A melodic rock song played softly over Naomi’s car speakers as she sped down I-85. Normally, she would have turned off her music with strangers in the car, but today she needed it to calm her nerves.
Sarah sat beside Naomi in the passenger seat, her arms freshly re-taped together, while Jen sat behind them.
Naomi wasn’t entirely sure why Jen was still with them. Maybe she thought her boyfriend’s disappearance was related to Lachlan and Chelsea’s. Whatever the reason, she had climbed into Naomi’s back seat, and Naomi hadn’t tried to stop her. Naomi didn’t want to be alone with Sarah, and Jen’s presence made her feel safer, especially after seeing her in action in the elevator.
If she got the chance, she would have to apologize for calling Jen annoying. She felt pretty awful about that, especially given that Jen had probably saved her life.
Naomi had decided to drive to her house rather than Chelsea’s, mostly because she wasn’t sure she wanted Sarah to know where Chelsea lived.
“Is st59 still at your apartment?” said Sarah.
That’s not a suspicious question at all.
“Don’t look at me like that,” said Sarah before Naomi could reply. “I’m asking because if we’re gonna go back in there, we’ll need all the help we can get. He’s got abilities like me. He’ll be useful.”
“I’m wondering something,” said Naomi
“That doesn’t answer my question,” said Sarah, “but I think I can guess what you’re wondering.”
“Why are you helping me?”
“I was wondering that too,” said Jen.
“I’m guessing you won’t accept ‘out of the goodness of my heart’ as an answer, will you?” said Sarah.
“No,” said Naomi.
Sarah sighed, leaning back in her seat.
“The truth is, I’ve been thinking for a while. More than anything, I want power. It’s a stupid fab defect, but it’s the closest thing to a goal or a dream I have.” She turned away from Naomi, angling herself toward window. “But I’m not gonna get it. Not from Mr. Clyde. I take out st59, and then what? I go back to being a mindless servant?”
Sarah paused, turning her gaze further toward the window. She had an almost mournful look in her eyes, but Naomi couldn’t quite bring herself to feel sorry for her.
“Mr. Clyde saved my life. If I was human, maybe I’d feel like I owed him or something. But I don’t. Not really. He’s not gonna keep his promises to me, and I get why. It’s not like I’m a real person. But the fact is, I’ve got almost nothing keeping me loyal to him.”
“Okay,” said Naomi. “That still doesn’t explain why you’re suddenly claiming you want to help me.”
“I’m just a dumb fab. If I don’t have the Clydes, I’m not gonna get real far on my own. I need allies.”
“And you think I’ll be your ally?”
Sarah turned to face Naomi, giving her a small, almost expectant smile.
“I’m hoping you will be. I’m hoping if we work together, I can win your trust.” She craned her head toward the backseat, directing her hopeful smile at Jen. “Both of you.”
“Yeah, right,” said Naomi. “You’re full of shit.”
“I’m all for trusting people and working together,” said Jen, “but you did kinda try to kill us like an hour ago.”
Naomi slowed down as she exited onto the off-ramp, and a pickup truck began tailgating her.
“Two of my friends could be–“
The pickup truck’s driver interrupted her with his horn. He sped around her, flipping her off out the window as he passed her in the right lane.
“Seriously? Ass. As I was saying, two of my friends could be in danger because of you.”
“And maybe my boyfriend, too,” added Jen.
“I know,” said Sarah. “I know you have every reason to hate and distrust me. Hell, I’d hate me too if I were y’all. But I’m hoping you’ll give me a chance. I’m gonna do everything it takes to save them. I promise.”
As Naomi pulled up to the red light at the end of the off-ramp, she took the chance to fix Sarah with what she hoped was a withering look. Sarah maintained eye contact, unflinching.
“You’d fucking better,” said Naomi.
199 and 254 cornered Lachlan, blocking off any possible escape routes. 112 focused on Sam, closing in on him and causing him to back into the wall. He looked petrified, his previously squinting eyes now as wide as spotlights.
As undeniably creepy as Lachlan found the women, and as nervous as he was, he wasn’t truly scared–not like Sam seemed to be. The women may have had them surrounded, but they didn’t look strong enough to overpower the two of them with physical strength alone, and their strange numbered jumpsuits didn’t have any pockets where they could have stashed weapons.
Lachlan didn’t see any way they could really eat him and Sam, short of them just trying to bite into them right then and there, and they weren’t going to do that.
At least, he hoped they weren’t.
Looking at the predatory smiles two of the women had fixed on him, he was suddenly less sure.
“Y-you don’t want to do this,” said Sam. “You don’t.”
The woman cornering Sam–was she 112? Lachlan was having trouble keeping track–drew closer to him.
“I’m pretty sure I do.”
“N-no. No. You don’t,” Sam said. “I know you’re starving. But try to think clearly. I really think I can get us out of here if you just give me a chance. And then Lachlan can cook you all the chicken you want. Chicken nuggets. Chicken fingers…”
It was a little annoying how Sam was painting his argument, with himself as the genius who would single-handedly find the way out of this bizarre reality, and Lachlan as the dim-witted chicken chef. It wasn’t a good time to nitpick, though, so Lachlan played along, despite not being quite sure what “chicken fingers” were. Some weird American thing, he guessed.
“Yeah! Uh, chicken fingers. I make the best chicken fingers you’ll ever taste. One bite, and your taste buds will proclaim me their god.”
The woman cornering Sam smiled, shook her head, and reached for Sam’s hand.
“No, thank you.”
“Oh, uh,” said Lachlan. “You don’t like… chicken fingers? Because mine aren’t just any chicken fingers. People swear they hate chicken fingers until they taste the ones I make.”
The woman picked up Sam’s hand and raised it toward her mouth.
“Those aren’t the type of fingers we’re hungry for.”
Before Sam could pull away, she bit down.