I didn’t question how I knew that. I just did.
“So we’re going to walk?” I asked, in a small voice.
“I most certainly am not going to walk,” said Dr. Banks.
“Says you,” said Fishy amiably.
“Um.” I worried my lip a bit more between my teeth before I asked, “If we manage to get Tansy, how are we going to get her back to the lab?”
“Mom gave me a list of places that might be suitable to hide out with Tansy until someone finds us,” said Nathan. “Once we have Tansy, we’ll lie low until we’re found by someone from the lab. After that, we’ll find a way to get Tansy to the new lab, or Mom will send a truck to get us.”
“Oh.” This was sounding like an increasingly bad plan. But I’d known that when I made it, hadn’t I? It was already too late.
“I’ll yell if you try to take me out of this vehicle,” cautioned Dr. Banks. “I’ll scream. I’ll bring every sleepwalker in miles down on your heads.”
“Our heads,” I corrected. “They’ll be coming down on your head, too, and you’re the one who’s wearing handcuffs, so I don’t think you’re going to enjoy it very much. I can run pretty fast, and Fishy has a gun, and Nathan—”
“I can run,” said Nathan.
“Nathan can run,” I helpfully parroted. “Beverly will be totally fine, she’s a dog, nothing runs for its life like a dog. But you’re just going to be an old tired guy in handcuffs and dress shoes, which means you won’t be able to keep up.”
“I don’t need to run faster than the zombie horde,” said Fishy blithely. “I just need to run faster than you.”
Dr. Banks was starting to look pale and sweaty. “You wouldn’t do that to me,” he said. “You wouldn’t dare.”
“Oh, I don’t know,” I said. “You wanna try me?”
The look Dr. Banks gave me was midway between panic and disbelief. “Oh, no, Sally. You can’t fool me like that. You would never leave a man to die like that.”
“I’m starting to think that being a person has nothing to do with species, and everything to do with how you comport yourself,” I said, finally unbuckling my belt. “I would go back for Beverly.” The Lab lifted her head at the sound of her name, making an inquisitive buff sound. I smiled at her reflection and picked up her leash from the dashboard. “Beverly has earned the right to be considered a person. You haven’t. Not only would I leave you here to be torn apart, I would enjoy it. Dead men don’t hurt people. You’ve hurt too many of the people I care about. Maybe it’s time somebody hurt you for a change.”
“I think she means it,” said Fishy helpfully. “The chimera are a helper class, but that doesn’t make them good guys. There’s no telling what she’ll do if we’re going into a cut scene.”
For a moment, Nathan, Dr. Banks, and I were united in looking at Fishy like he had just lost his mind. The moment passed, and Nathan said, “This is pointless. Sal, get Bev. We’ll leave Dr. Banks here, and we’ll leave the doors open. Let the local sleepwalkers get up close and personal with their creator for a change.”
“That’s really sweet of you,” I said, and slid out of the van, cutting off any reply from the back—at least until I walked carefully to the side door, my feet crunching on the glass-covered street. Beverly rushed out as soon as the door was open, her tail wagging so hard that it seemed to wag the entire van. I crouched down to put her leash on, glancing up when I was done.
Nathan had his seat belt off and was sliding out of the car, his feet crunching somewhat louder than mine had, due to the difference in our sizes… and Dr. Banks was scooting along the seat as he followed, his face pale and splotched with patches of hectic red, like he was on the verge of having a heart attack from sheer fright.
I should have felt good, seeing him brought down to the level of the people he had treated so poorly. All I felt was tired. I straightened, Beverly’s leash held loosely in one hand, and raised my eyebrows.
Dr. Banks scowled at me. “You were a good girl,” he said.
I shrugged. “Things change. Are you going to behave?”
“I’ll stay quiet. I won’t attract any unnecessary company. I won’t try to run away.” The words seemed virtually dragged out of him, like they caused him physical pain to utter. Shooting me one last, betrayed look, he added, “All this ends when we get back to SymboGen. I’m not going to be your prisoner forever, no matter how much of an upper hand you have right now.”
“If you were smart, you would have kept that last part to yourself,” said Fishy amiably, stepping around the front of the van and reaching past Nathan to pull Dr. Banks out onto the street. Fishy kept hold of Dr. Banks’s shoulder as he turned a wide, toothy grin on the rest of us. I managed, barely, not to cringe away.
“Well, come on,” said Fishy. “Let’s go trigger a boss fight.”
It was easier to let Fishy take both the lead and custody of Dr. Banks: after all, he had the assault rifle, combined with a loose approach to reality, and would probably handle either an escape attempt or an attack better than Nathan or I would. Nathan had a pistol, produced from somewhere inside his lab coat—and I didn’t want to think about how long he’d been carrying that, or how many opportunities he’d been given to use it—while I had Beverly. In a world full of sleepwalkers, she was one of the most effective weapons we had. Anything that tried to sneak up on us would find themselves confronted with an angry, protective canine.