I shaved with an electric razor plugged into a junction box in the wheelhouse. Every time I turned the razor on or off I got a little shock but it was safer than trying to use a straight razor on a rocking boat and when I was done I felt infinitely better about myself and the mission's chances.

Which is not to say, I thought as I rinsed out the razor with water from the Hudson, that I thought anything would be easy. Just that we might not all die.


When I'd finished I called for my maps of New York. I studied them for a long time, thinking there had to be a better way. There were hospitals all over the city. Most of them were on the East Side, which meant they were impossible to get to due to the raft of human corpses clogging the East River. All of them, I knew, would have been looted during the evacuation.

I still knew one place where we could find the drugs we needed. The UN building - my first choice. It was also impossible to access from the east.

"Osman," I shouted, standing up, "come look at this." I showed him my map and indicated our next stop - Forty-Second Street in Midtown. He studied the West Side, reading the names of the buildings.

"'The Theater District,'" he read aloud. "Dekalb, you want to take in a show?"

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I ran a finger along Forty-Second, from west all the way to east. To the southern end of the UN complex. "It's a big street - wide sidewalks, less chance of getting stuck. It was one of the busiest streets in the world, before the Epidemic, so it might even be clear of stalled cars. The authorities would have tried to keep it moving when they evacuated the survivors."

The captain just stared at me. He didn't understand, or he didn't believe I was willing to do this. But until I had those drugs in my possession I couldn't go back. I couldn't see my little Sarah again, couldn't see she was okay with my own eyes. I would do anything for that.

"We can walk from here to the UN in a couple of hours. Get the drugs and walk back. It'll take less than a day."

"You are forgetting," Osman said, "that the dead are risen. In their millions. This was a busy street, once? I tell you it still will be."

I gritted my teeth. "I have an idea of what we can do about that." Now that Gary was dead. Now that we could once more count on the undead all being stupid. Stupid enough. I looked back at the city but not at the buildings or the haunted streets. There. I pointed. "Our first stop is the Department of Sanitation pier. They'll have what we need."

Osman might have been confused by this but he bent over his controls and got the trawler moving. We pulled in alongside a half-full garbage barge, the girls in position at the rail, their rifles sticking out like oars from the side of the ship. On top of the wheelhouse Mariam called down that she saw no sign of movement anywhere on the pier.

"This is where they used to collect the city's refuse," I told Ayaan as we secured the trawler to the side of the barge. "Easy enough to get to by water but from the land side it's a fortress. They didn't want anyone getting in here and getting sick - talk about potential lawsuits - so it should still be secure."

She didn't answer. She didn't need to. We both knew it had been a long time since there had been any authorities in this city. The dead could get anywhere if they were persistent enough. They could have jumped in the water and then climbed up the side of the barge. They could have climbed over the fence from the shore side. The undead aren't great climbers from what I've seen but if there had been something alive on the pier, something they could eat, they would have found a way.

Five of the girls jumped down onto the barge and then across its stern to the pier beyond. They watched each other, one moving forward while the others covered her back. I followed behind, as always, a little creeped out but not too worried. Most of the pier was open to the air, a zone of filthy cranes and winches and massive dented steel dumpsters. Rusted metal everywhere. I told the girls to be careful - it was unlikely that they'd had the proper immunizations. They acknowledged me but they were too young to worry about tetanus. At the shore end of the pier we found a pre-fabricated shed with a padlocked door. SAFETY EQUIPMENT had been stenciled next to the door in dripping silver spray paint. Just what I was looking for.

I found a piece of metal rebar about as long as my arm and fitted it through the loop of the cheap padlock. A couple of heaves and it gave, sending vibrations rattling up my arm as pieces the lock went flying. They glittered in the sunlight at my feet.

Inside a stripe of sunlight lay draped across the floor. Dust motes twirled in the air. I spotted a desk with a small reading lamp, strewn with half-completed forms. An eyewash station and a big first aid kit. Fathia grabbed that and carried it back to the boat. We might just need it before this was over. At the far end of the shed stood a row of three freshly-painted lockers. I pulled on the latch of the nearest one and the girls started screaming. Leyla lifted her rifle and fired half a dozen rounds into the human shape that came tumbling out of the locker.

"Stop!" I shouted, knowing it was too late. I picked up the bright yellow suit off the ground and poked a finger through the bullet hole in its faceshield. LEVEL A/FULL ENCAPSULATION, I read from a tag attached to the HazMat suit's zipper. LIQUIDPROOF AND VAPORPROOF, it assured me. Well, not anymore.

"I'm going to open another locker. Don't shoot this time, okay?" I asked. The girls nodded in chorus. They looked terrified, as if the next locker might reveal some magical bird that would flap out and peck at their eyes. Instead it held a duplicate of the first suit, as did the third locker. I tossed one to Ayaan and she just stared at me. "Now there are only two suits. Guess who just got volunteered for this mission?" I asked her.

Cruel, I know. She hadn't exactly been the soul of warmth to me, though. She was also one of the few girls I trusted to not panic when we walked right into a crowd of the undead protected by only three layers of military grade Tyvek. Tyvek, of course, being a very high-tech kind of paper.

"Normally," I explained to her, "these suits keep out contaminants. This time they'll hold in our smell. The dead won't attack something that smells like plastic and looks like a Teletubby."

"You think this, or you know it?" she asked, holding the bulky yellow suit at arm's length.

"I'm counting on it." That was the best I could offer.

We took the suits back to the boat and had Osman steam north for Forty-Second street. There was plenty to do. We had to sterilize the outsides of the suits, read instruction manuals and then run drills on how to put on and use the SCBA air recirculator units, teach each other how to put on the suits (a two-person job) without contaminating the surface. We had to practice talking to each other through the mylar faceshields and even how to walk so we didn't trip over the baggy legs of the suits.

I had been through a crash course in how to use a Level B suit back when I was investigating weaponized nuclear facilities in Libya. There had been a three hour seminar with PowerPoint presentations and a thirty-question quiz at the end. I had paid attention because a breach in that suit might have meant being exposed to carcinogens. This time the smallest tear in the suit would surely mean being surrounded and devoured by the hungry dead.

I made sure we went through all of our drills twice.

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