Symbiont Page 131

“That’s horrible.”

“That’s nature.” Nathan turned. The window leading to the control booth was right behind us; I could see Fishy through the thick glass, still happily manipulating the controls that he had freely admitted to barely understanding. He hadn’t crashed us yet, which was better than I could have done. Nathan cupped his hands around his mouth and shouted, “Just steer around the breaks!”

“Yeah, genius, I’m already on that.” Again, Fishy’s voice came from the speakers, which must have been installed for the convenience of the commuters who used to ride this boat to and from work every single day. It seemed like a singularly cold, wet way to spend a commute. “Here’s my question: what do you want me to do about the sharks?”

There was a long pause while both Nathan and I tried to puzzle through that statement. Then—again in unison—we walked back to the rail and leaned forward, peering out.

A body floated by to my right. It was a woman, her dead, empty eyes staring upward at the unforgiving sky. Then, with no fanfare and no immediate cause, she was gone, disappearing under the surface like she had never been there. I took a breath, preparing to say something, and stopped as the woman reappeared… only now she was missing much of her right arm, and as I watched, a flash of gray fin signaled the return of the shark that had taken it, coming back for more. The woman disappeared again. This time, if she resurfaced, she didn’t do it where I could see.

I took a big step back from the rail, shuddering. “That’s really creepy,” I said.

“That’s fascinating.” Nathan was still in his initial position, leaning so far over that he looked like he was in danger of pitching overboard at any moment. “There were probably some minor chemical spills when the luxury boats and such sank—a natural consequence of any emergency that leaves people with time to put out to sea—and that would have killed off a lot of the local fish. Sharks start getting desperate, and then they discover that the crows have established an all-you-can-eat cafeteria near the bridge. It’s elegant. Nothing goes to waste.”

“They’re eating people,” I said, in case Nathan had somehow managed to miss that.

“Yes. That’s probably for the best—if sleepwalkers are going off the bridge at that rate all day, without the sharks disposing of the bodies that miss the current, we’d be sailing into a solid mat of corpses.” Nathan finally turned away from the water. The salt spray had crusted on the lenses of his glasses, rendering them virtually opaque. “It’s unpleasant, I know, but it’s a good thing, honestly. It’s going to help us make it to land without any major difficulties.”

“I thought you were supposed to be the human one here,” I said, and turned, walking back to the benches without saying another word.

Nathan didn’t follow me.

It took us almost an hour to sail across the Bay, and that was with Fishy pushing the ferry’s undermaintained engines as hard as he could, squeezing every last ounce of speed out of the straining machinery. When we were maybe a quarter mile out from the shore he began to bleed off speed, and his cheerful voice blared over the speakers once again: “Lady, dog, and gentlemen, we are now approaching the Port of San Francisco, where I will attempt to park this boat without actually destroying the historic San Francisco pier. If I fail in my attempt, you can be comforted by the knowledge that this boat was designed to absorb collisions without killing commuters, so we’ll probably all live, but we probably won’t like it.”

“Oh, yay,” I muttered.

Fishy continued: “Once we have reached the Ferry Building and, again, hopefully come to a safe and secure stop, we will need to refill the tank, as we’re basically out of gas, and may have to paddle the rest of the way. Thank you for sailing with Oceanic Apocalypse: when the world ends, we get you there anyway.”

The speaker clicked off. Dr. Banks groaned, offering a heartfelt “Oh, thank God, he shut up,” to no one in particular. I smothered the urge to chuckle. Laughing openly at his discomfort wasn’t going to do us any good, no matter how much I wanted to do it.

Nathan walked around the corner of the cabin, looking at me uncertainly for a moment before he came and sat down next to me. I reached out and took his hand, twining my fingers firmly through his.

“Do you know how to refuel a ferry?” I asked.

“No, and I’d be willing to bet that Fishy doesn’t either, but I’m sure he’s seen it in a video game.” Nathan squeezed my hand. “We’ll be okay. We’re almost there. We’ll get to SymboGen, we’ll get Tansy back, and we’ll go home. Wherever that is by now.”

“Your mom likes putting labs in recreational facilities. First the bowling alley, and then the candy factory. She’ll have to top that somehow,” I said, and giggled. “Do you think she’ll take over an amusement park next?”

“Roller coasters are a way of showing reverence to physics; she just might,” said Nathan.

“It’s adorable how you two delusional little fuckers think you’re going to walk away from this,” said Dr. Banks. His voice came from directly behind our bench. I flinched and twisted to look, not letting go of Nathan’s hand. The unkempt, handcuffed CEO of SymboGen Inc. was standing on the deck between our bench and the next, leveling a malicious look in our direction. He rolled easily with the pitch of the boat, shifting his weight between his ankles and toes in a graceful motion that I would have needed weeks to master. Still glaring, he continued: “You’ll be lucky to make it off the boat. Even if you get a car, what happens then? SymboGen is a secure facility. You’ll never get through the doors. Not unless I help you.”

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