Tam got to ride shotgun in the Humvee, while Giulianova chivalrously sat in the back. She looked at Zelinski, the man she had once known as fiery. Now he was locked in, like a child who’d witnessed a murder. He had tumbleweed hair, bandaged hands and combats that looked like a calico cat. He had been inside the Blob, and survived. It rejected him. The experience might have broken his mind. But the fact that he was alive suggested something. And she’d got away too.
If Zelinski was right, the Adlea injections made them taste bad to Epsilon Rex. Even better, it enabled her to resist the infection. But she had no way of knowing how long she might last on the stuff. Another few days? Or indefinitely? The only way to find out was some anti-zombie medical tests. She didn’t know anyone qualified to do them, or if she had the heart to be the subject of a science experiment right now. In the meantime, she needed Zelinski to keep boosted.
The drive to Varsity didn’t take as long as she expected. She was not uplifted to come home, just saddened and scared.
It looked like it had been hit by a storm and then a crime rampage. Everywhere she looked there was at least one house, store or unidentifiable mound that had been burned to cinders. The streets were peppered with random stains, either ash or blood. There were dead bodies everywhere. It was impossible to tell whether they had died as regular people, or Wrecks. Broken windows. Burned lawns. Crashed cars. Improvised barriers. Nowhere was unaffected. Every now and then they saw some random, crazy postcard image. A tent surrounded by body parts on stakes. A burning Wreck flying in a massive arc over a wall. A group of huskies pulling an empty sled on wheels.
Giulianova was looking over their shoulders. “Know what this is like?” he said. “Apocalypse Now.” Miller laughed. Tam didn’t find it funny.
There were few Wrecks around, and no living people. They approached her street. It looked as safe as she could hope for. Tam’s home was an apartment in a stocky, modern complex. High walls and spiked gates. If only she’d stayed home when all this began. The Humvee slowed and stopped.
“You should go to METMA,” said Miller, like they’d already had a whole conversation about this.
“They aren’t doing tests,” said Tam, “or treating people. They just make notes.”
“Without Zelinski, you’re out of medicine,” Miller said. His voice sounded sad.
“So, what? I’ve gotta take him in?” said Tam.
Miller sighed. “The army’s got some pretty good psych doctors. I mean, PTSD and all that. They’re pretty good at that. I’d like to get him some help. At the same time, I can tell them about you and maybe get you set up.”
“For how long?” said Tam.
“That’s what I’d like to find out,” Miller said, and smiled.
Tam felt an ache as she looked at her apartment window. The ache of longing for something lost. Normality wasn’t coming back, not the way she wanted it. She took a deep breath.
“Let me grab some stuff, at least,” she said. “Maybe get cleaned up?”
“That place looks pretty secure, boss,” said Giulianova. “I could use a shower myself, and maybe some zees.”
“Sure,” said Tam. All of a sudden it felt like this was a team, helping each other any way they could. So they all went in. They took turns watching the street while everyone got cleaned up, ate what they could find and crashed out on the couch for half an hour.
Tam looked into the distance from her third-floor window, but that reminded her of the scale of this madness. She looked right in front of her instead. It gave her something to concentrate on. She was watching the debris that smoked, wondering about the history of some tipped-over shopping carts, when a group of Wrecks came down the street. She ducked down and stared. Their weird, swarm-like attitude still made her shiver.
They stopped at the new café district. It was a cute open-air space, cut out of the usual urban mess to bring hipsters together. Benches and silly statues. And a nice flower bed. The Wrecks seemed to have found something there. They started digging. This was behaviour Tam had never seen. But Wrecks had a habit of surprising you.
Miller came out of the bathroom, looking a million dollars better than he had before. Tam put a finger to her lips and beckoned him over.
As they watched, the three Wrecks ponderously clawed back the earth like they were trying to find water. “Fuckin’ freaks,” Miller whispered. Tam gave him a scathing look that faded fast when she caught his clean profile. The Wrecks dug down about a foot. They stuck their hands in the dirt, ready to pull out a bag of treasure. But that was it. They stopped at that moment, and didn’t move. Their hands were still buried in the ground.