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Dr. Banks sighed. For a moment, he didn’t look like the owner of a massive multinational corporation: he looked like a man who hadn’t slept in weeks, and was covering it up with foundation, hair dye, and stimulants. “I’m afraid Ms. Seaborne did not recover from her unfortunate incident in the cafeteria.”

“ ‘Unfortunate’—do you mean whatever went wrong with her, or do you mean the officers with the shock batons?” I crossed my arms and glared at him. For some reason, I was no longer afraid of SymboGen refusing to let me leave the building. I was more concerned that I would never leave this basement. Not alive, anyway. “She’s dead, isn’t she? That’s what you mean when you say she ‘didn’t recover’ from being electrocuted.”

“Sally…” Dr. Banks hesitated. Then he sighed again, and said, “There’s a great deal you don’t understand. I’m so sorry you had to see that, and please believe me, no one is sorrier about what happened with Chave than I am. She’s been with me almost since the beginning. Neither of us ever expected things to end this way.”

“I’m pretty sure she didn’t expect to be electrocuted when she got out of bed this morning, no.” I kept glaring at him. “Sherman Lewis. Where is he?”


“I come here every time you call me. I let your staff take all the blood they want. I answer your questions, I listen to your lectures, I do whatever I’m told to do, and I don’t fight you. That could change. Sherman is the only person here who always treats me like I’m a person, too. Not lab equipment, not an experiment, a person. Now where is he?”

“Sally, I’m sorry.”

The words were spoken softly, but they might as well have been screamed. They seemed to echo through the room, getting louder with every iteration. “Why are you sorry?” I asked. I could barely hear my own voice over the echoes of Dr. Banks’s statement.

“You have to understand, he had prolonged physical contact with Chave. He was exposed.”

His first words were still echoing, and now they were backed by a heavy pounding, like the sound of distant drums. “Exposed to what?”

“Sally, I really don’t feel this is a conversation that we should be having while you’re upset.” Dr. Banks looked even more uncomfortable, and he wouldn’t meet my eyes.

The drums were getting stronger, drowning out the echo of his words. “Exposed to what?”

“I’ve called Dr. Kim to come and collect you,” said Dr. Banks. “I’m afraid your clothes won’t be ready for several hours. They will be delivered to your home. You can keep the scrubs. I’m sorry we didn’t get to have lunch together; I was very much looking forward to spending that time with you. I’ll see you soon, Sally.”

“Wait, what are you talking about? What were we exposed to? Dr. Banks—”

It was too late: Dr. Banks was already turning and stepping out of the room. The security officer reappeared as soon as Dr. Banks was through the door, making it clear that I would not be allowed to rush after him. I dropped my hands to my sides and just stared, open-mouthed. The drums were as loud as they had ever been, and for the first time while I was fully awake and aware of my surroundings, I was absolutely certain of what they were: I was hearing the pounding of my heart.

I stood in that little examination room, crying silently for a man who had always been kind to me, and waited for the man I loved to come and take me home. I was exhausted. I was done.

It was hard to tell time with no clocks and no windows. I stood there long enough for my legs to start aching, but I refused to sit down. Sitting down would mean admitting there was something stronger than my anger. The officer who’d been keeping me in the room was replaced by another man I didn’t recognize, wearing the same uniform and carrying the same stun baton. I glared at him as he took up his position. He didn’t say anything, and so neither did I.

My stubborn standoff with the forces of SymboGen might have lasted forever. I was saved from needing to find out by a familiar figure in a San Francisco City Hospital lab coat. Nathan pushed his way past the officer, seeming to neither notice nor care that the other man was armed, and rushed to embrace me.

“Jesus, Sal, you scared the hell out of me,” he said.

That seemed to be the permission my body had been waiting for to fall apart. My tears had been falling for a while. Now I started to sob, as quietly as I could. I pressed my face into his chest and allowed myself to sag against him for a few precious seconds. Nathan folded his arms around me.

“It’s all right,” he said. “It’s okay. I’m here.”

“Sh-Sherman,” I whispered.

Nathan winced. He knew about Sherman. They’d never met, but Sherman was the only person at SymboGen that I consistently spoke well of. “Oh, shit, Sal. I’m sorry.”

I didn’t say anything for a few minutes after that, just clung to him and cried. It wasn’t dignified, but I didn’t care about dignity. I was wearing scrubs and standing in the SymboGen basement. Dignity was the last of my concerns.

Finally, I pulled away, wiping my eyes, and said, “I want to go home. Can you take me home? Please?” I paused, the incongruity of his appearance striking me. “Why are you wearing your lab coat?”

“Because I was already here when the quarantine was called on the cafeteria level,” said Nathan. “They called me in for another job interview.”