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The EIS—the Epidemic Intelligence Service—was founded in 1951 to answer concerns about biological warfare in the wake of World War II. EIS agents were responsible for a lot of the earliest efforts against infectious pandemics. Without them, smallpox, wild polio, and malaria would never have been eliminated… and if they’d been aware of the Marburg Amberlee and Kellis flu trials, the accidents that led to the creation of Kellis-Amberlee might never have occurred. They’ve always had a reputation for ruthlessness, focus, and getting the job done. It’s too bad the Rising put an end to most of what they did. In a world where there’s only one disease making headlines, what are a bunch of disease detectives good for?

But the branch held on. No matter how much the CDC restructured, no matter how the funding shifted, the EIS endured. Every time there was a whisper of corruption from inside the CDC, the EIS was there, dispelling the rumors, cleaning up the mess. Most people wrote them off as a bunch of spooks who refused to admit they weren’t necessary anymore. I’d always been one of those people.

Maybe it was time for me to reevaluate my position.

Gregory came from the EIS; the EIS was part of the CDC; the CDC brought me back to life. Gregory said I wasn’t safe here; Gregory spoke to me on his own, without barriers or guards. Dr. Thomas wouldn’t come near me without an armed guard. Dr. Thomas was willing to let me believe Shaun was dead. I probably couldn’t actually afford to trust either one of them. But given a choice between the two…

If the EIS was willing to get me out of here, I was willing to bank on my ability to escape from the EIS. I let my eyes drift closed, rolling onto my side. It was time to start playing along and find out what was going on, because when Gregory and his friends broke me out I was going to break the whole thing open.

I didn’t dream of funerals this time. Instead, I dreamed of me and Shaun, walking hand in hand through the empty hall where the Republican National Convention was held, and nothing was trying to kill us. Nothing was trying to kill us at all.

The difficulty with knowing what something is and how it operates is that you’re likely to be wrong, and just as likely to be incapable of admitting it. We form preconceptions about the world, and we cling to them, unwilling to be challenged, unwilling to change. That’s why so many pre-Rising structures remain standing. Our generation may be willing to identify them as useless, archaic, and potentially deadly. The generations that came before us regard them as normal parts of life rendered temporarily unavailable, like toys put on a high shelf. They think someday we’ll have those things again. I think they know they’re wrong. They just can’t admit it, and so they wait to die and leave the world to us, the ones who will tear all those death traps down.

Sometimes the hardest thing about the truth is putting down the misassumptions, falsehoods, and half-truths that stand between it and you. Sometimes that’s the last thing that anybody wants to do. And sometimes, it’s the only thing we can do.

—From Postcards from the Wall, the unpublished files of Georgia Mason, originally posted on July 16, 2041.

I keep writing letters to my parents. Letters that explain what happened, where I went, why I ran. Letters that tell them how much I love them, and how sorry I am that I may never see them again. Letters about how much I miss my house, and my dogs, and my bad-movie parties, and my freedom. I sometimes think this must be what it was like for everyone in the months right after the Rising, only the threat of the infected was never personal. They didn’t kill all those people because they wanted to, or because their victims knew some inconvenient truth. They did it because they were hungry and because the people were there. So maybe this isn’t like the Rising at all. With us, it’s personal. We asked the wrong questions, opened the wrong doors, and Alaric will try to say that it was never my fault, it was never my idea, but he’s wrong.

I always knew there was an element of danger in what we did, and I went along with it willingly because these people are my heart’s family, and this is what I wanted. So I keep writing letters to my parents, saying I’m sorry, and I miss them, and I may not make it home.

So far, I haven’t sent any of my letters. I don’t know if I ever will.

—From Dandelion Mine, the blog of Magdalene Grace Garcia, July 16, 2041. Unpublished.

Four

Dr. Abbey’s screening room was originally the Shady Cove Forestry Center’s private movie theater, intended for teaching bored tourists and wide-eyed school groups about safely interacting with the woods. I’ve watched a few old DVDs that Alaric dug out of the room’s back closet. Most of them said “safely interacting with the woods” meant being respectful of the wildlife, and backing away slowly if you saw a bear. Personally, I think “safely interacting with the woods” means carrying a crossbow and a sniper rifle whenever you have to go out alone. I’ll never understand the pre-Rising generation… but sometimes I wish I could. It must have been nice to live in a world that didn’t constantly try to kill you.

The screening room was in disarray when we started crashing with Dr. Abbey. Now, barely a month later, it was as close to state-of-the-art as could be achieved with secondhand parts and cobbled-together wiring. That was Alaric’s doing. I’m sure Dr. Abbey’s people could have handled everything eventually—this wasn’t the first time she’d uprooted her entire lab with little warning—but Maggie got uncomfortable when she didn’t have access to a big-ass screen. So she batted her eyes at our last surviving tech genius, and Alaric, who was probably glad to have something to distract him from his sister’s situation, started flipping switches. The result was something even Buffy might have been proud of, if she hadn’t been, you know, dead.

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