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the world goes on

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The thing about Canada was that it was fucking big.

Shaun had no idea how big it was until they were driving through the expanse of Alberta, the AM radio band droning out the weather report and reminders about the Mountie-protected areas humans should make sure to traverse. The sky was a mottled blue-black in front of him, and George was half-asleep with her head against the window.

Shit, he thought. What the fuck are we doing here.

George had a plan, though, because George always had a plan. Vancouver Island, after the Rising, had lost most of its population to a poorly timed ferry and general fleeing to the mainland. Thirty-five years later, there were a few small pockets of stubborn families dotted around the island, but for the most part, there was little human interaction apart from the occasional Mountie patrol.

There were still homes near the Park Reserve on the Western Coast, homes that had never been reclaimed after the Rising, dusty and stale with pictures on the mantel. It was easy enough to secure one from a realtor operating out of Vancouver, getting a T3 line, decontamination/security package, and a generator in place before they even arrived. They had to make nice with the local officials, but it was easy enough to assure them that George and Shaun Mason (or "yes-those-people-from-the-news") were only here to stay quiet, remote, and off the radar.

It was also entirely true.

They had never planned to be completely disconnected, but they had both given themselves over and over and over again to their work. Months went by, and the only person they talked to other than the Mounties and the clerk at the Post Office was Mahir. Even that was decidedly analogue, postcards relayed through proxies in other cities. They didn't want to put Mahir in a position to know anything, for all they wanted to keep him aware that they were alive, and safe.

Maggie had gifted them with perpetual satellite access, and while she could have easily pinpointed them through that uplink, Shaun didn't think she ever would. He and George watched the site in her hands, and Mahir's, and it was different--less polemic, less prone to Darwinist dramatics of both the Irwin and non-Irwin varieties--but if nothing else, she was too busy to spend that much time tracking them down. After the End Times blew up after they peaced out, rivaling their competitors for any story they broke in unique visitors and time spent on sight. Shaun was absurdly proud whenever George showed him the numbers, drawn from her backdoor-backdoor ghost account.

For the most part, though, they read, and slept, and fucked, and made out like they had when they were teenagers--only this time there was less of a chance that one of Masons had put a remote camera in the garage "just to see if anything interesting happened to show the viewers." It was nice. It was weird. They had to figure out how to do stuff with each other all over again. George's hymen was intact, which was an uncomfortable, unlooked-for discovery. Shaun still had nightmares about George dying--not to mention Bonus George still narrating in his head--and he hated how often he thought George, gently shaking him awake from the dreams, was some kind of fucked up ghost.

But there were also days when, seriously, a zombie elk shambled into their territory, and Shaun and a couple rangers had to take the fucker out. It was a Roosevelt elk, he learned, almost 400 kg and a crazy fucker, too. The rangers said the bears were all gone now, but they went quiet when Shaun asked about the wolves.

Not many people would bother them here, with zombie wolves. Vancouver Island was help and hazard all at once.

George liked to sit on the porch, facing the westward ocean with a fleece blanket and her tablet. There were concentric rings where her cans of Coke always sat. It rained, for much of the year, but they liked it better than the Bay. It felt more like home than Berkeley ever had, because it was theirs. They'd earned it, and they'd made it for themselves.

This night, their field reports sent in through encrypted proxies for Mahir to post and Shaun's twice-daily security check completed, he joined George where she was sitting in her usual spot, Coke condensating in her hand, tablet and keyboard discarded next to her. She smiled at him when he moved them to the coffee table and sat down next to her, tucking himself in close and pulling the blanket over his legs.

"Do you think there's zombie sharks?" he asked, swinging an arm over her shoulders and pulling her close to him.

"Didn't Shannon Abbey do some experimentation on aquatic animals?" George asked, resting her head on Shaun's shoulder.

"She did," Shaun said, "and don't get me wrong, a zombie squid is something I used to dream of when I was a kid, but sharks. That shit would be crazy. Maybe I should learn how to dive."

He heard George's smile in her voice. "Maybe you should learn how to operate submersible robots," she suggested, and actually, that was a pretty fucking cool-ass idea.

"George--" he said, and she cut him off, squeezing his knee companionably.

"I have a couple vendors for you," she said, and Shaun fist pumped with his free hand.

"Anything interesting from the rest of the world?" he asked idly, threading his fingers through her longish hair. She'd started to grow it out after they came here; there weren't that many reasons to go outside of their house, and Shaun loved the way she reacted when he played with it. He worshipped the way she reacted when he pulled at it when he was fucking her.

"Not really," she said, which was a lie and the truth all at the same time. They fell silent, looking out over the edge of the world, their quiet, beating hearts pulsing in time.