Cassie was excited to see the shuttle was back. She left Nubian Goats for Dummies on the concierge desk and ran to Conference Suite A. She needed to report to Mundo on what she had heard at the library. Then she would find Galahad and convince him to take her to the penthouse early. The thought of what might be happening to the library children was enough to turn her stomach and she needed Galahad’s reassuring touch to make things right.
To her surprise, David and Galahad were already in the conference suite, deep in conversation with Mundo. “Can it wait?” Mundo said. “This is a debriefing.”
“I thought you’d like to know some of the library kids were stolen by Obits. There were witnesses, and they say some of the Obits looked like grownups.”
Cassie had expected them to be shocked or to at least raise their eyebrows. Instead, Galahad muttered a curse and David turned to Mundo with defiance in his eyes. “Word is getting out.”
“Word about what?” Cassie asked.
Galahad managed a grim smile and motioned her into a chair, even though Mundo hadn’t invited her to stay. “We have a Pharm contact.”
“We were all Kevorks together,” David added with a smug air.
Cassie refused to be goaded and waited for Galahad to continue.
“He thinks the Obits are getting desperate. They’re pressuring the Pharms to enter into full-time kidnappings instead of incidental raids.”
“Suburban kids are getting wise to it all,” David explained. “And the smaller gangs aren’t delivering like they used to.”
“The Pharms are holding out for a bigger payoff, though,” Galahad said. “Our guy didn’t know what that payoff was, but given how Zach responded to the growth hormone, we’re thinking it’s got something to do with Telo.”
Cassie pondered this. “I guess if the Pharms knew about growth hormone, they’d round up all the kids and cut open their brains themselves.”
“Maybe.” Mundo leaned back in his chair and frowned. “May seemed to think this was just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. I’m inclined to agree.” He swung his chair forward and reached for a pad and pen. “Think about it. You can’t kill off everyone because where does that leave you? If there’s some grownups somewhere keeping themselves alive with growth hormone, they’re probably scientists, since who else knew about it?” He made some notes. “And while it’s possible they want to stay alive because they’re scared to die, it’s not very likely. The world basically sucks and they’re just putting off the inevitable.”
“Doc says even with repeat dosages, the effect is only temporary,” Cassie said.
“He’s not sure. A couple years, maybe?”
Mundo wrote that down. “That might be long enough to find a cure if they have the right equipment and they’re already close.”
Cassie sucked in her breath, seeing how the pieces fit together. But it was Galahad who said, “So you think the Pharms are holding out for the real deal. They want the cure.”
“It fits with the evidence,” David agreed.
Mundo’s eyes narrowed as he looked at the three of them. “If the Pharms get hold of the cure, they win. They want control of the city and once they can cure the Telo, they’ll be able to control us all.”
“So the Obits are scientists?” Cassie asked in confusion.
“I doubt it,” Galahad said. “Our guy said they seemed to be front guys.”
“Probably former military,” David added. “Or security of some sort, hired with the promise that if they do their job, they’ll be first in line for the cure.”
“So what do we do?” Cassie wanted to know.
Mundo stood up. “We get as much information as we can and we think. I’ll call a strategy meeting for later, but for now we need a break to let this sink in. Go back to your regular chores, keep your mouths shut, and I’ll send for you if I have any more questions.”
As everyone rose to leave, Mundo added, “Cassie? Do me a favor and find Rochelle. Tell her I want to spend a little time with my kid.”
EXCERPT FROM CASSIE’S JOURNAL:
We think we’ve figured out the mystery. The question now is how to find the surviving scientists, if they exist. We need to find them fast, because once the Pharms have the cure, they’ll hoard it like they do antibiotics and they’ll be able to control everyone.
The most obvious thing is for us to work with the Obits, so Mundo is calling a meeting of the alliance to talk it over. In the meantime, he has asked the twins to shadow them if they can. They weren’t too crazy about the idea at first, but when we told them there might be a cure for the Telo they became a lot more interested. I don’t think I’ve ever seen two people as much in love as they are. They’ll do anything to extend their time together.
I guess Jay and I are more fatalistic. Or maybe we’re just skeptical that anything will happen in time to save us. There isn’t a cure yet, if children are still being kidnapped, and time is running out.