When she repeated the process with the second man, I turned away and vomited messily into the muck.
She was back on her feet when I turned to face her again. She was smiling. That didn’t help. “They’re both human, although this guy,” she kicked one man’s foot, “wouldn’t have been for too much longer. Still, explains why they went down so easy. They didn’t hear us coming the way they would’ve if they’d been cousins.”
“What are you—”
“Come on.” She started forward again, dismissing the two corpses like they didn’t matter anymore. To her, I guess they didn’t. The men were dead. They weren’t any fun to play with once they were dead.
I swallowed hard, spat once to get the taste of vomit out of my mouth, and followed after her. The open eyes of the dead men seemed to follow me, and I was more relieved than I could have believed possible when they passed out of sight behind us.
We passed no more security guards. My relief grew. Tansy had acted to keep us from being detained—or worse, since now I’d shown that I was willing to betray Dr. Banks at the request of people I barely knew—but that didn’t mean I wanted her shooting anyone she didn’t strictly have to. She enjoyed it a little too much for me to be comfortable with it.
Finally, we reached a drain feeding illegally out into the salt estuary under the cliffs near the Golden Gate Bridge. Tansy climbed out and started casually up the nearest hiking trail. I scrambled after her, feeling infinitely more conspicuous, even though I wasn’t the one carrying the guns.
A familiar car was parked at the top of the cliff, an even more familiar form standing next to it. Nathan’s hair was blown back by the wind coming off the water, and his hands were tucked deep into the pockets of his jacket. My relief grew so great that it felt like my body would be unable to contain it, like it was going to break loose and float away. I started to step out into the open—
—only to come up short as Tansy’s arm shot out and caught me across the chest, blocking any further progress. “Tansy, what the hell…?”
“Shh,” she said. “Look.” She nodded into the gloom behind Nathan.
I looked, and felt my blood go cold.
A mob of sleepwalkers was assembling in the greenery behind him, moving slowly but inexorably forward. We might reach him before they did. Then again, we might not.
“Trust me,” said Tansy. “Can you do that?”
“I…” I stopped, swallowing. “I can try.”
“Good. Now, when I say ‘run,’ you run. Got it?” I nodded. She smiled. “Good. Run!” Just like that, Tansy’s arm was no longer barring my way, and she was sprinting away, laughing maniacally as she closed on the sleepwalkers. Nathan turned toward the sound of her voice, and could only stare as she ran past him, slid across the hood of his car, and opened fire on the oncoming mob.
It wasn’t a fair fight by any definition of the word. There were more of them than Tansy had bullets, but they weren’t armed, and she had an uncanny knack for headshots, which dropped them like stones where they stood. She plunged into the mob, pausing only long enough to howl, “Get Sal in the car and get out of here!” Then she was gone, covered by the bodies of the sleepwalkers still on their feet. It didn’t seem to matter that the tapeworms motivating the sleepwalkers were her cousins; they clawed and grabbed for her all the same.
Nathan recovered quickly, and had the passenger side door open by the time I reached the car and flung myself inside. He twisted the key in the ignition, shouted, “Seat belt!” and hit the gas before I even had time to close the car door.
We went bouncing and shuddering over the uneven ground of the parking lot. I got my belt clicked home just before our tires dropped down to the street, and we were rolling smoothly into San Francisco, away from Tansy and the sleepwalkers, away from SymboGen… away from everything.
Nathan didn’t try to talk to me until we were halfway across the Bay Bridge. I assumed we were heading for Dr. Cale’s. I didn’t care as much as I thought I was supposed to. Glancing over, he asked, “Did you get it?”
“Yes,” I replied dully. I followed the answer with a question of my own: “Do you think she got out?”
“I don’t know.”
I sighed, turning my face back to the window. “Thank you for not lying to me.”
Nathan was quiet after that. We passed from the bridge into the East Bay, and drove in fragile silence all the way to the Caldecott Tunnel. Once we were on the other side, I turned to him and asked, “Are we going to your mother’s lab?”
“Good. I want antiparasitics. I want all the antiparasitics in the world. I want so many antiparasitic drugs my skin turns blue and my nails fall off. Whatever it takes to get this thing out of me.” I slapped my stomach, hard. Something was gnawing at the corner of my thoughts like a rotten tooth. I did my best to shove it aside. No no no I will not think that. “Make it go away, Nathan. I don’t want to be a part of this anymore.”
“Your reaction to antiparasitics would probably make that fatal.”
“I don’t care.”
Nathan took a shaking breath. Finally he said, “We’ll do a blood test first, and find out just how healthy your implant is, all right? We don’t want to risk giving you an overdose when something less aggressive would have taken care of everything. Okay? I’d rather not kill you, if you don’t mind.”