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The sound of gunshots attracted Shaun’s attention. I heard his sharp intake of breath as he turned, surveying my attackers. “Holy—”

“We’re past saying it and all the way to doing it,” I snarled, and fired again. The shot went wild. Four bullets and only two zombies down; the odds were not in my favor. “Buffy!”

Buffy never sends out a camera without a two-way sound pickup. She says she doesn’t trust us to manage our own levels, but really, I think she just likes being able to eavesdrop without leaving the van. Her voice emerged from the speaker a moment after I called her name, coming through crackly and distorted. “Sorry for the delay—distracted. We’ve had a perimeter breech on the south fence. One of the gates went down and they’re reporting casualties. How’re you two faring?”

“Let’s just say that if you have a broadcast point near some unoccupied men with heavy weaponry, now would be a swell time to use it.” I fired twice more. The second bullet hit its target. Six bullets and three zombies down, while the remaining four continued to approach. I fired at the new leader of the pack and missed. A crossbow bolt whizzed by my shoulder and the zombie toppled, the end of the bolt protruding from its forehead. Three zombies. “I didn’t come out here expecting to actually fight anything—I’m only carrying a pistol, and I’m about to be out of bullets. Shaun?”

“Three bolts left,” he called. “Think you can make it up this fence?”

“No.” I’m a decent sprinter and I can gun a motorcycle from zero to suicidal in less than ten seconds, but I’m not a climber. I nearly washed out of the physical section of my licensing exams, twice, thanks to my lack of upper-body strength. If I was lucky, I’d be able to cling to the fence until the zombies grabbing my ankles hauled me down and ate me. If I wasn’t, I’d just fall.

The speaker crackled. “There’s a group of guards on the way,” Buffy said. “They’re having some problems, but they said they’d be there as fast as they could.”

“Hope it’s fast enough,” I said. I started backing up toward Shaun and the fence. My father has always had just one piece of advice about zombies and ammunition, one he’s drilled into my head enough times that it’s managed to stick: When you have one bullet left and there’s no visible way out of the shit you’re standing in, save it for yourself. It’s better than the alternative.

Two more crossbow bolts whizzed by, and two more zombies fell, leaving just one to shamble toward us, still moaning. There were no answering moans, either from the sides or from behind. Shaun’s pack was down, and there didn’t seem to be any further reinforcements coming.

“Fire any time now, Shaun,” I said tightly.

“Not until I know that there aren’t more coming,” he said.

I kept backing up until I hit the fence and stopped, keeping my gun in front of me, muzzle aimed toward the shambler. Between the two of us, we had the ammo to take it down as long as that was all there was. “It figures,” I said.

“What figures?”

“We finally crack the global top five, so of course we’re going to get eaten by zombies that same night.”

Shaun’s laughter managed to be bitter and amused at the same time. “Are you ever not a pessimist?”

“Sometimes. But then I wake up.” The zombie was continuing to advance, moaning as it came. There were no answering moans. “I think it’s alone.”

“So shoot, genius, and we’ll see.”

“I may as well.” I steadied my hands, lining up on the zombie’s forehead. “If it eats me, I hope you’re next.”

“Always gotta go first, don’t you?”

“You know it.” I fired.

My shot whizzed past the zombie, punching a barely visible hole in the nearest RV. Still moaning, the zombie raised its arms in the classic “embracing” gesture of the undead, moving slightly faster now. No one’s ever figured out how the zombies can tell when their victims are unarmed, but they manage somehow.

“Shaun ”

“We have time.”

“Yeah, sure,” I said. The zombie was still twelve feet away, well out of attack range, but it was closing on us. “I hate you.”

“It’s mutual,” Shaun said. I risked a glance up at him, and saw that he was aiming for the zombie’s forehead, waiting for the perfect shot. One bolt, one chance. Maybe that sounds like the odds he’d been playing before, but it wasn’t. It’s easier to get a bull’s-eye when there’s nothing actually at risk.

“Just so we’re clear,” I said, and closed my eyes.

The gunfire came from two directions at the same time. I opened my eyes to see the last zombie mowed down by a hail of chain-fed bullets being fired by no fewer than four of the guards, two closing on either side. Above me, Shaun gave a loud war whoop.

“The cavalry has arrived!”

“God bless the cavalry,” I muttered.

Our tense stand-off was over in a matter of seconds. I ignored the fallen camera as I pushed away from the fence and strode toward the nearest pair of guards. The camera was a write-off. Buffy had the footage downloaded by now, and they were going to insist on destroying the damn thing anyway, since it had almost certainly been spattered with blood when the guards started firing. The electronics were too delicate to survive a full decontamination. That sort of thing is why we keep our insurance paid up.

Steve was there, scowling at the fallen infected like he was challenging them to get up and let him kill them again. Sorry, Steve, the virus only reanimates a host once. His partner was a few feet away, scanning the fence. It wasn’t Tyrone. I paused, starting to get the vaguest idea of how the zombies had broken through the fence.

Ideas never drew ratings without confirmation. “What happened?”

“Not now, Georgia,” said Steve, with a tight shake of his head. “Just not now.”


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