Symbiont Page 115

“Maybe you’re right.” I shook my head. “But if there’s even a chance that it isn’t, I still have to try.”

“How are you going to get to San Francisco?”

She wasn’t saying no anymore. That was a good sign, even if she was asking questions I didn’t know how to answer. To my surprise and relief, Nathan spoke up, saying calmly, “We’re going to steal a ferryboat.”

Dr. Cale’s eyebrows rose. “That’s a reasonable approach, I suppose, but it might lead to interference from USAMRIID.”

“Not if we take Dr. Banks with us,” said Nathan. “Hostages have a way of clarifying response during situations like this one.”

“What if they no longer consider him to be of use?” challenged Dr. Cale. “He came here with a damaged, dying chimera and no real understanding of the method used to create them. We would be sending him back with a fully functional, fully integrated chimera, and a doctor who is known to have been working in my lab in at least a low-level capacity since this crisis began. We’re more than doubling the value of their investment. They could shoot him and take you both, and we’d have gained nothing.”

“We’re not gaining anything now,” I said quietly. She and Nathan both turned to look at me. “We’re just spinning our wheels here. I know we don’t know anything about how to stop the sleepwalkers from taking over their hosts that we didn’t know before things got bad. We can’t put antiparasitics in the water at this stage without killing everybody, but if we don’t find a way to make the sleepwalkers stop, they’re going to keep taking over, and people are going to keep dying. We don’t know where Sherman is. This is a thing we can do. We can go to San Francisco. We can bring Tansy back. Isn’t that enough to take a risk on?”

“You’re asking me to risk my son,” said Dr. Cale. “That’s not something I can do on a whim.”

“I’m asking you to stand by while I risk myself, Mom,” said Nathan. “It’s not the same thing.”

She looked at him pleadingly, her wide blue eyes—so like his, and so unlike his, all at the same time—filling with slow tears. From almost anyone else that would have seemed like manipulation, but not from Dr. Cale. She didn’t manipulate people with tears. That would have been crude, and beneath her, which meant that any sorrow she demonstrated now was utterly, painfully real.

“I don’t want to lose you again,” she said. “Don’t make me do this.”

“You won’t lose me.” Nathan walked away from me to lean down and put his arms around his mother. I looked away, feeling vaguely as if I was intruding. Adam met my eyes across Anna’s unmoving body, and I felt a pang of guilt on top of my unease. How hard was all of this on him? He’d gone from having one sister and being the only beloved son to having two sisters and a brother, and then he’d lost one sister—maybe forever—and his place at the front of Dr. Cale’s affections at the same time.

“I found you again,” Nathan said, arms still tight around his mother’s shoulders. “Don’t you understand how huge that is? You left me because you had to, you died because you had to, and I found you. There was no way it should have happened, and it did. But that wouldn’t have happened if it hadn’t been for Sal starting to ask questions—if it hadn’t been for Sal falling into my life in the first place, like some strange scientific miracle that just needed a place to shine. She brought me to you. She brought me through the broken doors when I thought that they were closed forever, and now she’s trying to take me to Tansy, she’s trying to take me to save your little girl, and you have to say that it’s okay. You can’t welcome me with open arms and then not let me bring the rest of the family home. We belong together. We belong with you. Let us do this.”

“Besides, their doing this may distract USAMRIID from looking too closely at us, and that, in turn, will make it easier for us to begin tearing down the factory and figure out how to escape surveillance,” said Fang, speaking up for the first time since we had returned to Anna’s bedside. “The dogs will be a problem, but we’re going to have a lot of trucks and carts moving around in here as we shift equipment. Triggering one of Sal’s panic attacks would do none of us any good.”

I decided against reminding him that I only panicked when I was in a vehicle. “See? You need us out of here, and you need the diversion. We’ll go, and USAMRIID’s attention will be off you for a little while. We’ll use Dr. Banks to get into SymboGen, and we’ll be back with Tansy.”

“What if we’re not here?” asked Dr. Cale. “Once we start moving, it’s going to happen fast.”

“Just leave a sign.” Nathan straightened, letting her go. “We’ll find you. We found you before. We always find each other. It’s what we do.”

Adam looked at me again, expression bleak. I forced a smile for his benefit.

“Besides, it’s about time Dr. Banks learned what it’s like to have someone else using him,” I said.

That was the right thing to say. Dr. Cale looked at me, blinking, before she began, very slowly, to smile.

STAGE IV: TELOPHASE

Uh, who’s responsible for this plan? Because this is a bad plan. This is a plan where everybody dies, and I can’t have any part of that.

–DR. NATHAN KIM

No.

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