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Elliott rubbed the back of his head, still groggy. He didn’t look at Junie at all. How could she have done that to him? She known how much Shavian meant to him and she just took the choice right out of his hand.

To her credit, she hadn’t tried to speak to him either, but she wasn’t avoiding his eyes like he was hers.

He sat in the helicopter, leaning out the door and trying not to vomit as his head spun. He’d come around about halfway there, the motion of the chopper making his stomach churn. The man from the CDC had graciously agreed not to murder them, but had roped off an area around the chopper with armed guards ensuring they stayed in it.

Jake was sitting disconsolately next to Max, looking hard done by. He probably was. The poor guy was just a victim in all this. He hadn’t asked for it any more than Shavian had. He’d just gotten dragged in because he cared about someone. Elliott admired his loyalty. Sometimes Max seemed like she was more animal than the two dogs. At the moment, though, she was acting more human than Elliott had seen so far: she had emptied a can of cheap American beer out onto the tarmac and was tossing it to the dogs, who were racing to see who could get it first. Elliott had the disconcerting feeling that Spot was letting Pat win.

The others were sitting apart from Jake and Max, talking quietly. General McNabb had remained standing, alert. There was a tension in the man, but nothing like it had been in Oregon. At least here they weren’t facing down inhuman monstrosities. And Director Carter didn’t seem so bad; maybe reactionary, but not a bad guy.

When someone returned for them, it was Governor Smith. The troops with her were all in full hazmat gear. Perhaps in defiance, she was not. She only had a paper mask over her mouth and nose, her suit still sharp. Her hair was strangely messy though, as if she couldn’t quite get it tamed.

She stood at the edge of the ropes and waited for everyone to gather around her. Elliott noticed that they did so without being told. Spot ran to her and wagged his tail. Attention whore, Elliott thought, though fondly. The governor scratched his ears.

“Folks, I apologize for not introducing myself earlier. I think you know this already, but I’m Del Smith, the Governor of Washington. Director Carter and I have decided mutually that for the benefit of all, you should remain quarantined, at least until we can determine if any of you-“ She caught herself and tried not to glance at Max-“any more of you are infected.”

Roger moved forward like he was going to protest, but McNabb put a hand on his shoulder. Governor Smith gave him a sympathetic look. “I know this is hard on you folks. I can’t imagine what you’ve been through down there. But Washington is clean, with the exception of your friend here. This thing is spreading fast and we have to maintain our safe zones. Please understand, I don’t like this any more than you do. But it’s what we have to do. We’ve arranged quarters for you all that we’ve made as comfortable as we can.” She turned to Max. “Ms. Bait, I’m sorry but you’ll have to be held separately.”

Max said nothing, simply turned away. The Governor sighed. “If you’ll all please come with me.” One of the soldiers came forward and loosened the rope barrier. “Lower your weapons, please,” Governor Smith said to the others. “I don’t think they’ll be needed.” Elliott secretly gave her points for that.

Elliott took this as an opening. He trotted forward and came level with her. He had to look up at her, and trot a little to pace her. She didn’t slow down for him either, and only glanced at him out of the corner of her eye, waiting for him to make the first move. Elliott wasn’t entirely stupid. She was clearly telling him to keep up and make the first move if he wanted her respect.

“Governor Smith, my name is Elliott Bradbury,” he began.

“What can I do for you, Mr. Bradbury?” she asked.

“There are some things about what happened in Oregon that I think you need to know, especially if you’re going to keep up a quarantine zone with the CDC around.”

She looked at him, appraisingly now. “Go on,” she said.

“It’s about Dr. Irons,” Elliott went on. “I think he’s the cause of all this, and it sounds like he’s been working with the CDC.”

She gave pause, “What proof do you have?”

“Just our accounts,” Elliott admitted. “Just what we saw. Human experiments. He abducted a friend that… that’s still there. But you have to believe us. You cannot trust Dr. Irons.”

Governor Smith sighed heavily. “Director Carter, what do you think?” she asked, turning to the man to her right. Rob Carter’s voice came through the mask in the hazmat suit. He sounded resigned.

“General McNabb said the same thing to me earlier,” he said.

The Governor ground her teeth. “And you didn’t mention that to me why?”

“I thought I had,” he said.

“No, you did not.” She took a deep breath. “It’s okay, we both know now, and that’s what’s important.”
“General McNabb is very well respected,” Director Carter said. “I think we can trust his judgment.”

“Well, considering the CDC has been working with the man who might have brought on the greatest plague of our lifetime, it’s good to know we can trust someone’s judgment.”

“You just had to get that dig in, didn’t you? Just couldn’t let it go,” the director muttered.

Governor Smith ignored him. She turned around, walking almost as fast as she had been, only backwards. She addressed the troops.

“Take these people to the quarters we’ve arranged and make sure they’re comfortable. Get them food and any medical attention they need. Test this boy for a concussion,” she added, nodding to Elliott. Elliott blinked at her and she shrugged. “You were rubbing the back of your head and your eyes are a little glazed. I know the signs.” She addressed the troops again. “Please take Ms. Bait to her room as well and keep a detail outside. You’ll all be debriefed in the morning after you’ve had a chance to rest.”

McNabb stepped forward. “I feel fine, Governor. If you’d care to debrief me now, I’d be happy to do so.”

“Good idea. Director Carter, we have a lot of decisions to make.”

With that, and without another glance at Elliott or the others, she strode away with the general right behind her.

Roger came up behind Elliott and put a hand on his shoulder. Junie’s hand came to rest on the other and despite his anger at her, it was a comfort.

They were back in Washington with his two closest friends. But to Elliott it wasn’t over: they were one feisty redhead short.

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