I have gadget mode working as an Ethernet adapter. There are lots of good how-tos available for this which helped greatly. That's one of the perks of using a Raspberry Pi I guess.
Then I realized something interesting - gadget mode can emulate more than one device. So the Zero could be both an Ethernet gadget and a mass storage gadget. That would allow me to boot the laptop from the Zero, no USB flash drive needed. That's a bit of a bummer - I no longer get to use that cute little flash drive I just bought.
So things just got even simpler. At least hardware wise: software configuration will be more difficult.