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“Let’s be honest here: It is a two-man race. Kirsten Wagman is a good woman with strong Republican values and a firm grasp of the morals of this nation, but she’s not going to be our next president. She isn’t prepared to do what’s needed for the people and the economy of this great land.”

Resisting the urge to point out that Kirsten Wagman believed in using her br**sts in place of an informed debate, I asked, “Governor, what do you feel is needed for the people of America?”

“This country was based on the three Fs, Miss Mason: Freedom, Faith, and Family.” I could hear the capital letters in his voice; he said the words with that much force. “We’ve gone to great lengths to preserve the first of those things, but we’ve allowed the other two to slip by the wayside as we focused on the here and now. We’re drifting away from God.” The blankness was back in his eyes. “We’re being judged; we’re being tested. I’m afraid we’re coming direly close to failing, and this isn’t a test you get to take more than once.”

“Can you give me an example of this ‘failure’?”

“Why, the loss of Alaska, Miss Mason; a great American territory ceded to the dead because we didn’t have the guts to stand up for what was rightly ours. Our boys weren’t willing to put their faith in God and stand that line, and now a treasured part of our nation is lost, maybe forever. How long before that happens again, in Hawaii or Puerto Rico or, God forbid, even the American Heartland? We’ve gotten soft behind our walls. It’s time to put our trust in God.”

“Governor, you saw action in the Canadian Border Cleansing. I’d expect you to understand why Alaska had to be abandoned.”

“And I’d expect you to understand why a true American never lets go of what’s his. We should have fought. Under my leadership, we will fight, and we will by God win.”

I suppressed the unprofessional urge to shudder. His voice held all the hallmarks of a fanatic. “You’re requesting relaxation of Mason’s Law, Governor. Is there a particular reason for that?”

“There’s nothing in the Constitution that says a man can’t feed his family however he sees fit, even if that way isn’t exactly popular. Laws that limit our freedoms are needless as often as not. Why, look what happened when the Democrats stopped fighting for their unconstitutional gun control laws. Did gunshot deaths climb? No. They declined by forty percent the first year, and they’ve been dropping steadily ever since. It stands to reason that relaxation of other antifreedom legislation would—”

“How many of the infected are killed with guns every year?”

He paused, eyes narrowing. “I don’t see what bearing that has on our discussion.”

“According to the most recent CDC figures, ninety percent of the Kellis-Amberlee victims that are killed in clashes with the uninfected are killed by gunshot.”

“Guns fired by licensed, law-abiding citizens.”

“Yes, Governor. The CDC has also said that it’s virtually impossible to tell a murder victim killed by a shot to the head or spinal column from an infected individual put down legally in the same fashion. What is your answer to critics of the relaxed gun control laws who hold that gun-related violence has actually increased, but has been masked by the postmortem amplification of the Kellis-Amberlee virus?”

“Well, Miss Mason, I suppose I’d have to ask them for proof.” He leaned forward. “You carry a gun?”

“I’m a licensed journalist.”

“Does that mean yes?”

“It means I’m required to by law.”

“Would you feel safe entering a hazard zone without it? Letting your kids enter a hazard zone? This isn’t the civilized world anymore, Miss Mason. The natives are always restless now. Soon as you get sick, you start to hate the folks who aren’t. America needs a man who isn’t afraid to say that your rights end where the grave begins. No mercy, no clemency, and no limits on what a man can do to protect what’s his.”

“Governor, there have been no indications that infected individuals are capable of emotions as complex as hate. Further, they’re not dead. If rights end where the grave begins, shouldn’t they be protected by law like any other citizen?”

“Miss, that’s the sort of thinking you can afford when you’re safe, protected by men who understand what it means to stand strong. When the dead—sorry, the ‘infected’—are at your door, well, you’ll be wishing for a man who speaks like me.”

“Do you feel that Senator Ryman is soft on the infected?”

“I don’t think he’s ever been put into a position to find out.”

Nicely said. Cast doubt on Senator Ryman’s ability to fight the zombies and imply that he might be overly sympathetic to the idea of “live and let live”—a concept that gets floated now and then by the members of the far left wing. Usually for about fifteen minutes, until another lobbyist gets eaten. “Governor, you’ve spoken on wanting to do away with the so-called Good Samaritan laws that currently make it legal to extend assistance to citizens in trouble or distress. Can you explain your reasoning?”

“Simple as pie. Someone in distress likely got that way for a reason. Now, I’m not saying that I don’t feel terrible for anyone who winds up in that sort of a position, but if you rush to my aid when I’ve been bit, and you violate a quarantine line to do it, well, odds are good that you’re not saving me anyway, but you’ve also just thrown your own life aside.” The governor smiled. It might have seemed warm if it had come close to reaching his eyes. “It’s always the young and the idealistic who die that way. The ones America needs most of all. We have to protect our future.”

“By sacrificing our present?”

“If that’s what it takes, Miss Mason,” he said, smile widening and turning beatific. “If that’s what America requires.”

Now that I’ve had my long-delayed meeting with the man, there’s one question on everybody’s mind: What did I think of Governor David “Dave” Tate of Texas, elected three times in a landslide of votes, each time from voters from both sides of the partisan fence, possessed of an incredible record for dispensing justice and settling disputes in a state famed for its belligerence, hostility, and political instability?