“-making a run for it,” Lara recited.
Duncan’s arms were folded, and his leg jiggled with the anxiety he was clearly feeling. “Do you want us to help? We’re not really fighters, but if you need a distraction so you can deal with them, I could provide that. Send my dogs in, maybe. I’d rather have you guys than my-”
Lara interrupted, “Mary: no.”
Duncan tapped his finger against his arm, thinking.
Lara spoke into the silence. “Mary: Sylvester’s going to be watching you. He wouldn’t pledge to protect you and then take his eyes off you to see where these hired hands were going. Lillian adds: he might have help.”
Duncan nodded. “The rabbit. Sylvester’s partner.”
Emmett remained silent, listening to the ongoing dialogue. The other Lambs had been attacked. Now the others were running, while a small army of thugs was chasing them down.
Duncan looked concerned. Abby was hugging Quinton, but she seemed to be okay so long as she was able to do that. Ashton seemed entirely unconcerned, which was reassuring to Emmett.
Lara, though, was shaking. The distraction of passing on the messages wasn’t enough.
He knew what that was like. He’d once been in a place where he was one small push from breaking down completely. He had once been fragile.
He wished he knew what to do for Lara. He didn’t feel fragile anymore, and he didn’t want anyone else to feel that way either.
“I think we’re on the same page. Do you want us to stay close, just in case?”
“Mary: not too close. Stay in range so we can talk. But I don’t want you getting caught in this.”
“Got it. We’re going to do what we can. Get our attention if you need anything.”
“Lillian: thank you, Duncan.”
“That’s enough. Thank you, Lara,” Duncan said.
“Oh. I transcribed the first part of that,” Lara said.
“That’s fine,” Duncan said. They had stepped into a sectioned off area beside a store, where outdoor fixtures and gardening things had been stowed outdoors for customers to look at, much of it chained to fixtures so it couldn’t be readily stolen. Three stone walls and a gate surrounded the display area, which kept them out of view of any spying eyes.
Duncan leaned against the wall, between a fountain and a wheelbarrow loaded with Academy-designed plants, his arms still folded. He seemed lost in thought.
Duncan, Emmett was coming to understand, was very good at what he did. But he wasn’t very good at this. Emmett had spent more time around doctors than he had spent around his parents, and he found himself sorting them into groups. Duncan wasn’t in any of the good groups. Neither was Lillian, as far as he was concerned.
Then again, Emmett couldn’t think of many people he did like that weren’t weaker than him. He liked Abby, Lara, and Nora. He was on the fence about Ashton, who he liked but didn’t trust.
Lara was hunched over, sitting on a crate. Her hands, ensconced and hidden by her long sleeves, were clumsily clutching at each other through the fabric.
Emmett wanted to say something, but he never knew what to say. He remained silent.
“Lara,” Ashton said.
“It’s okay,” Ashton said. He reached for her hands, and put his hand over top of them. “The Lambs are very good at what they do. There’s no need to worry. Your sister is safer with them with enemies around than we are here with no enemies.”
Lara remained frozen, staring down at Ashton’s hand. She ventured, “…doesn’t make me feel better. Now I’m worried for different reasons.”
“It’s fine,” Duncan said. “Look, it’s nearly time to turn in. I want to stay available, and I’d like to make some headway before we go to sleep for the night.”
“I don’t really sleep,” Lara pointed out. “I have to be awake to give and send communications, so they engineered the need for sleep out of me. I con-”
“I know,” Duncan said, stopping her. “I’ve read your file. I know. I understand, okay?”
“Okay,” Lara said, dropping her eyes. “Every night I sit in the dark while everyone else is asleep, hearing all the creaks of the buildings and the noises from outside. I imagine the worst. They engineered the fear into me, like they engineered the sleep out. I’m not as afraid of the dark, because I can see in the dark, just a little, but-”
“Lara,” Duncan said.
Lara went quiet.
Emmett shifted his stance, restless.
Duncan reminded him of Professor Gosse, the second professor to look after him. Not a bad man, exactly, not a stupid man, but sometimes careless. Every time Duncan spoke, a small part of Emmett worried it would be a careless sort of speaking, and one of the others would get hurt.
“You talk with your sister, don’t you?” Duncan asked.
“Sometimes,” Lara said, quiet. “But we’re not supposed to do it unless we have to. We’re supposed to keep our ears and our eyes open for danger.”
“I’m assuming you’re talking with her more than you’re supposed to,” Duncan said.
Lara went silent.
“I’m not going to report you or make you stop,” Duncan said, sounding impatient. “I just want to understand the tools I’m working with.”
“I talk with her most of the night,” Lara confessed.
Emmett, given the choice, might have told her to lie. Because Doctors lied, and Duncan and Doctor Gosse were of a type to lie more than most.
“That’s fine,” Duncan said, and Emmett had no idea if he was lying or telling the truth. “You’ll have your sister to talk to, and, because we’re on a mission, we’ll be sleeping in shifts. Each member of our group here will spend an hour or two awake, sitting with you, and keeping an eye and an ear out for trouble. If you’re not talking to your sister, you can talk to them or to me. Provided you’re also keeping watch.”
“Okay,” Lara said.
While Duncan was talking, Ashton was working. Lara seemed to be calming down.
Emmett let himself relax a little. He wondered momentarily if the fact that he was relaxing had anything to do with Ashton.
“Plan is same as the old plan, with a few changes. We’ll walk around the neighborhood, get a feeling for what we’re dealing with and see if there are any opportunities to gather information.”
Emmett nodded alongside the others, Lara excepted. She seemed distracted.
She was thinking about Nora, no doubt.
“Emmett,” Abby spoke, as Duncan led the way out of the enclosure. Emmett looked down at the girl. Quinton was asleep on her lap.
“Can you take him?” she asked. “I don’t think I can carry him without waking him up.”
Emmett nodded, reaching. The lamb roused some as it was transferred into his arms, then stretched, poking into the muscles of his stomach and his ribs. It settled down in the cradle of his arms.
Abby, meanwhile, picked up speed to catch up with the others, casting a backward glance at Emmett.
He liked Quinton too, and found himself counting the creature alongside Abby and Lara. The lamb reminded him of the distant past. Of being a great deal younger, of being very weak and having a hard time moving around, with an indistinct, furry, strong companion that would sit with him and stare out the window. His childhood dog that he couldn’t remember the name of, a big creature with messy black fur that had shed everywhere.
The similarities between Quinton and his old dog were few to none, but they were there, they were loyal, and they were warm.
He hadn’t had much warmth in his life, and he didn’t feel like he could ask for it from any of his new companions.
Abby appeared in front of him, reached up above her eye level, and gripped the end of the sleeve of his shirt, up near his bicep. She tugged him off course.
No, on course. He’d been focusing too much on Quinton, lagging behind. Now Abby led him to the others.
What would others think, seeing this? It was late, but there were people out on the street. Some were organized into groups, which Duncan had surmised was a kind of organization of members of the neighborhood. An effort to be proactive in looking out for fire and for trouble. Others were escaping from the stifling heat indoors and enjoying the breeze, talking with neighbors and family members.
He looked back to see if the little girl leading the very large little boy was drawing any attention.
It wasn’t, except from one set of eyes. Emmett stopped in his tracks, trying to confirm what he’d seen, but the figure was already turning, disappearing toward the back of a crowd. As Abby kept walking and he stopped, her hand slipped from his sleeve.
“You saw something,” Abby said.
He nodded again, even though he wasn’t entirely sure. It was such an odd mental image, Sylvester brazenly walking through the crowd toward their group, when they were the ones who were hunting him.
It had been a glimpse, nothing more.
He was caught between wanting to chase and wanting to catch up with the others.
Abby reached up, taking his sleeve, and tugged.
She wanted to go to the others.
He let her lead, glancing back to look for Sylvester. Nothing.
They had to jog to catch up with the others. Duncan had stopped. Lara perked up on seeing them. Ashton was holding one of her sleeves.
“What happened?” Duncan asked.
“Sylvester,” Abby said. “Emmett saw him.”
Duncan looked at Emmett. “You did?”
Reluctantly, Emmett opened his mouth and said, “I think.”
“Okay,” Duncan said. “That’s… good, I think. Keep an eye out.”
Emmett nodded. He didn’t miss the fact that Duncan was letting out the slack on the leashes that led to his tentacle-dogs, giving them more room to move.
Duncan and his tentacle-dogs led the way, while Emmett watched the rear, Abby staying near him. Ashton and Lara remained in the center of the group, where Lara seemed most secure.
They carried out the original plan, doing a quick circuit of the neighborhood, with the building they were staying in somewhere near the center of the loop. The building was one of Bergewall’s dormitories, but maintained more vacancies than most due to its distance from the building.
They were nearly finished closing the circuit, with no more Sylvester sightings, when a voice called out. “You! Children!”
The group came to a stop. It was an older woman standing in a doorway, smoking a cigarette, who had called to them.
“Hello,” Abby said.
“Hello, little one. You shouldn’t be out like this.”
“We heard there was some trouble,” Duncan said.
“Most of the local children have gone into hiding, or been sent out of the city,” the woman said. “Why on earth are you out? At night, even? Taking your work out for a walk?”
“Yes,” Duncan said. He smiled. “Something like that.”
“You’re asking for trouble,” she said. She paused, “Odd-looking bunch, that.”
“We are, and they are,” Duncan said.
“The little red haired one is nice looking enough. I don’t suppose he spits acid or anything of the sort?”
Duncan reached forward, giving Ashton a light push on the shoulder. Ashton approached the stairs, smiling. He spoke, “No, ma’am.”
“Polite,” she observed. “Are you an experiment too?”
“Yes ma’am, and I try. I learned a lot from the Good Simon books.”
“I read those to my children and grandchildren,” the woman said. She lifted her cigarette to her lips and puffed. “My eldest grandchild asked for them to be read one after the other. I wanted to slap the self-righteous smirk off the Simon character’s face by the fifth read.”
“Oh,” Ashton said. His expression went carefully blank.
“Don’t envy you, having to learn from those books.”
“I like the books,” Ashton said. “And I like Good Simon.”
“Oh?” the woman asked. She paused, realizing what she’d just said. “Sorry.”
“I don’t like cigarettes, either,” Ashton said.
Emmett saw Duncan react to that, turning his head to look this way and that, searching for spying eyes.
“Well I do,” the woman said. “So if you don’t like them, then you can scurry along.”
“I wanted to ask you more things,” Ashton said, stepping closer. “About the children, and the gangs, and the danger. Please.”
Off to the side, Duncan looked at the back of his hand, like he was looking at his watch.
“I was enjoying a nice, quiet evening smoke,” the woman said. “Now it’s not as nice, and it’s not as quiet. You want to take my cigarette away from me too? Scurry off.”
“I know, I understand,” Ashton said. “But you have children and grandchildren. You would want them to be safe, don’t you? Can’t you tell us more?”
“If you’re trying to manipulate me, then you’re going to have to try harder than that,” she said, stiffening.
“I’m sorry,” Duncan said. He smiled. “We’re trying to socialize it. Ashton there is a remarkable work of art, but he’s sensitive at times. And he’s sensitive to smoke.”
“For something with ‘ash’ in its name, I find that ironic,” the woman said. Duncan chuckled.
Then he reached into a back pocket and withdrew a carton of cigarettes. He held it up between two fingers. “Put it out so you don’t hurt him, tell us something about what areas to stay clear of, and I’ll resupply you.”
The woman moved her head to see better, and Duncan adjusted the angle he held the package, to better show.
“Not my brand,” she said, sour.
“Offer stands,” Duncan said, not budging.
She dropped her cigarette, and she stepped on it.
“Thank you,” Ashton said.
“Uh huh. I’m doing this for the cigarettes, not you.”
“Thank you all the same,” Ashton said.
Emmett felt like it wasn’t quite the tone Ashton should be striking. That if he thought back to the boys and girls he used to go to school with, it would have seemed too ‘teacher’s pet’ or goody-two-shoes.
Then again, Ashton reveled in being the goody-two-shoes.
“I see you’re still very polite, even after I was snooty,” the woman said. “If only all the doctors in the world took such care with their work. We might not have this runaway plague.”
“Yes ma’am. I meant to ask, are your children safe?”
“My children are old, Ashton. My grandchildren were sent to live with their aunt and uncle on the outskirts of the city.”
“I see,” Ashton said. “I hope they’re okay.”
“I’m sure they will be,” the woman said.
“You said the other children are in hiding. Do you know where they went?”
“I don’t,” the woman said. She leaned against the railing that stood beside her front steps. “I don’t pay much attention to the ones I’m not related to.”
“You called out to us to warn us,” Ashton said, earnest. “I think you pay more attention to us than you pretend.”
“Perhaps,” the woman said. She allowed Ashton a small smile.
“We’re trying to find people,” Ashton said. “Do you know who is after the children?”
“They call him the Devil. Dangerous one. Rumor was the fires were his fault. Something like that. Now his people are roaming here and there. Knocking on doors of houses where children are known to live. Thankfully, virtually all of them were evacuated.”
“Virtually?” Emmett asked, abrupt. As with almost any time he spoke, it seemed to surprise the people around him.
“Yes. A few were picked up here and there. They returned to their parents shortly after. The taxes we pay to the Crown seem to be supplying us with a strong hand of law, if nothing else.”
“Some else,” Ashton said. “Like me. And my friends.”
“I suppose so,” the woman said, smiling despite herself.
Emmett felt secret relief that it seemed nobody had been hurt.
“I think, and this isn’t a very good piece of information, but in the interest of helping you as much as I can…” the woman said, trailing off.
Ashton smiled, and the woman smiled back.
“…There’s a place where the local children congregate. Mostly vagrant children, I think. They call it the ‘yard’. It sits at the one o’clock position on the western lake, if you want to walk the perimeter.”
“That’s very useful,” Ashton said. “Thank you.”
“You’re very welcome, Ashton,” she said.
“We should go,” Duncan said.
“Okay,” Ashton said. “Thank you, miss.”
Duncan tossed Ashton the carton. Ashton handed it to the woman.
“Thank you, little sir,” she said.
They left the woman behind, and continued on their way.
“You’re a dangerous creature,” Duncan observed, covering his mouth, “And I just gave up the cigarettes that are supposed to be a countermeasure to you, if I run out of the pills.”
“You can get more,” Ashton said.
“I have more in my luggage. That’s not the point.”
“What’s the point?” Ashton asked.
“The point is that it’s inconvenient, I’m tired, and I want to grouse,” Duncan said. He raised his hand to his mouth, yawning, and Emmett could only barely hear the words on Duncan’s part. “And I want to mislead him.”
Emmett gathered the true intention of that little discussion. Working to get the woman to extinguish her cigarettes, dropping hints. Duncan wanted to pretend weakness where none existed.
Emmett wondered how effective it would be. In the brief moments where he’d been in the room while Mary and Lillian talked about Sylvester, they kept describing him as being virtually impossible to outmaneuver.
As the Duncan and Ashton pair continued their conversation, Emmett felt a tug at his arm. Abby was putting a hand on his arm and walking on her tiptoes to see Quinton sleeping.
“He likes you,” she whispered.
Emmett nodded. Up until now, he’d only acted as a pillow to Quinton.
To Abby, the shared bond with Quinton had become something else. The three little ones were all the same height and they had an interplay. Ashton reassured both, while Emmett needed none of that. They were all vat children, and Emmett had once been an ordinary, if ill boy.
He had been small for his age, and sickly, to the point that his mother alone couldn’t care for him. In the end, faced with endless costs for his care on the one hand, and a promise of payment from the Academy on the other, they had decided to sell him.
That was, he was fairly sure, a common experience for most of them. Not for Duncan, and not so much for Ashton, but for the two girls. Being alone. Now forged into a group. It wasn’t the case with the primary group of Lambs. They had been a group from the beginning.
Except now they weren’t. Sylvester was the enemy now.
“I think the Lambs-” Lara started.
“Shh,” Duncan cut her off, raising a hand.
She flinched at the sound and the hand, and Emmett could feel his proverbial hackles raise at that. Protective instinct. Had he not been holding Quinton, he might have seized Duncan’s wrist.
He was aware of how strong he was. He had spent a full year learning to use this body, and he had only had it for two, really. They had taken his head, his spine, his ribs, and many organs from his torso, and they had transplanted it into a body. He had two ribcages, one nestled in the other, and now his original form and the healthy body he’d been given grew in concert. The body still felt alien, on a level, and he’d had to take so many tests and undergo so much therapy that he’d had to develop an innate sense of his physical power, condensed into one form. Every movement was easy, and that included breaking things, be it a fork or a human wrist.
Duncan didn’t even seem to notice what Emmett was doing, or the reaction he’d gotten from Emmett or from Lara.
He didn’t seem to notice the significance that Emmett carefully handed off Quinton to Abby, so his hands would be free if he needed to act.
“Shh,” Duncan said, firmly. “We don’t talk about what any of you are capable of. For all we know, he’s listening.”
“Yes,” Lara said.
“Is it important?”
“No,” Lara said.
“Good,” Duncan said. He sighed. “If it’s important, we’ll take a detour and get somewhere safe to discuss it, where we can be reasonably sure we won’t be overheard. Information is at a premium here.”
She flinched slightly as Duncan lowered the hand he’d held up.
Emmett watched for a moment later before making himself react. His body was more adult than his head was, sometimes. He knew the rushes of hormones and emotion were sometimes over the top. But he’d found his peace, at some point between when he’d thought he was going to die and the two years where he’d worked at grasping this new life he’d been given. He was secure, mostly, and for the most part, he could put those feelings away.
But he’d seen the bad doctors. The malicious and evil ones, which weren’t anything like Lillian and Duncan, and he’d seen the ones who had been unable to see the forests for the trees. He was on guard.
Duncan declared, “We can put off seeing the other children at the yard until tomorrow. For now, we’ll finish this patrol, and we’ll get settled for the night. All of this paranoia about Sylvester is likely for nothing. He showed himself earlier, but with Sylvester, when you assume or expect something, the opposite is usually in the works. He probably wanted us to be on the lookout, while he’s busy interfering with the others. Draws your attention one way, then hits you from the other.”
No sooner was he done speaking than a small dark object bounced off of Duncan’s head.
“Lords!” Duncan cussed, one hand going to his head.
“Duncan,” Ashton said, backing away and pointing.
The small dark object was now billowing into a visible cloud of smoke or gas. A grenade or canister. Duncan backed away from it, but in the doing, wasn’t wholly able to keep his pets away from it. One of them ran through the cloud, then dropped to the road. The other panicked, hurling itself to one side, pulling Duncan off balance.
“He’s here!” Ashton called out.
The cloud was spreading, and Emmett noted another, just off to the side. Between the two, they had cut off their ability to progress further down the street.
What had Duncan just said? Draws your attention one way, then hits you-
Emmett wheeled around.
He saw the fabled rabbit that had been moving ahead of them, dropping gifts off. A man, taller than a man should be, thin to the point that it looked like he should break under his own weight, with modified arms, legs, and feet, with the head of an oversized rabbit in place of his own.
The rabbit stared with bloodshot eyes that pointed in slightly different directions as it half-walked, half-ran across the street behind them, letting go of more canisters. They hadn’t even started to smoke by the time the rabbit had picked up speed and carried on his way.
“Son of a bitch!” Duncan said.
Canisters of gas ahead of them, canisters behind, and buildings on either side. Boxed in.
The gas was blowing into the box, too.
“Sylvester!” Duncan called out.
“Calm down,” came the voice, from the other side of the smoke. A young man’s voice, not fully mature. “I’m just here to talk. Worst the gas will do is knock you out and give you a bad headache.”
“I’m not here to negotiate or give you any information, Sylvester,” Duncan said, raising his voice.
“Neither am I, Duncan,” Sylvester said. “Matter of fact, I’m not even here to talk to you. I’m here to introduce myself to them. The little ones.”
The little ones.
Emmett bent down, seized Abby by the ribs, and lifted her up. She was holding Quinton, who had woken to the raised voices and was now bleating. Emmett set her down so she was sitting on his shoulders.
Poor Lara was quaking, not sure where to look or what to do.
He made sure she knew what he was doing before he picked her up too, lifting her up and out of the way of the smoke. She clutched at him, face buried into his shoulder, shaking like a leaf, and in the midst of the hug, she stabbed and gouged him a half-dozen times.
He reached for Ashton, but Ashton shook his head.
“I’m okay,” Ashton said. “I have good filters.”
“-you’re going to come back with us!” Duncan called out.
“You’re so tiresome,” Sylvester said. “Here’s the deal, Duncan. I want you to shut up. So either you sit in the corner and stay quiet, or I’ll start tossing the remainder of my grenades at you. Then you’ll have to decide. Do you stay where you are and get knocked out, wake up with a vicious hangover, or do you retreat to where they are, betray your shiny new team, and ensure that nobody wins, I have to do this again at a later date, and all of you get bad headaches?”
“What if I call your bluff?” Duncan asked. “How many of these things can you have?”
Emmett could hear the clink of the small object against a solid surface.
“Ah,” Duncan said.
Duncan could have retreated, but he remained where he was as the cloud expanded, covering one corner of the ‘box’ that Sylvester had created.
There was a long pause, then a sound of footsteps, very deliberately working at being audible footsteps. Theater.
“Sort of glad he didn’t move back toward you guys. I can’t throw quite that far, and I had only the one grenade left. The Witch had limited stocks of stuff,” Sylvester said.
Emmett tried to track the voice. It was possible to throw something, aiming to hit Sylvester, but he wasn’t sure it was a good idea, and he would have had to put the girls down and in the way of the gas.
“I suppose the spokesman for the group will be Ashton, huh?” Sylvester asked. “Hi Ashton.”
He was standing in the midst of the noxious cloud. His silhouette was briefly visible, now and then. Shorter than Duncan, taller than the three experiments that Emmett was standing by.
“Hi Sylvester,” Ashton said.
“Bringing you guys into play was a good move. Because I can’t leave you alone. And they know it. Now I’m trying to figure out what to do with you all.”
“Come stand next to me and breathe deeply,” Ashton said.
There was a pause, then a light cough. “Are you actually developing a sense of humor, Ashton?”
“No,” Ashton said. “But I saw you ask Duncan politely and it worked, so I thought I would try it and see what happened.”
“I’m not going to do that, Ashton.”
“I don’t suppose any of you would be up for negotiation?” Sylvester asked. “I’ve been watching you. I know half of you can’t stand Duncan and the other half of you don’t feel at home here.
“I can stand Duncan, and I like it here,” Ashton said.
“There’s overlap,” Sylvester said.
“I’m just floating the idea. Planting the seeds in your heads. There’s got to be a better way. A way that Abby gets all the animals she could want, and Lara gets to feel safe. A way that Emmett gets to have the rest of you.”
Emmett felt Lara clutch him tighter at the mention of her name, claws digging past fabric and into his shoulder and side.
“You left me out,” Ashton said.
“You can stand Duncan, and you like it here, remember?” Sylvester asked.
Emmett spoke, without realizing he’d meant to. “That isn’t what I want. Them. That’s not what I need.”
“Emmett?” Sylvester asked. “You sound younger than you look. It’s nice to meet you.”
Emmett didn’t respond to the pleasantry.
“What do you want, Emmett?” Sylvester asked. “I can’t promise the world, but I can’t just see them raise up another generation of Lambs, fake or not, and let it be without at least offering.”
“I want to negotiate, like you said,” Emmett said.
“Excellent,” Sylvester said. His voice was coming from over where Duncan was. “Where do we start? What do you want, Emmett?”
Emmett was not a boy of many words. He’d gotten out of the habit of talking, after years of being sick and years of isolation, being stuck in a lab with nobody to talk to but the doctors who asked him things about his condition and nothing else.
He took a long moment to think carefully about what he wanted to say next. Whether the others would agree with this, even though they had discussed it before.
He had been a major transplant to an artificial body. There hadn’t been much to do while he grew up, in a sleepy, specialist Academy, so they had given him every test under the sun. When Professor Hayle started looking for the special cases, the unique brains, his scoring had been just high enough to get a cursory look. There hadn’t been many to pick from, as evidenced by the collection of Abby, and he’d been brought along to round out this secondary group.
A benefit of being quiet was that one could listen, and he’d listened. He had been there while they had discussed strategy, all the individual tools and tricks. It had started, according to Mary, back in Radham. A woman who knew Sylvester and the other Lambs had appeared to deliver a note. The Lambs had talked to her.
And when they had talked about something that the woman had shared with them, that might be useful as leverage, he had taken a risk, and he had shared a detail.
Now he would share it with Sylvester.
“I was sick, once,” he said. “They gave me a new body.”
“They gave me a new brain, kind of,” Sylvester quipped, as if this was the most casual conversation in the world.
“Yes,” Emmett said. “Before they did that, they gave you a drug, to wipe away your memories. But for me, my situation was bad. I had to get surgery right away, or I would have died.”
There was silence, now. No quip, no casual conversation.
Sylvester had already followed this thread to its logical conclusion.
“They gave me the drug after, but it wasn’t enough. I remember things,” Emmett said. “And these things relate to what the other Lambs have told me. You, me, Mary Cobourn, the boy who was put together like a living stitched-”
“Gordon,” came the voice.
“-and Jamie, and countless others. You asked the Baron where the children go. It seemed to matter to you.” Emmett said. “I was almost one of them. I can tell you what I remember, that all the rest of you don’t.”
There was no response.
“We can negotiate,” Emmett said, to the darkness and the clouds of poison. “I’ll hear your offer.”
Sylvester didn’t make one. Minutes passed, and the gas began to dissipate. When it was all gone, so was the rogue Lamb.
Emmett nodded to himself. I’ll hear your offer when you’re ready to make it.
He looked at Ashton, who stood to one side, looking intrigued at the goings-on.
He crossed to where Duncan had collapsed, still holding Lara against his chest and bearing Abby and Quinton on his shoulders and head, respectively.
Duncan’s face had been painted on with ink during the conversation. ‘Wanker’ had been drawn across his forehead, the end of his nose was now blue, the space between nose and lips and his lips painted to make him look like a cat or a dog.
Bending down, careful not to drop those he already held, he set down Abby, and scooped up Duncan and the fallen dogs.
“Time for bed?” Abby asked.
Emmett nodded, letting Abby and Quinton lead the way to their dormitory.