Jerusalem, Israel; 6 October 2011, 1515 hours local; Countdown: 2 months, 25 days
Quentin McLintock pushed the woman to the street and brought the warhammer down. The zombie’s skull split open, spilling rotten brains on the street. Its companions let out their hunting moans as they turned to their new prey. Quentin heard echoing moans from dozens of throats. Maybe thirty or so zombies were now bearing down on him. Well, no one said the hero business would be safe or easy.
"Run," Quentin told the frightened woman. She looked up at him in shock. Quentin pointed emphatically back down the street and barked, "Run, now!" The woman scrambled along the pavement for a few yards, found her feet, and sprinted back to relative safety. Quentin turned back to deal with the three zombies in front of him. He cursed to himself as he slammed the warhammer into the first zombie. This was not what the team expected when they landed in Jerusalem earlier in the day. Quentin spun and batted away the second zombie’s groping hands with the haft of his hammer. He swept his artificial leg out and knocked the third zombie off of its feet. As it struggled to get up, Quentin slid back out of the reach of the second zombie. He waited for it to take a couple of steps towards him before thrusting. The blow tipped the zombie backwards. As it fell, Quentin smacked its head like a baseball. The zombie stopped moving before it hit the ground. Casually, Quentin walked over to the last zombie still struggling to get up and dispatched it with a single hammer blow. Picking up a discarded newspaper, Quentin wiped the gore off of his hammer.
"Well that was nicely done mate," Sport said jogging up the street. The diminutive Brit had his XM-25 slung across his back and was cradling a pump shotgun. "The woman’s fine, by the way."
"One good thing, I guess," Quentin said, looking at the four corpses on the street. Hunting moans echoed in the streets as more zombies started their slow shamble to the noise. "Have they located Jocasta?"
"Nope," Sport answered, "Somewhere in this neighborhood. Let me tell you, the Israeli’s are a bit put out by that woman."
"Not every day that their cultural minister turns out to be working for the Truth and unleashes a zombie outbreak in their sacred city," Quentin said. "We’ve got to find her before the IDF or Mossad does."
"Yeah, yeah, I know," Sport said, clearly not wanting to go over the day’s events. Quentin couldn’t blame him. It had been bad enough the first time. Sport motioned down a side street. "The boss wants us to meet up a few blocks over." Quentin consulted the map on his PDA.
"Okay, follow me," Quentin said. Sport grunted as Quentin started running.
"Not bloody natural for someone your size to run like a footballer," Sport grumbled.
"I played football in college," Quentin shot back.
"Real football, not that corruption of rugby you Yanks play," Sport retorted. Quentin decided to let the little man have the last word. He was going to have a hard enough time keeping up with Quentin’s pace. In a few minutes, the two met up with the rest of Zombie Strike outside an abandoned professional office. Quentin grimaced at the sight of the tight-faced uniformed man standing next to his team leader. So, Mateo hadn’t been able to shake him yet. As soon as he saw Quentin and Sport, Mateo strode over to them.
"Any luck?" Mateo asked in a low voice.
"No, just a few zombies," Quentin answered in the same hushed tones. "Our friend is coming over." The uniformed man stormed over.
"Mr. McLintock, my government is being very lenient in letting a team of armed foreigners run around the infected zone. I would appreciate you not abuse our trust in you by harrying off on your own," Major David Rabin stated in slightly accented English.
"If he didn’t mate, that lady would now be prowling about looking to eat you," Sport said, trying to catch his breath.
"While I appreciate your protection of an Israeli, please don’t expect me to believe that was the reason you two split off," Rabin said, clearly not amused.
"Prove it otherwise," Sport challenged.
"Enough," Mateo said before Rabin could respond. "We still need to find the sorcerer." Rabin shot Mateo a sidelong glance, but didn’t say anything. The career military intelligence officer still didn’t believe Zombie Strike about the true nature of Jocasta Cheveny. He was having a difficult enough time dealing with the idea that she raised the zombie horde. The idea she was a mystic in the service of a powerful, but secret cult in the service of an Aztec god was a bit too much for Rabin at the moment. The four men rejoined the rest of Zombie Strike.
"So where do we go now?" Chief Stahl asked.
"After the zombies," Mateo answered, "She’s got to be there somewhere to control this many of them."
"Matt, what if she’s not there?" Jess asked. Mateo gave his foster daughter a quizzical look and motioned for her to continue. "The question I keep asking is why. Jocasta already destroyed the Levant Scroll. Why didn’t she just leave through one of their portals? Why raise the zombies? What else could she be after?"
"Just for the record, you’re getting too smart," Chief Stahl told Jess. The former soldier looked at his team leader. "She’s right. We’re looking at this wrong. The horde may just be a distraction to keep the Israeli authorities – and us – busy."
"Hundreds of zombies as a distraction?" Rabin asked incredulously.
"Wouldn’t be the first time," Mateo said, mulling over Jess’s comments. "Okay, Jocasta destroys the Levant Scroll in a big, flashy news conference because she claims it’s a blasphemous document to all of the Abrahamic religions. Does so and orders the dead to rise causing a zombie outbreak. Do you think she knew we were in country?"
"She may know now, but doubtful when all of this happened," Rabin answered, "My people were barely warned before that odd helicopter of yours landed."
"Could she be after another artifact?" Mateo asked Quentin.
"I don’t know. I don’t think so," Quentin said, searching his mind. "The Levant Scroll was the only item in Israel that was outside their possession. Nothing in the stuff we grabbed from them mentioned anything else."
"How about regime change?" Chief Stahl suggested, "Israel’s one of the few countries that hasn’t been subverted by the Truth. What if they have their people ready to take during the fun and games?"
"How very perceptive," a new voice said from above. The team all brought their weapons up. On top of a five-story building across the street from them, a minion stood. This one was male, dressed in the tight ninja suit that was the minion’s uniform. In his outstretched hands was a golden pyramid. Quentin figured the minion had a shield up. The Truth’s minions learned the hard way what happened when you confronted Zombie Strike without defenses. The minion stepped off the roof and levitated down to the street.
"Well, I can certainly see why my fellow Champions are worried about you," the minion said, almost as if praising the team. "None of us expected anyone to figure out what was actually happening."
"Dear God, what they said was true?" Rabin said. The minion looked at the major and laughed. The major flushed in shame and anger. He unslung the Tavor assault rifle and aimed it at the minion.
"Wait," Mateo said, grabbing Rabin’s shoulder.
"Why?" Rabin demanded. Mateo wordlessly pointed down the street. The rifle nearly slipped out of Rabin’s hands as he saw the sprinting forms of a dozen gollums.