Mr. Snippy sighed. He wasn't sure how after all this time in Captain's glorious army it was still possible for him to be surprised. And yet, once more the whole situation had taken him completely unprepared.
It had all started earlier today, when Pilot, Engie and Snippy had been sitting around what they called their breakfast table. Gromov was hiding himself and whatever he was eating behind an ancient piece of newspaper, Snippy was trying to decide, whether he should spice his bowl of water and cereals with some milk powder and Pilot was busy crafting a blob of peanut butter into a shape roughly resembling a mutated worm monster like Photoshop. That was when the Captain entered the room, announcing: "Minions! Finish your meals! Your Captain has today's mission for you!"
They all reacted differently: Snippy almost choked on a spoon full of cereals, Pilot jumped from his chair and saluted while hastily shoveling the whole piece of peanut butter art into his mouth and smearing half of it over his own face and Engie folded the top half of his newspaper down, casting an angry stare at their commander.
"Minions!" Captain continued "It eez time to expand this amazing army of mein. So find me a new recruit!"
"Here?" was all Snippy had asked. They had only recently moved into this new area. The good news about this place were the pleasantly low radiation levels, the bad news was, that it was located in a depression filled with toxic gas like that damn bowl in front of him was filled with soggy, uneaten breakfast cereals. Their new headquarter was on the highest floor of a ruined skyscraper, where they at least could remove their respirators for a few minutes (after almost dying from climbing up ten thousands of stairs). And since they had moved in here, they hadn't seen a single living being. There weren't even rats to hunt in an area as toxic as this one.
"I highly doubt there are any humans living around in the neighborhood, Captain."
"Of course I am aware of zat, Mr. Snippy. My orders were not to fetch me a living human mein silly minion, I only said a ‚new recruit', you need to read between the lines."
"Wait! Wait!" Engie interrupted before Snippy could answer anything to that. "You want us to recruit more of those mutated monsters out there? Not that we have seen any of those either..."
Pilot, who hadn't looked too happy about the whole ‚new recruit' mission cheered visibly up on the thought of mutated monsters "We could find a new friend for Photoshop! And then they could play tug of war with Snippy playing the part of the rope!"
"Warmer, meine minions, but not exactly what I had in mind." Captain made a dramatic pause...
"I want you to recruit me a zombie!"
And so Snippy, Pilot and Engie had spent the first half of the new day wandering through the ruins of the city, searching for an undead willing to join their ranks.
While Pilot was zooming around happily, chatting up to some unresponsive skeletons, Snippy and Engie were discussing their slightly more realistic options.
"Do you think we can trick Captain by dragging a skeleton back to the base? We could tell him that the new undead minion is just ... sleeping... or something." the engineer suggested.
"He wouldn't buy it even if we were attaching strings to it to move it around, even Captain isn't that dumb. But how about you giving a skeleton some robotic parts? cyber-zombies are your speciality after all, Gromov."
Engie cast a rather poisonous gaze at the sniper. The ANNET frying everybodys' brains was Captain's fault! He spilled his tea over her server banks!"
"All ANNET-users were already braindead zombies before that incident, Gromov." Snippy snapped back. Both of them stopped walking, as they went into a match of angry staring. They were interrupted though, by Pilot shouting:
Snippy pulled his rifle of his shoulder, going into a sprint towards where Pilot's voice had come from, leaving Engie no choice but to follow behind. Snippy looked around, and saw a grey shape dodging into the entrance of the nearest building from the corner of his eye. The sniper cursed under his breath, aimed his rifle, but the thing was already out of sight. Whatever it was it had definately not been Pilot. So there was indeed something in the toxic area besides them. Snippy had been careless, assuming only their crazy commander would consider living in a place this poisonous was a good idea.
"Pilot where are you?" Engie shouted and Snippy flinched a bit.
-Leave it to Gromov to make lot's of noise, when you don't know how many enemies or monsters are around.- he thought.
"I'm here!" Pilot suddenly reappeared by jumping out of a pit right in front of them.
"I saw him! A real zombie! He was digging himself out of his own grave!" Pilot cheered.
Indeed somebody had dug a pit there, probably deep enough to bury a car in it. A shovel was lying in the hole and an abandoned wheel barrow, half filled with soil, was standing nearby.
"This doesn't look exactly like a graveyard, Pilot. I doubt there are people buried under the sidewalk." Engie remarked dryly.
"People can be buried anywhere: On graveyards, in the sea, in the foundation of buildings, in the walls, under floorboards, in the basement..." Pilot happily listed the possibilities.
"Just where do you get those ideas, Pilot? No! On second thought, I don't actually want to know!" Snippy sighed. And he could have sworn, that Pilot muttered something about "sea didn't work" under his breath.
"So what actually just happened?" Engie inquired.
"I spotted the zombie and would have totally caught him but then he threw a fist full of dirt into my face and dodged me, when I jumped at him. Where did he go?" Pilot inquired, following Snippy's gaze towards the building.
"Stay here and don't get in my way, you jiggly slugs! I saw him first!" and with that Pilot dashed after the zombie into the building.
"Maybe we are lucky and the ‚zombie' eats him." Engie stated. "This is so silly."
"We better hurry up and follow him. Even if it's not a zombie it might be dangerous." Snippy responded, following Pilot to the building with low enthusiasm.
"What do you mean with ‚if'? There is no such unscientific things as zombies!"
"Cancer."Snippy replied laconically.
"That was something entirely different , and you know it."
They continued bickering until they reached the dark doorway. Both of them cast a careful look inside. Some old and broken furniture, disturbed dust, more darkness. Pilot had obviously trampled all usefull tracks in his haste to be the first one to catch his Captain a zombie and he wasn't exactly subtle with his search, either. From deep within the building Snippy and Engie could hear more furniture breaking and Pilot shouting nonsense about ‚collecting rotten boots for the army'.
"I bet whatever it was it is long gone now. This place probably has a backdoor or at least some windows facing in the other direction and Pilot creates enough noise to wake the dead." Snippy sighed. But Engie had his head tilted and listened to a faint noise coming from a different source.
"I wouldn't count on that, Charles" he wispered, finally taking a step into the building. He crossed the room as silently as he was able to manage and carefully listened at one of the doors leading deeper into the building. The engineer waved for the sniper to follow him. Snippy readied his rifle, took position beside the door and nodded. Engie pushed the door open, dodging back at once, so the sniper would have a free line o fire.
Engie curiosly looked into the room just as Snippy did. The place looked disappointingly empty. Obviously Pilot had been in here already. He had opened the wardrobe pulled out all items of moth eaten clothing and scattered them all over the floor. He had ripped of the curtains, toppled over a bookshelf and judging by the tracks left in the dust, Pilot had looked under the bed as well. And yet, for some reason Snippy had the disturbing feeling, that this room wasn't as abandoned as it seemed to be. He could hear it too now: A scratching noise coming somewhere from the far wall. Curiosity won the better of Engie and he carefully stepped over the rotten books and half dissolved laundry, finally pressing an ear to the wall.
"I guess it's just a nest of rats." He wispered, listening intently.
"Yeah, probab... no wait! There aren't any rats in...
The wall cracked open with a sick crunching noise. Dried bones, mixed with wooden splinters made clicking noises while spilling from the hole onto the floor. A dusty gloved hand with long, claw like fingers had punched through the wall just an inch away from Gromov's face, grabbing the engineer's collar.
Then three things happened all at once:
Engie screamed like a horror movie actress from the sixties.
Snippy aimed at the thing coming from of the crack in the wall, pulled the trigger and...
...sombody pushed the sniper's rifle to the side.
The shot rang through the room, missing it's mark by more than just a few inches.
"I told you to recruit me a zombie not to shoot it, mein silly minion!"
"Captain?" Snippy asked in disbelieve. As so often their commanding officer had snuck up on him. As Captain let go of the barrel of Snippy's rifle he continued: "You really need to listen to my orders more carefully mein sniper, but enough of zat, let me see what you have found for me."
"I found it first, Captain, not that silly shoe! He was just trying to shoot it because he was jealous of my discovery!" Pilot appeared behind Captain, pointing an accusing finger at the sniper.
"Bwah? I only shot because it attacked Gromov!" Snippy protested.
"Stop that and help me! It's trying to pull me in!" Engie shouted, flailing around and trying to shake off the zombie's grip. Snippy raised his rifle again but the creature just let go of the engineer all of a sudden. Gromov completely out of balance fell on his back rather inelegantly. The zombie in the meantime managed to somehow squeeze its whole body out of the hole until it finally stood in the room with them. Behind it, two more skeletons collapsed out of the crack, falling into pieces upon hitting the carpet.
"So walls don't work either to get rid of old shoes. Good to know." Pilot muttered. But Snippy's attention was fixed on the zombie. The figure in front of them was covered up by a long, half shredded and dusty grey cloak. Snippy got a glimpse of black pants and grey boots. There wasn't much else to be seen than a rather odd looking gasmask with two tubes disappearing to somwhere under the grey hood. Despite being rather tall the figure seemed to be hunched over, an impression amplified by something the zombie seemed to be carrying on it's back under the cloak. A hidden backpack maybe? The zombie almost appeared human, aside from... and Snippy realized how crazy that sounded... aside from the goggles. They were dark grey, dull and well .. lifeless?
Currently those dark lenses were fixed on Captain, who had stepped forward to adress the figure:
"You are the most lucky little zombie! For I zee Captain am currently recruiting for zee undead part of the most delicious army of Captania. You heard what I was telling you? My other minions seem to have problems with zat today."
The zombie hesitated a moment and then finally nodded.
"Very well, so at least your ears haven't rotten off, yet. How about speaking?"
"... gl... gr...sst.. rk..." after a few attempts the zombie finally gave up and shook it's head.
"Hmmm... that wont do! My zombie minions must at least be able to mutter ‚brains'! Zee Captein demands you to say ‚brains'! And make that a menacing one!"
The zombie hesitated for another moment and finally tried.
"Bwah?!" Snippy's hands clenched around his rifle, and Engie who was almost back on his feet stumbled backwards and fell down again. Even Pilot hat instinctively reached for his weapon.
The zombie seemed even more surprised then them though, inquiring carefully:
Captain clapped his hands: "Zat was perfect!" Zee Captain approves of this display of menacing muttering. Then all that is left to do is finding out whether you are able to accomplish zee Captain's missions, liddle Zombie. Here take zat."
With that the Captain handed a piece of paper to the zombie.
"Zee Captain wants you to fetch him zis. But since this is your very first mission..." the Captain pondered for a moment, looking through the room at his other minions.
And this was the reason, why Mr. Snippy was now standing in the middle of the road, to escort a zombie on the very important mission to rescue princess Peach.