Chapter 25

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Father's laboratory is a microcosm of the man's mind. It is a dark and cold burrow with many hidden corners where secrets are stashed. What is visible is organized and labelled neatly, jar after jar, shelf after shelf. His workspaces are meticulously clean; I've seen him apply the same principles when he leaves a campsite or carves an animal carcass. Not a molecule out of place, and everything in its place. His space was once a piece of the Las Vegas underground, where the homeless and junkies would dwell. Now this suburb is Bastion, and beneath the reclaimed remnants of homes once owned by yuppies and snowbirds, a man tries to save what is left of us from The Doom.

He pays a fortune in information and scavenged tech to keep the lights on and the fridge running. In the hot, dry summers, Father's lab was always nice and cool...though I was never allowed to play there. The lab is for science and business only; I prepare myself to try and vault that hurdle as Father prepares needles, scrapers, and petri dishes on a metal workspace. I sit on the operating table Father painstakingly brought in from the hospital, my legs dangling over the side, feeling like I'm seven again and Father is telling me not to fidget as he gives me a vaccination.

"So...seeing as how you broke up girl time..." I venture, "...maybe we could break that rule about no talking in the lab?"

"Does it have to do with science?" Father asks, not turning around. He's checking something on a clipboard. "I need to ensure I have everything I need, so that I don't have to call you back down here later."

"So this isn't just a routine sample, then? Why do you need a sample from me?"

"Because Doctor Lessing claimed that you were immune."

"He claimed more than that."

"He was delusional."

"His plans were. But he seemed pretty convinced that my immunity was...what's the word he used? Engineered. Everyone who survived and every child born in the last seventeen years has at least some immunity. Except he said that my kids would be automatically immune, too. Know anything about that, Dad? Did you experiment on me when I was a kid?"

Still, he doesn't turn around. Still checking his clipboard and organizing his needles.

"I thought we learned long ago that cult leaders can't be trusted to tell the truth...except, perhaps, their skewed version of it."

I hop off the table. "You're not the only doctor to survive The Doom, Dad. And just because he was crazy doesn't mean he's totally wrong. I know when you're being obtuse, so let my try a different line of questioning...and if you refuse to answer, I'll just flat-out refuse to give you a sample."

"Regan, curing The Doom is more important than..."

"Where is Mom?"

I've known him long enough to be able to sense his tension. His shoulders move ever so slightly under the mantle of his duster.

"I told you; when you're eighteen..."

"Dad. That's mere months away, and this trip brought up a lot of questions. What's the difference if you tell me now? Even if it's just to tell me that you found me and you don't know who she was...I just need the truth. It hurts not knowing...and it hurts even more knowing that you're keeping something from me."

He doesn't subject me to a long-suffering sigh but I can hear him breathing heavily through his nose. Finally, he puts the clipboard down on the table and turns around.

"It's not you that I'm worried about, Regan."

"This doesn't affect anyone else, Dad!"

"You don't understand."

"Then help me to!" I scream. "Does it affect her? Is she...?" I hear quick steps coming down the ladder and stop shouting. Leslie enters the lab, sweating and looking loaded to hunt a T-rex.

"Nova scouts have been feinting past the border," she pants. "Ceding Bastion was all a ruse to try and catch us with our pants down."

"Kind of busy, Les," Father says, gesturing to me and the instruments behind him.

"There's an army at our border, you jackass!" she shouts.

"Far more important than curing The Doom, clearly." Father folds his arms.

"Kind of hard to cure it if you're dead," she retorts.

"They won't kill us."

"They won't kill you. Stay in town for all I care, but at least go join Bastion Defense. I actually came for Regan. I need at least one decent shot if we're going to harry their trucks."

"Not going to matter once the tanks roll in."

"Intelligence says their tanks are west. This is bigger than just Bastion. The General is finally fulfilling his promise to 'remake America'." She says the last part in air quotes. "And it won't stop there."

"Then I might as well cure The Doom. We're not going to stop them."

"You stubborn...of all the times I've come close to shooting you...this is the latest one. Fine. Stay in here and play doctor while the world burns. I'd rather bring Regan."

"By all means; she's free to do as she likes. After I get a sample."

"You have thirty seconds," Leslie says, her hand upon the magnum at her hip.

"And you..." Father says, turning around to grab a hollow syringe, "...have no sense of perspective."

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