One of the boys, who had been wearing all black before decontamination and sported the beginnings of a thin beard, swore and laughed. “This is not for our safety.”
Bowman scowled at him and continued talking. “You may have had friends who were detained for further questioning. Trust me—they will be fine. They have showed the early warning signs of a debilitating disease, and it is in the interest of national health to quarantine them temporarily.”
The boy swore again.
Bowman took a step forward. “What is your name, son?”
“Simon Fisher,” the boy said. “So what?”
“Simon Fisher,” Bowman repeated, staring down at the boy. “You’re a tough guy, huh? Weren’t you found in the freezer of a burger shop? Hiding all alone behind a bag of frozen fries?”
“We shouldn’t have to hide from the government,” Simon answered. His voice was firm, but he looked unsure of himself.
“Let me tell you something,” Bowman said, stepping forward and leaning down until his face was right in front of Simon’s. Bowman’s voice remained as calm as before, but it was hard and cold. “You fled the police and military, and you were lucky that you didn’t get shot when we found you. You wouldn’t have been the first. My division has lost more than two hundred men in the past five days, just trying to keep little brats like you alive.”
Bowman took a step back and again addressed the group. “We have limited manpower here. You’ll notice very few guards. But we’re not going to have any trouble, are we?”
No one in the group spoke. Aubrey felt sick.
“Let me be clear,” Bowman said. “We have a method for dealing with those who are causing trouble. Tent 209 can be retested for the disease. And, in my experience, there’s a strange correlation between those who cause trouble and those who get sent to quarantine.”
Simon opened his mouth to speak, but didn’t say anything.
“I’ve also found,” Bowman said, sitting on the edge of a table, “that if one person in a tent goes to quarantine, then others in the tent get sent to quarantine as well. So you’ll be well served by keeping an eye on your friends.”
Aubrey glanced at Kara and their gaze met for a moment. Kara looked terrified, and Aubrey felt the same. If this was what it was like for the Negatives, how were things for the Positives? For Jack?
Bowman stared at them for a moment, and then stood and turned. He pointed at the shelves in the corner, and a soldier standing next to them. “This is your primary point of contact for all needs. This man will provide you with all necessaries: food, clothes, blankets. If you have a problem, talk to him. He’s assigned to Tents 201 to 220.” He looked back at the group, his eyes meeting Aubrey’s. “Other than that, your orders are to wait. Do not think that you have been forgotten and that you need to register a complaint. You will be returned to your homes as soon as the crisis has passed.”
The young boy raised his hand. Aubrey cringed, hoping he wouldn’t make Bowman angry.
“Excuse me,” the boy said. “What is the crisis? No one really knows.”
Bowman glared at the boy for a moment and then put his hands behind his back. “From our best estimates, 180,000 Americans have been killed in the last three weeks. The origin of the terrorists, if it is known at all, has not been divulged to me. But we do know that the attackers have the illness for which you were all screened, and we know that the illness makes people dangerous.”
Aubrey’s heart sank, nausea and fear swelling inside her.
“For now,” Bowman said, his expression slightly softened, “proceed to the supply station. They have orientation packets for you. We’ll get you home as soon as we can.”
Mood: Pissed off
Have you ever seen that movie Chicago? Erica = Roxie, and Sara = Velma. Both should be locked up ASAP. They’re both crazy and they deserve each other. They are a severe, SEVERE pain in my butt.
JACK’S CELL WAS BARE AND cramped, the floor too small for him to lie flat. Other than the miniature size, it seemed like the prisons he’d seen on TV: bare cement and cinder block, steel bars for a door, and fitted with its own steel toilet.
He’d been there for sixteen hours—the soldiers hadn’t taken his watch or even frisked him. Although two had escorted him down the narrow corridor to his cell, the men seemed almost afraid to touch him, let alone talk to him. He wasn’t a threat in any way—he felt weak and drained of energy, his head still ringing from the noise weapon outside, and his hearing was only now beginning to come back.
The others in the prison had been a blur as he was marched to his cell. They’d stood at the bars of their cells, calling to him, yelling at the soldiers, but he hadn’t been able to hear a word of it.
One way the prison was different from the ones he’d seen on TV: it wasn’t segregated. He’d seen both boys and girls in the cells he’d passed, and now he could hear their muffled voices: sometimes talking, often yelling, and occasionally crying. If there was any pattern it was that they were all teenagers. Jack was among the older ones, he guessed, but no one looked more than eighteen or nineteen. The most talkative, a guy named Eddie, claimed he was twenty-one, but Jack didn’t believe him.
Most of the conversation was about escape, but none of it made much sense to him. The soldiers were keeping them all drugged—some yellow powder that they mixed into the water—so his head felt cloudy, but Jack tried to sort out the details in his mind. Eddie talked about riots in Salt Lake and news reports of a rebellion. Others spoke of a girl who could burn white-hot and still be fine, or a boy who could hold his breath for days.
But even those conversations were scarce. No one said much at all, other than to curse at the soldiers when they brought in a new prisoner, or to complain about the food.
Jack hadn’t complained yet. He’d stayed completely quiet. From his cell, he could see only three others—the one directly across from him and the two on either side: numbers thirty-two, thirty-three, and thirty-four. They were all empty. And Jack didn’t feel like talking to anyone.
He wondered if he’d ever see Aubrey again. No one in the prison knew what lay before them, but all of them agreed that it couldn’t be good. They were being treated like hardened criminals, like violent killers. After treatment like this, no one was just going to let them go home.
Worse than the thought that he’d never see Aubrey again was knowing that she’d try to rescue him. Two days ago he would have considered Aubrey lost to him—a former friend who couldn’t be counted on for anything. But now she was different. She’d try to get him out, or, worse yet, reveal herself and try to get into the prison with him. He prayed she wouldn’t.
And Jack didn’t belong here. He wasn’t a Positive. He couldn’t do anything unusual. Something had gone wrong. Maybe there was someone else, someone like Aubrey, who switched the test results. Someone else was marked as a Negative and Jack was a Positive.
A familiar clank echoed down the hall as the main door was unlocked and opened. It felt too soon for food, but Jack obediently pushed his flimsy plastic bowl under the door for his evening ration.
Eddie, as usual, was the first to start talking.