Author: Derek

Monday Fiction – Zombie Strike – Part 9 Chapter 94

Truth Compound, South Africa, 8 July 2011, 2020 hours local; Countdown: 5 months, 23 days

Steve Mountain ducked into a doorway as the minion shot a bolt of green electricity at him. The luxurious carpet where he’d been standing melted and then ignited. It died quickly in the rain of the compound’s sprinkler system. Steve leaned out of the doorway and fired a burst from his liberated F2000. The minion laughed as the bullets smacked harmlessly on his energy shield. Then, Amanda came out of the room and unleashed a beam from Darius’s Rod. As the two energies met, a deafening roar filled the hallway. Amanda grunted in pain and fell behind Steve. The minion was thrown to the floor. As the Truth’s mystical warrior struggled to get back to his feet, Steve fired another burst. Without his magical shield, the bullets effortlessly tore the minion’s chest apart.

“You okay?” Steve asked Amanda as he changed magazines in his bullpup assault rifle.

“No, but I’ll survive,” she answered. She looked up at the water raining down on them. “You know, of all the conditions I’d considered about fighting in a building, dealing with being cold and wet from the sprinklers was not one of them.”

“Happens. The Steve’s dealt with it before,” Steve said casually. He turned back to the stairwell. “Clear!” The rest of Zombie Strike and a couple of Amanda’s fellow agents bounded out of the stairwell.

“Sport, take the Frenchie and Jim and start clearing rooms,” Chief Stahl ordered, pointing at one of Amanda’s men. “Quentin, you, Jess, and Billy get ready to back them up if they manage to find anything.” Sport gripped his shotgun and moved to the door across from Steve and Amanda. The French M&W agent swiftly kicked the door open, and the three men entered the room with deadly swiftness.

“At least he’s not doing it with that grenade launcher of his,” the chief grumbled as he followed Steve, Amanda, and Kenn Blanchard into the room. “Is there anyone who can turn off the water works?”

“Not from here,” Amanda answered.

“Well, thankfully, all of our toys are waterproofed,” Kenn said, placing a tablet computer on the room’s main table. The compound’s schematics glowed on the display.

“Okay, we’re here,” Kenn said, tapping the room on the fifth floor, “Matt and Robyn are probably here along with Castle and Giant.” A room on the fourth floor lit up. “My main concern with this plan is danger to our people. We don’t know where in the room Matt and Robyn could be.”

“Not a good way to get intel, but we know Castle and Giant aren’t going to want anything to happen to Matt. They’ll have him good and protected.”

“And Robyn?” Kenn asked.

“She’s there as insurance,” Stahl said, “So they’ll keep her safe to keep Mateo from doing something stupid. That said, their primary objective is keeping Mateo alive so he can fulfill whatever role he has in their prophecies.” The former warrant officer almost spat out the last word.

“Well, gentlemen, let’s not waste time,” Amanda said.

“As soon as we’ve got the floor secure, you’ll get to do your thing,” Stahl said. Quiet minutes passed as they waited for Sport and his small team to clear the rooms. Steve hated times like these. Boring, exciting, and anxious all at once. He kept his normal cheerful smile plastered on his face as he walked around the room. Maybe he should sing something. That would certainly break up the growing tension.

“Good to go,” Sport said in his cockeyed Brit accent. Zombie Strike and the M&W agents walked out into the hallway to get to the target room. They’d walked maybe a dozen yards before Billy growled. Steve turned to where the spirit wolf was pointing. He barely saw the small canister as it sailed out of the stairwell.

“GRENADE!” he shouted as the device bounced on the carpet. Instinctively, the Zombie Strike operatives dove into the nearest doorway. Steve grabbed Amanda and half-threw the woman into the room to their right. The explosion shook the building. Steve heard whistling fragments of metal thud into the wood around them. Someone screamed in pain. Then gunfire filled the hallway. Steve brought the stubby assault rifle up around the corner. These weren’t the guards they’d fought before. These guys knew how to use cover and fire discipline. Steve fired two bursts at one of the new shooters. He ducked back as another returned fire. Well, that was a bit too close.

“Eric, tell your people to put down their weapons,” yelled out one of the shooters, “I have no desire to kill all of you.” The voice sounded familiar.

“Not going to happen Evan,” Chief Stahl yelled back, “Your people get in our way, and they’re going to see their god pretty fast.” Steve’s mind locked on the name. Evan was the leader of those Truth soldiers back in Panama. That explained a lot. Those guys were scary good. No magic, but easily as well trained in weapons and tactics as Zombie Strike. Both sides traded gunfire.

“Just so you know, I’m not going to like killing you and your team,” Evan shouted.

“Same here,” Chief Stahl answered. The chief switched to the team’s radio net, “Sport, use your frags. As soon as those go off, everyone get to the target room.” Steve cursed under his breath as the Brit giggled. He actually giggled. Steve pushed Amanda into the room’s bathtub and covered her with his body. She protested until the explosions started.

“Frag out!” Sport said calmly over the radio. The grenade the Truth’s soldiers threw shook the hallway. Sport’s five grenades shook the entire building. Amanda screamed in terror and pain as the concussive shock waves tore through them. Steve felt as his PDA dumped happy juice into his bloodstream. He checked his med readout. Pretty much the entire team was suffering from some injuries from Sport’s inferno-in-a-can grenades. Nothing serious, or at least nothing that a little happy juice wouldn’t take care of.

Steve dragged Amanda out into the hallway. Anything above waist-high was pulverized, either by the massive blasts or the jagged fragments. Steve saw the remains of three Truth soldiers. Amanda gagged at the sight of humans torn apart by high-explosive. Steve just pulled her along. They didn’t have much time before the Truth’s soldiers recovered from what Sport just unleashed on them. An eternity seemed to pass as the two of them dashed down the hall and through the door of the room. Jess and Jim were standing in the doorway with their rifles, waiting patiently for the Truth’s soldiers to poke their heads out. Quentin, Stahl, and Sport were tossing furniture out of the way.

“Hey, the sprinklers stopped,” Steve said, noticing the lack of the constant rain for the first time. The others paused just for a moment to look at him. Just enough so they concentrated on him and not their pain. The Steve did his job. Knives came out and tore up the water-logged carpet and padding to reveal the floor boards. The chief pulled out a long gray cord. The former soldier made a circle maybe four feet wide on the floor with the shaped charge. He attached a small detonator and motioned for everyone to get back. The explosion seemed almost quiet after Sport’s grenades. As the smoke and dust cleared, Amanda stepped up to the newly cut hole.

“We were correct,” Amanda said, pulling out Darius’s Rod. Castle’s room was protected by some heavy duty magic. Fortunately, they had some heavy duty magic on their side for once. Amanda chanted in Greek. Darius’s Rod glowed, softly at first and then intensified until no one could look at the M&W agent. With a shout of Greek, the room was bathed in brilliant yellow light.

“Go!” Amanda shouted, jumping into the hole. Steve jumped right behind her, followed by Kenn, Chief Stahl, and Quentin. Surprisingly, Billy also followed the advance team. The six of them landed in a lavishly appointed living room. Steve spotted Mateo and Robyn crouching behind an overturned desk behind the team. In front of them stood a very angry Giant.

“I don’t know what you did traitor, but you won’t survive this betrayal,” Giant growled. Kenn and Chief Stahl didn’t waste time bantering. The two men brought up their weapons and poured automatic fire into their nemesis. Giant screamed as the bullets slammed into his torso. Steve and Billy fell back to Mateo and Rachel. Before they could reach their field commander, Giant bellowed and a wave of energy knocked all of them off their feet.

Steve rolled over to face their enemy. Giant snapped his whip and the inch-thick cord went rigid. Steve had seen Giant do this with the whip before. He twisted his F2000 around and fired the entire magazine at Giant. The Truth’s head Champion snarled in pain, but ignored the thirty 5.56 mm bullets as they slammed into his legs and torso. Giant was focused on Amanda. The M&W agent was still struggling to get up from the concussive blast. She didn’t have Zombie Strike’s armor or Steve’s happy juice to clear her mind. She shakily got to her feet just as Giant struck. She never knew what hit her. Steve watched as the rigid leather lanced through her head. Her body went instantly slack. Giant flicked his wrist and Amanda’s body was thrown to the side.

“Now Zombie Strike, you will pay for hurting my master.”

[Zombie Strike Part 9 Chapter 95]

Tri-Link Wednesday

The Brother shared a NY Times article on glitter. Yeah, I was surprised about how cagey people were about how glitter was manufactured. I still maintain that glitter is the herpes of the craft world. And I detest how endemic it is on girls clothing.

Miguel (via Lawdog) brings us a helpful hint. BTW Miguel, great job on the weight loss!

And on a more serious note, Reason has an article on the Firearms Policy Coalition filing in opposition of Texas’s new abortion law. They assert that turning the citizens against each other to stop abortion can be done to stop the citizens from exercising their Second Amendment rights.

Monday Fiction – Zombie Strike – Part 9 Chapter 93

Truth Compound, South Africa, 8 July 2011, 2000 hours local; Countdown: 5 months, 23 days

Steve Mountain raised the silenced pistol as he crept towards the minion. She was tall for a chick. Shame. Steve dug the tall ones. He took another careful step closer. He needed to be close to make sure the minion didn’t have a shield up. Most didn’t keep their shields up all the time, but every so often you ran into one that was overly cautious. The three green dots of the pistol’s sights lined up perfectly with the minion’s head.

“Would you please put that pistol away?” the minion said, turning to face Steve. The mask to her balaclava was down. Steve swallowed hard as he saw the familiar face. Waves of memories and embarrassment flowed through him.

“Oh hey, Amanda, what’re you doing here? The Steve thought you were back in Tampa,” Steve said. Her huge black eyes flashed with remembered anger. Steve lowered his pistol, but didn’t lose his firing grip.

“Great. You’re the one in control?” Amanda asked, rhetorically, “What happened to your soldier side? Everything else was definitely him.” Steve wasn’t sure if he was supposed to answer. His normal impulse was to say something comical. He knew better than to try that with Amanda. The lithe woman stepped up to Steve and grabbed him by the front of his armor.

“Let me be clear on this Mountain, I do not like that I am blowing an entire intel network I’ve spent the better part of the last two years building because your friends managed to get themselves caught by the Truth. I’ve already lost several good agents. This better be worth it.”

“Well that explains what you’ve been doing since the last time The Steve saw you,” Steve said. Amanda let out a frustrated growl.

“Follow me,” Amanda said, “We need to get the rest of your team and my agents out of secure holding before we can go get your team leader. Castle’s holding him and his girlfriend upstairs. We’ll need the manpower to defeat him.” She started walking down the corridor. Steve holstered his hush-puppy and trotted to catch up.

“The Steve wants to know a couple of things. Who’s Castle and where’s Giant?”

“Castle is the leader of the Truth. The head priest of Xipe Totec on Earth. Mikhail’s probably with him. We’re going to need everyone we can get to deal with the two of them.” Amanda opened an access door in the hallway and strode through impatiently. Two men in waiter’s uniforms were waiting. They straightened up as Amanda walked into the room, but she waved them down. They both looked suspiciously at Steve.

“Have you cleared the way?” Amanda demanded.

“Almost,” one of the men said with a pronounced French accent, “Gabriel secured the weapons for Zombie Strike. There was a small problem though at the entrance of the holding cells. Dalton is guarding it.” Amanda cursed ferociously. She spun to face Steve.

“You don’t happen to have something in your bag of toys to deal with a high-level Champion?” she asked, using the formal name for the minions.

“The Steve picked this up,” he answered, holding out the short gilded scepter. Amanda’s eyes went wide.

“Is that Darius’s Rod? How did you get it from Walter? Give it to me,” she said, reaching out to snatch the artifact. Steve whipped it out of reach.

“Finders-keepers,” he shot back.

“Do you know how to speak Greek?” Amanda asked.

“Do you?”

“I grew up in Tarpon Springs,” Amanda answered. Steve had forgotten that Amanda was raised in the heavily-Greek town on Florida’s Gulf Coast. Oh yeah, she ordered in Greek that one time after they went to that movie. Reluctantly, Steve handed over the artifact. With the artifact in hand, Amanda turned to the two men.

“Go wait with Gabriel. Be ready when we bring the prisoners to you,” Amanda ordered. The two men nodded and dashed out the door. Wordlessly, Amanda motioned for Steve to follow her. She led him through the darkened underground maze for nearly fifteen minutes in complete silence. She stopped suddenly before a corner.

“Dalton’s good, and he was given one of the stronger artifacts. One of Xipe Totec’s actual artifacts,” Amanda said, “I’ll deal with him. You just get through the door. There should be a few acolytes inside. Once you deal with them, you should be able to spring your friends.” There was a tiny hint of fear in her voice. Anyone else would have just chalked it up to anxiety, but Steve knew Amanda too well. She wasn’t sure if she could deal with this Dalton and survive. Nothing else could break her composure.

Amanda pulled out Darius’s Rod and whispered a string of Greek. The golden rod glowed warmly. She looked back at Steve and nodded. She turned the corner bringing up the artifact. Steve sprinted around her before Amanda launched her mystical attack. The air in the corridor shimmered as a wave of sound tore down at the hulking minion standing in front of the door. Dalton was maybe a smidge under Quentin’s size and he moved faster. He punched at the incoming wave of energy. The corridor boomed as Amanda’s attack was shattered. Steve was thrown against the wall and sank to the floor. Dalton took a step and punched at the air. A whip of sparkling blue power shot out from his fist and snapped across Amanda’s hastily erected shield. Amanda was thrown back and nearly lost her grip on Darius’s Rod. Dalton shot another energy whip from his other hand and lashed at Amanda again. She shrieked in agony as it lanced through her shield and wrapped around her arm.

“Hey Dalton,” Steve called out. The minion swiveled his head around just in time for Steve’s baton to smack him in the jaw. Dalton growled as he staggered back from the blow. Steve came in low before the big minion could recover. Five rounds of forty-five tore through Dalton’s side. The minion’s eyes went wide in shock and pain before he collapsed. Steve didn’t wait for Amanda to recover enough to scream at him for deviating from the plan. He charged into the secured room. The three acolytes inside went down with three quick bursts. Steve found the controls and unlocked his friends and teammates from their holding cells. Amanda stormed into the room as the team congregated in the main room.

“Guys, The Steve presents Amanda Kasev, investigator and spy for M&W,” Steve said before there was a nasty confusion about the sudden appearance of a very upset minion. The team collectively relaxed. Amanda shot Steve a poisonous glance and turned to Kenn Blanchard.

“Sir, my agents have your equipment. If you’ll follow me, we’ll get you armed and armored up, and then we can get Mr. Cortez and Ms. Adams out. They are being held upstairs by the leader of the Truth.”

“Good, then we can kill the bugger heading this up and be done with the Truth,” Sport said.

“You can’t do that,” Amanda said. “Castle must not be killed.” The Zombie Strike members went deadly quiet.

“Listen missy, I don’t know who you’re hoping to deliver this guy to, but I’m not about—“ Chief Stahl started before Amanda cut him off.

“You don’t understand. If you kill him now, all life on this world will be wiped out.”

[Zombie Strike Part 9 Chapter 94]

Life At Ward Manor

  1. We have a bird feeder in the backyard because we enjoy looking at the various black birds, doves, and even ducks that come by. A couple of months ago, we had a pair of brilliant green birds at the feeder. We thought they were someone’s escaped pets. Then we saw them again last week. Then, we saw their half-dozen friends. Then, we saw the rest of their two-dozen strong flock. Some quick googling and we found out they were nanday parakeets. They also completely emptied our bird feeder and the neighbor’s like feathery locusts.
  2. The Manor came with a doorbell camera tied into the security system. It never really worked right and stopped working all together. So, The Wife and I decided to just replace it and add a couple more cameras that work inside the Echo ecosystem. It won’t be perfect coverage, but it will be perfect enough for the main areas.
  3. The Sister-in-law asked if I would do ribs for her birthday dinner. So, I smoked my first rack of ribs over the weekend. Pork ribs with my coffee rub over cherry wood. Came out pretty well.

Derek’s Mildly Useful Reviews – A Hero of Two Worlds

Last week, I finished listening to Mike Duncan’s biography of Lafayette, A Hero Of Two Worlds. You can hear Duncan’s affinity for his subject. Which is understandable, because Lafayette is a man that is easy to like. Particularly for Americans. He hits so many of the American cultural hero tropes, and does so splendidly.

I picked it up on audiobook, which is narrated by Duncan. If you like his “Revolutions” podcast, this will seem like a very long and enjoyable episode.

If you have any interest in Lafayette the man, or the period of his life (American Revolution, French Revolution, Revolution of 1830), then I would highly recommend this boo