The Renegades (The Superiors) (8 page)

Maybe
he’d forget, though. Maybe he’d leave her untied, and she could make a run for
it. She’d never seen a Superior out in the middle of the day, so she thought
she’d wait until Draven slept a while. She lay still, heart pounding, waiting
for him to remember and come to bind her hands and feet. But after only a few
seconds, her eyelids started fighting to settle in together for the sleep she’d
missed that night.

“What
would you do if you woke up and I’d run away?” she asked.

“If
you mean to run, let me know now so I can remove you from my home. If you walk
out, you’ll leave your scent on everything, and Byron will come straight to
this car and kill me. I don’t imagine I’ve been so vile that you’d want to do
that, but if you must, I cannot do much for it.”

She
sat up and looked over the seat. He hadn’t even gotten mad, and it didn’t sound
like he planned to restrain her even after she told him what she’d been
thinking. She almost said something else, but Draven had his back to her, and
when she caught sight of it, she forgot to answer him. Instead, she stared at
him in horror. It looked like a thousand black bugs had bitten him and burrowed
into the skin, and he’d scratched at them until they bled. Big red welts with
black centers covered his skin.

“What’s
wrong with your back?” Cali asked before she could stop herself. If some kind
of skin-tunneling bugs lived there, she sure didn’t want to sleep anywhere near
him.

“Nothing,”
he said, quickly pulling a shirt over his head.

“Is
that…something that will happen to me? Are there bugs in here?”

He
frowned and pulled off his shoes. She thought about how bad Shelly’s feet
smelled when he wore his slipper-shoes, and she waited for the stinky-feet
smell to hit her, but like the rest of him, Draven’s feet didn’t smell like
anything.

“They’re
gone now, it’s too cold.”

“Then
what are those things in your back?”

“Nothing.
Take some sleep.”

She
watched him lie down, curled on his side, and after a minute she lay down, too.
Though she thought she’d fall right to sleep, for a while she couldn’t. She lay
awake, thinking about Shelly and the baby, and how she hadn’t even said
goodbye. Shelly knew, of course. She’d asked him to go with her, begged, but he
wouldn’t budge. So she’d told him she wouldn’t go, and then she’d left without
saying goodbye. And the baby—would little Leo miss her? He wouldn’t understand.
He’d only know she’d left him. Maybe he’d be sad and cry when she didn’t wake
him up in the morning dragging her noisy chain around.

And
what about Master? He’d chased them, and if he’d lost them, as Draven thought,
he’d go back home. And then he would beat Shelly to get an answer out of him.
Maybe he’d hurt the baby. And he’d do it in front of poor Shelly.

Cali sat up. “We have to go back for the baby,” she said.

But
Draven had already fallen asleep.

 

 

Chapter 18

 

Meyer
Kidd stood in the doorway to his bedroom looking at the solemn parade of
sapling faces turned to him.

“Now
you all know I love each and every one you,” he said. “But for now you have to
go stay with someone else. She’s a very nice lady, and there are lots of
mummies there to take care of you. Don’t worry, I’ll come visit all the time.”

Four
of Meyer’s girls patrolled the hallway ensuring the saplings behaved.

“Now
come and give Daddy a hug,” he said, bending to hug a tiny boy who was so busy
pulling apart a scrap of cloth that he barely noticed Meyer. “Now don’t be
rude,” Meyer said, snatching the cloth away. “Give me a hug.”

The
boy began crying and reaching for the cloth, but before returning it, Meyer
held it out of his reach until the sapling hugged him. The boy wiped his teary
face and toddled along looking appeased but not entirely happy. What an
ungrateful little snot. Meyer should have just let him rot in a Confinement
somewhere.

The
other nine children all gave him hugs, some of them with tearstained faces and
some with big smiles and some with somber eyes, depending on their age and
inklings of the significance of the move. Of course, none of them knew the real
reason, or the real significance. It was all because of those blasted Enforcers
snooping around in his business. Meyer had seen three of them since his latest
conversation with Byron, and one had even followed him to and from his last
Furr-Bines Inc. meeting. So it seemed like a good time to act rather than
react.

When
he’d hugged the last child, he stood. “Very well, girls, let’s get them loaded,
shall we?”

The
four girls herded the children along the hall and down the stairs to the back
entrance. Some of the saplings climbed into the boxes themselves, the older
ones helping his girls pretend it was all a game. Big laughs.

Meyer
stood at the bottom of the stairs watching, his hands in his pockets. It was
best this way. He couldn’t have so many of them around with Enforcers crawling
down his back all the time. At any moment, Byron might decide to make an
accusation, and then the whole lot of them would come swarming into his house,
pretending to be polite when really they were thinking how they’d like to steal
his things or that he should never have evolved at all.

Oh,
Meyer knew all about them. All about how ‘adult’ Superiors acted and thought
towards him. First shocked, then condescending and overly sweet, talking to him
as if he were simple. Then they started getting jealous.

They’d
already searched his homes once, and he wasn’t going to risk any last minute
fixes like he’d done that time. This time he was prepared. He watched the girls
load the boxes into the hauler. When the truck pulled out, Meyer closed the
door and went upstairs. He took off his shiny black shoes and lined them up
with the backs exactly even with the edge of the bed. Military precision. Or
boarding school precision.

He
removed his clothes and rebuttoned his shirt, zipped his pants, and folded them
in perfect squares. He opened his dresser and put them back in. Then he opened
his pajama drawer. Meyer loved pajamas, but most of them were too festive for
this morning. He chose a navy pair with a subtle pattern in the fabric and
dressed before climbing into bed and turning on his wall screen.

“Miss
Ginger Tolemy,” he said, and the screen began searching for a confirmation.
After a few seconds, she accepted and her creamy porcelain face appeared on the
screen.

“Hello,
Meyer,” she said, smiling. Miss Tolemy’s smile was something to behold.

“Hello,
Miss Tolemy. Listen, I had some extra sapien food around that was getting a bit
stale, so I sent it over on a Furr-Bines truck. It should be there in five or
ten minutes. Might be too late to unpack for the day, so I told my driver to
just unload them in the kitchen.”

“Very
well, thanks for letting me know. I’ll let my sapiens know and they can unpack
the boxes. I don’t know where they keep all their food, anyway.”

“Right,
of course. I never can keep up with what they like. I just let mine have passes
to go buy their own food, and they always end up getting too much. I hate to
see it go to waste.”

“Well,
I have plenty of saps. I’m sure they’ll eat it before it spoils.”

“Good
then. How’s your farm? Are your saps all in good health?”

“You
know how they are, always getting sick. What can you do?”

“Yes,
I know. Well, nice chatting with you, but as you can see, I’m all set for bed.”

“Of
course, Meyer. Thanks for thinking of us.”

“I
always do, Ginger. Listen, it really has been too long, and I’m thinking about
getting a new sap to take on my winter vacation. Mine are all so dull. Maybe
I’ll come by in a few weeks.”

“You
know you’re always welcome to browse, Meyer. It’s your special privilege.
You’re my best customer.”

“Yes,
I know. Good day, then.”

“Good
day to you. Have a good sleep.”

Meyer
blew her a kiss, just in case Byron or one of the Enforcers was monitoring his
communication. Miss Tolemy blew one back with her shiny pink lips, which had
been the objective. Meyer turned off the screen and lay back in bed. He tried
to smile, but he couldn’t quite muster one. He loved his saplings, and now he
had to give them all up. As if they heard his sadness, his four girls came in a
few minutes later and crawled into bed with him. Nice, but he still missed the
squirmy little warm bodies.

His
youngest girl snuggled up to him, and he put his arm around her absently. He’d
never evolved anyone else as young as her. Once, he’d considered evolving a
baby, but he wasn’t certain of a successful outcome, and he’d just hate it if
he killed one by mistake. Kelsie was eight, and sometimes he even had doubts
about her, so he hadn’t put any younger ones through the evolution process.
Maybe it was time to try.

The
five child Superiors lay in his big bed together as the day outside grew
brighter in the Texas heat, and soon, the five of them slept.

 

 

Chapter 19

 

Draven
woke and dressed quietly so as not to awaken Cali. But when he looked over the
seat, he found her already awake. She lay on her back holding the warped paper
book he’d had the night he found her garden.

“What
are you doing?” he asked.

She
started and dropped the book. “Nothing.”

“Surely
you can’t read?”

“No,”
she admitted, avoiding his eyes.

“Then
what were you doing?”

“I
don’t want to tell you.”

“Why
not?”

“Because.
I feel stupid.” She looked at him from under her lashes.

“You’re
not. You just don’t know a lot yet.”

“And
you’re going to teach me?”

“Oh,
I don’t know. I imagine I could teach you some things.” He smirked at her but
looked away quickly. What was he thinking? Crazy thoughts, as if she were a
real person.

“Well,”
she said after a moment, “that’s what I was doing.”

He
cleared his throat. “Teaching yourself to read?”

“No,”
she said, retrieving the book. “I was pretending to read. Making up what it
said.”

Draven
chuckled and rested his chin on the back of the seat. “What did it say?”

“You
know.” She shifted on the seat and rifled through the pages. “How to be a
Superior and stuff?”

“That’s
what you want to know?”

“Well,
no. I just figured that’s what your books would be about.”

“I
see.”

“Or…how
to do stuff, like drive a car, or climb a building like you did.”

“Oh?
You imagine I learned that from a book?”

“I
don’t know. Maybe.” She glanced at him again, the shy sort of look only a girl
could manage.

He
laughed softly and took the book from her. “This isn’t that kind of book.”

“Well,
what kind is it?”

“A
very old one.” He paused and flipped through it himself. “A sapien wrote this
book.”

Cali
jerked upright and turned to him. “Really? There are sapiens who write?”

“No,
this is from long ago,” he said, thinking of Sally’s much-read letter. “Back
then, lots of sapiens wrote lots of books. But most of them were burned. A few
still survive.”

“Wow,”
Cali said, reaching out to touch the ragged edges of the pages. “That’s
heaven.” When Draven did not answer, Cali spoke again after a few moments.
“What does it say?”

“Many
things. It’s a storybook.”

“What’s
that?”

“A
book that tells a story. It doesn’t tell you how to do anything.”

“They
use books for stories? Why not just tell them?”

Draven
smiled. “Some people don’t have anyone to tell them stories.”

“That’s
sad.”

“What
is?”

“That
someone wouldn’t have a person to tell them stories. I love stories.”

“Then
perhaps I’ll read you the story sometime. But not now.”

“Me
and Shelly used to make up stories.”

“Oh?”

“About
people we saw, mostly. What’s that story about?”

“Lots
of things. Love, loyalty, morality, death, courage, responsibility.”

She
gave a little laugh, just a breath really. “Yeah, but what’s the story?”

“It’s
about the complications of human sex in that society, its implications and
consequences.”

“I
don’t even know what you just said.”

“I
don’t want to explain it,” Draven said, noticing through a crack along the door
that daylight faded more every minute.

“Well,
what are the…whatever you said…of human sex?”

“Oh,
I don’t know. You’re human, you probably know better than I do.”

“I
don’t know that word. But I think it’s scary.”

Now
Draven straightened to look at her. “You think sex is scary?”

“Well,
yeah. I mean, for me, anyway. I know some people like it.”

“Is
your mate not good to you?”

“Well,
we actually…I mean, you know. Not him. But the breeders were scary, and then,
when I ran away, this man Larry…”

“Larry?
You mated with Larry?”

“How
do you know Larry?” Cali was staring now, and Draven shook his head and tried
to get out of the conversation that had gotten a bit uncomfortable.

“I
don’t.” Unbidden, a memory flooded his mind—Larry and one of the men called
Henson coming towards him with sledgehammers raised, Draven wanting so badly to
move his legs but unable…and the men laughing…the sledgehammers fell, first
simultaneously and then in a rhythm between the two laughing men…

“What’s
wrong?” Cali asked.

“Nothing.
We should go.” Forcing the memory away, he tried to regain a hold on his
senses. Every time one found its way in, it left him shaken.

He
took Cali into the back of the lot and stood a distance away while she relieved
herself and covered her markings with the clove powder, as he’d instructed.

“I
want to go back and get the baby,” Cali said when they had returned to the car.

“Cali,
we cannot.”

“Why
not? We have to. Byron will kill him.”

“It
is difficult enough to elude Enforcers without carrying you and a baby that
can’t hold on.”

“I’ll
hold onto him. It’ll be fine, you’ll see.”

“It
would cry. Byron would find us in a moment.”

“I
can make him be quiet. I’ll pretend it’s a game,” she insisted. “I can’t just
leave him. He’ll kill him. I know he will. He’ll do it just to spite me, or to
get Shelly to talk.”

“He
would not kill a human. You are too valuable.”

“Well,
that’s even worse. He’ll hurt him, and Shelly will tell him everything, and
he’ll still hurt him, thinking Shelly knows more. And that poor baby…”

“Cali…if
you had told me when we were leaving, perhaps, but not now.”

“Then
I’m not going.”

“You
don’t have a choice now.”

“You
said you wouldn’t take me until I wanted you to.”

“And
you did.”

“Well,
I changed my mind.”

“It’s
done. You cannot.”

“Sure
I can. Bring me back. I’m not going without the baby.”

Draven
looked at her and wondered what he’d gotten himself into. He had this sap, free
of her master for one day, already telling him what to do.

“You’re
mine now. I’ll not take you back, and I’ll not steal a baby.”

“Then
when we leave, I’ll scream, and every time you jump I’ll fall off you, until I
get away. And when they catch us, I’ll tell them you stole me and I want to go
back.”

“Do
not threaten me. You’re mine now. You do as I wish.”

“I
don’t care. I can’t let a tiny baby die or be hurt forever because of what I
did. You have to go back. Please. I’ll do anything you want. I’ll never
threaten you or ask for anything again, I swear. Please?”

“Cali…”

“Pleeease?
I’ll never run away again, and I’ll do everything you tell me, and I’ll never
question you, ever. I’ll serve you and wait on you, and if you ask me or tell
me to do anything, I’ll do it, for the rest of my life. And I’ll never fight
back or argue, even if you hit me or make me have babies later. Even if you get
a breeder to make me pregnant. Please please please…”


Merde.
Now I’m risking my life for a baby I don’t want?” Draven shook his head.

“No,
for me. And you already did that by taking me.”

He
looked at her sharply. He’d forgotten how perceptive she could be. Finally he
said, “Alright. But you’ll not ask for anything else. And if he cries
excessively, we’ll be forced to leave him.”

“Okay.”

Draven
climbed over the seat to sit next to Cali. He took her hands in his. “Cali, I do not think this is wise. It will only grow colder, and I cannot promise even
this much shelter every night. Likely less on many nights. I don’t imagine
he’ll live if we take him.”

“But
I know he’ll die if we don’t.”

“You’re
certain this is how you wish to use your last request?”

“Yes.
I’m sure.”

Draven
sighed and ran his fingers through his hair. He needed to bathe again. His hair
felt stiff and dusty. “Very well then, I’ll attempt it. But…I may not return.”

Her
honey-colored eyes grew large and serious, but she didn’t speak. She only
nodded.

“I
need you to listen very carefully, Cali,” Draven said.

“Okay.”

“If
I’ve not returned by dawn tomorrow, I’ll not return at all.”

“What?”

“That
means I’ve been captured, and I’m likely dead, perhaps your child as well.
You’re willing to risk that?”

“Okay.
Yes.”

“If
I do not return, you’ll have to run on your own. You’re aware of this?”

Cali
nodded, and he could hear her heartbeat picking up speed. Was she frightened by
the thought? Or had he uncovered her true purpose in wanting him gone?

“If
you run while I’m gone, I will find you. And you won’t see your child again.”

“I
know. I won’t, I promised.”

“I
don’t imagine I believe you. But I’ll tell you how to escape, because you will
need to if I’m…accosted.”

“What’s
that?”

“If
Byron catches me.”

“Then
why didn’t you just say that?”

Draven
shook his head. “I’ll have to take the chance that you won’t run while I’m
gone. You should also know that Superiors will be searching for you, and you’ll
be caught if you run tonight.”

“I
said I wouldn’t. So what should I do?”

“Stay
here and sleep. If I do not return, wait until full daylight when Superiors are
sleeping. That is your best chance, if they have not found you already. I have
a backpack I’ll leave for you. It has things you’ll need. Put as many of my
possessions in as will fit. I must take the blanket to carry the baby or I’d
leave it for you. I’m sorry I don’t have more.”

“That’s
okay. I’ll be fine.”

“I
doubt that. But this is your best chance. There’s a bag of white roots in the
pack. Break it apart into sections and rub it over yourself now and again if
you leave.”

“I
did that,” Cali said, her eyes lighting up. “When I ran away. Wait, how do you
know about that?”

“Apply
a thick layer and stop to reapply often. Go up the mountain until you reach a
road. Follow the road until you see a stream that parallels the road. You’ll
see an old road to the right side, but it’s difficult to spot so watch
carefully. It’s more of a trail now. Follow it away from the place you slept
that night with the runaways. Continue until you come upon a few houses. Do not
let them see you.”

“Who
are they?”

“There
are five or six houses, and they’re difficult to see at times. They’re covered
in mud and branches. But there will be clearing around them. You’ll go to the
one at the end, where the road stops. Yes?”

“Okay...”

“Can
you do that?”

“Yeah,
I think so. But where am I going?”

“Approach
the house only in daylight or they will shoot you. Ask for Sally at the house.”

“Wait,
these aren’t Superiors?”

“No.
They’re homo sapiens. They’ve made a village of sorts. You’ll be free.”

“How
do you know these people?”

“I
do.”

“Is
that where we’re going?”

“No.
They’ll kill me on sight.”

“Oh.”
She nodded. “Can you let me go there?”

“Cali,
I’m not risking my life for you, twice, to give you to some vigilante humans
who want to kill me.”

“Oh,
right. Of course not.”

“This
is important. If Sally is not at that house, find her. Do not go inside if
she’s not there. Do not let yourself be alone with the men in the house. If you
find Sally, she will protect you. Perhaps she’s built her own house by now.
Tell her I sent you, and she’ll take care of you. Tell her that I asked her for
that. She’s a good person, and she would help you even if I hadn’t given her
money.”

“What’d
you give her money for?”

“It
matters not. She’s the only person in all of them that is good.”

“What
about Herman?”

“I
don’t know this sapien. I only know Sally.”

“How?”

“I
told you, it matters little. Do you understand what to do?”

Cali
paused and then nodded. “Yeah, I understand.”

“And
one more thing. If you find Sally, tell her I said thank you and that…I loved
her very much.”

“Okay…”

“It’s
not so strange,” he said. “She fed me willingly. I’ll probably love you one
day, too, if I live. I grow very attached to my pets. I like animals.”

Cali
rolled her eyes and sighed. “Yeah, I know, you told me. Okay. Garlic, follow
the road, look for the side road, find Sally. Got it.”

“Good.”
Draven bent forward and kissed her forehead quickly. “Good luck. And don’t
leave the car until full light tomorrow.”

He
started to open the door but Cali grabbed his arm. “Thank you,” she said,
bowing to kiss his fingers. “Master.”

He
withdrew his hand and donned his shades in preparation for the afternoon
sunlight. “I’m not your master,” he said, and slid out of the car and closed
the door behind him. Running without her, he found freedom again.

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