We are not lying now. Please download and read the attached documents, which encompass everything leading up to our departure from Oakland. If they do not load, please visit one of our mirror sites. Continue trying. This is important. These are things you need to know.
We are telling you the truth.
—From Fish and Clips, the blog of Mahir Gowda, August 7, 2041.
The mosquitoes that swept from Cuba to the American Gulf Coast, resulting in the death of millions, did not arise naturally. They were genetically engineered by scientists in the employ of the CDC. Please download and review the attached documents for further details, including a full description of the life cycle of the modified yellow fever mosquito.
We are telling you the truth.
That will not bring my parents back to life.
—From The Kwong Way of Things, the blog of Alaric Kwong, August 7, 2041.
The man from the CDC kept on talking; to be honest, I had pretty much stopped listening. Alaric and Becks were paying attention and periodically asking questions that seemed at least vaguely connected to the things coming out of his mouth, so I figured no one would notice—or care—if I checked out for a little bit. As long as I didn’t start to drool, they’d probably figure I was just being a big, dumb Irwin and letting the smart people talk. That’s the useful thing about being a figurehead. Nobody cares if you’re an idiot, as long as you’re a useful one.
They’re never going to give her back to you, murmured Georgia. There was a faint echoing quality to her words, and I knew that if I turned my head she’d be there, watching me, waiting for me to admit that she was right. That scared me almost more than the things she was saying. I used to welcome the hallucinations, viewing them as the only way I could see her anymore. Now… I knew I wasn’t going to go un-crazy as fast as I went crazy. But the idea of being left alone with a voice in my head and the occasional delusional vision was suddenly terrifying. I got her back. Why the hell wasn’t the world going to let me keep her?
You don’t need to worry about their little replacement. The world will let you keep me, she said. Just you and me, forever. That’s what you said you wanted, isn’t it? You volunteered to be a haunted house.
“Shut up,” I muttered, trying to keep my voice low enough that no one else would notice.
It didn’t work. “What was that?” asked the doctor, attention swinging back around to me.
Uh-oh. “Uh…” I began.
“He talks to himself,” said Becks, matter-of-factly. “I’m actually impressed that this is the first time he’s done it. Just ignore him and keep telling us why immune response in babies is enough to cause reservoir conditions, but not enough to avoid spontaneous amplification when they cross the sixty-pound threshold.”
“He talks to himself?” The doctor frowned at me like I had suddenly become an exciting new medical mystery. I wondered how he’d feel if he knew I was immune to the Kellis-Amberlee virus. He’d probably start asking whether he could dissect me—assuming he cared about asking. George had already proven that people were now a matter of crunch all you want, we’ll make more. Maybe he already had Shaun II baking in one of their cloning tanks, ready for his triumphant decanting.
“Turns out being forced to shoot the one person in the world you thought would outlive you in the head sort of f**ks with your sense of reality,” I said coldly. “I mean, my choices were a nice, mellow psychotic break with talking to myself and the occasional voice in my head, or climbing the nearest cell tower and playing sniper until somebody came and gunned me down. I figured option A would be better for my long-term health, if not my sanity.”
“And you still listen to him? You still do what he says?” asked the doctor, his attention swinging back to Becks and Alaric.
Alaric shrugged. “Sure. He’s the boss.”
“Fascinating.” The man from the CDC shook his head as he turned toward President Ryman. “You see the power of trust? Once you believe a person won’t mislead you, you keep believing it, even after you realize they’ve gone insane. This plan may actually work.”
“Or maybe not,” said George. “It’s a little bit of a coin toss right now, if you ask me.”
The doctor whipped around, eyes widening. “What are you doing?”
His reaction made me realize she was really here, rather than speaking into the dark inside my head. I turned to see George standing in the doorway, an unfamiliar gun in her hands. She had it aimed squarely at the doctor’s chest. Rick was behind her, expression grim, standing next to a man I didn’t recognize. Steve was nowhere to be seen.
“If you so much as twitch, I swear, I will shoot you,” said George.
The doctor ignored her, reaching for his pocket. The sound of the safety clicking off was very loud. He froze. “You’re making a mistake,” he said.
“Maybe your mistake was focusing so hard on my replacement that you forgot to give me an off switch,” replied George.
“No, they gave you one,” said the stranger. “We just took it out before they had the chance to use it.”
“Oh, right,” said George. “Silly me. I always forget about the excruciatingly painful nonelective surgeries.”
The doctor’s eyes got even wider, if that was possible. “Dr. Lake?” he demanded, looking toward the unfamiliar man.
The stranger smiled, the expression bordering on a snarl. “I resign,” he said.
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