“So tell me, since it looks like we have a little time to kill, where did you see this kind of feeding frenzy.”
Emi sat on the spindle of thick wire that had been lashed down near the pilot house. Her arm was beginning to get sore again and she fought to ignore it.
“Nah. There’s enough sad stories floating around.”
She looked to find that for some reason she had irritated Nate. She thought for a moment but couldn’t figure out why. Finally she figured if she was committed to the deal with Nate telling some of her past wasn’t going to hurt.
“Don’t say I didn’t warn you.” Taking a deep breath she tried to distance herself from the telling, like it was someone else it all happened to and not her. “Most of my family went in the first wave of the Donner Virus, before it even had its name because it hadn’t mutated yet. Then so the story goes some idiot tried an experimental vaccine meant for ebola on a ward full of sick people thinking, like everyone else did at the time, that it was a mutation of a hemorrhagic fever. Well whether it was or wasn’t the vaccine definitely caused some kind of mutation. Instead of bleeding out the vaccine caused the sick to crave blood … like human hematophagy or vampirism only it was mixed up with some kind of rage psychosis. Then the virus became further mutated and airborne allowing animals to become infected as well. And the world was forever changed. First humans, then the animals biologically similar to humans, then those that were friends to humans. Once it crossed the species barrier … blah, blah, blah.”
Thinking that Emi hid her smarts well he simply nodded and said, “Pretty much how I heard it as well.”
“Yeah well, that’s the big picture. Everyone has their own little picture. Mine is that after the second wave was gotten under control I was an orphan with next to no family. What there was wouldn’t take me ‘cause they had issues of their own they were dealing with. Resources were getting scarce and the judge that handled my case thought he was doing a good deed by evacuating me out of the country to my mother’s family. Due to border control Honduras hadn’t really seen but a handful of cases of DV at that point and only one case of human DV. What the judge didn’t know was that the social system in Honduras hadn’t warned my mother’s family that I was coming and that on top of that I was a girl. I wasn’t exactly welcomed with open arms – there had been some kind of big blow up between my grandfather and his brother’s kids. Then when they found out that the probate was likely to be held up for years and they’d never see anything … it got … interesting. Then the third wave started popping up in a lot of countries around the same time but not in Honduras and their immediate neighbors. Foreigners were looked at with a lot of suspicion. It created some problems.”
“OK, a lot of problems. For a while the family ‘hid me’ by putting me to work on a boat of a friend of theirs. Lecherous old goat. The old cabron gave my pay directly to my mother’s cousin’s wife and I never saw a dime. I would no sooner walk down the gang plank than I’d be hustled to another boat and sent out again.”
“That’s a brutal life for a girl. How old were you?”
Ignoring the age question and Nate knew it was intentional, Emi said, “They needed the money. Several young men in their neighborhood got drafted to protect the borders, three of whom were sons in the familia. Then one time I came in and within a couple of days, several of the children in the family showed DV-positive on a government test that had been administered at their school; they were taken away and euthanized even before their parents were notified. I got blamed despite it being impossible as I’d been out on the boat longer than the longest incubation period. I’m pretty sure that it was actually my cousin’s wife who brought it in from going to the market. I heard later that she’d been acting strange for a while … running to the priest with nightmares, seeing ‘visions’, refusing to eat. You know the symptoms. But like I said, that was later. After I’d learned to survive on the street where they’d thrown me.”
“How old were you?”
Again Emi ignored him. “Getting thrown out of the house wasn’t that unusual in that neighborhood. It was a common threat that was just as often employed as a control. I learned quick by watching some of the other gente de la calle. The street people. It didn’t take long for the shock to wear off and reality to set in. I wouldn’t be allowed back as some were so I decided that if my life was going to be short, I’d spend the rest of it trying to get back home. First though I had to get across the border. I did everything but sell drugs and whore to pay my way north. I had made it as far as Chihuahua before Mexico City blew. It was a mess with as many fleeing south as were fleeing north. If people weren’t losing their minds before they certainly were shortly after it was confirmed that the explosion had been nuclear. I got caught up in a scramble for resources … food, water, you name it. It was all guns and knives and then DV broke out in the desert camps and it became teeth and blood. Me and some people I had been travelling with escaped with what we could and eventually got to the border and across it … only to have some of them fall for a baited trap. Don’t know if it was set by the coyotes, cartels, or militia but that’s how I wound up under the thumb of the militia and from there being bought by Kiko and his crew.”
It was pretty obvious that Nate was going to ask another question but everyone’s attention was caught as they rounded the cruise ship’s aft and found another vessel tied off and one of the hatches on the cruise ship opened.