The senator looked like a man whod been hit, hard and unexpectedly, from behind. He met my gaze, despite the alien appearance of my contacts, and gave a small, tightly controlled shake of his head. Please, that gesture said, not right now.
I nodded, taking Shauns arm. Senator, if you dont mind, my brother and I should be getting to work. Were a bit behind after last night.
Shaun blinked at me. What?
Of course. The senator smiled, not bothering to conceal his relief. Miss Mason, Mr. Mason, thank you for your time. Ill have someone notify you before were ready to check out and move on.
Thank you, I said, and left the room, hauling the still-bewildered Shaun along in my wake. The boardroom door swung closed behind us.
Shaun yanked his arm out of my hand, subjecting me to a sharp sidelong gaze. Want to tell me what that was all about?
The man just found out his camp was sabotaged, I said. Theyre not going to come up with anything useful until they finish panicking. Thats going to take days. Meanwhile, we have reports to splice together and update, and Buffys dumping her footage to server four. We should take a look.
Shaun nodded. Got it.
Back in our hotel room, I turned the main terminal over to Shaun while I plugged my handheld into the wall jack and settled down to work. We couldnt both record voice feeds at the same time, but we could edit film clips for our individual sections of the site and we could write as much text as we needed. I skimmed the reports Buffy authorized while Shaun and I were on cleanup. All three of the betas had done excellent jobs. Mahir, especially, had done an amazing amount with his relatively straightforward video feed, and I saw from the server flags that both the footage and his voice tracking had already been optioned by three of the larger news sites. I tapped in a release, authorizing use of the footage under a standard payment contract that would give Mahir forty percent of the profits, with clear credit for the narrative. His first breakout report. Hed be so proud. After a pause, I added a note of congratulations, directed to his private mailbox. He and I have been friends outside of work for years, and it never hurts to encourage your friends to succeed.
Howre things in your department? I asked, pulling up the raw footage of the attacks and setting it to run sequentially on my screen. I wasnt sure what I was looking for, but I had a hunch, and Ive learned to follow my hunches. Buffy knows visual presentation, and Shaun knows shock value, but me? I know where to find the news. There had been sabotage. Why? When? And how had our saboteur been able to cut those wires without coming into the range of Buffys cameras?
Im taking Becks away from you, he said. I glanced over. Shauns screen was dominated by the footage of the two of us against the fence, holding off the last of the zombies. The audio was being fed directly to him via the earpiece plugged into his left ear. His expression was serious. She wants to go Irwin. Shes been begging for weeks. And this reportthis isnt a Newsie report, George. You know that.
I scowled, but it wasnt like the request was a surprise. Good Irwins are hard to come by because the death rates during training are so damn high. You dont have time for a learning curve when youre playing with the infected. What are her credentials?
Humor me. The footage on my screen was set to play in real-time, which meant some of the feeds would pause to let the others catch up again. The gate cameras had chunks missing from their narrative, while the attack at the fence was almost complete. I couldnt help wincing when I saw one of the women from the political rally come staggering up, clearly among the infected. I didnt need the dialogue tracks to tell me what Tyrone was saying: He was telling her to halt in her approach, back off, and present her credentials. But she just kept coming.
Rebecca Atherton, age twenty-two, BA in film from New York University, Class A-20 blogging license, upgraded from a B-20 six months ago, when she passed her final marksmanship tests. Shes testing for an A-18 next month.
An A-18 license would mean she was cleared to enter Level 4 hazard zones unaccompanied. If you take her, my side of the site retains a six percent interest in her reports for the next year. The infected girl was sinking her teeth into Tyrones left forearm. He screamed soundlessly and fired into the side of the zombies head. Too late. The damage was done.
Three percent, Shaun countered.
Done, I said, not taking my eyes off the screen. Draft an offer letter. If she agrees, shes yours. Tyrone was staggering in circles, clutching his arm against his body. I could see Tracy barking orders; Carlos turned and ran for the convoy, presumably to get reinforcements. Thats why he survivedbecause he ran away. How must that kind of thing sit with a man like him? I cant imagine that it sits very well.
George? Whats up? I expected you to fight me more than that.
Instead of answering, I pulled the headphone jack out of my machine and let the sound start broadcasting to the room.
Oh God Tracy oh God oh God, Tyrone was babbling. The moaning in the background was low and constant; the infected were coming, and the gate in the convoy fence was standing open.
Shut up and help me close this thing, Tracy snarled, grabbing the gate with both hands. After a moments hesitation, Tyrone ran over and joined her, placing his hands well away from hers. It was a good way of dealing with things. As long as she didnt encounter any of the live virus, she wouldnt begin amplification, and in someone Tyrones size, full conversion would take longer than was needed to close a simple gate, even one that heavy. Once it was shut, she could wave him off to a safe distance and put a bullet through his brain. It wouldnt be pretty, but elimination of contagion rarely is.