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You’re getting distracted, chided George. She sounded anxious. I couldn’t blame her. Focus, ass**le. This would be a stupid way to die.

“I know, I know.” I shoved the last of the drives into my pocket. Time to start moving.

The sound of my voice snapped Kelly out of her fugue. “What do we do?” she asked, in a low, tightly controlled voice. Her gaze darted around the apartment like she expected zombies to come bursting through the walls. She’d probably never been in an actual outbreak before. Talk about your trial by fire: from illegal cloning and faking your own death to trying to survive your personal slice of the zombie apocalypse in just one afternoon.

I’m man enough to admit that under most circumstances, I might have enjoyed watching the biological error messages flash across Kelly’s face. Maybe it’s cruel, but I don’t care. There’s nothing funnier than seeing somebody who thinks of the infected as somebody else’s problem realize that they, too, could join the mindless zombie hordes. Most medical personnel fall into that category; by the time they have hard proof that they’re not somehow above all harm, they’re usually either dead or infected. Either way, they’re not exactly making reports after that.

There’s a time and a place for laughing at the suffering of others. This wasn’t either. “We get the hell out of here,” I said, striding toward Dave. “What’s the situation at the parking garage? Do we have vehicle access, or are we just f**ked?”

“They managed to take out the human security, but the autolockdown kept them from getting inside,” Dave reported, his eyes never leaving the screen. His fingers flew across his keyboard and the ones to either side of it like a concert pianist in the middle of a symphony, never missing a beat. The screens connected to the secondary keyboards flickered windows and blocks of code so fast that they were almost strobing. None of it seemed to bother Dave. This was his element, and he was damn well in control of it. “The tunnel’s clear—for the moment. The building’s automated defense systems include bleach and acid sprayers. I’ve managed to suppress the acid. I can’t stop the bleach.”

“That’s what gas masks and goggles are for. You sure there’s nothing in the parking garage?”

“It should be clear all the way to the van.” His hands didn’t slow down once. “Outer perimeter hasn’t been breached yet. I give it fifteen minutes if they keep slamming on the doors the way they are. Ten minutes if anybody gets bitten, panics, and drives their car into one of the fuse boxes on the street.”

“How likely is that?”

“Move fast.”

“Got it.” I turned. “Alaric, Becks, status?”

“Almost ready.” Becks tossed me a grenade. I clipped it to my belt. “We could blast our way out of anything, but…”

“But we need to assume the entire population of Oakland now wants to eat us. I know the drill. Alaric, how are we for gas masks?”

“Good.” He looked up, face flushed. “Kelly, what’s your weapons rating?”

She blanched. “I—it wasn’t a priority for lab work, and so I didn’t—”

All activity stopped as people turned to stare at her. Even Dave’s fingers ceased their tapping. The screams and sirens from outside seemed louder without our preparations to blur them.

“Please tell me you didn’t let it expire,” I said, quietly.

“It wasn’t necessary for lab work,” she said, her voice practically a whisper/fon

I didn’t need to swear. George was doing it for me, loudly and with great enthusiasm. The fact that no one else in the room could hear her was purely academic; it was making me feel better, and at the moment, that was all I gave a shit about. “That changes things,” I said. “Alaric, you’re on Kelly. Where she goes, you go, at all times. And Kelly, before you make the privacy protest, there are no potty breaks during a zombie outbreak.”

Becks raised her eyebrows, looking at me.

“You’ve got another job to take care of.” Dave’s typing resumed as I spoke. The sound took the edge off the screaming from outside. Gesturing toward the pile of weaponry, I said, “Suit up, take what you need, and hit the garage. I want that tunnel absolutely secured, and I want a thorough sweep of the vehicles before we get out of here. You’re going to be taking the van.”

Her eyes widened as she realized what I wasn’t saying. “Oh, no.”

“Oh, yes.”

“Shaun, you’re not driving a motorcycle out through an active outbreak. That’s not just stupid; that’s suicidal.”

“You’ve all been saying I was suicidal for months now, so I guess it’s time I proved you right.” I shook my head. “This isn’t open for negotiation. Get ready, and get moving. Alaric, after you’re done dealing with the ammo, go up and check the roof, see if any of our neighbors are up there, and check for helicopter evacuations on the nearby buildings. Once you’ve got an idea of the situation, regroup downstairs next to the door to the parking garage.”

“Got it,” he said, nodding once. He didn’t argue with my orders or try to negotiate for leaving Kelly behind; he just stood and headed for the door. George trained her people well, and Alaric started out as one of hers.

Kelly hesitated on the cusp of following him into the hall, clutching the police baton Becks had shoved into her hands against her chest like a child would clutch a teddy bear. “Where are you going?”

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