Beyond Control - By Kit Rocha Page 0,1


"Never you mind how I found it." Stole it, she corrected silently. Not that it mattered.

Walt's gnarled hands shook as he reached for his breathing device. "Flex those clever fingers, girl, and help me hook it up. If it works, the money's yours."

Walt's assisted breathing device delivered oxygen through a simple set of nasal tubes. The complicated part was the apparatus itself, a small black box that worked as a conductive purifier. The small intake drew air in, filtered it, and both isolated and concentrated the oxygen content. It worked without power, but barely any more efficiently than simply breathing.

Lex slipped one of the small rechargeable battery cells from the solar converter and fit it into the slot Walt indicated. A tiny light on the side of the purifier flashed blue and then a solid green, and an almost imperceptible hiss filled the room as Lex helped Walt loop the tubes over his ears and fit the points into his nostrils.

Walt closed his eyes and inhaled deeply. Mad watched them both, a tiny smile curving his lips. "See, old man? Tech so smooth it's almost magic."

"Hush," Walt grumbled in between more of those relieved breaths. "This one, Lex--he has no trouble getting air, and he wastes it on so many words. Does he ever stop talking?"

"Nope." Mad talked all the time--and mostly, Lex suspected, to convince people he was simple. Shallow. "Don't let it fool you though, Walt. He's sharp."

Walt huffed. "The whole lot of you O'Kanes are sharp."

"That we are," she teased.

The old man squinted at her. "I heard Dallas had himself some trouble, though. Should I be worried about moving out to the edge of the sector? Is the place coming down around our ears?"

"No more so than usual." Lex gathered the cash and credit sticks in one hand. "Anything else you're on the lookout for? Just in case I stumble across it?"

"I've got a new customer, a collector. He'll pay top credit for pre-Flare videos. Westerns, he wants. Cowboys and outlaws." Walt showed his disdain for that preference with a loud sniff. "Fools with more money than sense. But fools make my living, don't they?"

"We've all got our something." Some people wanted porn, others wanted priceless art. And others wanted vintage Clint Eastwood. "I might be able to scrounge up a few. Keep in touch."

Walt followed them back through the labyrinth of crates and boxes to the back door, and Lex lingered outside long enough to hear the click and scrape of every lock and chain. "Got plans?" she asked Mad, her hands in her pockets.

"That's what I was about to ask you." He nodded to her jacket. "I saw you got credits."

She still had her fingers wrapped around the paper and plastic in her pocket. She pulled out the handful and shoved it at him. "You and Doc can split it. You know the drill."

"Doc's got a girl who can use some of this tonight." He folded the bills before dumping the credit chips into his pocket. "Pregnant. She almost drowned in the river trying to get out of Two before--"

Lex closed her eyes, as if doing so would shut out the words, as well. "It's better if I don't know, Mad."

"You're doing good work, honey, helping people who need it. Why don't you ever want to hear that?"

Because it wasn't her job. Because it wasn't enough. Because Dallas would make her stop--or worse, try to throw in with her and do more. "This is the way I want it."

"Ah, Lex. All right." Mad threw a friendly arm around her shoulders and tugged her to his side for a brief hug. "You gonna let me walk you back to the compound?"

"That wouldn't be very sneaky," she demurred. "I've got to slip by Dallas somehow. I'm not supposed to be out after dark."

"Well, be good and sneaky, then." He squeezed her shoulders. "I know you can take care of yourself, girl, but have some pity on the rest of us. Dallas roars around like a lion with a thorn in his paw when he thinks you've been putting yourself in harm's way."

She'd planned to wait until morning to run her errand. She'd tried, even, but in the end she couldn't. "Was I supposed to let a sick man huff and puff all night just to keep Dallas from flipping his shit?"

"You snarl and snap all you want, Lex. I know your dirty secret." Mad laughed and poked her in the chest. "You have a heart."

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