Max felt someone tapping his shoulder and jumped. He caught Frank’s reflection in the monitor and he quickly flipped the headphones onto his shoulders.
“What are you doing?” Frank’s tone was even but Max knew he was in trouble.
“Listening.” He grinned, pulling the headphones off his shoulders and setting them down on the desk.
“To whom?” Frank asked. Again, that neutral, even tone that was scarier than a ranting lunatic.
“No one in particular.” He shrugged again, he had to play it casual here if he wanted to get off lightly, “I was just walking by and picked up the phones to see who was on…”
“Just walking by?” Frank arched one of his bushy eyebrows. Max sighed resignedly.
“Fine.” He said in irritation, “I know you’re going to bring all hell down on me no matter what I say so I may as well give you the truth, right?”
Frank crossed his arms and said nothing.
“Yes, I came here on purpose and yes, I am listening to the folks in the Triple Seven room but come on – their theories are fascinating. These guys are dealing with some life-altering ideas here…”
Frank put one hand on Max’s shoulder, “they’re infected.” He said as if it explained everything.
“Mike said the infection has been relegated to blood only. Their brains are as functional as yours or mine.”
“There is no proof…”
“Whatever. I was just listening.” Max pulled his shoulder out from under Frank’s hand.
“Just because you’re the son of…”
“Yes, I know. I don’t get any special treatment. That’s what you all say but you continue to treat me like a baby. And I’m not a baby – for goodness sake, my IQ is higher than most of yours. Listening is not going to kill me. I’m not going to get infected by listening. So just leave me alone.”
“Your father doesn’t want you listening.” There, he’d finally said it. His father was giving them orders about him.
“Well, tell my father to come and tell me that himself. He’s forced me to live on this stupid compound with nothing to do. What does he expect? I’m just going to sit around? I could help you know. The more of us working on a cure, the better…’
“Go home, Max.” the even voice was back, “Go home and I won’t tell your father where I found you.”
“I don’t understand. These Christians never did anything to anyone. From the sounds of it, they were giving everyone pretty good news. What are you so afraid of?”
“That you’ll become like them.” The voice rose just a fraction. So that’s what they all feared.
“What’s so bad about that? Look at them. You guys have confined them to this lab so that you can prod them all day with your needles and feed them your pitiful re-hydrates and what do they do? Sing and laugh together and spend their time talking about this Jesus guy. All of them are happy. Maybe you should be spending some time with them Frank – goodness knows your face could use a smile.”
“Yes, they are absurdly joyful in the worst circumstances – all of them – but perhaps that is proof in itself that their brains have been affected by the virus…”
“Tell me something, Frank. Has anyone ever died from this virus?”
“And we know it’s a virus because?”
“Well, they behave so strangely… and because of their blood.”
“And what exactly is wrong with their blood?”
Frank stared at him. Max knew it was classified but he was counting on the fact that Frank wanted him off his back.
Frank narrowed his eyes, “It’s not theirs.”
“Well it’s theirs but it’s been replaced.” He grimaced, “It’s cleaner than any blood we’ve ever seen and it’s infused with something stronger. Someone else’s blood - someone who isn’t from this place.”
“Really?” Max raised his eyebrows, “I’ve heard them say stuff like that – about the blood of Jesus…”
“Nonsense – there’s a far less spiritual logic for this… we just have to find it.”
Max stared at the earphones. “I think you’re researching the wrong thing. You should be listening to them.” He pointed at the monitor that showed the small group of Christians holding hands in a circle while they prayed, “they’re just becoming more like him.”
“Who?” Frank sounded alarmed and rushed over to the monitor.
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