Skull Island, South Pacific, 25 July 2010, 0430 Hours Local: Countdown: 1 Year, 3 months, 6 days

Slim Thomas crept along the tree line. He kept a wary eye on the ever closing line of the zombie horde. A cold chill ran down his spine. Slim, like all of the field operatives in Zombie Strike, was among those lucky few humans who didn’t suffer from an overriding fear at the sight of the undead. Still 10,000 was more than a bit disconcerting. Especially when he needed to infiltrate the line and find the minion controlling the horde.

Slim winced at the rustle of leaves and the unmistakable sound of a human body hitting the hard packed dirt of the forest ground. Quentin cursed as he slowly stood. He froze as he realized how much noise he was making. Zombies homed in on loud noise until their other degraded senses could detect you. Slim, Sport, and Quentin silently stood, listening for the distinctive hunting moan. A minute passed and nothing. The team continued on.

The team had found the minion by simply scanning the horde from the roof of the Zombie Strike compound. The minion was in the middle of a three hundred strong group of zombies towards the rear of the horde. It might have been harder if the minion wasn’t wearing the distinctive ninja costume. Slim wondered if the costume was some sort of uniform. It didn’t seem to have any real utility. Slim held the minion in his sights, desperately wanting to squeeze the trigger. Unfortunately, the range was just a bit too long. Slim didn’t want his target to know he was being hunted.

The plan was simple. Sport, Slim, and Quentin would slip out and make their way to the forest some thousand yards from the edge of the compound. The forest would break up the line of zombies and give the team the best chance of breaking through. Once through, the team would sneak up on the minion from behind and take him out. Without the minion to direct the assault, Zombie Strike should be able to hole up behind their fortifications and slowly whittle away the horde until it was destroyed or help arrived.

The team walked quietly through the forest. The deathly silence was eerie. Slim was used to hearing the sounds of life every time he walked into this forest. Not this time. The only sound was the ragged cacophony of moans from the horde. They were halfway through the forest when they found their first zombies. Normally, the team would have just quietly dispatched the four zombies. The suppressed MP5/10’s each carried would have done the job easily without alerting any other zombies nearby. Killing every zombie between the team and the minion sounded good, but had one major drawback – ammo. Slim, Sport, and Quentin only carried ten spare magazines each for their MP5’s. Three hundred and thirty rounds of 10mm sounded like a lot, but it would go fast if they had to fight off a sizable piece of the horde. So each man was covered in Nasty Stuff.

Nasty Stuff was the latest brainchild of the same lab that developed the ZKC and the armor the team used. It was a foul smelling goop designed to hide the user’s human scent from a zombie. The team braced with their weapons ready. If this worked, they shouldn’t have any problems breaking through. If it didn’t Slim was saving his last bit of ammo for himself. His corpse wasn’t going to be used against his friends and colleagues. The zombies shambled by, completely oblivious to the three team members. Slim let out a breath he didn’t realize he was holding. Sensing the others eyes on him, Slim pointed to the edge of the forest and slowly crept through the trees. In less than ten minutes, the three were through the line of zombies. Slim paused for a moment to locate their target. The tight-packed group of zombies was easy to spot.

Slim, Sport, and Quentin moved in with a predatory stalk. Three hundred against three weren’t good odds, but the team had one of the best tactical advantages – surprise. The team crept to less than twenty yards from the edge of the zombie pack. Slim stood to his full height and took aim at the minion. The man was just under six feet and screaming at the zombies in what sounded like German. The minion’s head filled Slim’s scope. With a gentle motion, Slim caressed the trigger.

With impossible speed, the minion yanked one of the zombies into the line of fire. The three bullets made a ragged mess of the zombie’s head before it collapsed to the ground. The minion whirled to face the team. The pack of zombies let out a ragged chorus of hunting moans. Quentin and Sport opened fire, cutting down zombie after zombie as Slim fired twice more at the minion. The first burst sailed harmlessly over the dodging minion. The second cut off the arm of a zombie trying to turn around. Slim ducked as the minion fired back wildly with a pistol. Slim fired again as the minion darted between two of his zombie shields. The two traded fire for what seemed like ten minutes, but was probably less than a minute. The minion made the first mistake. He slipped behind a zombie an instant before the zombie moved away. Slim saw the opening and placed a clean burst into the minion’s chest. Blood and gore shot out of the minion’s back as the three ten millimeter rounds tore ragged chunks out of him. The minion made no sound as he fell to his knees.

“You haven’t won yet,” the minion said in strained tones. The minion pulled what looked like a silver die out of his pocket and tossed it. Slim’s eye caught sight of the small metal cube as it arched in the air. Slim was blinded as a bolt of white lightning shot from the cube. As his eyesight cleared, Slim saw several things. The minion was slumped down dead. Sport was on the ground in a fit of violent seizures. Most important, the pack of zombies finished turning around. Slim opened fire as the zombies’ hunting moans echoed through the night.

Washington DC, 26 July 2010, 2015 Hours Local: Countdown: 1 Year, 3 months, 5 days

Mateo Cortez quickly pulled on the bracers and helmet. There wasn’t time to put on the entire armor set. These would give him some protection. A simple vest went over his casual clothes. Magazines were quickly stuffed into pouches. The M4 felt both foreign and familiar as Mateo picked up the stubby carbine.

“Glass bullets folks,” Mateo reminded Jess and Kenn as the two loaded their own carbines. Glass bullets were excellent for use in the close quarters and thin walls of the hotel. They weren’t actually glass, but made from a ceramic that would fragment when they hit a solid object. Most importantly, they wouldn’t penetrate through the walls of the hotel. Now, Mateo could only hope that the other people in the hotel were smart enough to stay in their rooms and not get in the way. Looking back, Mateo saw Special Agent Tredegar standing in front of the door to the bathroom with a shotgun and a determined look on his face. That man wouldn’t let a zombie come close to Mercedes.

Mateo nodded to Jess and Kenn. With practiced ease, Jess opened the door as Mateo and Kenn strode through. Six zombies clustered around the elevators. From the looks of it, they managed to catch one of the other guests as the poor fellow stepped out of the elevator. Mateo placed a hammer pair at the nearest zombie. Even suppressed, the weapon thundered in the hall. Kenn followed suit. Within seconds, the six zombies were dispatched. Joined by Jess, the three zombie hunters moved to the unmoving corpses. The fallen guest snarled at the trio as they neared and struggled to reach out to them. Mateo felt sorry for the man to have his life ended so horrifically. With sadness, Mateo placed a single round between the new zombie’s eyes.

“Matt, they’re all wearing the same shirt,” Jess noted as she examined the corpses. She was right. Something about the shirts were tingling something in the back of his mind. Some detail he wasn’t putting together.

“Saw a bunch of those in the lobby,” Kenn said, “I think someone was having a family reunion.” The realization hit Mateo like a hammer.

“Yeah, in the big ballroom downstairs,” Mateo said. The three traded looks for a brief moment. There was no hesitation as the three bounded the stairs. They could hear the screams mixed with the hunting moans echoing through the stairwell. The sounds urged the trio on.

“Let’s keep it simple,” Mateo said as they neared the first floor, “Sweep and clear. Stay together. Try not to shoot anything that’s not a zombie.” He didn’t wait to hear their agreement as he kicked open the door. Two zombies were caught by the door. Mateo shot them both as they rolled on the ground. Kenn emerged next, quickly picking off a half-dozen zombies before coming up next to Mateo. Jess matched Kenn’s kills as she flanked Mateo. Kenn and Jess gave Mateo a few seconds to survey the scene. There were another twenty zombies in hotel lobby, most feasting on hotel patrons who didn’t manage to run away. More zombies were coming out of the hotel ballroom. That was definitely the source of the outbreak.

“Clear the lobby and see if we can push them back into the ballroom,” Mateo said. Jess led off this time, moving towards the main entrance. They needed to clear an escape route for anyone trapped in the lobby. Mateo followed his foster daughter with Kenn covering their rear. It was methodical and efficient. Scan, find, and kill. Rinse, repeat. Pause for a moment to change a magazine and continue. The biggest problem was the panicking people. In their minds, zombies were terrifying enough. Now, there were armed gunmen opening fire. The patrons darted across the lobby in a desperate attempt to find someplace safe. Mateo winced as one of the guests jumped in front of his line of fire and took a graze to the shoulder.

Within minutes, the trio was advancing on the zombies coming out of the ballroom. The zombies fell as steadily from the continuous and almost rhythmic fire from the zombie hunters. The doorway of the ballroom made a perfect bottleneck. The three zombie hunters formed a line some forty feet from the entrance to the ballroom and let the zombie horde impale itself on their wall of fire. The battle was over quickly. Then came the hard part. The three zombie hunters and some hotel staff worked their way floor by floor to evacuate the hotel guests and search for any zombies that managed to find their way upstairs. It was stressful and time consuming. Mateo heard the arrival of police and fire rescue, but he just concentrated on the task at hand. Once the last guest was evacuated, Mateo and his team made their way to the waiting police. Tredegar met them in the lobby with a dozen or so Metro police officers. The FBI agent had things under control. Mateo allowed himself to relax a bit. Everyone walked out of the hotel where guests were being treated by a fleet of paramedics and fire rescue personnel.

“Daddy, Sissy!” screamed an upset Mercedes. She wriggled out of Robyn’s arms and sprinted to Mateo and Jess. A policeman moved to grab the running five-year-old. Kenn slid in between and fended off the officer as Mateo scooped up his daughter. He just wanted a moment to feel his daughter before he started hunting down Ted and rescuing his ex-wife.

The rifle shot snapped Mateo’s eyes away from Mercedes. The police officer and Kenn were on the ground with blood leaking from both of him. Then he felt a warm stickiness in his hands. Terror clenched him as he looked at his little daughter. She was soaked with blood.

Zombie Strike Part 6 Chapter 49