Jerusalem, Israel; 6 October 2011, 1600 hours local; Countdown: 2 months, 25 days
Quentin McLintock hated gollums. He learned a great deal about them over the past two years. The five-and-a-half-foot tall creatures’ flat black skin was decorated with blue painted runes. The runes marked the creatures as the reanimated warriors of Xipe Totec and bound their muscle and sinew to their ancient muscles. Unlike the zombies, gollums would never decompose away. They would fight until they were destroyed. Major Rabin snapped up his Tavor assault rifle and fired a quick burst at the oncoming gollums. The bullets struck their target, but the gollum didn’t even slow down its sprinting run. The minion laughed at Rabin’s shocked expression. Mateo pulled the Israeli soldier back to the rest of the group.
"Don’t waste ammo on them," Mateo instructed Rabin, "Gollums are indestructible until you can break their medallion. Sport, slow them down a bit. Quentin, Jim-" Mateo froze as he called their dead teammate’s name. The team had been pushing so hard, they had barely a few minutes before Jim’s body was boxed up and taken away. Mateo shook himself. "Quentin, Chief, get ready to get up close and personal. The rest of us will try and keep them under control."
"Oh this is going to be fun to watch," the minion taunted, hovering back up on top of a building. The team ignored him. Sport unslung his XM-25 grenade launcher. At least M&W brought their normal gear when the firm’s representatives met back up with them. Quentin fell into stance with his warhammer gripped tightly. He hated fighting these things. They were like rabid monkeys that never tired and were always trying to bury their obsidian axes into their opponents. Chief Stahl stood next to Quentin holding an entrenching tool in his hands. The rest of the team was behind and to their sides. Quentin turned back and nodded to Sport. The Brit unleashed a pair of grenades. The nice thing about the XM-25’s grenades was the operator could tell them when to detonate. Sport didn’t bother wasting fragmentation grenades on gollums. The things would just shrug off the shower of metal. Best thing for gollums were simple high explosive. The two grenades exploded about fifteen feet in front of the gollums and about ten feet in the air. The eight in the center were knocked off their feet by the concussion. The remaining four bounced off of buildings and bored down on Zombie Strike.
Gunfire erupted from the line. The team concentrated on just two of the gollums. They weren’t trying to stop them. They were just slowing them down so Quentin and the chief could take on the gollums two at a time. One gollum leapt at Quentin bringing its axe over its head. As it came down, Quentin blocked the gollum’s axe with his warhammer. The volcanic glass blade rang the metal head of the warhammer. Quentin snatched the gollum’s arm and slammed it into the ground. It tried to use the hard pavement as a springboard, but Quentin pinned it with a heavy boot. He blocked several frantic axe strikes as he grabbed hold of the gollum’s stone medallion. The half-dollar sized disc was etched with the mystical hieroglyphs and gave the gollum its invulnerability. As Quentin pulled the medallion’s leather cord tight, the gollum dropped its axe and fought frantically to keep its protective artifact. Strong as gollums were, Quentin was much stronger. The worn leather snapped. The gollum let out an unearthly howl. Quentin didn’t waste time and kicked the creature back out into the street. Robbed of its mystical protection, the Zombie Strike gunners quickly tore it apart with bursts of fire.
The chief was already working on his second gollum. The first lay decapitated next to him withering away to bones in minutes. Quentin smiled and focused on the creature snarling and charging at him. Gollums terrified Quentin the first few times his team battled them. They seemed like unstoppable killing buzz saws. They were still dangerous. Seraph found that fact out when one pounced on her back in Odessa. Against a properly armed and prepared team, the gollums didn’t stand a chance. Quentin fell into his role. He waited as the team let a gollum close, and then as soon as he’d removed the gollums’ medallions, the shooters took them out. It was hard, nasty, and Quentin had to focus on his job. The chief grunted as a gollum managed to sneak a blow past. The axe bit deep into Stahl’s side. Quentin punched the gollum in front of him and whipped his hammer out. Stahl’s gollum collapsed as the hammer drove down on its collarbone. Stahl nodded thanks and the thrust out with his tool. The sharpened blade easily cut through the leather strap holding the gollum’s medallion in place. Almost before the gollum could wail in anguish, a burst of fire broke its head open. Quentin didn’t see the body fall. His own gollum tried to rake his face with bony fingers. Quentin grabbed the creature and shoved it to the pavement. Holding its wrists in one meaty hand, Quentin pounded the gollum’s medallion with his hammer. He’d nearly driven it through the gollum’s torso before the stone shattered. A single hammer blow to the gollum’s head ended it. There was the eerie post-battle silence as Quentin stood up from the withering corpse. He was breathing hard as he looked up at the minion. The Truth cultist cocked his head to the side, almost as if surprised by the outcome. Mateo replaced the magazine in his carbine before looking back up to the minion.
"Where’s Jocasta?" Mateo asked, his tone somewhere between bored and annoyed.
"You think I’m going to tell you?" the minion shot back, "You may have destroyed my warriors, but you won’t be able to escape this outbreak alive."
"Listen, I really don’t have the time to deal with your stupidity. I’ll make this simple. Either tell me where Jocasta is or I’ll kill you and find her on my own," Mateo said.
"You’re insane. You can’t kill me!" the minion replied.
"Jess, take the shot," Mateo said quietly into the radio. The minion realized a half-second too late that the team sniper snuck off during the battle. He never felt the 7.62mm round as it hit perfectly at the base of the skull. Mateo turned back to the team, not even deigning to watch the body fall.
"Major, tell your people to expect a decapitation strike. It will probably be with gollums or whatever other creatures the Truth decides to use. It may be led by Jocasta," Mateo said. As Rabin walked off to call his leadership, Mateo turned to Chief Stahl and The Steve. The team medic had the former soldier’s armor off and was inspecting Stahl’s wounds. "Is he good to fight?"
"The bad news is that he’s got some cracked ribs," The Steve said, wrapping the chief’s mid-section with tape, "The good news is he’s only got cracked ribs. A little happy juice and he’ll be good." The Steve gave his trademark thumbs-up and returned to wrapping up the chief. Rabin stormed back to the group.
"The prime minister is dead," the Israeli reported, his face ashen, "They’re sending a helicopter for us."
"What’s going on?" Mateo asked.
"I’m not sure," Rabin said, "Some of the IDF is fending off the attackers. They said they were fighting nightmares."
"Looks like they had another nursery," Chief Stahl gritted out. Mateo looked grim.
"Major, as soon as that helicopter gets here, we’re going to try and rescue your people. Jocasta’s probably among them," Mateo said, "You’d better tell your people to prepare a back-up plan if we fail. Those creatures will be much worse than those gollums we just fought."
"What would you suggest?" Major Rabin asked.
"You still got nukes, right?" The Steve asked.