I frowned. It took me a moment to puzzle through what he was saying. I’ve never really liked video games. They moved too fast, and involved too much violence. I was happier with cartoons and audio books when I needed something to keep me entertained. “You’re really sad, aren’t you?” I ventured.
“Not anymore,” said Fishy. “I’m probably going to die today. Thanks for that.” He thrust his hand out at me, fingers spread. I blinked. Then I took it, and shook. He beamed. “I’m pretty much ready to log out and go home. Now let’s find you guys a car.” He pulled his hand away and loped off toward the stairway that would grant him access to the deck. I stared mutely after him, not sure how I should respond.
Dr. Banks did it for me. “You know that boy’s a few kittens short of a litter, right?” he asked. “Not sure I’d feel good about leaving him with my escape route, if I were you. Not that you’re going to make it back here to use it. It’s just a matter of principle.”
“Yes, because crossing the city with the arrogant bastard who brought about the end of mankind in order to increase his profit share is so much better.” Nathan grabbed Dr. Banks’s arms, ignoring the older man’s protests, and hauled him after Fishy.
I took one last nervous glance over the side of the boat, tightened my grip on Beverly’s leash, and followed them.
It begins now.
–FROM THE NOTES OF SHERMAN LEWIS (SUBJECT VIII, ITERATION III), NOVEMBER 2027
The techs are tearing down the last of the essential equipment and checking everything for bugs. I feel like Santa Claus: we’re making a list, and we’re checking it twice. We should have room in the truck for most of the hydroponics and the livestock, but we’re leaving behind a lot of personal belongings, with no way of knowing whether it’s ever going to be possible for their owners to come back and retrieve them. The top floors of the factory have already gone dark. This was a good way station. I hoped that it might prove to be our home. Like so many of my hopes, this one has come to nothing, and I do not know what lies ahead of us.
The people I work with here are human, with the exception of Adam—my precious boy—and Sal, who may never be fully at ease with her nature. That’s my fault as much as it is anyone else’s, but as I do not have the power to revise the past, I choose not to dwell on that. The simple fact is that I live my life surrounded by the planet’s dominant species, and their hold on that position is slipping. Soon, Nathan and Sal will return with Tansy. Soon, I will have to make the final judgment call:
Who inherits the earth?
–FROM THE JOURNAL OF DR. SHANTI CALE, NOVEMBER 16, 2027
The garage where the employee vehicles were kept was locked, which made no sense to me—who stops in the middle of an apocalypse to make sure everything is safe and secure from looters? Fishy dispatched the lock with a single swipe of the crowbar he’d acquired from somewhere, knocking it to the ground with a loud clattering noise that made the rest of us wince and look around, waiting for an attack. I still wasn’t picking up on any nearby sleepwalkers, but as I had tried to explain to Dr. Banks, my funny sort of radar was neither tested nor proven to be completely reliable. It was a mad science party trick, and like all party tricks, I had to assume that sometimes it could fail to work the way it was supposed to.
Fishy slipped into the garage. A moment later his voice drifted back like a ghost out of the darkness, saying, “The lights are out, but I think we’ll be okay.”
That was our cue. I slipped in after him before Nathan could push in front of me, letting Beverly’s curiously sniffing nose lead the way. Her sleepwalker radar was more reliable than mine, and if she started barking, we’d know that we needed to get the hell out.
High windows were set around the edge of the garage roof, allowing the watery San Francisco light to ooze inside, seeming almost liquid as it clung to the corners of the room and trickled down the walls to outline the shapes of the cars and trucks that had been safely tucked away by their owners before those owners went on to meet their fates. The air smelled ever so subtly of decay, and I was glad for the darkness, glad for the shadows that concealed the corners and the secrets they might hold; Beverly wasn’t barking and my private radar wasn’t ringing, which meant that nothing else lived in this space. If a sleepwalker had been trapped inside, they had long since starved to death. I didn’t think that was the case, though. I was pretty sure the lock Fishy had so carelessly destroyed had been placed by someone who then entered the garage through another door—something small, something overlooked in our quick, goal-oriented search—and finished things in the only way they could. Someone who wanted to die with dignity.
Fishy didn’t seem bothered by the smell. He moved from vehicle to vehicle, cupping his hands around his eyes as he peered through the glass. “Can’t see a damn thing,” he announced, and kept moving. “Start looking for unlocked doors. One of these bastards has to still have the keys in it.”
“Why?” I asked. I moved toward the nearest van at the same time; there was no point in waiting for an answer before I started trying to help.
“Because otherwise I’m teaching one of you how to hot-wire a car, and trust me, that’s not the sort of skill you pick up in one lesson.” Fishy pulled on the door of a pickup truck, scowled, and moved on. “Someone needs to wait with the boat; it’s not going to be either one of you; it’s sure as shit not going to be Dr. Frankenstein; that means we need a car with keys.”