Jerusalem, Israel; 6 October 2011, 1700 hours local; Countdown: 2 months, 25 days
Quentin McLintock snapped the suppressed MP5/10 to his shoulder. The three-foot magenta centipede thing filled the holographic sight. He squeezed the trigger sending a stream of 10mm hollow points through the creature’s front end. It let out an inhuman screech of pain and collapsed to the floor. Quentin didn’t even have time to catch his breath. He quickly dropped the spent magazine and inserted another. He slapped the charging handle down and brought the weapon to bear on another of the monsters.
"Get down," yelled Chief Stahl. As Quentin fell to the ground, the former Ranger charged up with a machine gun. The chief snarled at the oncoming creatures before he brought the large weapon to his shoulder and let loose a long burst. Two creatures that looked like demonic crayfish were torn apart by the rounds. The rest fled back down the hallway. Chief Stahl fired another long burst to keep the monsters running.
"I thought we’d cleared out those nasties back in Italy," the chief grumbled as he replaced the drum magazine of his machine gun.
"No such luck," Quentin said. "Where’d you get the machine gun?"
"Israeli trooper didn’t need it anymore," the chief answered. Most of the IDF soldiers, like their civilian counterparts, fled when the zombies appeared. The sudden panic was almost enough for the Truth to complete a decapitation strike against the Israeli government. Almost. By the time Zombie Strike managed to chopper in, the few remaining IDF troops managed to fortify an office building and stash the few surviving members of the Israeli government. In response, the Truth unleashed a torrent of monsters upon the building. The Israelis were holding, but at a high price.
A pair of M&W helicopter gunships cleared an LZ for Zombie Strike. As Quentin jumped out of the helicopter, he wondered where an insurance firm acquired its own squadron of attack helicopters. The thought was pushed back as the monsters turned their fury on the newcomers. Unlike the IDF, Zombie Strike knew how to deal with most of the Truth’s unholy creations. The team formed line and poured gunfire until they entered the building. That’s when Quentin faced off with that centipede thing.
"Quentin, you’re on point," Mateo ordered, "We need to move quickly, but be careful. If you see Jocasta, alert the team. We need her alive." The former Israeli cultural minister turned out to be working for the Truth, although whether as a sorcerer or a minion no one was sure. They were hoping she knew where the City of the Dead was located, since she’d destroyed the only known prophecy with the location written down. Quentin slowly strode up the hallway ignoring the monster carcasses. Why couldn’t she have just used zombies or gollums like a normal Truth cultist?
Quentin led the team down the hallway as quickly as he dared. The last thing the team needed was to move to quickly and run into a pack of monsters. Almost before the thought went through his head, the left wall blew apart in front of him. Two seven-foot humanoids with red runes stepped out of the dust cloud. Their glowing red eyes locked onto Quentin with first surprise and then rage. Each swung a thick metal club at Quentin. He sidestepped the first blow feeling the wind whistle by. The second blow he blocked with his MP5/10. Quentin felt the submachine gun bend with the impact as he was driven back. Quentin tossed aside the mangled weapon and drew his warhammer. He held the gleaming weapon ready as the two monsters attacked again. The hallway exploded with sound as Chief Stahl and The Steve opened up. Like the chief, The Steve was using a drum-fed machine gun. The two humanoid monsters opened their mouths as if to scream, but nothing could be heard over the gunfire. They dropped their clubs and tried desperately to shield the bodies with their arms. It didn’t matter. In a matter of seconds, they were torn apart by the constant stream of bullets. As the two guns ran dry, the monsters’ corpses fell to the ground.
As they fell, Billy dashed past them into the still settling dust cloud. As Quentin’s hearing returned from the pounding it had taken, he could hear a woman’s furious screaming. Quentin watched in amazement as Billy dragged Jocasta across the carpet. She looked nothing like the perfectly dressed and composed woman from television. Her clothes were torn and dirty. Her hair looked like she’d touched the wrong end of an electrical cord. She had an almost crazed look as she punched and flailed against the spirit pup pulling her along.
"Very good Billy," Mateo said, "Quentin, would you please hold our prisoner?" Quentin easily grabbed Jocasta’s arms and forced them behind her. Her struggles were even less useful against Quentin. Mateo walked in front of Jocasta. As soon as he came into view, she stopped struggling.
"Something’s wrong," she said, "Why aren’t you marked?"
"What are you talking about?" Mateo asked.
"You were supposed to be marked!" Jocasta screamed, ignoring the question. "The path was supposed to be set!"
"That’s not how the path works," Quentin said, remembering some of the cryptic explanations from the Guardians. Where had those two ancient Aztecs disappeared to? Quentin shook away the question.
"What do you know of how the path works?" Jocasta demanded. Quentin turned to Mateo. The team leader just nodded.
"The Guardians told us," Quentin answered. Jocasta cocked her head back and laughed.
"The Guardians? They aren’t as powerful as they think they are. The Truth found the way to lock the path. To mark those who must be in St. Louis for the ritual." She continued to laugh as the Zombie Strike team members looked at each other. It made sense. Ever since the massive zombie outbreak, St. Louis had been a city of the dead. Jocasta’s laughing stopped suddenly as two forms appeared in their midst. The Guardians looked like two elderly Native Americans wearing little more than loin cloths and heavy leather cloaks. Jocasta looked at the pair in terror.
"Release her," the Guardians commanded, their combined voices filling Quentin’s head. He let go of Jocasta’s arms and stepped back. The Guardians focused on Jocasta. "You were warned against this. Now, you have paid for your arrogance. The path you wanted is not the path created. Return to your leader and tell him that he cannot force the future. Attempts will cause backlash." The Guardians vanished as suddenly as they appeared. There was an odd moment of silence as everyone traded stunned looks. Mateo broke the silence as he drew his pistol and leveled it at Jocasta’s head.
"Order your forces out of this land," Mateo demanded. The Truth cultist looked at him with a look of incomprehension.
"What? Didn’t you hear the Guardians? I need to return to Castle and let him know what was said," Jocasta said.
"No one said you had to be alive. We can ship your body back to them with a note," Mateo said. "We got the answers we needed. Stop your attack on Israel, and I’ll let you report to Castle alive and relatively unharmed." Jocasta contemplated Mateo’s offer for a few tense moments.
"Agreed," Jocasta said through clenched teeth. She drew out a small gold rod and closed her eyes.
"All is done," she said, almost as if the words were a chant. She opened her eyes. "All of my Champions, warriors, and pets will be gone within the half-hour. I’ll leave you to clean up the mess." She nodded her head at the gun in Mateo’s hand. He holstered the pistol and stepped aside. She walked down the hall and out of sight.
"You think we should have let her walk out of here alive?" Chief Stahl asked.
"Oh, we’re going to do just that, but the moment she steps out of this building, the IDF will put a bullet in her," Mateo answered. "We need to get back to Skull Island. We have a big fight that we need to get ready for, and a friend we need to say good-bye to."