When they got back to the hotel, they hurried to tell Mundo what they had heard. A guard let them into Conference Suite A, where the first thing that caught the girls’ attention was something in the center of the conference table that was clearly a cake, even though it was lopsided and lumpy with only a thin scraping of frosting on top. Over stubby glasses of whiskey, Mundo was talking to Alex and a young man in a blue costume that looked like a Civil War uniform. The three looked up as Cassie and Leila stepped into the room, and the soldier touched the bill of his forage cap in greeting.
“We heard some news about the Obits today,” Cassie said.
Mundo motioned for the girls to sit and after they sat in the stained plush swivel chairs, they related what they had seen in May’s shop and what she had told them.
“Interesting,” said the Thespian soldier, rubbing his chin. “I wonder what the Obits have that’s good enough to tempt a Pharm.”
“Drugs, gasoline, ammo?” Alex offered. “There’s a lot they could be offering.”
“The more important question,” Mundo said, “is where the Obits are getting it, whatever it is.”
“It would be nice to find a new source of goods, that’s for sure,” Alex said.
“Even if it’s not something we want,” the Thespian agreed. “There’s always trade.”
While the boys mulled the possibilities, the girls eyed the cake with naked hunger. Cassie was on the point of asking if she could have just a tiny slice when the door to the back room of the suite opened and Doc stepped out. At Mundo’s questioning look, he said, “Blood pressure is high, but other than that, she’s fine, as near as I can tell.” He shut the door behind him and lowered his voice. “The book listed some possibilities I don’t like, but since we can’t do anything about it, the best thing is for Nisha to rest, take her vitamins and drink plenty of water. She should make sure the water is good. Run it through the filter, even if you think it looks okay.” He glanced at the girls. “I don’t suppose either of you has had a baby or knows someone who has?”
Cassie and Leila shook their heads.
“Well,” Doc shrugged. “She’s young and basically healthy, so we’ll do what we can and try not to let her get too anxious. Worrying would only make things worse. For her and for you.” He was looking at Mundo now.
Mundo nodded in agreement and turned to the Thespian. “Anyone in your group experienced with babies?” When the soldier made a gesture of bewilderment, Mundo said, “Ask around if you get the chance. This will be my first kid and the first Regent baby. I want it born healthy.”
Talk returned to speculation about Pharms and Obits, but Mundo noticed Leila and Cassie seemed bored. “If that’s all you have for us, no need to stick around.”
The girls stood up, still looking at the cake.
“Go ahead,” he told them. “You’ve done good work today.”
EXCERPT FROM CASSIE'S JOURNAL
Things are getting weird. Somebody trashed May’s lab, but not in a systematic way that would’ve done them much good. It was almost like they were looking for something and when they didn’t find it, they got mad. May acted like she didn’t know who did it, but there was something about the way she acted that made me think she had a pretty good idea who targeted her and why.
One of Mundo’s girlfriends—the pregnant one—is having complications. Poor Doc! He has no idea what to do and neither does anyone else. Doc just turned fifteen a couple months ago. I bet he’s never even been with a girl, and it must be hard for him to examine Nisha, being clueless not only about pregnancy but about females in general.
I have mixed feelings about seeing a girl my age having a baby. If the human race is to survive, we’re the only ones who can do it, even though we won’t live to see our kids grow up. But is it right to try to carry on? What if the Telo never goes away and life ends somewhere around eighteen for everyone, forever? In that case, it would be best for no one to have babies and for us all to die out. I know it’s a bad thing to think, but I can’t help myself. The only reason to keep trying is in the hope the disease will mutate or we’ll become immune.
That’s what Galahad says, at any rate. He says the reason the Black Death became less lethal was because once there weren’t enough people to spread it easily, the disease couldn’t find enough hosts and the germs died. Of the people who remained, many were immune, anyway, or didn’t get as sick as the first generation.
So maybe that’s what will happen with the Telo. In that case, we should do what we can to make sure girls like Nisha have healthy babies, even though I still feel like some parent or teacher is going to come swooping down the hall to say how girls shouldn’t have sex until they’re married. Like how would we get married, with no priests or judges?
I know there’s no one but us to say what’s right and wrong, but it’s funny how the grownups still live in our heads. They only taught us what made sense for their world, though. This world is different.