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Nothing was ever going to be the same again.

Dr. Banks led us out of the elevator and down the hall, stopping at a door I had never seen open before. He produced a key card from inside his pocket and swiped it in front of the door, unlocking it. He grasped the handle, pausing to look at me gravely and say, “I’ll understand if you want to stay out here, Sally. I’m sure your boys can keep an eye on me.”

Something about his tone was hesitant, even tender, like he had dug through his false affection and his too-real scorn until he hit whatever deep bedrock of actual compassion he still had buried under the persona he had worked so long and hard to build. I lifted my chin, feeling the muscles in my jaw tighten, and said, “I go where they go. Tansy’s my sister. I owe it to her to be able to do this.”

“Suit yourself,” he said, and opened the door, revealing a stark white operating theater. There was a narrow bed—more like a cot—in the middle of the room, and there, naked and strapped down, was Tansy.

Her head had been shaved, and tubes snaked out of her, carrying and delivering fluids. A large bandage covered the right side of her scalp, concealing whatever terrible incisions Dr. Banks had used to extract samples of her implant. She didn’t react at all to the door being opened, but I could see her stomach muscles tightening and relaxing very slightly as she breathed. She wasn’t dead yet. It was a fairly near thing.

“I’m going to kill you,” someone said, and I was only a little bit surprised to realize that it was me.

Nathan pushed past me into the room. Dr. Banks followed him. I stayed where I was in the doorway, one hand clutching Beverly’s leash, staring numbly as they bent over the bed where Tansy was lying. I didn’t know what to do. I wasn’t a lab or medical technician, I couldn’t help, and I couldn’t kill Dr. Banks for what he’d done—not if we wanted to get out of here alive, with Tansy, and back to the ferry landing without SymboGen security or USAMRIID forces landing on our heads. That was already going to be difficult and would depend at least partially on Dr. Banks’s willingness to let our insult against his person stand—and whether or not he believed Fishy really had a bomb. I was deathly afraid we were going to be fighting our way out… and I was also looking forward to it. Maybe, in the chaos, I could kill him after all.

I had never been excited by the idea of killing someone before. I was surprised to find that I didn’t really mind the emotion.

“All right, let’s get her to the elevator.” Nathan started rolling the cot toward the door. To my surprise, Dr. Banks was on the other side, helping him.

That surprise was short-lived. Dr. Banks opened his mouth: “You’ll keep your end of the bargain, yes? Once you have my Anna stabilized…”

“We’ll contact you and arrange her return. If we can stabilize her, which we may not be able to do. Yes, we will let you know either way.” Nathan sounded disgusted. “I know you can contact your government buddies and make up some reason that they have to find us whenever you want to. So we’re not going to give you cause to want to until we’ve had time to disappear.”

“I’ll be honest, son, I’m surprised you’re willing to trust me.”

“Don’t ever mistake this for trust,” snapped Nathan. “You want Anna back and stabilized, you’ll leave us alone long enough for that to happen—which means you’ll leave us alone long enough that we can disappear completely.”

“What makes you think I’ll wait that long?” Dr. Banks sounded honestly curious.

Nathan looked at him flatly. “My mother says you will. She’s a better judge of character than I am in at least one regard: she knows how to spot a weasel before it starts biting. If she says you’ll risk losing us now to get something better later on, she means it.”

Dr. Banks laughed. “Good old Surrey.”

Nathan didn’t say anything. He just put his head down and kept pushing.

The elevator was a tight fit with four adults, a dog, and the cot Tansy was strapped to. They’d brought her catheter stand and three IV poles as well as the bed itself, and Fishy and I had to work quickly to keep them from getting tangled in the loading process. Then we were heading back toward the lobby, and we were finally home free; we had Tansy, and we were going back where we belonged.

Everything was going to be okay.

The elevator dinged. Dr. Banks said, “I really am sorry about this.” And the doors slid open to reveal eight soldiers with USAMRIID patches on their upper arms, standing in a flanking position around Colonel Alfred Mitchell, their drawn rifles aimed directly at us.

“Colonel Mitchell,” said Dr. Banks. “You’re just in time.”

The rest of us didn’t say anything. There was nothing left to say.

I’m going to kill him.


Forgive me.


Chapter 20


For a long moment, no one moved. It felt like no one even breathed, like everything had been put on hold while the world rearranged itself around us. Then, calmly, Colonel Mitchell said, “Hello, Sally.”

In that moment, I understood. Understood what Dr. Banks had been trying to accomplish, and understood how it could be used to our advantage, if I was willing to do what I had already done once before. If I was willing to sacrifice myself in the name of saving the people that I loved.