It could be said that, in a sense, I was the one who was imprisoned for the first few years of my daughter's life. Lab work takes longer in this post-technological world, so reproducing vaccines in any meaningful quantities took longer than I'd expected. In addition, there's a Grey subculture that prefers that their children be born Grey. I guess you could call them anti-curists, since they weren't particularly vocal about the Grey-Red vaccine, but they're violently opposed to both the Grey vaccine and the subsequently engineered Grey cure. If you ask them, the Normies are out to control or destroy them. Most don't see me as an enemy—I can thank Pam for that—but my daughter is, in a sense, the epitome of their fears.

Although she's immune to all existing strains of the virus, Laura isn't safe in Grey towns. She's the original source of the cure, which they see as an end rather than a new beginning. It doesn't help that her name is Del Bianco. Carlo keeps her with him and they travel the highways and byways, meeting up with me every few weeks or months in different locations. I've missed out on a lot with her—with both of them—but I won't have to for much longer.

Towns, by their nature, are still dangerous in their own way. You're still more likely to get eaten by staying put than by staying on the move, though the world is steadily emptying of Reds. Normie towns are fewer than Grey ones, but we're coming back, population-wise. I was scared for a while that we'd cease to exist, with the inherent risk of in-vitro immunization, the low birth rate, and the high death rate of the Grey virus, particularly in newborns. Additionally, Greys talk about themselves as the next phase in human evolution. Maybe they are—who am I to say?—but I'm just glad that we can co-exist, to a degree. For the most part, we leave each other alone.

My daughter is more of a symbol of the cure than an actual source anymore. It was finally reproduced synthetically last year with help from the Middle Eastern team and their parallel-yet-different research. Few people ever choose to take the cure, though. Adults and children are immunized against Red, Grey, and Grey-Red strains. If immunization doesn't take in a newborn, Normies will give their infants the cure for Grey for survival's sake. Greys will gamble on their children contracting Grey and surviving, which most do. As for the Grey-Red virus, there's enough herd immunity thanks to the vaccinated Norms for that to not be much of a problem anymore.

As I write this, my daughter is about to celebrate her fifth birthday. My son is due to be born in three months. Carlo has found a house for us, far from most towns and easily defensible. We're more concerned about someone following us there than about the undead finding their way in. I think we'll be safe, though, for a while. I'm severing ties with Sorensen and the scientists alike, since I'm no longer needed, so we shouldn't be on anyone's radar anymore.

It's funny. Humanity was nearly killed off, and yet humans are still the most dangerous species I've ever known.

I'm writing all of this down because Pam asked me to. Because I was in the middle of so much of it and knew so many of the key people that brought us to where we are now. Able to choose which society to live in, for the most part, and which risks to take.

When I leave this town next week, though, I'll be taking a baby girl with me. Born to Grey parents, she's somehow Grey immune. She's different from them, and I suppose seems too alien. They tried to get over their prejudices, but they didn't succeed. Who needs racism when they have speciesism? We'll always be susceptible to caring more about the ways in which we're different from each other than the ways in which we're alike, I suppose. It's sad, but it is what it is.

Landon would have been far less surprised than I've been by the way things have turned out. During our incarceration—in the middle of his musings on how Man had been elbowing other animals out of the world long before the emergence of the virus—he'd taught me that word when I'd wondered whether deer and rabbits would be the meek who inherited the earth. "I think your Pops had that one right, Lynnie," he'd speculated. "My money's on the selfish and the paranoid. Some better folk will likely get by, but only if they have something to fight for." He'd have won that bet, but he wouldn't have been paid in money. Corn, probably; it's the new gold standard.

We're surviving, in some ways even thriving, but you couldn't pay me—not even in coffee beans—to tell you the last time I felt sure about the future.

Did I save the world? Nah, not really. I just contributed to humanity having a fighting chance. Or a chance to fight each other some more. Take your pick.

I'm just going to take this baby girl to her new family and then go meet up with mine. I'm going to kiss my husband and hold my daughter again. I'm going to welcome my son into the world. And I'm going to live as well as I can for as long as I have left. That's all any of us can ever really do, isn't it?

Keep your head down.

Good luck.

Dear Patient Reader,

I never expected it to take me this long to find an ending for this story. It was persistent in its survival, though, clawing its way back to the surface of my consciousness. This time, when it got my attention, it caught, held, and sunk its teeth in.

To those of you who read the first chapters way back when, thank you for giving me the chance to see this through.

To everyone who read this far, thanks for coming along for the ride. ~M