Over Mexico City, 16300 hours local, 2 December 2009, Countdown: 2 years, 29 days
Quentin McLintock swallowed down a wave of nausea as he caught sight of the ground speeding under the helicopter. Motion sickness was one of his curses. Quentin swore under his breath. He closed his eyes and forced his mind to concentrate on something else. Like the new gear Mateo foisted upon him before bundling the team onto the helicopter.
The armor was comfortable. In fact, it reminded Quentin of the pads and protection he had worn as a linebacker. The base was simply a version of the popular Lycra sports garments Quentin had worn for years, except this stuff was tear-resistant. That meant it was also very hard to bite through. Then came a harness for the electronics, including the radio, sat phone, GPS, and a few other things Quentin wasn’t sure how they worked. They all tied into a PDA that reminded Quentin of a very rugged iPod. A Camelback went on next. The shoulder, chest, and gut protection was articulated polymer over Kevlar. The arms and legs were protected with leather augmented with plastic at the joints. All of his gear was stored in a series of rigid pouches scattered around the outside of his armor. The helmet was perhaps the strangest piece of the armor. The actual helmet was styled similarly to an American combat helmet with a flip out mount for enhancements. A tinted face shield attached to for a seamless wraparound bucket. Quentin caught a reflection of himself, and felt like the ancient ancestor of an Imperial stormtrooper.
The carbine, at least, was relatively normal. The "Zombie-Killing Carbine", or ZKC as the team called it, started out as a Bushmaster ACR. The rear of the weapon retained the familiar controls and stock. An ACOG-type sight graced the top of the weapon with a flip-up bracket to attach additional enhancements, such as nightvision or a thermal imager. The front of the weapon displayed none of its lineage. It looked like a single piece of molded plastic with an integral suppressor, high-powered white light, laser, and flip-down vertical grip. The whole package was somewhere between combat functional, tacti-cool, and futuristic. Mateo swore the "ZKC" was an easy weapon to master, but Quentin wished he had more time to work with it.
"Okay, the bad guys are in the Mexican Museum of Anthropology," Mateo said over the team’s radio, "The place emptied out fast once the zombies showed up, but intel says at least ten to thirty civilians were turned."
"Where are we getting intel?" asked Collin DuBois from the other helicopter.
"Local control says there are a couple of Mexican police on scene who haven’t run," Mateo answered, "They’re keeping their distance, but trying to watch what the bad guys are doing. Best estimates are fifty or so zombies, two guys in dark clothes, and Giant. The non-zombies are hunting for something while the zombies are keeping away the humans."
"Sounds like a party," Billy Shakespear interjected.
"Glad you think so," Mateo answered dryly, "Control wants us to eliminate the outbreak."
"I know that tone, Matty," Collin said, "What’s the real op?"
"Giant and his two minions are in there for a reason. They need to be captured to find out what their end game is," Mateo answered, "That’s Alpha team’s job. Quentin, myself, Slim, and Billy are on Alpha. Collin, you have everyone else for Bravo. Standard zombie clearing, but be ready to come to the rescue." There was a chorus of mike clicks as the team acknowledged Mateo’s orders.
The two helicopters flared to a hover before dropping to the ground. The first out were the professionals – Collin, The Steve, and the Brit Boys. The rest of the team followed them onto the museum grounds. Mateo flashed hand signals. Quentin couldn’t remember what they meant. It didn’t matter. He just had to stick with Mateo.
Collin and the rest of Beta team moved into the museum’s shattered entryway. Debris and discarded items were scattered over the marble floor. There were no zombies, but the wrecked exhibits left a clear trail. Beta team cautiously moved in. Mateo didn’t wait for them to disappear into the museum. He pulled the four members of Alpha around him.
"The police focused on the zombies, so we don’t have a clear idea of where our target is," Mateo explained, displaying the museum’s floor plans on his PDA, "Suggestions?"
"The museum was the main recipient of the artifacts we were digging up," Quentin said, "They’ll probably be searching the labs and offices for the more recent artifacts." The others nodded.
"Okay, Billy you’ve got point," Mateo ordered, "Quentin, you’re next. You know the place better than we do, so you’re navigator."
"Matt, I’ve never been here before," Quentin protested.
"You know the back side of a museum," Mateo answered, "Good enough for now." Quentin knew better than to argue the point. Mateo didn’t care if he was asking for the impossible again. He just expected Quentin to perform. As Billy led them through the museum’s entrance, Quentin studied the information on his PDA. The best place to start would be the receiving dock. Quentin drew a line on his PDA from Alpha’s position to the dock and uploaded it to everyone else’s PDA. Okay, the technology was pretty impressive. The question was how much was it going to help against someone like Giant?
Quentin winced at the sound as Billy smashed open the door leading to the back. For such a small person, Billy could deliver a lot of force when he wanted to. The corridor was a main access hallway. It was lit by flickering fluorescent lights. The off-color walls and linoleum highlighted the eeriness of the empty and quiet hallway. Quentin felt like he was walking into the set of a horror flick. It was a straight shot of maybe three hundred feet to the docks. Mateo flashed urgent hand signals and the team entered the hallway with trepidation.
About halfway down the hallway intersected another. Quentin’s heart pounded in his chest as Billy slid against the wall towards the intersection. Billy popped around the corner into the other hallway. Endless seconds passed as Quentin strained to listen for the faint sound of suppressed gunfire. He almost longed for action – any action. Anything to break the nervous tension. Billy slipped back around the corner and motioned. Nothing. Maybe the way was clear.
Quentin felt a little better as the team neared the door to the docks. He didn’t expect to find his target in the docks. Maybe something that would give Quentin an idea of why Giant had come to the museum. He started thinking on this as the team skulked towards the door. What had they come for? What could they need from this museum they didn’t find at the dig site? The team was maybe thirty feet from the door to the docks when it all went dark.
"Welcome to the trap gentlemen," came the familiar voice of the man dubbed Giant, and Quentin’s stomach plummeted. The next sound was the familiar howls of gollums.