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Read the files accompanying this report. Read the comprehensive articles I am sure these and other reporters will shortly present to you. Realize that you have been betrayed. Realize that you have been misled. And heed the words of a very wise woman, who spoke from a place of genuine need when she addressed you a year ago. My name is Peter Ryman, and I am begging you.

Rise up while you can.

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RISE UP WHILE YOU CAN

Coda: Living for You

Rise up while you can.

—GEORGIA MASON

It’s the oldest story in the world. Boy loves girl. Boy loses girl. Boy gets girl back thanks to the unethical behavior of megalomaniacal mad scientists who never met a corpse they wouldn’t try to resurrect. Anyone coming within a hundred yards of my happy ending had better pray that they’re immune to bullets.

—SHAUN MASON

We did the best we could with what we had, and when what we had wasn’t enough, we found ways to make it work. We told the truth, even when it hurt us, even when it killed us, even when it set the wolves at our doors. I can’t speak for the dead. But I think the living will agree that anything we did, we did because we felt we had to. History will judge us. The future will decide whether what we did was right, or wrong, or without meaning. In the here and now…

This is as close as we could get to an ending. The world goes on. Zombies or no zombies, political conspiracy or no political conspiracy, the world goes on.

I think I like it that way.

—From Living Dead Girl, the blog of Georgia Mason II, May 17, 2042.

Who wants to see me wrestle a zombie moose?

—From Hail to the King, the blog of Shaun Mason, May 17, 2042.

MAHIR: Forty-two

The phone rang at half-three in the morning, waking both Nan and Sanjukta from a sound sleep. Nandini glared as she levered herself from the bed and left the room, following our infant daughter’s wailing. I swore, rolling over and grabbing my cell off the bedside table, bringing it to my ear before I was done sitting up.

“This had best be bloody important, or I’m letting my wife give you what-for,” I snarled.

“Mr. Gowda, this is Christopher Rogers, from the All-Night News. I apologize if I woke you—I thought I had calculated the time difference between London and San Francisco correctly.”

Smug bastard. I could hear it in his voice, the vague self-congratulatory tone of a reporter who thinks he’s put his subject off balance. “How did you get this number?”

“Mr. Gowda, I have a few questions, if you don’t—”

“I bloody well do mind. This is an unlisted number, and I know what you’re calling about. You want to know where the Masons are, don’t you?”

Silence greeted my question. That was a sufficient answer in and of itself.

“When will you people learn to listen? I don’t know where the Masons are. No one knows where the Masons are. They disappeared after the management of the CDC was given over to the EIS. Last anyone saw of either of them, they were in an unmarked car heading God-knows-where.”

That wasn’t entirely true. The last time I saw them was on the border between the United States and Canada, when Steve handed them the keys to their own van, which was waiting for them on the Canadian side. They mailed back all the bugs the CIA had planted a week later, and they were gone.

It was true enough. Every version of their disappearance ended the same way, after all: and they were gone.

“Mr. Gowda, your site is still syndicating blogs provided by both Masons. We find it difficult to credit your continued insistence that you do not know their whereabouts.”

“You little nit. They’re using relays put in place by Georgette Meissonier. So far as I know, your FBI has been trying to unsnarl that woman’s mad coding since before she died. What makes you think I could do it from here? I’m a reporter, not a computer technician.”

Nandini came back into the room, Sanjukta held against her chest. She cast a glare at me, demanding, “Who is it?”

“Another reporter. I’m getting rid of him.”

“Let me.”

“Not sure he deserves that yet, dear.” I turned my attention back to the phone. “My wife is about to take the phone off me. You’d best hang up, and never call this number again, or I’ll have you cited for harassment. Surprisingly, your government takes quite an interest in my complaints.”

Emily Ryman had taken her place beside her husband while pictures of her clone, killed during the attack on the White House, were shown to the world. President Ryman was found guilty of betraying the public trust. He was not found guilty of treason. He had been coerced, he had been afraid for the lives of his family, and he had been uncovering a treasonous group within his own government. He barely escaped being hailed as a hero.

Shaun and Georgia’s reports had a great deal to do with that, and President Ryman’s gratitude to the Masons had transferred to the site when they vanished. Having the President of the United States indebted to me had proven very useful in some situations—such as this one.

“Mr. Gowda, please. The people have a right to know.”

“The people know everything they have a right to know, Mr. Rodgers. I’ll be hanging up now.” They didn’t know there was no cure. Someday they would—someday we’d take back India, and a great deal more of the world beside—but not yet. The world wasn’t ready. Too many shots would go unfired, and too many more would die in the blind hope that their loved ones would be among the saved. Recovering from the first Rising took us twenty years. It might take twenty more to reach the point where we could recover from the second one.

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