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“I have a car. We should get out of the city.”

I roll my eyes. “So do I. In fact, as the last survivor — the last sane one anyway — I hereby claim every abandoned vehicle within a mile radius. There are probably a hundred. But I’ve got some bad news for you. They don’t run without fuel.”

“I have fuel.”

Well that’s something. But not enough. “Can you tell me for sure that my parents are dead?”

“You know I can’t.”

“I don’t know shit, healer. You said my dad is ‘probably’ dead.” And my rage at Dad for that fact is now conveniently redirecting at the proxy he’s designated.

“He probably is.”

“And my mother?”

He nods. “But your brother’s family relocated—”

“I know that. It doesn’t mean they’re alive.”

“Look.” He takes a step toward me, picking up his sword. “I can try to get you to them. I have enough fuel to make it to the waterfront. We may be able to find a boat.” He holds out the sword in an arm that shakes.

In case you forgot, my conscience nags, he’s weak because he saved your life. I relent and grip the hilt.

“The one thing that is not an option is staying here.”

What he’s saying makes sense. Especially if the only thing motivating him is the fact he promised my father to keep me alive. Hell, even if not for that, it’s the only thing that makes sense. I haven’t survived this long by being an idiot, and only partly because I have a guardian Viking. I know full well it’s getting harder and harder to hide from the flesh-eaters. Those five that stormed the water tower were out before zombie reveille. The ones that almost killed me actually made use of their limited gray matter to come up with a trap. I haven’t seen another human besides present company in weeks, and the feral dog and cat population is not what it used to be.

In short, the fuckers are hungry.  

But still.

I rest the tip of his sword against the ground because the damn thing’s heavier than it looks. “I don’t expect you to understand this,” I say. “You never had a family. But the last thing my dad did was risk his job to protect me. Maybe his life. And it’s probably my stupid fault, because he begged me a dozen times to move out of the city and I kept saying no. So I’m not about to leave without knowing whether he’s alive or dead.”

I expect him to ask how do I know my parents didn’t leave when the rest of the city did. I discover he understands more than I’ve given him credit for when he doesn’t.

“If we stay here we’ll die.”

I might, though I don’t intend to. As for you, you’re relieved. I’ll stay with you until you’re strong again, but then I think we can all agree — you, me, my father or his ghost — that you’ve done your duty by him. You’re free to run along and do whatever it is that test-tube Viking heroes do in the After.”

I am not completely onboard with everything I’m saying, but it doesn’t matter. I can’t expect him to join me in a fool’s quest. And the number of reasons he makes me uneasy is multiplying exponentially.

“I’ll take you to the lab,” he replies.

I open my mouth to protest, but I don’t really want to, and on top of that he stops me by saying, “But right now we have to get to the car.”

His eyes refocus behind me and I don’t have to turn to know they’re coming.

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