There was quiet for half a second, Mr. Cumberland snored, and then…

'No, Judy. You lost your baby,' the doctor said nervously, moving back into position. 'And they fixed your hernia here.'

'Hernia!' Judy looked down at her own injured stomach, pressed her free hand there and fired another shot at the door. 'You're a liar!'

Borland was trying to focus on her pistol, trying to think of the number of bullets in the clip, but his mind was foggy from blood loss and he was wracked with spasms of pain.


He took a breath and every nerve in his abdomen fired pain.


Tears welled up in his eyes.


'Judy,' Borland said, cleared his throat. The action made him shudder in pain. 'She said you lost your baby.'

Judy glared at him. The barrel of the gun centered on his face. 'Don't listen to them.'

'See, I think you lost your baby,' he said, 'and the operation started something in your head. And now you're sick with sadness. There's nothing wrong with that.'

'I didn't lose my baby,' Judy said, tears shining in her eyes. 'What kind of a person, what kind of a mother would do that? Lose something so precious. I'd go to hell for that!'

'You're only human,' Borland wheezed and dragged a foot up. His guts bulged out of the wound and he grunted. More blood spilled.

He wasn't going to make it. A peaceful resolution to a hostage situation could take hours he didn't have.

… a finesse he'd never learned.

'Look, unless…' His eyebrows formed a thoughtful line. 'Wait a minute, go to hell? '

'That's what happens,' Judy explained, 'to bad mothers.'

'It doesn't Judy,' Borland gasped, the pain was breaking him. Tears rolled out of his eyes.

'Yes it does!' Judy insisted.

'You must belong to one of those nutty churches,' Borland said, and a sob shook him. The muscles in his torso ground against each other. 'That send people to hell for anything.'

Don't do it…

'I'm Catholic…' Judy's eyes softened for a second.

'Even those bastards won't send you to hell for losing a baby,' Borland chewed on his lip as a spasm of pain shook him. More tears fell. 'Unless…'

'That's enough!' She glared at him and held the pistol at his face.

Oh god, don't do it.

'Judy, I thought it was postpartum depression, but now I think it's just depression,' Borland said and shrugged painfully. He was getting dizzier. 'Maybe it's the Variant Effect too, but I think it's mostly guilt.'

'Quiet!' The gun shook in Judy's hand.

Do what you have to do.'

'You didn't lose your baby, Judy,' Borland growled.

'Shut up!' she screamed.

'You aborted it,' he snarled.

'Shut up!' Judy shouted and slipped another hand around the gun to steady it. 'You don't know what you're talking about!'

Just do it.

'I don't care one way or another. But as a Catholic you're damned and as a cop you'll condemn yourself for being human.' Borland tried to sit forward but was overcome with nausea. His heart throbbed heavily. 'I can't see a way out for you.'

'Judy?' Dr. Lemington called through the door.

Judy looked over, and then back at Borland.

'See,' she said. 'They turned you against me.'

'Jesus!' he yelled, eyes full of tears. 'Judy either put me out of my misery, murder Mr. Cumberland or do what you have to do!' He winced rolling to his knees. 'You know there's only one person in the room that's got this coming!'

Judy aimed the gun and pulled the trigger.


That was then. This is now.

Borland sat on his couch sipping whiskey and watching the blue screen. Zombie's comic book lay crumpled on the couch beside him.


It was easy for Brass's scientists to biopsy her brain. She'd conveniently opened her skull for them. They found the Variant molecule there, but in quantities that suggested it should be dormant. And there was no sign of the new thirteenth hybrid molecule they'd found in Parkerville.

She was a kinderkid but had never presented. A worrier, a bit of a nail-biter, but nothing you could put your finger on. Nothing outside the norm or dangerous.

Unlikely Variant, so it was guilt that presented, that drove her to extremes.

Judy was a uniformed Metro cop for eight years with the dream of finding a nice fellow, settling down and becoming a mother.

Her dream came true.

But not for her ambitious boyfriend, another uniformed Metro cop. He had his eyes set on promotions and so he declared their love-child a little premature-maybe later after the wedding. They could try again.

Pressure was applied-ultimatums issued. And dreams collided.

Judy should never have agreed to the abortion.

The guilt caused her to fight and ruined her relationship before the marriage. That sent her into a tailspin that ended with her on indefinite leave from the force riding a psychiatrist's couch.

In and out of mental hospitals, some time in there she developed an inguinal hernia.

Then, something went right. She got the right mix of meds. Maybe she met a fellow, but things were on the upswing-she decided to fix the hernia so she could get back to the gym, lose some weight and feel better about herself. Maybe grow a new dream.

But something went wrong at the Shomberg Clinic. Her antidepressant mixed with shame and painkillers, and she took a guilt trip that almost killed Borland.

When she shot herself, Borland started calling to the SWAT team. They rammed the lock off the door and entered, guns on Borland and Mr. Cumberland.

The old bugger finally woke up when they knocked.

He asked for a drink of water. Cumberland had his operation while Borland was waiting for his turn downstairs. The old man's pain meds had kept him asleep through Judy's assault on reality.

That said a lot for Borland. His doctors were impressed, said it was remarkable that he'd been able to stay conscious through all that pain, medication and blood loss.

He was weeping like a little girl when they did come in, but the SWAT guys cut him some slack because he looked like something that had escaped from a slaughterhouse.

Borland was given transfusions and stabilized, and at his request; they completed the hernia procedures over the next couple of days. Another request he made was to Brass who pulled those strings again and managed to have an armed guard of baggies stay on site to accompany Borland through the operations.

The hernias ruled his life for the next three weeks. During their reign he managed to stay drunk from late

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