Lisbon, Portugal, 1 February 2011, 1800 hours local: Countdown: 11 months
The man known to his followers as Castle was doing what most of the world was doing. He was watching as the last of the new GPS satellites was positioned in space. It was a bit over six months since the Truth’s mystics removed almost all of the satellites in orbit and brought them down on Mexico City. The general populace had been slapped in the face with their dependence on the artificial constellation that had floated in orbit. They demanded their leaders do everything to restore the needed satellites, regardless of cost. That demand provided the Truth with an opportunity for control that was now being realized.
Castle spent years cultivating his infiltrators. They were people in key positions in various sectors: political, social, cultural, and economic. For the last six months, these seemingly unrelated people had either stepped into roles or aggressively taken positions that gave the Truth enormous public influence. After all, it had been his infiltrators that forged a world-wide coalition and promised to rebuild networks and fight the economic depression that resulted from the loss of the satellites. With this last satellite, a large part of that promise returned. Now the Truth had their own secret satellite communications and observation network.
The satellite phone next to him buzzed. Castle picked up the now-working device and looked at who was calling him. He’d expected his infiltrator in the UN to ask to begin her operation. Instead, it was one of Alan’s sorcerers. Castle was going to be very annoyed if the sorcerer just called him to congratulate him on their success. He’d been very clear on that.
"Mr. Castle, we have a tear in Panama," the sorcerer informed him. Castle didn’t say anything for a moment as suppressed the urge to ask if the sorcerer was sure. They wouldn’t be calling him if they weren’t sure.
"Has it begun already?" Castle asked.
"From what we can see, it just looks like a small fracturing as our worlds come close to each other," the sorcerer answered. Castle relaxed. The Truth wasn’t quite ready to deal with the Great Death quite yet.
"Why didn’t we know that this might happen?" Castle asked.
"The prophecies were vague about this kind of thing," the sorcerer said, "To be frank, Mr. Castle, it isn’t like there’s a sentence in the prophecies telling us there’s going to be a tear and where it was going to be. The wording could have been interpreted in a number of ways. In light of this new development, Alan and several of the more experienced sorcerers are pouring over the prophecies to find out how often we should expect tears between our worlds." Castle bit back his annoyance and frustrated. The sorcerer was doing exactly what Castle demanded – telling him exactly what he needed to know, whether he liked it or not. Castle spent a great deal of time reassuring his people that he had no intention of shooting the messenger.
"I understand," Castle said, "Have a team of experienced sorcerers meet some Champions in Panama." Castle put down the sat phone and pressed the buzzer on the intercom at his elbow.
"Have Mikhail join me. I have a job for him."
###Plaza de Francia, Panama City, Panama, 2 Feb 2011 1700 hours local; Countdown: 10 months, 29 days
Robyn Adams fanned herself with a copy of La Prensa, the local newspaper. Even in February, it was hot and humid. She would need to take a long shower when she got back to the hotel. At least she had it easier than her companion. Edgar Tredegar was not only sweating in his light gray suit, but his normally white skin was now a bright pink from sunburn. He didn’t complain, but Tredegar was clearly uncomfortable.
"He’s late," Tredegar said quietly.
"He could be stuck in traffic," Robyn said, remembering the cab ride over from the hotel.
"Maybe," Tredegar said. "I don’t like it. We should have contacted the Bureau." Like Robyn, Tredegar was a liaison to Zombie Strike. She represented the interests of the team’s primary financial backer, the British insurance firm of MacKenzie and Winston. Tredegar, on the other hand, was an FBI special agent assigned to assist Zombie Strike on behalf of the American government.
"You agreed to keep them out of this. The priest wouldn’t have come otherwise," Robyn said. Before Edgar could say anything, a cab pulled up at the front of the plaza. A round Catholic priest lumbered out. He waved to the pair as soon as he saw them. Tredegar groaned at the lack of tradecraft. Robyn suppressed a laugh. What did he expect? They weren’t meeting some defecting Soviet spy, like in the FBI’s heyday. They walked down as the priest paid the cabbie.
"You are Father Timon?" Robyn asked as they met the priest.
"Si. You are from Zombie Strike?" the priest asked in heavily accented English. Robyn nodded. It was close enough to the truth. The priest let out a string of rapid fire Spanish. It sounded like a lot of thanking God.
"Father Timon, you said you needed Zombie Strike in Panama, but you didn’t say why," Tredegar said. "We need to know why before we can bring the team in."
"You are not zombie-killers?" the priest asked, his large dark eyes scrunched in confusion.
"Zombie Strike doesn’t have that many zombie killers," Robyn rushed to explain, "People like us are sent out to meet with the local contacts to see where the need is greatest." She didn’t add and to make sure that they weren’t wasting time with kooks.
"Of course. I see," the priest said, his head bobbing. "About two nights ago, I went to visit my friend, Father Rodriguez, up in the mountains. We were having dinner when it happened." The priest shuddered with remembered fear.
"What happened?" Tredegar asked.
"We heard screams. We went to see what happened," Father Timon said, "In the middle of the town, it was like the air had been ripped open. Unholy white light was pouring through. Then the first one came out. It was horrible. It grabbed little Martina and…" Father Timon put his face in his hands and sobbed. Robyn put her arms around the priest.
"Father Rodriguez pulled me back into the church. He shoved this packet of papers in my hand." The priest pulled out a weathered manila envelope. On the front was a series of odd symbols. Tredegar gasped as he saw the envelope.
"Do you know what this means?" Father Timon asked. "Father Rodriguez wouldn’t tell me. He just pushed me into my car and told me to come back here. He said I needed to call Zombie Strike and give them this." Tredegar snatched the envelope out of the priest’s hands. He tore the flap open and began searching through the papers.
"Don’t worry Father," Robyn said reassuringly, "We’ll take care of this." She escorted the priest back down the stairs. After the priest was in a cab back to his church, Robyn stormed back to where Tredegar was reading one of the papers from the envelope.
"What was that all about?" Robyn demanded.
"Call Mateo and tell him we need the team here," Tredegar said, examining the paper in his hands. "Make sure he tells Quentin that the Little Death has shown up here."
"What is the Little Death?" Robyn demanded as she keyed in the radio. With communications satellites out, long distance calls needed to be go through a relay of radio stations. Fortunately, M&W already had a network set up.
"From my best guess, vampires."