Drin is fighting off a desperate sense of deja blank.
The social part of his monkey brain is screaming, “Come on, get with it here–I ought to know this person, I ought to know about the business I’ve been investing in, and I’m coming up empty!”
File 404, file not found, says his brain.
That has been happening more often as he’s been poking around his older investments. Yes, he’d been checking through those investments made by his former self, gradually, swinging through in person to see what’s been happening with those properties and those stocks. Generally they’ve been doing fine, against all odds, and there’s nothing to worry about.
After this many days of trying to track down who really brought Hyphen into the world, Drin had been uncertain where to turn for help. He had dug out some tantalizing hints by way of angry blog comments from people who object to how Hyphen has been operating, comments on who has been pulling Hyphen’s strings. The name of Fozzie kept coming up.
Fozzie wasn’t found directly online, only by inference. Fozzie was probably one of those folks who doesn’t like attention, somebody who’s seen only by indirect reference from others. The shock was to find any facts floating around online. Vague talk about Fozzie and his trucks started surfacing in blogs talking about military secrets and kidnappings. How many “Fozzie”s can there be?
Especially ones who lived north of NOLA, who bred rare pigs and dogs and horses, and who somehow gave refuge to folks running away from the black helicopter contractor crowd for unspecified reasons. Something to do with illegal gen-eng labs running projects that aren’t even hidden very well.
Drin hadn’t gone to the talkers, no; many of them wincingly impulsive and incautious in what they say. But Fozzie, as the authority they refer to, might be of some pragmatic help to them.
It had been almost embarrassing to remember that the same name showed up among his own files, stashed in a large folder he’d been ignoring for lack of time. He’d been meaning to call that very person for some time, and once his memory finally coughed up a photographic image of the page–wonderful how it could react under real stress–then arranging to meet Fozzie had been quite simple. But not knowing the faces of people he has records of talking to, that’s alarming.
“Got your rent check for you,” says the enormous hairy man, sliding an envelope over the table toward him.
“Hey, Fozzie, man,” Drin says, making no move to touch the envelope. “How’s Lacey?”
“She’s great, real happy, got her a new baby colt this week to look after,” Fozzie says, sucking the foam off his beer.
“So how’s the rest of the horse farm doing?”
“Good, we’re all good,” Fozzie says. “Trucking is going well too, I got me two new guys from the prior batch of kids you brought us. Be awhile before some of ’em can grow up into themselves, you know how it is.”
Drin blinks at him. “I don’t remember–”
The big hairy hand waves it off. “You wouldn’t. Back awhile, your last trip up the Underground Railroad. Not sure about this more recent batch of rescuees. I ain’t trying with more and worse like that. The labs must be veering a whole long way off specs, dunno where they think they’re headed. Bugland, man. Out of the ones we could save, I dunno they’ll ever be able to help out much.”
Drin just stares at him. The words don’t mean anything, connected in that order.
Fozzie looks more closely at Drin, leaning his bulk over the diner table. “Don’t remember, huh? Christ, man, they really smudged you out bad, this time. You know, you first woke up, you reported they said not to come back? Well, the kind of rescues coming in now, there’s no damn point anyway. Law of diminishing returns. Can’t work with ’em, I’m sorry, man. Knew we was gettin’ too old for this shit, but this is ridiculous.”
“Fozzie,” Drin says slowly, puzzled, and he shoves back the envelope across the table. “I don’t need your money right now. Put it back into the farm, get the new folks there back up on their feet, like always.”
The big man sighs. “I knew I was gonna have to do this. I hate this part, man. I’m sorry. I’m really sorry.” He glances aside at the doorway, where a tall, thin, dark figure has ducked beneath the shortness of the public lintel, and is walking steadily toward them. In the diner’s light, it becomes a black man in a dark suit with a long sad face. He is carrying a Bible. “Preacher Slick is gonna testify a little bit here.”
Drin knows that figure. Somewhere, somewhen, he has been afflicted with this experience before, the long thin sad figure reaching toward him, and it has hurt him in places he didn’t know he had. He knows it is associated with pain.
He feels his feet scrabbling under him, and then the wave of the Preacher’s voice is rolling over him. “For we are all of us one, We are, All of Us, made in God’s Image,” says the Preacher, with his terrifying eyes, and then all Drin can hear is the roar of bees.
Millions and millions of bees.
They are combat bees.
They are his friends, thank God. The bees have kept him alive this long, but they aren’t going to survive the aerial crap that’s on its slow, horrible way.
They are the only thing he has left, in a position he can’t hold, with everything else knocked out and his ammo gone but for three remaining starburst shells and a rifle that jammed earlier or it’d be gone too. There are dead people on all sides of him, and the gagging stink of the new ones, the bug-mods, everywhere, reeking of stale engine oil and honey. This is not your grandpappy’s Afghanistan.
He sends the bees off to go wild in the hill caves, go far, go forty miles or more, he sends them, where they can’t be so easily captured for the information coded into their mods and their genetics.
It’s the nicest thing he’s ever done for them, freeing them. He doesn’t expect gratitude, he doesn’t expect to feel good, or to hear it coming.
He doesn’t expect to feel anything, after that.
But there’s pain. Quite a lot of it.
There is, when you live through it.