Skull Island, Southern Pacific – 1000 Local – 14 July 2009 – Countdown: 2 years, 5 months, 2 weeks
“Here they come,” purred Sissy in a low voice. Jack Winchester grimaced and braced against the ridge of his firing hole as the mass of rotting undead staggered out of the tree line with outstretched arms. The zombies gave a collective moan as they sensed prey nearby. There was a fair group of them. Not bad for a first engagement for this mismatched team.
“Yeah, I’m counting about sixty of them,” Jack murmured into the throat mike. He tightened his grip on the M4 Masterkey carbine. Jack disliked the American M4 carbine, and the additional weight of the 12-gauge shotgun mounted under the barrel did nothing to improve his attitude. Mateo was probably right that the weapon was excellent for the close range fighting the team was expecting. Adrenaline pumped through Jack. He felt the familiar itch to attack. All Jack wanted to do was just throw down the ungainly carbine, draw his beloved Browning Hi-Powers, and blaze away at the oncoming horde of undead. Jack pushed down his instincts and tried to focus on doing his job. The team trusted him, even if he knew that they shouldn’t. Maybe he should have taken his meds before tromping out into the jungles of Skull Island. That was stupid. They just slowed him down.
“Roger Jack, I see them,” Mateo said. The shorter American sounded more comfortable in the leader role than he had at the beginning of the training. There was still a slight uncertainty. “Everyone knows their jobs. Hold your fire until Collin lets loose.”
“Hurry up, mate,” Jack whispered as he watched the zombies cross the burnt clearing at an agonizingly slow creep. The throaty, wet moans of the undead made Jack’s hands twitch. Jack took a deep breath and forced his hands still. The last thing he needed to do was accidentally drop the magazine out of his weapon – or worse, open fire early. Jack cursed the contract he didn’t read, and the insurance company that dragged him from Perth back to this wretched island.
The sudden thud of the explosion snapped Jack back to the fight. The five claymore mines were daisy-chained, sending thirty-five hundred steel balls slashing through the zombie horde. The front of the horde collapsed as their decomposing bodies were shredded. A few stopped moving as the hurtling steel balls punched through their skulls and destroyed the critical brains. As the smoke cleared, Jack saw most of the zombies were crawling along the ground. There were about twenty that somehow managed to stay upright through the carnage.
“Walking ones first!” Mateo shouted over the radio, “Jack and Quentin watch the crawlers. Any get too close, take them out!” The distinctive bark of M4’s erupted from the team’s positions, only to be drowned out by the throaty crack of Sissy’s L96 rifle. Jack brought his M4 up and placed the holographic reticule of the EOTech on the walking zombie closest to his position. A light squeeze on the trigger, and the zombie’s head exploded into a grey mess. Jack pivoted and found a crawler that managed to get close. Another burst stopped it cold.
Jack’s body wanted to move. He felt the tension building in his spine as his body screamed to move, to close with the zombies and fight the battle in bad breath range. Standing still was just going to get him killed. Two zombies angled towards Jack. He stood up and fired twice with the Masterkey twelve-gauge shotgun. The tension released as Jack was finally moving.
“Jack, stay in position. Service your targets,” Mateo said, the barest hint of reprimand in his voice. It was enough to enrage Jack.
“Let me work,” snapped Jack as he fired at another zombie. One of the crawlers stood up. Jack twisted to bring around the M4. Jack squeezed the trigger. CLICK. Without hesitating, Jack ejected the magazine and slapped in a fresh magazine. He pulled the charging handle and felt the weapon lock up. Jack knew he should be falling back and telling Mateo he had a weapon failure. Jack no longer cared about what he should be doing. He let the weapon fall on its sling as his reached down and drew his pistols. The Hi-Powers were natural extensions of Jack’s arms as he stepped out from his position and double-tapped the zombie with his right pistol. He flicked his eyes at the sound of shuffling. His left armed snaked out and double-tapped another zombie slouching towards him. Jack heard Mateo yelling over the radio, but he ignored it. He was in his element as he slid through the killing ground. Two more double-taps and two more zombies stopped moving with an unearthly finality. It was so easy. Why couldn’t the others understand how easy this was? No complicated ambushes, no high explosive traps. Just get in and blaze away until there were no more.
The zombie stood up from a small copse of burnt shrubbery. It was suddenly within arm reach. Jack just smiled as his racing mind realized he wasn’t going to get his pistol up fast enough. The zombie lurched forward with its outstretched hands. Its head exploded as an M4 cracked from behind Jack.
“You bloody piker,” yelled Collin, all traces of sophistication gone from his tone. “What in the hell do ye think ye’re doin’?” The dark commando expertly dispatched two crawlers. Before Jack could answer, Quentin stormed to the pair while firing his shotgun at the zombies. Collin’s face scrunched in anger. “No you blasted fool, fall back!”
“Relax Collin,” Quentin said, “I’m just here to fetch our boy.” Before Jack could object, Quentin snatched the drag handle on the of his vest and lifted the Aussie clear off the ground. Jack squirmed as Quentin dragged him back to the others. Collin covered the two with his M4 and some help from Sissy. The three team members were joined by The Steve as they crossed behind the team’s position. The Steve reached into his medical bag and pulled out a small black case. Quentin disarmed Jack and held him still as The Steve prepped a syringe. The Steve looked down at Jack with a sympathetic expression.
“Dude, you seriously screwed up,” The Steve said.
“No! Don’t you see? It’s the only way,” Jack screamed as The Steve plunged the syringe into Jack’s arm. Jack struggled, but Quentin held him easily. It took a few moments for the drug to spread its comfortable numbness across his body. Mateo loomed over Jack. The drugs made the normally average height Latino seem like a giant.
“That’s it. We’re done,” Mateo called out. He tapped the radio strapped to his back, “Tampa, this is Team One. Full eradication west of orange smoke. Extract at LZ Two.” Jack could see Mateo tossing a pair of smoke grenades as Sissy slid down the tree. She fired at the still approaching zombies as she scampered over to the group.
“Oh, Jackie boy, what did you do?” Sissy said as she joined the group.
The world went dark before Jack could answer.