nerves down; the trauma;s bad, bad enough she’s having trouble doing some of that herself. Were I her, I’d be trying to remove people’s childhood memories forcefully through their septums, and she’s just glad no one else got hurt.”

“Shit,” Mikaela said. “They’re taking her.” Two cops were hauling a limp Mayumi towards the police line.

“It’s not too late for me to rip trauma out septums,” Tucker said.

“Can’t,” Mikaela said. “Half the reason we’re standing here today is to prove that we’re better than beasts- to disprove their lie that they have to use lethal force on us. We do anything violent, and we gift them a propaganda victory- and the violence goes up, instead.”

“I’m pretty sure I could make them forget any of us were ever here- them included. Start fresh tomorrow morning, like this never happened. Except the trigger happy one; him I’ve got plans for.”

“Tucker…”

“Heh, yeah, okay, so maybe not the best time for bleak humor, but to be fair, there is a lot of our friend’s blood and eye fluid and I think some little flecks of brain and skull on the street, so I’m more than a little freaked out.”

“If it’s not too much like asking you to perform brain surgery on yourself, could you calm yourself down?”

“I don’t like to do it; think I’m,” she moaned, shuddering, before taking in a deep breath, “a little worried I might accidentally Michael Jackson myself, you know, put myself to sleep while leaning on the put myself to sleep lever, and just never wake up. I’m not entirely sure how metaphorical any of that is. Mind control is always, kind of abstract, to me. It’s not like I navigate through brain structures until I find the right thing to pinch, pull or stimulate.”

“Talking about your first date?” Iago asked, leaning in.

“No, weirdo.”

“Oh, good, because it looks a lot like our gunshot friend is dying, and being carried away by her assassin’s and it would be a really bad time to reminisce about bad teenage foreplay.”

“She’s okay,” Tucker said. “She’s healing already. And I’ve checked the intentions of the cops. Arrest. Some panic. Lots of grossness. But for the moment she’s safe, and the moment she’s not, I don’t care how large of a stink eye Kae gives me, I’m grabbing onto their biggest fear and beating them unconscious with it as painfully as I can.”

“She said stink eye, not brown eye, right?” Iago asked. “Because I don’t think I can process the latter right now.”

“You’re a jackass,” Drake said.

“Yep. But it helps me process.”

“Me, too.”

“I take it we’re not rescuing her from the cops?” Demi asked, her fists balled. “Because I’m down if you’ve just been playing coy, and waiting for me to make my intentions known.”

“No,” Tucker said. “We have to keep an eye on Mai, no orbital trauma pun intended. And you may hate this as much as I do, but I think we have to go with her.”

“Like you’re going to keep the cops from seeing us so we can pursue?”

“I don’t think that’s possible with this many people, and certainly not without a lot of practice.”

“Nope,” Mikaela said. “We have to get ourselves arrested, too.”   

A female officer who had removed her helmet approached them. “I’m going to need you all to disperse,” she said. “This is no longer a protest, it’s a riot, and if you stay, you’ll be arrested for felony rioting.”

“The girl who was shot, she’s our friend,” Mikaela said. “You need to let us stay with her, to make sure she’s okay.”

“You’re with the f-,” the officer stopped herself, “the Breed girl. Sorry. She’s being processed, and we’re already at capacity.”

“We came down here together, from the Breed school. And we’re not leaving without her- and you’re not taking her without us.”

“I don’t know who the hell you think you are to make demands-“

“Screw this,” Drake said, grabbed the officer by the elbow, and they both disappeared.

“Son of a bitch,” Tucker said, and pointed to the top of the nearest building. The officer was standing on the edge, teetering. “Oh, sh-“

They reappeared at street level, where the officer fell to the pavement. “I said I wouldn’t let you fall,” Drake said. “But like I was saying, we’re some of those dangerous Breed. Probably best not to just leave us wandering the streets unsupervised.”

Breed Book 4, Part 04

Four

They were on their fourth speaker, each taking turns standing on a bench, passing the same tinny bullhorn around. Mayumi subtly adjusted the shape of her ear to better filter out the feedback from it, and was hearing about every third word.

She was feeling more zen than she had thought, standing in a cage made of men holding riot shields. She hated them, but not because she’d been brutalized by a cop, not because she’d fought men dressed just like them in a dozen countries or more, but because of the way they glared at her, at all of them, unable to take the criticism implicit in their presence at this protest. She had seen often enough that fragility like that never dissipated like you’d assume; it festered, growing resentment and anger as byproducts. She hated knowing she could solve the problem of overpolicing this afternoon by echoing their violence, but that it would only make everything worse.

And she hated all of the little tweaks she could make to her body, because it meant that she was always on alert. So she saw it, the twitch in the officer as he received new instructions over his earpiece, the itch he scratched as he flicked the clasp off his pepper spray and started advancing. But he didn’t walk straight, which would have put him directly in contention with the speaker, who was being filmed from a dozen different angles. No, he singled out a black man, and his daughter, not even paying attention to his approach, too enraptured in the speaker and their soaring, peaceful rhetoric. Mayumi stepped between them, and tried to put her sweetest, most innocent smile on her face. “Is there a problem, officer?” she asked, fighting every instinct she had to end the problem herself.

“You need to get back behind the line,” he said, his finger tapping on the button at the top of his pepper spray canister as he slid it out of his belt.

“How about you return to your line, I’ll return to mine.”

“Bitch, I’m not negotiating.” He was moving through molasses, so sluggish and predictable she saw a dozen openings in the first second to kill him, but instead, she put up her hands, and went limp as he kicked her knees out from under her. He pepper sprayed her directly in the eyes; she told her pain receptors to disconnect, but it wasn’t instantaneous, which meant all of her enhanced senses hit her at the same time. It was disorienting, but not enough to make her fall. She was done falling down for men like him. He sprayed her a second time, and knew the smart play was to crumple, to ball up, because there was no way this pig wasn’t going to start kicking her next. But she was done falling on her hands and knees for people like him, too.

“I’m done fucking with you,” he said. Mayumi couldn’t see, but she’d heard enough button catches on leather gun holsters to know he released it, could probably even have guessed the make of the gun from the sound of it sliding free. She knew she could take it, while the people behind her couldn’t, so she forced herself to her full height, took in a deep breath and puffed out her chest, to give the asshole as big a target as she could.

He fired, and she felt the bullet impact her in the face, though it was a moment before her pain receptors could break through the haze of it all to tell her where. She felt blood rushing from a wound, no, not blood, wrong viscosity, though there was definitely blood mixing into it, replacing it even as all of the aqueous humor left her deflating eye. The cop grabbed her arm and twisted until it should have broken, and forced her to the ground, with his knee to the back of her neck. Mayumi could make out the sound of more boots coming from the police line. Someone shoved her attacker off her neck. “Jesus, man, that’s how- you can’t do that, not today.” He keyed his radio, and began to talking into it. “Dispatch, we’re going to need an ambo at-” he stopped. “Christ, her eye. It’s growing back. She’s one of those, those animals.” He zip-tied her hands together, then the two of them lifted her up off the ground, and carried her towards the police line.

Breed Book 4, Part 03

Three

“I feel like the Lone Ranger in this thing,” Iago said, fiddling with his mask as the followed they flow of marchers. “But not, you know, from the crappy movie. Want to be my Trigger?” he asked, slapping Drake on the shoulder.

“Dude,” Drake said, “we are both too white for you to say anything like that right now. And we just got done having a conversation about how you were uncomfortable being treated like a bike. Why would you want me to be your horse?”

“It wasn’t like I was going to ride you, or anything.”

“That wasn’t very convincing,” Demi said over his shoulder.

Mikaela took a breath to center herself, fighting the urge to tell them to be quiet. They were all anxious, hers just manifested in an overwhelming urge to mother her friends. “Hard not to rain on their parade,” Tucker said, smiling at her. “I’m not prying, you’re just very predictable. And fairly stiff. But a protest doesn’t have to be a wake, even one protesting a wrongful death. It’s also a celebration, of our friends, of our lives, of the fact that we’ve found so many other people who think and feel like we do, of the justice we’re all willing to risk ourselves to bring about. There’s beauty in today, even if we’re here for the ugliest of reasons. It’s okay to find some joy in it, too. And to let go. They look up to you, us, I suppose; but you don’t have to be on all the time, and you don’t have to be more than who you are, either. It’s okay just to be you, today. That’s already a lot of weight to carry.” Mikaela gave her a side eye. “I didn’t mean it like that. I am not a body-shamer- not that I’m saying there’s anything to shame you about.”

“Okay, you’re starting to make it weird.”

“Yeah. Sorry. We’re kind of a mine field, which is funny, today; I’m way more worried about the emotional mine field of our relationship than the potential battlefield we’re marching into.”

“Well, yeah. I can be everywhere at once. I think Mayumi could survive a nuclear bomb, you can make people unconscious just by being cross at them, and Demi could fry, well, everyone, so far as I know.”

“And Iago’s got that ice dick thing he’s so oddly proud of.”

“Which I’m sure we’ll find a use for, some day. And Drake can teleport, which… means he could run away really well.”

“I heard that,” Drake said.

“I wasn’t trying to talk so you couldn’t,” Mikaela said. “But you have a point: we can handle ourselves pretty well, out here. But,” she gave an exaggerated glance to a woman walking to the side of her.

“Yeah, just because we can, doesn’t mean we should. The last thing the world needs is to see a gang of Breed drop a sixty foot ice dick on some cop.”

“I mentioned that precisely once,” Iago groaned, “while a little drunk. One time. Are you ever going to lay off?” 

“Absolutely,” Tucker said. “The very second any one of us says or does something at least as stupid.”

“Though the smart money is that will be you again,” Mikaela said, “so we’ll just be bagging on you for something different.”

“Oh, man. How did I become this group’s butt monkey?”

“It’s because you can handle it,” Drake said, patting his shoulder. “And bagging on you makes the rest of us feel closer.”

“And because you grew up as my little brother,” Tucker said, “you don’t feel accepted until you’ve had someone talk crap about you.”

“Okay, therapy’s over,” Iago said, putting up his hands. “I want all of you quacks out of my head.”

“I like it when he’s bossy,” Demi said. 

“So do we know where this thing is headed?” Drake asked.

“There’s a kind of method to the madness, I think,” Mikaela said, turning her phone in her hand to better understand the map on it. “But yeah; one of the groups organizers suggested the route we’re on. Good visibility without getting too close to hospitals where you might clog up emergency services, that kind of thing.”

“I thought the whole point was to be disruptive,” Iago said.

“That explains so much about the last twenty years,” Tucker said.

“You kind of spent an entire afternoon crafting the perfect crème pie, only to sit in it;” Demi said, wincing for emphasis. “That was like 90% self-inflicted.”

“But Santiago’s not wrong, either,” Mikaela said. “We are here to be disruptive. To make noise. To be heard. To show that there are real people effected, communities hurt, not just bodies they can bury and move on from. But there’s a balance, too. You don’t want to disrupt hospitals- especially children’s hospitals, cause that disrupts care and freaks the kids out- even if we weren’t in the middle of a pandemic.”

“And there’s the other thing,” Demi said.

“The other thing?” Mikaela asked.

“Fuck. I was hoping I could prompt you, so I wouldn’t have to say it.”

“I’m not saying this to relish your anguish- though I am totally relishing your anguish- but I have no earthly idea what you’re talking about.”

“Okay, then, as your apparent ambassador to whiteness, because I know I’m more privileged than two white-passing dudes or even a totally passing white trans man, a protest can’t fuck things up for the residents too much. White people, as a rule, want to be nice, good, and on the right side of history. But if you inconvenience them any more than a tiny little bit, you risk the whole angry Karen army mobilizing to call the city’s manager. And I’m not saying that because I think we should be beholden to them, but every aspect of this is way easier if we can get them and keep them on our side. What was that MLK quote?” “His greatest obstacle wasn’t the racists,” Mayumi said, “but the moderates who sat on their hands.”

Breed Book 4, Part 02

Caveat Two: These novels usually bounce back and forth between the Breed at the school and Rox’s runaways, but I don’t have an outline, or even a solid idea of what their B story is; right now, this is the immediate story I feel compelled to tell, so I’m going to stick with it. Probably means the final draft will be wildly different.         

Two

“This roadtrip felt right,” Demi said through her hand-sewn cloth mask. “Obviously, not the reason we’re on it, but being back together again, all of us, not just hanging out on web cam or face time; I was actually starting to pine for classes, I’ve been getting so stir-crazy.”

“We missed you, too,” Mayumi said. “Though I still feel ridiculous in this mask,” she adjusted it over her nose.

“Oh, hush, I sewed it for you, and it looks adorable. Besides, it’s more a solidarity thing. We can’t all just tell our bodies to karate chop the coronavirus. It shows other people, especially vulnerable people, that you’re safe, that you care about their safety even if you’re not worried about your own.”

“You might be the first person to ever accuse me of being ‘safe.’”

“Well, sure, you’re still the deadly murder pixie you were trained to be, but now with more empathy, free will, and a superior fashion sense.”

“I still would have preferred to wear my underwear mask,” Iago muttered, futzing with his own mask. “Not that I don’t appreciate the gesture.”

“One, those were not your underwear,” Tucker started, counting on his fingers. “Two, I’m pretty sure them being lacy would make them a lot less useful at filtering out disease.”

“Please tell me they weren’t yours,” Drake said.

“Ew,” Tucker said, wrinkling his nose. “No. For one, depraved as my brother is, I hope he wouldn’t put my underthings on his face, even fresh from the wash. And when I became a man, I put away lacy underthings.”

Became a man?”

“I was paraphrasing.”

“Corinthians?”

“That where that’s from? You know what I meant. And I’m surprised you of all people recognized Corinthians.”

“You don’t become that militant an atheist without getting personally burnt by religion,” Demi said. “Though on the other hand, who amongst us hasn’t been personally burned by religion?”

“Fair,” Tucker said. “And  I mean, I can still rock a lace thong, it’s just… it’s not the me I want to be.”

“Hmm,” Drake said, and frowned.

“You’re picturing me rocking a lace thong.”

“No poking around in my upstairs.”

“I wasn’t, I just recognize the look on a straight-ish guy’s face when he’s mentally poking around in my downstairs- and wondering if that’s ‘okay.’”

“And is it?”

“It’s a free country,” Tucker shrugged.

“Unlike your brother, I bet you would pull them off.”

“There’s a story there I’m not going to want to hear, isn’t there?”

“Ironically, he also had trouble pulling them off once he got them on- not that anyone asked for him to do that in the first place. Either ‘that.’”

“My butt cheeks clenched around them like a vice,” Iago said, a little too loudly. “Like when you’re flossing and there’s two teeth extra close together and you kind of fray the floss even getting it between them-“

“I may never floss again,” Mikaela said.

“You can probably just get by with your waterpick,” Tucker replied. 

“I could feel my testicles atrophying from lack of circulation. I thought for a moment they were going to have to cut me out of them with the jaws of life.”

“Or a pair of scissors. Really any moderately sharp knife would probably do it, too.”

“We really needed this,” Demi said.

“A walk in the brisk Seattle air?” Mikaela asked, trying to stifle a shiver.

“No. For our pack of gross weirdos to get a chance to get most of our gross weirdness out of our systems. Cause this is going to be a mostly somber affair, and probably most people wouldn’t have the same, um, appreciation of a discussion of Iago’s choice of lingerie, or his atrophying balls.”

“Had the devil of a time getting everything in them in the first place, then the atomicest of wedgies happened… I know there’s two in there, but I usually still kind of think of them as one unit, but in that thong, they were very separate.”

“Well, from the sounds of it they were women’s underwear, literally designed to accommodate neither twig nor berries.”

“There’s a fruit of the loom joke in there, but this conversation’s already spent too long rooting around in my underwear.”