Luck was with us. The man at the front of their ragged little formation signaled for the others to stop firing. He held out one hand, palm facing us, and then gestured toward the ground, indicating that we should put our guns down. We knelt to do as we were told. It might have ended there, except for one crucial detail:
The Fox hadn’t been trying for headshots.
My hand was still on my borrowed revolver when the first of the downed guards lurched to his feet and grabbed for the still-living man beside him. His chosen victim screamed and started firing wildly. His commander shouted for him to stand down, but it was too late; panic had already set in. Four men suddenly finding themselves surrounded by nine potential zombies weren’t going to listen to orders anymore.
Grabbing my gun from the ground, I ran full-tilt for the van, trusting the others to follow me and praying the zombies would be so busy going for the accessible prey that they’d let us by.
There were no bullet holes in the van. That was something. Becks and I reached it first, ducking behind the bulk of it while she fired at the guards and I fumbled with the door. The blood test cycle to open it had never seemed so long. Mahir reached us as I was waiting for the door to finish processing, leaving only Shaun and Maggie in the open—and Maggie was still on the ground, not moving.
“Oh, f**k,” I breathed. The lock disengaged. I jerked the door open, motioning for the others to climb in. Mahir promptly clambered over the driver’s seat and into the back, bypassing the blood test.
Becks shook her head, digging a set of keys out of her pocket and tossing them to me. “I’ll cover you! Now hurry!”
“On it.” I slammed the door, shoved the keys into the ignition, and started the engine, hitting the gas hard enough to send Mahir sprawling. Becks waited until she was clear and then opened fire on the guards, living and dead alike.
Driving was another thing I didn’t have the muscle memory for anymore, even if I intellectually understood the process. I barely managed to skid to a stop in front of Shaun and Maggie, the tires digging deep divots in the lawn. Mahir opened the side door and hopped out, helping Shaun lift Maggie inside. The entire front of her blouse was bloody.
“Is she breathing?” Mahir demanded.
“Yes,” said Shaun. “First-aid kit, now.” He slammed the door. “George, get Becks.”
Becks had taken cover behind a half-fallen pine tree that listed at a severe angle across one side of the tiny courtyard. She was firing at the two guards who remained standing, but their attention was more focused on their formerly dead compatriots, who were still attempting to take them down. I pulled up next to her and she grabbed the passenger-side door, waiting impatiently for the lock to release.
“Oh, God, there’s so much blood,” moaned Mahir. I didn’t let myself look. I needed to focus on getting us out of here alive.
The door opened. Becks climbed inside. I looked back toward the house and saw the Fox waving weakly from the window, blood running down the side of her face. She had what looked like a remote control in one hand. Becks looked that way, and her eyes widened.
“Oh, f**k,” she breathed. “Georgia, drive.”
I hit the gas.
We were all the way to the end of the driveway when the house exploded.
The edge of the explosion caught us, hot wind buffeting the van. The frame was weighted to make it harder to tip us over, but even so, it was a struggle to maintain control of the steering wheel. In the back, Maggie screamed. That was almost encouraging. If she was screaming like that, they hadn’t managed to puncture a lung, and with two Irwins playing field medic, she might be able to hold on long enough to get us—
I had no living clue where we were going, and no one else was available to take the wheel. “Where am I going?” I demanded.
“Take us back to the Agora!” shouted Shaun. “Just tell the GPS to retrace the last route we took. It can guide you from—aw, f**k, Becks, keep the pressure on, will you?”
Wincing, I turned on the GPS, tapping the screen twice to make it show me the way back to the Agora. A red light came on above the rearview mirror as the GPS began scrolling the names of streets. “Shaun, I’m getting a contamination warning up here.”
“That’s because Maggie’s bleeding all over the f**king van!”
“Still showing clean here,” said Mahir. His voice was tight, verging on panicked. “Becks, how’s her breathing?”
I took a deep breath and tightened my hands on the wheel, trying to focus on the road. Maggie was shot, not bitten. Her blood would be a problem, especially if she ran out of it completely, but as long as no one else had open wounds on their hands… or on their legs… or anywhere else…
We were f**ked. We were thoroughly and completely f**ked, and all we had to show for it was a bunch of corpses and a house that wasn’t even there anymore.
As if he had read my mind, Shaun called, with manic cheerfulness, “Don’t stress out about it, George. Things could be worse!”
“How?” demanded Becks.
“We could still be wearing shoes full of homing devices!”
For the first time since she’d been shot, Maggie spoke: “I am going to… kill you… myself, Shaun Mason.” Her voice was weak, but it was there. If she was talking, she couldn’t be too far gone.
Shaun laughed unsteadily. “You do that, Maggie. You get up and kick my ass just as soon as you feel like you can manage it.”
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