Madrid, Spain, 25 June 2010, 1030 hours local; Countdown: 1 year, 5 months, 5 days
The man currently known as Castle casually walked into the conference room. It belonged to one of the newer members of the cabal, or more to the point, her company. She beamed with pride as Castle acknowledged her with a simple nod. The new ones were always so eager to prove themselves. Who knew, this one may actually prove more than just financially useful.
There were fifteen men and women seated around the conference table. All were dressed in stylish business attire. Castle had taken great pains to recruit each person. They all believed they were part of Castle’s inner circle, and he did nothing to dissuade them from that belief. They were the levers by which he would direct the world until it was time to bring his god back into this world.
“Buenos Dias,” Castle said in his native Spanish, “I must thank you for all of your support since I began recruiting you. This is especially true as we enter the last eighteen months. We have succeeded in collecting several of Xipe Totec’s blessed tools, but more remain. Fortunately none have fallen into our enemies’ hands.” The men and women smiled at each other, enjoying the vicarious success of the cabal’s champion and his minions. Castle’s smiling face grew serious. The men and women quickly picked up on this and copied the solemn expression.
“In the next few days, our plans enter a critical phase,” Castle explained, “I need each of you to react quickly and ruthlessly to seize the opportunities that will be presented to you.” Castle paused as one of the elder gentlemen motioned to speak. Castle graciously nodded at the bald man.
“What kind of opportunities?” the man asked in a deep earnest voice.
“The kind that happens when the services the world has become dependent upon are suddenly snatched away from them,” Castle answered, cryptically. “I apologize for the mystery, but it is necessary. My loyal followers, events are in motion. Everything is critical, including your own reactions. We cannot be undone because you acted too smoothly. Believe me, our enemies will be watching for such things. They know of our existence, but have no idea who we are. We will need to work hard to keep that advantage.” There was a murmur of general agreement with Castle’s statement.
“Soon, very soon, we will all witness the coming of Xipe Totec,” Castle intoned, “When our lord, the Flayed One, returns, we will all be his most trusted servants. All of us will be granted great power and authority. We will make this world into paradise once more.” One by one, the men and women knelt at Castle’s feet to receive a blessing before departing to their regular lives. Castle stayed in the conference room, enjoying the luxury of the room.
“That didn’t take as long as I thought it would,” murmured a deep voice from behind. The voice startled Castle, but he didn’t let it show. Castle rotated in the chair to look up at the cabal’s champion.
“Mikhail, it always amuses me that someone as huge as you can slip in unnoticed,” Castle said nonchalantly. Mikhail was better known as Giant to Zombie Strike, the organization that was the cabal’s nemesis. They have Mikhail that nickname for good reason. Mikhail was easily over seven feet tall, with a powerful build. He wore a tight-fitting black martial arts costume complete with full mask. From the cabal’s spy in Zombie Strike, Castle knew the group mocked Giant about his choice of a “ninja suit.” Castle really didn’t care. What he cared about was the aged leather whip that Mikhail wore coiled at his hip. The Flayed One’s own whip.
“Is your team ready?” Castle asked as Mikhail carefully sat down.
“My helpers are in position,” Mikhail answered, “The American, Alan, has already started the ritual with your priests. I just came to make sure that you didn’t want to accompany us as we retrieved the key.” Castle shook his head.
“It is not time for me to come out of the shadows quite yet,” Castle said. He chuckled at Mikhail’s puzzled look. “We may take them by surprise, but you will be facing Zombie Strike.” Mikhail gave Castle a smug smile.
“Good,” Mikhail said sharply, “This will give me the chance to kill them.”
“Your mission is to retrieve the key,” Castle snapped, “Zombie Strike will be dealt with as the prophecies foretell.” Mikhail nodded, accepting the rebuke. Wordlessly, the huge man slipped out of the chair and strode silently out the door.
Several hours later, NASA was the first to notice something happening. After almost sixty years of humanity launching stuff into space, there was an impressive amount of junk floating around the planet. Dead satellites, spent rocket boosters, and the like floated in space like flotsam and jetsam. NASA kept an eye on the space trash because any of it could be potentially fatal to a shuttle as it rocketed up to near-earth orbit. It was mostly predictable until one piece or another finally managed to fall out of orbit and incinerate itself in Earth’s atmosphere.
Alarms sounded as large amounts of the space junk began accelerating for no apparent reason. Faced with something completely inexplicable, NASA assumed there was a glitch in their tracking systems. Then, the first GPS satellite went down. Then, a communications satellite. Before NASA alerted governments around the world, ten more satellites were destroyed. As experts scrambled to maintain the fragile network of communications and navigation, the accelerating space debris clumped together into dense balls about the size of large kitchen appliances.
A tracking station in Australia first noticed the debris entering the atmosphere. They were in the middle of projecting a splash-down area when the debris started acting bizarre. Dramatic slowdowns followed by bursts of speeds in wildly changing vectors. The Australians immediately handed the problem off to NORAD. The uniformed specialists coordinated with world governments, trying desperately to get people out of harm’s way. Suddenly, the debris settled into straight trajectories. The NORAD personnel watched helplessly six balls of debris screamed towards Mexico City at several times the speed of sound. Each ball was slightly smaller than a dishwasher, but the dense composition and incredible speed from plummeting through the atmosphere gave each ball the destructive power of a small nuclear bomb.
All six slammed into Mexico City at noon local time. No one noticed the unique pattern of the strikes. No one except Zombie Strike.