The sound of the gun fired inside the van wouldve been the loudest thing Id ever heard if it hadnt been followed by the sound of George falling. Thats the loudest thing Ive ever heard. Thats always going to be the loudest thing, no matter what else I hear. The sound of George, falling.
But Im 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 infectedtoo late to worry about that kind of shit nowbut that didnt 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 Centers security forces rush around with the senators men and some dudes I didnt recognize. Ryman wasnt 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 whod never dealt with a for-real-and-true zombie before. They were shooting stupid. They would have known they were shooting stupid if theyd paused to think for five seconds. Youre not a sharpshooter, you dont go for the head, you go for the knees; a zombie thats been hobbled cant come at you as fast, and that leaves more time to aim. Youre out of ammo, you leave the field. You dont reload where you stand unless there isnt any choice. When youre 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 dont put up a fight and if the packs too small. You can avoid being eaten if youre willing to defect to the enemys 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, its 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 dont think that word applies at this point. Im alive, for now. If youre asking whether Im infected, I dont know. Im 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 Georgias bike; they hadnt had time to do anything. I think they closed the gates right behind me. I
Do me a favor. Dont tell me where you are. I let my head tilt back to touch the vans wall and discovered more blood Id 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. Im still in the van. Doors are probably locked anyway, since we confirmed an infection in here. The vans security system wasnt 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 dont pack that heavy for a little political rally.
Ricks reply was subdued. I wont. I Im sorry, Shaun.
Arent we all? I laughed again. This time the high, strangled sound seemed almost natural. Tell me her last transmission got out. Tell me its circulating now.
Thats why I called. Shaun, this isits insane. Were getting so many hits that its swamped two of the servers. Everyone is downloading this; everyone is propagating it. Some folks started the usual its 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 doesnt just have legsit has wings, and its flying around the world.
The name on the press release. It wasnt 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 didnt die for nothing. Her storyour storyit 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 Georgias bike in a garage, and dont call again until this is over.
Dont argue. A bitter smile touched my lips. Im your boss now.
Try not to die.
Ill 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 wrongGeorge damn well died for nothingbut 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.