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The senator looked like a man who’d 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 Shaun’s arm. “Senator, if you don’t mind, my brother and I should be getting to work. We’re 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. I’ll have someone notify you before we’re 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. “They’re not going to come up with anything useful until they finish panicking. That’s going to take days. Meanwhile, we have reports to splice together and update, and Buffy’s dumping her footage to server four. We should take a look.”

Shaun nodded. “Got it.”

“Come on.”

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 couldn’t 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. He’d 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.

“How’re things in your department?” I asked, pulling up the raw footage of the attacks and setting it to run sequentially on my screen. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for, but I had a hunch, and I’ve 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 Buffy’s cameras?

“I’m taking Becks away from you,” he said. I glanced over. Shaun’s 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. She’s been begging for weeks. And this report—this isn’t a Newsie report, George. You know that.”

I scowled, but it wasn’t like the request was a surprise. Good Irwins are hard to come by because the death rates during training are so damn high. You don’t have time for a learning curve when you’re playing with the infected. “What are her credentials?”

“You’re stalling.”

“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 couldn’t help wincing when I saw one of the women from the political rally come staggering up, clearly among the infected. I didn’t 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. She’s 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 Tyrone’s left forearm. He screamed soundlessly and fired into the side of the zombie’s 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, she’s 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. That’s why he survived—because he ran away. How must that kind of thing sit with a man like him? I can’t imagine that it sits very well.

“George? What’s 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 moment’s 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 didn’t encounter any of the live virus, she wouldn’t begin amplification, and in someone Tyrone’s 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 wouldn’t be pretty, but elimination of contagion rarely is.