Max shifts under Dee’s gaze. I can see he is really uncomfortable but I think of the child outside and the blood at the airport, and Colin.
“Is it really your fault?” I ask and I hope he is going to answer no. I like Max. Please say you were made to do it, I think.
But Max gives a small nod. And then looks up sharply at my gasp. “But it wasn’t meant to go like this.”
“What then?” Dee says, slamming her hand down on the table and making Max jump.
“It was for a better future,” Max starts, but Dee interrupts him.
“This is not better…”
“No,” he says, hanging his head and looking at the table. “It went wrong.”
I shoot Dee a hard stare. We need to hear him, but if she keeps interrupting he will never finish. She crosses her arms and leans back, giving me a hard stare of her own. But she compresses her mouth together forming a hard line as if to say she will keep quiet.
“How did it go wrong?” I ask gently. Out of the corner of my eye I see Dee roll her eyes. I don’t know her but I have a feeling that her treatment of Max would be harsh and unforgiving. I’m not like that and I have a feeling that it wouldn’t get us anywhere.
Max takes a deep breath and looks at me. He ignores Dee completely.
“There are twenty five of us. We were to release the sifting and then usher in a new age.”
That sounds rehearsed. He spoke without emotion, his expression blank. I wonder if it’s part of a cult. “What’s the sifting?”
“The world is broken,” Max says. “All the wars and diseases. We needed to fix it. So the Company came up with the sifting. It was, or rather is, a virus that was meant to attach to people who had something wrong with them. Then it would sift them and stop the rot.”
Oh shit, is all I can think.
Dee leans forward. “What do you mean, something wrong with them?”
“Too aggressive, suffering from cancer, asthma. Having some genetic disease. It was to make us stronger,” he says.
“Jesus,” Dee says, shaking her head. “You just killed masses of people.”
Max looks at his hands.
“How were you to deliver it?” I ask.
Reaching into his pocket he pulls out the pack of cigarettes.
“Colin worked this out…” I say more to myself than the others.
Max nods. “I light one and then infect myself. I have something in me that stops me from dying too quickly. Instead I have to go to as many populated areas as possible.”
Dee reaches for the packet, but stops just before she touches it.
“It’s safe,” Max says. “You have to smoke it to release the active virus, and then it only infects me. I have to then infect others.”
Dee stays frozen for a moment and then takes the pack. She flips it open and stares.
“There are eight missing…”
Max nods. “It was never meant to spread like this.”
“But this holds the original virus?” Dee says with excitement.
Dee holds the pack to her as if it were a child. I’m confused.
“What?” I ask.
Oddly though it is Max who answers. “The original virus should help create a cure.”
“That and you,” Dee says. “You have the compound that slows the disease.”
Max looks away quickly.
“What?” I ask.
“I’d survive,” he says quietly. Dee sits back and shakes her head.
“You would become a walking vector,” Then she narrows her eyes at him. “Have you smoked one yet?”