“No, Sal,” said my father tiredly. “I can’t keep things off the Internet. You can’t keep things off the Internet. Given enough incidents, even SymboGen won’t be able to keep things off the Internet. But right now, with things still as contained as they are, it’s possible for a large enough corporation with a focused enough security department to do quite a few things that aren’t supposed to be possible. The government could even be, potentially, helping them along to the best of our ability; right now, their goals and our goals overlap enough to be worth supporting.”
I blinked at him. “Why would the government be helping SymboGen suppress information about what’s really going on?”
“Because starting a panic does no one any good, and we still don’t know for sure why these are the things that SymboGen is choosing to suppress—or when it started. Did the sleepwalkers begin appearing before we heard about them? Was SymboGen editing the news from the start? There’s so much we don’t know, both about the science, and about the motives of the people who stand to benefit. Oh, some people know what’s going on—you can’t censor gossip—but other than some small runs on bottled water and canned goods, it’s had very little impact.”
I blinked again, going very still. Even the distant sound of drums had faded, leaving me with only the sound of my own breath. Beverly went trotting by on her way to the kitchen, looking for scraps that might have been dropped during breakfast. In the silence, her claws clacking against the linoleum seemed louder than slamming doors. Things were starting to come together. My vision was unfocusing the way it did when I tried to read for too long in a single setting, casting blurry little halos of color and light around everything.
Finally, I said, “I am done asking questions. I need you to tell me, in very small, very simple words, what’s going on. And then I need you to give me my phone back. I will make the decision of what I do next based on what you say.”
“Remember how you don’t get to say ‘just trust me’ and have it stick anymore? Well, you also don’t get to decide what’s best for me. I may not remember as many years as I should, but I can manage myself pretty well.” I didn’t mention that if I left, I’d be calling Nathan to come get me and Beverly from the corner. Saying “I’ll call my boyfriend to pick me up” felt like it undermined my overall argument a bit too much.
Dad paused. Then he smiled, and said, “You know, you’re more like your mother now than you were before the accident. It’s strange, and it ought to be impossible, but it’s true. And as for what’s going on that I was trying to protect you from… SymboGen is hiding things. We’ve known that for some time, and you and I have talked about it before. But there is a reasonable chance that they were so happy to be involved in your care in part because I work for USAMRIID, and if they were able to bug our home, they would then be able to find out what the government knew about the more questionable aspects of their business practices.”
Aspects like splicing Toxoplasma into the implants, which would make them—which had made them—more flexible and resilient than anyone imagined. Questionable aspects like the entire structure of D. symbogenesis. The parasite that had been approved by the FDA wasn’t the one being implanted in people. That couldn’t possibly be a good thing.
Questionable aspects like an unshared test for the sleeping sickness, which wasn’t a sickness at all, but the result of the D. symbogenesis parasite trying for a hostile takeover of its host.
I didn’t say any of that. I just nodded minutely, and waited for him to keep going.
“SymboGen never reported the people in our yard to the authorities. I made inquiries—discreetly—and no similar incidents have been formally reported. We know about it only because we’ve been monitoring patient intake at SymboGen, and because a few groups have been picked up wandering in areas that allowed the police to back-trace to the invaded homes. We suspect that SymboGen is illegally detaining the afflicted, although we have no proof yet.”
My head was starting to spin. I frowned at him. “And Lafayette?”
“We think it was another home invasion scenario. This one involving multiple houses in the hills, and spilling down onto the freeway once the sleepwalkers could find no one else who appealed to them. What’s most interesting is that several of the cars in the traffic jam were accosted by sleepwalkers, and some of the drivers joined the gang.”
“How is that interesting?” I demanded, staring at him. “That’s horrible.”
“Yes, it is, but Sal, even more cars weren’t accosted by sleepwalkers.” Dad shook his head. “They’re choosing who they go after. They’re choosing very carefully. What we don’t know is what they’re basing those decisions on. The sleepwalkers don’t seem to do anything consciously.”
I was terribly afraid that I knew what the sleepwalkers were basing their decisions on: they were going for the people whose implants had infiltrated the largest possible percentage of their brains and nervous systems, making it easy for them to encourage the implant into taking the final steps toward autonomy. How they were managing that encouragement was something I didn’t know yet.
“They went after our car,” I said quietly.
“I know,” said my father. “The fact that you and Nathan are both okay is a bigger relief to me than I can properly express.”