Barcelona, Spain; 2 October 2011, 2230 hours local; Countdown: 2 months, 29 days
Quentin McLintock kept his Colt Delta Elite 10-millimeter at a low ready. Next to him, Chief Stahl kept a beat-up AK-47 pointed at the old church. Marc, the last of their little group, stayed further back in the shadows with a disapproving look. The French investigator didn’t like how quickly the team broke out the firearms. He just sat back murmuring about American barbarians. Quentin and the chief ignored his disapproval. They kept a close eye on their teammates approaching the church.
Mateo led Jess, Jim, Sport, and the Steve down the boulevard with Billy trailing behind them a few yards. They looked to all the world like simple tourists who strayed just a bit too far off the beaten path. The two acolytes standing a sloppy guard at the front of the church looked over at the group and quickly dismissed them. Quentin tensed as Mateo’s team walked closer. He should have been with that group, not stuck in the shadows across the street. Chief Stahl put a calming hand on Quentin’s shoulder. Mateo had his reasons. It was over fast. Mateo took a step towards the near acolyte. The young man turned like he was going to say something. He never had the chance. Jim snaked past Mateo and hammered the acolyte with a precise fist. Jim easily had a hundred pounds on the skinny acolyte. The acolyte bounced off the stone wall and flopped to the ground. The Steve was tightening the zip-tie on the second acolyte before the first one hit the ground. Mateo signaled for Quentin and the chief to join up. Marc cursed as they jogged across the street as he tried to hold on to the oversized bag with the extra weapons.
"Well?" Mateo asked over the radio.
"You’re clear," Seraph answered from her perch on a nearby roof. "The boys inside didn’t even hear you. Six of them are standing in the middle of the sanctuary. They look bored from their posture. I am unable to find the remaining four acolytes or the two minions." There was a note of warning in Seraph’s voice. Mateo just looked at the feed from Seraph’s camera.
"Quentin kicks the door," Mateo said, pointing at the big man, "We’ve got pairs of bad guys at twelve, two, and nine on the inside. Watch your zones." The team stacked up as Marc dragged the two bound acolytes across the street. Quentin lined up against the heavy wood door. The anthropologist in him catalogued the intricate carvings. He really hoped they managed to take down these guys fast without too much damage to the church. The doors themselves had to be at least three hundred years old. Mateo gave the signal and all the extraneous thoughts running through Quentin’s mind stopped. It was just him, his team, and the door.
Quentin shouldered into the door like it was a tackling dummy. The heavy door hesitated for the briefest moment before giving way under Quentin’s charge. Quentin followed the door into the church and fell to the side as Chief Stahl came storming behind him. The distinctive chatter of the AK filled the church. One acolyte went down. The other acolytes were reacting, but they were too slow. Zombie Strike spread into their zones before the first acolyte thought to bring up his weapon. Jim took him down with the thunderous roar of his big Smith and Wesson. Sport killed another with a quick burst from his AK. The rest just dropped their weapons and screamed in Spanish. Mateo yelled back in the same language and motioned to the floor with his pistol. The three acolytes hit the floor so fast Quentin half-wondered if they fainted. The Steve and Sport secured each with heavy-duty zip ties.
"That was too easy," Mateo said. He grabbed the closest acolyte and let out a rapid burst of Spanish. The acolyte shook his head. Mateo punctuated his demand by placing the muzzle of his pistol to the acolyte’s forehead. The acolyte’s dark eyes went wide and pleading. Mateo repeated his demand. The acolyte let out a squeaky string of Spanish.
"The rest of them are in the basement," Mateo said, dropping the acolyte.
"That’s no good Matt," Stahl said looking at his PDA, "From what I’m seeing we have one entrance in the back of the church. That’s it. Even amateurs like this could take advantage of that kind of fatal funnel."
"That works for us just as much as it does for them," Mateo answered. "Sport, Jim go make sure nothing comes up from the basement." The two men nodded and rushed to the back of the church. Mateo turned back to Chief Stahl. "Do you know what you’re supposed to be looking for?"
"Not a clue," the chief said. Then, the former soldier cocked his head as if he was listening to something the rest of them couldn’t hear. He walked over to the altar. Stahl looked it over, almost as if he was searching for something. The rest of Zombie Strike traded confused looks. Suddenly, Stahl tossed the altar onto its side with a deafening crash. Using his knife, Stahl pried open a concealed door on the underside of the altar and pulled out a small cloth bag.
"What in God’s name are you doing?" Mateo yelled. Stahl opened the bag and pulled out what looked like a gollum’s medallion, but this one was gold instead of stone. As soon as Quentin’s eyes locked on the medallion, everything fell away.
Quentin was standing on a tropical beach. Maybe a hundred yards inland was a thick tree line that led into what could only be called jungle. Quentin hated the jungle since the first time Zombie Strike went out two years ago. Out at sea, Quentin could see what looked like a Spanish galleon anchored. What was going on?
A cacophony of shrieks and indescribable noises erupted from the jungle. Out of the tree line emerged a ragged party of Spanish conquistadors dragging a line of bound people. From their dress, they looked like Aztec peasants. Quentin screamed at them to stop and pulled his pistol. Reality quivered angrily and Quentin fell silent. The warning was evident. He was only supposed to watch. There were six Aztecs, four men and two women. Some of the Spanish were firing their muskets back at the tree line. The party scrambled into a pair of long boats. As the Spanish rowed back to their ship, a creature emerged from the jungle. Quentin had seen one of those before. Back in Panama when the team fought the Little Death. It was a vampire before it adapted to the world.
The world shifted back to the church. Quentin blinked as he realized he was on the cold tile floor. He stood up groggily. He still felt as if his body was readjusting from the vision back to reality. Quentin looked over to where Chief Stahl had been standing. His eyes went wide as he saw two men in long brown leather cloaks standing over them. Their ancient faces were impassive like weathered granite.
"You should have dealt with the others before revealing the medallion," the first one said. Well, sort of. It was like watching an old Godzilla movie. The man was clearly speaking in his own language, but Quentin was hearing English.
"Who are you?" Chief Stahl demanded, staggering to his feet. He had the medallion clenched in one hand and a pistol in the other. If the two men were threatened by the chief, they didn’t show it.
"We are the Guardians of the Truth," the first one said, "You have seen how we came to this part of the world. This is the only the first step you must take if you are to fulfill your role in the coming of the Flayed One. Unfortunately, you have activated the defenses your opponents put around this building. We will talk again if you survive." Before anyone could say anything, the two men faded like they were ghosts and sank into the floor.
"What the-" Mateo started. Seraph interrupted the thought.
"Is anyone listening to me?" she practically screamed into the radio. "There are five hundred zombies coming down the street! They’re making a straight line for you."