We’re going to change the world. It doesn’t matter that we’ve already done that more than once. All that means is that we need to work harder to do it again.
—FROM “KING OF THE WORMS,” AN INTERVIEW WITH DR. STEVEN BANKS, CO-FOUNDER OF SYMBOGEN. ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN ROLLING STONE, FEBRUARY 2027.
Love me once to lose me twice;
Learn to take your own advice.
Try to love the darkness if you want to reach the light.
Know your quest but leave your name.
I will love you all the same.
There’s beauty in the starkness of this never-ending night.
The broken doors are open, and they yearn to bring you home.
My darling boy, be careful now, and don’t go out alone.
—FROM DON’T GO OUT ALONE, BY SIMONE KIMBERLEY, PUBLISHED 2006 BY LIGHTHOUSE PRESS. CURRENTLY OUT OF PRINT.
The closet connected to a service corridor, which connected in turn to an underground garage that was probably used by janitorial personnel: it was small, dark, and spotless. Tansy led the way with unflagging efficiency, never lowering her guns. I struggled to keep up, and was panting slightly by the time she finally waved me to a stop near the center of the garage.
“We rest here for five, and then we’re on the move,” she said.
I frowned at her. “Isn’t that—”
“The alarm’s been sent up by now,” she said calmly. “Banks will have his men starting to sweep the grounds, and they know how long each escape route takes to use. The sewer route would have finished fifteen seconds ago. They’ll check the tunnels, decide we’re not down there, and pull back. Maybe they’ll leave a man or two behind. No skin off my nose.” Her teeth showed white through the darkness, making it clear just how pleased she’d be to have someone left for her to take her aggressions out on.
“Where are we going to go from there?”
“Away,” she said, vaguely. “Don’t be dumb, okay? I can’t say, ‘Oh, golly gee, Sal, we’re going to Disneyland’ while we’re still on SymboGen property. Who knows what they’ve decided to bug around here? Banks was a paranoid dick before he had anything to be paranoid about. Now…” She shook her head. “He’s got more to be paranoid about than any other man alive. If I were him, this place would be so buggy, it would be a…” She stopped. “It would be something really buggy.”
“Right. Right.” I looked around the garage again, fear gnawing on my ribs like a rat with sharp, sharp teeth. I looked back to Tansy. “Sherman’s a tapeworm?”
“Yeah. I thought we covered that.”
“Sherman was a tapeworm all along?”
“The whole time you’ve known him, yeah. He left the lab like six months before you had your accident. I don’t know who he convinced to hire him here. Chave used to give us reports, before she went and got all eaten by the cousins, and she said he was pretty good at his job. Unhealthily interested in you, but she did what she could to run interference there.”
I glared at her. “You could have told me.”
“Why?” She sounded honestly confused. “He was a nonfactor. We didn’t know he was all about fomenting rebellion against his human creators. Honestly, I figured Banks had him cut up after he got picked up in that outbreak sweep you told us about. And what would we have said? ‘Uh, by the way, you totally don’t believe Tansy and Adam are tapeworms in human suits, but you should know that that dude Sherman you’re so fond of is one, too, so maybe be a little careful around him if he’s not all dead and stuff.’ It wouldn’t have done any good. It would’ve just confused you. I don’t like confusing people.”
“Yeah, well next time, confuse me. I’d rather know what’s going on.”
Tansy gave me a quizzical look. “You sure about that?”
“Yes. I’m sure.”
“Well, then, have I got some news for you.” She started walking again. “The exit’s this way.”
“That’s your news?” I demanded, following her.
“No. But not much else is going to do us any good if we don’t get out of here alive.” She led the way into the dark, and I followed. There was nothing else that I could do, and I had come too far to turn back now. Even if I wanted to, there was a string of locked doors behind me, separating me from everything I’d ever known.
The only way out was to keep moving forward.
The sewers were dark and hot. That was enough to put me at ease, despite the smell around us. I followed Tansy. Her steps were silent as we moved through the sucking slime of human waste. My steps splashed and made horrible slurping noises, like my shoes were trying to bring the entire sewer with them every time I picked up my feet. Tansy glowered at me, her expression barely visible in the gloom, but she didn’t shush me. Even she knew that there would have been no point.
I was starting to think we weren’t going to encounter any of Dr. Banks’s security when we turned a corner and there they were: two men in black uniforms, each with a flashlight and a gun. They never had a chance. Tansy shot the first man before either of them had a chance to react to our sudden appearance, and shot the second while he was still fumbling with the safety on his pistol. They went down hard, and she made her silent way over to kneel between them, studying the holes she’d made in their foreheads.
Then, to my absolute horror, she holstered her right-hand gun and stuck her index finger into the first man’s skull, wiggling it around for a moment. I gaped, my stomach rolling. It got worse when she pulled her finger out and stuck it in her mouth.