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The tape jumped. Tyrone was on the ground in a spreading pool of his own blood while Tracy screamed and struggled against the zombie gnawing at the side of her neck. The gate was closed, and yet there were six zombies on the screen, one chewing on Tracy, three closing, and the other two lurching onward, toward the convoy.

Shaun frowned. “Pause the feed.”

I tapped my keyboard. The image froze.

“Rewind to the jump.”

I tapped my keyboard again and the image ran backward to the blank spot. I left it there, frozen, and looked to Shaun for further instructions.

He wasn’t looking at me at all. “Start it up again, half-speed.”

“What are you—”

“Just start the feed, George.”

I tapped my keyboard. The image began to move again, much more slowly now. Shaun scowled, and snapped, “Freeze!”

The frozen image showed Tracy screaming, the zombies shambling, and Tyrone dead on the ground. Shaun’s finger stabbed out like an accusation, indicating the leg of Tracy’s suit. “She didn’t run because she couldn’t,” he said. “Someone shot out her kneecap.”

“What?” I squinted at the screen. “I don’t see it.”

“Take out your damn contacts and try again.”

I leaned back, blinking my right contact free and removing it with the tip of my index finger. After a moment to let my eye adjust, I closed my left eye and considered the screen again. With my low-light vision restored, it was much harder to miss the wetness of Tracy’s leg, or the way the blood on the snow around her fanned out from her body, rather than falling straight down as I would have expected.

I sat up straight. “Someone shot her.”

“During the missing footage,” Shaun agreed, voice tight. I glanced to him, and he turned his face away, rubbing a hand across his eyes. “Christ, George. She was just doing this because it looked good on her résumé.”

“I know, Shaun. I know.” I put a hand on his shoulder, staring at my frozen video display, where Tracy battled for a life that was already lost. “We’ll find out what’s going on here.

“I promise.”

* * *

they come to us, these restless dead,

Shrouds woven from the words of men,

With trumpets sounding overhead

(The walls of hope have grown so thin

And all our vaunted innocence

Has withered in this endless frost)

That promise little recompense

For all we risk, for all we’ve lost

—From Eakly, Oklahoma,

originally published in By the Sounding Sea, the blog

of Buffy Meissonier, February 11, 2040


We were approaching the polls on Super Tuesday, and the mood in the senator’s camp was grim. People should have been nervous, elated, and on edge; we were hours away from finding out whether the gravy train was about to take off like a rocket or come grinding to a halt. Instead, a funereal atmosphere ruled the camp. The guards continued to triple-check every protocol and step, and no one was willing to go out without an assigned partner. Even the interchangeable interns were beginning to get antsy, and they didn’t notice much beyond their duties. It was bad.

The convoy was holding a position three blocks from the convention center, parked in what used to be a high school football field before the Rising rendered outdoor sports too dangerous. It was a good location for our purposes, providing power, running water, and sufficient clear ground for the perimeter fence to be established without anything—either physical or visual—obstructing the cameras. The number of people packed into Oklahoma City for the festivities necessitated running secure buses to the convention center every thirty minutes. Each of them was equipped with state-of-the-art testing units and armed guards.

We had received the final confirmation that Tracy McNally was shot through the right kneecap during the attack two days after Shaun and I first reviewed the tape and brought it to the attention of the senator’s security team. This, on top of the cut wires in the perimeter screamers, had provided absolute confirmation that the attack had been a poorly managed assassination attempt. The convoy had been preparing to leave Eakly at the time, and it felt like we’d left the last of our high spirits behind.

It was Shaun who first identified the assassination attempt as poorly-managed. When the senator asked him to defend his position, he shrugged and said, “You’re alive, aren’t you?” It wasn’t a comforting point, but it was a good one. A few more zombies in the original wave or a few more guards taken out like Tracy and the convoy could have been overrun rather than suffering a few casualties. Either it hadn’t been a full-fledged assassination attempt, or it was an incredibly badly planned one. The former seemed unlikely. They used infected humans.

The attraction of attempting to weaponize the infected has decreased exponentially since the Raskin-Watts trail of 2026, when it was officially declared that any individual who used live-state Kellis-Amberlee as a weapon would be tried as a terrorist. What’s the point of using a sloppy, difficult-to-manage weapon if even failure means you’re likely to be one of the few lucky souls to still qualify for the death penalty?

The screamers were the only piece of the convoy’s equipment that seemed to have been sabotaged. Reviewing the cameras at the gate confirmed that the blank spots were caused by a localized EMP burst—something focused enough that it took out only the cameras within a certain range and didn’t attract the attention of most of Buffy’s sensors. You can get that sort of tech at RadioShack. It’s portable, disposable, and entirely untraceable, unless you happen to have the make and model of the unit, which we don’t. The senator’s men had been going over every scrap of available evidence since the incident, and they were still no closer to finding answers. If anything, they were further away, because the trail had time to get cold.

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