Pathogen: Jana – 8

PathogenJana sputtered and coughed as water doused her face, rousing her from sleep. Shaking off the excess droplets, she wiped her eyes and sat up. “What the hell did you do that for?”

“Time to wake up, sunshine,” Reggie kicked at her feet lightly. “We’re burning daylight.”

“Why aren’t we doing this at night?”

“Easy. We’d be expected at night. No, you’ve got to look just the part. Suit and everything. I think we have one on hand for ya. You can pretend you want to be an intern, right?”

“Yeah, sure,” Jana agreed, standing and reaching for the towel in Reggie’s other hand. The bleach-spotted towel was scratchy, but it soaked up water well enough. “You don’t need to throw water at me to get me to wake up, you know.”

“I know. It’s more fun this way though. Besides, I have to find some ways to pay you back for breaking my brother’s nose.”

“Reg, it’s been over a month. I think I’ve paid back that crime by now.”

He grinned, displaying several crooked teeth. One was missing altogether. They’d gotten into a scrap with another group of people, who tried to claim that they owned midtown, a couple of months back and he lost it–the man who hit him was no longer alive. Jana didn’t mind Reggie so much as she used to. He’d saved her skin more than once, and she his. His brother still seemed to despise her though, so now when she was given missions, she went with Reggie and no one else. “I was thinking–if you tried introducing yourself to people when you meet them instead of trying to intimidate them right off the bat, you might still have all of your teeth.”

“Easy there. I’m plenty friendly. Just because you and I squabbled…”

“You wanted me dead. I’d hardly call that a squabble.”

“Eh, quit wasting time. Go put on your interview suit. We can do a mock interview on the way.”

Laughter bubbled up until Jana could suppress it no longer. “Sorry–it’s hard to picture you working in a human resources department.”

“That’s because I didn’t. But I interviewed a lot of people when I worked for the CIA.”

“Interviewed…as in tortured? I’m not sure you’re the best person to coach me.”

“That’s classified information. I could tell you, but then I’d have to utterly destroy you. Enough stalling–go and get ready or I’ll come back with two buckets of water.”

“Yeah, yeah. You’re all talk.” Except Reggie wasn’t and she didn’t want to get two buckets of ice cold water dumped over her head. Jana bustled out of the room and down the maze of corridors to wash up. The water was a good start but she needed soap. One of the women who had bathed her when she first came was in the bathing chamber. Jana offered a smile, which the woman did not return. “You probably think I’m a coward or something.”

The woman just stared at her.

“You lost your tongue rather than willingly give in to their demands. But what do you have for it? You don’t ever get to leave here and you’re treated like a servant.”

This time, the woman’s lips stretched into a grin.

Jana’s smile vanished. Why would that make her happy? She might still be, in a way, a prisoner of this place, only allowed to leave with Reggie’s supervision, but at least she could speak and get out of the dark rooms and hallways. While Jana bathed, the woman’s ill-timed smile bothered her more and more. She knew asking was useless though, and so took out her frustration on her body. She scrubbed until her skin felt raw.

The suit provided for her “interview” seemed tailored to fit her perfectly. “Not bad,” she remarked to the silent woman, “I haven’t looked this good since before the outbreak. Of course, my hair was a lot longer then too.” She’d chopped it after living on the streets for a week or so. The summer air was too hot to abide her long mane. Jana ruffled her hair with her fingers to add some volume.

She found Reggie waiting in her shoe box of a room. “You’re going like that?”

“I’m going to wait outside for you. But don’t worry; I’m ready.” He patted the gun holstered at his hip.

“For what, the event that they don’t hire me?”

“I don’t care if they hire you. You just need to get what we need and then we’re out of there. This is for you in case you try to escape.”

Jana rolled her eyes. “Aren’t we past that yet?”

“We’re not. Look, I’d rather not kill you. At least I don’t want to anymore. You’re useful–“

“Thanks,” Jana interjected.

“Don’t interrupt,” he held up a finger like a parent scolding a child. “As I was saying, I’d rather keep you alive. But I’ve not let you go off on your own yet and I don’t want you getting any ideas. There’ll only be one entrance and exit and your theft will have to be flawless because they’re going to scan you before you leave.”

“I’ve been to quarantine centers before.”

“But we haven’t gone into Q1. If they used a standard network we could go into Q4, but the security is going to be tight. Not to mention you could actually catch the Sweats.”

“I’m not going to get sick, Reg. I would have already if that was going to happen.”

“Yeah, yeah, you’ve told me about Ryan. Alright, let’s go.”

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