Ramsey stumbled back out into the massive control building.
He didn't have much time. The Infection would soon claim his mind and his decision making skills. Then it would be game over. But he still had a little strength left...
He growled in pain, feeling himself launch into the air with inhuman strength. Below he saw a Militiamen run by, and resisted the unnatural urge he had to suddenly chow down. No, he focused, and then he heard them.
Voices. Thousands and thousands of lost voices; men, women, and children. All in an endless clamor, which as it grew began to sound more like white noise.
And then there was General White, cursing the countless voices.
"SILENCE, MY FAMILY! THE TIME IS NOW!"
But Ramsey could already tell the virus was working. The voices began to dim. And whether that was because the virus was killing him or working on the Infection he didn't know. But he could still hear the General.
And there he was.
He was surrounded by a few of his "family," the rotted corpses that may have once been children. They were making for the exit into the stairwell.
But not this time. Now it was the General's turn to run and not escape. He had sent too many to this hell. And Ramsey was gonna take him along for the ride.
General White spun around, his eyes growing wide as they rested on zombie-Ramsey. The Infection had almost completely taken him now, and he could feel the General trying to will him away.
But he still had a little last strength…
He charged forward, jaw opened impossibly wide. There was a flash of the General bracing himself, and then blood.
Lots and lots of blood.
And then there was no more.
Nearly blinded by tears, Janie had fought her way out almost by a miracle.
The few zombies left it the hallways were shot, though shakily and without the aim she usually had. She realized she couldn't possibly fight her way out, and ended up locking herself in another small room, this one not much bigger than the one she had come from.
And here she was now, with at least three of them pounding on the door. Janie collapsed in the corner, her rifle in her hands in front of her, crying as hard as ever had in her life. She cried for more than just her dead parents, and possibly her dead brother.
Ramsey was dead. Ramsey was dead.
She sobbed harder. The only thing keeping her from throwing the doors open and letting them at her was the small, growing creature he had planted in her womb. His. That was the only reason now. Her only reason.
And then, suddenly, the pounding stopped. There was the sound of bodies falling to the ground and Janie stood up, startled. After a moment, breathing raggedly in the silence, she inched open the door.
The three Infected were laying there. Their mouths still open in the snarls they had died in the middle of; their eyeballs ballooned out in blood. And then Janie almost cried harder knowing that he had succeeded.
She didn't notice as Militiamen came swarming in to secure the building. The rest of the world seemed to melt away.
She looked down at him and he smiled at her, wearing that dopey grin that always made her smile back.
"Hey there," Janie said.
He reached up aimlessly and made a sound that almost was a giggle. She laughed back and he yawned, closed his eyes, and she watched as her son fell asleep in her arms.
A door creaked open nearby.
"Hey, sis," Jack said, coming into the room.
"Shhhh," she said softly, still staring down at him.
Jack didn't say anything at first, tiptoeing over next to the crib.
"The City Council is wondering if you are presenting at the next meeting," he whispered. He looked down at his nephew. "Finally fall asleep?"
"Good, I really couldn't take all the cooing."
Janie kicked him in the shin.
"Ow," Jack winced. "Suppose I deserved that."
"You did," she muttered. Then she looked up at Jack. "Tell them that Packland's the one to talk to. Anything other than what I told them last month hasn't changed. If they found any other hives or cured them yet, word hasn't gotten back."
"Okay, I'll go tell them. But you should be taking your own damn phone calls..."
"Don't make me kick you again, Jack," she began. But she was smiling, because she was looking down at the sleeping child in her arms.
Jack laughed, like when they used to play-fight as kids, and retreated hastily back out of the bedroom. In the silence, Janie glanced up towards her fourteenth floor window overlooking the central district of New Chicago. It was a strange, yet hopeful sight.
Almost a year ago, she would have gladly crawled back into the burnt out hole that had been her home apartment inside the outer district. It was about the only thing she wanted to do in the aftermath of the harbor. With the Infection seemingly at an end, the dangers in the outer district were limited mostly to looting.
General Packland wouldn't have anything of it. Being pregnant had helped, but then there was this crazy scheme of putting her in his new cabinet.
"I've either killed or am responsible for killing several of the old City Council members," she had sneered at the time. "What makes you think I want that job?"
"Because we don't allow pregnant women to fight in the Militia, and you've got to find some way to take care of that child. His child."
Bastard knew exactly how to manipulate her. Janie hated him for at the time, and was more than happy to flip him the bird every day at work. But sorting through the months of mess following the end of the Infection, the fatigue of pregnancy had left Janie finding solace hiding behind a desk in City Council work.
It helped that Packland wasn't such a dick after all. And Chuck wasn't as creepy as he seemed that night so long ago he had stalked her apartment. Slowly, among the other newly appointed Council Members, the world had started to come back to life in New Chicago. And with Janie's experiences at Quarantine Command and with…Ramsey…there at the end, she had some unique perspectives as they reached out to survivors beyond their walled-off city.
It was still strange and uncomfortable for Janie. There were days she wanted to flip over her desk and scream obscenities out the door. But she didn't.
Not just for Ramsey, but for the part of him that he had left behind.
"Little James," she whispered softly. She looked down from the city reborn out her window, and down at the sleeping child in her arms. "What would I do without you?"
This novel is dedicated to Kirsten. Thanks for coming along with me for the ride.