“You’re going to help us, Dr. Banks,” I said calmly, swallowing my anger and my fear and my dislike of having him loom over me like he had the right to think of himself as my superior. He wasn’t my superior. He hadn’t been for a long time, if ever. “We already went over this. If you want to walk away in one piece, you’ll help us get into SymboGen, help us get to Tansy, and help us get away. Then we’ll let you go. You’re our hostage now.”
“You didn’t raise these arguments before we left Vallejo,” noted Nathan.
The boat was making a slow turn, angling toward a steeple-topped building on the far shore. What I could see behind Dr. Banks as the shifting ferry brought the shore into view was heartening: nothing moved there except for seagulls and crows. We might actually be sailing into something shaped almost like safety.
Dr. Banks snorted. “As if I would have said ‘this is never going to work’ when Surrey was sitting right there, threatening to have me taken apart for spare parts? Your mother’s a real piece of work, Nate. She’s a real-life Frankenstein, and she’s going to pay for what she’s done to the human race. You might do well to remember that, and start shifting your loyalties appropriately.”
“Wow. Does USAMRIID have that many cameras pointed at the coastline?” I made a show of twisting around and peering toward the closest pier, taking advantage of the moment to scan for sleepwalkers. I didn’t see any. I also didn’t see any visible monitoring equipment—and when you’re fighting an enemy that operates on instinct, not intellect, why would anyone bother making their cameras or microphone pickups hard to spot? Subtlety was no longer necessary.
I twisted back to face Dr. Banks. “You’re already practicing your speech for when you sell us out.”
“It’s about time you accepted the reality of your situation, Sally my dear. There’s two miles of city between us and my doors, and there’s no telling how many walking dead men are packed into that distance. Let me go. Uncuff my hands and let me contact my people. They’ll send an extraction team, and if you’re willing to roll over on the good doctor, they’ll be happy to cut you a deal.” His smile was a terrible thing, filled with teeth and shadows. “She’d roll over on you, you know. She’s never been loyal to anything she didn’t make in a test tube. You probably came closest to her affections, Nate, but a womb isn’t the same as an incubator to a woman like her. You never stood a chance.”
Nathan’s mouth was a thin, hard line. I clung tighter to his hand. “I know exactly where I stand with my mother, but I thank you for your concern. As for your request, you had plenty of time to negotiate while we were back at the lab. This is the mission you agreed to. I hope it kills you.”
He stood, still holding my hand, and pulled me with him as he walked away from Dr. Banks, across the deck, and into the small control room where Fishy was now frantically pushing buttons, flipping switches, and generally flailing, such that he seemed to fill all available space even before Nathan and I wedged ourselves inside.
“The brakes are good, but we’re really low on gas,” said Fishy, without turning to see who had joined him. I guess his options were pretty limited. “That’s making me nervous, especially since I don’t know what the pumping equipment is going to look like, or whether they’d have anything canned in case of emergency.”
“Earthquake kits,” I said. “I’d think the ferry people would want to be prepared for an earthquake making it unsafe to visit the gas station.”
“Good thinking!” Fishy yanked on a lever and finally stilled, putting his hands back on the wheel. The Ferry Building loomed directly ahead of us, seeming untouched by the changes to the city around it. It was a landmark, a place to visit for the Saturday Farmer’s Market or to buy expensive artisanal cheese, and just seeing it was enough to take a little of the tension out of my shoulders and loosen a little of the twisted panic that was knotted in my gut. If the Ferry Building was still standing, then not everything had changed. Most things, maybe, but not everything.
Fishy continued, blithely unaware of my relief: “The employee lot is off to the side. Most of the people who worked the ferry took public transit to work—which is sort of funny if you think about it—but there were always a few who needed to have a vehicle, for one reason or another. The odds are definitely with us that someone drove in and then got slaughtered, or turned sleepwalker, and didn’t need their keys anymore.”
“What if the keys aren’t in the car?” I asked anxiously. “Do you know how to drive without keys?”
“Do you actually know?” added Nathan. “Seeing it in a game of Grand Theft Auto isn’t the same thing.”
Fishy laughed. There was an odd underpinning of exhaustion to the sound, something I would have taken as completely normal from Nathan or even Dr. Banks, but which sounded out of place in Fishy’s normally jovial tone. “Yeah, I actually know,” he said, pulling back on another lever. The boat bled off a few more notches of speed, sliding smoothly under the canopy of the Ferry Building’s landing zone. We were almost there. “My wife—Laney—was a genius when it came to spreadsheets and numbers and knowing how your insurance policy worked, but she was a little bit of a space cadet when it came to remembering where she left her keys. I learned how to hot-wire a car after the third or fourth time she lost them so completely that we couldn’t figure out how we were going to get home. It was a challenge. I like challenges. I always have.”