“Well, we’re not going back that way,” Nolita said. “If you want to go on a rescue/suicide mission, that’s fine. But the zombies will be ten times worse that way.”
“That’s fine.” I nodded, taking a step back. “Thank you for all your help. And good luck going north.”
“You won’t survive without any weapons,” Nolita pointed out, but she didn’t offer me any.
Bishop stopped walking and glanced between Boden and me before saying, “We shouldn’t split up. Not a group this small. We need to keep the survivors together.”
“You can’t just go it alone,” Boden told me when I kept walking. “Stop.”
“Why?” I asked, but I did anyway. “You’re going north, and I’m going back to find my brother and see if there’s any more guns at the compound or any other survivors.”
Boden walked a few steps over to me, eyeing me up severely. “Do you really think they have guns there?”
“I’m sure they do,” I said. “They’d stockpiled a lot of weapons.”
He sighed, then looked back at the rest of our team. Nolita pursed her lips, but nobody else appeared to have an opinion one way or the other.
“Fine.” Boden relented. “We’ll go back down to the compound, to look for guns and provisions. But we won’t go any farther south, even if your brother isn’t there. Is that clear?”
“Perfectly,” I said.
I failed to mention that I hadn’t asked them join me, but I figured it would be safer if they did. I could always use backup, especially since I didn’t have any guns, and if we could find guns at the compound, it would be really good for them.
We turned and changed directions, heading back toward the main road. Boden had traversed the area frequently looking for survivors and killing zombies, so he knew the way back to the highway. I’d taken US-93 from the compound up to the quarantine, and the plan was to just follow it back.
I wasn’t sure whether going back to the compound would be the right thing to do, at least not for them. I knew what I needed to do, and I’d be damned if I let anyone stop me.
By midafternoon, I’d almost completely stopped missing the sun. It beat down on us mercilessly as the day warmed up.
I wasn’t used to temperature changes anymore, either, since my room had been kept at a cool 65 degrees all the time. Daniels had explained it was better for all the tests and experiments.
It gave me some small pleasure to see that he wasn’t handling the journey well either. At first, Nolita had been encouraging him, almost leading him down the highway. Eventually, she must’ve tired of it, because she walked alone.
Daniels lagged behind, struggling to keep up with me, and I was at the back of the pack. Boden led the way with Bishop a few steps behind him, and Teddy was glued to her side. Teddy and Bishop occasionally exchanged a few words, but nobody else really spoke as we walked.
“I am sorry about what happened,” Daniels said quietly, and Bishop looked back over her shoulder.
Instead of acknowledging him, I quickened my pace. That didn’t amount for much, since the shoes were killing my feet, and my legs ached. Daniels had to scramble, but he caught up with me a few seconds later.
“Remy,” Daniels tried again. “I really am sorry.”
I slowed down because it wouldn’t do me any good to kill myself trying to outrun him. I readjusted the strap on my bag and glanced over at him. He brushed his long bangs out of his eyes, which were definitely too large for his thin face. His nose was puffy and red, and a few drops of blood stained the front of his shirt.
“For which part?” I asked. “Performing useless tests every day that accomplished nothing except nearly killing me? Or leaving me in the building to die while you escaped?”
“I didn’t know you were there. I swear it,” Daniels insisted. I didn’t say anything, so he went on. “And I didn’t want to hurt you. You know everything that happened in there wasn’t personal. It was about trying to save the human race.”
I wasn’t sure whether it was because he was talking, or the pleading tone in his voice, but he was attracting more attention. Teddy and Nolita kept looking back at us. Daniels didn’t notice because he was too busy looking at me.
“I know what happened in there,” I said finally. “And I know why it happened. But it all amounted to nothing. So I’m sorry if I’m still a little pissed off about it.”
“I’m not asking you to apologize.”
“Then what are you asking?” I shot him a glare. “Why are you even bringing this up?”
He looked hurt for a moment, and then shrugged it off. “I wanted you to know the truth. We’re going to be working together, and I wanted you to know that I’d never unnecessarily put you in harm’s way.”
I didn’t know whether I believed that. Daniels had never been malicious or cruel to me, but a lot of what transpired in the quarantine wasn’t pleasant. I had the scars to prove it. Track marks covered my arms, and a lot of my veins were wrecked from all the blood they took.
Daniels and a few other doctors thought the answer to my immunity might be locked away in some of my glands and internal organs. Scars from incisions were laced together all over my stomach, like my skin was some kind of bizarre patchwork, from all their probing.
One doctor had been convinced it was coming from some gland in the base of my skull. He’d wanted to cut open my head and dig around. Daniels had somehow gotten him to drop that idea, so I guess he had saved my life that time. Or prolonged it really.