Mexican Anthropological Museum, Mexico City, 1735 hours local, 2 December 2009, Countdown: 2 years, 29 days
Quentin McLintock heard the stacks of crates crashing down as the corpses inside them came alive and thrashed to get out. He knew in short order there was likely to be forty or so zombies bearing down on him and his three fallen team members. He wasn’t worrying about those zombies. Quentin’s entire attention was on the hand of one of those team members gripping his forearm like a vise and the moaning emanating from the body. Then Quentin’s logical mind finally broke through swirling emotion and terror. Those weren’t undead moans.
Quentin looked down at the arm. Slim’s PDA was blinking furiously. Its owner was dying – not dead – and the armor’s computer was doing everything it could to protect Slim. The PDA was desperately sending Slim’s vitals to the rest of the team. Including the Beta team. Quentin heard the crashing of glass and the sound of someone sliding down a rope. By the time Quentin turned around, The Steve was shoving him aside. The team medic was pulling a variety of supplies from all over his armor. Quentin’s mind was desperately trying to understand how The Steve got to them so fast.
“Quentin, would you do The Steve a favor and keep those zombies busy?” The Steve said with his normal light tone. Quentin looked up. The first of the zombies had freed themselves of the crates. They let out hunting moans and staggered towards the living. An odd sense of relief swept through Quentin. This was something he could understand. This was something he didn’t feel inadequate to handle. Quentin snatched his carbine off the ground. He fell into the fighting stance and brought the weapon up to the nearest zombie. With the reticle on the zombie’s head, Quentin squeezed the trigger. Nothing happened.
“Don’t get frustrated,” Quentin whispered to himself, as the zombie shambled closer and let out a hunting moan, “Tap, rack, bang.” As he spoke the words, Quentin slapped the end of the magazine, pulled the charging handle, felt the fresh round chamber, and squeezed the trigger. The ZKC coughed as it fired a suppressed burst into the zombie. The moaning was cut off as the rounds shredded the zombie’s head. Quentin didn’t wait to watch the zombie fall. He was busy twisting to bring the carbine on the next zombie. A second burst dropped a second zombie. After the third burst, the weapon locked back on an empty magazine.
Quentin dropped the magazine out of his weapon and felt around for a new one. As his hand grasped an unfamiliar pouch, Quentin remembered the spare magazines were further back. As he fumbled with a new magazine, the chorus of moans grew louder. From the sound, Quentin judged the horde was about to hit crush – the point when the sheer numbers of the horde would overwhelm the actions of the defenders. Quentin inserted the new magazine and released the bolt. Before Quentin could open fire, metal glinted out of the corner of his eye, and an axe screamed over his shoulder to bury itself in a zombie’s head.
Billy Shakespear leapt onto the loading dock with a pistol in one hand and a collapsible baton in the other. The zombies tried to turn to attack the new prey, but Billy was in motion. Billy double-tapped the nearest zombie with the pistol. As the zombie fell, Billy slammed the corpse and threw its weight against two others. Zombies, by their nature, tended to be unable to maintain balance if anything strong collides with them – especially 150 pounds of decomposing flesh, muscle, and bone. The two zombies collapsed. Billy didn’t seem to notice He already was attacking another with a precise flurry of blows with the baton. Broken leg, broken arm, shattered skull. The zombie went limp and collapsed.
Quentin started on the opposite edge of the zombies from Billy. Walking zombies were priority. Quentin took down two of the walkers. He brought his weapon to bear on a third zombie. The creature dropped out of his sight as Billy slammed its legs out from under it. Quentin immediately lowered his carbine. Without stopping, Billy brought down the baton onto the creature’s head and twirled to find his next target.
"Billy, calm down," Quentin said, "You came into my line of fire."
"I don’t ‘calm down’," Billy said arrogantly, as he charged at a newly emerged zombie, "I am William Who Shakes the Spear. My father is a Chiricauau Apache whose grandfather rode with Geronimo and great-grandfather fought alongside Victorio." The zombie’s outstretched arms were shattered by a pair of hammer blows. Billy paused for the briefest instants before sliding to the zombie’s left and slamming the baton into the back of the zombie’s head.
"Top it all off, I grew up in the toughest city on the planet," Billy continued, "So, don’t think for a moment that I’m ever going to slow-" Billy stopped in mid-motion. The baton and pistol fell out of his hands. He stood there motionless as two zombies shambled towards him. Quentin shouted Billy’s name, but there was no response. Without warning, Billy collapsed to the ground.
"Damn kids always push themselves beyond their limits," grumbled Mateo as he staggered to his feet, "Quentin, go get him." The team leader looked weak, but Mateo held his carbine in a firm manner. Quentin nodded to Mateo and lifted himself up onto the docks. He focused on Billy’s still form about thirty feet away, ignoring the quiet staccato behind him and the crack of bullets around him. Quentin easily hoisted Billy up over his shoulder. Quentin ignored the moans of nearby zombies and charged back to where Mateo was providing cover fire. Quentin jumped down off the docks. There was the unique and slightly unsteady sensation of feeling the shock of landing on one foot and one knee. The prosthetic didn’t betray him this time. Or was he finally acclimating to it under stress? Quentin gently lowered Billy to the ground. A quick check of the young man’s PDA showed weakened but steady vitals.
“What happened to him?” Quentin asked, pointing at Billy.
“Fool kid recovered a bit from Giant’s attack and thought he was good to go,” Mateo said, taking down another zombie, “Didn’t think there might be an after effect of that whammy Giant slapped on us. He should be fine in a minute or two.”
“So, what now Matt?” Quentin asked.
“Collin, are you busy?” Mateo asked over the radio.
“Just a bit, Matty,” Collin answered in his calm understated manner, “Managed to run across another patch of the buggers. Dealing with it, but they’re acting a bit odd.”
“Giant is fleeing out the first floor,” Mateo said, “Can you intercept him?” There was a pause before Collin answered.
“Negative,” Collin said, “He’s up here. He’s got those blokes in black with him. Looks like they’re rooting around for something. Oh bloody hell—“ Collin cut off. Mateo checked his PDA, but the faceplate prevented Quentin from seeing his team leader’s face. The quiet string of curses from Mateo worried Quentin. Mateo snapped up his carbine and unleashed a string of bursts that brought down five zombies in less than ten seconds. Mateo let go of the carbine and drew his pistol. With an aggressive fury, Mateo drilled the remains of the zombies with precise fire. Quentin belatedly joined Mateo with fire from his own carbine.
“What is Slim’s status?” Mateo demanded as he reloaded his pistol.
“Critical. That big dude really effed him up,” The Steve answered, not looking up at Mateo, “We need to get him out of here stat.”
“Wake up Sleeping Beauty and have him help you get Slim out,” Mateo ordered, motioning to the unconscious Billy, “Extract to a local hospital and call in for more medical help. Then, I need the two of you back here ASAP.” Mateo turned to Quentin.
“Quentin, you’re with me,” Mateo said as he replaced the magazine in his carbine, “Looks like Collin’s team ran into a pair of gollums.” Mateo tried to keep the neutral command in his voice, but Quentin heard the hint of true fear. The fear a father felt watching his child walk into an inescapable danger. Quentin refused to contemplate the torrent of emotion running through his friend.
The two charged through the museum. Mateo ignored the few stray zombies meandering through the ground floor of the museum. As they charged up the main stairwell, Giant and his minions appeared. The two groups froze in mutual surprise. Mateo and Quentin snapped out of it first and brought up their carbines. The two minions fumbled with pistols tucked into their robes. Giant just stood there with a perplexed look in his eyes.
"How did you get here?" demanded Giant, with a thunderous roar, “Why aren’t you near death?” Mateo responded by shooting one of the minions. Giant lashed out with his whip. Quentin was stunned by the booming crack of the whip and the sickening wave of energy that washed over him. The whip struck Mateo in the head. The faceplate cracked as Mateo’s head snapped back. Mateo staggered back a half-step before regaining his stance. Mateo fired two quick bursts. One hit Giant squarely in the chest and drove their enemy back. The second burst dropped the other minion.
"Quentin move!" Mateo shouted. Quentin didn’t think. He just acted. He stormed up the stairs. Giant loomed over him as he reached the top of the stairs. Quentin didn’t have a chance to be afraid. He lowered his shoulder and aimed for Giant’s stomach. Giant never moved. He stood there like one of Quentin’s old tackling dummies. Quentin felt the familiar crush as his body slammed into the larger man. Quentin lifted Giant off of his feet before tossing him back several feet.
Giant looked at Quentin with a wide-eyed stare, as if he just couldn’t believe Quentin dared to strike him. Quentin felt a sudden rage. He let his carbine fall on its sling and drew his warhammer. Giant scrambled to get to his feet, but Quentin slammed him back to the ground. The hammer came down on Giant’s knee with a wet crunch. Giant let out an unearthly scream. A second blow pulverized the other knee.
"Leave him," Mateo said, grabbing Quentin’s shoulder, "He isn’t going anywhere, and we need to help Collin." Quentin’s anger faded. Mateo continued to rush to their teammates’ aid. Quentin gave the screaming Giant a final look before following Mateo.
He hoped they would make it to Beta Team in time.