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I raised an eyebrow as I grabbed a Coke from the fridge. “Because you couldn’t get at that footage without help?”

Buffy’s cheeks reddened. “He’s being helpful.”

“Buffy has a crush,” Shaun sing-songed.

“Play nice,” I said, and sat, cracking my knuckles. “I need to hit the op-ed sites, see who’s saying what, and start prepping the morning headlines. It’s going to be a fun night, and I don’t need you starting a fight and spoiling it.”

Shaun rolled his eyes. “Riiiiight. You girls feel free to stay cooped up in here screwing around all night—”

“It’s called ‘making a living’, dumb-ass,” I said, flicking the screen on and entering my password.

“Like I said, screwing around all night. I’m going out with the boys. We’re going to find some action, and I’m going to f**k with it, and tomorrow, we’ll have a ratings bonanza like you’ve never seen.” Shaun spread his hands, framing his illusionary triumph. “I can see it now: ‘Flagging News Site Saved by Intrepid Irwin.’ ”

“Get glasses,” said Buffy.

I snickered.

Shaun gave Buffy his best wounded look, opening his mouth to rebut.

Whatever he was going to say was drowned out by the gunshots from outside.

You want to talk hypocrisy? Here’s hypocrisy: the people who claim Kellis-Amberlee is God’s punishment on humanity for daring to dabble where He never intended us to go. I might buy it if zombies had some sort of supernatural scientist-detecting powers and only went for the heretics, but when I look at the yearly lists of KA-related casualties—you can see the raw lists at the official CDC Web site, and a more detailed list is posted on the Wall every Rising Day—I don’t see many scientists. What do I see?

I see children. I see Julie Wade, age seven, of Discovery Bay, California; I see Leroy Russell, age eleven, of Bar Harbor, Maine; I see a lot more than just them. Of the two thousand six hundred and fifty-three deaths directly attributed to Kellis-Amberlee within the United States over the past year, sixty-three percent were persons under the age of sixteen. Doesn’t sound like a merciful God to me.

I see the elderly. I see Nicholas and Tina Postoloff, late of the Pleasant Valley Nursing Home in Warsaw, Indiana. Reports say Nicholas would have survived if he hadn’t gone back for Tina, his wife of forty-seven years. They died and were reanimated by the virus before help could arrive. They were put down in the street like wild animals. Doesn’t sound like divine judgment. Doesn’t sound like divine anything.

I see men and women like you and me, people trying to live their lives without making any mistakes that will come back to haunt them later. I don’t see sinners or people who have called down some sort of righteous plague. So stop. Stop trying to make people even more afraid than they already are by implying that, somehow, this is just a taste of the torments to come. I’m tired of it, and if there’s a God, I bet He’s tired of it, too.

—From Images May Disturb You,

the blog of Georgia Mason, January 12, 2040


Shaun didn’t hesitate. Putting his beer on the nearest counter, he grabbed a crossbow off the wall and ran for the door. I was only a few feet behind him, Coke in one hand. Unlike my idiot brother, I have no intention of becoming a footnote on the Wall, but that doesn’t mean I can’t watch from a safe remove.

“Georgia!” There was enough anxiety in Buffy’s voice to make me turn. She lobbed a handheld camera in my direction. I caught it, raising my eyebrows in question. “Better picture quality and sixty hours of battery life.”

And audiences love a little hand-shot footage, as long as you cut to the smoother computer-operated stuff before they get motion sickness. “Got it,” I said, and followed Shaun, opening my soda as I went.

The encampment was ablaze with activity. Guards swarmed everywhere I turned, weapons out and ready. I couldn’t blame them for their excitement. Anyone who goes into private security in this day and age is likely to be a lot like Shaun, and he’d slowly been going nuts from the lack of dangerous things to pester.

More gunshots sounded from the south. I turned in that direction, flipping on the camera, and tapped my soda twice against the pressure pad on my belt. My ear cuff beeped. A moment later, Shaun’s slightly breathless voice was in my ear: “Kinda busy, George. What gives?”

“Need a position if you want this on film.” Distant moaning was audible as a whisper on the wind. Buffy’s microphones are pretty sensitive. If she could get any sort of audio track, she’d be able to intensify it and play it back with the report, twice as loud and ten times as chilling.


“Just outside the van.”

“Northwest. I’m at the fence.”

That was directly away from the loudest signs of combat. “You sure about that?”

“Hurry and get over here!” he snapped, and clicked off. Shrugging, I turned toward the northern fence, breaking into a trot. I’ve learned not to argue with Shaun where zombies are concerned; he knows more about their behavior than I can imagine wanting to, and if he says “north,” he’s probably right. Gunshots continued to sound as the moaning, faint as it was, began getting louder.

The glare from the perimeter lights confused my night vision; I heard Shaun before I saw him. He was swearing merrily, using language that would make a longshoreman blush, as he taunted the infected closer to the fence. There were five of them, all fresh enough to look almost human, assuming you discounted the extreme dilation of their pupils and the slack, hungry way they stared at my brother as their fingers clawed against the fence. They’d died within the past few hours. I raised the camera, zooming in on their faces.

Shaun didn’t even realize I was there until my soda hit the pavement. He stopped taunting the infected, stepping clear of the fence as he turned to stare at me. “George? What’s wrong? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”