Beyond The Black is quickly coming into my top tier of bands.
Truth Compound, South Africa, 7 July 2011, 1900 hours local; Countdown: 5 months, 24 days
Mateo Cortez held Robyn close as she cried quietly. The promised doctors finally arrived that morning. They brought Robyn in shortly after breakfast. The doctors went over her X-rays and whatever other information the Truth gave them, and then inspected the damage themselves. It nearly drove Mateo mad. He forced himself to keep an encouraging smile on his face as the two doctors talked to each other in low German. Then, came the prognosis. They would have to re-break the legs to properly set them. Probably six to eight weeks with the legs immobilized in heavy casts. Months of physical therapy afterwards. Even then, Robyn would probably not regain the full use of her legs. To their credit, the doctors tried to be as kind as possible delivering the news, but to no avail. Robyn’s hopes were just as shattered as her legs. Worse, she knew her inability to move trapped Mateo in the compound better than if the Truth just put them in a jail cell.
Mateo didn’t tell Robyn about the minion who said he was working on breaking them out. Mateo trusted Robyn, but he was sure the room was bugged. He also wasn’t totally sure the minion could be trusted. Robyn knew he was keeping something from her, and took Mateo’s silence to mean that he didn’t trust her or blamed her. No matter what Mateo said, Robyn sank deeper and deeper into a black depression. All Mateo could do was try and comfort her as best as he could. He raged inside.
The door knocked to signal dinner had arrived. Mateo reluctantly laid Robyn down on the bed and walked over to the apartment’s front door. A man in a porter’s uniform pushed a cart into the apartment followed by three men in business suits. Mateo recognized the two large ones as part of the security team that regularly swept the apartment. Mateo hadn’t seen the last one before.
“Where’s Cassandra?” Mateo asked, expecting to see the diminutive woman storm through the door.
“She became suddenly ill,” the new man said. Mateo eyes froze as he heard the voice. It was the same voice who told him two days ago to prepare for a breakout. The man turned to the porter pushing the food cart. “That will be all steward. We can take care of it from here.” Without another word, the porter walked out of the room. The two thugs started their security sweep.
“What the hell is going on?” Mateo demanded quietly.
“Zombie Strike is in South Africa, but we lost contact with our man in Cape Town before he managed to meet up with them. It could be something mundane, or it could be he was discovered. It’s pushed things up a bit.” The man looked around uncomfortably. “As soon as the goon squad goes into the bathroom, I’ll need you to deal with them.”
“How exactly am I supposed to do that?” Mateo asked. The man’s eyes fell on the covered dish. Mateo took off the metal cover. An HK45 with suppressor was lying on the white china plate. Mateo snatched the weapon and tucked it into the back of his pants. “What are you going to be doing while I’m taking out the boys?”
“Putting your woman into a deep sleep,” the man answered, “It’s the only way we’ll be able to transport her with her injuries.” Mateo understood, but he didn’t like it.
Mateo walked back towards where the two thugs were doing their search of the kitchen. They ignored him as he followed them through the apartment. As soon as both stepped into the bathroom, Mateo smoothly drew the German pistol. They didn’t even notice as he put single rounds into their heads. Mateo was startled by the lack of noise. Normally, suppressors just cut the sound of the gunshot down to a manageable roar. The sound of the slide cycling was louder than the gunshots on this pistol. Mateo quickly frisked the two dead men and came away with a pair of unfamiliar pistols and extra magazines. He wrapped all the weapons in a bath towel. As Mateo came back into the bedroom, the man was wrapping Robyn in a brown blanket. The porter was helping. Mateo bit down a protest. He was committed now. He had to trust his new allies.
“Where did you get this suppressor?” Mateo asked, pointing at his pistol.
“You think the Truth is the only group that can work magic?” the man asked in reply. “Okay, I’m Jack. That’s Porter. The simple plan is he’s going to carry Robyn, I’m going to lead you out, and you’re going to kill anyone I point at.”
“Why I am the shooter?” Mateo asked.
“Because you’re the only one with actual combat experience,” Jack answered as he helped Porter lift Robyn up on his shoulders.
“Who else do we have?” Mateo asked looking at the two men, “The three of us are going to have a hard time once the alarm goes out.”
“Listen, this little rescue is blowing assets M&W spent years getting into place. You’ll excuse me if I keep you on a need-to-know basis. If everything goes Charlie-foxtrot, I’m hoping we can keep some of our assets in place.” Jack motioned for the small group to move out of the apartment.
“One last thing,” Jack said as the three entered the hallway, “If it looks like I’m about to fall into the bad guys’ hands, please kill me. Preferably quick and relatively painless. I know too many of our people in this place.” Mateo nodded. Jack, Mateo, and Porter walked down the hall casually. The hallway looked like it could have come out of any mid to high-priced hotel. Fortunately, it was deserted. Jack motioned for the others to move quickly to a stairwell. Jack held the door open as Mateo cleared the landing. Mateo could hear voices in the stairwell, but they sounded at least two floors down.
“We go down one floor and to room 444,” Jack whispered, “Kill anyone that gets in our way.” Mateo nodded and led the trio down the stairs. He kept the HK45 ready for any threat. The voices below continued to grow softer. Mateo breathing relaxed a hair. They must be going down. Two less people he’d have to kill. Mateo didn’t like killing people, even the Truth’s minions. About the only person he actually wanted to kill was Giant. The stairwell opened onto a nearly identical hall to the one they’d just left. Room 444 was five doors down from the stairwell. Satisfied the hallway was empty, Mateo dashed to the room’s door. Jack and Porter followed as Mateo covered them with his pistol. Jack jammed a keycard into the lock and shoved the door open. Porter and Mateo followed him in.
The room was similar in layout to the apartment, but it was lavishly furnished and decorated. Everything screamed expensive. Porter set Robyn down on the soft leather couch. Jack collapsed into the recliner, clearly exhausted from the stress. Mateo started to clear the small suite. He’d gone maybe a few steps when he heard the faint humming.
“Jack, there’s someone in here,” Mateo said. Jack bolted upright.
“Kelly shouldn’t have beaten us here,” Jack said. Mateo nodded grimly and crept towards the source of the humming. Jack followed quietly behind him. The two came to the slightly ajar bedroom door. The humming was definitely coming from inside. Mateo motioned for Jack to stand back. Mateo slammed the door open with a swift kick and strode into the room. He quickly acquired the source. A small round man in a white bathrobe looked up in surprise. Mateo froze as he recognized the tiny man. He lowered his pistol.
“Dr. de Castilla?” Mateo asked. It had been two years since Mateo had last seen the man. It was Zombie Strike’s first mission when they faced off against Xipe Tzin on an island near Hawaii. Dr. de Castilla was a Spanish archeologist who had become trapped by the zombies. He’d helped Zombie Strike find their way to the temple and then disappeared.
“Mateo?” the doctor asked, “What are you doing here?”
“Come on, we’ve got to go,” Mateo said, motioning for the small man to follow him. Jack burst into the room. His eyes locked onto Dr. de Castilla.
“KILL HIM!” Jack screeched, “That’s—“ Jack was flung out of the room by an invisible force before he could finish his sentence. Mateo whirled on Dr. de Castilla bringing up his HK45. The small man flicked his hand and the pistol was torn out of Mateo’s grasp. Mateo lunged to grab the doctor. De Castilla ducked under the blow and slammed a tiny palm into Mateo’s side. The blow felt like someone took a sledgehammer to his side. Mateo collapsed trying to regain his breath in between spasms of pain.
“Mateo, why didn’t you just stay in your room?” Dr. de Castilla asked his voice full of disappointment.
“Who are you?” Mateo asked between gasps.
“Well, at this point, I guess there’s no point in hiding. It’s not like you’re going anywhere,” Dr. de Castilla said. He bent down to look into Mateo’s eyes.
“I am Castle. I lead the Truth. I am Xipe Totec’s greatest acolyte.”
[Zombie Strike Part 9 Chapter 91]
Simple and easy are opposites.
I may not have the quote exactly right, but that was the general idea.
From The Firearms Blog comes an article about the British military selling off old equipment. I’m hoping the Brits will see the profit to be made and sell those surplus P226’s. I have a surplused P225 from when the Germans sold their old P6’s, and it was my first carry gun. I love the P220 series.
I think two things work against me getting a Brit surplus P226. One, I can’t see the Brits deigning to sell to civilians. Two, even if there was a bureaucrat over there who could see the profitability in selling to American citizens, with the current prices on Gunbroker, I don’t think I could afford one.
This weekend was a lot of heavy lifting in clearing out the MIL’s house to get it ready for sale. It was exhausting enough that there was an accident with my electric razor. I’m beardless for the next week or so. I don’t grow facial hair fast.
We brought over a bunch of stuff, and we’re slowly putting away some stuff, giving away some, and throwing some in storage. This doesn’t include the large volume of junk that got tossed. At least I got to use my construction maul on a stubborn part of the desk.
We brought over the MIL’s fridge for a garage fridge. Unfortunately, when it was plugged in, it tripped the GFI switch. Electrician is coming out to see what needs to be done. We also brought over a couple of racks. They just need some attention with steel wool and WD40.
Cape Town, South Africa, 5 July 2011, 1300 hours local; Countdown: 5 months, 26 days
Steve Mountain pulled his jacket a little tighter as a cool wind breezed through the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront. With Table Mountain in the background and the beautiful architecture around him, this had to be the prettiest harbor he’d seen. Now if it was just a bit warmer. July was winter time for South Africa. It was only supposed to get up in the low sixties for the day. He kept his jacket partially zipped and hoped the butt of his Kimber wasn’t printing. Granted, most of the people sitting around him at the café were oblivious. As far as they were concerned, Steve was just another tourist.
Steve took another swallow of beer and concentrated on the boat some twenty yards down the harbor from him. Actually, it was a very pretty – and very large – yacht. What brought the yacht to Steve’s attention was it was the yacht used by the Truth to smuggle Mateo and Robyn into the country. Steve didn’t know boats – that was what SEALs were for – but he was impressed. The yacht was a sleek fifty-foot job. He’d counted six men walking about it doing what looked like sailor stuff. It looked kind of like what those Navy guys were doing the last time his team had done a fast boat insert many moons ago. He held up the book reader. The covert camera sent a steady stream of video to the team’s safe house. He touched his Bluetooth headset as the phone began to vibrate.
“Ja,” Steve answered in German. Like most of the world, Zombie Strike was persona non grata in South Africa. Steve’s cover was Hans Gruber, a German businessman on holiday. The Customs inspector never even raised an eyebrow at the name. Some people had no sense of humor.
“Come on home,” Quentin answered, also in German.
“Nein, I should stay and wait and see if Michael shows up,” Steve said. Michael was the cover name the team was using for Giant.
“Michael’s in Johannesburg. He won’t be home in time,” Quentin said.
“Then, let me pay my tab, and I’ll be on my way,” Steve said, carefully packing his book reader into his satchel. He didn’t want the sub-machine gun in the satchel scratching up the device. The techno-wizards back on Skull Island would never let him hear the end of it.
Twelve hours later, Steve drove the limousine up to the yacht’s gangplank. Kenn Blanchard got out of the back. Kenn was dressed in brightly colored local clothing with a big smile on his face. Steve, in a dark suit, hustled over to stand next to the Zombie Strike commander. There were two men visible on the yacht, standing just at the top of the gangplank. Both were in loose floral shirts, khaki shorts, and sandals. One started to walk down the gangplank towards Steve and Kenn. Steve could see the bulge of a submachine gun under the man’s arm.
“Can I help you, sir?” the man asked in Afrikaans-accented English.
“Absolutely,” Kenn said in his best English accent. Fortunately for the mission, Kenn’s best English accent sounded Kenyan. “I am admiring your yacht. What kind is it?”
“I’m sorry sir, I don’t know. I’m just security,” the man answered politely, “I’m going to have to ask you to move along.”
“How rude!” Kenn barked, his eyes flashing indignantly as he gestured angrily, “Do you know who I am? How dare a servant talk to me this way?” Kenn whirled back to Steve. “Does he know who he’s talking to?” Steve looked past Kenn. The second guard was down. Quentin threw the body overboard. Steve nodded to Kenn. The Zombie Strike commander smiled and drew his KRISS submachine gun from under his robe. Kenn spun down to a crouch and placed a suppressed burst through the guard’s chest. Steve tossed the man’s body into the water and followed Kenn up the gangplank.
“Status?” Kenn asked Quentin.
“The back of the boat had one guard. Jess dealt with him. We found two guys in the control room upstairs. Chief Stahl and Sport took care of them. Jess, Billy, and Sport were about to go downstairs to ferret out anyone else,” Quentin reported.
“I better go with them,” Kenn said, checking the magazine on his sub gun.
“Nope, you’re staying here. We can’t afford for you to get killed on this boat,” Quentin said, holding his hand up, “Kenn, do you think this team could survive losing both you and Matt? No sense you putting your life on the line unless it’s critical. Steve, the chief wants you to ride herd on the downstairs team.”
“The Steve, dude,” Steve answered, drawing a B&T MP9 from under his coat. Quentin waved Steve to the main deck of the yacht. Jess slung her SCAR sniper rifle and was holding an HK MP7 submachine gun. Sport smartly left his grenade launcher back at the safe house. For this operation, he was using a Mossberg shotgun with an AR-style collapsible stock. Billy’s normally white pelt was now a dark gray as he pawed at the door. As soon as Steve joined the three, Jim yanked open the door and the small team entered.
The first room was an empty dining room. Billy leapt past the opulent settings to the door of the kitchen and growled. The three humans traded looks. Jess and Sport stacked up behind Billy. Steve grabbed the door to swing it open. Billy pounced on Steve, knocking him to the deck an instant before a stream of bullets punched through the door. Sport shouldered past Jess and jabbed the muzzle of the shotgun into the door. The short Brit snarled as he pumped shell after shell into the kitchen. Jess managed to yank him back just as his shotgun clicked on an empty chamber.
“You idiot, you could have been killed,” Jess hissed at Sport. The Brit didn’t say anything as he reloaded his Mossberg. Steve kicked the door. Billy and Jess darted into the kitchen with Steve and Sport following. Sport managed to punch a bunch of basket-ball sized holes with his shotgun, including one through another of the Truth’s security people.
“Got the bugger,” Sport said.
“Still not cool dude,” Steve said, “Just stay frosty.” Sport shrugged and brought his shotgun to the low ready. The team walked into the corridor past the kitchen. It was a narrow passageway with three doors on either side. This just screamed Charlie-foxtrot.
Someone started pounding on the furthest door and screaming. The words were muffled to the point of being unintelligible, but the panic in the man’s voice was undeniable. Billy sprinted to the door and started scratching furiously. Steve tried the door, but it was locked firmly. Steve took a step back and examined the door. It opened outward, which meant kicking it in wasn’t going to happen. The guy inside continued to pound frantically.
“Sport, The Steve wants to know if you’ve got some breachers for that scattergun,” Steve said.
“Of course I do,” Sport answered.
“Load three of them. Shoot the hinges first,” Steve said.
“Shouldn’t we get the rest of the team?” Jess asked.
“Relax, The Steve knows what he’s doing,” Steve said. He knocked twice on the door. “Dude, The Steve needs you to stand back from the door.” There were some muffled words. Steve just nodded. “Yeah, back away from the door.” Steve motioned for Sport to get into position.
“Do you actually think he understood what you told him?” Jess asked, gripping her MP7 tightly.
“The Steve thinks we’ll find out in a moment, but it should be just fine,” Steve said. Jess’s eyes went wide in surprise. Steve ignored the look and motioned to Sport. The three blasts of the shotgun rocked the narrow passageway. Steve grabbed the still-warm hole that had been the door’s handle and yanked the door out. Billy leapt past Steve. As the team entered the cabin, they found Billy cornering a minion.
“Please, stop,” the minion said. “I’m here to help you.”
“The Steve thinks you’re full of it,” Steve said, keeping his submachine gun trained on the minion.
“No, I work for MacKenzie and Winston,” the minion said, frantically, “I’m here to take you to where the Truth is holding Mateo and Robyn.”
[Zombie Strike Part 9 Chapter 90]
Liberty is meaningless where the right to utter one’s thoughts and opinions has ceased to exist. That, of all rights, is the dread of tyrants. It is the right which they first of all strike down.
I would be very tempted to put one of LG’s new super televisions in my media room. Three-hundred and twenty five inches should keep me occupied. Of course, one wonders how much power one of those pulls.
Skull Island, South Pacific, 2 July 2011, 0800 hours local; Countdown: 5 months, 29 days
Steve Mountain couldn’t muster his normal cheery smile as he walked into the command center. Steve could feel the tension as the intelligence techs poured over hundreds of field reports looking for the tiniest hint of where the Truth had taken Mateo and Robyn. Everyone in Zombies Strike was on edge. It made sense. Zombie Strike’s field commander and M&W’s liaison had been abducted twenty-two days ago from the very place the team should have been the most secure. So now, the entire operation was running itself to the ragged edge to compensate for a collective guilt and fear.
Steve kept his entrance quiet. A field team member was always on duty to assist the intelligence folks and to get the ball rolling if something developed. Inside the glass-walled conference at the heart of the command center, Chief Stahl paced. Stahl carried a mug of coffee in one hand and reading off the tablet in his other. Steve walked in to join the chief. At least working for one of the largest and oldest global insurance firms had its perks. The coffee was much better than the paint thinner substitute he’d endured in his days with the Army.
“I guess it is that time,” Stahl rumbled as Steve entered the conference room. “Take a seat, Mountain.”
“What’s up, chief?” Steve asked. Stahl’s eyebrow arched up in surprise when Steve didn’t correct the name.
“I think we’re fiddling while Rome burns,” Stahl said, cryptically. “You’ve been on this team the longest, and you’re a former soldier, so I want to run this by you first. I think we need to get back in the field. Tredegar sent us a report on a minion Task Force 11 caught sneaking down from Canada. His little team backtracked the minion to Hong Kong. We have other information that the Truth has a major base in Hong Kong.”
“So you’re thinking we should be hitting Hong Kong and forget about searching for Matt?” Steve asked. His tone was light, but his brown eyes were cold.
“I’m saying the field team needs to get back in the fight,” Stahl said, “We’ve already turned down two priority taskings from TF 11 and the Australians.”
“The problem, dude, is this is not a military unit. If we were back in the teams, or in the Rangers, then I’d be all on that,” Steve said, “This team just doesn’t roll like that. General Allen knows it. That’s why he didn’t get really upset when Kenn told him we couldn’t deal with that mess in Santiago.” Stahl started to say something, but was cut off by one of the Triplets banging on the conference room door. The two field team members shot up right as the diminutive Korean burst into the room.
“We may have found him,” Park said, vibrating with excitement. The Triplets were MacKenzie and Winston’s crack data intelligence team.
“Where?” the two men chorused.
“Cape Town,” Park answered, “Maybe a week ago. One of Toyota’s car carriers reported seeing an unknown submarine rendezvous with a yacht, the Beautiful Truth, about a hundred kilometers south of Cape Town. According to the Chinese, that yacht came back into Cape Town harbor and very discretely unloaded several individuals.”
“I didn’t know we were sharing information with the Chinese,” Stahl said. Park quickly went still and proceeded to stare intently at the floor.
“We’re not. We offered, but the Chinese want to do their own thing,” Steve said.
“You hacked Chinese intelligence?” Stahl asked incredulously. Park visibly gulped and continued to stare at the floor. “Damn, that’s good work. Go clean up any footprints and tell your partners to pack up.” Park looked up confused. Stahl simply smiled as he pressed the recall button on his tablet.
“It looks like we’re going to South Africa.”
Truth compound, South Africa, 2 July 2011, 1000 hours local; Countdown: 5 months, 29 days
Mateo Cortez watched Robyn Adams as she slept. It had been another bad night for Robyn. Between the pain from her injuries, and the nightmares of the beatings, Robyn only slept in fits and starts. She’d finally relented and let Mateo give her some of the drugs the Truth’s doctor provided. Mateo knew Robyn was ashamed that she was the anchor the Truth was using to keep Mateo from trying to escape. She was trying as hard as she could to stop being a liability. It wasn’t her fault. The Truth was smart. They knew Mateo wouldn’t leave her behind or do anything to endanger her.
Mateo’s head snapped up as Robyn moaned painfully in her sleep. The Truth hadn’t just beaten her. They’d crippled her. Knees and ankles were destroyed and barely treated. Rachel could barely hobble around the small apartment on crutches. For someone who loved to run, it was beyond cruel. Frustrated at the thought, Mateo shot up from the chair and stormed over to one of the large picture windows. He looked down on the Truth’s soldiers training in the main courtyard and desperately wished he had his rifle.
A knock came at the door. Mateo took a deep breath and forced the grimace from his face. He slowly walked over to the door of the apartment, using the brief time to contain his rage. A round, petite woman in a business suit walked in carrying a professional leather folder. Her gray-streaked brown hair was tied back in a professional bun. Her brown eyes sparkled behind thick glasses as she surveyed the apartment.
“Good morning Mr. Cortez,” Cassandra said, opening the folder, “Is Ms. Adams still in bed?”
“You know she is,” Mateo said, gritting out the words. The day after they’d arrived at this compound, Cassandra showed up at their door. She introduced herself as their concierge with the duties of making their stay as enjoyable as possible, under the circumstances. She’d said the last part so nonchalantly, Mateo nearly punched the tiny woman.
“Please, Mr. Cortez, I am only trying to be courteous. We have a very good orthopedic team being flown in to take care of Ms. Adams’ injuries.” Cassandra paused to give Mateo a neutral look. Giant had been very clear on that point. Robyn would be taken care of as long as Mateo didn’t attempt to escape. If anything, the Truth seemed intent on keeping Mateo and Robyn in a gilded cage until it was time for him to fulfill his role in their prophecies. The apartment was more like a luxury suite in a five star hotel.
“I have the lunch menu for today,” Cassandra said, pulling out a folded paper and setting it on the writing desk. “If you could please ring the kitchen within the hour with your selections, we would appreciate it. The maids will be in here after lunch for cleaning, and we’ll do the security check at that time. Is there anything else you would require?”
“No, thank you,” Mateo said as politely as he could. Cassandra smiled pleasantly and bustled out of the room. Mateo resisted the urge to destroy something. He picked up the menu. As he scanned the choices, he noticed something odd. The number listed wasn’t the number for the kitchen. It was probably just a misprint since it was only one number off. Just to be contrarian, he dialed the number on the menu. It rang twice before someone picked up.
“Don’t say anything Mateo. Just listen,” a hushed male voice said, “I’m a friend. We both work for the same firm. Right now, just focus on getting Ms. Adams healthy enough to move. I’m trying to get your team here. I’ll keep contacting you this way, but it may be sparse for a bit.” The man hung up. Mateo stared at the phone for a moment. It could be just a plot to keep him in line. If they made him think rescue was coming, Mateo should be less like to try something himself. It was possible, but something in the man’s voice made Mateo think otherwise. For the first time in a long while, a real smile crept across Mateo’s face.
[Zombie Strike Part 9 Chapter 89]