Life Thief

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Chapter 17

“Don’t cry, Lyric, it’s going to be all right.”

“But I want her to come,” Lyric hiccuped as she stumbled to keep up with the group walking down the tunnel.

“I know, honey, but she has to get Bryan and Laura to a doctor,” Clifton said. “She’ll be along after that, if she’s able.”

“If I’m able,” Judith said. “I'll be thinking of you and Quincy and saying prayers, okay, Lyric?” She panted as she spoke, she and Jathan carrying Laura between them. Terro was helping Bryan.

“Okay,” Lyric said, wiping her eyes. She immediately regretted the action, the long scratches on her face stinging from the contact.

Judith’s concerns were on something else, though. “I’m worried,” she said, “about the power being out.” The guards at the vehicle groundlock had told them the boilers were down for repair. They had refused to say a word about Quincy’s trial, at least until Clifton had introduced Lyric to them. After that, they had said the hearing was occurring out in the farms, and made sure they had directions, as it was starting very soon.

“I’m afraid I haven’t paid much attention,” Terro said, “but what do we have to worry about not having access to with the power down?” He supported Bryan with one arm, the other arm cradling a gun which he had refused to leave in the car with the other weapons.

“Water, for one,” Judith said. “Most of the wells have steam-powered pumps. The electricity won’t work, obviously, but thankfully we’ve never relied on that. Then there’s the door locks…”

“There aren’t any locks that rely on steam locking,” Jathan said. “That’s always been a safety precaution, in case we lose power. Steam locking adds extra force, but the doors hold fine without it.”

“All right,” Judith said. “I’m glad about that.”

“Don’t forget,” Bryan said with a smile, “we had to build doors to keep the dinosaurs out long before we had a boiler system set up.”

Terro laughed. “A good point,” he said.

Clifton smiled, and turned back to look at Lyric, who was walking quietly behind them. “Lyric?” he asked. “Are you all right?”

Lyric had been counting the gas lamps along the vehicle hangars as they walked, trying not to panic. She really just wanted to see Quincy, but she really wanted Judith there, in case something happened. She sighed. “Yes,” she said.

“If it helps,” Clifton said, “Fr. Antonie told me when I left that he was going to try and get in to see Quincy. He’ll help him out, if he can.”

Lyric felt just a little better at this news. Fr. Antonie had brought Quincy back from certain death down in the ruins. Surely he had the savvy to protect Quincy from these Authority men. But then, dinosaurs were one thing. You could kill dinosaurs. You couldn’t kill people. Lyric shuddered. She knew that was what this was about. Quincy had killed people.

“This tunnel, here,” Terro said. He pointed with his gun. “That leads to the farms. You all who are going to the trial, you might want to go directly. It’s quite a walk.”

“Yes, the guard said it would be starting soon,” Clifton said. “Judith, are you all right from here?”

“Yes, we’ll be fine,” Judith said, with a smile. “And we’ll come as quickly as we can.”

“I hope they let you,” Terro said, frowning now in the direction of the main tunnel, that led to the east groundlock into the city. “They might not let you back out here, as reluctant as they were on the way in.”

“Are you serious?” Jathan said.

“It’s not unlikely, actually,” Clifton said, with a sigh.

“No!” Lyric said.

“Lyric, I’m sorry, but I’ve got to take care of our injured team members,” Judith said.

“I’d come back, if they’d let me,” Bryan said, frowning.

“You’ve got to lie down and do nothing for a while,” Terro said, with a laugh. “How about you, Jathan?”

Jathan was frowning. “I’d like to go,” he said. “If you guys can spare me, I’d rather not take the risk of not being let back out here.”

“I’ll take Lyric and go now,” Clifton said. “Judith, can you spare Jathan?”

Judith looked at Laura, then across at Bryan and Terro. “Can you walk on your own, Bryan?” she asked.

“Sure can,” Bryan said. “Terro’s just giving me moral support.”

Terro laughed. “All right,” he said, “you hold my gun—don’t shoot it—and I’ll take over for Jathan with Laura.”

“Not a shot,” Bryan said, smiling. “I promise. I can’t see straight anyway.”

“That’s why I told you not to shoot it,” Terro said. He released Bryan’s arm and handed him the gun, then walked over to Jathan, slipping his arms around Laura so the other man could disengage.

“Thank you,” Jathan said. “I’m probably not going to be the most help, but, I… well, I want to make sure they’ll be fair.”

“Of course you do,” Terro said. Laura nodded, wincing in pain.

“Good luck, all of you,” Judith said. “And we’ll come back if we can. I promise.”

“Don’t let them hassle you too much at the gate,” Clifton said. “If you need me, Judith, you come and get me.”

“I will,” she said. “I just want to get these two to a doctor as quick as I can.”

Lyric gazed down the dark offshoot tunnel. Even as dark as it was, she could see that the tunnel rambled steeply back upwards. Back aboveground. She shivered. She had never thought about it much, how people went aboveground every day to work on the farms. Of course she knew about it. Everyone did. They just didn’t talk about it, and counted themselves lucky to have any other sort of job. Why would they have Quincy’s hearing up there? It didn’t make sense. Would they send all the workers home?

“Come on, Lyric,” Clifton said. “Let’s go. I hope we aren’t late.”

Waving a last goodbye to the two injured and their caretakers, Clifton and Jathan marched up the tunnel, Lyric following. It was a climb; the tunnel was steep. Lyric tripped in the darkness once, and Jathan caught her arm, but it wasn’t long before the heavy glow of gas lamps began to light their way sufficiently. The line of lights curved gently around the slow meanders of the tunnel, and Lyric began to hear the echo of voices, reverberating off the rock. A shout, then the drilling monotone of someone speaking. More shouts. Then, footsteps. Lots of footsteps.

“Someone’s coming!” Clifton said. He stopped, straightening as he squinted into the scarce light.

“It’s the workers,” Jathan said.

And indeed it was, workers by the dozens, coming into view around the bend of the tunnel. They were all dressed, for the most part, in protective leather farm gear and metal helmets, far more than was necessary for planting potatoes, or weeding beans, or even tilling up ground or chopping down intruding foliage. Lyric shivered. They were dressed that way because of dinosaurs.

“What’s going on?” Clifton asked, when the first of the group came within hearing range.

“Half day off,” one of the men said, with a grin, and those around him whooped and cheered. “Courtesy of the Authority.”

“Well,” Clifton said, “congratulations!”

“They said they had some security measures to test,” the man said, “so it’s not safe for workers until they’re done. They said to come back tomorrow.”

“Security measures,” Clifton said, thoughtfully.

“That’s great,” Jathan put in, quickly. “In fact, we’re going up there to help them test it. Wish us luck, gentlemen.”

“Sure thing,” the man said. As he walked past, he clapped Clifton on the shoulder, then Jathan. “Stay safe up there.”

They waited until the whole march had filed past them, and they kept walking.

“I suppose,” Clifton said, with a frown, “that they don’t want a public hearing, but again—why the farms? It doesn’t make sense.”

“I'm sure we’ll find out soon,” Jathan said, grimly.

Lyric swallowed. That terrified feeling was beginning to clench at her gut again. She wanted to run, but that wouldn’t help anything. It definitely wouldn’t help Quincy. At least she hadn’t ever worried about him when he was out there with his dinosaurs. He could take care of himself out there. But he’d gone with these men, he didn’t have his raptors, or his weapons, or anything. They could do whatever they wanted to him.

A few minutes passed, as they continued walking. Clifton pulled a watch from his pocket, looked at it, and replacing it, picked up his pace. Jathan and Lyric hurried after. A couple more minutes, and they heard shouts again, but muffled, like the voices behind a—

A solid steel groundlock, bolted shut, loomed up in front of them, glinting in the light of the lamps.

“Are they locked outside?” Lyric gasped.

“There’s another gate beyond this one,” Clifton said. “But it’s only made of bars, it’s not solid, so that people can see potential dangers out in the fields before they go completely outside. They might be inside that gate. There’s a section here with equipment and maintenance sheds between the lock and the gate. Well, let’s see…” Stepping up to the lock, Clifton inspected it for a moment, then nodded to Jathan. The two of them grabbed the bolts and threw them back.

Another shout sounded, and a moment later the heavy lock had swung open a few inches, and they found themselves staring into the masked face of an Authority man, the bright glare of outside light blinding them from over his shoulder. “What do you want?” he barked. “We gave the dismissal order… oh, it’s you, Clifton.”

“Oscar?” Clifton smiled.

“Here for the trial, I assume,” Oscar said. “Do you have the girl?”

“Yes,” Clifton said.

Oscar pushed the door open a few more inches, his gaze moving from Clifton, to Jathan, and then to Lyric. “All right,” he said. “Come on in. You’re right on time.”

The three of them stepped outside the gate. Oscar slammed it shut, closing the bolts from the outside, and strode off.

Lyric squinted against the bright light, and as her eyes adjusted, she stopped short, staring. There were so many people! Makeshift benches of boards and cement blocks were set up all through the wide tunnel, half facing the road that ran through the middle of the cluster of sheds, and half facing the outer gate, which was made of thick steel bars, providing a soaring view of the fields. The sun shone brightly, spilling welcome warmth and daylight into this strange, half-inside, half-outside space. People filled the benches, even just normal city folk, not dressed at all for aboveground. Authority men swarmed everywhere, and in the middle of them, favoring one leg that had a bandage around the knee, she saw Quincy. Next to him was Fr. Antonie, speaking with him. They talked in low voices.

Lyric almost shouted out Quincy’s name, but she bit her tongue, eyes wide. “What happened to his leg?” she squeaked to Clifton, instead.

“I don’t know,” he said, shaking his head.

An Authority guard, next to them, waved a gun. “Find a seat,” he said.

Lyric pushed ahead of them, trying to get to the front, to get closer to Quincy. There were a number of benches in the middle that no one was sitting on yet—a lot of people, looked dazzled and confused by the light, were still milling around—and the three of them chose one, close to the outer gate, that looked like it might provide a good view of anything that happened.

“Find a seat!” the same guard shouted, and the milling crowd reluctantly began to fill the benches. Lyric watched, wide-eyed. Why so many people? She threw her gaze back to Quincy. His jaw was set, his expression flat. One of the guards shooed Fr. Antonie away from him, and the priest took a seat nearby, watching like a hawk. Lyric felt her eyes filling with tears again, and she blinked them away.

Finally, everyone was seated, and began to quiet down. Clifton and Jathan, sitting by her, didn’t say a word. Lyric saw that Clifton had a rosary in his hand. Jathan was looking away.

“Citizens of Undermine!” One of the Authority men walked to the center of the road where the benches faced, standing next to Quincy. “My name is Glenn McIntyre, commander in chief of the Transgenic Containment Authority. We are here today to try Quincy Morrow for several crimes against the Bitterroot Undermine laws and against human reason and decency.” A nervous murmur swept the crowd.

Glenn continued. “I know that many of you aren’t used to aboveground light, and I know that many of you are wondering why we chose this setting for the hearing. Most of you are aware of the role the Containment Authority plays in our city. We handle security, we handle enforcement, we handle dinosaur incursions, we handle populations, and we do a number of surveying tasks. In short, we go aboveground, so that you don’t have to.”

“The farm workers have to,” someone shouted.

“Silence!” another Authority man shouted from the sidelines.

“Yes,” Glenn said, unperturbed. “Food cannot be grown underground. But we patrol the fences around the farms and keep those workers as safe as possible. Now,” he said, holding up a hand. “One of our tasks is to keep records of aboveground activity, and to make sure that our safety protocols and laws are stringently kept, so that no harm will come to our citizens. In light of this, I will read to you a list of Quincy Morrow’s crimes that are being tried today.” Glenn took out a small notecard, holding it up to the light.

At least it’s just a notecard, Lyric thought. She tried to catch Quincy’s eye, sitting up as straight as she could, blinking away tears again. Quincy’s gaze was beginning to track the crowd, and then he saw her. Meeting her eyes, his flat expression melted for a moment in a half smile. After that she couldn’t stop the tears.

“Unauthorized, unregulated construction aboveground, outside of Bitterroot patrol territory.”

A quiet murmur rippled through the audience.

“Illegal set up and operation of a steam-powered electrical grid aboveground in the same location.”

Gasps began to follow the murmurs. The flat expression was back on Quincy’s face.

“Illegal harboring of dinosaurs, specifically three Vitaeraptor pinnategens, and possibly others at previous times.”

The murmurs turned into an uproar, people shouting and talking. “Harboring dinosaurs!” “For what?” “Why ever would anyone…!”

“SILENCE!” Louder shouts from the Authority guards finally succeeded in quieting the crowd, but they were visibly agitated now.

Glenn continued, once there was quiet. “Defiance of Authority investigation, evasion of arrest on two occasions, endangering of a minor by unprotected aboveground exposure, and—“ he paused, as if for dramatic effect, “—release of harbored dinosaurs to attack the investigating Authority squad, resulting in the tragic deaths of three men.”

“No!” someone screamed. A woman in the front row, two little children at her side, was weeping. The crowd began to shout again, and again the guards shouted them down to silence.

“We are here today,” Glenn continued, “to give this criminal a hearing. Quincy Morrow, you stand accused. We’re eager to hear your account against these accusations.”

“I don’t deny any of them,” Quincy said.

This time, the crowd was dead silent, every set of eyes on him.

“But I’ll give you my account.” Turning his head to gaze out the thick bars of the outer gate, he sighed. He glanced back at the crowd, and met Lyric’s gaze. She could hardly see him through her tears, but she saw him give her another smile, as if saying, don’t worry.

“Go ahead,” Glenn said.

“Before the Flight,” Quincy said, “I was a biochemist for the Revonet.” A few gasps and murmurs ran through the crowd, but they quickly quieted. “I did a little gene sequencing,” Quincy continued, “but mostly I worked with chromosomes and finding ways to patch up neurological mutations, of which, some of you know, we dealt with quite a lot in the last days of the Revonet. I did see something which I never forgot in the labs, though.” He sighed. “I don’t know how long the Revonet was working on dinosaurs. They’d had the terraform in place for fifty years already, ready for the release of new animal populations and the reestablishment of a natural ecosystem. I was real young, just out of training, when we had an emergency—“

“It must have been in the last stages of transgenic adaptation,” he said. “Something went wrong with an animal they were growing in the lab. I didn’t even know they were growing animals in the labs, but I was one of the team that got called to do an emergency patch-up on the genetic sequence. They brought us in to see it. Just a baby, I guess—I thought it was some sort of large bird of prey. It had quills, and a little down, and scales that looked like some kind of skin disease. Something was wrong with its organs; they were being crushed. By gravity. It foamed at the mouth, and its eyes—it must have looked every single one of us in the eye, begging for help. It was just a baby. We weren’t going to touch it, obviously, and there wasn’t anything we could do. It died, and the computer told us, flatly, that we had to do an emergency patch that night to fix the problem. I don’t know how many problems there were. I wasn’t on the team for any of the others. Anyway, we patched it. The computers analyzed the genetic code, and they highlighted the portions for us that needed the patching. I didn’t get to see much else of the code, but I was stunned by what I did see. The size of the proteins in this animal—the number of catalytic enzymes—well, anyway. That was very early in my career, and I forgot about it, mostly intentionally. I did that a lot, back then.”

“It was years later when the first unfortunate news began to come in. This was after the new animal population releases, but not long after. The death rates, accidents, climbing. Whole sections of cities that the Revonet sealed off. They called it a quarantine and wouldn’t let anyone out. It took a long time… far longer than it should… for people to realize that maybe something was wrong.”

“And here I was, sitting in a lab, wondering why the neurological mutations had gone to an unprecedented scale. Something in the water supply? It took weeks, I think, for it to get into my brain that I should be worrying about my family. A co-worker told me that the Revonet had sealed off half of Missoula. My brother lived there. That did it. I realized the Revonet was condemning people to die from wild animal incursions. I spent three black nights in that lab—really black. Knowing that if the computer knew that I knew, it would kill me too.”

“I got out, I talked to some friends. I wasn’t the only one. Coders, security men, everyone. We started working on a plan. Someone had a datastream about the new wild animal populations, and we spent a whole night watching it. No sleep. That was when I knew the animal I had seen was one of these. They were dinosaurs. Dinosaurs! An older extinct animal population, much older. Nothing, maybe, that human beings had even co-existed with. I couldn’t believe animals like this had ever walked this planet, and maybe they didn’t. Fire-breathing lizards taller than a five story building? Roars that were sonic weapons? These weren’t animals, they were war machines. For a war against what? Against humankind.”

Quincy shook his head. “I’m not telling you anything new. Some of you are survivors of that time, and those who are too young, you’ve heard the stories. We all know what the Revonet did. That’s why we’re here.”

“Anyway, I went back to the lab. We had a plan. You all know about this one. Kentrosaurus nigruforas was the animal we had our sights on. The Revonet had programmed its own death into one of its dinosaurs. I doubt it was intentional, and it may have been too late for an emergency patch, or perhaps they did one, and it didn’t work. Genetic sequencing doesn’t always work as planned. Proteins don’t always fold the way we think they will. The genetic code is so enormous, only a computer can hold it all, and even the best computer in the world—even the Revonet—couldn’t look at the entire thing all at once. So it missed pieces.”

“I held down the security, claiming an emergency problem with a mutation patch, and a group stole some vehicles and took them off of the Revonet commute program. The Kentrosaurus herds had been placed far from the cities, but luckily, there wasn’t much of anything left that was far from a city. Our group went looking for them. They weren’t hard to find, actually. Those cars had a thousand electrical components and they charged them from two miles away. You all know the horror story that followed.”

“The power-contingency locks went down when the Revonet in the area did. I was trapped in the lab. There was no way out, and I knew it. I was going to die in there… but at least I had the hope that some people would get out.”

“How many people died like that? I don’t know. The Revonet locked up the food! Eighty to ninety percent of the human population went down in two weeks after the Revonet did, most of them to dinosaurs, and the rest because they couldn’t get out of whatever building or facility they happened to be in.”

“But here I am alive, and talking to you. I got out. I didn’t get myself out. It was my brother—from Missoula. He’d been sealed off, and him and a whole group of others had survived it and escaped. Not only that, they’d tracked the kentrosaurs, and the electrical surge patterns, and, on their way towards the mountains, my brother blew my lab open with some stolen explosives.” Quincy smiled, a distant looking coming into his eyes. “My brother was something else. He had that tenacious spirit. His name was James. Jimmy Morrow. Some of you might even remember him.”

Several of the older heads nodded.

“He married Miss Angela Gates once we’d settled this place. She came from Rapid City, you remember. Their only daughter is sitting over there.”

Heads turned, and Lyric froze. Some of them knew her, some of them didn’t. Quincy had lifted a hand, as if to beckon her over, but he hesitated, and at a warning glance from Glenn, he dropped his hand. Lyric wiped her eyes; she really couldn’t see. Her parents had been gone for many years, but it still hurt to hear about them. Quincy was her last link to them. Did he have to go on like this? Maybe he did, to convince everyone to forgive him for his crimes. Lyric hoped that they would.

“You all might not know this,” Quincy continued, “but early in the establishment of the Authority, when all we did was build gates, dig tunnels, protect each other, and try to get enough food to stay alive, Jimmy helped me with some research. We went back down to the ruins—down in the valley towards Conner. I was convinced, from the beginning, that there was going to be some clue to undo the harm the Revonet did. How it engineered these damn animals to hunt us. I don’t know how convinced Jimmy was, but he believed in me.” Quincy laughed, but it was a hollow sound. “That indefatigable wretch. He did so much for me. He was amazing. I owed him my life, more than once. There was no man like Jimmy Morrow.”

A few heads, again the older ones, nodded.

“Most of you don’t know me well, if at all,” Quincy said. “Because I was never around. I’ve been working on an experiment this whole twenty years, and I haven’t been doing it in the city. I didn’t want to endanger anyone, because it was a dangerous experiment. I only regret…” He fell silent for a moment, as if struggling against some emotion. “I only regret… that I wasn’t here to help when my brother and his wife were attacked and lost their lives in a compound supply run. A lot of people died on that run. That was one of the incidents that made the Authority really shut down on citizens going aboveground. You should listen to the Authority,” he raised his voice a little, “because they really do want to protect you, even if they go about it a little backwards.”

“Watch it, Quincy,” Glenn said, softly.

Quincy ignored him. “And, ingrate that I am, I didn’t drop my experiment to come back and look after his kid, no, nothing like that. I felt too guilty. I didn’t want to be reminded. The only thing I could think of was my experiment succeeding, and helping all of us get out of this mess. I'm accused of harboring dinosaurs. Well, I was harboring dinosaurs. But I wasn’t just harboring dinosaurs. I was altering them. I built an electrical grid.”

A new ripple of murmurs traveled through the crowd, many people looking at one another fearfully.

“I was a biochemist,” Quincy said. “I raided the labs. I raided Vitaeraptor nests. I had a lost of false starts, a lot of problems. But I didn’t quit. For years, before we had computers and machines, human beings domesticated animals, all sorts of animals, to use for food, for protection, for work. Cows, dogs, horses, chickens. They’ve been extinct for years, but we all know about them. Why couldn’t we use dinosaurs the same way? There was no getting around the fact that these things were our new animal population. Why couldn’t man subdue them like he has every other animal on the earth?”

“Because they’re programmed only to kill us!” someone shouted. One of the guards straightened up, but no further sound came from the crowd.

“Yes,” Quincy said. “They are. My specialty is patching neurological mutations. I don’t have a real lab. I don’t have enough equipment. But I’ve had some success, regardless. It’s not perfect. It will be a long time before it’s perfect. It’s progress. And that’s why I’ve been outside the city, that’s why I harbored dinosaurs, and had an electrical grid. It’s why I was out there teaching my niece what I was doing. I learned a lot about my formulas, actually, from her being there. There’s progress. There’s hope! With dinosaurs on our side, we could—“

“That’s enough,” Glenn said. “Do you have a defense of your killing of three men?”

Quincy sighed. “No. I didn’t know what they would do, and I let my animals loose before they could do anything. I ran, to protect my work. I regret it that they died. I regret that the men pursuing me died. I encountered some unexpected behavior with my own animals, and that’s why I went a lot farther than I actually intended to.”

“Tell us about this unexpected behavior,” Glenn said.

Quincy gave him a wary, measured glance, but continued. “I was injured in a fall,” he said. “My animals defended me from an attack by a wild raptor, but they would not obey the usual directives I gave them. You see, I’ve trained them to do a lot of things. I’ve trained them to carry a rider, to attack on command, to track scents, things like that. Things we used to train dogs and horses to do. Vitaeraptor is smart, very smart. I got on one of them, as I couldn’t walk, and they ran off with me, despite my protests, all the way down to the valley. Again, towards Conner. I wasn’t geared for it, I wasn’t prepared… I nearly lost my life that day. Several others did lose their lives. But several valiant men and women risked their lives to save me, and the Authority men who pursued me. I’m grateful to them for that, and I thought I’d better make up for it all by accepting whatever sentence the Authority gives me. Yes, I care about my work. I don’t want to see what I’ve accomplished destroyed. I truly think it could help us all, if I had the support of the Authority, instead of their condemnation. It’s because of this clash we’re having that people died. And I’m sorry about that. I really am. That’s all I have to say.”

Glenn nodded. “Lyric,” he said.

Lyric felt that icy fist in her stomach again, and she trembled. What did they want with her?

“Come up here,” Glenn said. “You’ll be the first witness.”

No, Lyric thought, no no no no

“You’d better go, Lyric,” Clifton said. “It’ll be all right. Just be honest.”

“I can’t,” she whispered.

“Under penalty of disobedience to the Authority,” Glenn said. “Lyric, come here to give an account as witness.”

Slowly Lyric dragged herself off of the bench.

“It’s okay,” Clifton said, giving her an encouraging smile. Jathan nodded. Lyric thought that the smile did not quite hide the worry on Clifton’s brow, but she haltingly walked around the benches and into the road, feeling eyes on her the whole way.

Quincy looked at her, but now he wasn’t smiling. Heart pounding, she headed towards him, but Glenn beckoned her over to one side. “Right here,” he said, and she stopped next to him. “Now. Are you ready to answer some questions?”

Wordlessly, Lyric nodded. She couldn’t look at the people thronged on the benches, watching her silently. Instead, she looked at the ground in front of her.

“First,” Glenn said. “How did you end up out there with Quincy?”

“He’s my uncle,” Lyric said. “He took me out of school for an internship. That was his experiment with the raptors.”

“What did he teach you, on this internship?”

“Maintenance, basic biochemistry, engineering, and animal containment.”

“And you learned a lot?”

Lyric nodded.

“Did the animals ever bite you, or try to hurt you? I notice you’ve got claw marks all over your face.”

“They never bit me, but I was afraid of them.” Lyric frowned. “The claw marks are from Edward’s net gun. He trapped me in the net with the raptor. It was trying to get out.”

“So these animals never tried to attack you directly?” Glenn asked.

“No.”

“But they attacked others?”

Lyric shuddered. “Yes.”

“Did you see them attack anyone?”

“Yes.”

“Who did you see them attack?”

“The Authority men who came to Quincy’s hideout.”

“Anyone else?”

“Jathan, at the monastery. I knew by then they wouldn’t hurt me, so I ran out to stop Nova before she could hurt him.”

“Is that how you ended up in the net?”

“Yes.”

“At your uncle’s facility,” Glenn said. “What kind of equipment did he have there?”

“Boilers… steam engine… cages… synthesizers… lights.”

“Some of these use electricity, of course,” Glenn said. “Do you know what synthesizers are for?”

“Yes.”

Glenn waited, as if expecting her to continue, and then said, “What are they for?”

“Making the alteration formulas for the raptors.”

“What kind of formulas did he use on the animals?”

“I don’t know. He didn’t tell me.”

“Do you know what formulas he had in his possession?”

“Now I do. Brother Paphnutius and I looked them up.”

“What were they?”

Lyric looked at Quincy. He looked back at her, but his face was unreadable. For some reason, that scared her. Did he want her to tell them? Or keep quiet?

“One was a Resequencer,” she said, finally, looking back to Glenn.

“And the others?”

“They were mitochondrial bonding catalysts,” she said. Maybe they wouldn’t know what that was.

“Whatever he used, w’ve seen some effectiveness. Your uncle says these are smart animals. Would you say they’re smart?” Glenn asked.

“I don’t know. I suppose so. They don’t always do what he says, though.”

“You said you went to stop the raptors when they attacked Jathan at the monastery. Why didn’t you stop them when they attacked the Authority men at your uncle’s facility?”

“I was between them and the men, and I thought they were going to attack me. But they didn’t, they knocked me aside. I didn’t move because I was afraid they would notice me and kill me, too. I didn’t know, then, that they wouldn’t.”

“How did you feel when the raptors killed those three men?”

“Horrible. It was so scary.” Lyric rubbed her forehead.

“Do you think these animals are dangerous?”

“Yes.”

“Do you think your uncle’s experiment could ever be successful?”

Lyric hesitated. “It already is, kind of.”

“Do you think raptors could be taught not to attack any human beings?”

“I don’t know. Maybe.”

“Do you think people should be punished for killing other people?”

Lyric looked at him, but suddenly found herself unable to answer. Her tongue stuck to the roof of her mouth. Yes, of course they should be punished. But she couldn’t say anything.

Glenn nodded slowly. “All right, then,” he said. “You may return to your seat.”

“People,” Lyric managed to stammer, finally, “are worth a lot more than dinosaurs are. If dinosaurs could die to protect people, that would be better.”

“Thank you,” Glenn said, firmly. “Please sit down.”

Lyric felt her face burn, but instead of returning to the bench where Clifton and Jathan were, she went to the other side to sit next to Fr. Antonie. Tears began to fill her eyes again, so that she hardly heard Glenn’s quiet, implacable voice. She had not understood the point of the questions.

Fr. Antonie put an arm around her shoulders. He was thin and bony. “Don’t cry,” he whispered to her. “You did your best. We can’t know their minds.” With his other hand, he handed her a rosary. She clutched it in one hand and didn’t answer.

“The Authority is not unreasonable,” Glenn was saying. “We are as strict as we are on the laws we make so that people are kept safe. Has this man really trained raptors to his command, and altered them so that they don’t attack him? If this is possible, certainly, it could mean new possibilities for the Bitterroot Undermine and for surviving refugees all over the world. Yet he’s been working for twenty years, and has made no report to us. His raptors have killed and attacked several human beings. Are these the marks of a successful experiment?”

Lyric wiped her eyes, looking at Quincy, who still stood silently, no expression on his face. What was he thinking about all this? She still couldn’t understand what the Authority men were trying to do. Were they, in fact, thinking about accepting his experiment and letting him continue it? She hoped so. The wooden beads in her hand felt oddly soothing as she clicked them through her fingers. There was a prayer that went with it, but she couldn’t remember it. “Our dear… Lady,” she whispered.

“Hail Mary,” Fr. Antonie corrected, in a whisper.

“Hail Mary…”

“As the Authority we must balance both sides,” Glenn continued. “Our hearts go out to those who have lost loved ones. We have lost many of our own. Yet we must, in all fairness, consider the aims of this man’s experiment. I would like to call another witness. Salvador?”

A man stood up from the benches. He wore the Authority badge, but not the uniform, and it was easy to see why. Leaning heavily on a crook, the man’s body was tightly bandaged, and it was obvious that every movement caused him pain. Small scrapes and scratches covered his face and hands.

“Full of grace,” Fr. Antonie whispered.

“Full of grace…”

Salvador stiffly wound his way through the benches, approaching Glenn. Several people stood, offering hands to help, but Salvador mutely shook his head to each one. Lyric cringed, watching him. Why was Glenn making him walk? Why was he even here? He should be in bed! Judith would be having a fit.

Salvador stopped, and turned to face the people on the benches. From where she sat, Lyric couldn’t see his face, but his shoulders hunched, and she could see his breathing as it caught with his movement.

“My friend Salvador,” Glenn said, and a trace of warmth appeared in his voice. “I am so sorry to have to put you through this, but I appreciate your willingness to help us all to understand what we’re dealing with here.”

“Of course,” Salvador said, faintly.

“Salvador was on the Authority squad that investigated Quincy’s facility,” Glenn said. His voice was flat again. “Of the four men deployed, he was the only one who survived. His wounds were caused by Quincy’s raptors.”

A worried murmur rippled through the crowd.

“How would you describe the attack?” Glenn asked Salvador.

“Let’s just say,” Salvador said, dully, “I shouldn’t still be alive. They want to kill us. They were made to kill us. I have never seen the kind of malice that I saw in that animal’s eyes as it…” He trailed off, closing his eyes.

“Thank you, Salvador,” Glenn said. “I’m sorry. You may sit down.” Without a word, Salvador did so, as someone on the nearest bench gave up his seat for him.

“Salvador’s experience is not unusual in our world today,” Glenn said. “What is unusual—and fortunate—is that he survived it. What is also unusual is that the animals that attacked him were set on him.”

More worried mumurs stirred the crowd. Lyric sat frozen, holding the beads up in her hand.

“The Lord is with thee,” Fr. Antonie whispered. But she couldn’t repeat it.

“When the Authority apprehended this man,” Glenn was saying now, “we also captured one of his animals.”

This got the audience talking, with great agitation, although Lyric could not hear what they were saying. “Silence!” one of the Authority men shouted, from near the gate.

“Thus, we brought you all here today to witness with us the results of this experiment. This is why we are here, and not in the Undermine. We have the raptor, tranquilized, locked in one of the maintenance shed out there.” Glenn lifted an arm and pointed, and every head turned. Outside the heavy steel bars of the cage-like gate that led out to the farms, two solidly built maintenance sheds squatted at the edges of the tunnel. “We’re going to watch Quincy’s training in action.”

Quincy stared at Glenn now. “You didn’t see enough with the cryolophosaur?” he asked.

“That was a different situation,” Glenn said. “And no one saw that except you. Today, we’re all going to witness what you’ve done, the relationship you’ve built with a dangerous animal.”

Lyric saw one of Quincy’s hands clench, not completely, just a slight sudden tension. She could hardly see or hear anything else, but Quincy was in her sight in sharp detail.

Glenn nodded to the guards at the gate, and with a loud clang they unbolted and opened it. Another guard stepped forward, and gestured to Quincy with his gun, that he should go outside. Quincy was obviously reluctant—it took a rough grip on his arm and a push from another guard’s gun barrel before he went outside the gate.

Another guard took a syringe from a box, filling it from a bottle. As his colleagues flanked him, he stepped outside the gate and walked to the nearest maintenance shed, passing Quincy and the two guards now holding his arms.

The crowd was riveted, silent, watching as the guard unlocked and heaved open the shed door. A sour, nauseating stench wafted out, and several people covered their mouths and noses with hands of handkerchiefs, murmuring to one another. It was like a bad show—nobody wanted to see it, but nobody could look away. Lyric couldn’t, either. Still, if they did have Nova in there, she wouldn’t hurt Quincy. She might hurt someone else, though, and they might sentence him for that, too. She heard Fr. Antonie behind her, murmuring under his breath the prayer she had forgotten to say.

The guard with the syringe disappeared into the dark doorway. He came out a few seconds later, nearly tripping in his rush. Leaving the shed door ajar, he and the other guards released Quincy, filed back behind the barred gate, and shut, and locked it.

Quincy was alone out in the farms. The wide road that ambled towards the fields gave plenty of view to the blue sky, and the nearest stretch of the towering, multi-tiered steel fence that blocked in the whole area of the fields.

A hissing snarl, hesitant, echoed from within the shed. No one on the benches moved. The guards stood in rigid array, guns at the ready, but off to the side so that everyone had a clear view of Quincy standing there, facing the shed. From the shed, sniffing, and scraping. The hot death stench.

It must have been at least a minute, but not much more. It felt like an hour. No one moved or spoke. Lyric gripped the sleeve of Fr. Antonie’s black cassock, suddenly far more afraid than she had been. Something was wrong.

Then a stealth of movement flickered at the shed door, and a raptor slunk out into the daylight, furtive, as if its body was still adjusting to the antidote it had just been given. But the raptor was unharnessed, its feathers were dark, they were the wrong color.

Lyric screamed. That wasn’t Nova. It wasn’t Sparky, either. She had never seen this raptor before.

Quincy was standing there, his mouth open, dumbfounded, his injured leg hovering as if he wanted to run. The raptor’s eyes locked on Quincy, and it snarled, tensing to spring. Lyric saw Quincy’s face go deathly pale, whether with fear or rage—or both—she couldn’t tell.

“You snakes,” he shouted. “This isn’t one of my raptors!”

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