Another segue chapter,, with a few reveals I was working up to... I decided it was a little easier for me to call Columbus by the alternate name I thought up for "Shoe Shopping", and use in my "Zombie Vegas" ebooks to somewhat reduce the likelihood of being sued. Also, I came up with another possible casting for Tigre: James Lafferty, as seen in "S. Darko". I also thought of Tigre while I was watching footage of Tim Treadwell in "Grizzly Man" over the weekend. I think, if there's any actual person I have seen with all the qualities I picture in Tigre, it would be the extremely deceased Mr. Treadwell.
Austin warily stepped back from Tigre, his hand pointedly on his survival carbine. Tigre's eyes flicked lazily to the weapon. "You know, I decided a long time ago, that there's three kinds of killing," he said. "There's killing someone you're sure is trying to kill you. There's killing someone you're sure is not trying to kill you. Then there's killing someone when you know they might try to kill you, or might not. It's the last one, I think, that's hardest to do, and it's even harder to live with."
"What happened to Tuerto?" Austin said.
Tigre gave a shrug, and a hint of a smile. "I shot him, of course."
Austin only nodded. "He was the traitor."
"Yeah. I thought you might figure that out."
"You knew? And you didn't do anything?" Austin said.
"Sibyl knew before I did, and she didn't do anything about him either. Would you blame her too?"
"That was her way," Austin said, "not yours."
"All right, fair enough. I knew it was Tuerto, and normally I would have taken him out, but then that would have cost me my best lead on the ones who sent him."
"What do you know about them?"
"You're dealing with eighteen of them," Tigre said. "They deploy in groups of twenty, divided into four teams. Rendition Team does the work. There's four of them, three now. Extraction Team secures a perimeter, and provides transport. That's six. C & C Team- that's Command and Control- are basically support. That's another six: the group commander, a communications officer, and four more guys to provide security and general grunt work. The last four are the Recon Team. They are the ones who locate targets, and they are the best of the best. The one clan Tweedle took out was Recon. There's ways to tell, if you know what to look for."
"And how would you know?" Austin asked, then answered himself: "You were one of them, weren't you?"
Tigre laughed. "Them? They're the B team."
After a prolonged silence, Austin said, "So, I suppose you lied about being a medic."
"Oh, I was a medic. I had a * Em-Dee," Tigre said. "And yes, I'm quite a bit older than I look."
"What did you do?"
"Oh, what didn't we do?" Tigre said, sounding almost wistful. As Austin's expression changed from suspicion to disgust, he added, "Oh, don't get the wrong idea. Most of the time, we didn't do anything that any doctor wouldn't do; the only difference was, our services were for very unpopular people in places that weren't supposed to exist."
"And the bit about `do no harm'...?"
Tigre shrugged. "Doctors get used to thinking situationally, even when they aren't in a war zone. Like, what if the only way to save a patient is an operation that could kill him anyway? Or, what if you think an experimental drug will cure a subject's cancer, but you have to assign one more to the control group? Or, what if the only vaccine against a disease that kills millions will kill dozens who might have stayed healthy? Compared to situations like that, killing someone who tries to kill you and your patient first is nothing."
"What was your mission?" Austin asked.
"Well... First understand, once the CDC learned of the virus- whenever that was- it decided almost immediately against trying to develop a vaccine," said Tigre. "It wasn't just that the odds were overwhelmingly against us: Even if we had a vaccine, and even if testing and approval went out the window, the medical sector didn't have the facilities to make anywhere near enough. With the information we provided, the military reached the same decision even sooner. It was the * politicians who wouldn't listen, or at least not enough of them. The way I heard it from someone who would know, the last straw was when two or three senators on a subcommittee got together and threatened that if a top-notch research program for a vaccine wasn't created, they would block funding for anything else. A lot of the people who knew about it figured they wanted the vaccine for themselves. My guess is, they were more concerned about being the ones who told the voters and campaign donors that nobody was even trying to make a vaccine. Like the next election would matter if we actually needed one.
"I went into Tulsa, week one, as leader of a recon team. We had been prepping for something like it over a period of four months. We went in mixed together with other relief staff, saving hospitals and camps dozens of times over, and without anyone noticing if we could help it. But that only kept people coming, people who were already past helping, and people who would have been better off running the other way, and the zeds followed them. Meanwhile, sometimes we would isolate a subject for study, which meant immobilizing him or her or it for transfer to a different location. Twelve were lepers. We were ready to stay to the end, but then we got orders for a helevac to Texas. Same *, only this time our orders were to test a vaccine. Nobody told us where it came from, but we never heard anything more about the lepers we sent back. We made a pact, to test the vaccine on ourselves. Two were fine, one went prodromal, and I ended up like this. I received a new order, to go to Columbus, Ohio with my unit's extraction team. The other two people on my team had orders to accompany me during transfer, which was basically code for, hand me over by force if necessary. I waited until we got face to face with extraction, and then I made a break for it."
"What happened to the other men?" Austin asked.
Tigre answered, promptly and emotionlessly: "I killed them all."
Austin was silent, and broke the silence only to ask, "If they were capturing lepers to create a vaccine before, why are they still doing it now?"
Tigre shrugged. "That's politicians for you; they don't have to make sense. Anyway, I think there's a more important question to ask: What are they making sure so many people get to Vegas?" He grinned. "Don't tell me you haven't thought about it."
"More people in one place are easier to protect," he said.
"Then where's the protection?"
Austin sighed. "Or... If enough people stay in one place, they can draw zombies away from somewhere else."
"Bingo," Tigre said. "And you know this isn't the only place they're trying it, or the first."
"When I got out of Abilene, I saw a fireball behind me," Austin said. Tigre nodded. "And... the first Sibyl gave me a map that showed Columbus, Ohio was safe. But then Krista told me it burned to the ground."
Tigre grinned mirthlessly. "Right again."
Austin shook his head. "Never mind that. Can we rescue Jack Ketch?"
"As it happens, he left a trail," Tigre said. "Blood, his. Take a walk around with the others, and they will find it easy enough."
"What if more of the `Angels' are waiting for us?"
Tigre grinned again, this time with clear enthusiasm. "I'm counting on it."