Aztec Ruins, 150 miles south of Mexico City, 2200 hours local, 1 December 2009, Countdown: 2 years, 1 month
Quentin McLintock faced one of the worst scenarios a zombie hunter could encounter. He knew it as soon as the first arm shot out from the ground. Quentin recognized the familiar ring from his Alma mater, West Virginia University. These were his friends and colleagues. They’d been murdered by a mysterious giant of a man and his four minions. Two of those minions fled with the giant. A third was starting to rise with the familiar shamble of the undead. The last was tied up after losing a fight with Quentin.
Quentin looked into the face of his academic mentor, Dr. Eli Stone, as the undead corpse freed itself from the dirt. Painful guilt wracked Quentin. He knew the moaning creature was no longer the kind man that looked past Quentin’s jock facade to challenge the burgeoning anthropologist underneath. He knew it was a monster that would kill him and turn him into a member of the horde. Yet, Quentin just couldn’t make his finger squeeze the trigger on his M4.
Quentin did the only thing he could do. He ran. He ran as fast as he could from the animated corpses of those he labored with in this cursed place. He sprinted into his tent. At the bottom of the trunk that held all of his weapons was a satellite phone. He needed help. Quentin clipped the phone to his vest and jerked the trunk up onto his shoulders. There were too many goodies Quentin didn’t want falling into the hands of the giant and his minions. He rushed out of the tent to the pre-fab building at the center of the dig camp.
The last minion was where Quentin left him bound with copious amounts of duct tape. The minion’s eyes laughed at Quentin as he slammed down the trunk. Quentin was sorely tempted to throw the bound man in the odd ninja costume to the zombies. Quentin squashed the thought and fumbled with the satellite phone. One of the buttons was blinking a friendly green. Quentin mashed it as he heard the hunting moans of the newly risen horde.
"Mr. McLintock are you all right?" asked a beautiful, melodic woman’s voice with an unmistakable British accent. "My name is Seraph. Help is on the way."
"What?" Quentin asked, his mind jarred by the warm calmness in Seraph’s voice.
"I’m with MacKenzie and Winston, Mr. McLintock," Seraph said, referring to the multi-national insurance firm covertly fighting zombie outbreaks around the world. They also covertly funded the archeological dig Quentin joined, hoping to find answers behind the outbreaks. Seraph continued, "One of our armed response teams were dispatched to your location when you opened the weapons locker."
"Turn them around!" Quentin said, "There’s a zombie outbreak here! I need you to connect me to Kenn Blanchard! I need zombie hunters here as fast as possible." Seraph didn’t say anything. Quentin worried that he scared the woman off. Just as he felt he was alone, Seraph’s lovely voice returned.
"Skull Island has been notified Mr. McLintock," Seraph said. "However, the team will be unable to reach your location for quite some time. One of our armed response lads is Zed-qualified. He will be at your current location within the half-hour."
"I got a feeling I’ll be surrounded by the time your boy gets here," Quentin said, looking out the window at the mass of undead stumbling and moaning towards Quentin.
"Might I suggest you evacuate the area or engage your opponents?" Seraph said without a hint of condescension.
"Neither is a real good option," Quentin temporized. Quentin just couldn’t confess to this warm and assuring voice he couldn’t bring himself to shoot the corpses of his friends and colleagues. At least not right then.
"I understand your reluctance to engage the zombies Mr. McLintock," Seraph answered, her voice conveying warm and compassionate understanding, "They were our friends and colleagues. If you can’t fight, what prevents you from retreating?"
"Because I have a prisoner related to the individual who caused this outbreak, and I’m not going to surrender him unless I have no choice," Quentin said with deadly calm. Seraph was quiet for a long minute.
"I have relayed your situation to the responding individual," Seraph said, "He should be joining you in approximately five minutes, so do try to avoid shooting him." Quentin arched an eyebrow in a silent question. How was someone from an armed response team twenty to thirty minutes away suddenly appear in five? The moans of the undead tore him away from the quandary. The pre-fab building wasn’t the best fortification. The horde could probably push through the thin walls once the mass built up. Quentin peered out through a large window next to the front entrance. The shambling mass of animated corpses were staggering straight to the building. It was a loose horde, not the densely packed groups that were easier to whittle down and stop. It looked like every person in the camp except for Quentin and his prisoner were among the horde. It would take less than five minutes for the horde to swarm the building. Quentin took a deep breath. He hated it and was sure it would haunt his dreams for a long time, but he had to do what he was put on this Earth to do.
Quentin opened the front door. He brought up his M4 and sighted at the closest zombie. It was Kathy Walker. The cute little undergrad zoomed around the dig with a hyperkinetic need to help everyone do everything. Now she was a moaning, staggering undead with only a partially caved-in head to show how she died. She hadn’t even had time to decompose. Vibrant memories flashed before Quentin’s eyes. He heard the muffled laugh from the bound and gagged minion behind him. Sudden anger flared through Quentin’s body. Hot, seating rage boiled through his veins as the minion continued to laugh at Quentin’s inability to put down his former colleagues and friends. It was these intruders who killed these people and desecrated their bodies by turning them into zombies. The anger became too much. He snapped the rifle up and placed a round into the bridge of Kathy’s nose. The zombie toppled back and stopped moving.
Next was Jeffrey who hero-worshipped Quentin because of Quentin’s football career. He went down with a shot through the right eye. Then Autumn, the girl who feigned being a princess before getting her hands dirty with the rest of the crew. Marisol, who was hoping to find some link with her Aztec ancestors. Each shot bled a bit of Quentin’s rage and strengthened his guilt. The bolt locked back on an empty magazine. His rage spent, Quentin dropped the weapon. He couldn’t think what to do. He just looked at the oncoming zombies with faces that taunted and tormented him.
Quentin barely heard the loud, high-pitched screeching, but he saw the small armored figure barrel into the horde with a pair of clubs. Four zombies went down amidst a flurry of blows before the horde even noticed the speeding figure’s presence. The person buried the clubs into two more zombies before drawing two small Steyr TMP submachine guns. The zombies nearest the hurtling figure fell as the chattering of gunfire started. New memories flashed in Quentin’s mind as he watched the figure slide away from two lunging zombies an instant before putting both down with an impossible double shot. Memories of angry Australian whose dance of death defied the laws of nature and statistics. There was the same synergy of violence and motion, of grace and brutality. Quentin was transfixed.
It was danger that snapped Quentin out of his haze of guilt and memories. Not personal danger. The armored figure zigged when he should have zagged, and the corpse of Paul Jones snatched him off the ground. Paul Jones, the only person in the camp who even came close to matching Quentin in sheer muscle. The former star wrestler for California who was often mockingly called SOG, or Son Of Governor, in deference to California’s former-movie star chief executive. Quentin’s hand snatched the pistol out of the holster and double-tapped the zombie before Quentin even realized he was acting. The corpse of the once mighty man collapsed. Wordlessly, the armored person shucked off Paul’s lifeless corpse and finished off the last three zombies.
The person, Quentin really couldn’t tell the gender under all that armor, holstered the two TMPs before coolly walking into the midst of the carnage to retrieve the clubs. Quentin managed to pick up his own carbine and reload it as the armored figure strode back to Quentin, the featureless plate of armor hiding the face. The plate slid up as the person neared. A young face with distinctly Native American features. The man tucked his two clubs under his left arm and stuck out his hand.
"Hiya," the young man said with a thick Brooklyn accent, "The name’s William Shakespear."