Authors: Dave Rowlands
Instead, one guard nodded, saying that this particular white devil had indeed been summoned by his Mistress. She wanted to see the hero of the story of Biker Boss's death, apparently. Bowing to me respectfully, the guard asked me to please come with him, dismissing Doctor in the same instant. Doctor's parting look told me that he'd bring as much backup as he was able, if he
able though there seemed an element of goodbye in there as well. The guard took me past what looked like it should have been her home to what had once been a gym. Yakuza Lady lounged on a floating inflatable mattress in a heated pool wearing only a tiny bikini, showing a body completely covered in tattoos. She waved the guards away, saying that I was no threat to her safety, then she called me closer. I stood by the edge of the pool, waiting for her to speak. Instead, she simply stared at me.
After some time, she spoke in clear, perfect English. “I have heard of you, they tell tales of your prowess in battling the Dead.” She smiled. “I have also heard rumours of assassins within New Brisbane. I would like you, since you are obviously not one of my known associates, to seek out these would-be assassins. Capture them if you can, if not...” She shrugged her tiny tattooed shoulders. “They may have been responsible for your former prospective employer's death. I have heard of a small explosion that released the fool's entire horde of Dead. This smacks of sabotage to me.”
Thinking myself either incredibly fortunate or in far more danger than I might have suspected earlier, I agreed to her orders, bowing and walking out when I realised that she had already dismissed me. The tiny Chinese girl that had requested my presence intercepted me on my way out of the gym. She said quietly that she would be in touch and that I should relay any information that I discovered to Yakuza Lady through her.
I was unsure of what to tell my comrades, thinking that any one of them could destroy my cover as a kind of double-agent. I had never felt more like James fucking Bond. Or less, for that matter. I am not a spy. Nor am I an assassin. All I want, all I have ever fucking wanted, at least since all this shit started, was to find somewhere safe for Apocalypse Girl and our baby.
I wondered if there might be other assassins here, maybe Disciple had spread the word among other contacts, or maybe The Empire had more enemies than it realised. Fuck, if it hadn't been for Disciple I wouldn't even be on the list of imperial foes, let alone topping it.
I took out Apocalypse Girl's phone, punching in the message
shit just got complicated
before retiring for the night.
Year 1 A.Z.
The food in this pub was not the best post-apocalyptic fare I had eaten, but it was far from the worst. The best thing about it, though, was the ability to leave and load up on caffeine at the café, though that was ruined by Tiny intercepting me and clinging to my side like a fucking remora attached to a shark the very fucking second I left the pub. She was nearly invisibly small, never said a word, yet was always
She told me that she was under orders to stay by my side unless I needed to report to Yakuza Lady, saying that it was more than her life was worth to her mistress if I was to go anywhere without her. She promised to be discreet where it counted, but with regards to the investigation into the assassins she insisted on being present.
This made meeting Disciple a little awkward. He raised his one remaining eyebrow when he first saw her, I told him I was on a job for someone, and proceeded to ask him if he knew of any attempts on the remaining Bosses in the works. With a slight grin, he told me that he had heard whisperings of an attempt and for three teeth a week, he promised to keep his ear to the ground in the right places. The handy thing about knowing someone as long as I'd known Disciple, we can read each other phenomenally well.
Waitress brought along some freshly brewed liquid darkness, filling my cup without bothering to ask. She knew me well enough now to know that I
needed a refill. “I heard about what you did, you know,” She smiled her semi-toothless grin. “He was a good Boss, I thought, but now
in charge,” She pointed at The Puller's house, her smile fading somewhat. “I know he's not a bad guy, but...” I nodded, understanding why everyone in town preferred to pretend he didn't exist.
One of The Puller's men was walking toward me, clearly intent on speaking with me when Disciple showed up out of the blue, insinuating himself between us and taking over. The guard was not quite looking at me and nodding as Disciple whispered in his ear. Moments later my horrifically scarred former friend was walking inside The Puller's house instead of me, while I had to make nice with Tiny.
The Twin wandered on over with Doctor. I figured Disciple had already informed them of the situation when she told me that Doctor had found some practice swords and was teaching her how to fight with them, did I want to learn as well? Then she wisely extended the offer to Tiny, who politely declined, claiming that she preferred other weapons than a blade.
Two hours later, Tiny congratulated me on a fine display, saying that it seemed as though I had held a katana before. That or I was a reincarnated samurai. Laughing, I told her that I grew up with brothers and we played a lot of Star Wars themed sword-fighting games in our back yard.
Tiny insisted on renting another room for the two of us to share, so I insisted on inviting The Twin to come and stay with us. After Apocalypse Girl she was my oldest friend in this devastated world and I both trusted her and wanted her close by. Tiny accepted this with barely a word of protest, which was quashed when I told her that The Twin would be well able to help in our investigation. She nodded, plainly furious, and went downstairs, ordering that I accompany her.
A moment later, the barman was refusing to allow her to fight tonight, or any other night. He didn't want a 'pretty little thing' like her 'damaged' by 'big, ugly, hairy men' in the ring. When he agreed to allow her in the ring, she agreed to let his arm go, which was inconveniently placed behind his other elbow, at least that was how it looked to me.
Her first fight was over before it even began. She didn't even appear to have moved, but her opponent doubled over and fell with a large bruise on his temple. Her second opponent simply grabbed hold of his crotch and dropped to the floor. Number three, Jarhead, blocked her first attack, made one of his own, then fell over with a black eye. Tiny was amazingly fucking quick. She waved away the bag of teeth that the barman offered her as a reward, saying that she had needed to kick the shit out of somebody, but wasn't allowed to harm the person in question. Share it out among the losers, she told him. When he went to put the bag back in his pocket, she grabbed his wrist and repeated herself. This time, he complied.
Year 1 A.Z.
Tiny was still sleeping, snoring softly away to herself in one corner. The Twin and I were quietly discussing our options. She favoured simply abandoning any further plans of assassination, as The Enigmatic Man seemed more or less harmless to her, just a reclusive eccentric scientific type, she said. Yakuza Lady, on the other hand, could be a problem. She was an incredibly powerful woman in this new world, after all.
I told her that I was expected to produce results, though, not to mention my debt to Disciple. I didn't like it, I said, but it was one of those things. Like when we went into Melbourne, that very first time, to find Copper's Sister. The Twin nodded, and Tiny began to stir. She sat bolt upright the instant she realised that she was really awake, eyes on me in an instant.
The Twin told me that she would talk things over with some people, but that she still felt the wisest course of action would be simply to go back to Alice Facility, and Apocalypse Girl. Certainly that would be my first choice, too. Sometimes, however, you have to do things that you might otherwise choose to avoid.
Waitress, filling up my cup for the fourth time since Tiny and I sat down, asked about my little Chinese companion, since she always sat beside me but never drank any coffee. Laughing, I told Waitress that I had saved Tiny's life and she wanted to help keep me safe in return. They both looked at me strangely afterwards, Waitress moving on. Tiny told me that if I was going to make up stories that they had better be believable.
To pass the time we talked of the past. I told her of the night that Apocalypse Girl and I met, our flight from Adelaide with Valet. Valet's infection and subsequent Death followed by our arrival at the hippy commune where we had met, among many others, The Twin. Tiny listened carefully, seeking whatever wisdom she could in my story in her own inscrutably Chinese fashion.
When I was done, she began her own tale. She had been born in Hong Kong, which explained her impeccable English, moving to Australia with her parents in her early teens. This had been shortly before it had been handed back to the Chinese after nearly a century of British rule. Thinking back on what little I knew of world history, I realised that this woman, who was barely a couple of centimetres taller than Machete, was actually a couple of years older than I.
When the world ended, she told me, she just ran along with so many others. Most of those ended up Dead, shambling after Tiny and whatever companions she had found for herself. After almost a month fleeing the Dead, losing people every night when the weather began to turn colder, she met Yakuza Lady. The soon-to-be-Boss was gathering as many smaller groups together as she could manage, continually putting down any Dead that came near. When she saw how Tiny handled a would-be rapist, beating him to within an inch of his life for his transgressions, Yakuza Lady demanded her services. A look in Tiny's eyes said that she was not entirely happy with this arrangement.
The barman wanted Tiny to fight again, but she kept refusing. At one stage, he unwisely grabbed hold of her arm in an attempt to force her to fight. I have no idea how she did it, but the very next instant he was on his knees in front of her, tears streaming down his pale face from the agony of the position in which Tiny was holding his now-broken hand. “Do not touch me again, sir.” She politely told him before letting go. He bolted downstairs. Doctor had been training me in the proper way of fighting with a katana, out in the street in front of the pub. Our 'battles' were getting so intense that we often drew crowds, some of them betting on the outcome of our duels. Doctor still won more often that he lost, though it was getting closer each time our wooden blades crossed. He told me as we finished up that he thought I was nearly ready to face Yakuza Lady.
As I returned to her side, Tiny told me that she considered me a good match for Doctor with the sword, nearly up to her mistress's standards in fact. Doctor, she said, seemed to have a similar style of sword-fighting to Yakuza Lady, though it was hard for her to tell. She was unused to the Japanese style of sword-play.
Year 1 A.Z.
I stood at the window, watching the sun rise over the horizon. It was a beautiful sight, though it stung my eyes somewhat. Tiny stood next to me. “When the first snows fell,” She began, “I thought I would never see the sun again. I thought that I would end up Dead in the Cold somewhere, wandering around trying to eat my friends. My mistress prevented that. I owe her my life.” I couldn't help but feel that Tiny was warning me, that somehow she knew who I was and why I was in New Brisbane.
Viking burst through the door, startling The Twin. Tiny dropped into a combat stance, refusing to take my word that the blonde giant was a friend. I went out into the hall with him, Tiny watching carefully from her stance by the window, diminutive fists clenched hard enough to turn her knuckles white.
Viking told me that Redbeard had come up with a plan, of sorts. His idea was to turn Redbeard in for the sabotage of Biker Boss's Dead corral, take him in to Yakuza Lady, then take out both her and her senior lieutenants at the same time. If we time it right, he said, we should have Doctor in there with us. I told him that I'd think on it and get back to him.
Doctor wanted to practice at noon today, as he had an appointment to see Yakuza Lady in the afternoon. And so, there we were, wooded swords clacking away like a motherfucker in the street out the front of the pub. Suddenly I realised that there was a large group of Dead bubbling out from the direction of the ruins of Old Brisbane. I dropped under Doctor's wooden blade, calling everybody's attention to the oncoming horde.
Just in time, apparently, as more shambled out from alleyways all around us. There were easily several thousand of the freakish fuckers surrounding us in every direction. It had the feel of an ambush, in fact, not that the Dead knowingly use such tactics. Waitress flew past, broken coffee pot dripping gore from the Dead head that she had obliterated with it.
Guns flew out into hands, bullets were fired into the oncoming mass of rotten former humanity. Pulling the machete out with my left hand, I held my wooden sword in my right, standing back to back with Doctor, waiting for the Dead to come to us. Fighting with two weapons was a totally different experience, one I was unsure I liked. However, there were too many fucking Dead to argue with at this point, so two weapons were better than one.
Tiny was busily fending off the flesh-starved attacks of several Dead, so I tapped Doctor on the shoulder, indicated her. We dove as one, taking up position on either side of the small woman. I dropped the machete at her feet and took up my wooden katana in both hands, clobbering Dead brains from their skulls, in one particularly decomposed Dead's case sending its head flying from its shoulders.
She picked up the dropped machete and sliced into the skull of the Dead that was about to sink teeth into my leg, one I hadn't noticed, being focussed more on those that walked, less on those that crawled. The three of us worked as a whirlwind of Dead-death, slaughtering anything that drew near. I saw Disciple, near the café, slender blade in his hand, poking holes in any Dead that drew near. For some reason the Dead steered well clear of him.