Becks wasn’t listening. That was probably a good thing. “I used to look up to them, you know? They were heroes. What your father did for his students—he should have received a medal for that.”
“He agrees with you.” I couldn’t keep the sourness out of my voice. I wasn’t trying very hard. Becks grew up with the Masons as celebrity faces for the news, but I grew up with them exploiting me—exploiting George—for the sake of ratings, and a kind of public approval so damn fickle it was almost unreal. And now here I was, creeping back to them under the cover of darkness, ready to beg for their help. Home sweet self-destructive emotionally abusive home.
“I didn’t find out what they were like until I started working for Georgia. She talked about them more than you do. Which is sort of funny, since you talk about almost everything else so much more than she ever did.”
“She loved them,” I said defensively. I didn’t know why I felt the need to defend George’s love of the Masons, but I did. Maybe it was because I stopped loving them so long ago. Maybe it was because, awful as they were, she could never quite bring herself to do the same. “She didn’t want them to be the people that they were.”
“And you did?”
“What? No! No. I just…” I let the sentence drift off, watching Berkeley slide by outside the van window. I’d made this trip in the passenger seat so damn many times; any time we had to go out on location when the weather conditions made it unsafe for George to take the bike, or when parking was going to be at a premium. She insisted on driving after the sun was down, saying her retinal KA gave her an advantage over my puny, uninfected eyes. So I would sit in the passenger seat and watch Berkeley going by, tired, cranky, and utterly content with the world. Maybe it was nostalgia speaking, but I couldn’t remember a single night trip home where I hadn’t been happy to be where I was, riding in the van with Georgia, and both of us alive, and both of us together.
Finally, slowly, I said, “George knew who the Masons were—what the Masons were—as well as I did. But she wished they were different. I think she thought that if she could just bring home a big enough story, find a big enough truth, that maybe they’d get past Phillip—their son, the one who died—and finally start loving us.”
“And you didn’t think that?”
“They were never going to start loving us. That’s why we had to love each other as much as we did.”
Becks was quiet after that, and I was glad. I wanted to make this last little part of the trip in silence.
The GPS didn’t take us down the streets I would have chosen—it was going by distance, not by a local’s knowledge of road conditions and traffic lights—but that was good, too, in its way. I needed this trip to be a little different. I spent too much time living in the past, and I didn’t need to encourage the part of me that would be happy to stay there forever. The businesses clustered around Shattuck and Ashby gave way to the outlying buildings of the U.C. Berkeley campus, and finally to the low, tight-packed shapes of the residential neighborhoods. Becks pulled up in front of a familiar house, the windows shuttered, the porch light dark.
“Now what?” she asked.
“This.” I dug a hand into my pocket, pulling out the sensor disk I’d been carrying since we left Dr. Abbey’s lab. It wasn’t mine, ironically; my identity key to the Masons’ house was lost when Oakland burned. This one had been Georgia’s, and had been a part of her little black box—the only thing I’d taken the time to save before the bombs came down. I slipped the chain on over my neck, pressing the disk to my skin and flipping it into the “on” position. It beeped, twice, acknowledging that it had managed to locate a matching signal in the immediate vicinity.
A light above the Masons’ garage door flashed on, blinking twice in response to the disk’s location pulse. Without any further fanfare, the door began spooling smoothly upward.
“Go on in,” I said, in response to Becks’s surprised expression. “The house was programmed years ago to let this van inside with multiple passengers. It was an expensive enough upgrade that there’s no way they’ve taken the time to have it pulled out of the security programming.”
Unless they were really, really angry with you when you refused to give them my files, said George. They could have done it out of spite.
“ ‘Could’ doesn’t mean ‘would,’ ” I said.
Becks shot another glance my way, frowning, and started the engine again. “Please try not to talk to dead people while we’re here? I don’t want you getting shot because you look like you’re getting the amplification crazies.”
“Amplification doesn’t make you talk to yourself.”
“And you don’t get better once you’re infected. There’s a first time for everything.”
“Fair enough.” The garage door slid closed again once we were inside. I unfastened my belt. “Come on. We’ll need to pass security if we want to get into the house.”
I hadn’t expected the Masons to make any updates to the security system, and I hadn’t been wrong: The two testing stations were still in place, each of them equipped with the standard wall plate for blood sampling and the more expensive display screens for verbal confirmation. Becks and I stepped into position. A red light clicked on above the door leading into the house.
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