Leeanna had been an inactive agent for almost three years. She missed The Unit. Nothing filled her gut with as much pride as protecting the world from the things that went chomp, chomp, chomp in the night… And pretty much at any other time of the day, but when the chomping happened in the dark, the hacking was more fulfilling.
She smiled at the mental image. Then felt a little sorry for herself. Those days are gone, Leeanna girl, she thought, rubbing the thigh that never stopped aching. You and K were too good at your job. All the shamblers got the crap slashed out of them. Leeanna was still grinning when she limped into the bookshop.
The place was deserted, only a young cashier yawned by the register. Leeanna walked to the back and found the Writer standing in front of the dark fantasy section. Her back was to Leeanna.
The two women had never met, but the Writer’s hair was legendary. Some said her mass of white curls was the hiding place for pencils, notepads, blades, a very small dog and other lethal weapons. The hair Leeanna was looking at was black as night. The Writer had said to expect the change.
Leeanna wondered what else had gone with the white hair. The same people, who talked about the mythical weaponry, said the Writer had eyes on the back of her head. Leeanna had been standing behind a pile of gardening books for nearly five minutes, and the other woman hadn’t noticed.
“If you want,” the Writer said without turning, “I can drop my pants. You could check out the antique typewriter I have tattooed on my left asscheek.”
Most of Leeanna’s body tensed, but her hand went straight for her bag. The Writer had not moved a muscle. How the hell did she see me?
“Can I turn around without losing my head to your katana?” the Writer said.
Leeanna didn’t undo the spell that changed K from a red hilt to the sharpest sword ever made. But she didn’t unsheathe the blade either. “Turn slowly,” she said.
The Writer turned, one slow inch at a time, until she was facing Leeanna. There was an electronic reader with a green cover in her hands.
“A camera,” Leeanna said.
The Writer frowned, and followed Leeanna’s eyes to the ereader. “No, this is Mr. Konka, my Kindle. I was browsing through your file.”
Leeanna kept her hand on K. “How did you see me?”
“I didn’t,” the Writer said.
Leeanna widened her stance, tightened her grip around K’s hilt, and drew the sword until light glinted from part of the steel blade. “How did you know I was here then?”
“You smell of begonias, rich soil and happy dogs.” Lowering her voice, the Writer added, “A writer is only as good as her reading skills, Hunter. I follow you on Facebook. I read the bit about your man going to Home Desperate and returning to your digs with a garden for his woman.”
Leeanna had heard and processed all the information, but her mind was still rejoicing around her old call sign, Hunter. No one had called her that in 35 months. “I’m no longer with The Unit,” she said, her voice thick—and maybe bitter—with nostalgia. “Didn’t you see that in my file? I was deactivated the same night K spilled the brains and guts of patient zero.”
The Writer’s expression darkened. “Some group replicated the virus. They are planning to test a batch of fresh shamblers next week. Hunter, they are going to let them loose during a spring festival.” She paused. “The testing area is half a mile from San Antonio Military Medical Center.”
“Thank you,” Leeanna said. “I need to go home, pack my family and go somewhere safe. I’m sure The Unit is already in place. Those youngsters are probably wild. The first chance they get to do what they were trained for. I remember those days and… ” Her voice trailed off. She closed her mouth and stared at the Writer. The other woman’s eyes were shiny. Angry. “The Unit is going to eliminate the threat,” Leeanna said.
The Writer shrugged. “When I tried to find out what The Unit was doing about the new shamblers, I was told that the information I read had been fabricated.”
“What are we doing here, then?” Leeanna said. “If the intel was crap—”
The Writer continued talking as if Leeanna hadn’t said anything. “I took Wicked for an out of state drive.” She placed an open hand next to her left cheek, and a tiny black pit-bull jumped onto her palm. “We stopped to rest, five hundred miles later, and saw our cottage blazing in the morning news.” The pit-bull growled and licked the Writer’s jaw. “They blamed it on a gas leak, Hunter. My cottage ran on solar energy.”
Leeanna searched the bookstore. She had taken no precautions. Stupid, stupid, stupid! This nut was going to get her and her family killed. “How long until they find you!”
“They already have,” the Writer said.
Leeanna spun around, trying to see every corner of the bookshop at the same time. K’s hilt pulsated in her hand; the spell that sprung the steel blade into being buzzed in her mind.
“Easy, Hunter,” the Writer said. “Wicked and I exited the cottage very, very quietly. Anyone watching thought we burned to death. And I left some bones for reassurance. Same goes for my car, computers, clothes and everything The Unit thought I owned.”
The Hunter exhaled. “I still need to get my family away from the mess to come.”
“Brew has been waiting near your house,” the Writer said. “Ready to relocate your man and your furry babes, quietly, if things were to get hot before you and I spoke.”
“Brew the Poisoner is at my house? I thought she—?”
“The Potioner,” the Writer corrected. “Brew’s vicious, reliable and her temper recognizes very few friends. It might be healthier to call her by her actual call sign.”
“I’ve heard,” the Hunter said. “So, how many vicious and reliable agents are we talking about?”
“After this, Hunter, we’ll never be agents again. Not even of the inactive sort.”
The Hunter grinned, and said, “How many rebels with a cause then?”
“You, me, Brew, and Bloody D is flying from England. We could use more,” the Writer said. “I’ve only contacted former team leaders—fighters The Unit believes incapable of working together, or against them. Can you think of anyone else?”
“Oh, can I ever.” The Hunter undid the spell and K was just a red hilt inside her shoulder bag again. “I can think of at least five fighters who would drool at the chance of a good reason for hacking and slashing and saving other people’s butts.”
The Writer nodded. “Good. Let’s give Brew the okay and start contacting your people.”
The Hunter petted Wicked before the wee black pit-bull crawled back into the Writer’s hair.
The two rebels walked towards the door, back straight and spirits elated.
No one was limping.
“The Decaffeinated Witch Hacks Again,” part II (the conclusion) of “Rebels with a Shambling Cause.”