Chapter Fourteen

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That night, as the rhythm of the ocean gently rocked the ship, I rested my head on my pillow and tried to calm my mind. I was finding it hard to relax, struggling to believe I was safe, that I’d made it to the ship. I tried not to think of how many times I’d cheated death, instead focusing on the sound of my roommates’ slowed breathing as they slept, hoping it would lull me into sleep too.

Our room was small, but cosy. With two sets of bunk beds, a bathroom with a toilet and shower, and a round window overlooking the sea, it was more than enough for Jo, Lea, Skye and I to live in while we made the journey to London. All the luxuries of the cruise ship didn’t matter to us: after everything we had endured, safety was the real luxury. I rolled onto my side to look out the window, gazing up at the stars from my bottom bunk.

After my meeting with Eric, I went back to the induction area to find Jo. She took me to the top deck to see Dixon, who had almost bowled me over in his frenzied excitement to see me. Jo and I sat in the sunshine together, watching the eastern seaboard of Australia pass us by as I told her how I’d survived the infection. Even though we had only been separated for a matter of days, I felt like I hadn’t seen her in weeks. So much had happened. I let out a quiet yawn as I wondered if Commander Renner would stay true to his word and move Wyatt and Ben to our ship.

Heavy footsteps in the hallway caught my attention, my mind still on high alert for signs of threats. I tried to convince myself that I was safe, that I had nothing to worry about, but then I heard the sound of a keycard being pushed into our door and I knew something wasn’t right.

I sat up just as the door swung open, light from the hallway shining in and silhouetting three figures standing in the threshold.

“That’s her,” a voice said, and I recognized it as Commander Renner. A man and a woman in army uniforms walked towards me and instructed me to get out of the bed.
“What’s going on?” I asked. Jo, Lea and Skye had woken from the noise, joining me in my confusion.
“Eva,” Eric said as he stood in the doorway. “You have to come with us.”
“Why?” I asked as I stepped out of bed, but he didn’t answer.

Jo rubbed the sleep from her eyes. “What’s happening?”
“Are we being evacuated?” Skye asked as she jumped off the top bunk in a panic. Lea and Jo sat up in their beds, their eyes wide in fear.
“Ma’am, please go back to bed,” Eric said, keeping his eyes on me. “No-one is being evacuated. We’re just here for Eva.”

One of the officers gestured for me to walk ahead of them, and I noticed they were purposely avoiding making physical contact with me. Dread washed over me as I realised they must have reached the end of Priya’s research folder. Eric knew I’d been infected, and he was there to take me away. I looked back at the others and held my hand up to calm them down. “It’s okay. I think I know what this is about.”

I went peacefully, knowing protesting or fighting them would be futile. All I could do was go with them and hope they believed what my medical report said: that I was healed of the virus. With an army officer on either side of me and Eric leading the way, we walked silently down the hall and into the stairwell.

“You omitted some very vital information in our meeting, Eva,” Eric said as we filed down the stairs. “Something that could have endangered everyone on this ship, including your friends.”
“I’m not a danger to anyone,” I objected. We reached the open platform of the ship, and I saw a rescue boat waiting for us.
“Get on,” Eric said.
“Where are we going?” I asked, acting tough even though I was terrified that they were going to take me back onto land.
“The M1 hospital carrier,” he said. “Our team needs to run some tests on you. We can’t expose you to anyone else until we’re sure you’re as healthy as Dr Desai’s research claims you are. Now, get on.”
I did as he asked, relieved to know I wasn’t being kicked off the ship. Eric and I sat facing each other on the boat as it sped towards the medical ship.

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