St. Louis, Missouri, 4 June 2011, 0835 hours local; Countdown: 6 months, 26 days

Evan Torelli held on for dear life as the LAV crashed through the burnt-out wreck that was a sedan. The six-wheeled mini-tank jostled around as it sped around an abandoned semi tractor. The vehicle commander opened fire on a small group of zombies with a machine gun. The heavy bullets tore the undead into little more than decaying hamburger. Evan swallowed hard to keep his breakfast from coming back up. It all seemed so cool when they started out. Now Evan was praying he wouldn’t be tossed from the speeding LAV as the convoy raced down the highway.

As Evan was put into some cobbled up armor, Mateo announced the Marines reported some people that matched the general description of minions in downtown St. Louis near the river. Zombie Strike flew into Busch Stadium, which the Marines turned into a collection point for rescued civilians. The pristine fields were torn up to make room for dozens of tents and helipads. There were also four big guns sitting in right field. Chief Stahl told Evan they were howitzers. From the stadium, the team joined a convoy going out to rescue some trapped civilians near where the minions were reported. Jim and Evan were on the lead vehicle, which the Marines called an LAV-25, and the chief called a Baby Striker. The Marines didn’t seem to like that name for their tank. Evan leapt at the chance to ride on top of the tank. In retrospect, it wasn’t one of his better decisions.

The convoy of two LAV-25’s and four armored trucks turned down a side street. The cracks of gunfire echoed through the streets. That would be the civilians the Marines came out to rescue. They managed to barricade themselves on the roof of a fast food joint. As the convoy roared out of the side street, Evan saw a massive horde swarming the restaurant. The LAV screeched to a halt. The turret swung at the zombies at the front of the store.

"Evan, ears!" warned Jim. Evan turned on his hearing protection a bare instant before the big gun of the LAV opened fire. Evan felt the thundering hammer of the auto cannon through his entire body. If Evan thought the LAV’s machine gun tore apart zombies, it was nothing compared to the big gun on the tank. The Marines were using a new type of ammunition for the big gun nicknamed "Mini-Grape." Evan didn’t understand the name, but it essentially meant the gun was shooting out dozens of buckshot with each round. The zombies were shredded with all the efficiency of a food processor. The second LAV opened up at the back of the restaurant as the four armored trucks roared up to the store. A platoon of Marines stormed out of the vehicles, firing at the undead as they went. The horde seemed to melt away at the combined firepower.

"C’mon kid, time for us to start our mission," Jim said, pointing to where the rest of Zombie Strike was waiting. Evan and Jim slid off the LAV. As they approached, Evan nearly gagged at the smell. The two Brits were busily smearing everyone with a thick, sticky goo that was the source of the odor.

"What is that?" Evan said as Slim approached.

"Nasty Stuff," Slim answered.

"No kidding," Evan retorted, "I don’t want that stuff smeared all over me."

"Get used to it, boyo," Slim said, "This stuff keeps the zombies off of our back. Hopefully, long enough to find our quarry and stop them." Evan closed his eyes and tried not to breath too deeply as Slim applied the Nasty Stuff.

"Relax, you won’t notice the smell in a bit," Slim said, moving on to Jim. The cowboy stood nonchalantly as Slim applied the Nasty Stuff to his armor. Evan tried to choke back the stench as Mateo motioned for the team to gather around.

"The minions were seen on this street," Mateo said, highlighting a side street on everyone’s PDA. "From here, there’s a couple of good places to hole up. The warehouse and the office building. Everything else is too exposed to view for the minions. We’re going to try the warehouse first."

"Better pray they’re in the warehouse. Trying to root them out of the office complex will be bloody rough," Sport chimed in. There was a murmur of agreement amongst the more experienced team members.

"Jess, you and Billy are on point. Evan you follow them. Try not to shoot anything unless you have to. I don’t want to bring out a horde quite yet," Mateo said. "Remember people, we need to capture the minions to find out why the Truth is in St. Louis. That is why we’re here." The team members nodded at Mateo, and he motioned for Jess and Evan to start. They were maybe a hundred yards ahead before the rest of the team followed. There was something exciting and lonely about being at the point position. Well, Jess and her dog were the actual point. He was right behind them though. That counted, right?

Jess and Evan walked a few blocks before Jess stopped suddenly and leaned on one of the buildings. Evan rushed up to her, searching around for the ninja-suited minions. Jim said that minions could work magic. Maybe Jess was under some sort of spell.

"Are you okay?" Evan asked.

"Yeah, I’ve just been out of sorts since we landed in this town," Jess explained, recovering to her feet. "I don’t know why. The Steve said I wasn’t coming down with anything."

"You want me to take over?" Evan offered. Jess smiled at the teen, and Evan nearly forgot how to talk.

"No, I just get waves of vertigo. I’ll be glad when we finish this operation up," Jess answered, "Now let’s get moving before Mateo starts getting annoyed. Or worse, the chief." From the look on Jess’s face, Evan never wanted to get on the soldier’s bad side. The two smiled at each other. Jess took a step forward and froze. Her dog started a low growl. Evan searched for the threat. Evan was thrown off of his feet as the wall of the store next to him exploded. As the dust settled, Evan looked up at the twelve foot monstrosity. It screamed once and attacked.

Zombie Strike Part 8 Chapter 83