I feel Calinda approaching, finally. I open the door to meet her, but she pushes me, forcefully, back inside.
“I’ve been trying to avoid Reag. He picked up my trail as I was on my way back with the robocar. It’s parked a few blocks from here. I didn’t want to get too close until I lost him. Are you ready to go?”
We have mind-barrier techniques, but they take a lot of concentration which can only be kept up for a short while. Now that Reag is aware of Calinda’s presence, we will have to keep our minds blank while hurrying to the robocar, until we get well out of this vicinity. Nerice, of course, follows us, never giving up on her chance to get back into the game. Her ghostly thoughts are too faint to be noticed unless she is actively working to communicate.
We are not fast enough. Not far from our destination, Reag appears, stepping out of the shadow.
“If it isn’t my oldest, dearest friend, and her younger version. Take a good look at Dorie, Calinda. I remember when she was just like you. Of course, that was long before all that unpleasantness. Now, where are we going?”
“Why don’t we take him to the clinic?” I ask Calinda. “Couldn’t they help him, too?”
“Because, Dorie,” he answers for her, “you have to be willing to be helped.”
He leaves a few beats of ironic silence, then bursts out: “Hey kids, I’ve got a crazy idea. Why don’t we go back to my place? We could have quite a party, don’t you think?”
“I don’t think we want to do that, Reag.” Calinda was looking directly into his eyes, unwavering. I wanted so to hug him, squeeze the demons from him. Yet, I know too well, those demons are not so easily dislodged.
The night is icy. Frost crystals form around our hair, our faces. White clouds of condensation appear with each breath. The street is empty of life, save for us.
“Maybe you’re right. The place is kind of a dump. Alright! Road trip! Let’s get to that car and it’s climate control! It’s freezing out here!” Saying this, he grabs each of us under the arm and around the back, half carrying us along, to the robocar and its promised warmth. He doesn’t seem in any hurry to kill us.
“Dorie, my dear, I don’t want to kill you. Well, maybe just a little, you know, to put you out of your misery. But first, we have some catching up to do.”
We are flying along the skylane enroute to the clinic, where the robocar had been preprogrammed to go.
“I’ve not been seeking you out to kill you, but to reenlist you.” Charming as ever.
“Calinda believes you are out to destroy the GWI freaks, including me.”
“Of course! We are abominations! We need to be annihilated. But the mercs are the real enemy. We are merely a side issue. There’s plenty of destruction to go around. First we save the world. Then we commit race suicide.”
He is dead serious.
“Why do you need me? I’ve been long out of it.”
“Whom else can I trust?”
“Any of the freak team.”
“They think I’m insane.”
“As are you.” I feel the maniacal laughter rippling through him.
Reag knows that the robocar’s program can be overridden by manual control. We are still on course for the clinic. Quite a way from the urban lanes, the sky is dark, desolate. We are approaching the mountainous region of our destination.
I feel Calinda, seated next to me, hand in mine, encouraging peaceful imagery to calm me. She ignores Reag’s ravings, concentrating on my well-being.
“Did you know, we intended to get pregnant, after everything settled down, after we won, after the chemicals finally were worked out of our systems. We would have the first natural born of us, start to become a real people. You know, they gave us those chemicals, in the corps and then the mercs, to keep their precious genetics program pure, to keep us controlled, intellectual property.” He is remembering his plans with Romy, back when he believed in us, our rights, our cause, our people.
“But what are we good for, Dorie? All we know is war.”
Maybe I can get through to him.
“We have each other,” I venture.
“And what good has that done us, you and me? I tried, you know, even after you were gone, to be a good leader, to carry on.”
The car is slowing, starting to descend.
“Here’s your rehab, Dorie. You can go get sane. Or, you could come fight the mercs with me. We can hit them in ways they’ll never be expecting.”
The car stops in front of the main clinic entrance. The grounds are quiet, dark. We know immediately, something is very wrong. Apparently the mercs have already been expecting us.
As we feel their onslaught, Reag takes control of the car. We are up, moving away, over the facility power plant. Reag pulls an incendiary device from an inner pocket of his voluminous overcoat. He ignites it, quickly opens the nearest door and launches it onto the power plant. Door closed, up and away. We hear explosions, see fireworks, as we speed into the night.
“Way to go, destroying our clinic, Reag,” Calinda says bitterly.
The clinic had been a GWI facility that the mercs had no use for. Their treatment for a malfunctioning genetic weapon was a lethal injection and recycling of chemical components. Our rebel crew had revived the facility recently, as Calinda had told me during our catching up.
“It’s no good to you kids now that the mercs have come in. I have no interest in seeing more of our resources in their hands. What about you, Calinda?”
She shrugs her tacit agreement.
“Well, hey, kids, that was quite a party after all. Now we need to find somewhere to regroup and strategize.”