Mexican Anthropological Museum, Mexico City, 1715 hours local, 2 December 2009, Countdown: 2 years, 29 days
Quentin McLintock needed to run away. The shrill howls of the gollums triggered a flood of emotion and memory. Memories of pain and terror. Memories of his friend going insane and destroying his leg with an errant burst of gunfire moments before he was swarmed by gollums. He could clearly remember those leathery fingers digging into his skin.
"Lights on!" barked Mateo, his calm, commanding voice yanking Quentin out of the nightmare and back into the fight. Four beams of dazzling white light pierced the darkness. The four gollums at the end of the hall hissed as the beams illuminated them. The gollums’ withered, leathery skin was decorated with blue-painted symbols. They wore simple leather flaps as loin cloths and clutched carved wooden clubs. Quentin noticed this, but didn’t care. His eyes focused on the stone medallions hanging around the gollums’ necks by leather strips. Until those medallions were destroyed, the gollums were essentially invulnerable.
"Billy. I need into those docks," Mateo said, "Get me there." Quentin could feel the small man’s smile. Billy’s beam disappeared. The snicker sound of two batons extending were replaced by an unearthly yell. William Shakespeare, descendant of a Chiriquaua Apache warrior who rode with the infamous Victorio, attacked with the full fury of his ancestry. Quentin saw glimpses of Billy as he danced amongst the beams of light. The dull thuds of wood hitting armor were intermingled with the wet crunch of a metal baton slamming into bone. One person fighting four gollums was, at best, suicidal. Gollums were stronger, faster, felt no pain, and most importantly, invulnerable as long as the medallion around its neck was intact. Suicidal, if you were fighting to defeat them. Billy was just buying time for the team.
"Into the docks!" Mateo yelled over the noise of the fight. Quentin followed his team leader as the man charged into the narrow opening provided by Billy.
"Don’t fight them until we have more room," Mateo commanded as the gollums reached out from behind the wall of blows provided by their teammate. The door opened to an open-air loading area. The sudden sunlight blinded Quentin. He stumbled forward as his eyes strained to adjust to the brightness. Quentin heard Mateo and the Brit charge past him. Why couldn’t he be as good as he was on that island? Why was he stumbling around like some newbie? Finally the room around him came into focus. The loading docks turned out to be a large concrete room with stacks of crates. The stacks were of uneven height, and in the sudden light, looked like a miniature city skyline. Or decent defensive positions, Quentin’s tactical memory reminded him. He scrambled to set up behind the crates.
"Billy step in and cut right," Mateo ordered. Billy retreated into the docks, still trading blows with the gollums. As soon as he was through the doorway, Billy rolled to the right to come up in a fighting stance with his batons ready. The gollums charged at the team, but stopped short at the doorway. It was like they hit an invisible wall. What stopped them?
"Take them down," Mateo said, before placing a burst into the chest of one gollum. Two rounds lanced harmlessly through the gollum’s withered body. The third impacted the medallion. The 6.8 mm round easily shattered the stone. The gollum let out an unearthly scream as the shards of the medallion fell to the ground. Its torment was cut short as Mateo fired again. Devoid of its supernatural protection, the gollum was violently torn apart by the bullets. Slim dispatched a second gollum with the same efficiency.
Quentin took aim at a third gollum. The chevron in the holographic sight lined up on the medallion. He knew he missed the moment the rifle rocked back with the recoil. He rushed the shot and jerked the trigger. Quentin could feel how out-of-step he was in the fight. The gollum snarled as the rounds punched through its stomach. Enraged, the gollum threw its club at Quentin. The heavy wood club slammed into Quentin’s shoulder as he tried to duck behind cover. Quentin felt the blow as the club slapped harmlessly against his shoulder armor. No pain, but the force of the blow was enough to throw Quentin off-balance. Old football reflexes took over as he slid his right leg out to keep him upright. His new leg just couldn’t move as fast as he needed. Quentin felt his breath rush out of him as he hit the concrete. He heard his weapon clatter off the dock. Quentin stayed on the ground for a second, annoyed with himself. What a stupid way to go down. Especially since his team needed him in the fight.
"Quentin, are you okay?" Mateo called out, between bursts. Quentin couldn’t answer for a moment. His frustration gripped him like a vice. Mateo called again, more concerned this time. "Quentin, you with us?"
"Yeah, just tripped over myself," Quentin growled, finally finding his voice, "Lost my gun."
"Go get it while we deal with these two," Mateo said. Quentin rose to a crouch and walked to the edge of the dock. Mateo, Slim, and Billy could handle two gollums that couldn’t even come into the room. Why couldn’t they come into the room? The question nagged his mind. The rear of the loading area was a pit that allowed trucks to back up to the docks and roll out their crates without the need of a ramp. It was safer for the precious cargo. Quentin’s rifle was a few feet from the edge of the docks in the middle of the pit. Quentin jumped down, picked up his weapon, and inspected it. It didn’t look too bad. Just some scrapes and scuffs on the housing.
Quentin head snapped around as he saw movement out of the corner of his eye. Giant stood at the corner of the building with about twenty zombies behind him. He was still dressed in the black ninja suit. His dark eyes were wide in surprise. Giant was trying to trap the team, and he wasn’t expecting to find Quentin out of the trap. Quentin had an instant to bring up his weapon.
The crack of the whip boomed with the force of a concussion grenade in Quentin’s face. The sheer ferocity was enough to stun Quentin. He didn’t even feel the whip as it wrapped around his neck. His mind was barely aware he couldn’t breathe. He felt the dimness around him.
Four loud barks of a pistol snapped Quentin back. He saw Giant flinch as four spurts of blood erupted from his chest. The whip loosened a bit. Quentin’s head swam as blood rushed back into his brain. The primal need for survival awoke a part of Quentin’s mind he tried very hard to keep locked down. Rage flooded him. He grabbed the whip. A cold, sick energy rippled up his arm. Quentin didn’t have time or emotion to care. With every bit of his strength, he yanked on the whip. Giant was strong and powerful, but physics still ruled. Giant flew off his feet and into Quentin’s waiting fist. There was no art or technique to the blow. It was pure and simple savagery.
Giant’s head snapped back. The blow would have killed a normal person. It should have, at the very least, dazed the man. Quentin felt the whip slither off his neck like a dead snake. He heard the sound of suppressed fire as Slim and Billy engaged the zombies. Mateo landed next to his friend with pistol in hand. Quentin felt a small rush of relief. Then, Giant stood back up without a hint of any injury. Even the bullet wounds were gone. What was Giant?
"Drop the whip!" Mateo yelled at Giant, rising to his favored Weaver stance.
"Mateo Cortez. You aren’t as tall as I expected," Giant said, his voice flat and cold. The accent was odd. It sounded American, Spanish, and European all at the same time. "You are not supposed to be here." Mateo answered by unloading his pistol into Giant. The seven foot tall man jerked back with each impact, but showed no pain. As the slide on his Sig locked back, Mateo dropped the magazine. The whip tagged Mateo as he was slapping a new magazine in. The team leader dropped without a sound. Quentin moved between his fallen friend and Giant. Slim and Billy jumped down next to him with their rifles raised. They made relatively quick work of the zombies with Giant. Quentin could feel their rage at not being fast enough to protect their leader.
"I didn’t kill him. It’s not allowed quite yet," Giant answered, "Still, you have managed to annoy me." The whip shot out and knocked the rifles out of Slim’s and Billy’s hands. Giant flicked the whip out to the side. The long cord froze rigidly. Before Quentin’s mind could comprehend what was happening, Giant ran the whip through Slim like a lance. The tall Brit was slammed into the wall of the pit as blood poured out of the tiny wound.
Giant flicked his wrist and the whip went limp. Another flick and the whip curled back to Giant. Quentin fumbled for his medical kit. He needed to stop the river of blood pouring out of Slim’s unmoving form. Quentin heard a sick crack and looked back in time to see Billy lying in a heap in front of Giant. The man locked eyes with Quentin. There was no amusement or even annoyance in those dark eyes. They were filled with a fire Quentin couldn’t decipher. The moment was broken as Giant leapt over Quentin and his fallen team. As the man strode into the museum, he cracked his whip once again.
The crates on the dock began to rattle as the familiar moan of zombies echoed through the loading dock. Quentin’s mind raced, trying to figure out what to do. Then, Slim grabbed Quentin’s arm, and moaned.