Of course, if the fact that almost every human had lied to me was going to be a factor, I needed to consider the fact that every chimera had either lied to me or moved against me in some way. Neither side of my heritage was blameless.
“Good. You’re learning to stop and think.” Sherman picked up his touchscreen. When he spoke again, his accent was gone, leaving him sounding as neutral as a newscaster. “Here’s how this is going to work. I’ll tell my supervisor, Dr. Huff, that you’re lucid and coherent, and that we can probably move you to an unsecured transport. She’ll try to argue with me, and I’ll bat my eyelashes at her and remind her that the sooner we get you all processed, the sooner she and I will be able to get a little time for ourselves. I can’t guarantee that will work, but I’d say it’s got a good chance. Once you’re unstrapped, go with the men who come to escort you. They’ll take you to the holding pen. Wait for me there. I’ll come for you as soon as I can.”
“A holding pen?” I asked blankly. “What, so I can get ripped apart by sleepwalkers? No, you have to get me out of here. Just undo the straps. I’ll run, and you’ll never have to deal with me again.”
“But I want to be dealing with you, Sal my darling, and more importantly, you’re being intentionally obtuse, which is not a good look for you. Try using that fantastic brain that you’ve wired yourself into.” He tapped his touchscreen, apparently changing one of the notations on my chart. “We have the potential to be ten times smarter than our human hosts ever were without us, you know that? Our presence stimulates formation of new nervous tissue and enhances nerve transmission speed. I’m not sure exactly how yet—I never did manage to get a chimera on the operating table where I could take it apart—but science supports my claim. That means you have no excuse for being stupid. Now, why would I want you ripped apart when you’re ever so much more delightfully useful in one piece?”
I glared at him. “I’m not going to help you.”
“Yet,” he said calmly. “The word you’re looking for is ‘yet.’ And don’t let your stubbornness worry your pretty little head. I’m going to help you either way.” He blew me a kiss, and then turned and walked away, leaving me alone again.
I wanted to scream expletives after him—many of which were words that he had originally taught me, back when he was pretending to be a loyal, human SymboGen employee who had only my best interests at heart, rather than a dangerous chimera bent on the destruction of the human race. He’d been one of my two handlers, along with Chave, an icy African-American woman who had always made me uncomfortable by keeping me at arm’s length and treating me like a bomb that was about to go off. It was funny how much context changed things, because now I was sure Sherman was the reason the sleepwalking sickness was spreading so fast and so catastrophically, while Chave—who had died when her own implant went active and chewed its way up into her brain—had been working for Dr. Cale all along. Like Fang, she’d been there to gather information on Dr. Banks, and to protect me.
So many people had died or endangered themselves to keep me safe, and almost none of them had been on the relatively short list of people that I had trusted at the start of this whole mess. Chave had been on my side all along. Sherman was on nobody’s side except his own. I was starting to seriously doubt my ability to judge human nature.
The echoing space around me grew silent as Sherman’s footsteps faded. I frowned up into the darkness. Wherever I was being held, it didn’t make sense. There should have been cots like mine on every side, occupied either by sleepwalkers or by other patients who had been collected and deemed to be clean. Instead, while the lack of light blocked off any extensive study, I was pretty sure there was no one to either side of me. Just more blackness, shadows reaching out and claiming everything that they touched as their own. It was… unnerving.
Was I the only person they’d managed to save from the hospital?
Two men came walking out of the gloom, both wearing lab coats and plain white masks over the bottoms of their faces. They didn’t say a word to me. One of them seized my arm, twisting it so that the inside was pointed at the ceiling.
“Hey!” I instinctively tried to pull away, only to find myself stopped by the straps that held me down. “Who are you? What are you doing? Let go of me!”
They ignored my cries. One of them produced a syringe from inside his pocket, uncapping it and jamming it into the soft tissue of my arm before I had time to frame a new objection. I squeaked. He pulled the needle free.
“What did you just inject me with? Answer me! You have no right to do this! I’m a United States citizen!” As long as I was legally human, I was pretty sure that was still true. “You need to answer me right now!” My vision was starting to go blurry around the edges. Not black this time, but gray and sort of wispy, like a fog was rolling in. I tried to frown. My face didn’t feel like it was responding. But I kept trying, because anything else would have felt too much like giving up, and giving up would have meant that I was allowing them to win. I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t let them win. I couldn’t…
Most sedatives take a few minutes to kick in. Either this one worked faster than most, or it had started by distorting my sense of time, because my ability to fight faded, and it took me with it. For the second time in a day, I’d been drugged into unconsciousness.