“What?” said President Ryman.
“What?” said Gregory.
“Can I get a biohazard bag over here?” said Shaun. He grimaced again. “And maybe some gauze or something? This really stings.”
“This is impossible,” said one of the Secret Service agents. He leveled his handgun on Shaun. “Sir, we need to get you out of here.”
“No,” said President Ryman. We all turned to look at him, even Shaun, who still looked perfectly lucid. Conversion takes time, but he should have been showing some of the outward signs of infection after being shot with that large a dose of virus.
“Sir?” said the Secret Service agent.
“I said no. We brought these people here because we were looking for a Hail Mary. If they’re going to give us one, we’re not going to turn our backs on them.” President Ryman’s gaze settled on Gregory. “I’m sorry, son. I didn’t catch your name.”
“Dr. Gregory Lake, sir. EIS.” Gregory produced a testing kit from his lab coat pocket, tossing it to Shaun. “If I may be so bold, this might help keep these nice gentlemen from shooting you before we can get out of here.”
“Practical and prepared. That’s what I like to see in a public servant.” President Ryman turned to Shaun. “Shaun…”
“I know, I know. Prove that this isn’t just preamplification crazy.” Shaun sighed as he popped the lid off his testing kit. “You know, George, if you’d just listened when I said I wanted to skip the presidential campaign and petition to go to Yellowstone instead, none of this would have happened.” He stuck his thumb into the opening.
I managed to smile. It wasn’t easy. “But imagine all the fun we’d have missed. Meeting Rick, that town hall in Eakly…”
“Burying Buffy. Burying you. I would have been okay with missing the fun.” The lights on his test unit seemed to be confused. They were flashing, returning to yellow over and over again. Finally, the green light stopped flickering, and the red and yellow began to oscillate, like the unit was trying to make up its mind. The Secret Servicemen drew their guns.
I could see what came next as clearly as if it had already happened. Blood on the floor; Shaun falling, and no handy CDC madmen to bring him back to me. “Stop!” I shouted, putting both my hands up in front of me. “It hasn’t stopped yet!”
It hadn’t stopped. The light was still flashing between red and yellow—and as I watched, the green came back into the rotation. The flash began holding there, a little bit longer each time. “Fascinating,” murmured Gregory.
“You can’t dissect him,” I said.
“No, but can we have some blood? Say, a gallon? For starters?”
“We’ll see.” The light wasn’t flashing red at all anymore; instead, it was flickering between yellow and green. Then the yellow cut out entirely, and it was just green, uninfected, safe. I let out a slow breath, only then feeling the terror that had been burning in my veins the whole time. Shaun was safe. Shaun was going to be okay.
Shaun was holding up the green-lit test unit with an expression of vague amusement on his face as he asked, “Well? Does that clear me? Or do I need to do a little dance, too?”
“A little dance is never amiss,” said Alaric, straight-faced.
I started to move toward Shaun. Gregory grabbed my shoulder, stopping me. “Don’t.”
“What?” asked Shaun and I, in unison.
Gregory shook his head, not letting go. “He may be immune, but you’re not. If the virus on his clothing is live, it could cause you to amplify.”
“This gets better and better.” Becks glared at the body of man from the CDC. “I should have taken the headshot.”
“Maybe next time,” said Shaun.
“In the meantime, Mr. President, your wife and children are safe,” said Rick. “We can get out of here. We can find a way to make this right.”
“It’s going to be a little harder than we thought.”
The sound of Steve’s voice was a surprise. We turned to see him standing in the door, with plaster on the shoulders of his formerly immaculate black suit and the bin holding our equipment in his arms.
“Steve?” said Shaun.
“The building is surrounded,” said Steve. He moved to put the bin on the table. “I took the liberty of retrieving your weapons. We may be shooting our way out.”
“Surrounded?” asked Becks, as she moved to rummage through the bin. “By what, political protestors?”
“No,” said Steve. “Zombies.”
“It’s always zombies,” complained Shaun. No one laughed. He frowned. “Tough crowd.”
“What is it about you two and massive outbreaks?” asked Steve. “We were outbreak-free until you got here.”
“Just lucky, I guess,” I said. “Where’s everyone else?”
“With Dr. Shoji. I doubled back when I saw the moaners on the lawn.”
At least something was going right. The Secret Service agents with President Ryman looked stunned, although whether it was at the zombies or our flippancy, I couldn’t have said. They weren’t with us on the campaign trail. They didn’t understand that this was how we coped.
“Can’t we get out through the tunnels?” asked Rick.
“Only if you enjoy being zombie-chow,” said Steve.
“The CDC is nothing if not efficient.” Shaun took his gun from Becks, careful not to touch her hand. “Is there any route out of here that doesn’t get us eaten?”
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