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“Thanks for that little ray of sunshine, Maggie.” I turned to Kelly. “So, Doc, was there any way to know that we were walking into a deathtrap? I mean, at this point, I trust the CDC about as far as George can throw you, but it still seems a little extreme, burning a whole installation to take out two reporters.”

Kelly frowned. “But Georgia is—oh.” She stopped midprotest, comprehension flooding her expression. “No. I didn’t. I’m starting to realize that my… my former employers”—she spat out the word “former” like it tasted bad—“may be capable of some pretty horrible things, but I never suspected they’d do anything like that. I wouldn’t have let you go if I knew.”

“The sad part here is that I bet they have more nasty surprises for us. Just wait.” I sipped my Coke, studying Kelly’s face for signs that she was fraying. The Doc was holding up better than I expected; all I saw in her eyes was exhaustion, both physical and mental. The rest of us were tired, but we were also trained for this sort of shit—or as trained as you can be for something that’s never supposed to happen. “Well, we got out alive. That’s something. Alaric, how’s our market share?”

“Up four points last time I checked, with the expected uptick in our closest competitors,” said Alaric, not missing a beat. “Three of them are crying hoax and two more are claiming that we’re endangering our licenses by behaving recklessly in hopes of increasing our ratings.”

I snorted. “Because ‘behaving recklessly’ is suddenly not in the job description? Amateurs. Let ’em find their own potentially fatal government conspiracies.”

“Can we not?” Maggie picked up a stack of plates and began putting them away in the cupboard. “I think one is more than enough at any given time, and since they have a tendency to spread, I’m not sure a second one wouldn’t wind up getting all over us, too.”

“Fair enough.” I tossed my empty can into the recycling bin. “You said there was a potpie?”

“Yes, and you said you’d tell us what happened.” Maggie put away the last of the plates before taking down the oven mitts and opening the oven, producing a covered ceramic dish that smelled like it was less than half a mile shy of Heaven. She set it down on one of the open spaces at the table.

“Caffeine, then food, then exposition.” I grabbed a fork from the dish drainer before moving to sit down. The potpie smelled even better up close. The bulldogs agreed: two promptly appeared from the next room, sitting by my feet in perfect, implacable begging positions. “Remind me again why we didn’t all move in with you years ago?”

“Because I live in the middle of nowhere, and that isn’t actually an asset for anyone who isn’t a pure Fictional.” Maggie went back to putting dishes away. “Now talk, or I’m going to take back your dinner.”

“Anything but that.” I stabbed my fork into the piecrust. “How much of the footage have you guys watched?”

“Enough,” said Alaric grimly.

I nodded. “Okay, then.” I took a bite of potpie, swallowed, and began talking, starting with the point where Becks and I drove away from the motel. Moledur time at the CDC had been fairly well-documented by the cameras we carried, but they’d been simple recorders, not full-on field deployments. There were things they missed, like most of Director Swenson’s reactions, and everything in the emergency tunnels.

“Your recording feeds cut off as soon as you went through that second door,” said Alaric. “They picked up again once you were outside.”

“Really?” I glanced to Kelly. “Did you know that was going to happen?”

“No, but it makes sense. Those tunnels are heavily shielded, to prevent contamination if there’s ever need for an actual flush. We’re not even supposed to stay in them during drills, if we can help it.”

“Radiation?” asked Alaric.

Kelly shrugged. “I really don’t know. I’m sorry.”

I took advantage of their brief side-conversation to shovel another few bites of potpie into my mouth, barely chewing. Finally, I said, “Okay, so you didn’t get any of that footage. It wasn’t bright enough in there to get much worthwhile, but unless their shielding fried our electronics—” I glanced at Kelly. She shook her head, indicating that it shouldn’t have done anything of the sort. That made sense, since the CDC probably had recording devices of their own in the tunnels. They’d need to know what went wrong if there was ever an emergency purge. “You should be able to extract the audio track.”

“Don’t forget the pretty amber lights. Those are probably worth a screenshot or two.” We all turned toward the sound of Becks’s voice. She was wearing one of Maggie’s bathrobes, knotted loosely around her waist, and her hair was still half-wet, tousled from the postshower drying. “Is there another potpie, Maggie? I’m hungry enough to eat a dog.”

“Please don’t,” said Maggie. “It’s hard enough to socialize them without making them think that people will decide to randomly eat them. Your potpie is in the oven.”

“You’re an angel.” Becks arrowed for the oven, dismissing the rest of us in favor of food.

I stabbed my fork into my own potpie, spearing a chunk of chicken as I focused my attention back on Kelly. “So, Doc, that was a good job you did, getting us to the tunnels. Pretty quick thinking, too.”

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