Barcelona, Spain; 2 October 2011, 2300 hours local; Countdown: 2 months, 29 days
Quentin McLintock shoved the antique door back into the door frame. The door was actually in good shape. The mountings, on the other hand, were rusted enough they cracked apart when Quentin knocked the door down. There wasn’t enough time to do repairs. As soon as the door was up, Jim and Chief Stahl shoved one of the pews against the doors to hold them up. It wasn’t much of a barricade, but it’d do the job.
"Sanctuary is secured," Stahl reported over the team’s radio as he reached down and picked up one of the acolyte’s G36 assault rifles.
"Back door’s closed," Sport answered, sounding out of breath.
"Roof’s set up," Jess answered. Just before the team barricaded themselves in, Jess and Billy climbed up on to the small church’s roof. Out of reach of the oncoming zombie horde, Jess would be free to reign down fire as the team needed. Billy, of course, refused to leave her side. Quentin wasn’t sure how the large spirit wolf pup made it up the side of the brick wall, but he could clearly hear the soft thumps of him walking across the roof.
"Quentin, get back here. We’re about to clear out the rats," Mateo said. Quentin trotted through one of the doors at the back of the sanctuary to the small church kitchen. He nearly gagged as he was hit with a thick black smoke.
"What is this?" Quentin asked.
"Something he cooked up," Mateo answered, thumbing over at The Steve. The team medic, and sometimes mad scientist, just smiled broadly. In his hands was a small bottle. The thick smoke was pouring out of the bottle’s top. Mateo motioned for The Steve to move to the door that led down to the basement.
"Is that going to work?" Quentin asked.
"The Steve knows his kitchen sink chemistry," The Steve answered confidently.
"One way to know for sure," Mateo said. The Zombie Strike field leader opened the door a crack and shouted down at the acolytes in the basement. "Sofocar sus armas! Rendirse o quemar!" Put down your weapons! Surrender or burn! Mateo waited for a brief second. Then, he nodded to The Steve, who opened the door and tossed the smoking bottle down into the basement. The basement erupted with the sounds of men screaming in terror. Footsteps pounded on the wooden steps. Quentin grabbed the first acolyte that appeared in the doorway. The startled man was yanked off his feet and slammed into a wall. He fell limply to the ground. Quentin drew his pistol and turned back to the others. Mateo and The Steve were ushering them to the ground with their own weapons. The four acolytes were quickly bound and relieved of their weapons. Amateurs they might be, but these guys had good equipment.
"What about the Guardians?" Quentin asked.
"I think they can take care of themselves," Mateo answered, "We have a horde to deal with. Seraph, what’s the status on the zombies?"
"Maybe a hundred meters from the church," Seraph answered, "The entire neighborhood’s fleeing in panic. Reports are the Catalan government is calling in the Army." Mateo and Quentin traded looks. If the Spanish Army found the team, Zombie Strike could look to a long detention, if they weren’t turned over to the Truth outright.
"Matt, can I start shooting already?" Jess asked.
"Go to it," Mateo answered. The deep throaty crack of Jess’s rifle was the only reply. Mateo turned to Chief Stahl. "We’ve got to finish this fast. Any suggestions?"
"See if Sport and Mountain can cook something up quick," Stahl answered, "Explosives are the only way we’re going to end this quick. Otherwise, it’s a basic siege. We’ve got decent barricades, so crush is pretty far off. Anything those two can do?" Stahl pointed behind Mateo and Quentin. The two turned and saw the Guardians standing next to the overturned altar like living statues.
"We are the Guardians of the Truth, not of you," the Guardians spoke, "Only one of you has been marked as being one of the five corners of the ritual. Some of you might or might not. If you perish here, then you are not."
"Okay, then let’s get to surviving," Mateo said. "Steve, go see what you and Sport can do." Surprisingly, the medic didn’t correct Mateo about his name and instead trotted back to the church’s small kitchen. "Jim cover the back. Take an AK and one of the German guns." As Jim left, Stahl, Mateo, and Quentin shattered the stain glass windows that looked towards the oncoming horde. As Mateo and the chief opened fire on the horde, Quentin started pushing pews over to the windows to act as barricades when the zombies closed. As Quentin heaved the last pew over, he looked back at the Guardians.
"What did you mean that only one of us was marked?" he asked of the stone-like ancient men.
"Five corners of the circle," one said.
"Two have been marked," the other continued.
"The other corners have yet to be completely revealed. Only in the city of the dead will all the corners be revealed," the two Guardians said together.
"What if the marked one dies here?" Quentin asked.
"The mark will pass," the Guardians answered, "Nothing is certain until the moment. Everything is paths of smoke until the moment. The moment will define the marked." Quentin grimaced at their cryptic answers. The whole point of this mission was to get some clarity. He could have stayed back on Skull Island with the prophecies if the Guardians always talked like this.
"If you’re done with the Aztec fortune cookies, get on the horn with Seraph and find some way to get us out of here," Chief Stahl shouted back between magazine changes. "We are not going to deal with this horde before the Mossos d’Esquadra show up, and I’d rather not spend time in a Spanish jail."
"Seraph, have you managed to work any magic for us?" Quentin asked over the radio.
"Hold them for another ten minutes, love," Seraph answered. "Be ready to exit out the front. Leave the bloody acolytes. Do you know how you are going to bring the Guardians?"
"I don’t think anyone brings them anywhere they don’t want to go," Quentin said. As if they were hearing the conversation, the two Guardians nodded simultaneously. "We’ll be ready Seraph." Quentin walked back to the Guardians.
"Are you going to come with us?" Quentin asked. The Guardians nodded again. "Why?"
"It is as foretold by the prophets of the Great Flayed One," the Guardians answered.
"I don’t understand. You just said that nothing is certain until the moment. What can be foretold if nothing is certain?" Quentin demanded.
"Some paths are more likely than others. As we move to the moment, the false paths fall away. The path you are following is more likely to lead to the moment than others. You must be shown the past so you can see the future." The chief was wrong. These two were more cryptic than the worse fortune cookie. Quentin walked back to the windows. Maybe taking down some zombies would clear the frustration. One of the acolytes had the common decency to have an MP5 submachine gun. Quentin preferred the 10mm version, but this one would do fine. The zombies were maybe a hundred meters from the church. A short burst from the submachine gun took down one in the front of the horde. Quentin lost himself in the battle. He wasn’t even aware of how long he’d been shooting at the zombies until Jess started hollering over the radio.
"What kind of SUV is that?" she said, "We’ve got some kind of huge truck coming up behind us. It looks like a luxury MRAP." Quentin heard the giant motor rumbling as the vehicle neared.
"Time to go, chaps and lady," Seraph said over the radio. "You might want to rush things a bit. Those zombies seem to be a bit attracted to my new toy." As Quentin stepped out of the church, he paused at the sight of the vehicle. It did look like one of the luxury makers spruced up an MRAP, armor and all. Jess and Billy were on the roof of the vehicle. The girl was still taking shots at the horde. The rest of the team dashed out of the church, clutching all of their stolen gear. Quentin climbed in just after Jess and Billy swung down into the truck.
"Your new toy?" Quentin asked as he strapped into the seat behind Seraph. She gunned the engine and slammed the truck into gear. The huge vehicle leapt backwards with surprising speed.
"I’m sure my father’s going to have some questions about the expense, but really, how often do you get to play with something like this?" Seraph asked. Quentin didn’t have a good answer, so he just sat back and let the exotically beautiful woman navigate the leviathan of a truck through the narrow streets of Barcelona.
"It is time to show you more," the Guardians’ voices echoed through his mind. Before Quentin could say anything, the world around him dropped away.