As we move deeper into the complex I am struck by how white and sterile everything is. It is feeling more and more like a hospital and as we move my fear increases. I know that Max will be able to smell it and as if sensing my unease he takes my hand and squeezes it.
“So,” Jonas says as he walks. “What happened to the cure?”
“We had to use it,” Max says, his voice a low rumble that echoes down the corridor.
“Had to use it…” Jonas looks shocked.
“Don’t you realise how important that was!” The woman says, her voice high and fast.
“Temple,” Jonas snaps. “I’m sure they had reason.”
“I did,” Max rumbles, but I can tell he is angry.
“It doesn’t matter,” I say, trying to dispel the rising tension.
“How can you say that?” Temple says, rounding on me and stopping in the corridor.
I look at her and realise that I really don’t like her. Normally I will wait before I decide on someone, but she is really making me hate her.
“Because the cure is contagious,” I say bluntly.
Temple blinks and her mouth opens and closes.
“You know this for certain?” Jonas says.
I nod. “But it isn’t just a cure.”
“Explain,” Temple says.
Jonas holds up a hand and looks pointedly behind us. I start to turn but he shakes his head, so I stare in front. I want to know what is wrong.
“Not here,” Jonas says in a stage whisper.
Temple spins in a flourish and we are all walking again. Only now there is a sense of urgency. I’m not counting the turns and twists but as I glance at Max I realise that he has a slight frown, suggesting he is concentrating. Maybe he is memorising the route. I feel a little guilty but I mentally shrug. Next time I must pay more attention. Maybe Max doesn’t trust them.
But then, do I?
We reach a set of steps and I’m expecting to go up. Instead Jonas opens a door and leads us down.
“We moved down here after the outbreak.” Next to me I see that the guy who looks more like a surfer has caught up. He gives me a winning smile and I can’t help but return it. Max’s hand tightens in mine for a moment. I squeeze back. He is becoming possessive.
“I’m Theo,” he says and then motions behind us. “And that’s my brother, Lucas.” They are so alike that I wonder if they are twins. The only difference is that Lucas is in a suit and as dapper as his brother is casual. As I’m turned around I look beyond the scientist to the guards.
There are three following. Each holds a gun and has a blank expression. I turn back to the front and force a smile for Theo.
“Nice to meet you,” I mumble.
He laughs, and the sound somehow jars me. “I hope so,” he says and is about to say something else when Jonas turns. He says nothing but Theo falls back. I glance at Max. He is looking concerned. I feel the same.
“We have a full working lab,” Jonas says as we reach the bottom of the steps. He pushes through a pair of swinging doors and we are in a large room. Off this one there are about eight doors. The room is set out in different stations. In one area there are snack machines and sofas, then there is a kitchen and along one wall are four camp beds. I’m surprised that they are sleeping here.
Behind me I hear the doors close and the tell-tale snick of a lock.
“What?” I ask, But Max is already there, testing the doors.
“Can you explain why we are locked in?” Max asks. He does not look happy.
“That,” Jonas says, “is our fault. We threatened to leave in order to save our families.”
“Or try to,” Temple adds.
“So you have been locked in here,” I say. “Since the outbreak?”
“Yes,” Jonas says. I look at him then. I look past the smile and I see a man on the edge of exhaustion. Dark rings are under his eyes and his face has the look of a man with no hope. He has aged about ten years from the moment the door closed.
“So why not tell us?” I ask.
“You would have been shot,” Theo says.
I open my mouth and then close it. They don’t know that we can survive bullets. I look to Max. He is standing with his arms crossed looking bemused.
“You tell them,” he says.
I gulp… This is going to either go well, or not at all.