Serum (Part 3)

“Contact.”

The words come out hot, louder than I mean for them to, even though they’re a hissed whisper.

Gray’s goggles swivel my way, the intensifier tubes giving her head an angular profile.

“Not a crawlie.”

“Yeah, too hot.”

And standing. That’s a disqualifier for crawlies. He was facing the wrong way to spot us, even if he could see in the dark.

“What do we do?”

The official papers back at base said we’re on a rescue mission. See someone, direct them toward FEMA or the National Guard.

But we were a hundred miles out. There’s a ham radio operator and a bunch of people holed up in a building, or so we’ve been told. But we can’t let anyone know.

“Leave him?”

“Yeah.”

It’s always been hard for me to shake the feeling I’m being watched. I drew my handgun and kept it at low ready.

My memory’s not great for what comes next. I think Gray spotted the crawlies first.

She was doing her thing with the rifle. Take one down, pull the action back, let it slide forward on the fresh round. Got maybe a half dozen or so.

Then there was a light from behind us.

The crawlies did their thing, with those awful slithering noises. I turned to see who’d lit us, but the goggles don’t adjust that fast.

I raised my gun in an instant and fired toward the light.

Pak, pak.

The shots are louder than Gray’s carbine. Not because the nine-mil packs any more punch, but because it’s going faster and the action isn’t locked. The suppressor catches the worst of the blast, but everyone hears you shooting.

Before the virus, people would’ve just written it off as something mundane, but the crawlies never do.

I heard someone shout and fall to the ground. You never know if you actually hit them, or if you did them any real harm. That’s what people always got wrong before. It’s not like in the movies, where you’ll fire a hand cannon and splatter someone across a room. You’re poking small holes in large objects, but they’re very complicated objects that don’t like holes.

And people are funny about danger.

Sometimes they feel a bullet whiz past and think their world’s ending.

And then you get guys like me who can take a shot straight to a plate and not even feel the bruise until the adrenaline wears off.

I know because I heard a bullet hitting steel and the crack of someone else’s gun. You can’t even feel yourself shake from the impact in a situation like that.

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