Nancysmiled in anticipation upon hearing Jimbo’s report: Nobody was home at Max's house. This could be a case of the wife and kids hiding really well, heck the doors were still shut and probably locked, or the bitch could simply have taken her brood over to her mom’s to hide out. Getting in and checking the garage would let them know they might have hiders, maybe not though. Max struck Nancy as a kind of family guy, the kind who worked to live, not lived to work. Probably he had bought a house in the same neighborhood either he or his wife grew up in, probably within walking distance of the nearest family member. Still they would check the house over good when they got inside and anyone left would be zombified.
“Is that all Jimbo?” Nancy asked him, as she and the girls stood around in a semi-circle listening to his report.
“Eh, well mostly. It looks like some zombies have kind of been through here already, I did not see any sign of life and plenty of signs of death. Max’s house looks pretty clean, like no one was there from the get-go.”
“Did you try the doors? Look in the garage?” pressed Nancy
“Ah forget it Nancy.” interrupted Veronica, “We told him not to do that stuff, I am just amazed that he got back to us so quickly at all, plus he is not your lackey, or mine, let him do his job as he thinks best. I still say we should have given him one of the ones we picked up along the way.”
“What? No, no, I don’t need any help right now, I think we need to make the ‘military’ as strong as possible first then, worry about getting the executive a helper, then me, then Julie.” said Jimbo.
Along the way to Max’s house the group had grown from a group of five, plus Jimbo’s hidden ‘agent’ Bobby to a group of eleven, plus Bobby. The four main players, Nancy, Jimbo, Veronica and Trish were the only ones huddled at this meeting, Julie had become a fair administrator of the ‘troops’ and took her orders from Veronica as planned. Trish had risen to the occasion and become a sort of helper to Nancy, a vice president. Jimbo kept Bobby as a hidden resource, rationalizing that he was a spy and the other powers did not need to know ‘how’ he got things done, only that he did so. Jimbo felt the bond between him and Bobby was growing stronger, it was to the point that he could reach into Bobby’s mind and tell him things without even having him in direct line of sight anymore. In fact he could even sense Bobby’s location now, he knew the boy was up on the roof half covered by the same pine tree that the rest of the group was clustered near, about eight houses down from Max’s place. Not that Bobby needed to be close to hear, as far as Jimbo could tell the communication went both ways, right now Jimbo kept the line between them open, broadcasting everything to the boy.
“Yeah I am kinda getting dicked around on the assistant thing, I mean we got six new recruits and the armed forces got them all? It seems to me the balance of power is getting out of whack here.” Nancy sent a barely perceptible scowl in Veronica’s direction.
“Look Nancy we discussed it, you agreed, fucking move on with the past and concentrate on the task at hand. We are here because of you, we are doing what you wanted us to do and even you agreed we needed to bump up the ground forces a bit to deal with the gangs and humans roaming around. I have the people I need to take down one well defended house, is it my fault there is no one to take down? We will learn from this experience and change our future responses accordingly.” This was a rather long statement from Veronica, who Jimbo thought, was becoming the next Nancy of the group. She had insisted that only she and Julie make all the new zombies, so in theory the new recruits were all controlled by the armed forces.
What Jimbo suspected was that Julie was really not a factor in any of this. Last night Jimbo had kept an eye, or an eye of Bobby’s, on Julie pretty much at all times, she seemed like the weakest link and his observations only strengthened his convictions. Julie did nothing but take orders, she did not give any. Watching Veronica wash over the issue told Jimbo what kind of leader she might become. If she handled it internally and replaced Julie as her right hand man, well that would be good. If she continued to gloss over Julie’s part in her ‘army’ and did not bring one of the new recruits up to fill the position, that would be bad. Frankly Jimbo didn’t think Julie cared either way, he had her pegged as a zombie with a conscious and that the idea of what she had become was starting to wear on her. Would she, could she, kill herself? All the more reason to keep a set of eyes on her. The whole recruiting formula did not bother Jimbo at all either, he already had given Bobby instructions to grab any stray kids he found and ‘make them his’. Kids worked better, you told them to do something, threw a video game at them and they did it. Of course no new video games were being made and eventually Jimbo would run out of gifts. He shrugged, ‘I don’t need to worry about what happens in three years, today is all that matters.’
“What’s that Jimbo?” asked Trish.
Jimbo, not realizing he had spoken out loud, quickly said, “I hope we are not close enough for anyone to hear and are we going to get to anything today that actually matters? C’mon, let’s set up our crew, go in and deal with the reality and not re-fight old battles. Again.” Jimbo went on to curse himself quietly, he was going to have to watch that, his internal dialog was having a tendency to come out of his pie hole too damn often in the last twenty four hours. He quickly looked up to make sure he had not spoken anything else out loud.
Veronica nodded her agreement. “Yeah, yeah, smart man Jimbo, you are right we need to get set up and go in, it is what? Seven in the morning? As good a time as any to head in. I will have Julie take four of the troopers to cover the sides and rear of the house, I will go in the front with two others, when it is clear I will send one out to bring you guys in, fair enough?”
The other three leaders said yes or nodded their assent and Veronica went off to discuss things with Julie who started moving slowly into position around the sides and back of Max’s house.
“Julie is going to be a problem.” said Jimbo, not quite meaning to voice what he was thinking.
“No shit Sherlock, I guess you are a master spy after all. What can we do about it?” said Nancy.
“She is…apathetic. I think she was religious or something before, you know, before she changed. Not real religious, but kinda borderline, went to church sometimes and stuff. Now she can’t resolve her old life with her new one. I think somebody should put her out of her misery and out of Veronicas.” added Trish.
“Well traditionally the intelligence department was responsible for assassinations, or rumored to be. As the executive branch I guess it is within my authority to order you to take her out Jimbo, just do it in a way that suggests it was an accident, okay?”
Jimbo’s laughter brought a fresh scowl to Nancy’s face in response. “No fucking way am I going against ‘V’, you dumb bitch. She saved my fucking life and I won’t cross her without a better reason than that. ‘V’ can handle the problem, and she has too, it is her person, her problem. You really want me removing one of your assistances if the rest of us say they need to go? No?” both women shook their heads ‘no’, Nancy with what seemed like regret, “That’s what I thought. See? I am on board with Veronica’s new reality Nancy, we can make this work. You? You are lucky you got to stay around at all after the shit you were pulling. My advice to you deary is to start rowing with the team and making decisions to help us all out before there is say…a military coup.”
The stunned look on Nancy’s face made Jimbo feel all the better as he turned his back on her and glided off into the night. Bobby, being placed on the roof within listening range, was there to relay the rest of Trish and Nancy’s conversation to Jimbo as he walked away.
“That son of a bitch! I will kill him Trish, kill him with my bare hands!”
“Yeah, he has huevos, don’t he? Funny thing though, he is right, you know, you are isolating yourself and still behaving like a dictator, you need to start convincing us to be on your side, not expecting us to.”
“Et tu, Brute? I should have expected…” began Nancy.
“See? Here we have the perfect opportunity to build a bridge when I criticize you and you are going to go off on me? What you should be doing is finding out what I want to be on ‘your side’.” At this point Trish moved up so her lips were right next to Nancy’s, with Nancy’s right next to her and whispered something even Bobby could not hear.
The next thing Bobby heard was Nancy’s laughter followed by, “Is that all? Oh, God that is so fucking great. I think I will try working with you after all, my dearest ally.”
The two women left the shelter of the pine tree to go and check out Max’s house. Jimbo had worked his way across the street to watch Veronica enter with her two man crew. Julie had one zombie on each side of the house, and probably the rest were in back. As Jimbo watched he saw a slight movement in the vent above the garage. 'Attic', he thought, 'they are in the attic. I better make sure they are not touched before Max gets here.' He started across the street as the women began their assault on the front door, forcing it in quietly and entering into the house quickly.
Jimbo was about a dozen steps behind them and almost ran into Veronica near the front door.
“Well?” he whispered.
“Get out! We will tell you when it is clear, like I said!” she whispered harshly back.
“I am already in sweetie, I have a strong need to cover your ass and make sure absolutely nothing happens to you. Besides this place is empty, can’t you see it?”
Veronica nodded, “Yeah, looks dead, you’re right. Check the garage. I will help the girls prowl around.”
“Ah no, reverse that the garage is probably safe, the house could contain unknowns, I don’t want you getting shot.” Amended Jimbo.
“Whatever.” she replied as she headed towards the kitchen and the door to the garage.
Jimbo headed upstairs after nodding at both the zombie soldiers and saying, “Watch Veronica’s back, I am going to check upstairs.” He headed upstairs, made a show of searching the bedrooms and closets before stopping at the attic, it appeared to be a pull down ladder kind, you just pulled the rope and the ladder unfolded into the hallway. Jimbo reached up quietly and grabbed the rope. As he tugged on the rope he had to apply increasing force until it became apparent the ladder was being held in some way and would not open without breaking something. As he applied one last pull the rope broke off and hit him in the face.
“Shit!” he said softly, wiping his hand across his forehead. “That hurt!” Jimbo had noticed that his sense of feeling was very sensitive lately, the slightest touch would create a sensational feeling that he had never gotten before he came back from the dead. 'Well that pretty much does it.', he thought, 'I think I can keep these guys alive for awhile, now I have to spin this in the right way.' Jimbo went downstairs looking for Veronica. He found her in the kitchen.
“There is a mini-van in the garage, right?” he asked.
“Yeah, how did you know?” Veronica replied.
“They are in the attic.” He held out the broken rope for her to see, “They have it barricaded in some way, we can get up there, but it might take an effort. I don’t see any reason to break in though, I mean, they are not going anywhere right? Let’s just save them until we need them or until Max gets home.”
“Maybe. Some of my people could use the boost. Any idea of how many are up there? I already sent one of the troops after Nancy and Trish.”
“Yeah three there was a bedroom for a girl and a boy and a master bedroom. The boy's room had a bunk bed, so there could be four. I think they are in the attic, I can kind of tell where they are, my vision is sharper when it comes to seeing the living now. Now about Nancy and Trish, we don’t have much time, you need to know, they are kinda of getting together, like a political alliance. Nancy is going to do something for Trish, I am not sure what. They wanted me in, but did not try very hard, I firmly came down on your side of things, so, I guess what I am saying is for my support I need you to watch my back, okay? Also you gotta do something very soon about Julie. Very soon.”
Veronica stood there for a second, absorbing what Jimbo had said, before nodded, “You got it, I watch your back, you watch mine. You are getting the next recruit, they don’t have to know about it, but you are. I may need, I mean, ‘we’ may need you to have more resources. Here they come.”
Jimbo and Veronica were standing quietly in the kitchen when Trish and Nancy came in.
“So the gangs all here, the important members anyway. What’s the story V, is the place clear?”
“No they are some living in the attic, we don’t know how many, they are barricaded in.” Veronica said. Jimbo marveled at her control, she was not giving anything away in her mannerisms in her speech to Nancy now.
“Well V, let’s go see this attic and decide what to do.”
The four of them headed up the stairs and Jimbo showed them the broken rope and pointed out the attack opening to them in the twilight of the pre-dawn morning.
“Get em out, I say.” said Trish, “Just like we agreed.”
“Yep, it is chomping time, it is high time for the executive and judicial branches to get some support, and you too Jimbo, if there are three.” said Nancy.
“I want to wait.” said Veronica, “They are not going anywhere and if Max gets here and is stronger than we think, well, they might prove to be a good bargaining chip to get our shit out of the fire. Plus we don’t really need any food just yet. So I say we save them until we need them. If Max does not show in a day or so we go in after them, no sense in letting the meat spoil, right?” said Veronica.
Nancyreplied, “Not how we agreed to do things V. Not at all what I was thinking. Jimbo?”
Jimbo seemed to think it over for a bit as the three women looked at him, “You know I was kinda looking forward to a new recruit or two myself, but Veronica seems to make sense, what is another day or two, we can scrounge for other refugees in the neighborhood if we get hungry….”
“Dammit, I want a little old fashioned revenge on Max? What about that? Let’s pull em down and dispense a little justice!”
“We don't need em Nancy! Justice can be served later, why rush things?”
Nancyseemed to think this over for moment, then looked up at the ceiling. The changes that had happened to her had sharpened her vision to the point where she could see the glowing pattern of a living person even through thin walls. Up above her she noticed the flowing lines of a living being just to one side of the attic access. “Well so we don't open up the door then?”
Jimbo and Veronica nodded, Trish just scowled. Nancy sighed, nodded her head and leaped upwards driving her hand through the ceiling drywall to grasp what she thought was the leg of someone she presumed to be Max's wife. A bit of chaos ensued as Jimbo grabbed Nancy's leg and tried to pull her down from the ceiling. Sarah started screaming as her leg was pulled through the ceiling, which woke the kids up. They immediately stumbled over the ceiling rafters to pull ineffectively at their mom's arms as she tried to lever herself up out of the hole that was forming in the weakened drywall between two of the rafters. Underneath Trish punched Jimbo, dazing him, yet he held onto Nancy, Veronica hesitated for an instant before coming to Jimbo's aid by tackling Trish, the two of them tumbled down the nearby stairs at the same time that Jimbo took another blow to the face from one of Nancy's kicks. The blow was hard enough to dislodge his grasp from her other leg and left him sprawled with his head and shoulders through the bottom part of the bathroom door. Cursing he struggled to get free of the hollow core door and stop Nancy, he was too late and he could only watch as Nancy, hands wrapped around a woman's leg bent her head over and took a meaty bite just above the knee.
The woman screamed as Jimbo jumped up, Nancy let go of the leg, which disappeared quickly into the ceiling with a shower of insulation and broken drywall. Nancy, of course, landed on her feet, then looked at Jimbo and laughed, saying, “See? I didn't open the door.”
Infuriated Jimbo just looked at her, “You selfish.....” He turned away to compose himself and then received a mental message from Bobby, “A woman and a boy just pulled up and got out of their car, they are heading up to the house now.”
“What? What Jimbo? Nothing to say?” taunted Nancy. Then she heard the front storm door creaking open and a woman’s voice call out, “Hold up Cory, you don’t know what is in there, wait for me.”