RETURN TO COUNTY GENERAL.
The caravan of zombie vans returning from the destroyed training camp in the Joshua Tree desert approached Los Angeles on the San Bernardino freeway; the setting sun silhouetted the buildings of the downtown skyline.
Filomino was driving the lead van, I was riding shotgun, Vida, the only zombie dog in existence, nestled asleep in my lap. Gus, Pearl, Jaime , Jenny and Sally were in the back seats. Throughout the three hour drive, the mood in the van had been ominously dark. We had gotten pounded by Oñate and his villainous zombies and now we were returning to Los Angeles and the Mission Poderosa headquarters with our tails between our legs instead of the conquering heroes we had hoped to be.
We got off Interstate 10 at the State Street exit and made our way to the back parking area on Zonal Street behind the County USC General Hospital. We parked the vans and then made our way on foot to the clandestine headquarters located in secret floors below the massive twenty-story iconic Los Angeles landmark.
“Remember, we’ll go in separate groups–stick with those in your van,” Filomino said.
Whenever we went in and out of the hidden zombie headquarters we took the special elevator in small groups so as not to attract attention. As Pearl, Gus, Filomino and I got into the elevator, Filomino pulled out a card and slid it along the elevator control box. A new floor suddenly appeared on the elevator gauge, “Lower Basement.” Filomino pressed the new button on the elevator and within moments we were stepping onto the lower basement floor and entering the fake reception room for contagious diseases center. As before, once we entered the entire room descended into the ground, the fake room was an elevator taking us to the underground laboratories of Mission Poderosa.
The double doors opened into the main lab complex it. I remembered–it seemed so long ago–that this was set up as a biochemical lab to find the secret of the mutant zombie gene that might save all humandkind . This was not the lab room now. What I saw before me was the central lab complex converted into a massive war room.
Everywhere zombies were scurrying about bringing computer print-outs and faxes from a wall lined with computers and printers to a large strategy table in a far corner of the room. In the center of the large room, centrifuges, microscopes and other lab equipment had been replaced with two banks of laptops staffed by a dozen zombie techs. On one wall a large video screen, twenty feet across and ten feet high, displayed a map of the United States. Satellite monitors throughout the room, zombies in combat gear and the planning table covered with maps underscored the impression of a busy war room. Heck, that’s what it was.
Filominno left us without a word and made his way to report to Mr. Nez whom I could see at the strategy table, pouring over maps with a half dozen zombies all involved in a quiet but determined debate.
I took the moment to nudge Pearl. We walked over to the wall with the large screen. On the enormous monitor a map of the continental United States, Hawaii and Alaska was displayed. In each state I could see glowing pinpoints of lights, some in iridescent green and others in a deep hued purple.
“I guess that must be us and them,” Pearl said looking over my shoulder at the display.
“But whos who?” Gus Dominguez piped in.
“Not sure it matters much at this stage,” said a voice behind us. We turned to find our old friend La Señora Falcón approaching us. Pearl and I immediately ran up and embraced her.
“Oh, it’s so good to see you kids,” she said warmly. “For the record, each green represents a hundred La Familia zombies, each purple light a hundred of Oñate’s thugs.”
My eyes went back to the board with new understanding. I looked at Los Angeles, there were easily two or three thousand of us here and a slightly smaller number of Oñate zombies. But along the southern part of the border states –California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas–there was a drastically disproportionate number of Oñate’s forces, perhaps thousands more of them. The area immediately adjacent to the Mexican border was a pulsating strip of purple that covered both sides of the imaginary line between the U.S. and Mexico.
I pointed to the purple strip,”Why are Oñate ‘s forces so clustered around the border? Look there’s dozens of them here where there’s nothing but desert.”
“Illicit immigrant smuggling. That’s where Oñate’s vermin find the bulk of their victims. They kidnap people for food, women to be used as mothers for the army they are building. The helpless immigrants are ideal victims. No one knows how many cross so no one will miss the unlucky victims of Oñate’s zombie patrols.”
There was a moment of silence as the thought sunk in. By now the rest of the Joshua Tree trainees had entered the war room and had joined our circle and were listening in rapt attention to La Señora Falcón’s words. She looked us over. She could see the evidence of our recent battle with Oñate’s aerial raiders.
“I know you all have been through a lot. But I’m sorry to tell you, there’s much more to come.”
As if on cue, Mr. Nez burst from the enclave at the strategy table walking briskly toward us. He was followed by Filomino and a half dozen zombies, all in combat gear. Since when did we have an army? Among the followers I recognized Mr. Brown, my old Boy Scout leader. Yes, in combat dress.
“Glad you made it back safely,” Mr. Nez said without preamble as he arrived at our circle. “Let me bring you up to date.”
He positioned himself in front of the large screen and pointed to a desert spot in California, down below the Nevada border. It looked to me like it might be near Barstow or even Joshua Tree from where we had just come. As with the border area, this lone single spot was teeming with purple lights.
“There must thousands there. ” I said.
“Yeah, what is that?” Pearl wanted to know. “It looks like its in the middle of the desert.”
“Amboy, California,” Mr. Nez replied. “It was once a thriving town along the old Route 66, the main artery for car traffic between Chicago and Los Angeles. When they built Interstate 40 from Needles to Barstow, the town died. Oñate took over the town and had the few dozen diehards who remained for supper. Then he installed his own fake “residents” for the sake of the occasional lost tourist or history buff. But, in fact, it’s his secretive main base of operations.”
“Well let’s get down there and kick some butt!” a voice shouted from the group–it was Gus Dominguez.
“Exactly what we intend to do,” Mr. Nez said gravely.” And most of you will be part of that assault. As you can see, “ he nodded to the zombies next to him in combat gear, “we’ve mobilized our forces. But before we do any of that, we have a little housekeeping to tend to.” With that he nodded to Filomino who spoke into his walkie.
“Rabbit snare” Filomino said.
Suddenly we were surrounded by a dozen zombies in combat gear. Each had one of Filomeno’s specially crafted hand guns out and aimed at our heads.
“Take them down below to interrogation.” Filomino said. “if anyone tries to escape, wound but don’t kill. We’ll do that later, slowly.”
Without any further word we were summarily ushered toward a large stairwell located down the hall. I didn’t know the stairwelll existed. As I passed by Mr. Nez, a gun nozzle at the back of my head, he reached out and grabbed me by the shoulder bringing the procession to a halt. He looked deep into my eyes. I didn’t detect anger, but rather –to my surprise–concern.
“Lazaro,” he asked me, “How are you feeling?”
“Oh, I’m just fine Mr.Nez,” I replied. “Don’t you worry, you can count on me this attack on Amboy!”
He looked at me again, with that peculiar, concerned almost pitying look.
And that’s was when I felt my throat tighten, my eyes begin to sting and then an intense ringing and my ears. Suddenly the room was swaying. The last thing I remember was Pearl shouting, “Catch him, he’s fainting!”
Copyright 2013 by Lazaro De La Tierra and Barrio Dog Productions Inc.