Metal Tuesday- Van Halen – Dreams

I first heard this song on a video with the Blue Angels. Now, I think of fighter jets anytime I hear it.

Monday Fiction – Zombie Strike – Part 5 – Chapter 42

Mexico City, 28 June 2010, 0515 Hours Local: Countdown: 1 Year, 5 months, 2 days

Jessica Montgomery watched as Giant let Billy slip from his whip. The immense monster of a man looked almost offended by Mateo’s challenge. The minions escorting Giant immediately fell behind their seven-foot tall champion and brought up stubby assault rifles. Billy didn’t even slow down to take a breath. As soon as the whip came off, Billy crouched and rolled next to Jess. The two sat in mirror crouches with their submachine guns aimed at the minions. The Zombie Strike team stared down their enemies. It was just a moment of quiet and calm as the two forces measured the other. The picture of her foster father, her boyfriend (oh my God, he looked good), and her friends training weapons down on the four minions and Giant seared itself into her mind. Without warning, the calm was broken.

The Steve and Sport darted forward towards Jess and Billy as the rest of the team opened fire. Jess felt the snaps of bullets as they streaked around her. Her mind immediately realized the actions. Recover under fire. Jess didn’t have a chance to fire her own weapon before she felt The Steve jerk her back. By the hair. Jess gritted her teeth and tried to lessen the pain by scrambling backwards with The Steve. Sport was using Billy’s drag handle, allowing Billy to cover the four’s retreat. The Steve half-tossed, half-slid Jess behind Quentin.

Giant and the minions fell back into the room holding the Key. Two of the minions were trading gunfire with Zombie Strike team. Bullets shattered the rock of the doorway and the sides of the hall. Jess frowned. The hallway was wide open. The only cover was the small bits of the wall from the team’s entry. None of the team had been hit yet. Either the two minions weren’t the professionals she thought they were, or they were just delaying the team. Considering how the two were using the sides of the doorway, Jess was guessing the minions were delaying the team. Delay wasn’t something the team could afford. Fortunately, Quentin was gracious enough to have brought her rifle with him.

“PALISADE TWO!” Jess yelled over the gunfire. Quentin dropped down to a kneeling crouch, which was still almost as tall as Jess. As she unhooked her rifle, Slim fell in next to Quentin. The team hugged the walls of the hallway and stepped up the fire. She only needed a few seconds. Jess stood up behind Quentin and Slim, extending her rifle in one smooth motion. The sliver of the minion’s face filled her scope. She applied just a bit of pressure. The hallway thundered with the sound of the rifle’s report. The doorway was splattered with bone and blood. The assault rifle clattered to the floor. Jess was cycling the bolt when the other minion stopped firing.

“Illuminators!” ordered Mateo. Sport and The Steve were at the doorway tossing in the baseball sized devices. As soon as the Illuminators landed, their tiny lights brilliantly lit up the room with sterile white light. In an eye blink, Sport, The Steve, Collin, and Mateo were inside the room. Billy leapt into the room and jumped out of Jess’s view. Her heart clenched as she clearly heard Billy’s war whoop followed by the unmistakable screech of a gollum. Billy found a target. Slim led Quentin and Jess into the room. Jess followed Quentin as he loped into the room on his replacement prosthetic.

The room was an almost exact replica of the room Xipe Tzin built when the Zombie Strike team confronted him over a year ago. Jess hadn’t been part of the team then, but she recognized it from the file Mateo had made her study. This one was bigger though. The room was maybe a hundred feet wide and two hundred feet long. The walls and floor glittered as the Illuminators’ light reflected off of the white ceramic tiles. Running through the middle of the room was a trench maybe forty feet wide. Three ten feet wide stone bridges spanned the trench. On the other side of the trench, in the center stood an obsidian obelisk decorated with Aztec carvings. Either that was the Key, or the Key was inside it.

Jess heard the moans as soon as she entered the rooms. Easily two hundred of the walking dead bore down on the team. Jess slung her rifle and drew her Kimber. Two zombies went down with single shots. Quentin opened up a bit of area with a long burst from his ZKC. Jess kept it open while the big man changed magazines. Jess shot a quick glance at her foster father. Mateo and The Steve were busy with another part of the horde. Sport was using one of the corpses as a shield as Collin traded gunfire with the minions. The minions were holding the right-most bridge. Giant was on the other side of the trench and walking to the obelisk. Where was Billy? Jess did a presidente drill across the front of the zombie horde. Eight shots, eight zombies down. Jess made a quick gauge of their situation as she fed another magazine into her Kimber. It wasn’t looking good for the team.

“Mattie, we need to fall back,” Collin said, echoing Jess’s thoughts, “We’re about to be overrun.”

“No,” Mateo answered curtly as he dropped another pair of zombies.

“Mattie, we’re past crush,” Collin argued.

“No,” Mateo answered with a cold, calm voice. Each member of the team knew that tone well. Mateo’s rage was humming through him. In anyone else, that rage would make him reckless. In Mateo, the rage focused him and strengthened him.

“Billy, finish playing around and get up here,” Mateo ordered. Billy leapt up out of the trench. A gollum jumped after him. Billy ruthlessly lashed out with a metal rod. The tip of the rod shattered the gollum’s medallion. Before the gollum could react, the rod crashed down on its head. Without its divine invulnerability, the gollum’s skull shattered. Without even a moment to enjoy his victory, Billy danced through the zombie horde. As Collin often said, the boy was magic. The diminutive Apache slipped through the gaps between the zombies, occasionally widening a gap with a savage strike from the metal rod. Billy slid around Quentin to stand next to Jess. He gave her a smug smile. She punched him in the arm before dropping a crawler that got a little too close to Billy.

“Billy grab the four block from The Steve,” Mateo ordered, “As soon as you have it, get across the bridge and destroy that obelisk! Collin, keep those minions off Billy. The rest of us will fall back and form a line to cover your retreat. Billy grabbed the book-sized explosive from The Steve and stood next to Jess as he looked for his opening. Billy sprinted into the horde. As Billy leapt off the line, something primal took over Jess. She darted into the horde after Billy. Every instinct and bit of training screamed at her to stop and go back, but she couldn’t. It was almost as if she was trapped in her own body. The horde of zombies blurred around Jess as she followed Billy through the walking dead. She could see what Billy saw every time he danced in to fight the zombies. Small gaps looked big enough to drive semi-trucks through. The zombies acted more like statues than animated corpses. They just couldn’t move fast enough to catch her. Before she knew it, Jess was through the horde and charging the bridge. What was happening to her?

As Billy neared the obelisk, Giant noticed the two Zombie Strike team members. The whip in his hand danced in anticipation. Billy shot into the air. Giant’s eyes twinkled with amusement. Jess slid down on her knees and unslung her rifle. It wasn’t an aimed shot, but with a distance of less than fifty feet, she didn’t need to aim much. The heavy .338 Lapua round slammed into Giant just as the whip lashed out at the airborne Billy. The whip’s tasseled tip passed within scant inches of Billy. Jess smiled as she scrambled to her feet. Billy landed, rolled, and slapped the explosive at the base of the obelisk. The bomb’s adhesive backing set with the strength of concrete. Giant and his team weren’t getting that off anytime soon. Not before Zombie Strike triggered it. Giant cracked his whip. The room shook with thunder. A wave of force tossed Billy and Jess away from the obelisk. Her rifle slipped out of her hands. Jess watched helplessly as the weapon slid across the tiles and plunged into the trench. Something flickered in the corner of her eye. Jess rolled to the side as Giant’s whip cracked the tiles next to her. Billy sprang off the ground, kicked off the obelisk and drove himself into Giant’s midsection. The surprise blow knocked Giant off of his feet. The two rolled across the tile floor. Billy stood up first.

“Jess, activate the block!” Billy yelled. Jess scowled as she scampered to the bomb. She wasted precious seconds as her memory dug up the procedure. Her fingers danced across the buttons. Four-four-three-nine-seven. The readout blinked and a friendly, lethal green light told her the bomb was active. Jess whirled to call Billy. It was time to go. Giant loomed over Jess. His dark eyes burned with a terrifying rage. Jess took a step back and felt the cold obsidian at her back. There was nowhere to run. Giant’s arm snapped back. The whip tensed into a rigid lance. Jess didn’t even have a chance to take a breath. Giant attacked.

The instant before the tip of the whip struck her chest, it bounced to the side. Pain flashed as the whip lanced cleanly through her left arm. Jess heard the tip smack against the obelisk, and then she felt a surge of power course through her. The next thing she knew, she was lying on the tile floor. Giant looked a little shaken, but it didn’t last long. He took a step towards Jess. Screaming in Spanish, Giant thrust the whip at Jess’s prone form. There was a blur of motion above Jess. Billy materialized between Jess and Giant. Giant’s whip lanced through Billy’s midsection. Jess watched in horror as blood quickly soaked through Billy’s clothing and pooled under him. Giant tried to yank out his whip, but Billy held it in place. Jess felt her entire body go numb.

“I don’t think so,” Billy grunted out, “You’re staying put.” Jess watched as Billy struggled against Giant. Each tug opened the wound, spilling out more blood.

“How are you doing that?” screamed Giant as he tugged furiously. Billy laughed.

“Jess, there’s a knife across the small of my back,” Billy said over his shoulder, “Take it.” Jess gingerly drew the blade from its scabbard. It was a plain knife with a simple wooden handle. As soon as the knife was in her hands, she could feel its power. She looked angrily over at Giant. Mateo was right. It was time to finish this. Before Jess could take a step towards Giant, two powerful arms encircled her.

“Took you long enough,” Billy said to Quentin, “Get her out of here.”

Vaya con Dios, my friend,” Quentin said sadly. The two men shared a look of goodbye. Quentin lifted Jess up.

No!” Jess screamed as she struggled against Quentin. “Billy, I won’t leave you. Quentin, let go of me.” Jess struggled, kicked, and bit. Quentin ignored it all as he stormed across the bridge.

“Love you babe,” Billy yelled as Quentin hauled Jess through the door. The next thing Jess heard was the explosion.

[Zombie Strike Part 5 Chapter 43 – Epilogue]

Friday Quote – Pat McNamara

If you are in a profession that is not tactical in nature, when you come to the range you should consider working from concealed. Maybe doing mag changes from your pockets, etc., and not throwing a couple of thousand dollars’ worth of fancy gear.

Garage Musings

The Wife, The Brother-In-Law, The BIL’s Wife, and I cleaned out the garage a couple of weekends ago. We needed to start the purge for the spring move. The cleaning resulted in a Bagster full of debris, a carload full of Goodwill donations, and a long weekend of pain. So, of course, we have to start filling the garage back up with things we need when we move. It didn’t help that the neighborhood was having it’s semi-annual community garage sale. Prime Day may also have brought some things into the house.

I shudder to think where we will put the stuff from Black Friday/holiday sales.

Linky, Linky Linky

It’s been a while since I did a link post. And right now, I’m not in the mood to do a bunch of hard thinking.

First up, we have an article from Popular Mechanics musing if the Army’s super-secret 1,000 mile super gun could herald the return of the battlewagons. I’m skeptical, but I do like the concept of the battlewagons returning to dominance.

Next is a somewhat humorous post about a Portland gunfight in 1989 between Army Rangers and the Crips. Seems a young man in the Army decided to dabble in the real estate market, tried to turn a neighborhood around by documenting the criminal element, and when they came a-callin’, followed the important rules of gunfighting. Namely have a gun and bring all of your friends and their guns. In this case, the friends were members of the Second Ranger Battalion.

Finally, a local story about two men going to the burn ward after a bad thing happened while reloading. This kinda put paid to The Wife signing off on me having a reloading bench in the garage of the new house.

Metal Tuesday- Captain Jack – Atas Nama Trauma

Since I subscribed to Apple Music, I’ve been going through my old playlists, and listening to different groups’ discographies. It lets me find gems from bands who I only had 1 album, or even one song. Every so often, I accidentally stumble on to a band with the same name. Case in point: the top is the band I stumbled upon. The bottom is the one I was trying to get the full discography.

Monday Fiction – Zombie Strike – Part 5 – Chapter 41

Mexico City, 28 June 2010, 0430 Hours Local: Countdown: 1 Year, 5 months, 2 days

Jessica Montgomery suddenly became aware of the world. Part of that was due to the drugs wearing off. The bigger part was someone was shaking her. Violently shaking her. Sensations roared through her as her mind clawed back from the dark. She needed the person to stop. Her body was still banged up. She stopped herself from opening her eyes. What if it was Giant, one of those scary minions, or another bad guy? Did she really want them to know she was awake? Then her hearing pushed past the thrumming of her heart beat. Jess didn’t know if she wanted to laugh, cry, or murder her new boyfriend. Jess managed to let out a groan of pain. Mercifully, the shaking stopped.

“Jess, are you alright?” Billy asked stark fear in his voice. Jess tried to answer. She felt as Billy pushed the tube from her water pack into her mouth. She sucked greedily. The lukewarm liquid tasted wonderful. Jess opened her eyes. Billy, out of his armor, was cradling her in his arms. Any other time, Jess would have just laid back and enjoyed it. Right now, it looked like the two of them were trapped in a dungeon. The smallish room was made completely out of stone. The only light came from a flashlight Billy set up in the center of the room. One of the walls opened to another room or hallway.

“Billy, I love you,” Jess said, reaching up to stroke the sparse stubble on Billy’s chin, “But if you ever shake me like that again, I will kill you in your sleep.” The two smiled at each other. The sudden laughter from the doorway startled them. Jess snapped her head to see a man dressed in a minion’s ninja suit standing casually in the doorway. He wore his greying hair in a crew cut. Multiple scars crisscrossed his hard face. Jess wasn’t sure, but she guessed this was the minion who captured Billy and her.

“You are funny, little girl, I’ll give you that,” the minion said, his Midwestern accent flavored with just a hint of Southern. The minion looked right at Billy. “If you two manage to survive this, you are going to have fun riding herd on this one.” Billy gently slid Jess out of his hands. As the minion strolled into the room, Billy hopped into a fighting stance. The minion stopped and gave Billy a long studious look.

“Now is not the time for that,” the minion said in a low and serious tone, “Even if you beat me, which is doubtful, you won’t be in any shape to protect her from the rest of my team, much less all of the rest of Mikhail’s forces. Think about it.” Billy dropped into a defensive posture, but still kept himself between the minion and Jess.

“What do you want?” Jess asked, carefully feeling around her armor for any of her weapons. They stripped her clean. Every weapon and bit of ammunition was gone. The minion read her expression and gave her a sad, but knowing, smile.

“I’m here to make sure you’re both alive,” the minion answered, “Mikhail is almost to the Key, and he needs you two there.”

“What the hell for?” Billy asked, his Brooklyn accent rendering the words almost unintelligible. The minion stared at Billy for a moment, silently translating the word.

“Aztecs had a nasty habit of human sacrifice,” the minion answered, “Some might be required to free the Key.” The casual nonchalance of the minion chilled Jess.

“Who’s Mikhail?” Jess asked.

“The Great Champion of the Truth,” the minion answered with just a hint of sarcasm, “You call him Giant.” The minion walked back to the opening. “Two servants will be here in fifteen minutes to collect you. If you are not able to move by then, they will move you themselves. It won’t be pleasant.” Without another word, the minion disappeared into the dark.

“Jess, are you able to move?” Billy asked. Jess sat up. She was stiff and sore. With effort, Jess managed to get to her feet. Surprisingly, she felt better once she stood up. A lot of the pain and stiffness seemed to melt away as she went through a simple kata.

“What’s on your mind, Billy?” Jess asked. Billy’s eyes glinted with malicious intent.

“Well, they did leave me my credit card,” Billy said in a joking seductive tone.


Almost twenty minutes later, the pair braced as the two minions strode through the doorway. Billy was on all fours with Jess underneath him. As expected, the two minions froze in surprise. These two were regular minions with none of the professional precision her captors displayed. Both held their weapons in loose, casual grips. They weren’t expecting trouble, much less catching the two in what looked like some heavy fooling around. The weapons lowered even more as the two minions leered at the pair. Jess almost pitied them.

The room plunged into darkness as Billy snatched the flashlight off the floor. He launched himself at the left minion. Billy was scary fast when he was in full armor. Out of it, he was terrifying. Humans really shouldn’t move that fast. Billy slammed into his target, driving the minion to the stone floor. The other minion tried to twist to bring his gun on Billy. It was too late. Jess was already in motion.

Jess rolled to the side and leaped at the minion. The minion staggered from the sudden blow, but he out-massed Jess by a good eighty pounds. The minion lunged at Jess with the barrel of his gun. Jess parried the blow and stepped closer. She hammer punched the minion in the neck. She felt the sharpened plastic of Billy’s credit card slice through the fabric and sink into the minion’s throat. The minion dropped his gun as both hands clutched at his bleeding neck. Jess snatched the weapon off the ground and slid back. Her part was done. Billy came up from behind and finished the minion off. The flashlight came back on and illuminated the room.

Jess looked at the two bodies as Billy efficiently searched them. She felt numb inside. Why had it been so easy this time to kill the two minions? Shouldn’t she feel some sort of regret? She remembered feeling regret and guilt when she killed the narcos shortly after the team landed in Mexico City. Billy forced a gun into her hands. Without thinking, Jess examined the weapon. She stared at the gun in surprise. It was her MP7. Billy handed her a half-dozen magazines, knife, and finally her Kimber. Even slipping her beloved handgun back into its holster broke her unease.

“Look at me, Jess,” Billy said softly. Their eyes met. His dark eyes were warm. “I need you to stay with me. I can’t do this without you.” Jess felt herself harden. Billy was right. She couldn’t let him down. The two crept out of the room. Beyond the room was a long hallway. Billy motioned for the pair to the left. The two hugged the smooth stone wall as they hallway narrowed to an iron door. It was a single slab of rusted metal. Jess couldn’t see how the door even opened.

“Maybe we should knock,” Billy suggested. Jess shot him an evil look. The door snapped open with an ear-wrenching screech. A gollum launched out of the doorway. Billy grabbed Jess and half-tossed her to the side. The gollum pounced on Billy. The creature lashed out with blow after blow. Billy parried most, but Jess heard the meaty thwacks and grunts of pain as a few of the strikes landed. Instinctively, Jess jumped on the gollum’s back. The creature howled. She felt fingers dig into her arms as the gollum tried to yank her off. She squeezed tighter as the gollum bucked and jerked. Billy took advantage of the sudden opportunity. There was a glint of steel as Billy drew his knife. Billy darted in. His hand snatched the gollum’s stone medallion. The creature had the barest of instants before the blade effortlessly sliced through the leather cord holding the medallion around the gollum’s neck.

Jess let go as the gollum let out an ear-shattering howl. The source of its invulnerability was now gone. Billy dodged two blindingly fast punches and planted the knife cleanly into the gollum’s chest. The gollum froze in mid motion. It still horrified Jess every time she watched one of the gollums wither away into a skeleton. Billy and Jess turned to the sound of applause. Giant and the four minions that captured Jess and Billy were standing in the door. Amusement danced among their eyes as the five clapped. Giant stepped forward.

“Well, that was much faster than I expected,” Giant said, “And you’re right Frank, they are covered in their enemies’ blood.” Jess looked down ashamed. The minion’s blood was splashed across her.

“Everything is perfect,” Giant mused to the gathered people, “All of the pieces are in place. Now is the time to retrieve the Key.” Jess snapped her weapon up and fired a burst into Giant. This time, he didn’t even stagger or grunt in pain. The whip lanced across the distance in a blur to wrap around Billy’s neck. Giant didn’t even look as the young man clawed at the whip. Giant looked only at Jess.

“Stop this stupidity,” Giant boomed. “You will come along and play your part, or I will kill the young wolf-cub.” Jess hung her head. Billy was too important to her. She couldn’t have his death on her hands. Not when they just managed to get together. Giant saw the defeat on Jess’s face and let out an evil laugh. Then, the hallway shook like the earth itself was having a seizure. Smoke and dust filled the hallway and for a moment Jess couldn’t see anything. As the smoke and dust settled, Jess could see she was surrounded by the familiar forms of the Zombie Strike team.

“I told you P stood for Plenty,” The Steve said. He sounded so far away, even though he stood less than three feet from her.

“GIANT!” bellowed Mateo, “It’s time to finish this.”

[Zombie Strike Part 5 Chapter 42]

Friday Quote – Ludwig Von Mises

The labor unions aim at a monopolistic position on the labor market. They are intent upon restricting the supply of labor in their field without bother about the fate of those excluded.

Metal Tuesday- Lilac – Chain of Thorns

A new (to me) metal band!

Monday Fiction – Zombie Strike – Part 5 – Chapter 40

Mexico City, 28 June 2010, 0100 Hours Local: Countdown: 1 Year, 5 months, 2 days

Jessica Montgomery felt an odd peace as she walked with her foster father. They were about a hundred yards away from the rest of the Zombie Strike team and the members of the US Army anti-zombie force. Mateo was still finding his way back to faith, and he was reluctant to pray for guidance in front of his team. Jess didn’t understand Mateo’s thinking, but she just accepted it. The two found a pocket in the wreckage of a building. Mateo opened his forearm bracer. He couldn’t just call Kenn Blanchard, the Zombie Strike commander and oft-times chaplain. Most of the communications satellites in Earth orbit were destroyed by the so-called “Champions of the Truth” when they used a lot of the space junk circling around the earth into orbital strikes. Fortunately, MacKenzie and Winston, the insurance firm that supported Zombie Strike, planned for this type of emergency. Jess waited patiently as Mateo navigated the series of relay stations M&W set up.

There was movement out of the corner of Jess’s eye. Jess spun as she brought up her MP7. Zombies were plentiful in the ruins of Mexico City. She snapped on the weapon-mounted flashlight. The form in front of her wasn’t a zombie. Jess froze as her eyes climbed up and up to meet the dark eyes of Giant. Zombie Strike’s nemesis lived up to his name, topping over seven feet tall. He seemed to have an athletic build, but it was hard to tell from the ninja-style outfit Giant had adopted. None of the team had ever seen more than Giant’s dark eyes glaring out from the balaclava-style face mask. Jess aimed her her weapon at Giant’s face.

“Curse you!” Giant bellowed as the high-powered flashlight shone into his eyes. One hand grasped at his face. He lashed out with the whip in the other hand. A thunderous crack blasted across Jess. Her flashlight shattered and the pocket went dark. Jess’s instincts took over as she triggered a burst at the darker than night form of Giant. The muzzle flash lit up the night with an almost strobe-like effect.

“Mateo, it’s Giant!” Jess screamed. Another thunder crack and the MP7 was torn out of her hands. Without pausing, Jess drew her Kimber. Jess was momentarily blinded by Mateo’s weapon light. Just long enough for Giant to dart in and drive a massive fist into her stomach. Her lungs emptied in a great whoosh. Jess slammed into a wall. No, it wasn’t a wall. It was the ground. Giant’s blow sent her airborne. She gasped for air as she struggled to her feet. Pain made everything a bit hazy. At least Jess kept a hold of her pistol.

“I am getting annoyed with you, Mateo,” Giant said as he brought the whip down. Mateo twisted to take the blow across his back. The armor shattered. The move kept his carbine from being snatched. Mateo countered by bringing up his weapon and emptying the magazine into Giant’s torso. The huge man screamed in pain as twenty 6.8 mm rounds punched into him. The two men staggered back. Giant was clutching at his chest with one hand. The whip twisted in the other like a cat’s tail. Mateo changed magazines. His movements were stiff and jerky. The blow from Giant hurt him. Jess brought her pistol up and double-tapped Giant in the head. Giant’s head snapped to one side. The whip lashed out. The thick leather wrapped tight around Jess’s throat. Jess dropped her Kimber as both hands clawed at the whip. She couldn’t breathe. Her lungs were on fire.

“Don’t Mateo,” warned Giant, looking over at Jess’s foster father, “Or she will die.” Giant strode over to Jess. She saw where Mateo’s burst shredded Giant’s outfit, but there was no blood or any other sign of injury. As Giant neared, the whip loosened. Wonderful air filled Jess’s lungs. Giant bent down to look Jess in the eyes. She knew she should be afraid. Whether it was because of the pain that wracked her body or the dizziness from the sudden rush of oxygen, one thought dominated Jess’s mind. Giant wore a lot of cologne, and it wasn’t even good cologne.

“I should just kill you,” Giant told her in a low voice, “Coyote has decided to look out for you, and he’s spoiled enough of my plans today. I don’t know what he wants with you, but leaving you to run around would be dangerous.” The whip tightened and Jess gagged as she frantically tried to get air. “Shame to kill you so young.” The whip warmed, like a comfy blanket. Jess felt tired. Maybe if she just went to sleep, all of the pain would stop. She could dream of Billy.

The war scream pierced the night. Jess’s eyes snapped open just in time to see Billy’s armored form crash down on Giant. Giant slammed to the ground under the force of Billy’s speeding mass. Quentin emerged from the darkness and brought his warhammer down on Giant’s whip hand. Jess could hear a sickening wet crunch. Giant didn’t let go of the whip, but it slid off of Jess’s neck. She fell to the ground. She couldn’t move. She was barely conscious. She was more injured than she thought. Giant grabbed Billy by the neck and hurled him across the pocket. The young warrior crashed into a portion of wall. He wasn’t moving. Jess wanted to panic, to feel something, but she couldn’t push past the haze. Quentin swung his warhammer. Giant caught the speeding hammer in his bare hand. He wrenched it from the surprised Quentin’s hands, flipped it around with a contemptuous ease, and shattered Quentin’s prosthetic leg with the weapon. Giant searched around for more people to destroy.

The pocket exploded with sound as five automatic weapons opened up. The black costume was shredded, and Giant finally bled as the fusillade tore into him. Mateo and The Steve closed on Jess and Quentin as Sport, Slim, and Collin quickly changed magazines. The brief pause in the fire was all Giant needed. The whip came down with a deafening roar. The Zombie Strike team members were thrown to the ground by the wave of pure force. Giant launched into the air and flew towards the earlier battle scene. Collin and Sport scrambled up to their feet and ran after him. The Steve appeared over her with his infamous devil-may-care smile. He plugged a couple of wires into her armor. After a couple of seconds, he shook his head.

“How’d you manage to go and fry all of your electronics?” The Steve asked, “Quentin, are you good enough to help me?”

“Yeah,” grunted Quentin as he dragged himself across the ground.

“Cool, we need to get her armor off,” The Steve said. The two carefully removed her armor. The Steve did a quick examination. Jess gasped as a sharp pain shot up from her leg. “Relax for a second. The happy juice will hit in a sec.” Almost as soon as the words were out of The Steve’s mouth, Jess’s haze vanished and everything came into sharp focus.

“Drop him there boss,” The Steve said. Jess turned her head to see her foster father carrying the limp form of Billy in a fireman’s carry. Gently, Mateo laid down Billy.

“Jess?” Mateo asked curtly.

“Would be better if we could evac her, but I can get her going,” The Steve said. He almost sounded happy about the prospect of doing a quick patch job. The medic snaked over to Billy and checked his PDA. “This one will be fine once we reset his armor. It locked up when he hit that wall. He’s already coming around.”

“Get them both prepped for evac,” Mateo said, “She’s already been through hell. He’ll be worthless if he’s worrying about her. I’m going to help Collin try and bring down Giant.” The Steve gave Mateo a thumbs-up. Mateo gave Jess one last sad look before sprinting back towards the sounds of the battle.

“Well, it looks like you and your new boyfriend are going to get to sit the rest of this one out,” The Steve said without a hint of sarcasm. “About time too, we were getting sick of you two dancing around.” Jess felt her cheeks heat. Did everyone know about her feelings for Billy before this mission?

“Give it a rest Steve,” Quentin said.

“+The* Steve dude,” The Steve reminded Quentin, “And you owe me twenty bucks. I knew this would get sorted out before the end of summer.” Jess closed her eyes in complete embarrassment. They were taking bets on her love life? Why couldn’t she just be unconscious like Billy?

“Whatever,” Quentin said, “You’ll have to wait—“ Quentin’s words stopped. There were two loud thwacks. Jess opened her eyes to see Quentin and The Steve slumped over. Large darts that kind of looked like syringes protruded from each man. Out of the darkness stepped four minions. Two carried F2000’s. The other two carried what looked like air rifles. Unlike the minions Jess fought before, these four moved with practiced efficiency. They reminded Jess of watching Collin and The Steve slink through the jungle on Skull Island.

“Get these two secured to the stretchers,” growled one, pointing to Jess and Billy. He acted as if he was in charge of the quartet. “Make sure to put them under, but don’t kill them.” One of the minions with an air rifle opened a pouch at his waist and produced two syringes and a bottle of clear liquid. The lead one crouched over Jess.

“I don’t know why you’re so important, but be glad,” the man said in a Midwest American accent, “Mikhail said to be especially careful.” Jess was still trying to figure out who was Mikhail when she felt the jab of the needle. In a few seconds, everything went black.

[Zombie Strike Part 5 Chapter 41]

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