Skull Island, South Pacific, 25 July 2010, 0315 Hours Local: Countdown: 1 Year, 3 months, 6 days
Slim and his driver, Michael, bounced back into the Zombie Strike compound. Michael slid the ATV into the laager where the other hunting teams were waiting. They were the last team to return. Slim smiled as he dismounted. It had been a successful operation. None of the teams were lost, and by best estimates, the teams bought Zombie Strike two or three hours. Frank Pierre, the compound’s lead engineer was putting that time to good use. Outer buildings were being torn down to build a wall surrounding the old hotel. The hard packed rubble rising into some semblance of a barrier made Slim imagine he was in a Post-apocalyptic world, like Mad Max. He wondered if he would ever be able to watch The Road Warrior again.
Zombie Strike should have had a proper wall surrounding the compound. Something fifteen feet tall and made of reinforced concrete. It was one of those things everyone knew, but there were always other priorities. Besides, the heavy chain fence kept the odd zombie tangled if it managed to get a little close to the compound, and there were never more than a hundred of the buggers within five miles of the compound anyways. If things got a bit tense, there was always the heavy stuff and the helos. The idea that the compound could be cut off and swarmed never really entered anyone’s minds as a possibility. Not even Slim’s. Sure it could happen, but so could an earthquake or a nuclear strike. Now, he was just hoping they lived through the oncoming siege.
"Okay everyone, good work out there," The Steve said to the hunting teams, "You bought us time. Security people, Gunny is gathering you by the entrance. Everyone else is to report to Pierre for work. Slim, Sport, I need you two to come with me." Slim and Sport traded looks. It was unnerving the first time they had heard The Steve refer to himself in the third person. Now, it frightened them more that he wasn’t. The three men walked through the barricade. The Steve stopped to chat with some of the workers, mostly to give them some encouragement or ask a quick question. Once in the hotel, The Steve ushered the two into an elevator. Slim was surprised when the car went up. The command center and all of Zombie Strike’s facilities were below ground. No one spoke as the elevator zoomed up before stopping at the eighth floor. Slim and Sport fell in behind The Steve as the team medic stormed into Collin’s room. The strong breeze slapped the three as they walked into the room. Slim saw the glitter of glass shards littered across the carpet. The sitting room was destroyed. Not the damage of dozens of people lugging footlockers of weapons and ammunition out of the room. This looked like there had been a fight. As Slim examined the room, he noticed Quentin sitting on bed with a blood-soaked bandage wrapped around his upper arm. Quentin saw the three. He stood up and walked out of the bedroom. Quentin clutched his warhammer in his right hand. Black and grey slime coated the hammer. Slim felt his stomach plunge.
"Stacy didn’t make it," Quentin said in a low rumble. The Steve nodded, as if he expected the news.
"What the bloody hell happened?" Sport asked his eyes wide in astonishment.
"Gollum came crashing through the window," Quentin answered, in a flat emotionless tone, "Landed on one of the cooks helping drag out the weapons Collin left us. It tore her to pieces. God, I hate those things. Managed to keep it busy while everyone ran. Then took it down. It didn’t go quietly into that good night." There were very good reasons Quentin was the team’s leader in gollum kills. Sport let out a colorful string of curses.
"So why warn us if he was just going to stab us in the back?" Slim asked, thinking about the message Collin had left. Quentin and Sport looked around uncomfortably, but The Steve pushed the question aside.
"Doesn’t matter," The Steve said sharply, "What matters is Collin’s info has been spot-on. Which brings me back to the two of you." The Steve’s evil grin chilled Slim to the bone. He had never seen that look on The Steve’s face, and hoped he never did again. It looked so horrifically wrong.
"There’s a minion out there," The Steve said, looking out the shattered window, "He sent his best killer to cripple us. We’re going to repay him with interest." The Steve turned back to his teammates. "You three are going to find that minion and kill him."
Washington DC, 26 July 2010, 2000 Hours Local: Countdown: 1 Year, 3 months, 5 days
Mateo Cortez jumped out of the FBI cruiser before it stopped. He sprinted through the lobby, ignoring the confused and annoyed looks of the hotel staff. He bounded up the three flights of stairs and then dashed to the room his daughters shared. Jess opened the door with a pained expression on her face. Mateo gave her a reassuring hug and walked into the room. Billy, the spirit wolf pup, padded over to Mateo. Toddling behind the wolf was Mateo’s five-year-old daughter Mercedes. The child’s face was streaked with red from crying. Mateo scooped his daughter into his arms and hugged her tight. A second later, Jess was also entwined with them. Mateo felt a weight lifting off of him as he just stood there and hugged his daughters. They were safe. Kenn led Special Agent Tredegar and Robyn Adams into the room. Billy growled at the fed and the lawyer, but stopped once Kenn introduced them. Sometimes, the wolf acted more like a human trapped in a canine body. The two warily smiled at the large animal, neither sure of what to do next.
"Mr. Cortez, if your ex-wife has been kidnapped by this Ted Roberts, then I am required to notify Metro Police and my agency," Tredegar said. Mateo shot the fed a deadly look. Tredegar visibly recoiled. Robyn Adams stepped next to the agent.
"Mateo, if you’re not going to call the authorities, at least let me bring in M&W security people," Adams suggested delicately.
"No, we’ll handle this in-house," Mateo said tersely, "If the police or M&W get involved, they’re just going to end up dead. The two of you are only here because I couldn’t get rid of you." Adams looked offended, but Tredegar just looked hurt. Mateo didn’t really care about the lawyer, but Tredegar had stuck his neck out to help Mateo. Mateo glanced over at Kenn, who just shook his head. Mateo needed to fix this. Before Mateo could say anything, the unique hunting moans of zombies echoed through the halls outside of the room. Everyone froze for an instant. In that instant came the screeching howl of a gollum. Billy growled and barked at the door.
"Jess, go get the special crate," Mateo ordered. The teen nodded and sprinted to her room. "Ms. Adams, Tredegar, I need you to take Mercedes into the bathroom and stay there until we come for you." Jess came back into the room lugging a black metal box almost as big as her. Mateo entered a combination into the digital pad on the top of the box. The pad beeped once and the sound of mechanical locks clacking opening rang through the room.
"Mr. Cortez, what are you doing?" Tredegar as Mateo lifted the thick lid and slid it to the floor.
"Well, Special Agent Tredegar, anytime we deploy anywhere, there’s a chance everything will go to hell." Mateo lifted a stubby M4 from the metal box. Tredegar and Adams went pale as the three Zombie Strike team members began pulling out weapons and armor from the metal case.
"This is us dealing with everything going to hell."