“Where are you taking me?”
Imai stared out the car window at the rapidly passing landscape. When he answered, he sounded tired. “To the Sector.”
Eva’s posture remained stiff and formal in a vain attempt to not give away how frightened she was.
“Why do this?” she asked after a moment. “What could you possibly hope to gain by kidnapping me?”
Imai refused to look at her. “I can get into the Sector, but I can’t trust that I’ll be safe once I’m inside. They could blow the whole place up for all I know. And why wouldn’t they?” His fingers nervously twirled her father’s old ring. “If I have you, there’s no way they’ll do something like that.”
Not for the first time, Eva wondered what this man’s relationship with her father was. She tried to imagine him as a child, working for her father. She tried to imagine them as friends. She tried to imagine him being human.
“So, after we get to the Sector, what then?”
Imai’s eyes flickered to her before returning to the window. He remained silent, ignoring her. She tried again. Keep him talking, she thought. Keep reminding him that I’m a real person, with thoughts and feelings and fears.
“You know my father didn’t send your family away,” she said softly. “You must know that. My father would never do something like that.”
“Wouldn’t he?” Imai asked. He turned to her, and his eyes were hard. “Don’t make the mistake of thinking that I’m human,” he said. “I doubt Israel was thrilled at the prospect of knowing my family and I were living so close to a major city.”
“Just stop!” he snapped. He looked at her, like he was evaluating her for the first time. “Did your father ever tell you what happened that night?”
Eva tried to keep calm, but he worried her. She’d seen enough to know how erratic his behaviour could be. The last thing she wanted to do was anger him. She wanted him to trust her, or at the very least, to not see her as a threat.
“After I was infected, I went back to his house. I didn’t want my family--my sister-- to see me like that. I didn’t really understand what was happening at first. I don’t think he did, either. We both figured I was just sick. Very sick.” He laughed, once, bitterly. “The virus takes a few days to establish itself. Once it was clear what was happening to me, Israel decided to send me to the Sector.” His eyes were distant. “I don’t blame him, you know. Even now. I know we was only trying to protect his family---protect you--but still…”
His eyes found hers. There was a sorrow in his eyes that took her completely by surprise.
“I didn’t want to be like this, you know. Whatever you think, this isn’t what I wanted. Your father was so strong, so great, so beautiful. I thought if I could have just a taste of what that was like, then that would be enough. But I was wrong. I was so wrong. When I woke up, when the sickness had finally passed, I was so hungry. I couldn’t think of anything else but that. In all these years, that hunger has never gone away.”
She wondered if he was hungry now. She tried not to think of it. She turned to glance out the window and saw the towering walls of the Sector rising in the distance. Not for the first time, she felt a sense of hopelessness wash over her. She swallowed her fears as the car rolled to a stop outside of the gates.
Two guards stood on either side of the entrance, military-issued assault rifles aimed on the car. For a moment, Eva was confused. Surely there would be more security than that. Then again, she realized, not many people would try to break into the Sector.
Imai startled her when he spoke.
“If you don’t want to get shot, I suggest you do what I say.” He opened the door and stepped out of the car. She watched him go, but stayed put. The guards raised their rifles, aiming the weapons directly at his head.
“Stop!” one of them shouted. “State your business.”
“Put down the guns,” Imai commanded.
Eva’s head spun at the sound of his voice. She’d never heard him use his na'nele before. She knew what he could do, but seeing the guards lower their weapons on his command was still unexpected. Her ears were ringing.
“You’re going to let us inside now,” he said. Turning to her, he offered his hand. “Let’s go.”