Cape Town, South Africa, 5 July 2011, 1300 hours local; Countdown: 5 months, 26 days
Steve Mountain pulled his jacket a little tighter as a cool wind breezed through the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront. With Table Mountain in the background and the beautiful architecture around him, this had to be the prettiest harbor he’d seen. Now if it was just a bit warmer. July was winter time for South Africa. It was only supposed to get up in the low sixties for the day. He kept his jacket partially zipped and hoped the butt of his Kimber wasn’t printing. Granted, most of the people sitting around him at the café were oblivious. As far as they were concerned, Steve was just another tourist.
Steve took another swallow of beer and concentrated on the boat some twenty yards down the harbor from him. Actually, it was a very pretty – and very large – yacht. What brought the yacht to Steve’s attention was it was the yacht used by the Truth to smuggle Mateo and Robyn into the country. Steve didn’t know boats – that was what SEALs were for – but he was impressed. The yacht was a sleek fifty-foot job. He’d counted six men walking about it doing what looked like sailor stuff. It looked kind of like what those Navy guys were doing the last time his team had done a fast boat insert many moons ago. He held up the book reader. The covert camera sent a steady stream of video to the team’s safe house. He touched his Bluetooth headset as the phone began to vibrate.
"Ja," Steve answered in German. Like most of the world, Zombie Strike was persona non grata in South Africa. Steve’s cover was Hans Gruber, a German businessman on holiday. The Customs inspector never even raised an eyebrow at the name. Some people had no sense of humor.
"Come on home," Quentin answered, also in German.
"Nein, I should stay and wait and see if Michael shows up," Steve said. Michael was the cover name the team was using for Giant.
"Michael’s in Johannesburg. He won’t be home in time," Quentin said.
"Then, let me pay my tab, and I’ll be on my way," Steve said, carefully packing his book reader into his satchel. He didn’t want the sub-machine gun in the satchel scratching up the device. The techno-wizards back on Skull Island would never let him hear the end of it.
Twelve hours later, Steve drove the limousine up to the yacht’s gangplank. Kenn Blanchard got out of the back. Kenn was dressed in brightly colored local clothing with a big smile on his face. Steve, in a dark suit, hustled over to stand next to the Zombie Strike commander. There were two men visible on the yacht, standing just at the top of the gangplank. Both were in loose floral shirts, khaki shorts, and sandals. One started to walk down the gangplank towards Steve and Kenn. Steve could see the bulge of a submachine gun under the man’s arm.
"Can I help you, sir?" the man asked in Afrikaans-accented English.
"Absolutely," Kenn said in his best English accent. Fortunately for the mission, Kenn’s best English accent sounded Kenyan. "I am admiring your yacht. What kind is it?"
"I’m sorry sir, I don’t know. I’m just security," the man answered politely, "I’m going to have to ask you to move along."
"How rude!" Kenn barked, his eyes flashing indignantly as he gestured angrily, "Do you know who I am? How dare a servant talk to me this way?" Kenn whirled back to Steve. "Does he know who he’s talking to?" Steve looked past Kenn. The second guard was down. Quentin threw the body overboard. Steve nodded to Kenn. The Zombie Strike commander smiled and drew his KRISS submachine gun from under his robe. Kenn spun down to a crouch and placed a suppressed burst through the guard’s chest. Steve tossed the man’s body into the water and followed Kenn up the gangplank.
"Status?" Kenn asked Quentin.
"The back of the boat had one guard. Jess dealt with him. We found two guys in the control room upstairs. Chief Stahl and Sport took care of them. Jess, Billy, and Sport were about to go downstairs to ferret out anyone else," Quentin reported.
"I better go with them," Kenn said, checking the magazine on his sub gun.
"Nope, you’re staying here. We can’t afford for you to get killed on this boat," Quentin said, holding his hand up, "Kenn, do you think this team could survive losing both you and Matt? No sense you putting your life on the line unless it’s critical. Steve, the chief wants you to ride herd on the downstairs team."
"The Steve, dude," Steve answered, drawing a B&T MP9 from under his coat. Quentin waved Steve to the main deck of the yacht. Jess slung her SCAR sniper rifle and was holding an HK MP7 submachine gun. Sport smartly left his grenade launcher back at the safe house. For this operation, he was using a Mossberg shotgun with an AR-style collapsible stock. Billy’s normally white pelt was now a dark gray as he pawed at the door. As soon as Steve joined the three, Jim yanked open the door and the small team entered.
The first room was an empty dining room. Billy leapt past the opulent settings to the door of the kitchen and growled. The three humans traded looks. Jess and Sport stacked up behind Billy. Steve grabbed the door to swing it open. Billy pounced on Steve, knocking him to the deck an instant before a stream of bullets punched through the door. Sport shouldered past Jess and jabbed the muzzle of the shotgun into the door. The short Brit snarled as he pumped shell after shell into the kitchen. Jess managed to yank him back just as his shotgun clicked on an empty chamber.
"You idiot, you could have been killed," Jess hissed at Sport. The Brit didn’t say anything as he reloaded his Mossberg. Steve kicked the door. Billy and Jess darted into the kitchen with Steve and Sport following. Sport managed to punch a bunch of basket-ball sized holes with his shotgun, including one through another of the Truth’s security people.
"Got the bugger," Sport said.
"Still not cool dude," Steve said, "Just stay frosty." Sport shrugged and brought his shotgun to the low ready. The team walked into the corridor past the kitchen. It was a narrow passageway with three doors on either side. This just screamed Charlie-foxtrot.
Someone started pounding on the furthest door and screaming. The words were muffled to the point of being unintelligible, but the panic in the man’s voice was undeniable. Billy sprinted to the door and started scratching furiously. Steve tried the door, but it was locked firmly. Steve took a step back and examined the door. It opened outward, which meant kicking it in wasn’t going to happen. The guy inside continued to pound frantically.
"Sport, The Steve wants to know if you’ve got some breachers for that scattergun," Steve said.
"Of course I do," Sport answered.
"Load three of them. Shoot the hinges first," Steve said.
"Shouldn’t we get the rest of the team?" Jess asked.
"Relax, The Steve knows what he’s doing," Steve said. He knocked twice on the door. "Dude, The Steve needs you to stand back from the door." There were some muffled words. Steve just nodded. "Yeah, back away from the door." Steve motioned for Sport to get into position.
"Do you actually think he understood what you told him?" Jess asked, gripping her MP7 tightly.
"The Steve thinks we’ll find out in a moment, but it should be just fine," Steve said. Jess’s eyes went wide in surprise. Steve ignored the look and motioned to Sport. The three blasts of the shotgun rocked the narrow passageway. Steve grabbed the still-warm hole that had been the door’s handle and yanked the door out. Billy leapt past Steve. As the team entered the cabin, they found Billy cornering a minion.
"Please, stop," the minion said. "I’m here to help you."
"The Steve thinks you’re full of it," Steve said, keeping his submachine gun trained on the minion.
"No, I work for MacKenzie and Winston," the minion said, frantically, "I’m here to take you to where the Truth is holding Mateo and Robyn."