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“Has it been a week?” I didn’t have to feign confusion. As far as my memory was concerned, it had only been about two days since I last saw him. The other five days, if they existed, were missing, replaced by nothingness. “How long was I unconscious?”

“All healthy individuals recovered from Contra Costa County were kept sedated for a five-day period,” said one of the scientists, apparently relieved to have something that she could contribute to the conversation. “It allowed us to be sure you were as clean as you appeared to be.”

“The implants have shown the ability to go temporarily quiescent,” said Colonel Mitchell, shooting a warning look at the scientist. She flushed red, looking away. He returned his attention to me. “Someone who tests clean today can start showing protein markers tomorrow. Several of us have required multiple courses of antiparasitic drugs before we could be genuinely sure of being uncontaminated.”

Antiparasitics that couldn’t cross the blood-brain barrier wouldn’t touch a sleepwalker, or a chimera. Antiparasitics that could cross the barrier would either be metabolized or cause anaphylactic shock, severe illness, and potentially, if the drugs weren’t discontinued quickly enough, death. It wasn’t a fun way to go, at least if my own brushes with antiparasitic reaction were anything to go by. “Congratulations,” I said. “It must be nice to not be scared anymore.”

Colonel Mitchell winced for some reason. I frowned at him with his daughter’s face, arms still folded. He looked away.

“Where am I?” I asked.

“A secure holding facility,” he said, without looking at me. “You’re safe here.”

“That wasn’t the question.” Several of the scientists were starting to look unhappy about the way that I was talking to their boss. I didn’t really care all that much about how they felt. I kept my attention on the Colonel, trying not to think about the nights he’d spent in my doorway, keeping the nightmares away with his presence, or the times he’d done things that were more fatherly than scientific. He’d taken me out for ice cream, just the two of us, and we’d eaten dripping cones on Fisherman’s Wharf while we laughed at the tourists. Those moments had never been common, but they’d been, and it was hard not to dwell on that as I watched him stand there in his uniform, with me in a scientific prison.

“I know you’re confused, and I know you’re upset, but this is protocol right now,” he said finally, looking back to me. “You should be grateful that you were located during the early stages of the outbreak. Right now, we can afford to space you out and give you a little room to move. By the time this is all over, that’s not going to be the case.”

“What? You’re going to start a zoo for unturned humans?” I uncrossed my arms in order to gesture in both directions at once, indicating the rows of bubbles stretching out in both directions. I wasn’t lying, quite: I still hadn’t claimed to be one of those precious unturned souls. “You can’t keep us in here forever. It’s inhumane. There are laws against this sort of thing.”

“A surprising number of laws can be suspended when it’s a matter of public health.” Colonel Mitchell looked at me gravely, his eyes searching my face like he was trying to find something he no longer believed existed. “This is a quarantine situation. Individuals without any sign of a SymboGen implant are relatively rare, thanks to the corporation’s increasing market saturation over the past few years. We need to isolate people long enough to be sure that they’re genuinely clean, and not Trojan horses looking to get into our protected populations. Once someone is fully cleared, they will be released into a less restrained setting. We’ve acquired a small town in Contra Costa County, relatively isolated by both geography and design. The inhabitants have either been restrained here or relocated elsewhere. I’m sure you’ll all find it quite comfortable there.”

I stared at him, momentarily at a loss for words. Some of the scientists were exchanging glances, like they weren’t comfortable with him telling me even this much. “Wait, you really are going to put us in a zoo?”

“An isolated environment where you can be protected from the current threat,” he corrected. “There’s no way of telling whether the SymboGen implant has become transmissible, and we need to protect the few individuals who have been confirmed as unaffected.”

This wasn’t working. He was feeding me a party line—maybe a little bit more of the line than he was supposed to feed me, but that could all be excused by the fact that I wore his daughter’s face. I dropped my arms to my sides, trying to look vulnerable, and asked, “How’s Joyce?”

His face shut down. There was no other way of describing what happened. It wasn’t the muscular death of the sleepwalkers, or even the sudden loss of muscle tension that came when someone fell asleep or was knocked unconscious: this was a simultaneous tightening and smoothing out, until there was nothing left in his expression that could tell me how he felt. “She survived the course of intramuscular praziquantel that we gave her on Dr. Kim’s recommendation. There were some side effects, of course, but she’s still breathing. That’s more than I felt confident in hoping for when we began the treatment.”

The intramuscular praziquantel had been intended to target the SymboGen implant that was colonizing her brain. Nathan and I had known substantially less about the sleepwalkers when Joyce got sick. She hadn’t gone all the way into the “walking around, trying to kill people” stage, but she’d lost consciousness and been bad enough that USAMRIID had quarantined her. Dad—Colonel Mitchell, I reminded myself; he’d been Dad at the time, but that time had passed—had demanded that we help. We’d done our best, and it sounded like we’d saved her body.