The village of Rosca, island of Corsica, 14 August 2010, 0215 Hours Local: Countdown: 1 Year, 2 months, 16 days

Collin DuBois always wondered how he was going to die. Getting his head lopped off by the obsidian axe bearing down on him wasn’t one of his preferred choices. Now, if he could just get his body to cooperate and stop the blade. Collin strained to bring up his M4 in front of the axe blade. The blow landed with all the force of a cannon. Collin felt bones crack along his body as he was driven into the pavement. Collin screamed with agony.

Collin’s cry of pain was drowned out by the gollum’s roar of frustration. The monster was not happy it didn’t bury its axe deep into Collin’s chest. Collin gritted back the pain. He wasn’t stunned anymore, but the pain brought a fog all of its own. The gollum swung down again. Collin could hear the blade as it whistled through the still night air. Collin deflected the blow with his battered M4. He felt the shock of blow as it painfully traveled down the length of his body. Collin heard the grinding sound of the obsidian blade sliding across the street’s cobblestones. The gollum roared again. Collin wasn’t sure if he could fend off another blow.

“YEEHAW!” hollered The Steve as he barreled into the gollum. The medic wasn’t a big man, but he had two things going for him – the added mass of his battle rattle and an impressive sprinting speed. The collision knocked the unprepared gollum off of its feet. The Steve didn’t take a moment to gloat. He grabbed Collin and dragged him away from the monster. Collin finally got a look at the creature. Normal gollums were barely five feet tall with tar black skin pulled tightly over a wiry frame anointed with runes in blue body paint. This creature had the same tight black skin, but it was easily seven feet tall with a massive frame. It sort of reminded Collin of his teammate Quentin. Except for the bright red runes painted across its body, and that it was snarling like a rabid dog.

“Where’s its bloody medallion?” Slim asked as he stood next to The Steve. The stone medallion was a gollum’s weakness. Until it was removed or destroyed, the creatures were essentially invulnerable. The medallion was usually worn about the neck on a leather cord. This gollum wasn’t wearing one. Collin watched as the gollum took one plodding step towards the zombie hunter, and then another.

“Shoot it,” Collin ordered. Slim didn’t hesitate. He’d switched from his SR-25 sniper rifle to a tiny pump shotgun. The thing only held four rounds, and Slim made each one count. The creature’s torso erupted in geysers of flesh, bone, and fluid as the dozens of double-ought buckshot tore into it. The creature let out a stifled scream before collapsing to the street. Thick, black fluid oozed out of the dozens of holes. Collin barely kept from gagging from its noxious odor.

“That wasn’t a gollum,” Slim said. His eyes were fixed on the corpse as he reloaded.

“Yes, but I have no idea what it was,” Collin said, “Steve, I’m in a bit of agony. Could you remedy that?”

The Steve, dude,” the medic corrected as he fished out an injector, “The Steve’s patented Happy Juice.” With a small flourish, The Steve slapped the injector into Collin’s arm. “The Steve wonders if you are good to go.”

“Give me a minute for the pain-killers to take effect, and I’ll be golden,” Collin said. The Steve jabbed a finger into Collin’s side. Pain flared and Collin let out a groan.

“Dude, give him your scattergun,” The Steve said to Slim. The tall Brit grimaced, but handed Collin the diminutive twelve-gauge. The Steve dragged Collin to the side of a building.

“The Steve and Slim are going to finish this,” The Steve told Collin. “You are going to sit here and try not to get killed. The Steve will check back with you afterwards.” Collin wanted to protest, but he was still too much of a professional.

“At least give me my carbine,” Collin growled in resignation.

“Dude, that thing nearly broke your gun in half,” The Steve said, “Never seen a receiver bent like that.” The medic gave Collin a quick once over and trotted towards Slim. The two zombie hunters raced down the street. Collin leaned back against the stone wall. He could hear the distinctive bark of Slim’s rifle. The enemy’s machine gun stopped. They might still have a chance of wiping the enemy militia. Or at least dealing it a significant blow.

The drugs started to take effect. The pain-killers reduced the pain to a bearable level as the stimulants cleared away the remaining fog. Collin wanted to get back into the fight, but he waited patiently for The Steve to return. Collin knew he was badly banged up. The pain-killers masked the extent of the damage. If Collin pushed himself to operate normally, he could easily destroy himself. He’d seen more than one fellow SAS do just that. Collin heard a rustling in the alley next to him. He started to roll but a hand shot out of the alley and stopped him. At the touch, Collin felt his body lock up. The shotgun clattered to the ground as it slipped from his hands. A tall, thin man in dark robes emerged from the alley. He looked familiar, but Collin couldn’t place the face. The man knelt down next to Collin and smiled. It was hauntingly eerie in the green tones of nightvision.

“Collin, what are you doing here?” the man asked, feigning concern. As soon as Collin heard the voice, the man’s identity clicked in Collin’s mind. Alan. The American was one of the Truth’s so-called sorcerers. This was the man who kidnapped and twisted Jim’s daughter. Collin struggled against the paralysis. He needed to get to his gun – or even his knife.

“Don’t bother, the spell will last for at least the next hour or so,” Alan said as he watched Collin’s face contort with effort. Alan’s smirk vanished when he saw the unmoving gollum. There was a flash of anger that melted into an expression of annoyance.

“I see you managed to kill off George,” Alan said, his voice tight.

“You gave that monstrosity a name?” Collin asked. He needed to hold Alan’s attention long enough for the others to return.

“Don’t you name your pets?” Alan asked in response. Without another word, Alan drew a large, crude knife from under his robes. Collin’s eyes locked on the blade. He’d seen Alan use that knife to unleash blasts of energy that killed dozens of soldiers.

“Oh don’t worry Collin. I’m not going to kill you,” Alan said. He lifted up Collin’s hand and slashed across the palm. Pain flashed through Collin as blood welled up from the cut.

“Useful little blade. Shame it needs human blood to activate,” Alan said as he looked at the blood-streaked knife. “Time for us to go back to the nursery.” Alan touched the knife to a shadow. The blade slipped into the shadow. Alan grabbed Collin and dragged him through the portal.

Zombie Strike Part 6 Chapter 61