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In interviews, Mr. Romero always seemed baffled and a little delighted by the power his movies had proven to have. “Always knew there was a reason people didn’t like seeing the zombies win,” he’d said. If anyone was surprised when he left his body to the government, they didn’t say anything. It seemed like a fitting end for a man who went from king of bad horror to national hero practically overnight.

“They better not damage any of my equipment,” Shaun said, snapping me back to the present. He was scowling at the window again. “Some of that stuff took serious barter to get.”

“They’re not going to damage your equipment, dumb ass. They’re the government, we’re journalists, and they know we’d tell everyone in the whole damn world, starting with our insurance agency.” I leaned over to hit him in the back of the head. “They just need to make sure we’re not carrying any bombs.”

“Or zombies,” added Buffy.

“Or drugs,” said Shaun.

“Actually,” said the senator, stepping into the room, “we’re slightly disappointed by the lack of bombs, zombies, or drugs hidden in your gear. I thought you folks were supposed to be reporters, but there wasn’t even any illicit booze.”

“We’re clear?” I asked, ceasing my pacing. Shaun and Buffy were already on their feet, nearly vibrating. I understood their anxiety; the senator’s security crew had their hands on all our servers, which had Buffy unhappy, and on Shaun’s zombie hunting and handling equipment, which usually makes him so restless that I wind up locking him in the bathroom just to get some peace and quiet. It’s times like this that I’m truly glad of my role as the hard-nosed reporter in our little crew. Maybe Buffy and Shaun call me a Luddite, but when the government goons take away all our equipment for examination, they lose everything. I, on the other hand, retain my MP3 recorder, cellular phone, notebook computer, and stylus. They’re all too basic to require much examination.

Of course, I can’t keep my hands on the vehicles, which had me almost as restless as my companions. The van and my bike represent the most expensive articles we travel with, and most of our livelihood depends on their upkeep. At the same time, they’re probably the easiest items to repair—a good mechanic can undo almost any damage, and my bike isn’t that customized. As long as the feds didn’t bust up the van, we’d be fine.

“You’re clear,” the senator said. He didn’t bat an eye as Shaun and Buffy ran out of the room, despite the fact that neither of them said good-bye. I remained where I was, and after a moment, he turned toward me. “I must admit, we were impressed by the structural reinforcements on your van. Planning to last out a siege in that thing?”

“We’ve considered it. The security upgrades were our mother’s design. We did the electrical work ourselves.”

Senator Ryman nodded as if this explained everything. In a way, it did. Stacy Mason has been the first name in zombie-proof structural engineering for a long time. “I have to admit, I don’t really understand most of your professional equipment, but the security systems Your mother did a truly lovely job.”

“I’ll give her your compliments.” I gestured toward the door. “I should join the feeding frenzy. Buffy’s going to want to start assembling today’s footage, and she always goes overboard without me standing over her.”

“I see.” The senator paused for a moment. His voice was uncharacteristically stiff as he continued, “I wondered if I might ask you a small favor, Miss Mason.”

Ah, the first demand for censorship. I was going to owe Shaun ten bucks; I’d been betting that Senator Ryman could make it at least until we hit the actual campaign trail before he started trying to control the media. Keeping my voice level, I said, “And that would be, Senator?”

“Emily.” He shook his head, a smile tugging at his lips. “I know you’ll release whatever you want to, and I look forward to having the chance to read and watch it all. I don’t figure we caught half the cameras and recorders you three had on you—some of the ones Miss Meissonier was carrying were barely in the range of our sensors, which leads me to believe that she had others we couldn’t see at all, and if she ever wishes to pursue a career in espionage, I only pray she offers her services to us first—so you’ve doubtless got some great footage. And that’s fabulous. But Emily, you see, well she’s not so comfortable with a lot of media attention.”

I looked at him, thoughtfully. “So you want me to minimize the use of your wife?” That was odd. Emily Ryman was friendly, photogenic, and, except for the horses, just about the sanest politician’s wife I’d ever met. I expected him to milk her as the asset she was. “She’s going to have to feature in this campaign. And if you win—”

“She understands her role in things, and she doesn’t mind being written about, but she’d rather her picture wasn’t used excessively,” he said. He was clearly uncomfortable with the request. That made me a lot more likely to grant it. “Please. If it’s at all possible, I would see it as a great personal favor.”

Lowering my sunglasses enough to let him see my eyes, I asked, “Why?”

“Because she raises horses. I know you don’t approve of keeping mammals that meet the size for Kellis-Amberlee amplification, but you’re polite about it. You write articles and you lobby for stricter controls, and that’s fine, that’s your right as an American citizen. Given your family connections, it’s even unavoidable. Some people, however, get a little more aggressive.”

“You’re talking about the bombing in San Diego, aren’t you?” It was the darling of the news feeds for a while, because it was such a huge event: the world’s largest remaining zoo and wild animal conservatory, bombed by activists who believed Mason’s Law should be used to shut down every facility in the world that kept animals capable of undergoing viral amplification. The same fringe group, in other words, that supports lifting the bans on big-game hunting across the world, and wiping out North America’s large indigenous mammals. They call themselves “pro-life,” but what they really are is pro-genocide. Their proverbial panties get wet just thinking about the opportunity to go out and slaughter something under the illusion of following the law. Hundreds died in San Diego because of what they did, and I’m not just talking about the animals. We got a lot of firsts out of that stunt. “First confirmed Kellis-Amberlee transmission through giraffe bite” wasn’t the weirdest.