Ming Li lashed out at the zombie's kneecap as the rest of the moaning abominations threatened to crush her against the corridor wall. "Shoot them!" she yelled.
With a loud BANG the zombie's neighbor lost its head.
"That was my last shot!" yelled Tori. "There's still two of them!"
Ming dodged a deadly embrace. The zombies had left her with no room to move. Her breathing quickened and her pulse raced as she pushed back against certain doom. A roar filled her ears. How did I get in this mess? she thought.
An hour before, she had been finishing her performance on the main stage of the cruise ship S.S. Nectarine. The Chinese opera had not attracted a large crowd, but she had still done her best. Anything less wouldn't have served to keep her cover.
Her espionage handler, Victoria "Tori" Hardcastle, met her as she left the stage.
"Nice concert," she said.
Ming shook her head. "It would have been better to have a larger audience," she said.
"That would've meant more fans," said Tori, "and a harder cover to maintain." She talked as Ming vanished behind a screen to change clothes into something less noticeable. "Ready to investigate the Eldridge drive?"
"As we intend to follow our orders, we must do so tonight," said Ming, "as tomorrow we reach Sage Island. Our superiors in British Intelligence want to know why this drive uses less than 3% of the usual amount of fuel, therefore, we will discover why."
Ming stepped out from behind the screen, wearing a black slit Chinese-style dress with black pants on underneath. Tori matched her color scheme. In the shadows of the engine room at night, they would not be easily seen.
They made their way into the shopping area on their way to the stairs. The shops were closed at night. This would let them minimize contact with curious onlookers. A scream and a crash from ahead interrupted them. They hid behind a potted plant, and observed.
Several people were trying to push their way into a closed shop, pushing against the pulled-down grate. The shop attendant had managed to pull the grate down just in time. She kicked back at her attackers, and screamed.
"Good lord!" Tori said. Ming Li agreed. The attackers did not look well. Blood drizzled from the corners of their mouths and down onto their chests. Their eyes were dead, and they let out low moans.
"Zombies!" said Ming Li.
As agents, both women knew of the secret outbreaks which the world's governments had covered up, but they had not expected to see those shambling horrors on a cruise ship!
Tori pointed. "Look!"
The zombies had seized the attendant's leg! She couldn’t get away!
"Our inspection of the drive can wait," said Ming Li. "Let's go!"
Tori pulled out her gun and opened fire. Each precisely-placed head shot dispatched one of the roving revenants. As she reloaded, Ming ran forward and used her mastery of the martial arts to kick the attackers, freeing the shop attendant.
"Call the bridge! Tell them what's happening!" she told the woman. Ming narrowly missed being grabbed before somersaulting away.
Tori dispatched more zombies, but she had to be more careful with her shots as Ming waded back into the fray. However, Ming underestimated the resilience of her enemy, and was trapped against the wall by a big zombie in a porter's uniform. Tori shouted that she was out of bullets even as a zombie shuffled towards her.
They both heard the loud roar of an engine, and a motorcycle flew from the nearby stairs, hurling itself toward them. Two pistol shots rang out, and the zombie advancing on Tori fell. The bike screeched to a stop in front of Ming. A wrench crushed the zombie's skull.
An elderly man jumped off the back of the motorcycle and ran toward Tori.
"I say, young lady," he said, "I say, are you uninjured?"
Tori said she was, and took in the sight her rescuer. He was dressed in a white suit, the same color as his beard. His hands each held a gold-handled six-shooter.
"I am Colonel Zane Coltrane, at your service, ma'am," he declared in a southern drawl. "I'm pleased to find you well."
"Are you okay?" the driver of the motorcycle asked Ming Li. He took off his helmet, revealing a large afro and soft brown eyes.
"I am, sir," Ming said.
"Hell, I ain't no 'sir' to anyone," he said. "They call me 'Big Duke.' I'm supposed to race in the 1978 Sage Island Rally."
"I watched you preside over the adulation from the fans of racing," Ming said. "They are a vocal group. I thank you for the your timely aid."
"Weren't nothing." He looked around. "Looks like you didn't need much help. She shoots as well as the Colonel here."
Tori raised her gun. "Empty."
"You didn't have a gun?" Duke asked Ming Li.
"I'm Chinese, Mr. Big Duke," she said, all flirting and pretense. "We all know Kung Fu, don't you know?"
Ming knew his name was really Daryl Dutchman and that Big Duke was his nom de plume. Information about he and his companion, Zane P. Coltrane, owner and founder of the Coltrane's Chicken chain of restaurants, had been required reading before starting this job. She hoped, though, that playing the "pretty asian who gets the tough American's name wrong" might work with him.
"Don't try to hustle me, babe," he said. "I grew up in L.A. and my apartment is in Chinatown. Most of those jokers cook better than they fight. And I gotta say that for an opera star, you fight pretty damn well. So, I repeat: I ain't listenin' to no hustle! I don't need zombies and female shenanigans!"
"Now, boy, a gentleman must always be polite to the fairer sex," said Coltrane.
"I've told you before, Mr. Coltrane, I don't care if you are my backer, don't call me boy!" said Duke. "I wanna know what's going on. We were down in the hold with my 'cycle, and a gang of these things came out of the engine room! We barely made it out alive!"
Ming Li sighed. Her attempt to distract Duke hadn't worked. Her mission had gone totally "off the rails" as her American compatriots would say, and now her handler was temporarily out of bullets and there were two civilians involved.
Not to mention the zombies.
She decided to try more honesty and less flirtation.
"I don't know what is going on, Mr. Duke," she said, lightly touching his arm. "I don’t know where these zombies came from, or why they are here. I admit to knowing more martial arts than the average Chinese person of your acquaintance. My father thought it appropriate for someone who travels the world to learn."
If I knew who my father was, it might even be true, she thought.
"Your father," Duke repeated, and shrugged. "I can dig that. If I had kids, I'd want 'em safe, too. And hell, zombies, am I right? Who am I to say what's normal?"
"Thank you, Mr. Duke," said Ming.
"It's just Duke, Big Duke if you're fancy, or Big Duke Dutchman if you're a track announcer," he said. "So, what's the plan?"
Colonel Coltrane said, "We need to barricade ourselves in a cabin and wait for help."
"No!" said Tori.
"Now listen, little lady, y'all need to let a man handle this," said Coltrane, equally oblivious to Tori's offense at being called a "little lady" and the insinuation that she was of a lesser sex. Ming Li, however, knew Tori better than that. She was about to speak up to defuse the coming paroxysm when Big Duke beat her to it.
"We're following her." He nodded in Ming's direction.
Coltrane sputtered. "You can't seriously think that I'm going to let some foreign woman tell me…."
"Before you finish that thought, you might want to consider that she's unarmed and survived the zombies as well as we have," said Duke. "I may not know much, but I know I should always do what the most bad-ass person says, and for us, that's Kung Fu Lady here."
They stared hard at each other until Coltrane spat out, "Fine."
Duke gave her an "after you" gesture. Ming Li nodded. "Let's get to the bridge first."
They didn't see any zombies on the way to the top of the boat, but when they arrived, what they saw wasn't good. The reinforced bridge door was standing wide open, and the bridge itself was full of shot-up consoles and ripped wiring.
"No radio means no calls for help," said Duke.
"It's worse than that, Mr. Dutchman," said Ming Li. "All this damage, yet we encountered no zombies leaving."
The Colonel poked his finger into a bullet hole. "What kind of zombie carries a pistol?"
She was interrupted by a low moan from behind one of the console stations. Both Tori and Colonel Coltrane instantly pointed their guns.
"Hello?" said Ming. "Is anyone there?"
Other than another moan, there was no answer.
"Mr. Dutchman," said Ming, "if you would walk around that direction, I will take this one, and let us see what we see."
"Yes, ma'am," said Duke.
They crept forward, careful to not step in front of their armed compatriots. They both carefully peeked around opposite sides of the console.
"It's a member of the crew," said Duke. "Coltrane, check it out. I think he's been shot!"
"It is the first officer," said Ming. "He greeted us when the opera came on board."
While Duke kept his wrench ready to swing, she knelt next to the injured man. She knew he was unlikely to live with wounds like his.
"Can you hear me?" she asked. "Who did this to you?"
The Colonel looked over the console, guns still ready. "Damn, boy," he said, "he's not going anywhere."
"Don't call me 'boy,'" said Duke.
Coltrane ignored him. "Be a kindness to put him out of his misery."
Ming ignored the byplay. "Sir," she said, "what happened?"
The dying officer tried to talk. Ming put her ear next to his mouth, hoping he wasn't turning into a biting zombie. He muttered three words, then fell limp.
Duke checked his pulse. Ming looked hopefully at him, but he just shook his head. Tori crossed herself.
"What'd he say?" the Colonel demanded.
Ming stood. "He said fix the engine.”
Tori said, "That's all?"
"I say, you must have misheard. Chinese don't speak English so good anyway, right? He must have been trying to say something else!"
Tori said, "Colonel Coltrane, Ming Li attended Eton college in the United Kingdom. She speaks the Queen's English better than most people."
"Bah!" said Coltrane. “We don’t know how to fix an engine! None of us are remotely qualified! We should either hide, or take a lifeboat!“
"Hell, whatever he said," said Duke, "someone shot him, and I don't wanna be next. What's our next move, boss lady?"
"You're still taking orders from her?" cried Coltrane. "I find that irresponsible, boy."
"Don't call me boy!" yelled Duke.
He raised his wrench. Coltrane pointed his guns at him.
"Gentlemen!" said Tori.
"Stop calling me boy, Coltrane," said Duke. "If you don't want to follow Kung Fu Lady, go back to your cabin and barricade yourself in."
Coltrane said, "If that's what y'all think about me, then I will."
He turned and walked to the bridge door.
Ming Li said, "We could use your help very much, Colonel Coltrane."
He snorted. "You mean you need my guns."
"Not that badly," said Duke.
Coltrane snorted again, and left the bridge.
Tori turned on Duke. "What is your problem? We could have pretended he was the boss."
Duke shook his head. "No way in hell, babe. I mean, that old guy already tells me how to race motorcycles, and he doesn't know anything about racing, dig? How long before he gives you an bad order? Were you planning on ignoring him when he does that?"
Without waiting for a response, Duke continued, "because that won't work. He'll tear into you for not respecting him, or he'll tell you some story about the war, or he'll argue with you in the middle of a goddamn fight!"
Duke leaned against a broken console. "Besides," he said, "none of his war stories… well, he's not an officer in any of them. Capisce?"
"You have a way with words, Mr. Dutchman," said Ming Li.
"And you," said Duke, "I haven't figured you out, either of you. You're both up to something funky. Are you even really an opera singer?"
"It would be difficult to sing on stage if I were not," she said.
He looked at her, then at Tori.
"You ain't telling me, are you?" he said.
Neither of them said anything.
He stood up, spun his wrench in mid-air, then caught it. "I said you're the boss, and I meant it. So, where to next?"
Ming Li reached out, and touched Duke on the arm again. "I wish I could tell you everything you want to know, Mr. Dutchman. I hope you believe that."
Duke took a step back, out of her reach. "Where to?" he repeated.
Ming felt vaguely disappointed. She was depending on her flirtation skills to keep Duke on their side. So far he was resisting, yet still helping them. It confused her.
Tori said, "I need more ammunition. I've got some in my cabin."
"Where?" said Duke.
"Two levels down, the Aruba deck," she said, "other end of the ship."
"I'll take you, if you can hang on," said Duke. He turned to Ming, and said, "there's not enough room for three on my 'cycle. We can meet you by the main stairs on Aruba. The casino is right there."
"Let's meet in the hold," she said, "in the food supplies."
"That's locked up," said Duke.
"Tori can unlock it," said Ming. Tori tilted her head and gave Duke a small grin.
"More importantly," Ming continued, "some of the crew might have taken refuge there. We can get help."
Duke tilted his head at Tori. "I'll get her there. You can count on me."
"I'll meet you there," said Ming. "Go!"
Duke and Tori left the bridge. After a moment, Ming heard the motorcycle start up and race away. Tori's in for a bumpy ride down those stairs, she thought. She bent over the first officer's body, and gently closed his eyes. Then she removed a set of keys from his belt.
"Requiescat in pace, sir," she said. She used the keys to open an access hatch, and crawled inside, locking it behind her. There was enough room for a short person to move freely. Luckily for her she was a less than average height. Ming moved as fast as she could toward the nearest ladder, and descended towards the lowest deck.
She had only gone down three levels when a bullet dinged off the ladder just below her foot.
"Stop shooting!" she called out. "I'm friendly!"
"Nobody is friendly!" yelled a voice.
A deeper voice said, "So just go back the other way and everything will be fine."
Perhaps, she thought, reason might work.
"I need to travel down to the hold," she said.
Another shot ricocheted into the tube she was in, barely missing her.
"You'll let more of those things out!" said the deeper voice.
Ming Li considered her options. She had no gun. Even if she had been carrying a firearm, she didn't know if there were more people who simply hadn't spoken up. And they could all be armed.
She looked down. A risky course of action presented itself, but she saw no alternative.
"I'm going away!" she said. "Don't shoot! I'm going away!" She climbed up several rungs, being certain to make noise.
"Just stay away!" yelled the first voice.
It was time. She pushed herself away from the ladder and let herself fall. She had picked up enough speed by the time she passed the junction that nobody had a chance to shoot. She had a brief glimpse of two of the crew with shocked faces, and then she was falling past another floor. When she reached a crossing, she gritted her teeth and grabbed a rung with both hands. She choked back a scream as her left shoulder popped out of its socket.
Ignoring the pain from her shoulder, she used her right arm to swing herself into the side passage and crawled quickly away. Several bullets flew down the vertical tunnel behind her, but luckily none of them ricocheted into the tunnel she was in. She moved as fast as she could until she found another access tunnel crossing hers. She hid around the corner.
She took a deep breath, positioned herself, and slammed her left shoulder into the tunnel wall. She screamed in agony, but the shoulder socket didn't fix itself.
"One more try," she said. Another breath, another slam into the metal wall, another scream, but to no avail. She couldn't pop it back in by herself.
She tucked her left hand into a pocket to keep it still, and started to look for another ladder. It was painful, but her training allowed her to not scream with every step. She had intended to get to the food lockers before her allies did; now, she only hoped that she could make it without passing out.
Ming Li crawled step by excruciating step toward the end of the access tunnel. When she reached of the tunnel, a drizzle of oily purple liquid dripped down the wall. She idly reached out, then stopped herself.
"It's not lingonberry jam," she told herself. "Don't lick it." Flashbacks of the woman she had called "aunt" in the orphanage were not helping.
"I must keep myself awake and lucid," she repeated, over and over.
She kept repeating that to herself until she fell, face-first, on the walkway. She screamed as her shoulder wrenched, then froze as the sound echoed in the tunnels. An answering moan filtered through from below.
She dragged herself to the precipice and looked down the ladder. A horde of the once-human monstrosities looked up at her, and growled. One approached the ladder, and began to climb, very slowly.
She climbed the ladder too, hoping to keep far enough ahead to avoid being taken. It was slow, climbing with one arm but fortunately, she'd had training.
She made it one level up before the zombies got too close for comfort. She stepped into the cross tube, and saw a door. She started to open the door lock single-handed just as a zombie reached her level. It shambled towards her, wearing a Hawaiian shirt and Bermuda shorts. She kicked out, knocking the zombie back into another one that had just reached her level. She had time for another half-turn of the lock wheel before the zombie was back on his sandaled feet and inching towards her. One more kick, two zombies fell back, and one fell down the ladder. Ming Li could only hope he took more with him.
She turned the lock wheel another quarter turn before it she had to stop. Two hands could have opened it easily, but one hand was taking too long. After another kick to give her room, she braced herself and tried using both hands, but her shoulder burst into a world of blinding pain. A scream echoed up and down the tunnels, and only when it stopped did she understand it had come from her.
The zombies moaned and started forward again, and she didn't think she had it in her to stop them.
Suddenly, the door opened, and she fell through. She instinctively rolled away, and the door slammed shut.
"Duke?" she said.
"I thought I was Mr. Dutchman to you, Ms. Li," he said. He grabbed a slot machine, and pulled it down so it blocked the door. She was in the ship's casino.
She pushed herself up, accepted a hand from Duke to get on her feet, and looked around the room. The casino had seen better days. Some of the machines were tipped over. Chips and coins were lying everywhere. Three zombies, all with head wounds, were lying on the floor. Gambling machines were blocking every exit, except the big main door, which had a blackjack table shoved in front of it.
Duke is stronger than he looks, she thought.
One of the slot machines rang its bells, as if ghostly winners were still playing. Duke ran over, reached behind the machine, and did something that turned the entire row dark.
"My thanks for the timely save, Mr. Dutchman," she said, bowing her head.
"Stuff that crap," he said. "The only reason I'm here is your partner stole my 'cycle!"
"Tori?" Ming was confused. "Why?"
"I got no idea," said Duke. "We got to her cabin. She grabbed ammo—and didn't you all have to walk through the same metal detectors I did? Anyway, she reloaded, and pointed a gun at me. I thought she was joking until she fired!"
"She shot you?" said Ming. He did not look injured.
"Nah," said Duke, "she just wanted me out of the way. She told me to stay, and to lock the cabin door. Then she took my 'cycle!"
Ming observed, "you did not stay."
"Hell, no!" said Duke. "I ran after her, but I almost got snagged, so I decided to hide until I could figure things out."
"Why here?" said Ming. "Not that I do not appreciate being saved, Mr. Dutchman, but why the casino? It seems like the noises would draw more zombies."
"They have horror movies in Hong Kong, Kung Fu Lady?"
She nodded. "Indeed they do, although I am not a fan."
"Well," said Duke, "it always happens. Monster, bad guy, whatever, chasing the kids, and they run someplace with no exits. Of course, the black guy is always dead by then anyway."
"It does not sound like an attractive way to spend an afternoon," she said.
"Anyway, I don't wanna be that black guy, dig? So I think, where's a place with lots of exits, but I can still block them?"
He waved his hand in a circle. "Casino!"
Ming Li smiled. "Thank you for not blocking that door yet."
"Hell, Kung Fu Lady, I didn't know it was a door." He looked at her closely. "Was that you screaming? You don't seem like a screamer."
"My shoulder is out of its socket," Ming said. "I could not push it back in. Perhaps you could help?"
"Done it enough at the track," he said. He reached around her from behind, and grabbed her arm. "This is gonna hurt. I'm gonna count to…."
"Just do it, Duke," she interrupted, finally feeling sick and tired of the entire day. "Just do it."
Duke yanked hard. She didn't scream this time, mostly because it hurt less than any time in the last half-hour.
She gingerly moved it.
"It appears you did the job, Mr. Dutchman," she said. "Thank you."
"I'd tell you to get that looked at but, well, ship's doctor is probably a zombie, too," said Duke.
He sat down at a blackjack table. She sat across from him.
"Kung Fu Lady," he said, "you owe me an explanation."
"Here's what I think," he said. "You ain't no opera star. You and your friend, you're spies or some crap like that. I almost didn't bother rescuing you. You lied to me, and your partner stole my bike, and there's zombies everywhere. I said you were in charge, and I followed you, and got shot at for my trouble, because you lied to me."
Ming Li chose her words carefully, especially since Duke seemed to be her only remaining ally, if Tori had indeed gone off on her own.
"Mr. Dutchman," she began, then reconsidered. "Duke. If Tori and I were spies, then I would be at great risk of execution from the People's Republic of China. I am doing everything I can to help, and I would prefer not to be executed for my trouble.”
She smiled a very slight smile, and said, "I have devoted far too much energy into perfecting my singing talents to risk being executed."
"Maybe," he said.
"I do not know why Tori did what she did, but if she said it was to keep you safe, I believe her,” said Ming. "When this is over, I swear I will help you get your motorcycle back. I need your help, though, Mr., um, Duke. The engine on this ship is… substantially non-standard. Experimental."
Duke said, "And you know this because…."
Ming Li searched for an answer. Before she could speak, Duke said, "you know what? Who cares how you know. Opera gossip, right?"
Ming Li smiled. "I am… relieved that you understand, Duke."
"So this engine went screwy and now we got zombies and I guess they trained you to fix it in opera school?" he said.
"Sadly, esoteric engineering was not a required course," she said. "I simply wanted a look at it."
A loud knocking on the far door brought them both to their feet. The knocking turned into pounding.
"What'dya think, Kung Fu Lady? People?"
"Zombies," she said. "The door knob did not turn."
"You were paying attention?" he said.
"I was paying attention," she said.
"Damn, I don't know what makes you more scary," he said. "But… you're back in charge. Fight 'em? Hide?"
"Find our way downstairs," she said. "Whatever Tori is up to, I still need to get down to the hold. Will you help me?"
"Yeah," he said, and pointed to a different door. "Go move that one-armed bandit out of the way and get ready."
He walked toward the door that was now shaking from the zombies pounding on it.
"What are you going to do?" asked Ming, as she braced herself and pushed the gambling machine out of the way.
"Make a ruckus," he said. He picked up a croupier's rake from a table, and stood in front of the door on top of the heavy table he'd moved for fortification.
"Ready?" he asked.
"Go," she said.
He yanked the door open a bit, just enough to be seen. He jabbed the rake through the crack in the door and pushed back against the crowd.
"Yeah, that's it!" he yelled. "You don't mess with Big Duke!"
The zombies were in a frenzy, trying to push the heavy table away. Duke ran for the other door. Ming opened it just in time, and ran through. He followed her, and slammed the door shut behind them.
"Go!" he said.
"This way," she said, and they ran for the stairs.
They raced downstairs to the hold. Duke gasped at the sight of his motorcycle, lying mangled at the bottom.
Duke struggled to put the motorcycle upright, but Ming Li could see that the front fork was broken, and nobody was going to ride it anymore.
Duke turned on Ming Li. He spit out each word. "She. Wrecked. My. Motorcycle."
Ming looked him right in the eye. "We will make it like new, Duke, if we survive," she said.
He looked down. "I've bought that 'cycle just after I made it big," he said. "Your friend and I are having words."
"Let us find her," said Ming, and led him away.
The snuck around the boxes and through the shadows in the hold, avoiding the zombies, until the reached the food storage room. The door was locked.
"Knock," said Ming. "The zombies are across the room."
Duke banged on the door. "Let us in!" he said in a loud whisper.
The zombies heard him, and with a moan advanced on them. The lock on the door turned, and the door swung open, letting Ming and Duke inside before it was slammed shut.
"Big Duke, Ming Li," said Duke, introducing them.
"It's about time," said Colonel Coltrane. He was cleaning his guns. "What took y'all so long, boy?"
Duke's lips tightened into a line, but he said nothing.
"Colonel," said Ming, "did Tori arrive yet? I don't see her."
"Ain't seen hide nor hair of her," he said. "Now, sit down and let the men talk. We're fixing the ship."
Duke said to the group, "What does he mean?"
The Colonel answered instead. "These young men are what's left of the engine crew. The engine is right through that there door. There's a part missing from the engine, so they've used some of that ingenuity the Yanks love to boast of, and made something that will work. We just need to clear the way for a few minutes."
"I'll do it," said Ming Li.
"Hell-and-damnation," said the Colonel, "how's one little lady going to kill all of them?"
She said, "I'm faster than them. I'll draw them into the hold."
Duke said, "I don't care how good you are at Kung Fu. You won't last long."
Ming smiled sadly, and took his hand in hers. "I won't need to." She looked into his eyes. "Help them, Duke. The faster, the better, right?"
"We'll get it done," he said.
She said to the crew, "Give me one minute, then start fixing it."
They nodded. She opened the door, and ran through. With a kick and a punch, she took down the nearest zombies as the door closed behind her.
"Zombies!" she shouted. "Here I am!"
She didn't stop for an accurate count, but a quick glance showed at least 50 of the monsters in the room.
Surrounded by the hostile mob, she hit and kicked, weaved in and out, and even somersaulted past a few of them on her path to the big main door separating the engine room from the main hold. Fortunately it was wide open, but would she make it?
It seemed that most of the zombies were following her. At least that was good for the mission. She hoped that the Colonel wouldn't be too quick to shoot—the sound of a gunshot would only attract the zombies back towards the engineers. She hoped that Duke still had his big wrench.
She kicked a zombie's head and used the momentum to knock him down. She was moving closer towards the door, but not close enough yet to run. She needed to take the whole crowd with her, but she was slowly being surrounded from all sides.
She looked up and saw a chance—the loop of a chain hanging down. She crouched, and shot upwards with all her might, and managed to grab the chain with one hand. Before she could get a better grip, though, a zombie grabbed her foot, and tried to pull her back down.
She shook her shoe off to escape certain death, but now the crowd of zombies had truly arrived.
The bulk of the zombies filled the entire area beneath her precarious position, with only a few left near the engine. She saw the engineers run out from their redoubt, led by Duke and the Colonel, and attack the remaining zombies. Duke looked at her, and ran back through the door, while the engineers started working.
"Don't do anything stupid, Duke," she said.
Ming kept her feet higher than the zombies could reach, but just barely. She knew she didn't have many options, so she decided to start the chain swinging, thinking she would be able to leap past the edge of the crowd. She didn't feel hopeful.
Suddenly she heard a roar from a four-cylinder motor. Duke shot into the engine room, riding his motorcycle, the broken front fork high in the air.
"Wooooooooooooooooo!" he screamed. "Come get me!"
Ming stared as he spun around, gunned the engine, and raced back into the main hold. The zombies, presented with a louder target, followed.
With some of the zombies gone, Ming saw her opportunity and dropped back down to fight her way out.
When she made it away from the zombies, most of whom were now chasing Duke, she quickly ran to the wall and grabbed a ship's phone. Setting it to the intercom setting, she began speaking, and heard her voice echo in the hold. The zombies flowed out of the engine room, giving the crew time. Ming, however, was trapped against the wall with no convenient chains.
At the moment, she heard the motorcycle cough and stop. She saw Duke run toward her, with what seemed like every zombie on the ship behind him.
When he reached her, she said, "your actions may not have been wise, Duke, but I thank you. That was very brave."
"Couldn't let you get killed," he said. "My mama would've skinned me alive."
She laughed, and kissed him for his bravery. He returned the kiss, but they quickly broke off as the enemy closed in on them.
"I guess this is it," said Duke, raising his wrench to make a last stand.
Ming was about to speak, when the zombies stopped moving, and fell to the ground.
The intercom crackled, and a voice said, "the engine is fixed. Repeat, we fixed it! Wait… what are you…."
Gunshots echoed from the engine room.
Ming Li raced through the doors, followed by Duke. Ming saw Tori standing near the ship's engine. Tori took aim and shot a crewman in the back as he tried to run away.
"TORI!" screamed Ming as she ran towards her partner.
Tori turned. "Ming Li," she said. "I see you survived. Congratulations." She waved the gun at them. "No closer, please."
"You broke my 'cycle," snarled Duke.
"I had a job to do," she said.
"What job?" he yelled. "Shooting the crew?"
Ming's gut twisted at the realization. "You sabotaged the engine."
Tori laughed. "Your superiors in MI6 are naive."
"You're a double-agent," said Ming. "China, I suppose?"
"Like I said, naive. This engine cannot be allowed to succeed, and I have my orders to make sure of that," she said.
"She's the reason we've been fighting zombies?" said Duke.
"An interesting side effect," said Tori.
Ming said, "You cannot win this."
"Since neither of you are armed, I think I can," said Tori. "I'm sorry, Ming—I enjoyed working with you, and you are truly talented. But this is the end."
At the sound of the gunshot, Ming was momentarily confused as to why neither she nor Duke had fallen. Then Tori pitched forward to the floor. Coltrane stepped out from behind the engine.
"Double-agent, hmm?" he said, in a Brooklyn accent. "Typical slapdash MI6 work. We'd never tolerate that in the CIA."
"You're CIA?" said Duke.
Coltrane flipped a salute. "Indeed, but please keep it to yourself if you would. And sorry for the 'boy' references. Part of my cover, like the accent."
Duke was trying not to be stunned. He was not succeeding. "Ain't no thing at all," he finally said.
Coltrane turned to Ming. "I'm afraid I cannot allow MI6 to sabotage the engine, either, miss."
Ming Li nodded. The jig was clearly up. "My orders were to examine it, possibly steal a maintenance manual," she said. "I don't suppose you would have one lying around?"
"Have your ambassador talk to someone in Washington," said Coltrane. "I'll mention your good work in my report, how's that?"
"Very kind of you, Mr. Coltrane," she said.
"Damn it all, this is too much!" said Duke.
"What is wrong now, Duke?" asked Ming.
"You're a spy," he said, "and my backer's a spy. I'm the only person on this damn ship that AIN'T a spy! So I only got one thing to say."
"And what is that?" she asked.
"One of you owes me a new motorcycle!"