“You know I’m not wrong,” Manny said. “Bryn needs to be eliminated, and we need to get the hell away from her. Far away. Did you hear her? She’s infectious.”
“Then so is her blood, Manny,” Patrick said. He was holding her, Bryn realized; she was now propped against his shoulder, and his arm was around her, holding her up. “Everybody touched by blood spatter could be infected now. Including you.”
“It doesn’t work like that,” Bryn said. She felt sick and weary now, and throbbing with pain that wasn’t entirely physical. “Can’t infect just anybody. Has to be one of the already Revived, according to what I heard back at Pharmadene. Otherwise, normal human immune systems will just kill the nanites.”
It wasn’t like Manny to react quite that violently, but they were dealing now not with the rational, brilliant scientist, but the man who’d once been buried six feet under in a coffin—buried alive. The same man, but one at the mercy of all his paranoid fears and phobias . . . and Bryn had run headlong into that wall of razors. So had Patrick, because all his observation accomplished was to provoke panicked yelling and thrashing from Manny, until Liam put him in a compression hold and sent him unconscious.
“That won’t last long,” Liam said. “He needs a sedative.”
“Drug him and I’ll kill you,” Pansy said in a low, level voice. “Promise.”
“Would you rather I continue to choke him out? Because I’m fairly sure that risks brain damage,” Liam snapped, and Pansy, still smoldering, looked away. “Agent Block, the sedatives, please.”
Riley reached down for a backpack leaning nearby, and rummaged through it to find a small zipped case. In it was a syringe and several vials of drugs. She prepared a shot and handed it to him. Liam slid it home and injected Manny just as the other man started to come to, and Manny subsided into unconsciousness again with a soft sigh.
“What about her?” Liam asked Patrick. Patrick studied Pansy for a moment, then shook his head.
“No. Pansy understands that Manny can be dangerous to himself as much as anybody else when he’s in this mood. She knows that this is for his own protection.”
“Fuck you, McCallister. He’s your friend.”
“He just shot my girlfriend in the head. I think I’m displaying some amazing restraint, Pansy, and you need to understand that we’re up against the wall now. No room for bullshit and personal problems, all right? Those bastards at Pharmadene bought out part of the FBI, which is generally not known for its ability to be bribed or coerced. So think, and stop blindly reacting. We need a safe haven, one where we can test what’s going on with Bryn and see what we’re really up against. And we need to get off the grid, because sure as hell’s on fire, my ex-wife, Jane, is coming for us and she’s bringing an army with her.” Patrick had never sounded so intense and certain, Bryn thought. And he was right. What they needed right now, more than anything else, was a safe place to plan.
Jane. She was their enemies’ frontline general—one who really loved getting her hands dirty. Bryn shuddered. The smiling, cheerfully pathological face of the woman—no, the monster—loomed in her mind at the best of times now; she’d endured terrible things at Jane’s hands, and the idea of ending up in that situation again was definitely not appealing.
That wasn’t helped by the fact that Jane was Patrick’s ex—something that, frankly, Bryn still couldn’t think about without a stabbing jolt of betrayal.
She pushed the issue of Jane aside. Moving as a team meant getting Manny on their side . . . or at least Pansy. Pansy could manage Manny, if she had to do it.
Pansy glared back for a long, long moment, then said, “Manny’s never going to trust any of you again; you know that.”
Patrick shook his head. “Manny can stuff it for all I care, because once again, he just shot my girlfriend in the head. You see the problem? I can’t trust Manny, either. So we’re even. But Manny’s safe houses are the only shot we’ve got at staying alive at this point. Even if you both walked away, they’d find you eventually. He can’t earn money if he can’t work, and he can’t work if these assholes are on his trail and the world’s falling apart. So you have to do this, Pansy, out of pure self-interest. We have to win. There’s no other option.”
She was silent for a long, long moment, and then she nodded and took a deep breath. “I may just have broken up with Manny, but I have to admit, you’ve got a point,” she said. “Okay. Where are we, exactly? Geographically, not metaphorically.”
Joe Fideli—who Bryn realized was still in the driver’s seat, but turned to face them since he’d stopped the van—lowered a gun that he’d been keeping ready, and said, “Exactly? You want GPS coordinates?”
“Highway and nearest town.”
He gave it to her, and she nodded and spewed back directions, which Bryn couldn’t follow, because her headache was literally blinding her. Hold on, she told herself, as her stomach roiled in protest. It’ll pass. It’ll pass. It didn’t feel like that. It felt like dying, not healing.
She missed the moments that agreements were reached and plans made, so the next thing she was directly aware of was the van whipping a U-turn and speeding back the way they’d come, which did not seem like so much progress to her, but she was willing to give up control to the powers that be at the moment, and just rest. Bullet in the head still takes it out of me, she thought, and was briefly, painfully amused. God, I need a shower. I reek of death. Again.
Oddly enough, though, she didn’t feel hungry. Not yet. So maybe the seventy-two ounce steak had actually done some good.
They drove for what seemed like hours—steady, fast speed, curves that must have been freeway changes. By the time Bryn’s lingering headache had vanished, Joe Fideli was pulling the van onto an off-ramp and slowing down. “Almost there,” he said. “Haven’t seen any pursuit. I think we’re good so far.”
“Either that, or they’re just surveilling us and waiting for us to go to ground,” Patrick said. “Easier and neater to take us out once we’re in an area that can be controlled. So keep your eyes open, Joe.”
“Don’t I always?” For normally cheerful Joe, that was positively grumpy. “Keep your drawers on. Ten minutes.”
It was a long, tense ten minutes; none of them believed they were going to make it, Bryn realized, and so it was an immense relief when the van slowed and stopped. “Pansy, we’re at a gate,” Joe said. “Looks like a pretty serious gate, actually.”
“That’s my cue,” she said, and climbed over them to the sliding door. She slammed it shut behind her and about fifteen seconds later, the van moved on. The daylight outside the tinted windows darkened to shadow, and then went away completely as the angle of the van’s progress changed to a downward slope. It took another two minutes for Joe to pull it to a halt, and then Pansy pulled the van’s door open from outside and gave them a tight, wary smile.
“Welcome to the Batcave,” she said.
She wasn’t kidding.
The Batcave—Bryn presumed that wasn’t the actual name of the place, but she couldn’t be too certain of it—looked impressive even from the parking area. It was big enough to park several eighteen-wheelers in a pinch, with high ceilings, and used an impressive amount of steel and concrete. There were major industrial buildings that couldn’t boast this fine of an underground parking structure.
It had three exits she identified automatically—up the ramp, of course, but the ramp was blocked by a take-no-prisoners steel gate that wouldn’t have been out of place guarding the CIA headquarters in Langley. A red sign announced there was an exit at the back, but it was almost certainly locked, too, at least biometrically. She wouldn’t expect anything less from Manny Glickman. The man regularly elevated paranoia to an art form.
The third way out was the elevator, which Pansy had already summoned with the pressure of her hand on a palm scanner. It was a big industrial affair that they could have driven into in a pinch, and it held all of them without crowding. Patrick had the unconscious Manny over his shoulder in a fireman’s carry.
Bryn expected the elevator to go up, but instead, it went down. Down for at least a minute. She sent Pansy a look, and Pansy nodded to reassure her. “This place was a Cold War missile base. One of the few Titan bases they ever built—only about a dozen in the whole country. Manny got it in a sweetheart deal the second it went up for public auction about ten years ago, and he spent years building it out. One of the most secure spots in the country, until you want to go to war against another Titan base.”
“I assume they took the missiles.”
“Sadly true,” she said. “But there’s a half mile of tunnels, and more than forty thousand feet of storage and living space. This is where the serious work gets done around here. And I think we’re serious now, right? Plus, if you need a secure base of operations, there isn’t a better spot. We have hardened communications, a deepwater well system, our own generators, protected airflow, and enough food, drinks, and entertainment stocked to weather a nuclear winter.”
The elevator lurched to a stop, and as the doors opened, Pansy gave them a warmer smile and led the way out. “Like I said, welcome to the Batcave. The guest rooms aren’t fancy, but we at least have plenty of them. Kitchen and main housing is here in the center. Communications room doubles as the entertainment room, because what’s the apocalypse without Xbox? Feel free to explore—oh, wait. Before you do, let me enter your data in the computer. Everything’s security controlled.”
They followed her to a small anteroom, which required another palm scan from Pansy to open; it had thick bullet-resistant windows and a view into hallways on two sides, with a second door at the other end. The curved console in it featured a state-of-the-art monitor and keyboard, and various equipment whose purpose wasn’t immediately obvious. Pansy slid into the operator’s seat, and fired up the computer.