The sound of drums rose in my ears as I thought about what he was saying to me. Finally, with a feeling of deep regret spreading through my chest, I shook my head and said, “No.”
My father frowned. “What?”
“No, Dad. You say I’m not Sally: fine. I don’t remember being her, I don’t remember the things you say you taught her, I’m not her. You say I don’t have her training: fine. If I’m not her, I can’t have the things that only ever belonged to her, and that means I can’t have the things she learned before I was here. But you don’t get to tell me that my not having her training means you can’t trust me. It goes against every other conversation we’ve ever had. You told me I was more dependable than she was. She was wild and she broke rules to show you that she could. Me disappearing the other day was the first thing I’ve ever done that was ‘wrong,’ and I had pretty good reasons for doing it! You don’t get to tell me to trust you and not give me a good reason to do it.”
My father looked at me without saying anything. I glared defiantly back, clutching Don’t Go Out Alone against my chest and trying to look like I wasn’t going to pass out. The drums were louder than ever, and my head felt completely empty, so light that it might float away. So this is what adrenaline and anger feel like when you put them together, I thought, and kept glaring.
He was the first to look away. “I reacted so poorly—and your mother went along with me—because this wasn’t the first report of sleepwalkers accosting someone in their home.”
“So?” I asked, abandoning my glare in favor of a puzzled frown. “I don’t understand why that would make you freak out the way you did. If it’s happened before…”
“At least, we believe that it’s happened before,” he said. “There were no survivors, but all signs indicated that the homes had been entered by one or more sleepwalkers.”
I said nothing.
“In some cases, bodies have been recovered. In others, the residents of those homes have been retrieved later when they, along with the original sleepwalkers, have been found wandering as much as five miles from the site of the attack. Somehow, the sleepwalkers are either inducing or speeding infection in asymptomatic individuals. If they had touched you…”
“SymboGen says I’m clean,” I said. I realized how empty the words were even as I was speaking them. SymboGen knew that the implants contained genetic material that had never been disclosed to the public. SymboGen knew that there was a danger of the host becoming compromised. Dr. Cale might have been their Dr. Frankenstein miracle worker, but the scientists she left behind weren’t stupid. They understood what the early-generation D. symbogenesis could mean. They knew about the risk of Adam. So how could I believe that anything they told me was the unadulterated truth?
“So the sleepwalkers would just have killed you, rather than turning you,” said my father grimly. “I’m sorry, Sal, but I’m not really seeing that as an improvement.”
I frowned. “Is that why you blocked the news channels and the Internet? Because you didn’t want me getting upset about things you couldn’t explain while the house was bugged?” Something else occurred to me. I hugged my book a little tighter. “Why was the house bugged? You still haven’t told me why. You never said I couldn’t let SymboGen security inside. If this was such a big risk, couldn’t you have told me that before it happened?”
“Just… let me work through this at my own pace, all right?” He turned and walked back toward the dining room table. Puzzled, I followed him, and when he sat, I took the seat across from his. It seemed oddly ordinary to be looking at him across the table, like this was nothing but a friendly chat about chores or what we were going to do over the weekend. The solemnity in his eyes refused to let me forget that this was so brutally much more.
He took a breath, and said, “We decided to block the news channels and the Internet because we didn’t know how much of the house was bugged, and we had no way to prevent you from asking questions when you saw what wasn’t on the news.”
“What?” I frowned again, utterly puzzled. “What do you mean?”
“The GPS in your phone was blocked by that book”—he nodded toward Don’t Go Out Alone—“but from the condition of Nathan’s car when you got home, I’m assuming you somehow wound up in the Lafayette exclusion zone. Is that correct?”
I bit my lip and nodded, not saying anything.
“Well, if you had been watching the news, you might wonder why there was no mention of whatever you saw there. Or of the incident you had here at home, with the sleepwalkers in the yard. That should have raised a great many flags, don’t you think? Armed SymboGen security guards removing sick people from private property isn’t exactly an everyday occurrence, and yet it’s nowhere on the news. It’s not even on the Internet, so far as I can tell.”
“That’s ridiculous,” I protested. “You can’t keep things off the Internet.” There were dozens, if not hundreds, of embarrassing blog posts and “articles” written about me during the brief window of pseudocelebrity that followed my accident. Most of them were accompanied by incredibly unflattering pictures of me in hospital gowns or freshly stained pajamas—it took me a while to develop the fine motor control needed to feed myself without wearing my meals, and it took me even longer to learn that I should change my clothes when they got food on them—and they talked about aspects of my recovery that I didn’t think were anybody’s business but my own. And yet people wrote those posts, and other people read them, and they were popular enough that they didn’t die down until I stopped doing anything that they would think of as “interesting.” Censoring the Internet was impossible.