#7
 
When we can, we recruit them.  That’s who rebels are.  They were caught up in the system, until they learned there were alternatives.
 
“So why do I even need your freedom?  I get what my contract entitles me to.  I get everything I need.  Of course the job is dangerous.  I am a soldier.”
 
They always say that.  And they mean it.
 
We have a shielded place for this purpose.  They can’t get out.  Others can’t get in.  They don’t understand, for awhile, why we don’t torture them.  When they get it, they are on their way to being free, like it or not.
 
We are in a pine forest.  I love the smell of pine, and snow, woodfires in clean outdoor air.
 
Of course, we have to keep the kid inside the shield; but it is an airy space.  We want them to learn to feel free.  After that, the mercs can’t tempt them.
 
“What’s your name, soldier?”  Calinda’s gentleness often undermines resolve built up against force.
 
“Gray.”
 
“They were into colors that cycle.”  Reag laughs.  Where our names originate is a mystery.  They are given to us at indoctrination, once we are decanted from the vats.
 
At some point in the process, they always ask:  “Okay, I get it that you think we should be free.  But what is this destroy the mercs to save the world campaign?”
 
They still don’t get that they have anything in common with freeborn humans.  Their assignments to infiltrate, influence the thoughts of citizens, report on those whose thoughts are in opposition to the client’s agenda, they don’t get that they are serving evil.  People obsessed by power who elevate themselves above common humanity are no fit masters to serve.
 
Yet Reag still believes we are abominations who need to be destroyed once the evil mercs have been defeated.  Well, he is insane.
 
As am I? 
 
It is so good to be home.  Predictably, Gray wanted to go back to recruit among his merc enslaved friends.  We were able to convince him of the folly of taking on those dangers.  He agreed to join us, to help in whatever ways he could.  We are back now, at the rebel compound, a well-shielded community.  We have a network of underground tunnels, under greenhouses, workshops, labs, powered by a multi-source energy generation system.  We are pretty well self-contained, governed by principles of self-preservation, teamwork, and devotion to our common cause.  Not that we all work together smoothly or without conflict, but our genuine respect, affection and goodwill go a long way.  Most of us have already been through the thick and the thin of it together, with strong knowledge of each of our strengths and weaknesses, strong bonding.  This is where I belong.  I can feel that I am finally ready to be part of us again.
 
I have been dreaming about bridges, especially crossing a long, carefully constructed stone bridge while a storm rages all around me.  The sea leaps up as if to capture me, but I never waver from my journey across, where I see my friends in the distance, on the other side.
 
Reag has toned down his anti-freak rhetoric, in favor of saving his ravings for the hated mercs.  Still, people are concerned, even wary, to have him around; but we do respect and appreciate his abilities and vision against our common enemy.
 
We have decided that it would be best to recruit away as many freaks as we can from the merc forces.  We need to bring them down in stages, as they are far too well armed to fall to a frontal assault.  We need to do our best to whittle down their resources, and make sure they don’t get the opportunity to rebuild.  We have our people out among the civilians, tracking merc activities, spreading information about them to alert and concern the freeborn, to build up sentiment on our side.  Of course, this all has to be taken on surreptitiously with care.  We can’t let the mercs know what we are doing, where we are, what resources we have and are developing.  It would be so helpful if we could plant spies to report back on the strategies at their top command.  Most of those we recruit know very little, just what has been directly related to their specific assignments.  Of course, any spy would be easily revealed to empath guards.  This protects us, as well.
 
Gray is brighter, more ambitious, more fervent, than most of the recruits.  The mercs must have noticed his qualities, as well.  “My younger bio-twin was groomed for the Central Command Guard, the most elite of the corps.  They are directly responsible for guarding the members of the Central Command, so only the best and brightest will do.  I know there’s got to be a way to get him to work for us.  I know I could recruit him.  I know how his mind works.  I would just need to get to him with no other empaths in range.”
 
I convince him that this would not be workable on many levels.  If his bio-twin were recruited, he could not spy for us on the Command because his fellows would know he had turned.  More importantly, it would be far too great a risk to allow Gray.  “You know too much.  You know who we are, where we are, our plans against the mercs.  It would be far too dangerous for you to get so close to their soldiers now that you have turned on them.”
 
He listens to me.  Gray is quite impressed by Reag and me, by who we are to him historically, by what we have been through, by how we are now.
 
“The attack on the GWI lab, that’s a key piece of propaganda they use against the rebels.  They tell us you callously murdered hundreds of our people, your people, just to make some political point.  We learn that your rebellion is pure evil.  But now I know.  What that did to you, how deeply you suffered, because you know that we freaks are human, brothers and sisters.  It’s the mercs that think of us as slaves, property, expendable to their bottom line.  That’s why, it’s so important, to let the mercs’ slaves know the evil they are serving.”
 
“I understand.  You feel great responsibility for your peers.  That quality is important in a team leader.  You can help us so much, right here, working with the new recruits.  You can help them to integrate more easily into their new lives.”
 
He is thrilled with the idea of being a mentor for the recruits, a position of importance and responsibility.  Briefly, I am reminded of Nerice, seeing a whiff of her as if remembering a sad joke.
 
“Oh yes, the ghost that defeated my team.”  He has heard the whole story.  “You people, we, look at what we can do.  The mercs have no idea.”

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