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Nathan Abercrombie, Accidental Zombie #05: Enter the Zombieby David Lubar
“That cant be him.” I froze at the bottom of the school steps and stared at the man on the sidewalk twenty yards ahead of me. It was a Monday afternoon in early March, and wed just gotten out of school.
“Which means it has to be him,” Mookie said. “Hes really tricky, right? So Ill bet hes disguised to look like himself, just to throw people off.”
“Its definitely him,” Abigail said when we were ten yards away. “There cant possibly be two tall, thin redheaded men on earth with ears that large.”
“Wait!” Mookie grabbed my arm. “It could be one of his robots. We should wait here until it explodes.”
“Its not a robot,” I said. “They do a good job with the squirrels, but the human ones never look that real. Its him. I still cant believe this.”
I thought nothing Mr. Murphy did would surprise me. As the head of BUM—the Bureau of Useful Misadventures—hed tossed me to a pack of vicious guard dogs, sent me over an electrified fence, made me think I was about to get blown up, and nearly burned down my house. He even had me claw my way through a mountain of garbage. At least he hadnt made me chew my way through the trash heaps with my hands tied behind my back.
After my adventure on the garbage barge, Id spent several months carrying out other spy missions for BUM. Id saved a lot of lives, and helped the good guys catch some really evil bad guys.
During that time, Mr. Murphy contacted me in dozens of strange and dangerous ways involving all sorts of mechanical creatures, lots of sparks, a scattering of laser beams, far too many flames, and a variety of explosions.
But there was one thing hed never done after Id joined BUM.
“This must be serious,” I said.
“Its definitely unprecedented,” Abigail said.
“Hes not a president,” Mookie said. “At least, I dont think he is. And if he was, he probably wouldnt tell anyone.”
Abigail groaned, but didnt bother to say anything. I had a feeling I knew what unprecedented meant. This had never happened before, not counting the first time Mr. Murphy had approached me. But it was happening now. The master spy who had recruited me and trained me, the man who did everything in secret, was standing in public, right in front of the school, waiting for me. He wasnt even wearing any sort of disguise or hiding behind a large plant.
“We need to talk,” he said when I reached him.
I couldnt even begin to guess what this was about.
“Well catch up with you,” Abigail said. She tugged at Mookies arm. “Come on. Lets leave them alone.”
“Hold on. We all need to talk.” Mr. Murphy tucked his little finger under his thumb, then aimed his other fingers in our direction. “The three of you. Right now. But lets not stand here where well attract attention.”
He headed down the street. I stared at his back for a moment, then raced to catch up with him.
“Well, that certainly wont attract any attention,” he said. “Would you like to hop and skip, too? Or is running enough? You could sing at the top of your lungs. That would be a nice touch. Maybe we can find you some sparklers to wave around.”
I tried to think of some smart-alecky reply to throw back at him, but he was right. Spies should never attract attention—unless theyre doing it on purpose to distract people from secret actions being done by other spies.
“Whats going on?”
“We have a chance to take out RABID from the very top,” he said. “If we act now, we can cut the head off the snake. That would be a major step toward destroying them.”
He definitely had my attention. Id love to see RABID wiped out. The name stood for Raise Anarchy by Inciting Disorder. They wanted to control people by making them unhappy with their leaders. They were responsible for plenty of the bad things that happened in the world. They would have done even more bad things if Mr. Murphy and I hadnt been around to stop some of their plans.
“But you said theyre too spread out to get rid of.” From what I knew, RABID worked in little groups all around the world. Mr. Murphy called the groups cells.
“We think we know how to locate the man at the very top of the organization. If we can capture Baron von Lyssa, the cells wont survive for long.” Mr. Murphy pulled a folded sheet of paper from his pocket and handed it to me. “Ever heard of this?”
I opened it up and read the first three lines.
Enter a Team in the Ultimate
Athletic and Academic Competition!
Below the headline, there was a drawing of a kid with a big head and bulging muscles. He had a dumbbell in one hand and a book in the other. The flyer looked sort of familiar. “I saw this on the bulletin board last month,” I said. It had quickly gotten covered by posters about the band concert, the bake sale, and all sorts of other stuff. “They put up an announcement every year. Nobody from our school ever enters.”
I noticed Abigail was staring at the flyer. Then her gaze drifted toward the clouds, like she was thinking about something.
“That kid must have to buy his hats somewhere special,” Mookie said. “Whats that have to do with us, anyhow?”
“We think RABID looks for exceptional young people and convinces them to join the organization. Sometimes, they start working on their candidates when theyre years away from becoming active.”
“And kids who enter the contest are more likely to have the sorts of skills that RABID would find useful,” Abigail said. “Especially the winners.”
“Ive been told youre quite smart,” Mr. Murphy said. “Apparently, thats the case. I assume you know what Im going to ask next.”
“Ooohhh! Let me guess!” Mookie raised his hand, like we were in class, waved it wildly, and then shouted out, “You want us to parachute out of a jet and attack the bad guys. Right?” He clenched his fists above his shoulders, the way people do when theyre hanging under a parachute. Then he tugged down with his left fist and skittered in that direction.
Mr. Murphy made a face like hed just tried to swallow a large slice of moldy onion. “Well, lad, I wouldnt mind dropping you out of a jet, preferably over an empty stretch of ocean, but thats not exactly the current plan. Though Ill keep it in mind for later, should an opportunity arise.”
“No jet?” Mookie asked.
“No jet,” Mr. Murphy said.
“He wants us to form a team, enter the competition, and do well enough that were approached by RABID,” Abigail said. “Thats why hes talking to all three of us. Each Brainy Brawny team has three people on it.”
“That was my next guess,” Mookie said. “But I didnt want to show off too much. Nobody likes a smarty-pants. Or a smarty-skirt.”
“Correct again.” Mr. Murphy nodded at Abigail, who happened to be wearing a skirt today.
“Okay, so you want us to enter the contest,” I said. “I guess we have a chance to do well. But why didnt you just send a message to me like you usually do?”
“There wasnt time. We figured out RABIDs connection with Brainy Brawny late this morning, right before the sign-up deadline. All three of you need to fill out an entry form immediately.” He handed each of us a sheet of paper and a pen. “Fill these out, and Ill mail them right away. But before you do, I need to make sure all of you understand what youre getting into.”
“A jet?” Mookie asked.
I had a good idea I knew what Mr. Murphy meant. “Well be meeting with a very dangerous person. At some point, we might be on our own, out of touch with BUM. If we mess up, there wont be anyone to come to our rescue.”
“Exactly,” Mr. Murphy said. “Wherever you go to meet him, youll be scanned for electronic devices, so we cant use any sort of tracker or beacon. Youll be isolated. Theyll take steps to make sure you arent being followed. Well have no way to communicate. If they suspect you, bad things could happen. There are definite dangers. The choice is yours.”
“Im in,” Abigail said.
“Me, too,” Mookie said. “Can I keep the pen?”
“Looks like we have a competition to win.” I checked out the entry form. “Our parents dont have to sign anything?”
“Not for the local competition at your school,” Mr. Murphy said. “Youll need permission for the regional competitions, but Im sure that wont be a problem.”
I filled out the form and handed it back to Mr. Murphy.
He put the sheets in an envelope. “Youre doing a good thing—all three of you. Ill be in touch very soon.” He nodded at us, then walked off.
“I guess wed better start practicing,” Mookie said. “Do you think therell be lots of math?”
“You cant practice for this,” Abigail said. “We could be asked to do anything.”
“I can practice spying.” Mookie squatted, squinted, and looked around from side to side. “I know well be doing that.”
“Good grief!” Abigail backed away from Mookie and fanned the air in front of her nose. “Dont squat around people. It puts too much pressure on your overloaded intestines.”
“Sorry.” Mookie shrugged and stood up. “Oops. Sorry again. I guess getting up from a squat presses on stuff, too. But I cant help it if my intestines are overloaded. Mom made her cauliflower casserole last night. The recipe takes three whole cans of spray cheese. Its too good to resist.”
Abigail backed farther away from him. “I wonder whether theyll ask about current events? I havent read todays newspaper yet. Or any of this weeks news magazines. Id better get going.”
“I thought you just told us we cant prepare for this,” I said.
“We cant. But it doesnt hurt to brush up on a topic or two, just in case. I gotta go.” She dashed several steps away, then stopped when the opening notes of the Jupiter Symphony played from her purse. That was her current favorite ringtone. I wouldnt have known the name if she hadnt told me. Last month, shed used the nesting call of the speckled grackle.
She pulled her phone from her purse, spoke for a moment, then ran back to me.
“Nathan!” she said. “Theres amazing news!”
Copyright © 2010 by David Lubar
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