Truth Compound, South Africa, 8 July 2011, 1900 hours local; Countdown: 5 months, 23 days

Former Staff Sergeant Steve Mountain slid through the tall grass. He’d spent the last twelve hours playing hide and seek with the Truth’s security forces. After Sgt. Mountain made the sixth guard disappear, the Truth’s people fell back and deployed zombie hordes with minions riding herd. They made the mistake of giving him a few hours to rest, recon, and gather up a bunch of supplies from Zombie Strike’s camp site. Now it was time for Mountain to show those Truth idiots how badly they screwed up.

Mountain froze as the first few zombies staggered past him. His armor was smeared with Nasty Stuff. The mindless undead didn’t even get a whiff of him as they shambled by where he hid. The real concern was the minion controlling the fifty-head horde. Mountain slowly brought up the "hush-puppy," a heavily modified .45 designed to be almost completely silent. The minion wasn’t even paying attention. He was just directing the horde with a small artifact. Mountain waited patiently as they passed and then continued to slip further into the Truth compound.

The tall grass ended a good two hundred meters from the edge of the compound. According to what M&W’s investigators dug up on this place, it had started out as a luxury resort away from the hustle and bustle of the big cities, like Johannesburg and Cape Town. The original owners overextended themselves and been caught flatfooted when everything tanked back in ’08. One of the Truth’s front companies snatched up the property. This was one of their long-time secure places, and they were just a bit too complacent about its security. The folks guarding this place were nowhere near as good as the mercs Zombie Strike dealt with back in Panama.

Mountain tapped his PDA. Five explosions rocked the far side of the compound. As the Truth’s security people scrambled to deal with the diversion, Mountain sprinted out of the grass. They were all looking the wrong way. He grinned at their mistake. Definitely not the varsity team. The fence surrounding the perimeter would probably look imposing to these amateurs. Eight foot electrical topped with concertina wire. Mountain opened a pouch and pulled out a plastic cord. Mountain whipped the cord around one of the tall fence posts. He clicked the switch at the end. The thermite cord burst to life melting the post and wire with its 1,400 degree burn. As the fence collapsed, Mountain dashed into the actual compound. He slid behind a parked truck as a pair of guards emerged from the main building with weapons up. These two were amateurs, but they were smart amateurs. They kept to actual cover and made sure they kept their lines of fire open. Mountain popped around the front of the truck. The lead guard’s chest filled the holographic sight. The suppressed M4 burped. The guard went down. His partner returned the burst into the truck. Mountain could hear the guard calmly reporting the contact and requesting back-up. It was almost a shame to kill someone who was trying so hard to be actually effective. Mountain pulled the pin on the grenade and tossed it at the guard.

The guard screamed a curse an instant before dark blue smoke spurted out of the grenade. Distracted and blinded, the guard was cut down as Mountain charged into the building. Two more startled guards went down in the hallway. That was the end of the easy. A minion snapped a mystical shield up and deflected the burst Mountain fired at him. Funny thing about those shields. They were real good about defeating bullets and other high-speed projectiles, but the minions seemed real scared when Zombie Strike poured on the fire or just got a bit too close. Mountain let his M4 drop on its sling and whipped out a collapsible baton. The minion’s eyes went wide as the former special forces soldier slammed the baton against the shield. Purple sparks arched as the metal hit the magical.

"What are you doing? Are you insane?" the minion demanded. His accent was all-American and sounded young. Maybe early twenties. Mountain was leading locals against the Taliban at that age.

"The slow blade penetrates the shield," Mountain answered, striking the shield twice more.

"This isn’t something out of Dune! This is the power of Xipe Totec!" the minion screeched, shaking his artifact.

"And that’s a shaped charge," Mountain replied pointing to the small box on the wall. The minion never saw the former soldier slap it onto the wall. He’d just backed away from the constant baton strikes until the charge was inside his shield. As he realized his mistake, the minion tried to flee. He got a step before the explosive turned him into a cloud of red mist. Mountain shook his head to clear the after effects of the concussive blast. Okay, that worked once, but he only had four more of those small boxes of joy. He slinked down the hallway looking for a staircase. If he had to bet, Mateo, Robyn, and the others would be down in the basement. With rare exception, most people stashed their prisoners in basements or underground levels. Call it an unconscious instinct to throw people in the dungeon. Fortunately, the Truth left up the exit signs from the original construction. Some things were so common that they were often overlooked.

The stairwell was unlit. The snapping of a charging handle was all the warning he needed. He dropped to the concrete landing an instant before a small guard team sprayed automatic fire into the open doorway. Mountain flipped down his nightvision as the guards’ weapons went empty. Four of them with those stubby F2000’s. Mountain fired two quick bursts. One guard went down, another screamed in pain before falling back with the other two. Mountain got to his feet. Speed was life. He tossed down a flash-bang, banking the small device off the concrete wall. The startled screams were drowned out by the device’s roar. Mountain quickly dealt with the three guards.

He reloaded his carbine as he charged down the stairs. The door to the basement slammed open under his kick. A dozen zombies moaned and moved to the noise. Mountain used single rounds to put them down. Then, a bolt of brilliant energy slammed into him. As he cleared the sparkles from his eyes, he realized he was on the hard concrete floor. A minion stood back holding what looked like a bronze scepter. Mountain swore as he realized he was facing off against someone wielding Darius’s Rod. The minion stepped back and pointed the Rod at Mountain. The hallway filled with ear-splitting shrieks. It was like a thousand banshees with heavy-duty amps. His normal hearing protection was worthless against the mystical assault. He pushed his body backwards trying to flee the unbearable noise. The minion cautiously advanced keeping the power of the Rod focused on the Zombie Strike operative.

Surprisingly, Mountain felt The Steve beckoning him to go back to his place in the back of their shared mind. The soldier resisted, until the slightly-manic persona showed him what was going to happen. Reluctantly, the soldier fell back, and The Steve was back in control. The noise hurt, but The Steve just smiled. It couldn’t have been worse than that one performance art thing he let that chick in San Fran drag him to. The Steve slid for about another twenty feet and stopped. The minion didn’t notice the subtle changes as the personas switched, but he was smart enough to still be cautious. If he had only been smart enough to look down. The small shaped charge tore the minion apart.

"No power in the verse can stop The Steve now," he said as he plucked Darius’s Rod from the dismembered hand.

Zombie Strike Part 9 Chapter 93