“Not a word,” said Mary, striding up to the bar, grabbing the bottle of Jose Cuervo from David Hewlett, who was trying to chat up some girl on the basis of him fighting a zombie, and taking a long slug.
She then handed the bottle to Greg Grunberg, who then handed it to Snoop.
“Is there any Cristal in this joint?” Snoop asked.
“We can probably have some brought in,” said Hewlett, looking at the way that Greg Grunberg was covered in filth, Mary seemed bound and determined to reduce herself to abject drunkenness as fast as she could, and Snoop Dogg and Kevin Smith were at the Sci-Fi party.
“Dude, is that Snoop?” someone — Dave really hoped it wasn’t Flanigan — said, walking along with a Coors Light. “This party is off the hook!”
“For real. Anyone got some weed?” the someone walking with the probable Flanigan asked as Dave turned to Greg. He seemed the most in control, and plus, Dave didn’t think he wanted to get into it with Kevin Smith or Snoop. They looked ready to scrap.
“I hate to ask, but what the fuck happened to you, eh?” Dave asked, gesturing at the filthy condition of the newcomers. “Didn’t you all miss your panels, anyway?”
“Funny story, that,” Greg said, noting that Mary and Snoop were simply passing the bottle back and forth. “You know that fuckin’ train…?”
Greg’s panel was first, but he was the last to realize he wouldn’t be there. He got the call two days before he was supposed to leave. He had been sitting on set, talking to Masi and Milo like usual, and arguing over who would be the coolest geek at Comic-Con. Masi had the benefit of playing a geek on screen, but Greg’s comic collection was legendary, and Milo… well, Milo had been on Gilmore Girls. He was a teen heartthrob. It was, they all agreed, a completely separate type of geek, but a valid one nonetheless.
The conversation was entertaining enough that Greg ignored the first call. And the second. But on the third, Masi pointed out that JJ could have managed to get killed, and really, Greg, it would just be tacky to not even pay attention, you know?
He saw Mary’s number, and his first reaction was to throw the cell phone as far as it would go. Maybe he could throw it to Hayden’s trailer. He bet she would love an extra cell phone.
But he was mature. He was a grown-up. He could handle a simple phone call. Really.
He rolled his eyes at Masi and Milo, a general I hate my life and want to die gesture, and stepped out to answer it. “Mary. Hey.”
“Greg,” she said warmly. “It is so wonderful to talk to you again.”
But Greg knew her better than that. “My god,” he said. “What the hell did you do this time?”
“Why does everyone always ask me that?” Mary asked, sounding a little fretful about it. “And I didn’t do anything. However, I can’t exactly speak for others…”
Her voice trailed off; Greg groaned. “Zombies?”
“I’m not sure,” she confessed. “But I heard Aaron tell Tahmoh that this year’s Comic Con was going to feature a lot of snakes…and before you ask, he added that it wasn’t going to be at the Snakes on a Plane panel.”
“So…you heard snakes and thought zombie wrangler?” Greg asked, sure there was more to it than that, and equally sure that someone up there was punishing him for being friends with JJ.
“No. I chased Aaron down, asked about the snakes and, well. Have you ever worked with Snoop Dogg?” Mary asked, sounding tentative for the first time in her life.
“No. Why?” Greg asked.
“I think someone took Snoop literally. There’s this guy in California — um, Aaron said they call him Nick the Zombie Guy,” Mary said, sounding like she was looking at a pad of paper. “I asked Nick and Nick said that he knew some amateurs who were working on Snoop Dogg’s movie and they were big fans of Samuel L. Jackson and if you put two and two together, um.”
Greg started pounding his head against the nearest solid surface. Unfortunately for Milo, that was, in fact, Milo.
“Zombie snakes,” he said.
“Zombie snakes,” Mary agreed. “So, you’re going to help me, right?”
Greg sighed. “Obviously I’m going to help you,” he said. “What, you think I’m a wrangler for my health? It’s a job.”
“We are so relieved to hear that,” Mary said.
That was probably when Greg did something weird with his face, because Milo and Masi both looked at him like he was having a seizure or something. It took all of Greg’s inner strength to breathe in, breathe out, and then ask, as calmly as he could, “We?”
“Me and Samuel, of course,” she said.
“And Kevin Smith.”
“Of course, can’t forget Snoop. Is Sam Jackson coming, then?” Greg asked. “And what about Nick the Zombie Guy?”
“I don’t know,” Mary said. “He’s very insistent on making his panel. He says fan support is–”
“Dude, I don’t care!” Greg said, not entirely sure if he was talking about Samuel L. Jackson or Nick the Zombie Guy. “This is my first time in, like, my career, where I have a role where I don’t have to be directed by JJ. I want this show to do well. Since when is Heroes less important than Snakes on a Plane?”
“Sam Jackson,” Mary said, “will be involved as much as he can. Unlike you, this is not his calling. This is merely an unfortunate side effect of his job.”
Greg grumbled wordlessly, which was Grunberg for I know you’re right but it pisses me off. “I can’t believe I have to miss my panel,” he said.
“Do you think it’s just you?” Mary asked. “I’ve been looking forward to a day of lots of free alcohol coupled with crazy con-goers for months now. We’d been working out a panel drinking game.”
“Fucking Sam Jackson,” Greg said. “And fucking Snoop Dogg.”
“So I’ll see you there?”
“Fucking Snoop Dogg,” Greg said again, and hung up.
Masi and Milo both looked up at him, confused.
“I’m missing the panel,” he said.
Greg’s life sucked so hard.
“So, wait, wait wait,” said Lucy, who had joined the party with a bottle of Cristal for Snoop and another bottle of better tequila for Mary, who had finally decided the Cuervo was no good for a champion zombie hunter. “Who actually came up with the ideas for zombie snakes, let alone put them on that fucking train?”
“We never quite figured that out,” Mary admitted. “After talking to Snoop here, who confirmed his people had gotten the idea from outsiders — I’m starting to suspect Toronto.”
“Toronto?” Greg asked. “I thought Sandra and Felicity were through with open warfare.”
Dave Hewlett snorted and threw a wadded-up napkin at Flanigan’s hair. Flanigan didn’t notice, and the copious amounts of hair gel and perspiration in his mop kept that napkin stuck tight.
“Sandra Oh is not the personification of Toronto,” he said. “And Victor has been very mellow in the face of Mary’s…activism.”
“Victor’s crew would think zombie snakes were funny,” Rachel Luttrell added.
“Not just Victor’s crew,” Aaron Douglas pointed out, having pulled his baseball cap down so low he looked like a possible anonymous gunman. “Not that I sanction the use of zombies in Canadian actor mafia warfare.”
Snoop looked at Rachel, who giggled. Because she was Rachel and she giggled. Then he looked at Chris Judge, who was drinking the leftovers of Mary’s bottle of Cuervo.
“You tellin’ me that the white people really do got themselves a mafia, y’all?” he asked in his deceptively soft voice. Rachel giggled again, but Chris kind of rolled his eyes and shrugged his shoulders. “I thought that was just to cover up for havin’ to hunt down them zombie snakes and shit. Shit. There’s a Canadian mafia? That shit’s wild.”
“You hunted down a trainload of zombie snakes with this WASP here–” and Chris smiled his most charming smile at Mary, who rolled her eyes back, “And you didn’t get that this woman here is dangerous?”
“Naw, naw,” Snoop said. “I ain’t got nothing but respect for Ms. McDonnell here. I loved her in Passion Fish and shit–”
“Thank you,” Mary said, wiping her mouth.
“I just didn’t think y’all really had a mafia. It’s like when white folks call their friends their posse and their house their hizouse, tryin’ to sound like they gangsta?” Snoop said, nodding his head to his internal rhythm.
Rachel and Chris cracked up, Rachel pounding her fist against the bar with unrepentant glee. “Oh, fuck, why isn’t Jason here?” Rachel asked.
“Cuz he’s half, and he’s Hawaiian, not black?” Chris quipped. “Anyway, what’s going on with this story here?”
Greg had a family. Which no one ever seemed to remember, because they were way too preoccupied with their own jobs and lives and, hey, families, but he had one too. Sure, he had a calling, but he also had three sons. No one ever remembered his sons. Mary had her husband (who was, officially, just called Mary’s Husband by everyone in the know), and Garber had his, but Greg’s wife and kids? Forget it. Apparently to the rest of the world, Greg was nothing but a weapon.
Which was unfortunate, because officially, Greg was very strongly anti-violence.
“I have a new show,” Greg said. “Heroes. I’m a superhero.”
It wasn’t really a nice greeting — or a greeting at all — but it was taken as one.
“Hey, man, I’m Sam,” Samuel L. Jackson said.
“Yo, man. Snoop.”
Which made Greg feel almost bad. “Greg. Grunberg. I know who you guys are. My kids love your albums. Do they still call them albums?”
“And Snakes on a Plane. Man, I’ve been looking forward to that since I first saw Boa vs Python.”
“Have you talked to Dave about that?” Mary asked calmly. Greg couldn’t even tell if she was being sarcastic.
“Look,” Greg said. “I have a panel at eleven-thirty on Friday. I want to be at that panel. So let’s just deal with this now, and then–”
“Deal with this?” Mary’s voice was the kind of calm that usually masked hysteria. “Zombie snakes on a train, and you think we can just deal with it?”
Greg blinked. “Snakes on a train? Dude, did your people plan this?” he asked, looking pointedly at Sam Jackson, who was drinking a bottled water nonchalantly.
“Hell, no,” Sam said. “My agent won’t let me within fifteen feet of those fuckers.”
“Well,” Greg said. “Do we have a plan?”
Snoop turned to Sam. “Say it, man. Come on, please?”
“He won’t say it,” Snoop told Greg sadly. “No matter how much I ask.”
“This isn’t a catchphrase on a movie, Snoop,” Sam said solemnly. “This is real life, and those bitches need to die.”
“Whoa, hey,” Greg said. “Wrangler, not murderer. Big difference.”
“Bro,” Sam said, adjusting his omnipresent yet jaunty cap as he spoke. “These are zombie fucking snakes. You kill them, or they eat your brains and kill you.”
“I didn’t know you were the expert just because you filmed one movie that was practically a Sci-Fi Original,” Greg snapped.
“Hey,” Mary interrupted. “No one is insulting those movies here. They’re an important part of the Vancouver economy.”
“Sorry, Mary,” Sam said, extending a hand in what could have been sympathy, if not simply denial of blame.
“Sorry,” Greg muttered.
“So,” Snoop said. “We need to kill the snakes–”
Snoop glared at Greg. “We need to wrangle or kill the motherfucking snakes on the motherfucking train–”
“Could you stop saying that?” Sam demanded.
“We need to wrangle or kill the zombie snakes,” Snoop said. “Isn’t that a plan?”
“That’s a goal,” Greg said. “Not a plan. It’s not even the beginning of a plan. It’s not even, like, a pre-plan. It’s an abstract idea that has nothing to do with reality.”
Sam bit his lip. “Well,” he said. “Do any of y’all have any sporks?”
“There’s a Ralph’s next to the convention center,” Mary said, sounding absent. She’d spent most of the conversation doodling in a notebook while Greg had dealt with the reality of his upcoming death via incompetence. “We can easily obtain sporks. Our major problem is deniability to our studios and agents. Well, that and not dying, given our relatively small force.”
“Did you miss the part where we don’t have a plan, Mary?” Greg asked, sounding panicked. Sam and Snoop were both smirking. “I don’t want to die because you’re feeling diva.”
“Zombies and snakes have the same basic vector of disease,” Mary said. “The bites will screw you up in various ways. So our main goal is to prevent being bitten while killing approximately…” she paused. “A hundred and fifty zombified snakes.”
Greg looked confused, and Snoop, with a smile, pointed at Mary’s ear. She was on the phone with someone — either her assistant, or the vast resources someone of her background had. Which could be zombie experts, herpetologists, or fuck knew what else.
“With sporks?” Greg asked.
“That’s how we did it in the movie!” Sam said defensively.
“This is real life, not the movies!” Greg said.
Mary held her hand up. No snapping, no yelling — her hand was just up. Sam and Greg fell silent, and Snoop was smiling. Possibly he was just stoned.
“Does anyone here know how to handle liquid nitrogen or a flamethrower?” she asked.
“Flamethrower. Kind of,” Greg said.
“Can’t I use a shotgun?” Sam asked.
“Liquid nitrogen is cool,” Snoop finished.
“All right,” Mary said, sighing. “Yes, I’m going to need Kevin. Yes, I KNOW he’s got an attitude. Remember where I am right now? Right. Right. Okay, I love you too, honey. Remember to take your echinacea.”
Mary turned back to the group, full of her now-legendary poise. “That was my husband,” she said. “So now we have a plan. We get on the train, in the fucking unbelievably hot San Diego weather, and using our weapons of choice — and Kevin Smith will show you how to use liquid nitrogen — to attack the snakes.”
“Do we have attack formations? A backup plan in case one of us accidentally gets in the way of an aggressive flamethrower? Police permits?” Greg asked, fiddling.
“We will,” Mary said. “My husband and my girls are on it. The weapons — and Kevin — will be waiting at airport.”
“The airport? How far is that from the convention center? My driver hates the fucking traffic around here,” Sam said.
“The traffic is a bitch around here,” Snoop agreed.
“It’s San Diego. Airport’s in town,” Greg said, giving the other men a look. “What? This is a big city. How can you not know that?”
Due to an almost unanimous vote, Snoop was put in charge of the checklist, which he enjoyed more than any human had any right to.
“Tarps?” he said.
“Three,” Sam called.
“I have one,” Kevin confirmed. “I stole it from the airport.”
“Carbon — okay, what the shit is this?”
Greg looked over his shoulder. “It’s a really long word for an explosive that has carbon in it.”
“We got that shit?”
Greg pointed over at the giant pile with the label which did, in fact, begin with carbon and did, in fact, look impossible to pronounce.
“Alright, alright. Mewes?”
“Yo, yo, yo, Jason Mewes in the HIZZOUSE,” he called from the corner.
“What the shit is this, man?” Snoop asked. “I ain’t on the list. Why’s he?”
“He tends to wander off,” Kevin explained.
“Dude, it’s a checklist, not a baby-sitting service.”
“He’s Jason Mewes, dude,” Kevin said. “It’s working, isn’t it?”
It had taken about ten minutes for Kevin and Jason to go from starstruck in the presence of Snoop and Sam to ready to bait them or challenge them on anything they said.
Kevin, at least, was there for the liquid nitrogen. Mewes, Greg thought, was probably just there to piss him off.
“Does it bother anyone else that our plan is pretty much go in there, destroy a newly evolved indigenous species without even asking how much Sci Fi would pay to rent the use of a few dozen for a day, and then get back just in time for his panel” (Greg jerked a thumb at Sam) “while completely missing mine?”
“No,” Snoop said. “Why? Should it?”
“Look, man,” Sam said. “I’m really sorry about your panel. But this is bigger than that. It’s bigger than all of us.”
“You’re going to your panel.”
“Well, it ain’t bigger than that, okay?”
“Whatever,” Greg said, trying valiantly to pretend he didn’t sound like a third grade girl. “I don’t care, okay? Just… how do we do this?”
“Kenan’s gonna be at my panel,” Sam said.
“We go in and we kill the motherfuckers,” Kevin said.
“Fuck yeah!” Mewes supplied.
“I haven’t seen Kenan since filming,” Sam continued.
“Do we know how we’re killing these motherfuckers?” Greg asked, as patiently as he could.
“It involves carbon something,” Snoop said.
“I missed Kenan,” Sam muttered. “He’s my boy. That so wrong?”
“How did we not know this was happening?” Aaron asked Dave, as everyone raptly listened to the joint tale of woe, zombies, and liquid nitrogen.
“We were at the Warcraft booth,” Dave said simply.
“Oh, did you see Brandon Routh?” Greg asked.
“No, but Seth Green was there,” Dave answered. “But let’s get back to the point. While we were discussing Warcraft and whether or not that really was Frank Miller harassing the booth girl, you were attacking snakes!”
“Zombie snakes,” Mary added, head tilted back while Lucy massaged her shoulders. They had apparently gotten over Lucy’s near-shunning during her early days on set. “With flamethrowers.”
Chris and Rachel were shaking their heads in tandem, even as two execs and Flanigan were throwing darts and talking about how their party was clearly the big dog this year, and fuck DC! Fuck them in their stupid fuckholes!
“Does Ms. McDonnell need another frosty margarita?” Sam asked, noting Mary’s posture and the attendant group of underlings with clear interest.
Rachel looked at Chris. “When did he get here, anyway?” she whispered.
“I don’t know, but he’s the only one who took the time to take a shower,” Chris answered, just as quietly.
“Ms. McDonnell isn’t as young as the rest of you and needs to get the kinks out of her neck before going back to her beloved husband and getting a good conjugal visit in before being returned to the fucking woods,” Mary said, rather loudly. “Snakes. I was going to be sassy with Eddie! We had a whole torment Ron routine, but instead I’m dirty, in need of a chiropractor visit, and covered in deep-fried snake.”
David Eick opened his mouth, but Lucy stepped on his foot before he could say a word. “Do not say it tastes like chicken,” she snarled in a low voice.
“Snake actually tastes more like squid, anyway,” Snoop added. “You know, like that calamari shit?”
“You ain’t old,” Sam pointed out. “I bet you cash money you ain’t older than me. I’m gonna be sixty in two years, and I know you ain’t that old.”
Mary looked up and smiled. “That’s true. I’m not older than you. But I am also not an international action star,” she said. “And my shoulders hurt.”
“You are too an action star! You’re in action movies all the time! You were in Independence Day with Vivica!” Sam protested. “You were the president in that, too, weren’t you?”
“I was the First Lady and I died horribly. The dog lived in that movie and I died. Bill fucking Pullman was in that movie, and I was the one who had to die!” Mary said, eyes flashing and a glare on her face. “Yes, yes I do need another tasty beverage.”
Samuel L. Jackson, bad motherfucker, Jedi Knight, action star, and general icon of all things cool and badass in the universe, took one look at Mary McDonnell’s face, and went running for a margarita.
Chris looked at Rachel who looked at Snoop who looked at Kevin.
“Well, Xena is giving her a shoulder rub,” Kevin said. “I’d be afraid, too. But where were we? There were snakes, we had nitrogen and flamethrowers, Greg was being a little bitch about his missing panel…”
Greg glared. “A little girl,” he began. “Specifically asked Milo about his Grunberg is My Hero t-shirt. I could have had cute little girls calling me their hero. Instead I got sassed by you and Snoop. So fuck you, Silent Bob.”
Greg wasn’t scared of the shit normal kids were scared of. Bugs, monsters, zombies — he was cool with all of them. He had a way with them. Living and formerly-living liked Greg, and he liked them right back.
Trains, though? That was another story.
“For real?” Snoop asked. “You aren’t scared of the zombie snakes running around here-”
“Snakes don’t have legs. They’re slithering.”
“What the fuck ever. Snakes don’t do shit to you, but you’re scared of a train?”
“Fuck you,” Greg muttered. He had train fear. Other people had fears. Mary had mullet fear, for example. Snoop probably had, he didn’t know, celery fear. “Kevin, you have the liquid nitrogen?”
“No, Greg,” Kevin deadpanned. “I came from New Jersey without illegally smuggling the liquid nitrogen on the plane.”
“Sam, man,” Snoop said. “Was anyone was illegally smuggling liquid nitrogen in your film?”
“You realize it was a movie, right?” Sam asked. “On a sound stage?”
“You just don’t want me spoiled, right? I get it.” Snoop saluted, almost losing the checklist in the process.
Mary finally looked at them, the long withering glance that made all of them shut up. Even Sam. Even Snoop. “Are we just about ready?”
“I have the liquid nitrogen,” Kevin said.
“I have the carbon shit,” Snoop said.
“I’m ready to talk to them in a calm and nurturing voice to attempt to avoid a violent conflict, as fits my job description,” Greg offered.
“I got a flame thrower,” Sam said. “Plus my trusty shotgun.”
“Excellent,” Mary said. “Excellent.”
As they approached, closer and closer, there was a sound coming from the trains. It sounded kind of like — it couldn’t be, but–
“Dude,” Greg said. “Is that hissing?”
“Now or never,” Sam said, and he swung himself up onto the train, disappearing into a window like one of his own characters in a movie.
Greg sighed, and followed right behind.
“Hey,” he heard Kevin say from behind him. “Has anyone seen Jay?”
Mary nodded, turning and pointing mutely. This alone put the fear of God into Greg, because Mary usually had something to say. Sometimes it was only, “no” but she was rarely speechless.
But then, Greg had never seen Mewes, in camouflage, with an enormous chef’s knife in one hand, a utility belt around his skinny waist, bright pink dish gloves on his hands, and a plastic light saber across his back.
“Point me to them zombie snakes and I will fuck their shit up for Mommy Darko, fat boy from Felicity — I loved you on that fucking show, man — and the coolest fucking men in the galaxy, Sam Jackson and Snoop Dogg!” Jason announced, practically posing.
“This is a stealth mission, dumbass,” Kevin said.
“Liquid nitrogen will fuck my hands up. I’m keeping the gloves on, bro,” Jason replies.
“Good point. Are our nitrogen users gloved?” Kevin asked. Snoop and Mary lifted their hands to demonstrate that yes, they were. “Good stuff. Remember, the snakes WILL eventually heat up again, so you DO have to smash them or you’ve wasted the nitrogen.”
“They don’t, I do!” Jason said.
“Okay, fine. If you haven’t smashed your snake, tell Jason,” Kevin said.
“Also, let’s try to keep a rough count. It’s fucking hot, I hate trains, and I don’t want to spend twenty minutes tracking down the last two snakes to find out I stepped on them first thing,” Grunberg said.
Mary looked at her watch and sighed. How was it already two-ten? “Right about now, I’d be getting a standing ovation from the crowd,” she said poutily.
Snoop patted Mary on the shoulder. “It’s all good, Ms. McDonnell,” he said. “I had to lie to all my peeps, and a big full-ass panel, and DDP got asked six times if he was comin’ back to the ring. It could be worse.”
Mary nodded, and Snoop helped her into the train car. She returned the favor, holding out her hand and helping him up — no easy feat, given that they were holding liquid nitrogen dispensers.
“I liked that song you did with the Pussycat Dolls,” she said. “They’re very cute.”
“They are some fine ladies,” Snoop agreed, kicking the door of the car open. “Oh, shit, snakes.”
“Snakes,” Mary agreed. “Why does it always have to be snakes?”
Somewhere behind them, Kevin laughed. “We’ll buy you a fedora if you kill ten of them, Mary!” he promised.
“There’s no way this can end well,” Greg said, grunting with exertion. His goal of not killing any snakes had dissolved about ten minutes after he’d come in and seen them attempt to eat his face. The people-shaped zombies had always at least been polite about the whole human-eating thing.
“What do you mean?” Jay called from the other side of the car they were both in. “This is bitch-ass off-the-charts motherfucking insane!”
“I thought that was what I meant.” Greg was holding a knife in each hand, but both were getting pretty encrusted with the gross sticky not-quite-blood leaking from the zombie snakes any time they got stabbed. “Is this really how you want to die?”
“Shit, man,” Mewes said. “We’re not gonna fucking die. We’re gonna live forever, fucking Fame shit, you know?”
He was carrying as much liquid nitrogen as Kevin had given him permission to hold. And a hammer.
“Mary said there were like one fifty of these things,” Greg said. “There are totally more than one fifty of these things.”
“Aren’t you, like, a fucking zombie wrangler? Isn’t this shit what you do for a living?”
“Actually,” Greg said, “I’m an actor.”
“Yeah, whatever, man, I’m an actor too, doesn’t mean I don’t do other shit on the side, you know what I’m saying?” Jay started rocking his hips, miming… whatever it was he was trying to mime, Greg didn’t care, except that it was clearly some kind of sexual dance and the snakes were clearly not charmed by it.
“Jay. Jay. JAY!” Greg snapped.
Greg pointed. “Smash!”
“Right.” Jay took out the hammer, hit several of them, and went right back to where he was as though he hadn’t just killed a dozen zombie snakes intent on killing everyone in the train. “Yo, you ever act with Mary?”
“You ever act with Mary?”
Greg blinked. “I’m sorry, maybe I’m just blinded by the hordes of snakes trying to kill us, but is that a sexual innuendo?”
“Like you wouldn’t tap that?”
“I’m married. With kids.”
Jay laughed. “Fucking pussy. Scared of the MILF.”
“She’s leading a revolution against zombie snakes,” Greg said. “Also, runs a mafia. In general, that does mean SCARY.”
“Exactly.” Jay nodded.
Meanwhile, Mary and Sam were tag-teaming snakes while bonding over being adults in a world of children. She would freeze them to the spot with the liquid nitrogen, he would blow them to pieces with a shotgun, and Mary would shout out their increasing total to the rest of the zombie-hunting party.
BAM! Another zombie snake flew apart into frosty chunks. A few of them had started wiggling when they reached the floor of the train car, which Mary pretended not to notice.
“Kevin owes you about five fedoras already, doesn’t he?” Sam asked, pulling another two shells from his belt and loading as Mary looked for snakes. They were usually attracted to blown-out zombie snake brains, which made the Sam-and-Mary partnership quite easy.
“I’m not sure that works if we’re sharing the duties,” she said.
“Well, count each one of them as half for you and half for me, and you still got yourself how many kills?”
Mary looked up, shrieked, and blasted a long, skinny snake that wriggled from the ceiling. She ducked, and Sam shot it to pieces, leaving holes in the side of the cargo car.
“That’s sixty-two for us!” Mary yelled. “And thirty-one for me.”
“Yeah, yeah, hail the conquering hero,” Kevin snarked back distantly. “We’re up to twenty-nine. How many of these motherfuckers are left?”
“Snoop’s got twelve, and Jay and Greg hit thirty-three last I heard,” Kevin yelled back. “It’s hotter than hell. I’d almost like to get some liquid nitrogen in my pants, I’m tellin’ you.”
“What is it with the endless pants jokes?” Mary asked Sam, sotto voce. “Between this and the numerous comments by Jason I’m pretending I don’t hear…”
Sam grinned. “Pretty damn flattering, from what I heard with these old ears,” he said. “Crude, I suppose.”
“Crude and sexist. Is my only appeal as a sex object? We’ve just killed — sixty THREE! — snakes, and I’m still subject to catcalls,” Mary complained, tucking her hair behind her ear.
“And now the cops are trying to catch you ridin’ dirty, what with that whole Canadian acting mafia thing,” Sam added. “Maybe the men just love powerful women.”
Mary frowned as she aimed at and nailed snake number sixty-four. “Did you feel that?” she asked. “The car rattled.”
“It’s a train, Mary,” Sam said. “They move.”
“I don’t think that was, um, the train,” Mary said, grimacing.
“Oh, helllllllllllll,” Greg announced. “Guys. Gigantic fucking snake. Gigantic fucking snake NOW!!!”
“How big was the snake?” Martin Wood asked. “And can we use this whole story on Stargate?”
“I am not fighting a giant zombie snake!” Dave complained. “Joe, Chris, anyone, tell the producers we don’t fight zombie snakes.”
“Oh, come on, you got fucked up by that one zombie,” Lucy said with a laugh. She was petting Mary’s hair affectionately while Snoop, Rachel, and Chris were pouring another round of drinks.
“That was Browder’s fault, eh!” Dave yelled. “Don’t blame me for that fucking zombie!”
“Sure,” Chris said. “Blame Ben. Everyone blames Ben. He’s not here to take care of himself.”
“Are you saying I shouldn’t?” Dave asked, sounding moderately offended.
“Of course not. Blaming Ben is one of the best parts of a tenth season. Claudia’s turned it into an art.”
“I thought they were con whores,” Paul said. “Shouldn’t they be here?”
“Maybe,” Rachel said, “they heard there would be snakes.”
“I can’t believe I missed the snakes,” Torri said, shaking her head. Then she started giggling uncontrollably. Again. Torri was the Stargates’ resident lightweight, and she’d been drunk for so long that even she was coming up with new cheap insults for her own outfit.
“Well,” Dave said, “I know that if you’d be interested in a part in Boa vs Python II–”
“There’s a sequel?” Torri gasped out, and then laughed harder.
“It’s not that funny,” Dave said stubbornly. “Everything has a sequel these days. Did you know they’re making a sequel to Mammoth?”
“The snake,” Mary interrupted, sounding as calm as anyone could when there were still a few pieces of snake in her hair that no one had bothered to mention to her, “was enormous.”
“The size of a rattlesnake, the size of a cobra, the size of a wrestler–?” asked Martin Wood, who had pulled out a pad of paper with a determined look in his eye.
“Funny,” Dave snapped.
“Think of the largest snake you’ve ever seen,” Mary said. “Then triple it.”
“Give or take,” she said. “Then make it a little bit thicker and a lot longer. And a zombie.”
“The shedding,” Kevin said. “Don’t forget the shedding.”
“When we get to that part,” she said. “Now, where was I…?”
“That actually might be bigger than my dick,” Jason said, staring at the thing. He shrugged as every last man in the train car glared at him. “What? You know all you bitches thought exactly the same thing when you saw it. No offense, Miss Mary. It’s what a man’s gotta say.”
Mary sighed and turned to the giant snake. It was hissing and snapping at them, and Greg was eyeing it dubiously.
“I don’t think we have enough liquid nitrogen to simply stun this thing. And the flamethrower will use it up faster, Snoop,” Greg said. “So let’s see. How many shells are left, Sam?”
“Six,” Sam said.
“Every shot counts, then,” Mary said. “I feel like I’m back in the woods of Vancouver with my axe.”
“Except now you can use my light saber,” Jason said with a big stupid grin. “It’s like playing whack-a-mole!”
“Except you get a foam-padded mallet for whack-a-mole. With the zombie snake, you get snake bits,” Greg said. “Which are all over my shoes and my special t-shirt about heroes.”
“I heard Milo gave his one about you to a cute little girl,” Mary said.
“She gets cuter and younger with every retelling. Next time she’ll be an adorable five-year-old with a lisp,” Greg said acidly. “From what Bryan told me, the cute little girl is like, twenty and a veteran of Television Without Pity.”
“A veteran?” Kevin asked. “It’s a fucking message board.”
“Oh, come on, there are message boards and there are message boards,” Greg said.
“Motherfucker, I am a veteran of Ain’t It Cool,” Kevin replied. “I fear no female-dominated internet space.”
“Even the ones dominated by female Whedon fans?” Greg asked.
Kevin grimaced, and Mary looked from Greg to Kevin to the snickering Jason. “What’s wrong with female Whedon fans?” she asked.
“Don’t ask,” Jason said.
“Y’all, we have ourselves one big snake to kill,” Snoop pointed out. “We got our strategy straight? I ain’t dying until we got our strategy straight.”
“I think it’s basically immobilize the head with the liquid nitrogen, and destroy the head with all the tasty snake brains,” Greg said. “Kevin and I will immobilize, Mary will take out the head, since she’s nostalgic…”
Mary glared, holding the light saber — which wasn’t actually cheap, it turned out, though it was mostly plastic. There was heft. She could use it to shatter a giant zombie snake head.
“Fuck you, Greg,” she snapped.
“Love you too,” Greg replied. “And if that doesn’t work, Snoop and Sam will come in like the motherfucking lords of cool they are and finish the job.”
“I like this plan. I don’t got to do nothing except cheer youse guys on,” Jason said cheerfully. “We should be like taping this shit to put on eBay. Celebrity Snake Fight and shit.”
Mary gave Kevin a look. “Next time, I will use the liquid nitrogen on him,” she said. “And they will be parts he will miss.”
“Jay, shut the hell up,” Kevin said. “So Greg, you ready?”
“Hell, no,” Greg said, sweating bullets.
“Me neither. Let’s do it,” Kevin replied.
Sam cocked his gun. Snoop was ready with the flamethrower. And Kevin Smith and Greg Grunberg, the two unlikeliest action heroes in Hollywood, lifted their cans of liquid nitrogen and…
“BAM! I mean, that shit was unreal. The snake was like, back and forth and back and forth and my two fat boys there done hit that bitch — um, sorry Miss Mary — in its punk-ass little mouth, and it froze and then you got MARY, my main lady, my wet dream, and she just goes KERPOW!” Jason announced, now standing on the bar, narrating the climax of the giant snake battle.
Jason had shown up sometime after Sam had, apparently upset that he had not been invited to the party. Or he’d just gotten lost on the way. Nobody sure, but everyone was listening.
Lured by stories of giant snakes and Mary doing shots like they were water, Eddie had also joined the party. Much to the delight of the many Sci Fi executives, who were warily smiling at him.
“You hit a zombie snake with a plastic light saber?” he asked Mary quietly.
“It had a knife attached,” she replied. “And it was heavy.”
“The point of the story,” Greg said, “is that we won. There was a snake, and we won.”
“A zombie snake,” Mary said. “And they knew we won. We’re all here, aren’t we? The story wasn’t a cliffhanger. JJ didn’t write it.”
“Someone’s cranky,” Dave said. “Still bitter you missed your panel?”
“Sam Jackson made his panel,” she said.
“I was the star of the entire convention,” Sam agreed. “And I killed a fuckload of snakes.”
“We killed a fuckload of snakes,” Mary corrected. “And you still got all the glory.”
“Irony,” Kevin said.
Snoop nodded. “Fucking irony.”
Draining her margarita with a head snap, Mary tossed the thing on the floor. Unfortunately, it was a plastic cup, so there was no exciting smash. Eddie smiled and patted her hand, and Sam gave her a little salute.
“I think I need to get the snake out of my hair and go to bed,” she said. “Tell the kids to have fun, and tell Kevin to live the dream and make his panel.”
Head held high, the leader of the Vancouver actor mafia left the party, though her exit was marred by a chunk of frozen snake falling into someone’s drink.
And as for Kevin? He did miss his panel, but that’s a different story entirely…