Chapter 14

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Father stands over Dr. Lessing's corpse. There is a disappointed look on his face. By contrast, Herr Doktor's expression is frozen somewhere between shock and fear. No-one has bothered to close his eyes. Here in the courtyard, the spent remnants of Operation Mandible remain: Father, myself, Connor (who is seated, recovering from a gunshot wound), and a world-weary June. Jennifer and Cale didn't make it.

Connor and June stare at the rounded-up and shaking remnants of the League like it's their fault. They are women and children, mostly. Only two League men surrendered, the rest having been well-indoctrinated by Lessing. Mason is between them, bound and gagged.

"I can't believe you killed him," Father exclaims, tapping the doctor's body with his boot. "Haven't I taught you to ask questions first and shoot later?"

"You also taught me to know when to make a judgment call, Dad. I was facing off against a madman with his finger on the trigger of a pretty fucking powerful gun!"

"But he knew things."

"You got the research data you wanted, Dad."

"He knew more. I could have extracted a great deal of information from him."

I look at Father as though I'm seeing him for the first time. "What...through torture? Through the same horrible method he used on me? A truth drug? How the fuck are we any better than him if we resort to such methods?"

Nobody in our audience, Kawitzen or League, dares to speak or budge.

"It's our goals that matter, Regan. That is where he and I differ. The methods..."

"...matter too!" I shout. "Jesus Christ, Dad, it's like I don't even know you sometimes. This isn't what you taught me, that's for damn sure. Somehow it's ok though, that you're heading to hell on good intentions."

Father rolls his eyes. "Don't paraphrase pseudo-religious proverbs at me, young lady. I can forgive you for killing their leader; you had to make a snap decision. I respect that and I'm sorry. We still have the rest of his people to deal with, though."

"What do you mean, 'deal with'? We won. They're defeated and their leader is dead."

"So is my dad," Connor says.

"And Jennifer," June adds.

"So we should go home and bury them," I suggest, "or whatever your usual practice is. Leave these people to figure themselves out."

"No!" Connor shouts, sniffling, getting to his feet. Somehow it seems less whiny coming from him than from Mason. Cale just bit the bullet, after all. "They need to answer for everything that they've done!" Behind him, June nods.

I gesture at the sad and broken lot on their knees. "Haven't they already? Look at them. We won."

"You've seen this before," Father mutters. "This kind of cult. You know it won't end with Lessing."

"So, what?" I throw my hands in the air. "We kill them? How are we any better than them, if we do something like that?" I point an accusatory finger at Connor. "Are you prepared to do that? Shoot children? Hm?"

Even in his grief, Connor appears conflicted, but Father not so much. "Just the adults, then," he suggests. "Integrate the children." The League grown-ups stir nervously as Connor keeps his AK-47 trained on them.

"You're acting like a monster!" I shout. "Aren't we trying to make the world a better place?"

"Yes," Father replies. "You're just not taking the long view. The Kawitzen are the best equipped to turn this island into a stable, peaceful, productive and protected society."

"Since when does your 'long view' involve mass murder? I have only ever fought out of necessity! If I had known this was the way you saw killing...I mean, fucking hell, Dad. Survival is one thing. Making snap judgments about the long-term effects of justice at the end of a gun barrel? What kind of cycle are we perpetuating here?"

"We're breaking it, Regan. Not perpetuating."

I prod Father in the chest. "No. What the fuck are we fighting and carrying on for, if we don't even believe in forgiveness? What world are we trying to build?"

"I agree," June says, adding her voice to my own. "Jen got her retribution; you can't blame an entire people for..."

Father shakes his head. "Regan, I thought you knew better than this. Too much pre-Doom media consumption has givenyou an altruistic view of the world. This is not about revenge of any kind. This isabout the long-term consequences of..."

"Who are you?" I demand. "Are you even my real father?"

There is an intense, panicked look in his eyes that I have never seen before.

"...where did you get this idea?"

In the crowd, Mason struggles to be heard through his cloth gag.

"Shut up, Mason!" June and Connor say in unison.

"Well?" I ask Father.

"I asked you a question, Regan."

"And if you recall, he who never forgets a fucking thing, I asked you a question first."

"This guy said something to you, didn't he?" Father asks, prodding Lessing with his foot again.

"He implied several things...amongst them, an indication that I have special genes, and he hinted that you knew about it. What have you been hiding from me in your files? What are you hiding about me? About yourself? About Mom? Christ, I don't even know a fucking thing about her and I'm seventeen years old!"

"I don't appreciate this line of questioning, Regan." He is as still as a scarecrow. Father often looks like one, but at the moment the resemblance is more unsettling than ever. "We have these people to deal with."

"Fuck them," I spit. "I want answers." I grab his duster-style jacket. "I want to know who I am, Dad."

"No," he says. "You don't. Are you going to finish what we started here or should I?"

I shake my head, fighting back tears. "You fucking asshole. Neither of us are going to finish it."

I snatch June's tranquilizer gun before she can protest and fire it at Father. The dart catches him in the gut. He clutches the feathered sliver, staring at it. Then he looks at me and laughs. I can't tell if he's pissed off or impressed. His eyes roll back into his head and he falls to the lush grass, unconscious.

"Regan?" Connor asks.

"Shut up," I say, wiping my eyes. "We're leaving. Untie them. They have enough resources here to survive but not to retaliate as long as we take all the weapons. If they still want revenge in a generation or two..." I shrug, thinking it much more likely that the last vestiges of the League will seek shelter and support from the Kawitzen before long.

"What about Mason?" June asks.

"Bring him," I suggest. "I don't trust him around gullible people."

Connor gestures to Father. "And your...?"

"I don't know if I trust him anymore either. I'll bring him back in Charlotte."

"Do you think he'll forgive you?"

"Of course he will," I reply. "He raised me." I painstakingly hoist Father up over my shoulders and begin my fireman's carry toward Charlotte, which is parked nearby. "The real question, Connor," I grunt, "is whether or not I'll forgive him."

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