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“Busy now!” I rolled to the left, ignoring the growls behind me as I struggled to get the Taser out of my belt. “Can you shoot it?”

“It’s too close!”

“So get it off me before it figures out where to bite!” The Taser came free, almost falling into my hand. I twisted my arm as far behind me as I could, praying the thing wouldn’t catch the unprotected flesh of my lower arm before the electricity could do its job. “Dammit, Steve, grab the f**king thing!”

Electricity spat and arced as the Taser made contact with the zombie’s side. Luckily for me, it had been an intern, not a security guard; it wasn’t wearing protective clothing. The thing screamed, sounding almost human as the viral bodies powering its actions became disoriented in the face of an electric current greater than their own. I hit it again, and Steve finally moved, grabbing the zombie and yanking it off. I rolled onto my back, reaching for Georgia’s .40, and starting to fire almost as soon as I had it drawn. My first shot hit the zombie high in the shoulder, rocking it back. The second hit it in the forehead, and it went down.

My heart was pounding hard enough to echo in my ears, but my legs were steady as I scrambled back to my feet. Steve looked a lot more shaken. Sweat stood out on his forehead, and his complexion was several shades paler than it had been before I fell. I glanced around. Seeing that nothing else was about to rush me, I bent, picked up the Taser, and replaced both it and the gun in my belt. “You okay over there, Steve-o?”

“Did you get bit?” he demanded.

There was a predictable response. “Nope,” I said, raising my hands to show the unbroken skin. “You can test me again when we hit the motor pool, okay? Right now, I think we should stop being out here, like, as soon as possible. That wasn’t my favorite thing ever.” I paused, and added, almost guiltily, “Besides, I didn’t have a camera running.” George would’ve kicked my ass for that, after she finished kicking my ass for getting that close to a live infection.

“You don’t need the ratings,” said Steve, and grabbed my arm, hauling me after him as he resumed moving, double-speed, toward the motor pool.

Maybe it was because Carlos and Heidi had access to an entire ammo shed, and maybe it was because the motor pool wasn’t a popular hangout for the living, but the infected tapered off as we moved toward it, and we crossed the last ten feet to the fence without incident. Good thing; I was almost out of bullets, and I didn’t feel like trusting myself to the Taser. The gate in the fence was closed, the electric locks engaged. Steve released my arm, reaching for the keypad, and a shot rang out over our heads, clearly aimed to warn, not wound. Small favors.

“Stop where you are!” shouted Carlos. I looked toward his voice and watched as he and Heidi stepped out from behind the shed, both bristling with weapons. I clucked my tongue disapprovingly. Sure, it looked good, but you can’t intimidate a zombie, and they had so many things piled overlapping that they’d have trouble drawing much of anything when their primary guns ran out of bullets.

“Overkill,” I muttered. “Amateurs.”

“Stand down,” barked Steve. “It’s me and the Mason kid. He tested clean when I picked him up.”

“Beg your pardon, sir, but how do we know you test clean now?” Heidi asked.

Smart girl. Maybe she could live. “You don’t,” I said, “but if you let us through the fence and keep us backed against it while you run blood tests, you’ll have the opportunity to shoot before either of us can reach you.”

She and Carlos exchanged a look. Carlos nodded. “All right,” he said. “Step back from the gate.”

We did as we were told, Steve giving me a thoughtful look as the gate slid open. “You’re good at this.”

“Top of my field,” I said, and followed him into the motor pool.

Carlos chucked us blood testing units while Heidi reported on the status of the other units, still remaining at a safe distance. Susan was confirmed as infected; she’d been tagged by a political analyst as she was helping Mike evacuate a group of survivors to a rooftop. She stayed on the ground after she was bitten, shooting everything in sight before taking out the ladder and shooting herself. About the best ending you could hope for if you got infected in a combat zone. Mike was fine. So, surprisingly, was Paolo. There was still no word from Andres, and three more groups of security agents and survivors were expected to reach the motor pool at any time. Steve absorbed the news without changing his expression; he didn’t even flinch when the needles on his testing unit bit into his hand. I flinched. After the number of blood tests I’d had recently, I was getting seriously tired of being punctured.

Heidi and Carlos relaxed when our tests flashed clean. “Sorry, sir,” said Carlos, walking over with the biohazard bags. “We needed to be sure.”

“Standard outbreak protocol,” Steve said, dismissing the apology with a wave of his hand. “Keep holding this ground—”

“—while we break quarantine,” I said, almost cheerfully. George snorted amusement in the back of my head. All for you, George. All for you. “Steve-o and I need to take a little trip. Loan us a car, give us some ammo, and open the gates?”

“Sir?” Heidi sounded uncertain; the idea of leaving a quarantine zone without military or CDC clearance is pretty much anathema to most people. It’s just not done, ever. “What is he talking about?”

“One of the armored SUVs should do,” said Steve. “Find the fastest one that’s still on the grounds.” Carlos and Heidi stared at him like he’d just gone into spontaneous amplification. “Move!” he barked, and they moved, scattering for the guard station where the keys to the parked vehicles were stored. Steve ignored their burst of activity, leading me to the weapons locker and keying open the lock. “Candy store is open.”