I had been coming to tell him about Anna, but I hadn’t been intending to take him to her. Going to see Anna could mean getting Adam involved in whatever Dr. Banks had come here to do. Everything in me rebelled at the idea of letting that man get anywhere near my little brother—but if I said “no,” I would be doing exactly the thing I was increasingly coming to resent Dr. Cale for doing. I would be sheltering him from the world, and the world wasn’t going to recuse itself just because he didn’t know what he was getting into. He would have to learn eventually.
“Sure,” I said.
We walked silently and hand in hand through the hydroponics garden, our footsteps echoing loudly. No one else was there. Adam tended to take his duty shifts when they wouldn’t require him to interact with anyone, and I wondered how intentional that was on his part: whether he understood on some level just how much distance there was between us and the humans here.
It was funny, in an awful way. I should have been excited by the thought of another chimera. There were days when I actually found myself missing Ronnie and Kristoph, who had helped Sherman keep me captive, yes, but who hadn’t been responsible for kidnapping me, and who had at least been the same species as me. They understood what I was dealing with as I walked through a human world, as I looked at the devastation wrought by creatures who were genetically my family. Adam was too innocent to really help me shoulder my fears. Anna could have been the answer…
But Anna was with Dr. Banks, and he was the thing I trusted least in the world. There were no easy answers here.
“Why do you think he brought her to us? I wouldn’t bring her to us if I were him. We might take her away and not let him have her back.”
That was pretty close to the actual situation. I nodded grimly. “That, and Dr. Cale doesn’t like Dr. Banks very much. He might have more trouble walking away from here than he expects.”
“So coming here was kind of dumb.” Adam frowned. “Is he dumb?”
That was the problem. “Not really,” I said. “He was smart enough to help her make us. That has to mean he’s smart enough not to walk into a trap without knowing that’s what he’s doing.”
I didn’t have an answer. I just shrugged helplessly, and kept hold of Adam’s hand as we kept on walking.
Adam seemed to be content with silence after that, maybe because neither of us knew what we were supposed to say. We had a new sister. We just didn’t know if we could trust her, or what form that trust would take. The elevator was waiting for us when we reached it, a sign that Dr. Cale had told the rest of the staff to lie low while we dealt with our unwanted visitors. Dr. Banks was in a cell, but she still didn’t trust him, and the less he knew about the scope of our operation, the better.
Adam seemed to think so, too. He frowned as we stepped into the open elevator, clearly understanding what its presence meant. “Dr. Banks is a bad man, isn’t he, Sal?”
Even the phrasing of the question was childish. I answered it all the same, without hesitation: “Yes. He’s a very bad man. I don’t know of anyone that he hasn’t been bad to, except for maybe himself. Everything he’s done has been about being good to himself.”
The elevator started to move downward, whisking us toward the lab as Adam asked, “But weren’t we designed to make things better for humans? So they’d be less sick, and have less to worry about?”
“Yeah, but I don’t think they meant to sign over ownership of their bodies in the process.” I squeezed Adam’s hand. “Dr. Banks skipped a lot of steps that would have made the implants safer for people to use. That’s why Dr. Cale had to run away in the first place—that’s why she stole you from the lab. If she hadn’t been forced to do that, maybe none of this would be happening.” And Adam and I wouldn’t exist. Instead, Sally Mitchell and whoever Adam’s host body had originally been would be walking around the world, ignorant of the future they had so narrowly dodged.
“Is it selfish that I like this world better than a world where we’re not real?” asked Adam meekly, his question so closely mirroring my thoughts that I glanced at him, startled. Then I shook my head.
“No,” I said, as the elevator stopped and the doors slid smoothly open. “I like being real. I don’t think I’d stop being real for anybody. Not even Nathan. It’s not selfish to want to exist. It’s a function of the survival instinct buried in all complicated organisms.” Even the sleepwalkers had it. That was why they ate so voraciously, following the deeply ingrained “this is how you survive” commands remembered by their tapeworm minds, even as they struggled against the complicated and unfamiliar wiring of the human brain.
We had taken about five steps outside the elevator when Adam stiffened, his head snapping up and his eyes going extremely wide, like he couldn’t believe what he was hearing. I frowned. I didn’t hear anything except for the faint buzz of the lab machinery and the low voices of the technicians who were still at work. Not everything could be shut down at the drop of a hat.
“Tansy!” He pulled away from me and took off running, weaving between the workstations and darting down the aisles. I sprinted after him, trying to keep him in sight. He whipped around a pink-painted wall with me about eight yards behind. I heard Dr. Cale shout his name, and Nathan making a small, startled noise, like he had been shoved roughly aside. I kept on running.