“If this is crazy, I don’t care,” I said, and fired. Another zombie went down. We were losing ground fast now, and still they kept coming.
“Neither do I,” said George, and kept firing.
“Alaric!” shouted Steve.
“Coming!” Alaric started forward, and froze, eyes widening as he looked at the screen of his little device. “There’s no signal there. I almost lost the connection.”
“Alaric, just go!” snapped George.
“I can’t! I have to get these files up before somebody hits us with an EMP screen!”
Becks took two long steps backward, firing all the while, and snatched the device from his hand. “I can manage an upload as well as you can,” she snarled. “Now go.”
Alaric stared at her. “Becks—”
He turned and fled. The zombies were still closing. There were five of us left now. Me, George, Becks, one of the Secret Service agents—I still didn’t know his name—and Steve, who was urging Alaric through the airlock as quickly as he could.
“You see the failure inherent in this model, don’t you?” asked George. She fired; a zombie went down. They were closing in.
“What are you talking about?”
Becks groaned, the sound similar to a zombie’s moan only in that it held no actual words. No zombie could have sounded that aggravated. “You can’t shoot while you’re going through the airlock. That means someone has to watch your back. One person to stand guard, one person leaving. Until eventually…”
“There’s only one person left,” I said, feeling suddenly numb. A zombie lurched forward. I put a bullet through its skull. It fell. “Fuck.”
“It always comes down to the cold equations,” said George.
“Fuck!” I fired again. This time, I missed.
“Next!” shouted Steve.
“Go,” said Becks, nodding to George. “Both of you, go. You need to get out of here.”
“We’re not leaving you.”
“You’re not leaving him, either.” The last of the Secret Service agents was running for the airlock. “You’re not going to leave her, and she’s not going to leave you. We can’t ask your big friend to stay behind, not when he may be the most muscle we have left. That leaves me. Now get out of here.” Becks held up Alaric’s PDA with the hand that wasn’t holding her gun. “We’re at ninety percent. I’ll make sure the news is waiting for you when you hit the surface.”
Becks shot me a venomous glance. “I don’t have her nose for news. I don’t have your total lack of regard for my own safety. What I have is a family that doesn’t want me, and a job that I know how to do. And that job says I stand here and let you get out, because you’re the ones who can do the best job telling this story. Now go!”
“Shaun, come on.” George took a step backward, still firing.
“I don’t want to do this,” I said quietly.
So don’t, said George, in the space behind my eyes. Her voice was soft, cajoling. She would never ask me to do something I didn’t want to do. She would never try to convince me to leave a teammate behind.
She would let me die here, and take everything we’d fought and bled for with me.
“Shaun! Go!” shouted Becks. She shoved the PDA into her pocket, and called, “Hey, big guy! How sturdy are those doors?”
“Sturdy enough,” rumbled Steve. “Georgia, come on.”
“Coming.” She kept shooting as she backed away, until she had to turn and press her hand against the test unit, and shooting ceased to be an option.
“Good.” Becks dug her hand into a different pocket, producing a small round object that I recognized, after a few seconds, as a concussion grenade. “Then I’m taking no prisoners.”
“You had a grenade in your pocket?” I asked, unsure whether to be impressed or horrified.
“Dr. Abbey gave it to me. She swore it was stable.”
“Dr. Abbey isn’t stable!”
“Doesn’t matter now.” Becks grinned, still firing. Gunpowder streaked her cheeks and forehead, mixed with sweat and cleaned in narrow tracks by the tears I wasn’t sure she was aware of shedding. “Get out of here, Mason. We had a good time, didn’t we? It wasn’t all bad.”
The zombies were getting closer all the time. I kept firing. “We had a great time. You were amazing. You are amazing.”
“Same to you, Mason. Now go.”
“Shaun!” shouted Steve.
I took a deep breath, fired twice more into the throng, and ran.
Steve and Becks covered me while the airlock cycled. By the time I was through, there was a distance of barely ten feet between the leading wave of zombies—slowed by bullets, sickness, and the bodies of their own fallen—and the airlock door. Steve was the next one through, Becks covering him by herself. She fired faster than I would have thought possible, and almost every shot was a good one. Still, she was outnumbered, and the zombies were nearly on top of her when Steve stepped out into the parking garage with the rest of us.
Becks stopped firing. She turned to face the glass, a smile on her face, zombies looming up hard and fast behind her. We couldn’t hear them moaning anymore, or the sound her gun made when it hit the ground. She raised her free hand in a perfect pageant wave, seemingly oblivious to the hands reaching out to grab her hair. Then she went over backward, vanishing into the teeming river of infected flesh.
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