The investigators came today. I knew they would eventually. But it surprised me how easy it was to misdirect them, especially through a third party who was allowed to think it was his own detective work. It didn’t help them that they ran into people more important than they expected who were already angry because Caro … because Caro is dead and also because they couldn’t take as much blood from me as they needed.
I pretended to close my eyes and take a nap. It is what we always do when they draw blood. But instead I watched them.
“Do you have any idea what you’ve caused? There’s already a shortage of X13 serum because of this year’s outbreaks.”
“No, you look … and if you’re smart you’ll even listen. Nothing … I mean nothing … trumps the national security issues on this. It’s bad enough that your program caused such bad press – hell it made international Tri-V news – but now you are putting our only serum supply at risk as well. Your little science experiment is going down and those damn freaks you’ve created are getting euthanized and destroyed before our enemies get any bright ideas to capture one and duplicate them for their side.
“I’m telling you the problem isn’t the men. All the indicators lead back to here.”
“Damn straight they do. And they’re going to end here. I read the report and the girl’s statement. I went back over it and all evidence points to your idiots doing it to themselves because they were allowed to go around un-sedated and unsupervised.”
“And just what facts …”
“The two girls were cutting through that indoor green house, the solarium or whatever the hell it’s called, and the men were tearing up the plants. You know what happened then once they’d been caught out.”
“Caught out doing what? Letting off a little steam during R-n-R? And how does that …”
“Here,” the one said to the other shoving a file film against his chest. “Your idiots were caught smoking on several occasions. Apparently they were dressing their cigs with some herbals looking to get high. Self-medicating when they were taken off those shots. They were witnessed smoking in the train cars too right before that incident. I had my staff pull the results of your tox screens.”
“That doesn’t prove anything. It’s all circumstantial.”
“Until you bother to examine pictures of the damage they caused in the greenhouse and the list of plants in there. Of particular note is a palm tree in the tropical collection called the betel nut. They would have recognized it from their time at their last assignment. The locals there smoke and chew it. I did some research and besides being a carcinogen it is known to cause psychotic episodes in users with pre-existing mental illness. And if your trained monsters aren’t mentally ill I don’t know who would be.”
“You’ll be hearing from my superiors concerning your interference in this investigation.”
With a shark’s grin he answered, “Doubtful as your superiors are already being taken out by my superiors. And you can forget using Pickering as a staging ground for any more of your freak shows because …”
They moved further away and an orderly drew a screen that cut the rest of my view off. I’m not so afraid as I was but I’m still angry and I still hurt in my private places. I’m not a thing or a freak. I’m not something to be used and thrown away. And neither was Caro. I still want to cry but I can’t because they need me to get well and be strong. I have to set an example. Nurse Cassie would. I have to.
Johnson was out of sorts and everyone knew it and was giving him space. He was exhausted from the nightmares he’d had every night since the girls had been attacked. He was angry that he hadn’t protected them better. He was secretly heartbroken by the death of sweet, innocent Caro and had nearly gotten in a fight with one of the janitors when he caught him tossing one of the girl’s hand drawn pictures in the trash. And he was nearly frantic with worry at the kids being taken to the administrative wing while there was a threat of investigation in the air.
He snarled at Waverly when he walked into the room with a smile. “What the hell Waverly. There ain’t no reason to smile. Day’s as crappy as they come.”
Waverly shook his head. “And here I thought you’d give me a hand. Georgina is almost asleep on her feet and …”
Johnson jumped up. “What did those vampires do to them?!”
Calmly Waverly answered, “Drew their blood just like they do every month. Georgina is simply …”
“Where are they?”
“Down the ha …”
Johnson’s nervous energy didn’t even let him stay for the rest of the answer. Waverly followed him out, marveling at the change in the man’s attitude. He’d gone from disgust to being a nearly over zealous guard dog in just weeks. He wished that more people would have the same kind of change in attitude except it was unlikely given the current population control laws. One child was free. A second child doubled your tax burden. There was mandatory sterilization after a second child except for those living in the urban zones that were cordoned off from those willing to follow the law. The only way to escape the urban zones was to submit to permanent sterilization, to be accepted into a farm work program, or to score high enough on an aptitude test to qualify for training to be a necessary worker. You also got out during your mandatory four year service contract to the country but it was not a permanent escape unless you re-enlisted or earned enough credits during your service to buy your way out.
By the time Waverly reached Johnson he was already returning and had a confused Georgie in his arms.
“I can walk.”
“Hush up. What the bloody hell those blood suckers are thinking. Close your ears.”
“Because I’m gonna yell for Nela.”
“I don’t need Nela. I’m not a baby.”
Johnson rolled his eyes. “If you were I wouldn’t have to call for Nela.”
Roland who’d been following behind had to hide the smirk on his face from Georgie’s sharp eyes. It wasn’t often he got to see someone get the better of her verbally. He was also glad to see she was getting some of her old self back. He knew she was mostly faking being better but at the moment she wasn’t. She wasn’t faking being weak however and was almost asleep before Lt. Johnson could put her down in her room.
Roland was also tired but eager to tell what he had found out to the other men. After making sure everyone else was taken care of he rolled over to the soldier’s ward.
“They completely freaked out on the train and killed a couple of their own medics before training security put them down.”
Peterson was the first to speak. “To use the LT’s favorite phrase … holy hell.”
Johnson gave him an irritated look before telling Roland, “How many times I gotta tell you …”
“ … stay out of trouble. I got it. But I didn’t have to do nothing. All those people that come each month think we have straw instead of brains and don’t always watch what they say and do. They aren’t as careful as our staff. They left the Tri-V on and the broadcasters were recapping the week’s news. No wonder they said the satellite was down for repair. The few pictures they showed were pretty bad.”
There was general discussion of the discovered event but suddenly Johnson interjected an angry, “Waverly knew. He had to.”
Roland looked momentarily surprised at Johnson’s reaction but then nodded. “Of course he did. He’s staff. He’s mostly a good guy but it’s not like he is one of us. He does what the Director pays him to do.”
Johnson immediately had his second awakening, the first being how wrong he had initially been about the children. “We’re really cut off here. The only information we get is what they let us have. They control everything.”
“Uh … not so much. We know more than they think we do. They underestimate us because they have to or they’d feel bad about keeping us locked up. Even Waverly is like that. Like I said, he’s a good guy, and he’s on our side mostly, but he isn’t one of us and despite what he thinks, he doesn’t really know what it means to be one of us. You do.”
“Kid, if he’s holding back on this what else is he holding back on? He can’t really be trusted completely.”
With utter simplicity Roland asked, “Who said we completely trust him?”
Johnson’s third awakening was even more disconcerting that the first two were. The kids were way cleverer than he’d ever thought they could be.