Chapter 13

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Despite the filthy disarray of the interrogation room (no doubt part-and-parcel of Dr. Less-Than's intimidation tactics), the hallway is clean and bright, which is an indication of two things. The first is the presence of electricity (not an easy thing to maintain post-Doom; I assume Lessing has set up generators somewhere), doubly confirmed by the sickly-white lighting back where I had left Mason. The cleanliness of the League base, on the other hand, means that they like to pretend there is nothing at all wrong with the world.

That or they've got a lot of people with too much time on their hands. Maybe their women are only allowed to bake, breed and clean or something weird and regressive like that.

Thinking of the generators, it occurs to me that I may have underestimated Doctor Lessing's leadership skills, even if he is a nutbar. Still, he tangled with the wrong tribe of not-so-passive hippies, not to mention a dangerous father-daughter duo.

"Father-daughter," I mutter absent-mindedly. Mason starts squealing for help beyond the interrogation room door, reminding me to make haste.

From the numbered doors down the hallway, I deduce that I'm on the old university campus somewhere. My 'torture-room' may have well been a professor's office once. Cork bulletin boards at intervals down the hall have been painted over with Normal Rockwell-esque depictions of Lessing's post-Doom vision for the world: a mother breastfeeds a baby while jet fighters fly 'protectively' overhead. A man in combat fatigues shows a boy in a comically oversized military jacket how to fire a rifle. A fit and handsome version of Lessing delivers an address to the masses. The last painting bears an alarming resemblance to photos I've seen of Hitler's rallies.

Hey, at least he's giving post-Doom painters something to do.

As Mason's howling fades, a more alarming noise takes its place: distant gunfire. I raise the pistol to shoulder-level and round a corner.

Blood is spattered on the walls, and a dead man in fatigues is lying on the floor, face-down. There is a bullet hole through the back of his skull. Whoever shot the man was in too much of a hurry to grab the tranquilizer gun partially hidden underneath his corpse. I don't make the same mistake. I check the magazine; it's still got plenty of darts.

"Score," I whisper. It occurs to me that Mason may have shot the League soldier on his way to get me, which means that he was telling the truth about double-crossing the League.

I wasn't prepared to entertain the risk of going back for him, though.

The tranq-gun is surprisingly light, and I'm betting it doesn't have a lot of kick. I tuck the pistol into the back of my cargo pants again.

There are more muffled gunshots outside. I follow the sound, creeping down another corridor until I find myself at a courtyard door. I peer through the safety glass. No sign of League soldiers. Stealthily, I push the metal bar and slide through the opening. I make my way from tree trunk to tree trunk in the big empty space between campus buildings, on the lookout for any kind of movement. When I reach a far wall I peer around the corner.

Three men in League military garb are using a re-appropriated metal dumpster as cover. Across a sloped field, someone is returning fire. I take a good look around to ensure there aren't any hidden soldiers before I ambush the dumpster-men.

Sure enough, there is a telltale gun barrel poking out from the rooftop right above me. League sniper. While I want very much to give a bullet surprise to the garbage guys, I know the Kawitzen will get popped as soon as they make it up the slope to the campus. I double back to find rooftop access.

Getting to the top floor isn't a problem, but the door to the roof is locked and alarmed.

"Fucking fantastic," I exclaim.

A loud bang makes me scream. I wheel around, gun raised. I see nothing but a long hallway, empty except for two metal filing cabinets, stacked sideways. I check my vitals for injuries, but there's nothing. I hear the metallic sound again; the cabinets rattle slightly.

A barricade? I wonder. I decide to take my chances; if the League is trying to keep someone penned in, they're probably on my side. The cabinets are brutally heavy and the sound they make scraping against the tile floor is worse than the yowl of a cat in heat, but I manage to move them away from the obscured door.

It bursts open a second later to reveal a fire extinguisher-wielding June. She does not look happy, but she is very much alive, despite the poorly-treated dog bite on her shoulder.

"Holy fuck, I'm glad you're ok," I blurt.

She bursts into tears, dropping the fire extinguisher so she can hug me. Only then do I notice the blood covering its base, and more importantly, the room beyond. There is a body in one corner, skull crushed in by what I can only guess is June's impromptu weapon.

What once was a classroom appears to have been converted into a communal bedroom.

"What happened?" I ask.

"Jeh...jeh..."

Then I see the other body sprawled over a bed, face down. I notice a glint of silver in one ear. Jennifer.

"No..." I whisper. There is a brief moment of choking grief, but a sudden heat creeps up my neck and I can feel rage set in before there is time to experience any sorrow.

I have always assumed that I get my penchant for moments of unbridled anger from my mother, because I have never seen Father lose control. From her I must have also inherited another odd idiosyncrasy: when I am singularly focused, a soundtrack tends to play in my mind. As I release June from our embrace, I can hear an old Byrds tune.

I know there will be a time to mourn, but right now it's time to kill.

I shove the tranq gun into June's hands. "Wait here," I tell her as I pick up the blood-slick fire extinguisher from the floor.

"Regan," she calls after me, but I'm already down the hall. I shoot the alarm, then careen my body against the rooftop access door until the old metal deadbolt gives way. Ahead are concrete stairs ending in another door. I expect the sniper heard me coming; he will fire at me as soon as he sees the door swing open. I run up and give the door a kick, then dive back down the stairwell to take cover behind the top few steps.

I hear the shot, feeling concrete dust sprinkle my head from the ricochet. I bolt up the stairs and onto the rooftop as the sniper reloads.

It's Herr Doktor himself, leaning against the low-hanging roof barrier to face me. I duck and roll just in time and feel a hot bullet graze my ear. The fire extinguisher clangs to the concrete as I whip out the pistol.

"Mother-Scion, wait," he pleads, and I'm certain he knows I can pull back the trigger in less time than it will take him to re-chamber.

I let my gun do the talking for me.

Nine bullets later, I wipe the sweat from my brow as a rare glimpse of west coast winter sunlight graces the end of Lessing's legacy. Below, the last vestiges of the League still trade shots with the Kawitzen. I approach the ledge and grab the doctor's rifle, pulling back the bolt to chamber a fresh round. Below, I see Father and Connor coming up the crest of the field to find cover. As Connor dashes to an overturned park bench, I see him take a bullet and go down. I suppress a scream and look down, fighting back hot tears.

My eyes focus on the fire extinguisher, suddenly. Contents under pressure, it reads. I toss it off the roof and lift the rifle. By the time the League holdouts see me, perched above their ravaged home like an avenging angel, the bullet has already left my gun. It pierces the canister.

The explosion gives voice to my rage, cutting the men's screams short.

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