Symbiont Page 117

He offered me his hand. I took it with the hand that didn’t hold Beverly’s leash, and we walked away from everything, moving toward the distant, terrifying future.

Getting from Captain Candy’s Chocolate Factory to the ferry terminal was easier said than done. On paper, it was a relatively straight five-mile shot down Tennessee Street to the waterfront. From there, we’d be able to navigate the short, clearly labeled streets around the docks to find what we needed. Fishy and Fang both agreed that what we needed was the actual ferryboat: it was not only designed to be relatively easy to steer, but it was made to handle the shoals and waves of the open bay, while most of the smaller, privately owned craft were likely to capsize if the water got choppy. California didn’t have much of a winter compared to the rest of the world, or even the rest of the country, but we did get more wind in November and December. Since a cold, wet shark encounter wasn’t going to help anything, it was better if we grabbed a boat that was big enough to do the job.

Dr. Banks complicated things. After a lengthy discussion with Fang, we had decided to cuff his hands in front of him for the journey. It would leave him relatively defenseless—not good—but it would also make it less likely that he would run away. Yes, any USAMRIID soldiers who happened to intercept us would immediately know that he’d been taken prisoner. That was a small price to pay for not losing him in the maze of streets that was downtown Vallejo.

Fishy was coming with us: Fang was not. Which brought us to the next problem on our rapidly growing list:

We didn’t have a security team. We only had one assault rifle between the four of us. And we had to travel almost six miles total, most of it through territory that had been ceded to the sleepwalkers, if we wanted to make it to the water.

“My biggest recommendation to you is take it slow, take it quiet, and whatever you do, don’t make any noise that isn’t strictly necessary,” said Fang, walking with us toward the exit to the parking garage. “The van is ready for you, but you should abandon it when you reach the harbor. The sound of the engine will just draw more sleepwalkers.”

“This is inhumane,” said Dr. Banks, giving another yank on his cuffs. “You can’t honestly expect me to stay quiet while your people treat me like a common animal.”

“You can’t honestly expect ‘my’ people to let you stay in the van if you insist on making noise,” Fang countered. He placed his hand between Dr. Banks’s shoulder blades, giving the older man a hard shove. Dr. Banks staggered forward a few feet before he managed to stop and turn, shooting a venomous glare back at Fang, who smiled serenely. “You must understand my position, Doctor. You have never benefited me in any concrete manner. You have neither improved my life nor changed its course in any positive way. What you have done is knock everything I had ever planned for myself askew, trapping me in a future I neither designed nor desired. So please, enlighten me. Why should I recommend mercy when you’ve never deigned to show any to anyone else?”

Fishy yawned extravagantly. “You’ve been hanging out with the mad doctor too long,” he said, digging an elbow into Fang’s side. “I think making speeches is contagious.”

“It’s fun to watch you all treat Dr. Banks like a chewy toy, but I think we should probably get going,” I said, surprising everyone—even myself—with the assertiveness in my tone. Fang actually looked impressed. “We don’t want to be crossing the Bay after dark, and I really don’t want to land in San Francisco after dark.”

“Ah: that will be the next challenge,” said Fang. “There should be vehicles near the Ferry Building. If nothing else, building maintenance has to have had something they could use to pick up parts when necessary.”

“Hold on a second,” said Fishy. “What do you mean, ‘should be’? Don’t you know?”

“I don’t know everything,” said Fang. He ignored Fishy’s irritated muttering as he continued: “We can’t exactly scout the site before you go there. I will recommend you check the dock before you land. If you drive into the middle of a sleepwalker mob…”

“We all know how that ends,” said Nathan. He clamped a hand down on Dr. Banks’s shoulder. “It’s going to be fine. We’ll go to the ferry, cross the water, find a vehicle, go to SymboGen, find Tansy, and then do the whole thing in reverse. No problem.”

Fang raised an eyebrow. “Do you actually believe any of what you just said?”

“I believe that’s the plan,” said Nathan.

“I believe we’re never going to find out whether it works until we try it,” I said.

Dr. Banks turned his head, glaring at each of us in turn. “You fools are going to get us all killed,” he said. “If I survive this, I’ll be telling my lawyers about you.”

“Don’t be silly, Steven,” I said. His head snapped toward me, expression going startled. I smiled. “There are no more lawyers, remember?”

“And remember whose fault that is.” Fang gave him another shove. Nathan pulled him along, and Fishy and I fell into step behind them as we walked away, leaving Fang standing alone in the lobby. I managed—somehow—not to look back. It would have felt too much like admitting that we were never going to see him again. So I didn’t do it.

I just walked.

Getting into a car was stressful for me under the best of circumstances. The stress just increased when Nathan shoved Dr. Banks into the back of the van and climbed in after him, leaving the front seat for me… and for Fishy, who slipped behind the wheel like it was only natural for him to be seated there. I froze, my hand on the door handle, and shot a hurt, bewildered look at Nathan, who shrugged apologetically.

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