Washington DC, 27 July 2010, 1130 Hours Local: Countdown: 1 Year, 3 months, 5 days
Jess Montgomery stretched her aching body. She was tired, sore, and bored. She felt a little ashamed at admitting the last part, but she’d been waiting around the hospital for hours. After the docs told her about Kenn and Mercedes, there wasn’t much for her to do. Her iPod was at the hotel, and she didn’t have any music on her PDA. Mateo made sure she couldn’t after the first time she’d gone into a training operation listening to Lady Gaga.
Robyn Adams, the attorney from MacKenzie and Winston, was asleep in a chair. Jess wished she was awake, so she could ask Robyn stuff. Living on Skull Island was a little hard for the teen. The women in Zombie Strike always seemed a little intimidated by Jess. Those few who didn’t scurry away from her didn’t want to do anything with her. Jess was glad when Mateo brought her along to DC. Maria was always nice to her. They’d been sort of working out their relationship on the few times they saw each other. Something changed on this trip, though. Jess was sure it had something to do with Ted. She was even more sure since Ted turned out to be a minion.
Ms. Adams appeared to be what Jess wanted to be. She was pretty, successful, and strong. Heck, she managed to stand up to Mateo. Jess was still trying to do that without sounding like a whiny little girl. Jess didn’t know what she was hoping from Ms. Adams. Maybe some help, maybe some comfort, or maybe just a relationship that didn’t involve chasing the undead and evil cultists from one end of the earth to another. Jess let out a humorless laugh. She’d known Ms. Adams less than a day. What was she thinking?
Billy sensed Jess’s darkening mood and leaned next to her. Instinctively, Jess scratched the pup’s head. She could feel Billy’s happiness through their bond. At first, the bond scared Jess. Now, it was a comfort. She missed the pup’s namesake, but the hurt was less now. The nightmares didn’t come as often. The pup helped. Jess wasn’t sure how, but he did. It was almost as if Billy could take her bad feelings out through their bond. Satisfied Jess was a little better, Billy went back to his post. The hospital staff wasn’t too pleased to have a wolf patrolling the halls. Explicit orders from the FBI kept them from saying anything, but the nurses still gave Billy wary eyes as he trotted around the waiting room. Jess giggled as she remembered the one nurse asking when she was going to take Billy outside to do "his business." Jess didn’t know quite how to explain to the nurse that one of Wolf’s pack didn’t have to do normal things like eat, sleep, or do "his business."
Jess’s responsible side reminded her why she was still at the hospital. Collin was still out there. Her former teammate tried to kill Kenn twice now. The first time, Collin missed, but managed to kill Nigel, the nice man from M&W. The second time he’d hurt Kenn, but also killed a police officer, and – more important to Jess – badly hurt her little sister Mercedes. She slid her hand down her pant leg until she felt the familiar bulge of the pistol at her ankle. The police took most of her weapons away from her on the ride over to the hospital. She didn’t know if they were even aware she was carrying a back-up pistol.
The FBI posted a couple of their agents in the hospital. The two men looked like they just stepped off an FBI recruiting poster. Both were tall with a hard look about them that could have been handsome. They looked all professional in their dark suits, blue windbreakers with big yellow letters, and barely visible ear pieces. The only real difference was one had black hair, while the other was blond. Jess was calling them Agent Blackie and Agent Blondie. Jess decided after the first hour that she didn’t like either of them. They’d said less than a dozen words to her for the several hours they’d been here. Plus, they didn’t seem to like Billy much. Billy’ ears twitched, and Jess felt the warning through their bond. Billy faced the emergency room doors and growled. Danger was close. Jess shook Robyn awake. The attorney let out a string of murmured curses before looking up at Jess.
"Sorry Robyn," Jess said, "I need you to go into that supply closet over there. See if you can call for an armed response team." Mateo taught her a while back the best way to keep the noncombatants out of the line of fire was to give them something to do. Most of the time it worked. If not, Jess was ready to forcibly lock the attorney into the closet. The attorney immediately grasped the situation. Jess casually walked over to Agent Blackie.
"You better call off your dog. He’s disturbing people," Blackie said dismissively.
"You better call your people," Jess replied, mimicking the agent’s tone, "We’re about to be attacked." Jess didn’t wait to listen to the agent’s response. If he believed her, he’d try to keep her out of the fight. If he didn’t believe her, he’d just slow her down. Billy started barking at the doors. Jess knelt down long enough to draw her diminutive Glock 33. She already stuffed two full size magazines into her pocket. As she stood up, she heard the first moans. That’s when the panic started.
People scrambled to flee the undead as the zombies shambled into the hospital. Jess found a small alcove to wait for the mass of humanity to flow past her. Getting trampled wouldn’t help anyone. She couldn’t see Billy, but there was a definite gap in the human wave about where the barking was coming from. She could feel Billy’s fierce protectiveness through their bond. Nothing was going to get close to Kenn or Mercedes without killing him.
"Get down!" Jess screamed as she stepped from the alcove. Several people dropped as they saw her approaching with her pistol raised. The leading zombies were stopped. They found people who couldn’t flee. There was no time to feel any sorrow for the screaming victims. She took aim on her first target and fired. The zombie dropped as the .357 SIG shredded its brain. Jess spared a bare instant to make sure it was down before firing on her next target. Muscle memory and long hours of training took over the mechanics of zombie-killing as Jess assessed the situation. The horde was more than fifty, even before they got a hold of their first batch of victims. That was far beyond what she could hope to hold back on her own. Maybe if Billy joined the fight they could hold the horde at this bottleneck. Why wasn’t the spirit pup moving?
"Don’t worry girl. Help is here," said a voice from behind. Two men in street clothes stood next to her. They both drew handguns from the waists and fired indiscriminately into the horde. A few lucky rounds managed to take out a couple of zombies. The two hooted as their pistols went empty. Jess was glad she had some help. She just wished it were some people who were a little better trained. Well, it wasn’t like you could predict who would be one of those rare humans who didn’t panic uncontrollably at the sight of the undead.
"Slow down your fire and aim for the head," Jess ordered. Why was Billy still standing there? The spirit pup stopped barking. That was new. Billy never stopped barking while there was danger. Of course, he never hesitated to join the fight either. Jess ejected the empty magazine out of her weapon. One magazine left. Time to retreat. Before she could shout the order to her two helpers, a familiar screech pierced the sounds of the battle.
The gollum hacked its way through the horde. The desiccated humanoid snarled, waving its obsidian axe at Jess and her helpers. The two men screamed and ran. Jess really couldn’t blame them. The creature was scarier than the zombies. The gollum spied the fleeing men and leapt at them. An instant before the gollum landed on the slower man, Billy slammed into the creature. The two hit the tile floor and rolled for a few feet. Like wrestlers, Billy and the gollum sprang off the ground and backed away from each other. Then, the fight got very bizarre.
The blue runes drawn on the dark gray skin of the gollum start pulsed and glowed. Almost as if in response, Billy began glowing with a soft white light. Billy’s light matched the gollum’s pulse for pulse. The two lights grew brighter. The halos of blue and white expanded with the edges of each crackling and sparking. As the two fields touched, Jess was blinded by brilliant light. She raised her hands to shield her eyes just in time for the wave of force to pick her up and throw her down the hall. The last thing Jess heard before blacking out was Billy’s howl of pain.