“Mija, no te voy a mentir,” La Señora Falcón said gravely. “It’s a dangerous assignment.”
The matronly woman settled her plump body into the seat across from me in what once had been a lab supply room in the secret Mano Poderosa zombie headquarters underneath the County/USC General Hospital in East Los Angeles.
“Pearl, we’ll understand if you wish to pass on it,” said Filomino Brancos, assessing me keenly as he leaned against a cart filled with medical supplies.
“And we wouldn’t be asking this of you if we didn’t have the full confidence that you could pull it off.” That from Mr. Nez, sitting next to Mrs. Falcón across the conference table from me, now and then checking his phone for texts
I had been asked to attend a private meeting with La Señora Falcón, Filomino and Mr. Nez for something that was too secret to tell anyone, not even Lazaro. And now La Señora had just pitched me the wackiest scheme I’d ever heard.
“Let me get this straight,” I said, looking to Mr. Nez. “You want me to go with La Señora to infiltrate the Oñate compound at Amboy, California, get detailed information on their whole operation –precise maps of their central headquarters, troop deployments, defense perimeters, the whole smear– and return with maps and floor plans and, for all I know, parking permits, so we can attack them.”
“Yes, it’s a dangerous mission,” La Señora Falcón reiterated.
“Pearl, I can’t risk so many of us on this assault unless I have precise information about the strength and deployment of Oñate’s zombie force.”
I didn’t say anything.
I was trying to figure out if I was really up for this kind of job. I sure wish I could get Lazaro’s take on this whole situation but Mr.Nez had been adamant. He knew how close Lazaro and I were. “And don’t tell Lazaro anything about this until we tell you to.”
It was all up to me.
“What about them being able to read our minds?” I asked.
“We’ve come up with a way of protecting you and La Señora from the Oñate mind probes without revealing that you are zombies.”
After a moment he answered.
“Yes. Are you in?”
For a moment I recalled the metal darts that had shafted through the trash cans near my head on Olvera street when Lazaro and I were on the run. That seemed like a lifetime ago. And then the bombardment our zombie raiders had received by the Oñate aerial attack team at the battle of Jumbo Rocks. The image was a foot long metal dart sticking through my head was not a pleasant one. Yet what choice did I have?
After all, I WAS a zombie!
There was a battle going on between Oñate zombies who wanted to enslave humankind and the Mano Poderosa zombies who saw a new possibility in the mutated human gene that made us zombies. Perhaps the “resurrection” qualities in our mutated gene could be identified and refined. Perhaps in the secret of that gene we could find the cure for human aging, perhaps, we could find the fabled fountain of youth for humankind.
And so this business of going undercover. I had a choice?
“Of course I’ll do,” I told Mr. Nez.
“What’s the plan?” I asked.
Mr. Nez pulled out a map and laid it on the table.
“This is an aerial view of the town of Amboy taken by one of our high altitude drones. As you see there’s not much to the town. It used to be a stopover for gas and food when the old Route 66 ran from Needles on the east to Barstow on the west. When they built the four lane interstate 40 to the north in 1974, the town dried up.”
I examined the aerial photograph. It sure didn’t look much like a stronghold for hundreds of Oñate forces.
“But I saw surveillance that showed hundreds of those purple dots in this area.”
“That’s right. Our aerial surveillance has confirmed close to two thousand zombies in and around Amboy.”
“So where are all the zombies?”
That got a chuckle out of Filomino.
“Amboy is a front,” he said.
“Oñate has a few zombies masquerading as humans to keep up the fiction that this is a town whose best days are over. Occasionally tourists will stop by to get their photos taken in front of Roy’s Café, or locals working at the nearby salt mining operations will fuel up at the gas station.”
Mr. Nez pulled out a photo which he laid on the table for me to examine.
“Here is where we think Oñate’s troops are based,” he said.
“I examined the photo closely. It showed a mountain of dark volcanic rock rising from out of the desert floor.”
“What is it?”
“Amboy Crater,” Filomino said. “A dormant volcanic cone located a mile from Roy’s Cafe. We think the crater is honeycombed with underground caverns and tunnels. Oñate’s base of operations.”
“Mija,” La Señora Falcón said with a confidant smile, “That’s what you and I are going to infiltrate.”
Copyright 2014 by Lazaro De La Tierra and Barrio Dog Productions Inc.