Metal Tuesday – Band Maid – Azure

I don’t know why I love Japanese female metal bands. But I do. I so do.

UPDATE: Apparently part of the fun of queueing up my Metal Tuesday posts is sometimes the video goes away prior to publishing. And, I can’t find it through normal means. If I can get an updated video link, I’ll update this post.

Monday Fiction – Zombie Strike – Part 7 – Chapter 66

Tocumen International Airport, Panama City, 3 February 2011, 0700 hours local : Countdown: 10 months, 28 days

Former US Army Chief Warrant Officer Eric Stahl walked down the ramp of the small cargo jet. He’d spent a few years in and out of Panama in his twenty years with the US Army. He liked the country and the people, and he was glad to be back. He just wished he’d come here on vacation instead of having to fight a bunch of monsters. Chief Stahl wasn’t quite sure what to make of the transmission from Adams and Tredegar.

The plane taxied into one of the smaller private hangars on the outskirts of Panama’s big international airport. Waiting for them was Adams, Tredegar, and a uniformed Panamanian officer. A colonel by the sigils on his epaulets. The three were waiting by a pair of big armored trucks that reminded Stahl of the MRAPs the Army was using. Adams rushed up to Mateo Cortez as the team departed the plane. The two were doing their little courtship ritual. Stahl didn’t like the idea of the team lead and their employer’s liaison doing this half-on/half-off dating dance, but he kept his tongue. The rest of the team seemed happy about the match. Stahl would wait and watch until it became a problem. Then he’d solve it. That was what he did.

Chief Stahl had fallen into the role once occupied by the now-deceased Collin DuBois. He was the professional mentor of the team lead. After a couple of months, Stahl decided he liked Cortez. The man knew how to handle himself and the team. As much as Stahl hated to admit, he’d seen a marked improvement in Cortez’s performance about the same time he and Adams had started up. Jess Montgomery waited a proper minute or two, and then slammed into Adams with an enthusiastic hug. That was a relationship Stahl approved of. Montgomery was decent with her SCAR rifle, but there was more to life than just killing the bad guys. She needed a good role model for life beyond the scope of her weapon. Adams was somewhere between a foster mother and a big sister for the girl.

Stahl motioned for Tredegar and the Panamanian officer over as the rest of the team unloaded their gear from the plane. Tredegar looked like a casting call for Ichabod Crane. Taller than average, gangly, and with a balding head that made his nose seem even longer. He was wearing a dark suit with a white dress shirt that was plastered to him. His normally pale face had the unhealthy red glow of too much tropical sun. The Panamanian officer was a contrast to Tredegar. The colonel was barely average height, but obviously enjoyed his food. A thick bushy black mustache seemed right on his round face.

“Colonel, I’m Eric Stahl, but you can call me Chief or Chief Stahl,” Stahl said, introducing himself. “If you’ll tell me how you want us to load up, I can take care of it.”

“SEAL?” the colonel guessed in moderately accented English.

“Hardly. Former Chief Warrant Officer with the Army. Used to do some Lurp-Work before I started killing zombies for a living,” Stahl said.

“Oh good,” the colonel answered, sounding relieved. “When I heard this outfit was led by a civilian who’d never spent a day—“ Stahl held up a hand to cut the colonel off. The officer’s eyes flashed with indignation.

“Colonel, that man is one of the most experienced zombie hunters on the planet. He may not be military, or even former military, but the American military listens to him on matters of dealing with the undead. You may want to remember that when you talk to him.”

“Talk to who?” Cortez asked, joining the group. The colonel shifted uncomfortably as an awkward silence fell over the small group. When no one said anything, Cortez turned to Stahl.

“Chief, we’re going to have to brief on the move. Put The Steve, Jim, the Brits, and the extra gear in the first truck. Everyone else on the other.” Chief Stahl almost saluted out of habit. He turned and issued his own orders. In less than an hour, the two trucks were roaring down Panamanian highways towards the mountain village. It was a tight fit in the truck with all of the people, and the dog. Stahl brought up the document Tredegar transmitted to his PDA.

“These aren’t vampires like we know them,” Tredegar began.

“They aren’t sparkly?” injected Cortez. Montgomery flushed at the backhand jibe. She liked Twilight, thank you very much.

“They aren’t even in human form. At least not yet,” Tredegar said, plowing on before anyone else chimed in. “According to the intel from the priest, these creatures are from another time and place. I think that means from another dimension. In this world, they need human life force to survive. Usually through blood. The longer in this world, the more they can adapt and the more human-like they become.”

“How does a priest in a mountain village have all of this?” Cortez asked.

“Not the first time the Jesuits have dealt with this,” Tredegar answered.

“So how do we stop these vampires?” Stahl asked, “We didn’t bring along silver bullets or wooden stakes.”

“Or those nifty UV bullets,” Sport chimed in from the other truck.

“Would everyone please stop making movie references?” Tredegar said, annoyed. “Right now, they’re vulnerable. They haven’t had time to adapt to our world or develop any immunities. Right now, they’re big, nasty monsters that drink blood. Think of them as a variation of the monsters we fought back on Corsica.” Stahl saw a shudder from the team members that had gone down into the Truth’s facility during that battle. “All of that changes in less than twenty-four hours. Then they get stronger, smarter, and harder to kill on an exponential level.”

“Let’s not waste time then,” Cortez said. “As soon as we reach the village, we fan out and look for survivors. Tredegar needs to see anyone who survived so we can try and piece together what happened and how many of these creatures we’re dealing with. If you find one of the monsters, do not engage it by yourself. Call for help. Any questions?”

“Yeah, The Steve wants to know how we’re going to close the hole these vampires came out of,” The Steve said. Stahl reminded himself that under the crazy persona, former Staff Sergeant Mountain was a sharp operator. The man was still talked about among the Special Forces community.

“The papers reference some ritual the Jesuits did last time, but it’s pretty vague.” The trucks jostled as they left the paved roads and started up the trail to the mountain village. Stahl hadn’t even learned the name of the place yet. He thumbed around on his PDA until he found a map of the village. Pretty standard layout. Church and the big merchants close to center with some houses and smaller stores as the village spread out towards the farms and the jungle. Probably no more than a few hundred people all told.

Stahl was torn from his PDA as the first truck was flipped into the air. It looked like an IED hit, but there wasn’t the deafening boom of an explosion. Combat reflexes took over. Stahl shoved a Panamanian soldier aside and jumped up into the turret to grab the Ma Deuce’s controls. As the first truck rolled into the tree line, Stahl saw the cause. The creature was maybe seven or eight feet tall. Its wire-thin body was covered in matty, brown fur. Stahl didn’t even pause to look at the thing’s face before he pressed down on the firing paddle between the machine gun’s handles. The familiar heavy buddha-buddha-buddha of the M2 machine gun filled the air. The heavy .50 BMG bullets tore gaping holes into the creature. Stahl heard its screams faintly over the sound of the machine gun. The creature took a step back, fighting to stay on its feet as bullet after bullet shredded its body. It lasted maybe ten seconds before Stahl nearly removed its lower half with the machine gun. The creature fell to the ground.

Stahl jumped up out of the truck and ran towards the creature with his M4 up. Next to him was Quentin McLintock, the big close-quarters specialist. As they neared the creature, it burst into flames. There was maybe a second of bright flames and intense heat. All that remained of the creature was a scorched outline in the dirt.

“Okay, that went pretty well,” Stahl said to McLintock, “Let’s get back and help the others.” McLintock put a meaty hand on Stahl’s shoulder. The big man wasn’t looking at the scorch mark. He was looking deep into the trees.

“Chief, he wasn’t alone,” McLintock said. The morning air was filled with snarls as several more of the creatures stepped out of the tree line. Stahl gripped his weapon and prepared for the fight.

[Zombie Strike Part 7 Chapter 67]

Metal Tuesday- Meytal – Armalite

Monday Fiction – Zombie Strike Part 7 – Chapter 65

Lisbon, Portugal, 1 February 2011, 1800 hours local: Countdown: 11 months

The man known to his followers as Castle was doing what most of the world was doing. He was watching as the last of the new GPS satellites was positioned in space. It was a bit over six months since the Truth’s mystics removed almost all of the satellites in orbit and brought them down on Mexico City. The general populace had been slapped in the face with their dependence on the artificial constellation that had floated in orbit. They demanded their leaders do everything to restore the needed satellites, regardless of cost. That demand provided the Truth with an opportunity for control that was now being realized.

Castle spent years cultivating his infiltrators. They were people in key positions in various sectors: political, social, cultural, and economic. For the last six months, these seemingly unrelated people had either stepped into roles or aggressively taken positions that gave the Truth enormous public influence. After all, it had been his infiltrators that forged a world-wide coalition and promised to rebuild networks and fight the economic depression that resulted from the loss of the satellites. With this last satellite, a large part of that promise returned. Now the Truth had their own secret satellite communications and observation network.

The satellite phone next to him buzzed. Castle picked up the now-working device and looked at who was calling him. He’d expected his infiltrator in the UN to ask to begin her operation. Instead, it was one of Alan’s sorcerers. Castle was going to be very annoyed if the sorcerer just called him to congratulate him on their success. He’d been very clear on that.

“Mr. Castle, we have a tear in Panama,” the sorcerer informed him. Castle didn’t say anything for a moment as suppressed the urge to ask if the sorcerer was sure. They wouldn’t be calling him if they weren’t sure.

“Has it begun already?” Castle asked.

“From what we can see, it just looks like a small fracturing as our worlds come close to each other,” the sorcerer answered. Castle relaxed. The Truth wasn’t quite ready to deal with the Great Death quite yet.

“Why didn’t we know that this might happen?” Castle asked.

“The prophecies were vague about this kind of thing,” the sorcerer said, “To be frank, Mr. Castle, it isn’t like there’s a sentence in the prophecies telling us there’s going to be a tear and where it was going to be. The wording could have been interpreted in a number of ways. In light of this new development, Alan and several of the more experienced sorcerers are pouring over the prophecies to find out how often we should expect tears between our worlds.” Castle bit back his annoyance and frustrated. The sorcerer was doing exactly what Castle demanded – telling him exactly what he needed to know, whether he liked it or not. Castle spent a great deal of time reassuring his people that he had no intention of shooting the messenger.

“I understand,” Castle said, “Have a team of experienced sorcerers meet some Champions in Panama.” Castle put down the sat phone and pressed the buzzer on the intercom at his elbow.

“Have Mikhail join me. I have a job for him.”

Plaza de Francia, Panama City, Panama, 2 Feb 2011 1700 hours local; Countdown: 10 months, 29 days

Robyn Adams fanned herself with a copy of La Prensa, the local newspaper. Even in February, it was hot and humid. She would need to take a long shower when she got back to the hotel. At least she had it easier than her companion. Edgar Tredegar was not only sweating in his light gray suit, but his normally white skin was now a bright pink from sunburn. He didn’t complain, but Tredegar was clearly uncomfortable.

“He’s late,” Tredegar said quietly.

“He could be stuck in traffic,” Robyn said, remembering the cab ride over from the hotel.

“Maybe,” Tredegar said. “I don’t like it. We should have contacted the Bureau.” Like Robyn, Tredegar was a liaison to Zombie Strike. She represented the interests of the team’s primary financial backer, the British insurance firm of MacKenzie and Winston. Tredegar, on the other hand, was an FBI special agent assigned to assist Zombie Strike on behalf of the American government.

“You agreed to keep them out of this. The priest wouldn’t have come otherwise,” Robyn said. Before Edgar could say anything, a cab pulled up at the front of the plaza. A round Catholic priest lumbered out. He waved to the pair as soon as he saw them. Tredegar groaned at the lack of tradecraft. Robyn suppressed a laugh. What did he expect? They weren’t meeting some defecting Soviet spy, like in the FBI’s heyday. They walked down as the priest paid the cabbie.

“You are Father Timon?” Robyn asked as they met the priest.

Si. You are from Zombie Strike?” the priest asked in heavily accented English. Robyn nodded. It was close enough to the truth. The priest let out a string of rapid fire Spanish. It sounded like a lot of thanking God.

“Father Timon, you said you needed Zombie Strike in Panama, but you didn’t say why,” Tredegar said. “We need to know why before we can bring the team in.”

“You are not zombie-killers?” the priest asked, his large dark eyes scrunched in confusion.

“Zombie Strike doesn’t have that many zombie killers,” Robyn rushed to explain, “People like us are sent out to meet with the local contacts to see where the need is greatest.” She didn’t add and to make sure that they weren’t wasting time with kooks.

“Of course. I see,” the priest said, his head bobbing. “About two nights ago, I went to visit my friend, Father Rodriguez, up in the mountains. We were having dinner when it happened.” The priest shuddered with remembered fear.

“What happened?” Tredegar asked.

“We heard screams. We went to see what happened,” Father Timon said, “In the middle of the town, it was like the air had been ripped open. Unholy white light was pouring through. Then the first one came out. It was horrible. It grabbed little Martina and…” Father Timon put his face in his hands and sobbed. Robyn put her arms around the priest.

“Father Rodriguez pulled me back into the church. He shoved this packet of papers in my hand.” The priest pulled out a weathered manila envelope. On the front was a series of odd symbols. Tredegar gasped as he saw the envelope.

“Do you know what this means?” Father Timon asked. “Father Rodriguez wouldn’t tell me. He just pushed me into my car and told me to come back here. He said I needed to call Zombie Strike and give them this.” Tredegar snatched the envelope out of the priest’s hands. He tore the flap open and began searching through the papers.

“Don’t worry Father,” Robyn said reassuringly, “We’ll take care of this.” She escorted the priest back down the stairs. After the priest was in a cab back to his church, Robyn stormed back to where Tredegar was reading one of the papers from the envelope.

“What was that all about?” Robyn demanded.

“Call Mateo and tell him we need the team here,” Tredegar said, examining the paper in his hands. “Make sure he tells Quentin that the Little Death has shown up here.”

“What is the Little Death?” Robyn demanded as she keyed in the radio. With communications satellites out, long distance calls needed to be go through a relay of radio stations. Fortunately, M&W already had a network set up.

“From my best guess, vampires.”

[Zombie Strike Part 7 Chapter 66]

Friday Quote- Ben Franklin

Three removes are as bad as a fire.

Macross Commercial

Just posting for the enjoyment.

Twenty Female Vocalists Driving Metal

For those of you who follow Metal Tuesday, you know I have an affinity for female-fronted metal bands. So, when this article from AltPress showed up in my feed, I was suitably impressed.

  • Metal is no longer a man’s world. All across the genre’s many subcategories, from folk to black metal, powerful female figures are putting their stamp on a genre that’s finally coming to terms with the inclusivity of the present day. Where symphonic icons Nightwish and Within Temptation blazed the trail for female leaders to step toward center stage, new blood such as SKYND and Ad Infinitum have taken the torch and run with it. *

My only quibble is that they didn’t include Charlotte from Delain.

Metal Tuesday- I Prevail – Hurricane

Monday Fiction – Zombie Strike – Part 6 – Chapter 64 – Epilogue

Tampa Florida, 15 September 2010, 1630 Hours Local: Countdown: 1 Year, 3 months, 16 days

Mateo Cortez watched as his five-year-old daughter was lifted into the backseat of the silver SUV. Mateo buried all of his heartbreak as he waved back at the smiling Mercedes. The two of them enjoyed a very busy day at Busch Gardens, the biggest theme park this side of Orlando. The little girl was still clutching the stuffed animal Mateo bought for her. This was the last time he would see his daughter for some time. Christina, his ex-wife’s sister, almost slammed the car door while scowling at Mateo. He did his best to ignore the woman. She looked too much like Maria when she scowled.

“When will we get the money?” asked the impatient man Mateo had been ignoring for the last few minutes. Tim, Christina’s husband, was an annoying, pathetic jerk of a man. With a pinched, weasel-like face, balding head, and over-priced mall clothes, Tim looked more like a middle manager than an attorney.

“The funds will be transferred to the account set up by the trust company,” answered Robyn Adams as she approached the two men. She pulled a manila envelope from her purse and shoved it into Tim’s hands. “The trustee will call you and set up a meeting. She will explain how to submit child care expenses for reimbursement.”

“That’s not what the judge ordered,” Tim protested.

“The judge required Mr. Cortez to provide for his daughter and place the full extent of his ex-wife’s estate to that end,” Robyn shot back, “If you bother to check the paperwork I’ve just handed to you, you will see the judge has already signed off on the arrangement.” Tim tried to stare Robyn down. Against the tall beauty, he had no chance. Without another word, Tim stormed back to the waiting car.

“What are you doing here?” Mateo asked Robyn.

“You disappeared after the hearing yesterday,” Robyn answered. There was something odd in her voice. Over the past couple of months, Robyn worked closely with Mateo, both in her role as MacKenzie & Winston’s liaison with the Zombie Strike team, and in helping Mateo with the custody battle over his daughter. Mateo finally managed to get over his normal nervousness around attractive women and be able to talk normally with Robyn. He owed her that much.

“I was worried when you didn’t show back up at the hotel,” Robyn said. Mateo’s nervousness surged back as her blue eyes seemed to twinkle in the afternoon sun. “Yesterday didn’t go as well as I hoped.”

“Sorry, I should have called,” Mateo said, “I visited Maria’s grave and then just kind of drove all night.” Robyn smiled, and Mateo looked down at his watch. Damn it, he could face off hundreds of zombies. What about this woman made him so uneasy? Even Maria didn’t do that to him.

“We should head back to the hotel and get packed,” Mateo said, “We’ve got a late flight to catch.” He started to walk towards Robyn’s rental. She stopped him with a gentle hand on his arm.

“No need to hurry, I’ve rescheduled the flight until tomorrow,” Robyn said, with a devious smile on her face. “I believe you owe me a tour of this little city of yours.” Mateo’s nervousness vanished as he led her back to the car.

Skull Island, South Pacific, 15 September 2010, 1630 Hours Local: Countdown: 1 Year, 3 months, 16 days

Chief Warrant Officer Stahl, recently retired from the US Army, was getting used to his new home. He’d been surprised by the job offer from Mateo. He talked it over with Col. Allen, the commander of the U.S. anti-zombie task force. Stahl had literally grown up in the Army. His father and grandfather had both risen to master sergeant in this man’s Army. Stahl expected Allen to chew him out for even thinking of leaving. Instead, the colonel encouraged the move. The old soldier expected the battle between Zombie Strike and the Truth cult to heat up after the Battle of Rosca. The ZS team needed experienced soldiers, and the colonel needed someone he trusted on the team.

Stahl had taken to regularly walking the perimeter of the Zombie Strike compound. The old hotel and surrounding buildings had been nearly destroyed during the battle between the Great Horde and the Army. A new complex was rising up from its ashes. This one was built more like a modernized castle, complete with moat, drawbridge, and high surrounding wall. At the center was a fifteen-hundred-foot metal spire. Until the constellation of communications satellites was replaced, radio was once again based on atmospherics and radio towers. That tower could communicate with almost anything in the Pacific, including M&W’s office in Sydney.

As Stahl came onto the new firing range, he could see the girl firing a bench-rested SCAR. Stahl had put away his concerns about women in combat after his LRRP team was sent in to rescue a convoy caught by insurgents outside of Baghdad on the Tampa road. The women soldiers on the convoy proved themselves that day. This girl, Jess, proved herself numerous times, according to the rest of the team. The huge wolf that followed her around was curled up at her feet, ignoring the noise. There was something odd about that animal.

“Nice groups,” Stahl observed as he stood behind Jess. She fired two more rounds before standing up and facing him. Even coated in sweat and cordite, Jess looked better than she had in weeks. She still wasn’t smiling much. The neurotoxin the Truth’s monster hit her with did some pretty severe damage to her mind. She’d only returned from some intensive psychiatric care two days ago.

“Thanks Chief,” she said her voice almost normal.

“Listen, I know you just got back, but the team is going to be doing some field exercises. I think it might be good for you to come along.” Jess turned back and picked up the rifle.

“I don’t know,” she answered. “I think it may be time for me to quit this.”

“Why?” Stahl asked.

“Because, it seems like every time I go out there, someone dies,” Jess said.

“And you think you’re the reason,” Chief Stahl replied.

“You think I’m foolish, don’t you?” Jess asked her blue eyes boring into the Chief.

“Nope. I think you’re in the middle of a nasty war,” Stahl answered, “I think you just got hit with an evil weapon that terrified you. And it isn’t going to get any easier.”

“So you think I should quit?” Jess demanded.

“Nope. I think you should want to murder them that did all of this to you,” Chief Stahl said, “I can show you how.” Jess looked warily at the former soldier and nodded.

Keflavik, Iceland, 15 September 2010, 1630 Hours Local: Countdown: 1 Year, 3 months, 16 days

Castle strode into the safehouse’s kitchen. He stared at the man busily stirring a pot of that American travesty, chili. The man didn’t seem to notice or care that the leader of the Truth and the Flayed One’s own chosen was impatiently tapping his leather shoe on the linoleum.

“I see you’ve finally recovered,” Castle finally said, breaking the silence.

“Pretty much,” Alan said, ladling up a bowl of the horrid stuff. “I see you finally had time to come and see me.” Castle hated the American’s flippant attitude. If he didn’t need Alan’s incredible skill with the mystic power, Castle would have rid himself of the sorcerer months ago.

“Some of us have better things to do than nearly get themselves killed in a project that they had no business in,” Castle answered. “You were supposed to be working on the Key.”

“I needed to go to the nursery,” Alan said flatly.

“Why?” Castle asked.

“One of the nasty side effects of spending so much time working with magical forces is that sometimes it lets you peek into the future. Sometimes just enough to drive you insane, or sometimes just enough to act.”

“What does that have to do with you being in Rosca instead of Barcelona working on the Key?” Castle demanded. Alan set down the bowl of chili and motioned for Castle to follow him. Alan walked down the stairs into the safehouse’s cellar. It was cold, barely above the freezing outside temperature. In the center of the dark cellar was a crystal cage. Castle saw the man inside huddled under the blanket and gave Alan a quizzical look.

“I didn’t go to Rosca to stop Zombie Strike from destroying the nursery,” Alan said. “I was fulfilling the prophecies surrounding the Flayed One’s return.” The man in the cage turned towards the two. Castle’s eyes widened as he recognized the man.

“I found the Betrayer,” Alan said, motioning to Collin DuBois, “I’m just keeping him safe until it’s time for him to kill Mateo Cortez.”

[Zombie Strike Part 7 Chapter 65]

Friday Quote – Thomas Sowell

Insulating people from reality produces unrealistic people. It doesn’t matter whether they are welfare recipients, spoiled rich kids, tenured professors in the ivy league, or federal judges with lifetime appointments.

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