Title: On the Altar of Science
Author: Jedi Buttercup
Disclaimer: The words are mine; the world belongs to SyFy.
Summary: "So," Jo said, quietly. "We finally got that zombie attack." 1000 words.
Spoilers: Eureka through Season 3
Notes: For the Eureka Tag Warmup Challenge at LJ: #1 - Jo of the Dead. Warning for character deaths; a serious rather than cracky take on the challenge.
It wasn't the first time Sheriff Jack Carter had had cause to be thankful for the EM barrier preventing anything electronically based from crossing the boundaries of Eureka; and he doubted it would be the last. All the same, Eureka's recent metamorphosis into a close replica of a Romero movie had probably been the most dramatic use of its protective properties yet.
The nanotech based infection had been meant to enhance human healing, but had instead stressed the human body to the point of collapse, before reanimating the contaminated tissues to run on artificial energy rather than the body's natural processes. It also disrupted the host's higher brain functions as it spread, meaning that the victims could no longer be reasoned with- and once the disease got to that stage, the chances of restoring the crazed scientists to normal had dropped dramatically with every hour that passed. The infection hadn't been able to escape the town limits before the great minds up at G.D. had found a way to cure it, thanks to the electronic shield disrupting its functions- but in the meanwhile, the malfunctioning project had cut down the population more severely than even Eva Thorne's triple-digit redaction quota.
"So," Jo said quietly, fingering her rifle as she stood at his side in front of the barricade outside Café Diem. "We finally got that zombie attack."
Jack glanced over at her, taking in the blood spatter decorating her uniform, the bite mark bandaged on her neck, the slight pallor to her skin fading slowly as the cure worked its magic, and the grim lines bracketing her mouth. She'd lost as much as any of the rest of them had; more than he had, if he wanted to get technical about it. Allison had never actually been his to lose.
Her children would be, though. As long as he lived in Eureka, at least, and abided by the educational plans drawn up in her will; otherwise, they'd go to her cousins back on the east coast. Which-
"Why, Josefina. You asking me if you're about to finally get that promotion?" he asked, stretching his lips in an approximation of a wry smile. "Or are you telling me it's your turn to so quit?"
She snorted at him, but the slight tremor in her lower jaw disturbed her attempt at a disdainful return expression. It crumbled further after a moment, and she looked away, sweeping her eyes over the carpet of bodies strewn in gory clumps all up and down Main Street. "I dunno, Carter," she said. "I've seen a lot in my time, done things most normal people would consider unforgivable- but this?"
He swallowed, hard, trying to get the image of Allison's bloody, half-chewed lips out of his mind; blocking out the sound of Fargo's final screams as a mob of the infected had torn into him. The gun seemed abruptly three times heavier in his hands, and he slowly lowered the end of the barrel to rest against the ground. "They couldn't be saved, Jo, you know that. And even if they were- they wouldn't have wanted to live with what they'd done. This was..."
He trailed off, unable to finish the sentence, and she shook her head, sharply. "So help me, Carter, if you finish that sentence with 'mercy'..."
Jack couldn't. "Henry's going to need me. Us. Anyone who can help him anchor the town through this."
He would need her, too. With Tess' long-term career plans still up in the air and Zoe out of town more months than not for college, Kevin and Jenna would need a strong female role model that didn't double as a house. He knew it wasn't the time to bring that up, though- and recognized his own coping mechanisms at work, distracting him from impending meltdown with an obsession about a situation where he could actually make a difference.
"You never know; maybe the D.O.D. will finally shut this place down," she replied, finally lowering her own gun.
It was his turn to snort. If they'd kept the town in place after an underground nuclear explosion that could easily have taken a sizeable bite of the country with it, how likely was it that the D.O.D would pause to reconsider after a quickly containable, however deadly, microvector-borne ailment? "Yeah, and how likely is that?"
She gave a rueful shrug. "You've got me there," she said, then sighed. "And here, I suppose."
"That's my girl," he said. Then he scanned the road once more for any further sign of moment, and clicked the transmit button on his headset.
"All clear here, Henry," he informed the senior surviving town official.
"All clear here, Jack," Henry transmitted back from the lab he'd appropriated at Global Dynamics. "Anyone that can revert should have already, and those that can't- the cure will have shut their systems down. You can tell the folks in Café Diem the danger is over; all that's left is the clean-up, and... the Department of Defense will take care of that."
Jack blew out a breath. "Let me know when they're done," he said. "I'll ask Vince to put a wake together."
"That's a good idea," Henry replied, his tone subdued. Then he cleared his throat. "Thank you, Jack. Jo. I know today was..." A long pause followed, as though he couldn't find the words to accurately describe it anymore than Jack had.
Jo's lips tightened. "Don't thank us," she replied. "Just- make sure this never happens again."
Jack thought of what Larry's escaped experiment could do- carefully reprogrammed- in the hands of the military, and shuddered.
"You don't need to tell me twice," Henry snorted. "If there's one thing I've learned in Eureka, it's that some Pandora's boxes should never be opened."
Jack reached up to wipe an itchy, drying smear off his cheek. "Ain't that the truth."
Not that anyone ever really took that lesson to heart. But then- he supposed it wouldn't be Eureka if they did.