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The sound of the gun fired inside the van would’ve been the loudest thing I’d ever heard if it hadn’t been followed by the sound of George falling. That’s the loudest thing I’ve ever heard. That’s always going to be the loudest thing, no matter what else I hear. The sound of George, falling.

But I’m a good shot, and there was no shrapnel unless you wanted to count the aerosolized blood released when the bullet hit my when I shot not unless you counted the blood. I had to count the blood because it was enough to turn the entire damn van into a hot zone. If I was infected, I was infected—too late to worry about that kind of shit now—but that didn’t mean I needed to make my chances worse. I moved as far away as I could and sat down with my back against the wall, the gun dangling loose against my left knee, to watch the blood dry, and to wait.

George turned the security cameras on before things got too before it was too late to worry about that sort of stuff. I watched the Center’s security forces rush around with the senator’s men and some dudes I didn’t recognize. Ryman wasn’t the only candidate working Sacramento. There was no sign of Rick. Either he got dead or he got out of the quarantine zone before things went to hell. And things had gone to hell. I could spot at least three of the infected on every monitor, about half of them being gunned down by frantic guards who’d never dealt with a for-real-and-true zombie before. They were shooting stupid. They would have known they were shooting stupid if they’d paused to think for five seconds. You’re not a sharpshooter, you don’t go for the head, you go for the knees; a zombie that’s been hobbled can’t come at you as fast, and that leaves more time to aim. You’re out of ammo, you leave the field. You don’t reload where you stand unless there isn’t any choice. When you’re fighting a disease, you have to fight smarter than it does, or you may as well put down your weapons and surrender. Sometimes they just bite enough to infect if you don’t put up a fight and if the pack’s too small. You can avoid being eaten if you’re willing to defect to the enemy’s side.

Part of me wanted to get out there and help them, because it was clear they were pretty f**ked without some sort of backup. Most of me wanted to stay where I was, watching the blood dry, watching the last signs of George slipping away forever.

My pocket buzzed. I slapped at it like it was a fly, fumbling out my phone and clicking it on. “Shaun.”

“Shaun, it’s Rick. Are you okay?”

It took me a moment to recognize the high, wavering sound in the van as my own distorted laughter. I clamped it down, clearing my throat before I said, “I don’t think that word applies at this point. I’m alive, for now. If you’re asking whether I’m infected, I don’t know. I’m waiting until someone shows up to get me before I run a blood test. Seems a little pointless before that. Did you get out before the quarantine came down?”

“Barely. They were still reacting to the explosions when I got to Georgia’s bike; they hadn’t had time to do anything. I think they closed the gates right behind me. I—”

“Do me a favor. Don’t tell me where you are.” I let my head tilt back to touch the van’s wall and discovered more blood I’d need to keep an eye on. This was on the ceiling. “I have no idea how tapped our phones are or who might be listening. I’m still in the van. Doors are probably locked anyway, since we confirmed an infection in here.” The van’s security system wasn’t going to trust any attempt to open it from the inside, even if I registered uninfected. It would need an outside agent to free me. That or a rocket launcher, and even I don’t pack that heavy for a little political rally.

Rick’s reply was subdued. “I won’t. I I’m sorry, Shaun.”

“Aren’t we all?” I laughed again. This time the high, strangled sound seemed almost natural. “Tell me her last transmission got out. Tell me it’s circulating now.”

“That’s why I called. Shaun, this is—it’s insane. We’re getting so many hits that it’s swamped two of the servers. Everyone is downloading this; everyone is propagating it. Some folks started the usual ‘it’s a hoax’ rumors, and Shaun, the CDC put out a press statement. The CDC.” He sounded awed. He damn well should. The CDC never puts out a statement with less than a week to prepare it. “They confirmed receipt of her test results with a time stamp and everything. This story doesn’t just have legs—it has wings, and it’s flying around the world.”

“The name on the press release. It wasn’t Wynne, was it?”

“Dr. Joseph Wynne.”

“Guess our trip to Memphis did some good after all.” The blood on the ceiling was more satisfying than the blood on the walls. It was thinner up there. It was drying so much faster.

“She didn’t die for nothing. Her story—our story—it got out.”

Suddenly, I was tired. So goddamn tired. “Sorry, Rick, but no. She died for nothing. No one should have died for this. You get away from here. Far as you can. Dump your phones, dump your transmitters, dump anything that could be used to bounce a signal, stick Georgia’s bike in a garage, and don’t call again until this is over.”

“Shaun ”

“Don’t argue.” A bitter smile touched my lips. “I’m your boss now.”

“Try not to die.”

“I’ll think about it.”

I hung up and chucked my phone across the van, where it shattered against the wall with a satisfying crunch. Rick was out of the quarantine, and he was still running. Good. He was wrong—George damn well died for nothing—but he was also right. She would have thought this justified things. She would have said this was enough to pay for my being forced to put a bullet through her spine. Because she put the truth ahead of absolutely everything we ever had, and this had been the biggest truth of all.

“Happy now, George?” I asked the air.