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Buffy’s death was on the Wall. I should have known it would be, since her family would have been notified, which meant there would have been an obituary, but somehow, knowing that simple fact—that she’d joined all the other victims of this endless plague on the Wall—made her death all the more impossible to deny. More, it reminded me of one crucial fact: We were connected to the rest of the world, even when we were isolated. The cameras were always rolling. And right now, that was what concerned me.

I slid my sunglasses into place, removing the UV blocker as I shoved them up the bridge of my nose. They made me feel less naked than anything else. Reaching up, I tapped my ear cuff. “Mahir,” I said.

Several seconds later, Mahir’s sleep-muddled voice came over the line, saying, “This had better be good.”

“You realize your accent gets thicker when you’re tired.”

“Georgia?”

“Got it.”

“Georgia!”

“Still got it.”

“You’re alive!”

“Barely, and we’re in CDC custody, so I need to make this fast,” I said. Mahir, being the good lieutenant that he is, shut up immediately. “I need you to download the footage from the external cameras on the van and my bike, check to make sure it’s complete, and then wipe the originals.”

“I’m doing this because ?”

“I’ll explain later.” When I wasn’t making the call from inside a government installation, where all communications were likely to be monitored. “Can you do it?”

“Of course. Right away.”

“Thanks, Mahir.”

“Oh, and Georgia? I’m very grateful that you’re still alive.”

I smiled. “So am I, Mahir. Get the footage and get some sleep.” I tapped my ear cuff, cutting off the call.

Adjusting the collar on my jacket, I schooled my face back toward neutrality and left the changing room, heading for the duty station. The cameras. How could I have forgotten about them, even for a few minutes?

We keep the external cameras recording constantly. Sometimes we’ve found things when we’ve gone back to do review, like the time Shaun was able to use some shots of a totally normal highway median to track a pack of zombies hunting near the Colma border. Depending on the angle the shooter was working from, we might be able to use the latest footage to find a murderer. Assuming, of course, that whoever it was hadn’t already been able to get to our hard drives, and that Buffy hadn’t told any of her “friends” about our filming habits.

I was starting to feel like a conspiracy theorist. But that was all right because this was starting to feel very much like a conspiracy.

Rick had less equipment than I did; he and Shaun were back at the duty station when I arrived, and Rick had acquired a mug of coffee from somewhere. I started to give it a longing look, and stopped as Shaun handed me a can of Coke, still cold enough to have condensation beading on the sides.

“Truly, you are a God among men,” I said.

“Now I’m a God, but tomorrow, when you have to stop me from playing with dead things again, you’ll be right back to calling me an idiot, won’t you?” Shaun said.

“Yup.” I lifted the can, cracked the tab, and took a long drink before exhaling. “CDC has decent taste in soda.”

“We try,” said Joe.

That was the opening I needed. Lowering the can, I turned toward him, secure behind my sunglasses. “You received a call reporting us dead?”

“Time stamp puts it at two minutes before your call came in. The report flashed my screen while I was talking to you.”

That explained his request for detailed credentials. “Did you get a name? Or better, a number?”

“Afraid not, on either,” Joe said.

Shaun broke in: “It was an anonymous tip made from a disposable mobile phone.”

“So the number’s in their records—”

“But it doesn’t mean anything.”

“Cute.” I continued watching Joe. “Dr. Wynne—”

“Joe, please. A girl comes back from the other side of ‘legally dead,’ she gets to call me by my Christian name.” My surprise must have shown because he chuckled without amusement, saying, “The CDC gets a call that says you’re virus-positive, you’re dead until we confirm it’s a hoax. It’s a standard legal and safety precaution.”

I stared at him. “Because it’s not like anyone would hoax the CDC.”

“No one should be, and believe me, Ms. Mason, when we find the people responsible, they’ll be learning that lesson right well.” Joe’s smile drew down into a scowl. An understandable one: Most of the people who go to work for the CDC do it out of a genuine desire to better the human condition. If anyone’s going to find a cure for Kellis-Amberlee, it’s almost certainly going to be the Centers for Disease Control, with its near-global approval ratings and even more extensive pocketbooks. Young idealists fight tooth and nail over CDC postings, and only the best ever get them. That means the CDC employs a lot of very proud people, ones who don’t take things that besmirch the honor of the institution sitting down.

“I’d be willing to bet that whoever made that call was also responsible for shooting out our tires,” I said.

“Well, Ms. Mason—”

“Georgia, please.”

“Well, Georgia, it seems like a bit of a sucker bet, and I don’t customarily take those. It isn’t often someone tries to pull a fast one on the CDC, and a fast one that happens to center on a convoy that’s been attacked by snipers, well ”

“Do we have any ballistics on the gun the shooter used?”

Joe’s expression turned remote. “I’m afraid that’s classified.”

I glanced at the senator. His own expression was equally distant, his eyes fixed on some point beyond our heads.

“Senator?”

“I’m sorry, Georgia. Doctor Wynne is right; information relating directly to the police investigation of this matter is classified.”


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