In the next few minutes, no one speaks. Mom stares over at me, but her breath comes out in jagged bursts, which makes her shoulders jump up and down unevenly. I take the baby from her, holding his neck with my strong arm and the rest of him with the weaker one in my lap.
His eyes stare up at me, endless pools of ocean blue. They move to the left and right in gentle motions. His tiny hands move to grab the front of my shirt, and for just a moment, I fall into his gaze, forgetting the world around me.
I am no longer stuck in a prison cell. My arm doesn't sear with pain; my chest doesn't ache. I can't hear Mom's breathing, and there is no hot, sticky air around me.
Instead, I focus on him, on everything he could be, and I know, above all else, I have to get him out of here.
"What's his name?" I ask, swallowing the knot in my throat.
"Elliot," Mom says, wrapping her arms around herself. On her left shoulder, there's a mark just like mine, bright red and yellow, with the same purple threads splitting from the center.
"Hello, Elliot," I whisper, looking back down at him instead of my mother.
Four hours from now, when the vaccine is finished, she will be five hours into the virus. She will be past the turning point.
I run a thumb across Elliot's face, pushing the thought away. I'm not ready to face that knowledge just yet.
"He has our hair," I say, glancing back up at Mom. She smiles, nodding, but I can see the trails of tears down her cheeks, dripping off her chin and onto her shirt. I take a shaky breath and continue, "But he has Dad's nose. It's a little flat."
"Quinn," she says, using her stern voice.
"It's a cute nose on him, though," I say, ignoring her.
"Quinn, listen to me-"
"Maybe he will get my height. He does look sort of long."
"Quinn Lee Austin, listen to me."
I meet her eyes, holding my breath. She reaches out, planting a hand on the side of my face.
"This is not the end. Do you understand me?" she says, rubbing my cheek with her thumb. It's cold compared to the room around us, making me shiver. I purse my lips closed, nodding slowly. "I'm serious, son," she continues, "You cannot give up now. Whatever is going through your head, pull it together. I didn't raise you for failure."
"There's no cure, Mrs. Austin," Dr. Price says, making me jump. I had forgotten he was even sitting there. "Sadly, this is the end."
Mom blinks at him, shaking her head before looking back at me.
"Maybe that's true for me," she says, "But it will not be the end for my sons."
"She's right," I mumble, clutching Elliot to my chest, "I have to finish this."
Dr. Price shakes his head at me, frowning.
"Even if you get out of here, you're still infected, Quinn," he says.
I stop talking, glancing over at Isaac. They don't know about Dr. Patel upstairs. Does he think I killed Jay? What's going through his head? As I watch him, his hands shake behind him, making his shirt sleeves tremble. Strands of his black hair have fallen loose, cascading down onto his shoulders. His shirt is stained with dirt; his pants are ripped.
"But what?" Dr. Price says.
"But Dr. Patel's upstairs with Jay right now," I say, eyes never leaving Isaac. His face changes from anger to relief as his eyebrows flatten out and his mouth falls open. "They're making the vaccine as we speak."
YOU ARE READING
Selected (Book 2 of the Immune Series)Science Fiction
"As far back as I can remember, I've been surrounded by water. The salt in the air even now makes it hard to breath, forcing me to squint. Sand clings to every inch of me, caking my pants and shoes. The wind from the ocean picks my hair up, sending...