Were we really?
On the other hand, I felt totally normal, and Nathan didn’t have an implant for the sleepwalkers to activate. Maybe they’d come for us because they could sense Tansy, and thought that she was inside the car. It was as good an explanation as any, and one that might allow me to sleep again. I allowed my shoulders to unlock a little.
Dad was watching me carefully. “Sal, the last time we really talked, before the sleepwalkers came here to the house, you said something.”
“Did I?” I asked, blinking at him.
“Yes. You said SymboGen had a test for infection. Were you telling the truth about that? Do they really have a way of knowing whether someone is about to get sick?”
Any sting that he thought I might be lying to him was dulled by the realization that even after all this, he still didn’t know. “Yes,” I said. “They have a test. They used it on me, after I was exposed, and then Nathan tested some confirmed patients after I described what happened. It’s real.”
“And they aren’t sharing.” Dad shook his head. “Some people need to learn that the public health matters more than their profit margins.”
“Can you make them share?”
“No.” Sudden hope lit his eyes. “But you can tell me what they did. I need you to tell me everything, Sal. You may be able to save a lot of lives. A reliable test is the first step toward developing a treatment.”
I wasn’t sure I followed his logic—knowing that something is wrong and knowing how to fix it are two very different things—but I was willing to go along with it, for the moment, because it was going to get me something that I needed.
“Take me to work with you, and I’ll show you,” I said.
Dad blinked. Then he frowned. “I don’t think you understand the importance of my request.”
“I don’t think you understand the importance of mine.” I had Dr. Cale’s side of the story. I’d been getting SymboGen’s side of the story since the day I woke up from my coma. Now it was time to get a neutral perspective. Maybe that would tell me what I had to do next.
For a long moment, Dad just sat and looked at me. Finally, sighing, he stood. “All right,” he said. “Get your things. We’re leaving in five minutes.”
“Thank you,” I said, and clutched Don’t Go Out Alone a little tighter as I jumped to my feet and ran back to my room.
The drive to the San Francisco USAMRIID field office was quiet. Dad didn’t say anything, and so neither did I. He turned on the radio once, scanning quickly through the bands of pop music, classic rock, and overcaffeinated morning DJs making prank calls and telling sexist jokes. Then he turned the radio off again, letting silence reclaim ownership of the car.
We were halfway there when it got to be too much for me. “Where’s Joyce?” I asked, desperate for conversation. After five days of isolation, I was ready for social contact, no matter how strained.
Dad grimaced. “She’s at the lab,” he said.
I paused. “Did she come home last night?” I didn’t remember hearing her, but that didn’t mean anything. I’d been so wrapped up with feeling sorry for myself and hating my parents that I wouldn’t have heard a bomb go off in the kitchen.
“No.” He sounded almost grudging. “She felt that our treatment of you was extreme, no matter how good our reasons were for making the decisions that we did. She also understood that there wasn’t a better way, and so, rather than continuing to argue, she stayed at the office to make her feelings clear. We have a break room with a few cots in it, for times when exhaustion makes it unsafe to drive. After an eighteen-hour shift working in Biohazard Safety Level 4, you’re not getting behind the wheel. Not while I have anything to say about it.”
“She’s sleeping in the Ebola Room?”
Dad actually chuckled at that. “No, the break room isn’t in Level 4, just adjacent to it. We haven’t had a leak since ’02. She’s perfectly safe, and I’m sure she’ll be thrilled to see you, especially when you demonstrate the SymboGen test for infection.”
I squirmed a little in my seat. “About that…”
“Sal.” Dad shot me a warning glance. “Please don’t tell me you lied to me just to get out of the house.”
“What? Jeez, Dad, no! But I don’t know how much the test really means. Nathan and I both checked out clean, and someone we knew for sure was sick checked out infected, but I have no idea whether it can show you the early stages. Maybe it’s something that just works on people who have already started sleepwalking.”
“You said that SymboGen checked you after you were exposed, yes? Well, that means it’s at least somewhat useful as a form of early detection—and I’ll be honest, Sal. We’re to the point of grasping at straws, here. Whatever you can give us, we’ll take it.”
“I could have given this to you days ago.” It was a cheap dig, but it felt worth taking.
“You could. But then SymboGen might have realized that we were onto them. I couldn’t take that chance.” Dad glanced my way again, this time without the warning. “The last thing I want to do is put you, or anyone else, in danger. Please believe that.”
“I do.” I settled back in my seat, resisting the urge to hug Don’t Go Out Alone to my chest again. “I really do.”
We finished the drive in silence.