“So maybe part of Tansy is still in there,” said Adam, sounding bitterly, brutally hopeful. He grabbed for Anna’s hand again. As before, she neither helped him nor resisted. She just lay there, motionless. At some point she had rolled her head back into its original position, and now was staring at the ceiling again.
She had responded to some stimuli before. I swallowed hard, taking a step toward her, and asked, “Anna? Can you hear me?”
“My auditory systems are functional,” said Anna. Her voice was toneless, completely devoid of passion. She couldn’t have sounded less like Tansy if she’d been trying.
The drums pounded even louder in my ears, and I had to swallow the sudden urge to run through the lab to the cell where Dr. Banks was being held, rip the door off its hinges, and strangle the life from his body. How dare he do this? How dare he touch my family, my sister, with his filthy tools and his filthier motives? There was no reason I could see for him to have experimented on Tansy when there were so many sleepwalkers running around free and unclaimed—no reason except for simple cruelty. I wanted to hurt him more than I’d wanted almost anything else in my life. Had Sherman appeared before me in that moment and offered me Dr. Banks’s head in exchange for joining his tapeworm army, I might well have taken him up on it. After all, what had the human race ever done for us?
I swallowed spit and bile and forced my own voice to remain steady as I asked, “Anna, do you know who Tansy is? Do you remember Tansy?”
“I do not remember her,” she said. Then she turned her head again, fixing her black eyes on me, and said, “But I am aware of who she is. I was given a message to deliver to you, should you ever say that name.”
“What’s that?” asked Dr. Cale.
Anna’s gaze flicked to her. Still calm, she replied, “The subject you call ‘Tansy’ is still alive. If you want her to be returned to you, you will have to free my father.”
I may have spoken too soon about the revolutionary nature of my work. While I have been able to successfully induce a joining between the SymboGen implant and its chosen human host, I have not been able to fully stabilize the results. The chimera—a quaint name for something that is, unquestionably, a monster—remains medically insecure, and has been given to surprising rages when not kept in a continually sedated state. I have been using a combination of transdermal scopolamine and diazepam to keep her in a pliant state. I do not know for how long these drugs will retain their efficacy, or if indeed they are still working fully as intended: she has proven surprisingly cunning, and capable of longer-term thinking than I had expected at this stage during her development.
It is clear that the only means by which we will be able to stabilize the experiment will be to visit the source. I have a plan that will either see me hailed as a conquering hero or cast forever from the scientific community for my sins. I intend to enjoy the process of determining which it is to be.
–FROM THE NOTES OF DR. STEVEN BANKS, SYMBOGEN, NOVEMBER 2027
Our sources in the private sector inform us that research toward a cure is ongoing. They have thus far declined to share that research, and it is my informed opinion that no such material exists at this time. We are on our own, ladies and gentlemen, and the wolves are most assuredly at the door.
Madame President, I appreciate your inquiry as to the condition of my surviving daughter, Joyce. Unfortunately, she has not recovered from her coma, and while the SymboGen implant has been entirely cleansed from her body, she remains in a persistent vegetative state. We have kept her on life support thus far, in part because we are hoping for a miracle, and in part because with the continuing deterioration of the medical and social structure of the country, we cannot afford to cut off any possible source of blood, tissue, and organs that have been confirmed clean of the sleepwalking sickness.
Time is running out for us here. We will continue to do what we can, but without a miracle, I do not know how much longer we can last.
–MESSAGE FROM COLONEL ALFRED MITCHELL, USAMRIID, TRANSMITTED TO THE WHITE HOUSE ON NOVEMBER 14, 2027
Dr. Banks was sitting on the narrow cot provided for his use when the four of us approached his cell. He smiled at the sight, his eyes going first to Dr. Cale, and then, hungrily, to Adam and myself. He skipped over Nathan entirely, as if he was incidental to this little reunion. In a horrible way, I suppose he was. Nathan was Dr. Cale’s only human child, after all, and he had nothing to offer Dr. Banks that he couldn’t get back at his own lab.
“Hello, Surrey,” he said, offering Dr. Cale his patented paternal smile. Maybe I should have felt a little better knowing that he smiled at all the women he wanted to exploit like that. Somehow, I didn’t. “This is a nice place you’ve got here. I admit, I didn’t expect something this palatial. When I heard you’d moved into a candy factory, I laughed. It was so ridiculous, so ludicrous… so you. You never could resist the absurd. I think that’s my favorite thing about you. Even in the face of total disaster, you’ll keep on making a fool of yourself.”
“How did you know we were here, Steven?” Dr. Cale didn’t bother to correct him about her name. She just folded her hands in her lap and looked at him, expression stony and unreadable. I found myself wondering where Fishy and Fang were, and whether they were preparing an unmarked grave in the soil of the rooftop garden. “My people are decrypting the data on your hard drive right now. Don’t bother lying to me. It won’t work for long.”