I’m in a huge room filled with rows of gurneys and chemicals boiling under metal hoods. Doctors and soldiers look up at me with startled faces.
I grab the first person I see—a young doctor standing close to the door. Before any of the soldiers can point a gun in our direction, I whip out one of my knives and hold it close to the man’s throat. The other doctors and nurses freeze. Several of them scream.
“Shoot, and you’ll hit him instead,” I call out to the soldiers from beneath my handkerchief. Their guns are focused on me now. The doctor trembles in my grasp.
I press my knife harder against his neck, careful not to cut him. “I won’t hurt you,” I whisper in his ear. “Tell me where to get the plague cures.”
He lets out a strangled whimper, and I can feel him sweating under my grip. He gestures toward the refrigerators. The soldiers are still hesitating—but one of them calls out to me.
“Release the doctor!” he shouts. “Put your hands up.”
I want to laugh. The soldier must be a new recruit. I cross the room with the doctor, then stop at the refrigerators. “Show me.” The doctor lifts a trembling hand and pulls the fridge door open. A gust of freezing air hits us. I wonder if the doctor can feel how fast my heart is beating.
“There,” he whispers. I turn away from the soldiers long enough to see the doctor pointing at the top shelf in the fridge. Half of the vials on the shelf are labeled with the three-lined X: T. Filoviridae Virus Mutations. The other half of the vials are labeled 11.30 Cures. But all the vials are empty. They’ve run out. I curse under my breath. My eyes skim other shelves—they only have plague suppressants and various painkillers. I curse again. Too late to turn back now.
“I’m letting go,” I whisper to the doctor. “Duck.” I release my grip and shove him hard enough to make him fall to his knees.
The soldiers open fire. But I’m ready for them—I hide behind the open fridge door as bullets ricochet off it. I grab several bottles of suppressants and shove them into my shirt. I bolt. One of the stray bullets scrapes me and searing pain shoots up my arm. I’m almost at the exit.
An alarm goes off as I burst through the stairwell door. There’s a chorus of clicks as all the doors in the stairwell lock from the inside. I’m trapped. The soldiers can still come through any door, but I won’t be able to get out. Shouts and footsteps echo from inside the laboratory. A voice yells out, “He’s hit!”
My eyes jump to the tiny windows in the stairwell’s plaster walls. They’re too far away for me to reach from the stairs themselves. I grit my teeth and pull out my second knife so that I now have one in each hand. I pray the plaster is soft enough, then leap off the stairs and throw myself toward the wall.
I stab one knife straight into the plaster. My wounded arm gushes blood, and I scream from the effort. I’m dangling halfway between my launching place and the window. I rock back and forth as hard as I can.
The plaster is giving way.
Behind me I hear the laboratory door burst open and soldiers spill out. Bullets spark all around me. I swing toward the window and let go of the knife buried in the wall.
The window shatters, and I’m suddenly out in the night again and falling, falling, falling like a star to the first floor. I rip open my long-sleeved shirt and let it billow out behind me as thoughts zip through my head. Knees bent. Feetfirst. Relax muscles. Hit with balls of feet. Roll. The ground rushes up at me. I brace myself.
The impact knocks the wind out of me. I roll four times and crash into the wall on the other side of the street. For a moment I lie there blinded, completely helpless. Above me I can hear furious voices coming from the third-floor window as the soldiers realize they’re going to have to double back into the laboratory to disable the alarm. My senses gradually sharpen—now I’m very aware of the pain in my side and arm. I use my good arm to prop myself up and wince. My chest throbs. I think I’ve cracked a rib. When I try to stand, I realize that I’ve sprained one of my ankles, too. I can’t tell if adrenaline is keeping me from feeling other effects of my fall.
Shouts come from around the building’s corner. I force myself to think. I’m now near the rear of the building, and several alleys branch off behind me into the darkness. I limp into the shadows.
When I look over my shoulder, I see a small group of soldiers rush to where I’d fallen, pointing out the broken glass and blood. One of the soldiers is the young captain I saw earlier, the man named Metias. He orders his men to spread out. I quicken my pace and try to ignore the pain. I hunch my shoulders so that the black of my outfit and hair help me melt into the darkness. My eyes stay down. I need to find a sewer cover.
The edges of my vision are blurring now. I push one hand against my ear and feel for blood. Nothing yet, a good sign. Moments later, I catch sight of a sewer cap on the street. I heave a sigh, readjust the black handkerchief covering my face, and bend down to lift the cover.
“Freeze. Stay where you are.”
I whirl around to see Metias, the young captain from the hospital’s entrance, facing me. He has a gun pointed straight at my chest, but to my surprise, he doesn’t fire it. I tighten my grip on my remaining knife. Something changes in his eyes, and I know he recognizes me, the boy who had pretended to stagger into the hospital. I smile—I have plenty of wounds for the hospital to treat now.
Metias narrows his eyes. “Hands up. You’re under arrest for theft, vandalism, and trespassing.”
“You’re not going to take me in alive.”