Barcelona, Spain; 2 October 2011, 1500 hours local; Countdown: 2 months, 29 days
Quentin McLintock stifled a yawn. After nearly two years of almost constantly traveling, he was slightly amazed he still felt jetlag. He sipped at the cup of coffee in front of him. The caffeine wasn’t as good as actual rest, but it would do in a pinch. The team lost a lot of time getting to this beautiful city. The Truth managed something rulers had been trying to accomplish for centuries – they’d forged a united Europe. Granted, it was under a group of dictators that answered to a supreme dictator. If Johann Spiegler wasn’t an acolyte of the Truth, he was certainly in their pay. Just to prove the point, one of the first things the new European Alliance did was to outlaw Zombie Strike.
“Catalans,” Mateo swore as he sat down next to Quentin. The team leader discretely passed a manila envelope to Chief Stahl. The chief cut it open and started passing out the contents. Mateo turned back to look out at the rest of the restaurant. The team wasn’t in the bad part of Barcelona, but they could see it from outside the door. Quentin looked at the photo in the fake passport. Not too bad. So, for this mission he was Quentin McCall, an American from Baltimore living in Italy.
“I’m sure they don’t understand you any better than you understand them,” Jess said, picking up her own passport. She blanched as she looked inside. “Why did they use that picture? I look hideous.”
“What’s the bloody problem?” Sport asked. He just glanced at his new ID before tucking it away. Jess looked over at Mateo. Her foster father just waved for her to answer. He was still too frustrated.
“You remember how hard it was to understand Americans when you first came over?” Jess asked. Sport nodded. He’d told that story plenty of times. “Well, the difference between the Spanish spoken here and the Spanish spoken in most of the Americas is more than just accent and a few different terms. Standard words are different. Needless to say, it can be a bit frustrating.”
“Must be. Boss dude looks like he’s about to punch someone,” The Steve said. “Should have sent Quentin. He’s the Zen dude.”
“I don’t know Spanish,” Quentin said. He turned back to Mateo. “Did we find out where we’re supposed to be going?”
“A church in the slums,” Mateo answered. “I texted all of you the coordinates. What about weapons?” Each of them was armed only with pistols and knives. Quentin also picked up a metal pipe at a hardware store. That was fine for fending off muggers and run of the mill criminals. Against what they were expecting to deal with, Quentin wanted a bit more.
“The good news is we got all of those Chechens’ weapons when Mountain, Sport, and I went back to get Billy,” Chief Stahl reported. Getting into Spain quickly and quietly forced the team to deal with less than nice people. They’d rode into Barcelona in a convoy of vans trucking in girls snatched from Eastern Europe and Southwest Asia to become prostitutes. Quentin wanted to smash the smarmy leader in the face the moment they met up in Sarajevo. The Steve calmed him down with promises the opportunity would come later. Apparently it had come when the smugglers had held onto Billy and demanded another 100,000 euros to release the pup.
“What’s the bad news?” Mateo asked.
“The commotion attracted the attention of those policemen in the funny hats,” Stahl answered. “I don’t think we left anything that could be traced back to us, but we were rushing a bit. We got some worn AKs, a couple of pump shotguns, and a good rifle for Jess. Plenty of ammo for them plus a bunch of nine millimeter. I put all of the toys in the hidey-hole.”
“Don’t worry, we covered your tracks,” said an achingly familiar female voice. Quentin turned to the speaker and saw an exotically beautiful Mediterranean woman slipping next to their table.
“Seraph?” Quentin asked, breathlessly. Memories flooded back from an archeological dig back in Mexico nearly two years ago. The battle Quentin first encountered minions. The night he’d heard the most beautiful voice in the world telling him help was coming and everything would be alright. She gave him a dazzling smile as she sat down next to Mateo.
“It does a lady good to know you didn’t forget about me,” Seraph answered coyly, her British accent giving the words an almost seductive lilt. Her face went into a professional mask as she turned to Mateo.
“My team covered yours after the incident with the smugglers,” Seraph said. “We have a good reputation with the locals. As far as the police are concerned, the Chechens ran into a rival gang of Romanians. What can you expect out of Gypsies?” Seraph shrugged dramatically.
“Your team?” Mateo asked, eyeing the woman suspiciously.
“Sorry, I’m Seraph MacKenzie. I’m your liaison with M&W for this mission. My team is myself and a couple of the firm’s best investigators in this hemisphere. I’ve been tasked by the firm to assist you as much as we can. I will caution you that with the current regimes across the continent, that support may be limited.”
“We noticed,” Stahl said flatly. As much as Quentin hated how the team snuck into Barcelona, the chief loathed their smugglers even more. There was some history there. Quentin was kind of glad the chief and the others had been forced to hurry up. He didn’t want to think what Chief Stahl would have done if he had plenty of uninterrupted time with the smugglers.
“Did you manage to get us anything besides running interference with the police?” Mateo asked.
“One of my team is currently keeping your church under surveillance. There are maybe a dozen acolytes guarding the place along with a pair of minions. We don’t have a method to gauge how powerful they may be,” Seraph said. “He’ll let us know if anything changes.”
“Good, we’ll hit the church tonight,” Mateo said. “In the meantime, everyone needs to get some rest. Sleep if you can. I want everyone back up by 2100 for brief and weapon load-out at the hotel. Ms. MacKenzie, I’d like you there as well. You know where we are?” Seraph nodded. “That’s it people. Follow your routes back to the hotel.” Quentin hung back as the rest of his team got up from the table. Seraph must have sensed he wanted to talk to her because she stayed seated as well.
“I tried to find you after that fight,” Quentin said, “No one would tell me where you were or how to get in contact with you.” Seraph gave him that mesmerizing smile again.
“I know Quentin. Quite flattering, actually,” she said, “If things were different, I might have been tempted.”
“If things were different how?” Quentin asked cautiously. It was bad enough having a crush on a voice. Finding out the woman behind the voice looked like she did brought all of those long suppressed fantasies back.
“You’re a dear,” Seraph said sweetly, patting Quentin on the arm, “I’m not married or involved if that’s what you were worried about. The problem is I’m a MacKenzie. As in MacKenzie and Winston. My family would have a fit if I dallied with someone so far below my station.” Quentin’s fear flamed into annoyance.
“I see,” Quentin said trying hard to keep his tone civil. With the exception of Sport, Quentin probably had the best grasp of the culture behind Seraph’s words. He’d spent years studying cultures were class distinctions were ironclad and unbreakable. It still hurt when it was pushed into his face.
“I’ll see you later,” Seraph said, getting up from the table. Quentin waved and turned to wash away the ashes of his dreams away.
[Zombie Strike Part 10 Chapter 99]
Pro shooting advice: Buying a specific handgun because you read good reviews is not as good as renting and shooting it yourself.
I first saw the story of the teen accidentally invited to Thanksgiving a couple of years ago on the Book of Face. According to this USAToday article they are keeping the tradition going.
What started as a text to a wrong number has led to years of friendship and shared Thanksgiving meals for Jamal Hinton and Wanda Dench, a holiday tradition born from a happy mistake that’s gone viral every year since.
In 2016, Dench sent a text to a number she believed belonged to her grandson to invite him to Thanksgiving dinner at her home in Mesa, Arizona. Turns out, she accidentally texted Hinton, a complete stranger at the time.
Hinton asked who the number was and when Dench sent a photo of herself to him, he replied, “You not my grandma. Can I still get a plate tho?”
“Of course. That’s what grandma’s do … feed everyone,” Dench replied.
Since that text mixup, Hinton has received an invitation to celebrate the holiday with Dench’s family every year.
It was a very tearful to see last year’s picture, as Dench’s husband had passed. Yet this story gives my optimism a shot in the arm. These small acts of kindness, these small acts of family building, are what make humans human.
I look forward to seeing how the tradition continues.
Two recent court cases highlight situations that terrify me.
Let’s start with Kyle Rittenhouse’s case. His was in all respects a clear-cut case of self-defense. I’m not going to debate his decision to be in Kenosha that night. That’s a whole ‘nuther can o’ worms. Suffice to say, it would have taken a lot more to put myself in that area. Here’s the two parts that terrify me: 1) being cut off and surrounded by angry people, and 2) then having my story rocketed to the front of national news because of the media climate at the time. The former because of the tactical situation. The latter because of its downstream impact on my life.
Then let’s take a look at the case of Andrew Coffee IV. This highlights that my fear of the police fucking up and deciding to no-knock my house. Because there have been too many episodes of police mistakes and swatting for me to consider it outside the realm of possibility. As for Mr. Coffee’s particular case, I think McThag summed it up quite well.
Whatever your feelings of how they got into their situations, both of these young men had the right of self-defense. They used that right of self-defense appropriately. And they will pay a price for it.
These are the extremes. You have been warned.
Mumbai, India; 30 September 2011, 1500 hours local; Countdown: 3 months
Alan, the Truth’s strongest sorcerer, looked up as his leader walked into the apartment. Castle was still recovering from his injuries. It made the Truth’s leader a cranky man. Considering how many times Alan had been cut, shot, burned, and blown up in the service of the Truth, he wasn’t feeling all that sympathetic just because Castle got knocked out by the blast of one of Zombie Strike’s grenades. Alan rubbed the scar on his face and once again silently promised vengeance against that short Brit with the grenade launcher.
“Mikhail hasn’t returned?” Castle asked as he dropped into one of the over-stuffed chair’s in the apartment’s sitting room. An acolyte bustled over with Castle’s tea.
“No. Our operation in Belize ran into some opposition,” Alan said, joining Castle in the sitting room.
“Zombie Strike?” Castle asked, snarling as he spoke the name. Alan noticed the venom in his leader’s voice. For the past couple of years, Castle just considered Zombie Strike an annoyance. Mateo Cortez, Zombie Strike’s field leader, figured heavily in the prophecies guiding the Truth, but other than that, Castle always dismissed the team. Not anymore.
“Surprisingly, an armed response team from that insurance firm,” Alan answered. Castle grunted in response.
“Is there some reason we don’t have our people in the British government just close that firm down?” Alan asked.
“MacKenzie and Winston isn’t your normal insurance firm,” Castle answered, “They don’t sell car insurance or anything else so petty. They insure things like large corporations, NGOs, governments, and other insurance firms. According to our cat’s-paws in the British government, M&W threatened to destroy the international economy if we try to shutter them.”
“Worse than it is now?” Alan asked incredulously. Between the destruction of Earth’s satellite constellation and the instability caused from constant zombie outbreaks, the world economy was going through a depression at least as bad as the Great Depression.
“I believe them. The economy’s bad, but the foundations are there. M&W could tear things apart so bad we wouldn’t have anything to work with after the coming of the Flayed One.” Castle drained his glass and looked at Alan. “Speaking of the coming, have you had any success with the Key?”
“No. I have my people going back through the prophecies that deal with the Key to see if we missed something.” Castle frowned at Alan’s words, but he didn’t say anything. Alan felt the opening and took it. “I don’t think that artifact is the actual Key.”
“What do you mean?” Castle asked, sitting up in surprise.
“It’s got some power, but it’s not as strong as I would expect from something like the Key. Not nearly enough,” Alan said. “One of the things I’m doing is looking at what actually happened in Mexico when Mikhail retrieved it. Thank the Flayed One our soldiers were meticulous in their reports.”
“If that isn’t the Key, then where is it?” Castle asked.
Skull Island, 30 September 2011; 1300 hours local; Countdown: 3 months
Quentin McLintock stood in front of the team shuffling his notes. He looked up at the team. They were such a strange group of survivors. All of them were scarred physically or emotionally or both. Still, these were his friends. His family. He wished he could give them better news. Quentin straightened his shoulders and tried to keep his fear from showing.
“Jess and I have been examining all of the material surrounding the prophecies we’ve harvested from our raids on the Truth’s strongholds. They pretty much wrote down anything one of their prophets said. I’m pretty sure the Truth hasn’t figured out all of what’s actually prophecy and what are the nonsensical ramblings of a madman. They were nice enough to leave some passages highlighted for us.” There was a dark chuckle from the team.
“We found the date of Xipe Totec’s coming,” Quentin announced, “It’s going to be a busy New Year’s Eve.”
“How sure are you on this?” Chief Stahl asked.
“I’m very confidant. Several different prophets mention that the coming will happen on the turning before the Mayan calendar will reset. That happens December of next year. Two of the prophets mention that it will occur between the invaders’ years. I consulted with some experts and the consensus is that means the night of December 31st.”
“Have you figured out what I’m supposed to do with all of this?” Mateo asked. Quentin looked over at his friend and leader. Quentin didn’t know the details, but Mateo hadn’t been himself since Robyn suddenly packed up and left a while back. Since then, Mateo was emotionally distant from the team and focused on two things: stopping the Truth and killing Giant.
“There’s mention of a Chooser, an Undecided, a Champion, a Betrayer, and a Key,” Quentin said. “We know Chief Stahl is the Undecided. Giant told us that back in South Africa. I think the Key is what they were after Mexico City was destroyed, but the passages aren’t clear if the Key is an artifact or a person. I think the Champion is Giant, but I could be wrong.”
“I can’t believe Mateo would be a Betrayer,” Jess said, looking at her foster father. He didn’t say anything. Jess tried to comfort Mateo after Robyn left, but he was just as distant with her as with the rest of the team.
“Have you figured out where this coming is supposed to occur?” Stahl asked.
“Not really. There’s mention of a city of the dead or a city of death. It’s not exactly clear. The best I can tell you is that it’s on the North American continent.”
“Way to narrow the field mate,” Sport said sarcastically. Quentin frowned at the diminutive Brit. Of all of Zombie Strike, Sport was the one Quentin knew the least about and disliked the most. The man just ran too hot and cold. Sometimes he was the best team player, others it was like he hated everyone.
“Actually, there might be a way. Depending on how much you trust you put in these prophecies,” Quentin replied. Mateo motioned for him to continue. “One of the passages is a long speech by a former conquistador who the Aztecs turned into a prophet.”
“How’d they do that?” Jim asked.
“You don’t want to know,” Jess answered, visibly shaking, “That was one thing I wish I could unread and purge from my mind.”
“It’s pretty gruesome and only worked a couple of times,” Quentin continued, “This one though talked about how the Undecided would find the place of the coming. He would return to the beginning of the word.”
“Go back to the beginning of the word? What the hell does that mean?” asked Stahl.
“I was getting to that. From my studies of this sect of Xipe Totec worshippers, the words for word and truth are used interchangeably. To speak the word is to speak the truth sort of thing. We have to go back to the beginning of the Truth.”
“Dude, does The Steve and everyone have to go back to that island with the temple?” The Steve asked. Quentin shuddered as memories of Zombie Strike’s first battle with the forces of Xipe Totec.
“No,” answered Kenn Blanchard as he walked into the conference room. “It means we have to go back to where the Truth was formed. Where Castle discovered the first artifact and the prophecies that would guide him.”
“You know where this is?” Mateo asked.
“After Quentin told me what he’d found, I had a little chat with M&W. After some discussion, they released everything for distribution.” Mateo gave Kenn a hard stare.
“They’ve been holding information back from us?” Mateo asked, “Even now, they’ve been holding back information? You tell our superiors in M&W that if I find out something they held back got one of my people killed or injured, there will be a reckoning.” Mateo’s voice was cold as dry ice as he spoke. Kenn just nodded.
“So, where exactly are we jetting off to?” Jim asked, trying to diffuse the sudden tension in the room.
“At first, Barcelona.”
[Zombie Strike Part 10 Chapter 98]
You can read motivational sayings all day. It won’t replace getting off your butt and doing hard work.
— On Veterans Day, Mom and I went down to our local range and turned money into noise. She has one of those Taurus poly-revolvers, and I needed to test the Bren. I had field stripped it and cleaned it a couple of weeks ago, and I had this irrational fear that I’d done something wrong. The Bren ate the two mags of Speer 5.56mm without a hiccup. Unfortunately, I’d forgotten how to adjust the red dot to zero the stupid thing. I have a laser boresight on the way so that I can do the hard work in the comfort of my own home and not in the bay of a busy indoor range.
— I got the new mesh system up and running, which meant I could now get the outside cameras to work. This one went up much easier than the eeros I’d bought before we moved in. The eeros just didn’t want to play nice. I’ll give the new system a couple of months to before passing final judgement, but at least it’s a promising start. For the record, it is amazing how many individual devices are now connected to the network.
— I understand that restaurants have to be judicious in what they put on the menu. More to the point, I understand that they need to use just enough words to entice and explain, without making the menu unnecessarily long. However, if the restaurant is going to offer waffle fries, I think they should at least identify them as sweet potato waffle fries. That’s what we like to call “material information.”
As the Rittenhouse trial goes into jury deliberations, Sean Sorrentino (host of the defunct Gun Blog Variety Cast), posted this question on FB:
One of my friends left a very good comment elsewhere…
“If he had stayed home, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. Minding your own business is a critical self-defense skill, yet no one teaches it.”
My question is: “This is good advice for the individual, but is it good advice for society?
I think this is a ramifications of some trends in America: 1. The transition from a high-trust society to a low-trust society 2. The increasing Balkanization among certain segments of the society, particularly the political extremes 3. The loss of influence of traditional institutions that promote mutual aid 4. The muddled definitions of what is expected among upstanding citizens – especially among the men
When we can’t trust strangers because they are outside of our tribe, when we consider those outside the tribe to be dangerous, when we no longer participate in organizations that foster goodwill and charity, and when we don’t have common principles to guide us through demanding times, is it any wonder that it may be preferable to just mind one’s own business?