Fascism and communism are not two opposites, but two rival gangs fighting over the same territory – both are variants of statism, based on the collectivist principle that man is the rightless slave of the state.
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Skull Island, Southern Pacific, 23 December 2009, 1300 hours local Countdown: 2 years, 8 days
Quentin organized his notes as he tried not to gag on the low-hanging smoke from three cigars. It didn’t help the conference room’s ventilation was on the fritz. Now, it was not only hot and stale in the room, it was hot, stale, and smoky to the point of almost being unbreathable. None of the other occupants seemed bothered, and Quentin’s competitive streak wouldn’t let him show his discomfort. It was petty, and he knew it. That didn’t stop him from trying to tough it out.
Kenn Blanchard was sitting at the head of the conference table with his favored Monte Cristo smoldering in his hand. In jeans and a polo, Kenn looked more like an executive on casual day than the leader of the largest private sector anti-zombie force on the planet. Kenn looked very calm and collected. That serenity gave Quentin the bit of reassurance he needed. Mateo, Collin, and The Steve were also sitting around the table. The three men were in jeans and tee shirts. Mateo and The Steve were also smoking cigars, but Collin had forsaken the tobacco to indulge in a tumbler of scotch. Quentin didn’t understand these men’s’ need to poison themselves on their downtime. Their jobs were hazardous enough.
The door opened and the final person walked in to the conference room. Nigel Brown was impeccably dressed in a charcoal suit, complete with vest and power tie. Nigel was the team’s liaison with Mackenzie and Winston, the London-based insurance firm that financed the team’s activities. Nigel’s normally implacable face twisted in annoyance as he whiffed the grey blue smoke that swirled around the room.
“Bloody hell mates, this is a new suit,” Nigel complained, “Must you attempt to replicate smoke stacks at every attempt? Do you know how much the cleaning will cost just to get the stench out?”
“Shelve the banter for later Nigel,” Mateo said, without a trace of humor, “We need to get this meeting over with. Jess and I have a plane to catch.” Normally, Quentin would have chalked up Mateo’s grimness to the team’s lack of progress, but he knew better. Mateo was flying back to Tampa to spend Christmas with his two daughters and his ex-wife. There had been some very heated exchanges over the telephone between Mateo and his ex over the trip. It was an open secret on the team, and Mateo showed his appreciation to the team for its discretion and compassion by working even harder. As bad as this trip could be, Quentin was glad Mateo would be taking a break. Nigel nodded to Mateo and slid into his chair without further words.
“Okay Quentin, what have we learned from Mexico?” Kenn asked, setting the meeting in motion.
“In answer to the main question on everyone’s minds, no, we still do not have an identity on Giant,” Quentin began, feeling the familiar nervousness of talking in front of people. It lessened as Nigel took over briefly and elaborated.
“The firm’s investigators have been working on this,” Nigel said, referring to M&W, “So have Mexican, American, British, and everyone else and their uncle’s intelligence and investigative services. This incident has them all scared, and there’s precious little cooperation. Especially between the governmental services and the firm.”
“All of the so-called minions have been identified,” Quentin said, taking his cue from Nigel, “All were Americans. None with a known interest in Mesa-American cultures or religious practices, but all had the types of backgrounds and psychologies that would leave them open to a cult. We believe that is why Giant recruited them.”
“Still wish we would have captured one or two of them,” Collin said.
“We did,” Mateo said flatly, “Or more to the point, Quentin did. Then, the SOB suicided before we could get anything out of him.” The others simply nodded at the point. “If they were simply following a cult, how did they get powers? From what you said, one of the minions at the dig site tried some sort of mystical power on you.”
“That’s true, and that leads into what we’ve discovered from Mexico,” Quentin said, “We we’re facing a cult of Xipe Totec followers attempting to bring their god back into this world. This cult spawned both Xipe Tzin and Giant. These two are probably not the leaders of the cult, but more like field commanders. The ones selected to do the work to bring Xipe Totec back into this world and destroy those who stand against them.” Quentin gave the others a moment to digest before plowing on.
“What we’ve uncovered between the dig site and the museum are a large number religious writings from the priests of Xipe Totec,” Quentin said, “Most of these are just traditional religious teachings associated with Xipe Totec. Except for one set. This one had to deal with the creation of zombies and gollums. It also had some sort of prophecy talking about Xipe Totec returning to stop the destruction of the world. It’s cryptic, but what we have deciphered shows that Xipe Totec left instructions for waking him and opening the gateway that will bring him back. To help his followers, there are allusions to certain individuals channeling a bit of Xipe Totec’s power as well as objects that were infused with this same power. An example of one of these objects would be Giant’s whip.” The men flinched with that bit of news.
“The whip is why Giant attacked the dig site,” Quentin continued, “It was stored at that temple. It allows Giant to control undead and play with life energies. There may be more, but we haven’t confirmed it.”
“So we snatch the whip and the dude’s out of power?” The Steve asked.
“No, he most likely has some power on his own,” Quentin answered, “That power is probably what mutated him from a normal person into Giant. We think that the cult is also granting minions some limited power so they can assist Giant.”
“Okay, so what was the point of the attack on the museum?” asked The Steve, “Our boy was being too loud and too open with this attack. The Steve thinks Giant would have settled for a quiet raid unless there was some other reason.” The Steve might sound insane, especially with his constant referring to himself in the third person, but he was smart.
“We do know he was after gollums,” Quentin said, “Some that were already created, and just needed a medallion and a supernatural spark to get them going. There are a few theories as to why Giant chose to attack the museum in broad daylight and in front of cameras. My opinion is that Giant was being dramatic.”
“Care to explain that mate?” Collin asked, clearly surprised by Quentin’s conclusion.
“Giant and his minions were wearing ninja costumes,” Quentin said, “Not clothes that looked like ninja robes, but actual costumes they purchased from a costume store in Los Angeles. Every time Giant and his minions talk, it’s very clichéd. It’s almost like a B-grade horror flick. The bit at the museum was entirely out of melodrama. It’s the whole letting world know that there are things beyond their control shtick.”
“You came up with this?” Mateo asked.
“No, one of my research team members minored in theater,” Quentin admitted, “The more I thought about it, the more I agreed.”
“Actually, that sounds eerily possible,” Kenn said, with a tone that made it clear he was not happy with the possibility.
“There’s been no sign of Giant since he vanished from the museum,” Mateo mused, “Do we know where he’s going next?”
“Not yet,” Quentin said, “I was working with a group of archaeologists, anthropologists, and historians, but that group was dissolved when their home countries began calling them back.”
“That matches up with what else has been going on,” Kenn said, “The attack on the museum blew the lid off a few incidents the world powers were trying to keep under wraps. Such as the Forreston incident. Things the governments were willing to let us handle. Now that the public knows, the government has to look like it’s doing something. The first thing was to serve us with a cease and desist order for Zombie Strike! As of today, we can’t legally produce the show.” Quentin was stunned. Collin and The Steve also looked surprised. Mateo just grimaced.
“What does that mean for our operations?” Collin asked.
“Not much. We will still continue to do our work, and M&W is actually expanding it,” Kenn said, reassuringly, “Within the next few months, Skull Island will become a fully function command center for world-wide operations. What losing the TV show means is we won’t have something that shows us in a positive light. It’ll also make finding new talent a bit harder. The nasty is that we may be working against government agencies instead of with them.”
“I’m surprised they are even allowing us to continue,” Collin said, “I thought we’d be disbanded and returned to service with our homelands.”
“Mackenzie and Winston made it very clear that such an action would not be in the various nations’ best interest,” Nigel said, “The price for us continuing to operate is that we no longer have the cordial relationships with certain government agencies, and all the benefits those relationships bring.”
“Gentlemen, I wouldn’t hesitate to break up this group if I thought our respective governments could fight this threat properly,” Kenn said, “If we were fighting terrorists or criminals, all of you would be back to your homes. But we’re not. We’re fighting the undead. Things normal folk can’t deal with. We’re the ones who can. Welcome to the new Zombie Strike.” Quentin wondered why Collin looked so uncomfortable.
London, United Kingdom, 1700 hours local, 26 December 2009 Countdown: 2 years, 5 days
Simon West was sitting in his study, sipping on a gin and tonic. In his hands was a crude ceramic mug. It was a present from his youngest. It was so ugly that only a parent could appreciate it. The children were out playing with their new toys, finally allowing West a chance to relax. Then the shadows moved.
Instincts came alive and the ceramic mug was replaced with a Glock. West pointed the pistol at the small man in the blue suit. Then West saw the man’s companion. The person was easily the tallest human that West ever encountered. Even taller than some of the basketball hustlers that worked for him. Like the smaller man, this one was dressed in an exquisite suit. Where had they managed to find a tailor for this person? West put down the Glock. It was useless against these two anyways. West gave another cursory examination of the huge man. So, this was the one referred to as Giant. Well, he certainly lives up to his moniker.
“I assume you have reason to intrude upon my residence,” West said as calmly as possibly, “It is a holiday after all.”
“The organization would like to know what Zombie Strike knows about our plans,” the small man said with a distinctive Spanish accent.
“This couldn’t wait until our regular meeting?” West asked, annoyed at the disruption of his holiday.
“Things need to be set in motion,” Giant answered solemnly, “Things best done undisturbed.”
“How brilliantly cryptic,” West commented sarcastically.
“We are not paying you to know our operations,” the small man said brusquely.
“Quite,” West agreed. He opened one of the desk drawers and withdrew a folder. “Here’s the transcript and data from the last contact with my informant.” The name on the folder was DuBois, Collin.
[Zombie Strike Part 4 Chapter 25]
If the constitution were meant to be interpreted, if it were meant to change and be fluid with the times, why would the founders have made an amendment process in the first place? Furthermore, if it was meant to be interpreted and a “living constitution” that changes, why would the amendment process be so stringent?
Denny O’Neil, a giant in the comics world died over the weekend at age 81. What did he do? Among other things:
“He also created/co-created Ra’s al Ghul, Talia al Ghul, Leslie Thompkins, Azrael, and Richard Dragon; he was also involved in the revitalization of the Joker and Two-Face as modern DC villains, and watched over the death of Jason Todd, the second Robin. He also worked in television , writing episodes of Logan’s Run, Superboy, Batman: The Animated Series, and G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero.”
He also gave a robot a very important name – Optimus Prime.
I was listening to the Free Thoughts podcast last Friday, and they were discussing criminal justice reform. One of the speakers (honestly can’t remember if it was one of the hosts or guests) talked about ways of reforming the disparity between the prosecutors and public defenders offices. He talked about semi-privatizing it by selecting each side from a pool of available attorneys. I liked the concept.
Derek’s State Attorney’s Office Proposal:
- abolish both the prosecutor’s and public defender’s office
- Establish a pool of attorneys. I’m thinking of either volunteers or perhaps as a condition of being a part of the bar.
- All attorneys in the pool agree to a flat rate per hour for doing state service.
- No attorneys will have qualified immunity for unreasonable prosecution.
- Trial costs would be managed by judges
Here’s my idea of the flow:
- Police investigate crime, develop evidence, and arrest suspect
- State Attorney or Deputy State Attorney will decide if the case should be brought forward
- If the case is going forward, two attorneys from the pool are chosen randomly – one prosecutor and one defender
- Attorney selected for prosecution can decline if case is unsound. Since the attorney will be liable for bad prosecutions, they will have incentives to take the strong cases.
- Defendant may accept pool attorney or hire their own attorney.
- Attorneys will be paid going rate per hour for their time on the case.
- If additional funds are needed for prosecution or defense, that will be up to the judge.
Are there big, gaping holes in the plan? Heck, yeah. That’s what happens when Derek gets one of his wild idea plans. Yet, I find the framework fascinating.
Mexican Anthropological Museum, Mexico City, 1812 hours local, 2 December 2009, Countdown: 2 years,29 days
Beta team was in trouble. Quentin McLintock could see that as Mateo and he stormed into the exhibit. The cowboy, Jim, was on the ground. Blood seeped out onto the tile floor from a pair of nasty gashes on his arm and leg. Two gollums, armed with crude axes with heads of shiny black stone, were trying to close in on their prey, but Collin and Sport drove them back with gunfire. Jim wasn’t moving. He wasn’t dead, according to Quentin’s PDA, but he wouldn’t last long. Jessie was holding off the horde the team had been fighting before the gollums attacked. Mateo paused to survey the scene.
“Quentin, deal with the gollums,” Mateo said in a calm and controlled voice. Quentin didn’t protest. He had heard that voice before. Mateo used it when he was trying to keep his rage under control. Quentin briefly considered getting in close with the gollums, but one look at Jim’s bleeding form nixed that idea. Quentin brought up his carbine and joined the battle.
“Sport, grab Jim and pull him back!” Mateo ordered as he charged to Beta team’s position, “Collin, cover him. Jessie, I’m coming to back you up.” Quentin lost track of Mateo as the team leader attacked the horde. Quentin fired two quick bursts at the gollums, more to grab their attention than anything else. The gollums spun to face Quentin. They were nothing if not predictable. Quentin concentrated on the gollum nearest to him. He aimed at the creature’s dancing medallion and fired a long burst. The bullets lanced through the creature harmlessly, none hitting the critical medallion. The bullets may not have hurt the gollum, but they threw it back and to the ground. The physics of that much kinetic energy transferring into so little mass were pretty absolute. The other gollum leapt at Quentin, bringing its axe down in a speedy attack. Quentin reacted and blocked its strike with his carbine. He felt the axe hammer clunk on the carbine’s plastic receiver. Quentin pivoted, guiding the gollum away from his body and into a wall. The gollum slammed headfirst into the masonry. Quentin dropped the carbine and drew his warhammer. The weapon felt so right in his hands. With a predatory smile, Quentin charged. The gollum jumped to its feet, and straight into Quentin’s crashing blow. The gollum hit the tile floor with enough force to actually bounce. This might have struck Quentin as funny, but he was too busy bringing the hammer down for another blow. The medallion shattered like glass as the hammer impacted it. The gollum screamed with what could be described as horror. It tried desperately to scramble away. It was no use. Quentin knew far too well not to give a gollum any chance to move. The hammer landed in the small of the back. The gollum’s legs stopped instantly, like Quentin had hit a switch. The final blow landed on the creature’s skull. There was a sickening crack of a fragile egg, and the gollum stopped moving. Before Quentin’s eyes, the gollum withered to a skeleton. His combat mind refused the scientist in him a chance to ponder the wonder of it all. There was still another gollum left to deal with.
The second gollum was attacking Sport as the Brit tried to pull Jim back behind the hasty fortifications of broken exhibits. Collin was keeping it busy with constant bursts of fire, but the gollum was fixated on finishing off the injured cowboy. There was something wrong with this fight. Collin was easily one of the best shots of the team. There was no reason he shouldn’t have destroyed the medallion in the time it took for Quentin to deal with the other gollum. Quentin studied the gollum as he changed magazines in his carbine. He grimaced as he saw the problem. Either by luck or cunning, the gollum’s medallion was hanging down the creature’s back. Collin was good, but not good enough to hit something the width of a shoelace on an irrationally moving target.
“Quentin, do you mind giving a mate a hand?” Sport said, struggling with Jim while providing sporadic fire with his sidearm. Quentin moved between the gollum and his two teammates.
“Get him back!” Quentin shouted over his shoulder. Sport holstered his pistol and managed to get Jim into a sitting position. Using the drag handle on the back of the armor, Sport started making progress getting Jim back to the team. The gollum tried to take advantage of Quentin’s momentary distraction. Collin stopped its attack with a long burst of gunfire. With Jim more or less out of danger, Quentin fell into his fighting stance and braced for the gollum’s attack.
“Collin, hold your fire,” Quentin said. The gollum snarled as it bounded at Quentin with its axe waving above its head. Quentin gripped his warhammer and waited for the strike. The gollum snapped the axe down. Quentin caught the axe with the haft of his hammer. Quentin swung out wide, yanking the axe out of the gollum’s hand. The gollum didn’t care it was unarmed. It reached out to claw at Quentin. He grabbed the gollum by its throat. The creature thrashed violently, kicking and flailing as hard as it could. Quentin ignored the flashes of pain. He grabbed the stone medallion. The first yank snapped the gollum’s head to the side, but the leather strap held. Suddenly, Collin materialized next to Quentin with knife in hand.
“Hold it straight, mate,” Collin said as he bobbed around the gollum’s writhing arms. Quentin gripped the cord and held it taut. Collin’s knife flashed and Quentin felt the medallion come free in his hand. Without pausing, Quentin threw the medallion back to Beta team’s position. The gollum unleashed an inhuman howl as it felt its mystical invulnerability evaporate. It tried desperately to free itself from Quentin’s grasp. It needed the medallion. Not as a swordsman needed his shield, but like as an addict needed his drug. Quentin didn’t care. This gollum was a monster. A construct of destruction animated by the power of an evil god. In one fluid motion, Quentin slammed the gollum to the floor, pinned it with his leg, and then brought his hammer down on its head. Movement ceased immediately. The gollum’s body withered away to an aged skeleton in seconds.
Quentin and Collin hustled back to help Mateo and Jess combat the zombie horde. That’s when Quentin noticed the gun fire had stopped. Panic flashed through him. Then he saw Mateo. The team leader was leaning against a marble column. His carbine was hanging on its sling at his chest. Mateo had his helmet off and was puffing away on a cigar. Quentin stopped just to take in the scene – and then just burst out laughing. All of Quentin’s frustration with himself, all of his fear of letting down his friends, all of his insecurity were cleansed as he laughed. He knew that the others were staring at him, and he just didn’t care. Finally, Mateo strode over to Quentin.
“What are you laughing at?” Mateo asked, with a hint of concern at his friend’s sudden laughter.
“Sorry Matt,” Quentin said, “Oh I wish I had a picture of it.” Quentin took a few long breaths to help control his explosions of laughter.
“Picture of what?” Mateo asked, confused by Quentin.
“There you are, in battered armor, sweaty and dirty from fighting, smoking a cigar against this pristine white marble. And above you is a no smoking sign.” Mateo just looked at Quentin with an arched eyebrow, which elicited another round of uncontrollable laughing from the big man.
“When you do manage to get yourself under control, would you go see if you can figure out what Giant and his minions were stealing?” Mateo asked. Quentin could only nod.
“Sport, coordinate with The Steve about medevac’ing Jim,” Mateo ordered, “Jess, I want you to continue to clear the museum. Any group bigger than four you are to call in and wait for backup.” To Quentin’s surprise the girl simply nodded and slipped out of the room.
“Collin, you and I are going to have a talk with Giant,” Mateo said. Collin paled a bit, but nodded stoically. As the two men left to interrogate the person responsible for all of this death and destruction, Quentin began sifting through the wreckage.
“Everyone stop what you’re doing,” Mateo radioed, “Giant has vanished.”
[Zombie Strike Part 3 Chapter 24]
Faith is the surrender of the mind, it’s the surrender of reason, it’s the surrender of the only thing that makes us different from other mammals. It’s our need to believe, and to surrender our skepticism and our reason, our yearning to discard that and put all our trust and faith in someone or something that is the sinister thing to me. Of all the supposed virtues, faith must be the most overrated.
In a fit of nostalgia, I’ve been binging on old cartoon intros from my childhood. It amuses me how many of the theme songs will still just pop into my head out of nowhere.
Since I enjoy sharing the bizarreness of my mind with the readers, these are my five favorite themes from my childhood cartoons. These aren’t my favorite cartoons – just the theme songs. Also, these are my favorite versions of the songs.
Adventures of Galaxy Rangers