I glanced back at Max, disturbed and confused to find that he liked this man. I really wanted to punch the doctor, but I probably shouldn’t do that in front of Max. He’d seen enough death and violence.
“How did you get in here?” Daniels asked, and he relaxed a bit after Max made our introductions. He even let the door shut behind him.
“It doesn’t matter,” I shrugged. “What the hell are you doing here? What are you doing to my little brother?”
“You’re aware of his condition?” Daniels tilted his head uncertainly at me.
“I know he’s not sick,” I said carefully. “He’s the opposite of sick, but he looks very ill. What are you doing to make him look like that?”
“I’m helping the world!” Max protested.
“You don’t need to help the world! You need to be a little kid,” I told him gently. “You need to leave with me.”
“Max, wait!” Daniels held up his hand, but Max hadn’t made a move to go anywhere. “All the people in the world are very, very sick. You’ve seen what it does to people, haven’t you? Like your parents? You can stop that. You can save them. Your blood is the cure.”
“This isn’t his responsibility!” I stepped in front of Max, blocking him from Daniels. “And you don’t know that! There isn’t a cure yet! You may never find the cure, and Max might not hold the answer!”
“But he could! He does!” Daniels insisted.
“I don’t care!” I snapped. “You’re making him sick! He wasn’t this bad before. When they did tests on him in the old quarantine, he never looked like this!”
“They weren’t going fast enough,” Daniels said. “By the time they found a cure, everyone would be dead. He could save the entire human race!”
“How can he save the world if he’s dead?” I looked back at Max. His eyes were wide and glassy, and I’m not sure how much of the conversation he followed.
“If we don’t find the cure soon, there won’t be a world left to save,” Daniels said. “The zombies are getting smarter. They’re working together and tracking humans. It won’t be long before they find a way to kill everyone.”
“So your solution is to kill the only kid with a cure?” I asked skeptically.
“We’re not trying to, but we need to get everything now,” Daniels explained as reasonably as he could. “We’re getting all this genetic material before that happens.”
“So… you know it’s going to happen? You’re planning on it?” I actually started shaking with rage and clenched my fists. They were killing him, and they knew it, and they didn’t care.
“Do you think that everyone in the whole world should die so one kid doesn’t suffer?” Daniels looked at me skeptically. “That’s your argument?”
“Pretty much.” I walked over to Max to start undoing his IV. “He can’t live like this. I won’t let him.”
“You can’t take him.” Daniels pushed a button by the door, presumably calling for help.
I knew he was right. No matter how badly I wanted to, I couldn’t just take my brother out of an armed building. Not on my own.
“Max,” I crouched down in front of him, putting my hands on his knees. “I promise I will get you out of here.”
“But if I can save people, I should,” Max said.
“Not like this,” I insisted. “The world isn’t your responsibility, okay? This isn’t your burden.”
“No, Remy, this isn’t your burden.” His eyes looked darker set against his ashen skin, and I hated how reasonable he sounded.
Wise beyond his years, but he’d always been that way. A weird combination of little kid and old man that I had never understood. I was proud of him for wanting to sacrifice himself to do the right thing, but I was mad at him too. He didn’t need to do this.
He didn’t need to die, and I wouldn’t let him.
The door behind me opened, and a guard came in. He grabbed me by my arms and pulled me to my feet, but I didn’t put up a fight. I knew it would be futile in the long run, and I didn’t want Max to see me like that.
He just stared up at me, already resigned to living like this. As the guard pulled me out, Max’s sad face was the last thing that I saw.
I realized exactly what I had to do.
– 21 –
“You are so, so lucky you know me,” Tatum repeated for the twentieth time as he paced in front of me. I leaned back against the trailer, where we had been standing for the past fifteen minutes as he lectured me.
Tatum actually did have some clout around here, and using all of his considerable charm, he’d talked the officials into letting me go with a warning. They called it extenuating circumstances, but next time, I’d get the stockades.
For a while, people loitered around us. We had been a spectacle of sorts, but everyone had gone away now. It was just the two of us, hidden in the shadows of the trailer, so he could calm down the show he’d been putting on. He’d been playing it up like he had nothing to do with it.
“I shouldn’t have let you talk me into that.” Tatum rubbed his jaw and stared off at nothing.
“I’m sorry,” I said sincerely.
He had put himself on the line for me, and it wasn’t until his sergeant was berating us both that I realized what that meant. At least nobody had figured out his involvement, or Blue’s, and I was very grateful for that.
“It’s alright,” he shrugged and looked back at me. “But the least you could’ve done was wore that skirt out here.”
“I didn’t exactly have a chance to change.” I had abandoned the clothes Harlow had given me and worn the blue scrubs.
“Just lay low for a while,” Tatum said, wrapping up his speech. “I don’t know what happened up there, and you look upset about it. But just forget about it, okay? You got to see your brother.”
“Mmm,” I muttered noncommittally.
I needed to ask him another favor, but now didn’t seem the time to do it. Maybe tomorrow. He was right. I should wait until this all blew over, but I couldn’t wait that long. Not after I had seen how they kept Max.
They were killing him, with all their tests and research. I knew they were trying to save the world and all that, but it didn’t give them the right to treat a little boy like a lab rat.