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“Shaun!” called Becks. “Dr. Abbey just called! They’re opening the lab door!”

“Awesome!” I shouted back, barely a second before gunfire started from the direction of the lab. I fell back several yards, pulling another gun from my waistband and holding it out behind me. “Reload?”

“Thanks.” Becks snatched the pistol from my hand, taking aim on another of the infected. “So this is fun. This is a fun time.”

“Sure.” I fired twice, taking down two more zombies. I was about to shoot a third one when Joe came bounding into my line of fire. He grabbed a zombie by the leg, shaking so hard that the entire leg came off. The gunfire continued behind him, but for Joe, the party was all out here in the hall.

It probably says something about Dr. Abbey that she named her massive black English mastiff after her dead husband and used him for illegal medical experiments. I’m not sure what it says, exactly. I just know that Joe is now functionally immune to Kellis-Amberlee—he can get sick, but he can’t go into conversion—and that meant that the enormous, angry carnivore now spreading zombie guts around the hall was on our side. Thank God for that.

“That’s disgusting,” said Becks, and shot a zombie who was continuing to advance on our position, ignoring the chaos behind him. “Oh, jeez. Is that a spleen?”

“I think that’s a spleen, yes.” I fired one more time, taking down a zombie that had gotten a little too close for comfort. Joe looked toward the sound of the shot, ears perked up questioningly, and barked once. “It’s cool, Joe. We’re not hurt.”

“How cute. The giant dog is concerned.”

“Someone’s got to be.” I leaned against the rail, watching Joe work. The gunshots from behind him were starting to taper off. Only three zombies that I could see were still making any real progress, and all of them were badly wounded. Becks raised her gun to fire. I pushed her arm gently down again. “Let him have his fun. He’s had a long day, and he deserves the chance to kill some things.”

“If you say so.” Becks looked at me, seeming to tune out the sounds of slaughter coming from the hall in front of us. She frowned. “You have blood in your hair. And on your face.”

“Great. I’ve been exposed. Dr. Abbey will be thrilled.”

The gunshots from the hall had stopped. Becks and I exchanged a look, nodded, and waited where we were for a few more minutes before starting to make our way in that direction. Joe barked again as we approached him, the sound only slightly garbled by the fact that he had most of a human throat in his mouth.

“Don’t talk with your mouth full,” I told him. He dropped the throat, chuffing happily, and fell into step beside us. I patted his blood-tacky head with one hand. “Good dog.” There was no possible way of minimizing my exposure at this point. I might as well just go with it.

Dr. Abbey, Alaric, and four of her technicians were in the hall, their faces covered by ventilator masks and eye protectors. “You made it,” she said, sounding unsurprised. “Are we secure?”

“Not quite. There are at least three shamblers on the ground floor, Mahir’s in the van, and Maggie’s locked in a storage room,” I replied. “Alaric? You okay, buddy?”

“Shaken, but intact,” he said.

“Good.” I looked to Dr. Abbey. “I’ve been exposed.”

“There’s a shocker.” She shook her head, shoulders slumping. She looked tired. That wasn’t normal. Not for Dr. Abbey. “Help with the cleanup, and I’ll get blood test kits for both of you. Shaun—”

“I know, I know,” I said. “I’ll be donating a few more vials to the cause of science.”

“We’re still leaving in the morning,” said Becks. I turned to blink at her. She shrugged. “There’s always something, isn’t there? We have to go. It’s never going to stop long enough for there to be a good time.”

“She’s right,” said Alaric. “Alisa can’t wait.”

“Well, then, I guess we’re leaving in the morning,” I said. “Let’s get this place cleaned up, and figure out what happened with the security. Oh, and can someone go let Maggie out before she kills us all?” I looked at the mess surrounding us, and sighed inwardly.

It was going to be a long night.

We lost over a dozen techs, Joey—people who’ve been working with me for years, people who trusted me to keep them safe. And for what? So I could learn some more things we already knew? This was my fault. Half the people who were bitten knew better than to engage the infected the way they did, but they believed the treatment I’ve been working on could protect them, and they weren’t careful enough. Looking into Laurie’s post-conversion eyes… it was enough to break my heart. Shaun Mason may hold the answer to this pandemic, but if he does, I haven’t found it yet.

I know you don’t think I should send them to Florida. I have to. We need to know what they used when they built those mosquitoes—and I need to know who built them. If I can pick apart their genetic structure, we may stand a chance in hell.

—Taken from an e-mail sent by Dr. Shannon Abbey to Dr. Joseph Shoji at the Kauai Institute of Virology, July 24, 2041.

I don’t know how much longer I can do this. I don’t know how much longer I can keep convincing my team that I can do this. I don’t know how much longer I can trust myself to keep them alive.

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