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I might only have six years of experience behind me, but I knew enough to know that I deserved better than that.

“You and Beverly are always welcome here,” said Nathan.

“Thank you. Hurry?”

“I’ll be there as soon as I can,” he said solemnly. “I love you, Sal. Stay safe.”

“I love you, too,” I said, and hung up the phone. My father was looking at me impassively, his expression not giving away anything of what he thought. I did my best to look as blank as he did, and said, “Nathan’s going to check a few things, and then he’s going to call me back. After that, he’s going to come and pick me up.”

“And do you think I’ll be letting you leave with him?”

“Yes, I do,” I said, still keeping my face schooled into careful neutrality. “I’m an adult. Fuck the legal guardianship: I can leave if I want to. These last few days—these last few hours—haven’t really made me think that it’s safe for me to stay.”

“So you’ll just go?” Dad’s eyes darkened, his brows lowering until it looked like he was on the verge of scowling. “Your sister is sick.”

“That’s why I’m still here. I want to help. But Dad, it’s pretty clear you don’t trust me. I don’t know why. I think I’ve always tried to be a good daughter. I’m smart enough to realize that after you’ve locked me in my room, lied to me about your own medical condition, and strapped me to a table in the dark while refusing to tell me what’s going on… maybe you don’t have my best interests at heart.” My eyes were starting to burn with tears I wasn’t going to allow myself to shed. For once, I would have welcomed the sound of drums.

“I could have you both arrested for withholding information,” he said. There was a new chill in his voice, a coldness I’d heard before, but never directed at me. It was the tone he sometimes took when he was on the phone with work, or with the men from SymboGen who called to ask if I could come in for tests between my scheduled appointments.

“You can, yeah, but we’re not withholding the information that can help Joyce. I already told you how to adjust her treatment. Do you really want to put your own daughter in jail because you think I might know something I haven’t shared yet? Not because you know. Because you suspect, and you’re grasping at straws now.” I lifted my chin, challenging him. “Is that a step you’re ready to take, Dad?”

“If I knew for sure that you had any information worth having, I would take that step,” he said quietly. “Please believe me. If I let you leave with Nathan, and I find out the two of you have been withholding anything I might have been able to use, I will arrest you both.”

I thought of Dr. Cale and her lab; of Tansy and Adam, who almost certainly qualified as something he would have been able to use. And I nodded. “I do believe you. But right now, there’s nothing else we can tell you. We just know some stuff about the structure of the parasite because Nathan’s a parasitologist, and he got hold of some development notes that actually made sense to him.” That was true enough, and it was even believable, to some degree.

“We have all the publicly available development notes,” said my father. “Why has Dr. Kim been able to make sense of them if no one else has?”

The fact that he was using Nathan’s last name was a warning. My boyfriend was moving out of protected status, and into “potentially useful.” Trying hard not to reveal my anxiety, I said, “He was watching some old lectures of Dr. Cale’s, from before the IPO. Some of the things she said made him realize he was looking at the genome all wrong. I don’t really understand the science, but what he said was that the SymboGen implants aren’t based as much on tapeworms as they always told us they were.”

“We know they contain other genetic material; it’s in the documentation.” My father sounded almost dismissive now, like there was nothing I could say about the science that he wouldn’t already know.

My cheeks burned as blood rushed to my face, hot on the heels of irritation. “Did the documentation tell you the implants contain material from Toxoplasma gondii?” I asked.

The two guards who flanked the phone hadn’t spoken since we arrived. Now one of them jumped, his grip on his rifle shifting so that the gun clanked against the edge of the desk.

I glanced to them and then back to my father, who was staring at me in what looked very much like shock. “Didn’t you know that?” I asked. “You just said that it was in the documentation.”

“That’s not possible,” he said.

“Dad, we’re talking about genetically engineered tapeworms SymboGen somehow managed to convince the whole world to voluntarily infect themselves with. I don’t think we get to call anything impossible anymore.” I shook my head. “There’s toxoplasma in the implants. That’s how they can colonize the brain so well. They know how to do it, even if they don’t know they know.”

The two soldiers were both staring at me now, and so was my father. Something about the weight of their gazes made me deeply uncomfortable. I took a half step backward, putting a little more distance between us. “So what you’re telling me, Sally, is that these worms can get into anyone’s brain, and they were built that way? They were designed that way? Do you understand what that would mean?”

“No,” I said, with complete honesty. “I barely understand what toxoplasma is, except that it’s a parasite that really, really likes the brain, and is really, really hard to kill, which is probably why they used it. Tapeworms are pretty easy to kill, aren’t they?”