Truth Compound, South Africa, 7 July 2011, 1900 hours local; Countdown: 5 months, 24 days
Mateo Cortez held Robyn close as she cried quietly. The promised doctors finally arrived that morning. They brought Robyn in shortly after breakfast. The doctors went over her X-rays and whatever other information the Truth gave them, and then inspected the damage themselves. It nearly drove Mateo mad. He forced himself to keep an encouraging smile on his face as the two doctors talked to each other in low German. Then, came the prognosis. They would have to re-break the legs to properly set them. Probably six to eight weeks with the legs immobilized in heavy casts. Months of physical therapy afterwards. Even then, Robyn would probably not regain the full use of her legs. To their credit, the doctors tried to be as kind as possible delivering the news, but to no avail. Robyn’s hopes were just as shattered as her legs. Worse, she knew her inability to move trapped Mateo in the compound better than if the Truth just put them in a jail cell.
Mateo didn’t tell Robyn about the minion who said he was working on breaking them out. Mateo trusted Robyn, but he was sure the room was bugged. He also wasn’t totally sure the minion could be trusted. Robyn knew he was keeping something from her, and took Mateo’s silence to mean that he didn’t trust her or blamed her. No matter what Mateo said, Robyn sank deeper and deeper into a black depression. All Mateo could do was try and comfort her as best as he could. He raged inside.
The door knocked to signal dinner had arrived. Mateo reluctantly laid Robyn down on the bed and walked over to the apartment’s front door. A man in a porter’s uniform pushed a cart into the apartment followed by three men in business suits. Mateo recognized the two large ones as part of the security team that regularly swept the apartment. Mateo hadn’t seen the last one before.
"Where’s Cassandra?" Mateo asked, expecting to see the diminutive woman storm through the door.
"She became suddenly ill," the new man said. Mateo eyes froze as he heard the voice. It was the same voice who told him two days ago to prepare for a breakout. The man turned to the porter pushing the food cart. "That will be all steward. We can take care of it from here." Without another word, the porter walked out of the room. The two thugs started their security sweep.
"What the hell is going on?" Mateo demanded quietly.
"Zombie Strike is in South Africa, but we lost contact with our man in Cape Town before he managed to meet up with them. It could be something mundane, or it could be he was discovered. It’s pushed things up a bit." The man looked around uncomfortably. "As soon as the goon squad goes into the bathroom, I’ll need you to deal with them."
"How exactly am I supposed to do that?" Mateo asked. The man’s eyes fell on the covered dish. Mateo took off the metal cover. An HK45 with suppressor was lying on the white china plate. Mateo snatched the weapon and tucked it into the back of his pants. "What are you going to be doing while I’m taking out the boys?"
"Putting your woman into a deep sleep," the man answered, "It’s the only way we’ll be able to transport her with her injuries." Mateo understood, but he didn’t like it.
Mateo walked back towards where the two thugs were doing their search of the kitchen. They ignored him as he followed them through the apartment. As soon as both stepped into the bathroom, Mateo smoothly drew the German pistol. They didn’t even notice as he put single rounds into their heads. Mateo was startled by the lack of noise. Normally, suppressors just cut the sound of the gunshot down to a manageable roar. The sound of the slide cycling was louder than the gunshots on this pistol. Mateo quickly frisked the two dead men and came away with a pair of unfamiliar pistols and extra magazines. He wrapped all the weapons in a bath towel. As Mateo came back into the bedroom, the man was wrapping Robyn in a brown blanket. The porter was helping. Mateo bit down a protest. He was committed now. He had to trust his new allies.
"Where did you get this suppressor?" Mateo asked, pointing at his pistol.
"You think the Truth is the only group that can work magic?" the man asked in reply. "Okay, I’m Jack. That’s Porter. The simple plan is he’s going to carry Robyn, I’m going to lead you out, and you’re going to kill anyone I point at."
"Why I am the shooter?" Mateo asked.
"Because you’re the only one with actual combat experience," Jack answered as he helped Porter lift Robyn up on his shoulders.
"Who else do we have?" Mateo asked looking at the two men, "The three of us are going to have a hard time once the alarm goes out."
"Listen, this little rescue is blowing assets M&W spent years getting into place. You’ll excuse me if I keep you on a need-to-know basis. If everything goes Charlie-foxtrot, I’m hoping we can keep some of our assets in place." Jack motioned for the small group to move out of the apartment.
"One last thing," Jack said as the three entered the hallway, "If it looks like I’m about to fall into the bad guys’ hands, please kill me. Preferably quick and relatively painless. I know too many of our people in this place." Mateo nodded. Jack, Mateo, and Porter walked down the hall casually. The hallway looked like it could have come out of any mid to high-priced hotel. Fortunately, it was deserted. Jack motioned for the others to move quickly to a stairwell. Jack held the door open as Mateo cleared the landing. Mateo could hear voices in the stairwell, but they sounded at least two floors down.
"We go down one floor and to room 444," Jack whispered, "Kill anyone that gets in our way." Mateo nodded and led the trio down the stairs. He kept the HK45 ready for any threat. The voices below continued to grow softer. Mateo breathing relaxed a hair. They must be going down. Two less people he’d have to kill. Mateo didn’t like killing people, even the Truth’s minions. About the only person he actually wanted to kill was Giant. The stairwell opened onto a nearly identical hall to the one they’d just left. Room 444 was five doors down from the stairwell. Satisfied the hallway was empty, Mateo dashed to the room’s door. Jack and Porter followed as Mateo covered them with his pistol. Jack jammed a keycard into the lock and shoved the door open. Porter and Mateo followed him in.
The room was similar in layout to the apartment, but it was lavishly furnished and decorated. Everything screamed expensive. Porter set Robyn down on the soft leather couch. Jack collapsed into the recliner, clearly exhausted from the stress. Mateo started to clear the small suite. He’d gone maybe a few steps when he heard the faint humming.
"Jack, there’s someone in here," Mateo said. Jack bolted upright.
"Kelly shouldn’t have beaten us here," Jack said. Mateo nodded grimly and crept towards the source of the humming. Jack followed quietly behind him. The two came to the slightly ajar bedroom door. The humming was definitely coming from inside. Mateo motioned for Jack to stand back. Mateo slammed the door open with a swift kick and strode into the room. He quickly acquired the source. A small round man in a white bathrobe looked up in surprise. Mateo froze as he recognized the tiny man. He lowered his pistol.
"Dr. de Castilla?" Mateo asked. It had been two years since Mateo had last seen the man. It was Zombie Strike’s first mission when they faced off against Xipe Tzin on an island near Hawaii. Dr. de Castilla was a Spanish archeologist who had become trapped by the zombies. He’d helped Zombie Strike find their way to the temple and then disappeared.
"Mateo?" the doctor asked, "What are you doing here?"
"Come on, we’ve got to go," Mateo said, motioning for the small man to follow him. Jack burst into the room. His eyes locked onto Dr. de Castilla.
"KILL HIM!" Jack screeched, "That’s—" Jack was flung out of the room by an invisible force before he could finish his sentence. Mateo whirled on Dr. de Castilla bringing up his HK45. The small man flicked his hand and the pistol was torn out of Mateo’s grasp. Mateo lunged to grab the doctor. De Castilla ducked under the blow and slammed a tiny palm into Mateo’s side. The blow felt like someone took a sledgehammer to his side. Mateo collapsed trying to regain his breath in between spasms of pain.
"Mateo, why didn’t you just stay in your room?" Dr. de Castilla asked his voice full of disappointment.
"Who are you?" Mateo asked between gasps.
"Well, at this point, I guess there’s no point in hiding. It’s not like you’re going anywhere," Dr. de Castilla said. He bent down to look into Mateo’s eyes.
"I am Castle. I lead the Truth. I am Xipe Totec’s greatest acolyte."