Authors: Dave Rowlands
We upended the pool table nearest the stairs in an attempt to try to block their path. It at least caused a choke point where only two of three Dead at a time were able to get past, those we took out easily from a distance on Biker Boss's order. He ran out of ammunition first, jumping down the stairs from the balcony onto another pool table, picking up a queue in each hand.
Armed with a pair of pool queues, the massive man swung hard, obliterating the skulls of any Dead that entered his sight. I saw the Dead one rising behind him, one of his former goons, blood still leaking from the massive rent in his throat. I lined up the shot, then the Dead was upon him, sinking teeth into Biker Boss's shoulder, tearing off a great hunk of meat.
By the time backup arrived, a short while later, Jarhead and I looked like a pair of heroes that had tried to save our new Boss's life, failing only when the lunatic threw himself at his foes. It helped our cause immeasurably, however, that Biker Boss was still alive, barely, to breathe that very tale before grabbing my gun and blowing his own brains out with it.
Year 1 A.Z.
“Nicely done,” Disciple congratulated us, when we were able to tell our tale to our companions. “One down and our cover is still solid.” Jarhead was smiling broadly at our success, though he had described Biker Boss's death with sincere admiration. Viking was even more badly bruised this morning, having kicked arse once more in the nightly fights.
The next target, we decided amongst us, was to be Yakuza Lady since The Twin was yet to come back from her meeting with The Enigmatic Man. Doctor didn't think he would be able to get us inside her compound very easily, as she and her group preferred to hire only those of Asian persuasion. However, as we discussed our options, limited though they were, a soft knocking came from the door.
Opening it revealed a young boy, perhaps no older than seven or eight, holding forth a note in one grubby hand. Viking tossed the kid a couple of choppers for his trouble, the kid grinned and ran downstairs. “It looks like this Puller character wants to have another word.” At that moment, the door swung open, The Twin walking through, hair a mess and looking more than thoroughly exhausted. Concern had been growing over her whereabouts, but now that she was here, she smiled and collapsed on a spare mattress.
The Puller was ecstatic, bouncing around his house like a boy of three. His enthusiasm was contagious, and before long the three of us, The Puller, Jarhead and myself, were chuckling together like old friends. His main competitor dead, The Puller now had all the power in this district of New Brisbane.
Yakuza Lady, he told us, would be problematic. Not only was her organisation incredibly xenophobic, they also had a reputation for causing vast amounts of pain to those whom they considered a threat, whether real or perceived. The woman herself, it turned out, was a master with the katana and occasionally liked to 'practice' with random people. It had been rumoured that she wished to face a certain sword-wielding enemy of The Empire in an honourable duel.
Laughing at that last, I told The Puller in no uncertain terms that I was no true swordsman. I had simply found the blade on somebody's grave. Killing the Dead with it was one thing, but an actual duel with a blade-master? Fuck that for a joke! The Puller told me, however, that I had a damn sight more experience than anybody that she might have pulled off of the streets to murder in the name of 'practice' and, as such, might prove somewhat of a challenge for her. I told The Puller that we'd consider it as a last resort, but a well-placed sniper would be a better idea.
Viking lost his fight tonight. He still managed to place high in the rankings, third place in fact, but having been beaten was not sitting well with him. Disciple, wisely, had chosen to vacate our room, telling me on his way down the stairs as I ascended them that he was staying in the next pub from now on, just a hundred metres away, because he didn't like the idea of spending his nights in a room full of people that want him dead.
Apocalypse Girl's phone jangled, receiving a message. She was just telling me that she missed me, that things were all okay at Alice Facility, that Machete had found someone amongst The Colonel's troops that was able to teach her how to use my sword effectively. There was, she mentioned, one thing that had come up. Then, she sent me a photo of Sydney, as taken from the satellite network.
A large shining black spire rose from the centre of the crater that once contained one of the largest cities in Australia. Smaller spikes rose in a circle around it, precisely spaced. Other oddly shaped things hung in mid-air, I assumed these to be some kind of flying machine. That's all we fucking needed now. Fucking aliens making fucking bases in our fucking cities. June 24
Year 1 A.Z.
Doctor was called, once again, to Yakuza Lady's district, saying that he would be back later, probably around midafternoon. The small Chinese man that stood at the door waited patiently for Doctor to finish his tea, then the pair left. Viking, though heavily bruised, was in good spirits and wanted to walk around the settlement, Jarhead and Redbeard choosing to join him.
This left The Twin, who began to stir just as the door shut behind the trio. She had been sleeping since she had returned yesterday afternoon, though Doctor had examined her carefully as she snored away, saying that she would be fine with a bit of rest. I made some fresh tea as she sat up, yawning and stretching.
She began talking about The Enigmatic Man after she returned from the bathroom down the hall, saying that he had known exactly who she was, he knew who she was staying with. She told me that he was as uninterested in the reward for my capture as he was in ruling New Brisbane, that being not at all. Yakuza Lady and Biker Boss wanted him on side, however, because he was a scientific genius. They had hoped he would be willing and able to produce new and interesting weapons and defences. Instead, he built himself a fairly big
underground complex, though nothing like those built by the government, and filled it full of lackeys and minions. He would be virtually impossible to assassinate, she told me. He even knew that was why we had come here, he had told her, though he was unimpressed and unconcerned. When I asked her what had taken her so long to get back to us, she simply smiled and told me that he had insisted on testing her to the fullest extent of her abilities. Nothing remotely bad had happened, she told me, just testing to the point of exhaustion.
Sitting around the café with The Twin, we spotted Disciple and waved him over. Anybody that saw his face moved instantly out of his way, not wanting to see that charred, scarred visage scowling any more than usual.
“Word's been getting around about you, you know,” He told me as he sat down. “Anyone with any real amount of choppers wants to hire you and that army thug as guards. Nobody wants to approach you guys yet though. They're all afraid you might be assassins, you see.” He chuckled.
An alarm rang in the distance, making the lot of us start. Upon seeing nobody else moving, however, we settled back down. The waitress came over, refilling our mugs, saying that when she had first arrived here, the alarms had scared the shit out of her too, but unless it is deafeningly loud, it will be for another district. Each district took care of their own Dead issues, she said. From the opposite direction of the alarm strode Doctor, a grim expression on his face. He saw us, came over to join us at our table. Telling me that he had been sparring with Yakuza Lady this afternoon, physically as well as verbally, he had inadvertently let slip that he had known the Melbourne swordsman. He had not said any more, but still, that was enough.
Disciple invited me to his pub tonight, to watch him fight. He had discovered a pub that specialised in traditional fencing, which he had excelled at. I often used to watch him in competitions when we were growing up together, and admittedly I missed it. So, I decided to go along, taking The Twin with me.
Disciple's first opponent was a small man, though swift. Disciple barely broke a sweat on his near-skeletal face taking him down. The second, a woman, was quicker even than Disciple, but he had far more experience, sliding the tip of his blade around the length of hers to score time and time again, until she threw down her blade in frustration.
Then, out came a large man, swinging his fencing foil like a fucking battleaxe. Disciple put him down easily enough, though the man tripped at the last instant and fatally impaled himself on Disciple's blade. His eyes glazed over in death, then moments later, his corpse began to twitch. Disciple shook his head, quietly apologised to the man, then stabbed the point of his sword down, through the Dead brute's head. He was declared the victor after that, given a small purse of thirty choppers, and told he was not fighting here again.
Disciple swore that it had been an accident, but the barman would not hear it. The brute had been his brother, he said, though they looked totally different, with different hair colour and even skin tone. He was told that he could still stay the night, but in the morning he had to move on. Another pub, the barman told him, a couple of streets away held fencing tournaments, should he need teeth.
Year 1 A.Z.
The sun was barely visible this morning, hiding behind clouds that threatened vast amounts of rain. So far, however, it seemed an idle threat, they hung above our heads as if wanting to drown the world but not a single drop of rain fell to the ground. Jarhead had taken place in the fights in our pub last night, clobbering all comers into bloody, battered, bruised bits.
The Twin was summoned once more to The Enigmatic Man, telling me that she would try and figure out some way of getting to him. The hardest part would be the fact that he knew we were coming for him. By contrast, however, the easiest part would be that he seemed to not care one whit for his danger.
Doctor had decided that possibly the only way to get to Yakuza Lady would be to be one of the random people picked for 'practice' one day, despite my objections. He had found an old martial arts training shop, discovering a pair of wooden practice swords that we could use. Yakuza Lady, he told me, would spar with Doctor with swords and unarmed both, but the blades had been blunted. She respected his ambassadorial status, she told him, and would not put him in any real danger. This meant, however, that he was quite familiar with the way Yakuza Lady handled herself with a blade. Telling him that I still thought a well placed sniper would be a better option, I agreed to practice with Doctor for two hours every day until her corpse lay at my feet.
The Puller wanted to see me alone, today. I went to him, greeting his guards in a friendly manner. They were beginning to get used to me, I think. He told me that one of his guards had watched Disciple's fight with the brute, spotting me there with The Twin. He warned me that Disciple was making enquiries about vehicles, seeming concerned that he might try to abandon me here. I assured The Puller that, were that indeed the case, I was more than capable of dealing with the situation.
As it was, however, there was not likely any way of raising the two thousand teeth needed for the car Disciple had chosen, even with everything Jarhead and Viking had made. It was hardly likely that Disciple would have enough of his own choppers to be able to afford it. Nevertheless, The Puller felt I should be made aware of his actions.
Apocalypse Girl's phone jangled, as it often did around sunset.
Watching the sun go down, thinking of you
the message read. Sending back an appropriate response, I smiled privately to myself. I considered telling her that I had encountered some of our old friends here, but thought better of it. Instead I told her that things were going swimmingly here in New Brisbane, but that I might have to stay a little longer than I had originally intended.
Sitting at a table in the bar, watching Jarhead clobbering people unconscious one by one, drinking locally brewed beer I failed to notice the tiny Chinese girl that sat beside me until she spoke. All she said was that Yakuza Lady would like to speak to me tomorrow and to go along with Doctor, unarmed. Then, she vanished as mysteriously as she had arrived.
Year 1 A.Z.
I asked Doctor about Yakuza Lady's invitation, about which he knew nothing. He told me that if I had been summoned in such a manner, then she would likely have been behind it. He did not, however, like the fact that I had been told to come weapon-less. Even he was allowed into her presence armed, as were any others she wished to speak to.
So, I handed machete and pistol over to Jarhead for safekeeping, then I followed Doctor out of the pub into the bracing morning air. Warning me that it was a reasonable walk, Doctor said little else as we trudged through the morning gloom. The sun had chosen not to show its face today, instead cowering behind the white fluffiness of clouds.
We stopped at the café at my insistence, though only briefly, and I spoke quietly to one of The Puller's off-duty guards, telling him of my 'invitation' and that I thought it likely to be a trap. The guard nodded, saying that he would let his employer know. Handing him a couple of teeth, he said “Oh, alright, I'll go now then.” before standing and walking off into The Puller's compound.
We walked into the Asian district, finding it quite distinctly different from Biker's district. For one thing, there were at least a dozen different languages being spoken here, there only English. The aromas of food were also vastly different, smelling incredibly exotic in some areas. There was a market as well, though I noticed no trade in teeth going about. Asking Doctor about this, he shrugged.
We encountered a group of Triad guards, armed with sub-machine guns and several knives at their belts. Doctor strode straight up to them, demanding that they take the pair of us to see Yakuza Lady. Eyes that were already on the white devil among them now locked onto me. At first they wondered why I was here, now they wondered how much longer I would live.