Skull Island, South Pacific, 25 July 2010, 0230 Hours Local: Countdown: 1 Year, 3 months, 6 days
“Slim” Thomas scowled as he tightened the straps on his armor. He knew he should be thankful the field team’s armor wasn’t in the armory and survived its destruction. Slim should have been ecstatic with the cache of weapons and ammunition the team found in Collin’s room. He probably would have been except for two things: the note and the crush. The crush was easier for Slim to wrap his head around. It had been drilled into his head since he joined MacKenzie and Winston’s Armed Response Team as a zombie-qualified member. It had been reinforced nearly every day Slim worked with Zombie Strike. Crush was the point where the sheer weight and volume of a zombie horde would overcome defensive measures. Things like number of defenders, heavy weapons, defensive positions, and the size of the horde affected crush. The trick was to never let your people try to fight past the crush. Unless you were Mateo Cortez, and Slim wasn’t sure if that man was touched by the divine or just touched in the head.
Then there was the note. Slim was saved from dwelling on that bitter pill by the other British field operator, Sport. Truth to tell, Slim didn’t care much for Sport. The man was too boorish and low-class, but being surrounded by Yanks and colonials forced an uneasy common ground between the two Brits. Especially considering how many times the two were paired up during operations.
“Slim, The Steve wants to know if you’re kitted up,” Sport asked impatiently. “He needs us to put some backbone in the lads.” Slim nodded to his counterpart and swallowed his dislike of the other man. Now was definitely not the time. Slim picked up the Remington 700. The Yanks needed a few more years to figure out how to make a proper bolt gun, but this one wasn’t too shabby. It was modified to accept a five round detachable magazine and had a rail along the top where a fairly decent Bausch & Lomb scope was mounted. It would do for this part of the defense. If the note was right. The two Zombie Strike field operators bounded down the stairs. Slim wasn’t sure if The Steve’s plan would work, but it was the best they had. Slim was surprised by the sudden change in The Steve. The medic’s normally laid-back attitude vanished as the team scrambled to prepare for the oncoming horde. In its place was a serious and aggressive man even Gunny was obeying. It was both scary and comforting at the same time. Slim and Sport strode out of the hotel turned command center. The hunting moans of the horde could be faintly heard in the humid night. Slim took a sip of water as he and Sport walked over to the small group of men loosely gathered around a few ATV’s. Slim recognized a couple of Gunny’s security boys, but most were mechanics, clerks, and even one from the catering staff. About half of them carried bolt guns with nightvision scopes while the rest were armed with pump shotguns.
“Good evening gents,” Slim said in his most upbeat tone, “We’ve been asked to cause a bit of havoc amongst the deadheads.” By the looks on the men’s faces, perhaps the stiff upper lip wasn’t the best route to go. “Shooters, do you understand your job?”
“Slim, there are ten thousand zombies out there,” one of the security boys said, pointing out into the darkness. “How are we supposed to slow down that kind of horde?”
“Carl, that many zombies means a close packed horde,” Slim explained, “Popping the buggers in front causes logjams. Trips them up and breaks up the horde into easier to fight groups. Most importantly, it buys time for our mates here. Make sure to pick out the biggest and meanest ones you can find.” Slim turned to the others.
“Drivers, we’re counting on you to keep us alive,” Slim said with deadly seriousness. “Watch out for deadheads that might have gotten too far ahead of the group and don’t be afraid to move. Much rather have a missed shot than to lose a team. Any other questions?” Seeing none, the shooters paired up with their drivers. Slim’s driver was one of the mechanics.
“So how did you draw this duty, Michael?” Slim asked the diminutive Australian.
“Grew up on a cattle spread,” Michael answered as he started up the ATV, “Hated horses.” The ATV shot out into the night before Slim could decipher the man’s terse response. As the ATV bounced outside the compound’s lights, Slim lowered his nightvision. The horde spanned the horizon. As expected, the horde moved like an oncoming glacier. Michael slid the ATV into a stop just under eight hundred meters from the horde. Michael drew a pump shotgun and scanned the immediate surroundings. Slim slid off the ATV into a crouching shooting stance. He worked the smooth bolt action. He gave a small prayer of thanks for the lack of wind. Exhaling, Slim pressed the trigger.
His was the first rifle to crack through the chorus of moans from the horde. The .300 Win Mag round crossed the open ground in an instant. The zombie’s head disintegrated as the bullet shredded it and shot out the rear. A second zombie, a few yards behind the target caught the still speeding bullet through the lower jaw. The bullet didn’t destroy the zombie’s brain, but it managed to sever the spinal cord before exiting the zombie’s body and landing harmlessly in the chest of a third zombie. The second zombie dropped to the ground. Several other zombies tripped over the two unmoving corpses. Slim didn’t even take a moment to see what his first shot caused. Even before the second zombie fell, Slim was taking aim on another zombie. A second shot roared in the night. More zombies down. The horde’s line became ragged in the small hundred meter arc. Slim fired three more times before slithering back up onto the ATV. The two men roared across to the next firing position. As the ATV bounced across the ground, Slim keyed his radio.
“Mountain here,” answered The Steve from the command center.
“He was telling us the truth,” Slim said, not able to keep his disgust out of his voice, “At least as far as the rifles go. This one was set up perfectly for me. First firing position a success.”
“Worry about survival,” The Steve said, “Revenge will have to come later.”
Washington DC, 26 July 2010, 1930 Hours Local: Countdown: 1 Year, 3 months, 5 days
Mateo Cortez stormed out of the police station. Special Agent Tredegar of the FBI struggled to keep up. The agent waved his badge a few times to clear a path for the seething Mateo. Kenn Blanchard and a dark haired woman were waiting outside on the street.
“I’ll get my vehicle,” Tredegar said as he darted to the parking lot. Kenn and the woman stepped up to Mateo. Kenn was still dressed in the dark blue suit he had worn to testify to some Congressional subcommittee. The woman was dressed in a severe dark gray suit with her hair in a tight bun. She practically screamed lawyer.
“I was just about to come get you Mr. Cortez,” the woman said, with a smile that would have been charming under other circumstances, “I’m Robyn Adams with M&W’s legal staff.” She held out get hand.
“Not to be rude Ms. Adams, but we have a situation,” Mateo said, giving the attorney a perfunctory handshake. Kenn’s face went neutral as he saw the seriousness on Mateo’s face.
“What’s up Matt?” Kenn asked.
“You remember Ted, my wife’s new boyfriend?” Mateo asked, his voice deadly calm, “He’s a minion.” Mateo laid out what happened in the interrogation room in a few sentences.
“Let me call M&W,” Robyn said, “We can have one of our security people detain him.”
“Not a chance,” Mateo snapped, “That man is with my daughters. Not about to let someone I don’t know take him down.” Robyn was stopped from arguing as Tredegar bounced his Crown Vic onto the curb.
“Get in,” Tredegar said. Mateo, Kenn, and Robyn got into the car. Tredegar shot a questioning look at Mateo, but the Zombie Strike field commander waved it away. Kenn made introductions around as the car sped through the streets. Mateo sat quietly as his mind raced through the scenarios. At the moment, he wished the cell network was back up. Mateo didn’t even notice he had uttered the last thought.
“Here,” Tredegar said, handing Mateo a bulky sat phone. “Dial 1-1-202 and then the number.” Mateo decided not to look the gift fed in the mouth and quickly punched in Jess’s phone number.
“Matt, where are you?” Jess asked as she picked up the phone. The fear in her voice terrified Mateo.
“Ten minutes out,” Matt said, “Listen to me, Ted is a –” Jess cut him off before he could finish.
“Yeah, he’s a minion,” Jess interrupted, “I know. He tried to snatch Mercedes. Billy didn’t let him.” Mateo’s terror lessened a bit at the thought of the spirit wolf protecting the girls.
“Have you secured him?” Mateo asked, falling into the role of team leader.
“No,” Jess answered. Mateo could hear the tenseness in Jess’s voice. “Just before we could take him, Maria came into the room. Matt, he grabbed her and left. Ted has your wife.”