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“Put down the syringe, Governor,” I said, keeping the gun level. “Let her go.”

“Shaun, the CDC is piggybacking our feed,” said Mahir. “They’re not stopping the transmission, but they’re definitely listening in. Dave and Alaric are maintaining the integrity, but I don’t know that we can stop it if they want to cut us off.”

“Oh, they won’t cut us off, will you, Dr. Wynne?” I asked. I was starting to feel a little light-headed. This was all moving so damn fast.

Keep it together, dummy, hissed George. You think I want to be an only child?

“I’ve got it, George,” I muttered.

“What’s that?” asked Mahir.

“Nothing. Dr. Wynne? You there?” If it was him, the CDC was with us. If it was anybody else

There was a crackle as the CDC broke into our channel. “Here, Shaun,” said the familiar southern drawn of Dr. Joseph Wynne. Mahir was swearing in the background. “Are you in any danger?”

“Well, Governor Tate’s holding a syringe on Senator Ryman’s wife, and since the last two syringes we’ve seen have been full of Kellis-Amberlee, I’m not betting this one’s any different,” I said. “I’ve got a gun on him, but I don’t think I can shoot before he sticks her.”

“We’re on our way. Can you stall him?”

“Doing my best.” I forced my attention back to Governor Tate, who was watching me impassively. “Come on, Governor. You know this is over. Why not put that thing down and go out like a man instead of like a murderer? More of one than you already are, I mean.”

“Not exactly diplomatic, there, Shaun,” said Dr. Wynne in my ear.

“Doing the best I can,” I said.

“Shaun, who are you talking to?” asked Senator Ryman. He looked edgy. Having a crazy dude holding a syringe of live virus on his wife probably had something to do with that.

“Dr. Joseph Wynne from the CDC,” I said. “They’re on the way.”

“Thank God,” breathed the senator.

“Want to put it down now, Governor?” I asked. “You know this is over.”

Governor Tate hesitated, looking from me to the senator and finally to the horrified, receding crowd. Suddenly weary, he shook his head, and said, “You’re fools, all of you. You could have saved this country. You could have brought moral fiber back to America.” His grip on Emily slackened. She pulled herself free, diving into her husband’s embrace. Senator Ryman closed his arms around her and rose, backing away. Governor Tate ignored them. “Your sister was a hack and a whore who would have f**ked Kellis himself if she thought it would get her a story. She’ll be forgotten in a week, when your fickle little audience of bottom-feeders moves on to something more recent. But they’re going to remember me, Mason. They always remember the martyrs.”

“We’ll see,” I said.

“No,” he said. “We won’t.” In one fluid motion, he drove the syringe into his thigh and pressed the plunger home.

Emily Ryman screamed. Senator Ryman was shouting at the top of his lungs, ordering people to get back, to get to the elevators, behind secure doors, anything that would get them away from the man who’d just turned himself into a living outbreak. Still looking at me, Governor Tate started to laugh.

“Hey, George,” I said, taking a few seconds to adjust my aim. There was no wind inside; that was a nice change. Less to compensate for. “Check this out.”

The sound of her .40 going off was almost drowned out by the screams of the crowd. Governor Tate stopped laughing and looked, for an instant, almost comically surprised before he slumped onto the table, revealing the ruined mess that had replaced the back of his head. I kept the gun trained on him, waiting for signs of further movement. After several moments had passed without any, I shot him three more times anyway, just to be sure. It never hurts to be sure.

People were still screaming, pushing past each other as they rushed for the doors. Mahir and Dr. Wynne were trying to shout over each other on our open channel, both demanding status reports, demanding to know whether I was all right, whether the outbreak had been contained. They were giving me a headache. I reached up and removed my ear cuff, putting it on the table. Let them shout. I was done listening. I didn’t need to listen anymore.

“See, George?” I whispered. When did I start crying? It didn’t matter. Tate’s blood looked just like George’s. It was red and bright now, but it would start to dry soon, turning brown, turning old, turning into something the world could just forget. “I got him. I got him for you.”

Good, she said.

Senator Ryman was shouting my name, but he was too far away to matter. Steve and Emily would never let him this close to a hot corpse. Until the CDC showed up, I could be alone. I liked that idea. Alone.

Taking two steps backward, I pulled out a chair and sat down at a table that would let me keep an eye on Tate. Just in case. There was a basket of breadsticks at the center, abandoned by fickle diners when the trouble started. I picked one up with my free hand and munched idly as I kept George’s gun trained on Tate. He didn’t move. Neither did I. When the CDC arrived to take command of the site fifteen minutes later, we were still waiting, Tate with his pool of slowly drying blood, me with my basket of breadsticks. They seized the site, sealed it, and ushered us all away to quarantine and testing. I kept my eye on him as long as I could, watching for some sign that it wasn’t over, that the story wasn’t done. He never moved, and George didn’t say a word, leaving me alone in the echoing darkness of my mind.

Was it worth it, George? Well, was it? Tell me, if you can, because I swear to God, I just don’t know.

I don’t know anything anymore.


Dying For You

The next person who says “I’m sorry” is going to get punched in the nose. Because “I’m sorry” doesn’t do a damn thing except remind me that this can’t be fixed. This is my world now. And I don’t want it.