Book 2: Page 11

“We know this is a very personal situation for you, Elliott,” Smith said. If Elliott had to guess, he would have said her caring, concerned tone was sincere. He wouldn’t put money on it though: she was a politician. “We know this girl means a lot to you.”

“Yeah, enough to risk being shot by the guard tower snipers. Silent death you know? We gave them silencers. Moving on-” Carter seemed in a hurry to get to the point.

“She does mean a lot to- wait. There were snipers on the guard towers?” Elliott gasped.

“Yeah, I suppose,” Smith said at the same time Carter said, “Silenced snipers.”

They pointedly did not look at one another.

“Would they have shot me?”

“No, of course not,” Smith assured him at the same time Carter said, “Absolutely. Your dead body would make a bigger sound than their shot. They’re pros.” Smith curled her lip at him.

“No one would have shot you,” she said softly.

“Everyone would have shot you,” Carter corrected her. “It’s their job and it would be stupid of anyone to assume they wouldn’t do it.” Del growled. “With ruthless efficiency,” he added just to spite her. Smith’s face turned to stone and she said nothing more, to Carter anyway.

“I’m going to go out on a limb here and tell you something I’m not supposed to tell you,” Smith said, coming around the desk to perch on the edge of it, leaning towards Elliott slightly. He could see down her shirt but he didn’t think that was the intent here. She just looked slumped, casual, almost masculine. She clapped her hands together and then folded her fingers, gazing at him intently. She took a deep breath and steeled herself. Elliott glanced at Rob Carter, half expecting him to jump in to steal her thunder. He didn’t. “Elliott, we haven’t had any contact from the rest of the country in over a week.”

Elliott blinked at her stupidly. He should probably have made amazed sounds or torn his hair out or something, nothing would come but shock. He had not expected that. The entire rest of the country? Most of the west coast but… the whole country?

“We’re insulated here, but we have to assume that most of the country is overrun by this… thing. California was a dead zone within two weeks. I’m sure you could have guessed that.”

“It’s terrible,” Carter said, his eyes distant. “You should seen the footage from the drones we sent out. All those fake breasts… the zombies just shambling around bouncing off one another…”

He was serious but an insane bubble of laughter threatened to burst out of Elliott. Smith shot Carter another look but it was less acerbic than before. “Yes, it’s heartbreaking,” she said drily.

“Oregon?” Elliott managed to ask, a lump in his throat.

Smith shook her head, her ponytail waving incongruously merry. “For the most part we’re calling it a wash. We have scattered reports that the eastern side might have some hold-outs. The virus seems to have traveled up along the coast from San Diego. The mountains provide somewhat of a natural barrier but even those reports are sketchy. And of course, a few military installations, which-”

“Brings us, at long, long last,” Carter interrupted, “to the goddamned point.” Smith’s teeth ground together audibly but she said nothing. She merely gestured, if not graciously, for him to continue. “We think the military installation you were on might still be in one piece. If he’s nothing else, Dr. Irons is resourceful.”

“And he’s interested in this girl of yours, this Shavian. If he’s interested in her, then so are we,” Smith added.

Carter came around the desk and sat on the edge too. Elliott almost laughed. All that effort to force a united front and now they were doing it without even realizing. “Elliott,” Smith said, “we’ll need your help with her. From everything we’ve heard, she’s awfully willful.”

“That’s one very generous way of putting it,” Elliott said. “But what does that have to do with anything?” He had a sinking feeling he knew already.

“To make a long story short, Elliott, we’ll help you get her back if you help us convince her to submit to some studies,” Carter explained.

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