CategoryMonday Fiction

Monday Fiction – Zombie Strike – Part 6 – Chapter 46

Skull Island, South Pacific, 25 July 2010, 0230 Hours Local: Countdown: 1 Year, 3 months, 6 days

“Slim” Thomas scowled as he tightened the straps on his armor. He knew he should be thankful the field team’s armor wasn’t in the armory and survived its destruction. Slim should have been ecstatic with the cache of weapons and ammunition the team found in Collin’s room. He probably would have been except for two things: the note and the crush. The crush was easier for Slim to wrap his head around. It had been drilled into his head since he joined MacKenzie and Winston’s Armed Response Team as a zombie-qualified member. It had been reinforced nearly every day Slim worked with Zombie Strike. Crush was the point where the sheer weight and volume of a zombie horde would overcome defensive measures. Things like number of defenders, heavy weapons, defensive positions, and the size of the horde affected crush. The trick was to never let your people try to fight past the crush. Unless you were Mateo Cortez, and Slim wasn’t sure if that man was touched by the divine or just touched in the head.

Then there was the note. Slim was saved from dwelling on that bitter pill by the other British field operator, Sport. Truth to tell, Slim didn’t care much for Sport. The man was too boorish and low-class, but being surrounded by Yanks and colonials forced an uneasy common ground between the two Brits. Especially considering how many times the two were paired up during operations.

“Slim, The Steve wants to know if you’re kitted up,” Sport asked impatiently. “He needs us to put some backbone in the lads.” Slim nodded to his counterpart and swallowed his dislike of the other man. Now was definitely not the time. Slim picked up the Remington 700. The Yanks needed a few more years to figure out how to make a proper bolt gun, but this one wasn’t too shabby. It was modified to accept a five round detachable magazine and had a rail along the top where a fairly decent Bausch & Lomb scope was mounted. It would do for this part of the defense. If the note was right. The two Zombie Strike field operators bounded down the stairs. Slim wasn’t sure if The Steve’s plan would work, but it was the best they had. Slim was surprised by the sudden change in The Steve. The medic’s normally laid-back attitude vanished as the team scrambled to prepare for the oncoming horde. In its place was a serious and aggressive man even Gunny was obeying. It was both scary and comforting at the same time. Slim and Sport strode out of the hotel turned command center. The hunting moans of the horde could be faintly heard in the humid night. Slim took a sip of water as he and Sport walked over to the small group of men loosely gathered around a few ATV’s. Slim recognized a couple of Gunny’s security boys, but most were mechanics, clerks, and even one from the catering staff. About half of them carried bolt guns with nightvision scopes while the rest were armed with pump shotguns.

“Good evening gents,” Slim said in his most upbeat tone, “We’ve been asked to cause a bit of havoc amongst the deadheads.” By the looks on the men’s faces, perhaps the stiff upper lip wasn’t the best route to go. “Shooters, do you understand your job?”

“Slim, there are ten thousand zombies out there,” one of the security boys said, pointing out into the darkness. “How are we supposed to slow down that kind of horde?”

“Carl, that many zombies means a close packed horde,” Slim explained, “Popping the buggers in front causes logjams. Trips them up and breaks up the horde into easier to fight groups. Most importantly, it buys time for our mates here. Make sure to pick out the biggest and meanest ones you can find.” Slim turned to the others.

“Drivers, we’re counting on you to keep us alive,” Slim said with deadly seriousness. “Watch out for deadheads that might have gotten too far ahead of the group and don’t be afraid to move. Much rather have a missed shot than to lose a team. Any other questions?” Seeing none, the shooters paired up with their drivers. Slim’s driver was one of the mechanics.

“So how did you draw this duty, Michael?” Slim asked the diminutive Australian.

“Grew up on a cattle spread,” Michael answered as he started up the ATV, “Hated horses.” The ATV shot out into the night before Slim could decipher the man’s terse response. As the ATV bounced outside the compound’s lights, Slim lowered his nightvision. The horde spanned the horizon. As expected, the horde moved like an oncoming glacier. Michael slid the ATV into a stop just under eight hundred meters from the horde. Michael drew a pump shotgun and scanned the immediate surroundings. Slim slid off the ATV into a crouching shooting stance. He worked the smooth bolt action. He gave a small prayer of thanks for the lack of wind. Exhaling, Slim pressed the trigger.

His was the first rifle to crack through the chorus of moans from the horde. The .300 Win Mag round crossed the open ground in an instant. The zombie’s head disintegrated as the bullet shredded it and shot out the rear. A second zombie, a few yards behind the target caught the still speeding bullet through the lower jaw. The bullet didn’t destroy the zombie’s brain, but it managed to sever the spinal cord before exiting the zombie’s body and landing harmlessly in the chest of a third zombie. The second zombie dropped to the ground. Several other zombies tripped over the two unmoving corpses. Slim didn’t even take a moment to see what his first shot caused. Even before the second zombie fell, Slim was taking aim on another zombie. A second shot roared in the night. More zombies down. The horde’s line became ragged in the small hundred meter arc. Slim fired three more times before slithering back up onto the ATV. The two men roared across to the next firing position. As the ATV bounced across the ground, Slim keyed his radio.

“Mountain here,” answered The Steve from the command center.

“He was telling us the truth,” Slim said, not able to keep his disgust out of his voice, “At least as far as the rifles go. This one was set up perfectly for me. First firing position a success.”

“Worry about survival,” The Steve said, “Revenge will have to come later.”

Washington DC, 26 July 2010, 1930 Hours Local: Countdown: 1 Year, 3 months, 5 days

Mateo Cortez stormed out of the police station. Special Agent Tredegar of the FBI struggled to keep up. The agent waved his badge a few times to clear a path for the seething Mateo. Kenn Blanchard and a dark haired woman were waiting outside on the street.

“I’ll get my vehicle,” Tredegar said as he darted to the parking lot. Kenn and the woman stepped up to Mateo. Kenn was still dressed in the dark blue suit he had worn to testify to some Congressional subcommittee. The woman was dressed in a severe dark gray suit with her hair in a tight bun. She practically screamed lawyer.

“I was just about to come get you Mr. Cortez,” the woman said, with a smile that would have been charming under other circumstances, “I’m Robyn Adams with M&W’s legal staff.” She held out get hand.

“Not to be rude Ms. Adams, but we have a situation,” Mateo said, giving the attorney a perfunctory handshake. Kenn’s face went neutral as he saw the seriousness on Mateo’s face.

“What’s up Matt?” Kenn asked.

“You remember Ted, my wife’s new boyfriend?” Mateo asked, his voice deadly calm, “He’s a minion.” Mateo laid out what happened in the interrogation room in a few sentences.

“Let me call M&W,” Robyn said, “We can have one of our security people detain him.”

“Not a chance,” Mateo snapped, “That man is with my daughters. Not about to let someone I don’t know take him down.” Robyn was stopped from arguing as Tredegar bounced his Crown Vic onto the curb.

“Get in,” Tredegar said. Mateo, Kenn, and Robyn got into the car. Tredegar shot a questioning look at Mateo, but the Zombie Strike field commander waved it away. Kenn made introductions around as the car sped through the streets. Mateo sat quietly as his mind raced through the scenarios. At the moment, he wished the cell network was back up. Mateo didn’t even notice he had uttered the last thought.

“Here,” Tredegar said, handing Mateo a bulky sat phone. “Dial 1-1-202 and then the number.” Mateo decided not to look the gift fed in the mouth and quickly punched in Jess’s phone number.

“Matt, where are you?” Jess asked as she picked up the phone. The fear in her voice terrified Mateo.

“Ten minutes out,” Matt said, “Listen to me, Ted is a –” Jess cut him off before he could finish.

“Yeah, he’s a minion,” Jess interrupted, “I know. He tried to snatch Mercedes. Billy didn’t let him.” Mateo’s terror lessened a bit at the thought of the spirit wolf protecting the girls.

“Have you secured him?” Mateo asked, falling into the role of team leader.

“No,” Jess answered. Mateo could hear the tenseness in Jess’s voice. “Just before we could take him, Maria came into the room. Matt, he grabbed her and left. Ted has your wife.”

[Zombie Strike Part 6 Chapter 47]

Monday Fiction – Zombie Strike – Part 6 – Chapter 45

Skull Island, South Pacific, 25 July 2010, 0100 Hours Local: Countdown: 1 Year, 3 months, 6 days

Owen Thomas, better known to his teammates as Slim, was manning the command center as the Zombie Strike field team and support elements worked to determine the extent of the damages caused by the saboteur. How could one person cause so much damage? How could Collin have done this? Slim banished the thought as soon as it came into his head. He watched as the techs talked with the teams on scene. Jaclyn Dekker, the lead tech, quietly moved between her team. Slim had been surprised when the petite woman stormed into the command center. With assured confidence, Dekker organized Zombie Strike’s response. Slim was carefully nudged aside to let the support folks do their job. Slim knew his father would never allow anyone to even appear to undermine his authority. Another thing the Colonel got wrong. If there was one thing Slim learned in his time with Zombie Strike, it was to let the professionals do their jobs, regardless of their rank.

Slim looked down at the tablet in his hands. At least the internal network was still up. Slim flipped through the most recent damage report. All outside communications were gone. They had internal phones, WiFi, and portable radios. Unless a ship got within ten miles of the island, Zombie Strike was cut off from the world. Slim asked about the few planes, helicopters, and boats at the airfield and docks. All of them were disabled. There was a bit of good news there. In his rush, the saboteur screwed up his charges on the vehicles. The vehicles were broken, not destroyed. Still, the best estimate was twenty-four hours before they could hope to get a plane in working condition. Gunny walked into the command center. The hardened former Marine strode up to Slim. The flinty calm on the head of security’s face bothered Slim.

“Slim, what’s the status of the armory?” Gunny asked. The question caught Slim off-guard. He fumbled with the tablet as Gunny waited patiently.

“Gone,” Slim answered, looking at the most recent report, “All of the weapons, explosives, ammo, and gear are unrecoverable. The engineers sealed it up and are just letting it burn itself out.” Gunny’s face went dark.

“We’re going to need everyone to scrounge up every weapon they have,” Gunny said tersely, “Those explosions have brought in a huge horde of zombies.” Slim flipped to a perimeter camera. The horizon was crammed with staggering zombies.

“That doesn’t look right,” Slim said as he looked at the display, “Did we pull every zombie on the island?”

“Slim, there’s more zombies bearing down on us right now than this island has ever had,” Gunny said.

“Where did they all come from?” Slim asked. Gunny just shrugged in response.

“Better start thinking on how we’re going to repel all of those without any heavy weapons or air support,” Gunny replied quietly.

Washington DC, 26 July 2010, 1900 Hours Local: Countdown: 1 Year, 3 months, 5 days

Mateo Cortez kept his face neutral as the new FBI agent walked into the interrogation room. This one was average height, but skinny and bookish with a long hooked nose. He carried a stack of files under his left arm. Mateo wanted to call him Ichabod. The agent’s face was a professional neutral, but there was an odd fire in the man’s brown eyes.

“Mr. Cortez, I am Special Agent Tredegar,” the man said as he sat down. The folders were meticulously spread in front of Tredegar. The FBI agent leaned forward on the table.

“I am very sorry about your friend,” Tredegar said. The words sounded flat to Mateo. Less from lack of sympathy than lack of practice.

“Thank you, but I’m not giving a statement until I see an attorney,” Mateo said coolly, “Who I’m still waiting to call.” Mateo leveled the words as a challenge. Tredegar didn’t seem to notice. He opened a folder and pushed a large photo across to Mateo.

“Do you recognize this individual?” Tredegar asked. Mateo picked up the photo, glanced at it, and then looked over at Tredegar. The FBI agent’s anticipation was barely contained.

“You’re not on Nigel’s case, are you?” Mateo asked.

“No. I work occult cases,” Tredegar admitted, slightly surprised at Mateo’s question.

“And why do you want to know if I recognize this person,” Mateo asked, tossing the picture back on the table.

“Maybe because your team fought him in Wyoming about six months ago. Maybe because unofficial interviews with Army soldiers describe someone who could bring down a Blackhawk with an energy beam shot from a knife. Maybe because I think Zombie Strike isn’t telling the American government what it knows about these people.” Tredegar dramatically spread several photos across the table.

“Special Agent Tredegar, you really don’t know what you’re messing with,” Mateo warned. “I don’t know what you think–” The sentence died as his eyes locked onto one of the pictures.

“You don’t know what Mr. Cortez?” demanded Tredegar. “What are you hiding?” Mateo didn’t answer. He stood up from the table and walked to the door. Tredegar awkwardly leapt up at Mateo. In one smooth motion, Mateo had the FBI agent pinned to the wall.

“Tredegar, if you want to find out so badly, then you can tag along,” Mateo growled into the agent’s ear. “But you’re going to do what I tell you to do.”

“I am a federal agent,” Tredegar protested weakly, “Attacking a federal agent is a serious crime.” Mateo let out a low, evil chuckle.

“One of your suspects is dating my ex-wife and right now watching my daughters,” Mateo said, “Do you really think assaulting a Fed is that high on my list?”

“I’ll drive,” Tredegar replied.

[Zombie Strike Part 6 Chapter 46]

Monday Fiction – Zombie Strike – Part 6 – Chapter 44

Skull Island, South Pacific, 24 July 2010, 2100 Hours Local: Countdown: 1 Year, 3 months, 7 days

Owen Thomas, better known to his teammates as Slim, stepped into the command center. The twenty or so techs didn’t break their vigils over the various displays and communication equipment as the field team member entered. Slim grinned to himself as he imagined his father’s reaction to such a reception. The Colonel would have had a bloody fit if the lowly techs didn’t properly acknowledge his superiority as an officer. Slim wondered again if his father’s attitude was the reason the General Staff failed to promote him. It was certainly the reason Slim left home at the tender age of sixteen. Slim sat down at his computer station. The Champions of Truth had kept out of sight since the destruction of Mexico City. Not like that wasn’t too hard these days. The constellation of satellites the modern world depended on to run its technology was mostly destroyed. What few were left were almost all under government control. Gone were the days of easy surveillance through electronic means. It was even harder here on Skull Island. All of the communications and Internet systems were satellite-based. Currently, Skull Island and Zombie Strike were dependent on a lash-up system of high-end transceivers mounted on high-altitude balloons, retired cargo ships, and a few towers on atolls to communicate to the rest of the world. Trust the largest and oldest insurance firm to have a contingency plan for nearly everything.

Slim didn’t normally mind the command center, but Zombie Strike was a bit understaffed at the moment. Kenn Blanchard and Mateo Cortez, Zombie Strike’s leaders, were in Washington DC. Something about the American parliament conducting hearings about the events in Mexico City. Nigel Brown, Mackenzie and Winston’s liaison with Zombie Strke, was also there, as was Jess Montgomery, Mateo’s foster daughter. Collin DuBois, the team’s de-facto colour sergeant, seemed a bit under the weather the past few weeks, so Slim offered to pitch in and take a few of Collin’s watches. Slim sipped at his coffee. It would be another hour before the next data dump. All he could do was wait patiently. It looked like another slow night. That was until the building rumbled and the command center was plunged into darkness. Slim let out a stream of curses as the emergency lights cut in.

“What the bloody hell just happened?” Slim asked to the mass of frantic techs, “That didn’t feel like an earthquake.”

“Explosions in the main armory, the electrical plant, and the telecom exchange,” one of the techs reported, “Engineering is on damage control, but right now we’re cut-off and running on batteries.” Slim grimaced at the report. One explosion could have been an accident. Three was sabotage.

“Jane, my compliments to Mr. DuBois, and would you run up and inform him that I need him here, please?” Slim asked another tech. As she darted out of the room, Slim grabbed the attention of another tech.

“I want everyone on this island accounted for,” Slim ordered, “I don’t care if they’re in the loo with the runs. I want them found and in the main dining room.”

“Mr. Thomas, one of the planes is taking off,” reported the first tech.

“Who’s flying that plane?” Slim quickly asked.

“The airfield reports it was Collin DuBois,” the tech answered. Slim stood there dumbstruck as the rest of Zombie Strike began rushing into the command center.

Washington DC, 26 July 2010, 1600 Hours Local: Countdown: 1 Year, 3 months, 5 days

Mateo Cortez smiled as he watched his daughters play and tried very hard not to punch the man standing next to him. It wasn’t this guy’s fault. It just didn’t occur to Mateo when he asked his ex-wife to come up for a family vacation that she’d bring her new boyfriend. Of course, if Mateo hadn’t been busy jumping all over the world fighting zombies, then he might have known his wife was seeing someone. Ana made this point quite clearly. Ted wasn’t a bad guy. He was just boring. Ted reminded Mateo of every cookie-cutter professional he had met before joining Zombie Strike. There was nothing distinguishing about the man. It didn’t help that Mateo’s daughter liked Ted. At least she didn’t call him daddy. Mateo wasn’t sure how he could have handled that. At the moment, Mercedes was playing tag with Mateo’s foster daughter Jess and Jess’s new spirit wolf puppy Billy. Since Kenn and Nigel were testifying in front of some Congressional subcommittee, Mateo decided to bring the girls to the Mall and wait for his friends to finish. Ted sort of invited himself along for what he called “guy-bonding.” Mateo was pretty sure Maria sent him along so that she could do some shopping on her own. Ted was chattering about the Buccaneers and the Rays. Mateo was ignoring him.

Jess was the one who spotted Kenn and Nigel first. The two men were walking around the Reflecting Pond and heading toward the group. Mateo waved and held up a pair of cigars, much to the dismay of Ted. Ted didn’t smoke, and thought it was a bad idea for Mateo to smoke in front of the girls. Mateo politely told Ted what he could do with his advice. Suddenly, Nigel shoved Kenn to the ground – a split second before his chest exploded in a spray of red mist. The rifle’s report echoed through the Mall. Mateo shot a glance back to his daughters. Jess held a screaming Mercedes on the ground and was covering the five-year-old with her own body. Billy stood over the girls. The wolf pup eyes were locked back at the Lincoln memorial. Mateo could almost see the shimmer of power coming off Billy as the pup protected the girls. Mateo ran through the panicked mass of people to check on Kenn and Nigel. Kenn was knelt over Nigel’s still form, praying for their friend’s soul. Mateo grabbed Kenn and tried to drag the man behind some concealment. Cover was sparse in this part of the Mall. Mateo desperately wanted a gun at the moment. All he had on him was a pocket knife. Kenn shrugged out of Mateo’s grip and knelt back down next to Nigel’s body as police charged towards them.

“Kenn, get behind something solid,” Mateo said, “Someone just tried to take you out.” Kenn looked up at Mateo with sad and knowing eyes. They spooked Mateo.

“Sniper,” Kenn said, “He took his shot and missed. He’ll be evading right now. We’re sort of safe for the moment.” Mateo nodded as the two men were surrounded by police. In the confusion, Mateo completely forgot about Ted.

Washington DC, 26 July 2010, 2100 Hours Local: Countdown: 1 Year, 3 months, 5 days

The man Mateo knew as Ted walked onto the Metro Red line. He sat down and pulled out an book reader. He was patient. He had to be. Less than ten minutes later, Collin DuBois casually sat down next to Ted. Collin was dressed in a conservative business suit. At rush hour, he blended into the crowd.

“Good afternoon Mr. DuBois,” Ted said, never looking up from his reader.

“I don’t know how Nigel saw me,” Collin said in a passable American accent.

“Calm down Mr. DuBois,” Ted said, “I did the groundwork. I’ve already told my people that it wasn’t your fault the deal fell through.” Ted tilted the reader so Collin could see the picture of his sister.

“We are all professionals,” Ted told Collin, “We understand these things happen. We still want you to complete the transaction. We still want to deliver your package to you. Unfortunately, we won’t be consulting you this time. Please don’t let a poison pill disrupt this transaction again.”

“I understand,” Collin answered. At the next stop, Collin leapt up and darted out of the train. Ted settled into his seat and waited. Collin DuBois watched as the train roared into the darkened tunnel. The man never suspected Collin was recording their conversation. Collin found a WiFi spot and emailed Mateo the recording and some covert photos of the man. It was the only thing Collin could do to balance his betrayal. As he walked through the Metro station, Collin started to plan his next try at assassinating his friend Kenn Blanchard.

[Zombie Strike Part 6 Chapter 45]

Monday Fiction – Zombie Strike – Part 5 – Chapter 43 – Epilogue

Forreston FL, 8 July 2010, 1000 Hours Local: Countdown: 1 Year, 4 months, 23 days

Jessica Montgomery knelt down. It wasn’t easy in the long dark gray dress. It had been a long time since she’d walked these grounds. Longer than it should have been. Guilt added its unique flavor to her sadness.

“Sorry I haven’t come to visit,” Jess said. She didn’t know what to expect. Talking to the dead always seemed so comforting. The granite headstone was silent. Maybe it was something that came with practice.

“So, I guess I came here to talk with someone,” Jess said, “Things are so screwed up. I mean, I haven’t stopped thinking about you, but the pain wasn’t as bad. I found someone, and I thought my life was going to be so good.” The tears trickled from the corners of her eyes. “Then. we went to Mexico, and we were winning, and then Billy died.” The words spilled out of her mouth. She had to get them out before all of her pent-up sorrow finally released. Jess collapsed next to her mother’s tombstone. Deep sobs wracked her body to the point of pain. Jess kept reliving the horrific memories of seeing Billy over her impaled on Giant’s whip. His confidant smile. His last words to her as Quentin hauled her out of the room. The shaking and deafening roar as the bomb exploded. All Jess could do was feel the pain and cry.

Jess’s sobs stop instantly as she felt the danger. The dress tore as Jess leapt to her feet. A thick fog surrounded her and blotted out the sun. She felt more than saw the figure as it emerged from the fog. The large coyote sat down in front of her mother’s grave. It was easily the size of a horse. She could feel the power roll off of the coyote like a warm breeze.

“You!” screamed Jess, “Where was your precious pack when I needed them? When Billy needed them? Why did you let him die?” The animal stood silent. Its even stare incensed Jess. She took two steps and threw a perfect punch. She felt the shock as her blow slammed into the animal’s muzzle.

“That was not my choice to make,” Coyote answered. The words echoed through her mind like thunder.

“Whose was it?” Jess demanded.

“Mine,” came the answer. The single word drove Jess to the ground. Coyote spoke like thunder. This was an earthquake. Jess slowly turned around. The wolf stood twenty feet tall and larger than the trailer Jess lived in for a time. The air became electrified with the raw power of Wolf stepping into the world.

“It has fallen to mine to protect the Key,” Wolf said, lowering the power of his voice, “My pack and my warriors are bound to protect the Key. Including sacrificing their lives for the Key.”

“So why was it Coyote’s pack in Mexico City?” Jessica shot back with an accusing tone.

“I had a warrior, and it was not time to reveal the full extent of my obligation,” Wolf answered, “And my brother always likes to have me in his debt.”

“So why are you here now?” Jess asked, “We destroyed the Key.” Wolf moved a tree-sized front leg to reveal a bright-eyed wolf pup. The pup locked eyes with Jess. A part of her mind opened up and she could feel the pup’s mind.

“It is time to foster some of my pack in this world,” Wolf answered. The pup bounded to Jess. As the enthusiastic animal knocked her to the ground, Jess realized the pup was already the size of a large German Shepard. Warmth and love poured through the new bond between the two. Wolf, Coyote, and the fog vanished in an instant. As Jess looked around for the two spirits, Slim rushed to her side.

“Are you alright?” Slim asked, scanning the graveyard with his submachine gun. Then he noticed the pup. “Where did that come from?”

“Wolf,” Jess answered softly. Something in her tone kept Slim from barraging her with questions.

“Okay,” Slim temporized, “So what’s the bugger’s name?” Jess looked down at the pup at her side. Her grief wasn’t gone, but the pure love and joy from the pup made it bearable.


Barcelona, Spain, 9 July 2010, 2030 hours local, Countdown: 1 year, 4 months, 22 days

The groaning drew Alan away from the window. He put the enchanting flamenco dancers out of his mind as he stepped into the darkened apartment. Alan looked down at the shattered figure in the center of the room. As much as Alan had tasted his god’s power, it still amazed him that this man was still alive, much less starting to awaken.

“Go, tell Mr. Castle that Mikhail is awake,” Alan said to one of his assistants. The girl nodded and sprinted out of the room. Alan watched as Mikhail’s body continued to knit itself back together. Those new Truth-Warriors brought Mikhail to Barcelona in pieces. Alan took one look at the fragments of what had been the Truth’s greatest warrior and was sure Mikhail was gone. He didn’t understand why Castle looked so confident as he ordered Alan and his assistants to lay out the body. That was, until Mikhail’s body started coming back together. Mikhail’s eyes snapped open as Castle walked into the room. Mikhail tried to rise, but his weakened body collapsed under his effort. Castle locked eyes with Mikhail and shook his head. Mikhail let out a long breath and settled back. Alan walked up to Castle.

“If he keeps at this pace, he should be back up in less than a month,” Alan said. Castle didn’t say anything for a moment. He just stared at Mikhail.

“Good, he will be needed,” Castle answered. Absent-mindedly, Castle drew a sphere of pure obsidian out of his pocket. Alan’s eyes were drawn to the baseball sized gleaming black glass.

“In the meantime, I have another assignment for you,” Castle said, turning to Alan. He held out the dark sphere to the Truth’s top sorcerer. “I need you to open the Key.”

London, Great Britain, 10 July 2010, 2100 hours local, Countdown: 1 year, 4 months, 21 days

Collin DuBois was ushered into Simon West’s library. The lord who owned the house before Simon had been a voracious reader. His extensive and valuable collection of books came with the house. Collin would have been more impressed if he thought Simon had actually read any of them. Simon sat in an overstuffed leather chair that looked like it had come out of an old bankers’ office. The handsome crime boss leisurely held a snifter of brandy and smiled as Collin stepped into the room. It took all of Collin’s self-control not to reach out and snap the man’s neck. Simon seemed to relish in Collin’s internal torment. The two men stared at each other in silence. Finally, Collin broke the silence.

“Why did you ask me to come here West?” Collin demanded.

“Your employers wanted to speak with you,” Simon answered cryptically. He laughed at Collin’s confusion.

“What are you talking about?” Collin asked.

“Oh wake up, boyo. Why would I care about what your group of zombie killers were up to?” Simon asked. Simon let out an evil laugh as he saw understanding dawn on Collin’s face. Before Collin could respond, Simon held up an envelope.

“Here are your instructions,” Simon said, handing the envelope to Collin. Inside the envelope was a cell phone. Collin pressed the redial button.

“Sergeant DuBois, who I am is not important,” the American said. The voice was cool, controlled, and professional. “On the phone are three photos. These should be considered proof of life.” Collin opened the messages. His sister was strapped to a bed. The morning’s Guardian was placed on her chest.

“Your sister will not be harmed as long as you do what we want,” the voice continued, “Further, Mr. West has agreed to release her of any and all debts. In return, we want you to kill Kenn Blanchard.”

[Zombie Strike Part 6 Chapter 44]

Monday Fiction – Zombie Strike – Part 5 – Chapter 42

Mexico City, 28 June 2010, 0515 Hours Local: Countdown: 1 Year, 5 months, 2 days

Jessica Montgomery watched as Giant let Billy slip from his whip. The immense monster of a man looked almost offended by Mateo’s challenge. The minions escorting Giant immediately fell behind their seven-foot tall champion and brought up stubby assault rifles. Billy didn’t even slow down to take a breath. As soon as the whip came off, Billy crouched and rolled next to Jess. The two sat in mirror crouches with their submachine guns aimed at the minions. The Zombie Strike team stared down their enemies. It was just a moment of quiet and calm as the two forces measured the other. The picture of her foster father, her boyfriend (oh my God, he looked good), and her friends training weapons down on the four minions and Giant seared itself into her mind. Without warning, the calm was broken.

The Steve and Sport darted forward towards Jess and Billy as the rest of the team opened fire. Jess felt the snaps of bullets as they streaked around her. Her mind immediately realized the actions. Recover under fire. Jess didn’t have a chance to fire her own weapon before she felt The Steve jerk her back. By the hair. Jess gritted her teeth and tried to lessen the pain by scrambling backwards with The Steve. Sport was using Billy’s drag handle, allowing Billy to cover the four’s retreat. The Steve half-tossed, half-slid Jess behind Quentin.

Giant and the minions fell back into the room holding the Key. Two of the minions were trading gunfire with Zombie Strike team. Bullets shattered the rock of the doorway and the sides of the hall. Jess frowned. The hallway was wide open. The only cover was the small bits of the wall from the team’s entry. None of the team had been hit yet. Either the two minions weren’t the professionals she thought they were, or they were just delaying the team. Considering how the two were using the sides of the doorway, Jess was guessing the minions were delaying the team. Delay wasn’t something the team could afford. Fortunately, Quentin was gracious enough to have brought her rifle with him.

“PALISADE TWO!” Jess yelled over the gunfire. Quentin dropped down to a kneeling crouch, which was still almost as tall as Jess. As she unhooked her rifle, Slim fell in next to Quentin. The team hugged the walls of the hallway and stepped up the fire. She only needed a few seconds. Jess stood up behind Quentin and Slim, extending her rifle in one smooth motion. The sliver of the minion’s face filled her scope. She applied just a bit of pressure. The hallway thundered with the sound of the rifle’s report. The doorway was splattered with bone and blood. The assault rifle clattered to the floor. Jess was cycling the bolt when the other minion stopped firing.

“Illuminators!” ordered Mateo. Sport and The Steve were at the doorway tossing in the baseball sized devices. As soon as the Illuminators landed, their tiny lights brilliantly lit up the room with sterile white light. In an eye blink, Sport, The Steve, Collin, and Mateo were inside the room. Billy leapt into the room and jumped out of Jess’s view. Her heart clenched as she clearly heard Billy’s war whoop followed by the unmistakable screech of a gollum. Billy found a target. Slim led Quentin and Jess into the room. Jess followed Quentin as he loped into the room on his replacement prosthetic.

The room was an almost exact replica of the room Xipe Tzin built when the Zombie Strike team confronted him over a year ago. Jess hadn’t been part of the team then, but she recognized it from the file Mateo had made her study. This one was bigger though. The room was maybe a hundred feet wide and two hundred feet long. The walls and floor glittered as the Illuminators’ light reflected off of the white ceramic tiles. Running through the middle of the room was a trench maybe forty feet wide. Three ten feet wide stone bridges spanned the trench. On the other side of the trench, in the center stood an obsidian obelisk decorated with Aztec carvings. Either that was the Key, or the Key was inside it.

Jess heard the moans as soon as she entered the rooms. Easily two hundred of the walking dead bore down on the team. Jess slung her rifle and drew her Kimber. Two zombies went down with single shots. Quentin opened up a bit of area with a long burst from his ZKC. Jess kept it open while the big man changed magazines. Jess shot a quick glance at her foster father. Mateo and The Steve were busy with another part of the horde. Sport was using one of the corpses as a shield as Collin traded gunfire with the minions. The minions were holding the right-most bridge. Giant was on the other side of the trench and walking to the obelisk. Where was Billy? Jess did a presidente drill across the front of the zombie horde. Eight shots, eight zombies down. Jess made a quick gauge of their situation as she fed another magazine into her Kimber. It wasn’t looking good for the team.

“Mattie, we need to fall back,” Collin said, echoing Jess’s thoughts, “We’re about to be overrun.”

“No,” Mateo answered curtly as he dropped another pair of zombies.

“Mattie, we’re past crush,” Collin argued.

“No,” Mateo answered with a cold, calm voice. Each member of the team knew that tone well. Mateo’s rage was humming through him. In anyone else, that rage would make him reckless. In Mateo, the rage focused him and strengthened him.

“Billy, finish playing around and get up here,” Mateo ordered. Billy leapt up out of the trench. A gollum jumped after him. Billy ruthlessly lashed out with a metal rod. The tip of the rod shattered the gollum’s medallion. Before the gollum could react, the rod crashed down on its head. Without its divine invulnerability, the gollum’s skull shattered. Without even a moment to enjoy his victory, Billy danced through the zombie horde. As Collin often said, the boy was magic. The diminutive Apache slipped through the gaps between the zombies, occasionally widening a gap with a savage strike from the metal rod. Billy slid around Quentin to stand next to Jess. He gave her a smug smile. She punched him in the arm before dropping a crawler that got a little too close to Billy.

“Billy grab the four block from The Steve,” Mateo ordered, “As soon as you have it, get across the bridge and destroy that obelisk! Collin, keep those minions off Billy. The rest of us will fall back and form a line to cover your retreat. Billy grabbed the book-sized explosive from The Steve and stood next to Jess as he looked for his opening. Billy sprinted into the horde. As Billy leapt off the line, something primal took over Jess. She darted into the horde after Billy. Every instinct and bit of training screamed at her to stop and go back, but she couldn’t. It was almost as if she was trapped in her own body. The horde of zombies blurred around Jess as she followed Billy through the walking dead. She could see what Billy saw every time he danced in to fight the zombies. Small gaps looked big enough to drive semi-trucks through. The zombies acted more like statues than animated corpses. They just couldn’t move fast enough to catch her. Before she knew it, Jess was through the horde and charging the bridge. What was happening to her?

As Billy neared the obelisk, Giant noticed the two Zombie Strike team members. The whip in his hand danced in anticipation. Billy shot into the air. Giant’s eyes twinkled with amusement. Jess slid down on her knees and unslung her rifle. It wasn’t an aimed shot, but with a distance of less than fifty feet, she didn’t need to aim much. The heavy .338 Lapua round slammed into Giant just as the whip lashed out at the airborne Billy. The whip’s tasseled tip passed within scant inches of Billy. Jess smiled as she scrambled to her feet. Billy landed, rolled, and slapped the explosive at the base of the obelisk. The bomb’s adhesive backing set with the strength of concrete. Giant and his team weren’t getting that off anytime soon. Not before Zombie Strike triggered it. Giant cracked his whip. The room shook with thunder. A wave of force tossed Billy and Jess away from the obelisk. Her rifle slipped out of her hands. Jess watched helplessly as the weapon slid across the tiles and plunged into the trench. Something flickered in the corner of her eye. Jess rolled to the side as Giant’s whip cracked the tiles next to her. Billy sprang off the ground, kicked off the obelisk and drove himself into Giant’s midsection. The surprise blow knocked Giant off of his feet. The two rolled across the tile floor. Billy stood up first.

“Jess, activate the block!” Billy yelled. Jess scowled as she scampered to the bomb. She wasted precious seconds as her memory dug up the procedure. Her fingers danced across the buttons. Four-four-three-nine-seven. The readout blinked and a friendly, lethal green light told her the bomb was active. Jess whirled to call Billy. It was time to go. Giant loomed over Jess. His dark eyes burned with a terrifying rage. Jess took a step back and felt the cold obsidian at her back. There was nowhere to run. Giant’s arm snapped back. The whip tensed into a rigid lance. Jess didn’t even have a chance to take a breath. Giant attacked.

The instant before the tip of the whip struck her chest, it bounced to the side. Pain flashed as the whip lanced cleanly through her left arm. Jess heard the tip smack against the obelisk, and then she felt a surge of power course through her. The next thing she knew, she was lying on the tile floor. Giant looked a little shaken, but it didn’t last long. He took a step towards Jess. Screaming in Spanish, Giant thrust the whip at Jess’s prone form. There was a blur of motion above Jess. Billy materialized between Jess and Giant. Giant’s whip lanced through Billy’s midsection. Jess watched in horror as blood quickly soaked through Billy’s clothing and pooled under him. Giant tried to yank out his whip, but Billy held it in place. Jess felt her entire body go numb.

“I don’t think so,” Billy grunted out, “You’re staying put.” Jess watched as Billy struggled against Giant. Each tug opened the wound, spilling out more blood.

“How are you doing that?” screamed Giant as he tugged furiously. Billy laughed.

“Jess, there’s a knife across the small of my back,” Billy said over his shoulder, “Take it.” Jess gingerly drew the blade from its scabbard. It was a plain knife with a simple wooden handle. As soon as the knife was in her hands, she could feel its power. She looked angrily over at Giant. Mateo was right. It was time to finish this. Before Jess could take a step towards Giant, two powerful arms encircled her.

“Took you long enough,” Billy said to Quentin, “Get her out of here.”

Vaya con Dios, my friend,” Quentin said sadly. The two men shared a look of goodbye. Quentin lifted Jess up.

No!” Jess screamed as she struggled against Quentin. “Billy, I won’t leave you. Quentin, let go of me.” Jess struggled, kicked, and bit. Quentin ignored it all as he stormed across the bridge.

“Love you babe,” Billy yelled as Quentin hauled Jess through the door. The next thing Jess heard was the explosion.

[Zombie Strike Part 5 Chapter 43 – Epilogue]

Monday Fiction – Zombie Strike – Part 5 – Chapter 41

Mexico City, 28 June 2010, 0430 Hours Local: Countdown: 1 Year, 5 months, 2 days

Jessica Montgomery suddenly became aware of the world. Part of that was due to the drugs wearing off. The bigger part was someone was shaking her. Violently shaking her. Sensations roared through her as her mind clawed back from the dark. She needed the person to stop. Her body was still banged up. She stopped herself from opening her eyes. What if it was Giant, one of those scary minions, or another bad guy? Did she really want them to know she was awake? Then her hearing pushed past the thrumming of her heart beat. Jess didn’t know if she wanted to laugh, cry, or murder her new boyfriend. Jess managed to let out a groan of pain. Mercifully, the shaking stopped.

“Jess, are you alright?” Billy asked stark fear in his voice. Jess tried to answer. She felt as Billy pushed the tube from her water pack into her mouth. She sucked greedily. The lukewarm liquid tasted wonderful. Jess opened her eyes. Billy, out of his armor, was cradling her in his arms. Any other time, Jess would have just laid back and enjoyed it. Right now, it looked like the two of them were trapped in a dungeon. The smallish room was made completely out of stone. The only light came from a flashlight Billy set up in the center of the room. One of the walls opened to another room or hallway.

“Billy, I love you,” Jess said, reaching up to stroke the sparse stubble on Billy’s chin, “But if you ever shake me like that again, I will kill you in your sleep.” The two smiled at each other. The sudden laughter from the doorway startled them. Jess snapped her head to see a man dressed in a minion’s ninja suit standing casually in the doorway. He wore his greying hair in a crew cut. Multiple scars crisscrossed his hard face. Jess wasn’t sure, but she guessed this was the minion who captured Billy and her.

“You are funny, little girl, I’ll give you that,” the minion said, his Midwestern accent flavored with just a hint of Southern. The minion looked right at Billy. “If you two manage to survive this, you are going to have fun riding herd on this one.” Billy gently slid Jess out of his hands. As the minion strolled into the room, Billy hopped into a fighting stance. The minion stopped and gave Billy a long studious look.

“Now is not the time for that,” the minion said in a low and serious tone, “Even if you beat me, which is doubtful, you won’t be in any shape to protect her from the rest of my team, much less all of the rest of Mikhail’s forces. Think about it.” Billy dropped into a defensive posture, but still kept himself between the minion and Jess.

“What do you want?” Jess asked, carefully feeling around her armor for any of her weapons. They stripped her clean. Every weapon and bit of ammunition was gone. The minion read her expression and gave her a sad, but knowing, smile.

“I’m here to make sure you’re both alive,” the minion answered, “Mikhail is almost to the Key, and he needs you two there.”

“What the hell for?” Billy asked, his Brooklyn accent rendering the words almost unintelligible. The minion stared at Billy for a moment, silently translating the word.

“Aztecs had a nasty habit of human sacrifice,” the minion answered, “Some might be required to free the Key.” The casual nonchalance of the minion chilled Jess.

“Who’s Mikhail?” Jess asked.

“The Great Champion of the Truth,” the minion answered with just a hint of sarcasm, “You call him Giant.” The minion walked back to the opening. “Two servants will be here in fifteen minutes to collect you. If you are not able to move by then, they will move you themselves. It won’t be pleasant.” Without another word, the minion disappeared into the dark.

“Jess, are you able to move?” Billy asked. Jess sat up. She was stiff and sore. With effort, Jess managed to get to her feet. Surprisingly, she felt better once she stood up. A lot of the pain and stiffness seemed to melt away as she went through a simple kata.

“What’s on your mind, Billy?” Jess asked. Billy’s eyes glinted with malicious intent.

“Well, they did leave me my credit card,” Billy said in a joking seductive tone.

Almost twenty minutes later, the pair braced as the two minions strode through the doorway. Billy was on all fours with Jess underneath him. As expected, the two minions froze in surprise. These two were regular minions with none of the professional precision her captors displayed. Both held their weapons in loose, casual grips. They weren’t expecting trouble, much less catching the two in what looked like some heavy fooling around. The weapons lowered even more as the two minions leered at the pair. Jess almost pitied them.

The room plunged into darkness as Billy snatched the flashlight off the floor. He launched himself at the left minion. Billy was scary fast when he was in full armor. Out of it, he was terrifying. Humans really shouldn’t move that fast. Billy slammed into his target, driving the minion to the stone floor. The other minion tried to twist to bring his gun on Billy. It was too late. Jess was already in motion.

Jess rolled to the side and leaped at the minion. The minion staggered from the sudden blow, but he out-massed Jess by a good eighty pounds. The minion lunged at Jess with the barrel of his gun. Jess parried the blow and stepped closer. She hammer punched the minion in the neck. She felt the sharpened plastic of Billy’s credit card slice through the fabric and sink into the minion’s throat. The minion dropped his gun as both hands clutched at his bleeding neck. Jess snatched the weapon off the ground and slid back. Her part was done. Billy came up from behind and finished the minion off. The flashlight came back on and illuminated the room.

Jess looked at the two bodies as Billy efficiently searched them. She felt numb inside. Why had it been so easy this time to kill the two minions? Shouldn’t she feel some sort of regret? She remembered feeling regret and guilt when she killed the narcos shortly after the team landed in Mexico City. Billy forced a gun into her hands. Without thinking, Jess examined the weapon. She stared at the gun in surprise. It was her MP7. Billy handed her a half-dozen magazines, knife, and finally her Kimber. Even slipping her beloved handgun back into its holster broke her unease.

“Look at me, Jess,” Billy said softly. Their eyes met. His dark eyes were warm. “I need you to stay with me. I can’t do this without you.” Jess felt herself harden. Billy was right. She couldn’t let him down. The two crept out of the room. Beyond the room was a long hallway. Billy motioned for the pair to the left. The two hugged the smooth stone wall as they hallway narrowed to an iron door. It was a single slab of rusted metal. Jess couldn’t see how the door even opened.

“Maybe we should knock,” Billy suggested. Jess shot him an evil look. The door snapped open with an ear-wrenching screech. A gollum launched out of the doorway. Billy grabbed Jess and half-tossed her to the side. The gollum pounced on Billy. The creature lashed out with blow after blow. Billy parried most, but Jess heard the meaty thwacks and grunts of pain as a few of the strikes landed. Instinctively, Jess jumped on the gollum’s back. The creature howled. She felt fingers dig into her arms as the gollum tried to yank her off. She squeezed tighter as the gollum bucked and jerked. Billy took advantage of the sudden opportunity. There was a glint of steel as Billy drew his knife. Billy darted in. His hand snatched the gollum’s stone medallion. The creature had the barest of instants before the blade effortlessly sliced through the leather cord holding the medallion around the gollum’s neck.

Jess let go as the gollum let out an ear-shattering howl. The source of its invulnerability was now gone. Billy dodged two blindingly fast punches and planted the knife cleanly into the gollum’s chest. The gollum froze in mid motion. It still horrified Jess every time she watched one of the gollums wither away into a skeleton. Billy and Jess turned to the sound of applause. Giant and the four minions that captured Jess and Billy were standing in the door. Amusement danced among their eyes as the five clapped. Giant stepped forward.

“Well, that was much faster than I expected,” Giant said, “And you’re right Frank, they are covered in their enemies’ blood.” Jess looked down ashamed. The minion’s blood was splashed across her.

“Everything is perfect,” Giant mused to the gathered people, “All of the pieces are in place. Now is the time to retrieve the Key.” Jess snapped her weapon up and fired a burst into Giant. This time, he didn’t even stagger or grunt in pain. The whip lanced across the distance in a blur to wrap around Billy’s neck. Giant didn’t even look as the young man clawed at the whip. Giant looked only at Jess.

“Stop this stupidity,” Giant boomed. “You will come along and play your part, or I will kill the young wolf-cub.” Jess hung her head. Billy was too important to her. She couldn’t have his death on her hands. Not when they just managed to get together. Giant saw the defeat on Jess’s face and let out an evil laugh. Then, the hallway shook like the earth itself was having a seizure. Smoke and dust filled the hallway and for a moment Jess couldn’t see anything. As the smoke and dust settled, Jess could see she was surrounded by the familiar forms of the Zombie Strike team.

“I told you P stood for Plenty,” The Steve said. He sounded so far away, even though he stood less than three feet from her.

“GIANT!” bellowed Mateo, “It’s time to finish this.”

[Zombie Strike Part 5 Chapter 42]

Monday Fiction – Zombie Strike – Part 5 – Chapter 40

Mexico City, 28 June 2010, 0100 Hours Local: Countdown: 1 Year, 5 months, 2 days

Jessica Montgomery felt an odd peace as she walked with her foster father. They were about a hundred yards away from the rest of the Zombie Strike team and the members of the US Army anti-zombie force. Mateo was still finding his way back to faith, and he was reluctant to pray for guidance in front of his team. Jess didn’t understand Mateo’s thinking, but she just accepted it. The two found a pocket in the wreckage of a building. Mateo opened his forearm bracer. He couldn’t just call Kenn Blanchard, the Zombie Strike commander and oft-times chaplain. Most of the communications satellites in Earth orbit were destroyed by the so-called “Champions of the Truth” when they used a lot of the space junk circling around the earth into orbital strikes. Fortunately, MacKenzie and Winston, the insurance firm that supported Zombie Strike, planned for this type of emergency. Jess waited patiently as Mateo navigated the series of relay stations M&W set up.

There was movement out of the corner of Jess’s eye. Jess spun as she brought up her MP7. Zombies were plentiful in the ruins of Mexico City. She snapped on the weapon-mounted flashlight. The form in front of her wasn’t a zombie. Jess froze as her eyes climbed up and up to meet the dark eyes of Giant. Zombie Strike’s nemesis lived up to his name, topping over seven feet tall. He seemed to have an athletic build, but it was hard to tell from the ninja-style outfit Giant had adopted. None of the team had ever seen more than Giant’s dark eyes glaring out from the balaclava-style face mask. Jess aimed her her weapon at Giant’s face.

“Curse you!” Giant bellowed as the high-powered flashlight shone into his eyes. One hand grasped at his face. He lashed out with the whip in the other hand. A thunderous crack blasted across Jess. Her flashlight shattered and the pocket went dark. Jess’s instincts took over as she triggered a burst at the darker than night form of Giant. The muzzle flash lit up the night with an almost strobe-like effect.

“Mateo, it’s Giant!” Jess screamed. Another thunder crack and the MP7 was torn out of her hands. Without pausing, Jess drew her Kimber. Jess was momentarily blinded by Mateo’s weapon light. Just long enough for Giant to dart in and drive a massive fist into her stomach. Her lungs emptied in a great whoosh. Jess slammed into a wall. No, it wasn’t a wall. It was the ground. Giant’s blow sent her airborne. She gasped for air as she struggled to her feet. Pain made everything a bit hazy. At least Jess kept a hold of her pistol.

“I am getting annoyed with you, Mateo,” Giant said as he brought the whip down. Mateo twisted to take the blow across his back. The armor shattered. The move kept his carbine from being snatched. Mateo countered by bringing up his weapon and emptying the magazine into Giant’s torso. The huge man screamed in pain as twenty 6.8 mm rounds punched into him. The two men staggered back. Giant was clutching at his chest with one hand. The whip twisted in the other like a cat’s tail. Mateo changed magazines. His movements were stiff and jerky. The blow from Giant hurt him. Jess brought her pistol up and double-tapped Giant in the head. Giant’s head snapped to one side. The whip lashed out. The thick leather wrapped tight around Jess’s throat. Jess dropped her Kimber as both hands clawed at the whip. She couldn’t breathe. Her lungs were on fire.

“Don’t Mateo,” warned Giant, looking over at Jess’s foster father, “Or she will die.” Giant strode over to Jess. She saw where Mateo’s burst shredded Giant’s outfit, but there was no blood or any other sign of injury. As Giant neared, the whip loosened. Wonderful air filled Jess’s lungs. Giant bent down to look Jess in the eyes. She knew she should be afraid. Whether it was because of the pain that wracked her body or the dizziness from the sudden rush of oxygen, one thought dominated Jess’s mind. Giant wore a lot of cologne, and it wasn’t even good cologne.

“I should just kill you,” Giant told her in a low voice, “Coyote has decided to look out for you, and he’s spoiled enough of my plans today. I don’t know what he wants with you, but leaving you to run around would be dangerous.” The whip tightened and Jess gagged as she frantically tried to get air. “Shame to kill you so young.” The whip warmed, like a comfy blanket. Jess felt tired. Maybe if she just went to sleep, all of the pain would stop. She could dream of Billy.

The war scream pierced the night. Jess’s eyes snapped open just in time to see Billy’s armored form crash down on Giant. Giant slammed to the ground under the force of Billy’s speeding mass. Quentin emerged from the darkness and brought his warhammer down on Giant’s whip hand. Jess could hear a sickening wet crunch. Giant didn’t let go of the whip, but it slid off of Jess’s neck. She fell to the ground. She couldn’t move. She was barely conscious. She was more injured than she thought. Giant grabbed Billy by the neck and hurled him across the pocket. The young warrior crashed into a portion of wall. He wasn’t moving. Jess wanted to panic, to feel something, but she couldn’t push past the haze. Quentin swung his warhammer. Giant caught the speeding hammer in his bare hand. He wrenched it from the surprised Quentin’s hands, flipped it around with a contemptuous ease, and shattered Quentin’s prosthetic leg with the weapon. Giant searched around for more people to destroy.

The pocket exploded with sound as five automatic weapons opened up. The black costume was shredded, and Giant finally bled as the fusillade tore into him. Mateo and The Steve closed on Jess and Quentin as Sport, Slim, and Collin quickly changed magazines. The brief pause in the fire was all Giant needed. The whip came down with a deafening roar. The Zombie Strike team members were thrown to the ground by the wave of pure force. Giant launched into the air and flew towards the earlier battle scene. Collin and Sport scrambled up to their feet and ran after him. The Steve appeared over her with his infamous devil-may-care smile. He plugged a couple of wires into her armor. After a couple of seconds, he shook his head.

“How’d you manage to go and fry all of your electronics?” The Steve asked, “Quentin, are you good enough to help me?”

“Yeah,” grunted Quentin as he dragged himself across the ground.

“Cool, we need to get her armor off,” The Steve said. The two carefully removed her armor. The Steve did a quick examination. Jess gasped as a sharp pain shot up from her leg. “Relax for a second. The happy juice will hit in a sec.” Almost as soon as the words were out of The Steve’s mouth, Jess’s haze vanished and everything came into sharp focus.

“Drop him there boss,” The Steve said. Jess turned her head to see her foster father carrying the limp form of Billy in a fireman’s carry. Gently, Mateo laid down Billy.

“Jess?” Mateo asked curtly.

“Would be better if we could evac her, but I can get her going,” The Steve said. He almost sounded happy about the prospect of doing a quick patch job. The medic snaked over to Billy and checked his PDA. “This one will be fine once we reset his armor. It locked up when he hit that wall. He’s already coming around.”

“Get them both prepped for evac,” Mateo said, “She’s already been through hell. He’ll be worthless if he’s worrying about her. I’m going to help Collin try and bring down Giant.” The Steve gave Mateo a thumbs-up. Mateo gave Jess one last sad look before sprinting back towards the sounds of the battle.

“Well, it looks like you and your new boyfriend are going to get to sit the rest of this one out,” The Steve said without a hint of sarcasm. “About time too, we were getting sick of you two dancing around.” Jess felt her cheeks heat. Did everyone know about her feelings for Billy before this mission?

“Give it a rest Steve,” Quentin said.

“+The* Steve dude,” The Steve reminded Quentin, “And you owe me twenty bucks. I knew this would get sorted out before the end of summer.” Jess closed her eyes in complete embarrassment. They were taking bets on her love life? Why couldn’t she just be unconscious like Billy?

“Whatever,” Quentin said, “You’ll have to wait—“ Quentin’s words stopped. There were two loud thwacks. Jess opened her eyes to see Quentin and The Steve slumped over. Large darts that kind of looked like syringes protruded from each man. Out of the darkness stepped four minions. Two carried F2000’s. The other two carried what looked like air rifles. Unlike the minions Jess fought before, these four moved with practiced efficiency. They reminded Jess of watching Collin and The Steve slink through the jungle on Skull Island.

“Get these two secured to the stretchers,” growled one, pointing to Jess and Billy. He acted as if he was in charge of the quartet. “Make sure to put them under, but don’t kill them.” One of the minions with an air rifle opened a pouch at his waist and produced two syringes and a bottle of clear liquid. The lead one crouched over Jess.

“I don’t know why you’re so important, but be glad,” the man said in a Midwest American accent, “Mikhail said to be especially careful.” Jess was still trying to figure out who was Mikhail when she felt the jab of the needle. In a few seconds, everything went black.

[Zombie Strike Part 5 Chapter 41]

Monday Fiction – Zombie Strike – Part 5 – Chapter 39

Mexico City, 28 June 2010, 0010 Hours Local: Countdown: 1 Year, 5 months, 2 days

Jessica Montgomery’s world was finally falling into place. As she kissed Billy Shakespear, she knew in her heart that she had found her one. The one person she was going to spend the rest of her life with. She didn’t care what Mateo said or what anyone else. This finally felt right, and she wasn’t going to let anyone stop her. Unfortunately, that wasn’t quite true.

Jessica was jerked up into the air by the drag handle on the back of her armor. Incensed, Jessica was ready to let her foster father have it. He had kept Billy away far too long. Her tirade died as she looked into the dark eyes of Quentin McLintock. The former linebacker held Jessica up to his eyes. They sparkled with amusement and warmth. Jessica felt her face go crimson with embarrassment. How would this look to Billy? And all of the soldiers?

“Could you do us all a favor and finish this later?” Quentin asked in a calm and warm tone, “We’re in the middle of trying to stop the bad guys.” Jess didn’t know whether to be angry because he was treating her like a child – or even worse – because he was right. Jess hung her head and nodded in meek agreement. Quentin set her down gently. Jess turned back to say something to Billy, but he wasn’t there. Jess searched frantically, and quickly found Billy talking to The Steve. Billy had an embarrassed look on his face, but the two were too far away for Jess to hear their conversation. She followed Quentin to where Collin was talking to the minion.

The minion’s ninja costume was cut away to reveal a very beautiful woman in her early twenties. Jess squelched a tinge of jealously as she looked at the woman’s stylishly cut blonde hair and exquisitely formed pale face. The minion was lying on a stretcher with an IV in her arm. Her left leg was stripped of the tight black cloth. Blood soaked bandages were wrapped around the knee. The minion moaned in pain. Jess felt a pang of sympathy and guilt. This woman nearly killed her, and had killed others. Still, Jess was the one who pumped three rounds into the woman’s knee. It was hard watching someone in excruciating pain that you caused.

“Giant might be powerful, but he knows nothing about how to properly conduct an operation,” Collin DuBois said as he joined Quentin and Jess. The tall former SAS commando matched Quentin’s dark skin, but where Quentin was a gentle giant, Collin was a wiry and cold professional. Collin sounded as if he was insulted.

“Don’t we want him to be sloppy?” Jess asked.

“To a point,” Collin answered, almost reluctantly, “On the good side, he has not a lick of operational security amongst his team. On the bad side, he keeps lashing out at us with small forces when we annoy him. At least if he was acting like a proper professional, we would have an idea of what to expect.”

“Quit whining about it and tell us what she knows,” Mateo commanded as he stepped into the group. Mateo spared Jess a quick glance. The warm look threw her for a loop. She nearly missed Collin’s answer.

“Some of what we already knew,” Collin answered, “The cabal was responsible for all of this destruction.” He motioned to the ruins of Mexico City. “Our enemies are called the Champions of the Truth. A bunch of babble about bringing back Xipe Totec. They’re following the same bloody prophecy Quentin and Jess were nice enough to translate for us. Giant’s heading for a temple near the center of the city. According to the prisoner, an artifact called the key is there. She even had a nice little map in one of her pockets.” Collin unfolded a printout with the directions.

“Any chance this is just a fake to throw us off from what’s really happening?” Mateo asked.

“Possible Mattie,” Collin answered, “I rather doubt it. Morphine isn’t as good as sodium pentothal, but it makes do in a pinch.” Jess didn’t understand what Collin was saying, but the evil smile of his face frightened her a little. Mateo didn’t seem fazed.

“It does sound like what the Coyote told me,” Jess said. By this time, the entire Zombie Strike team had congregated around Collin. All of them were staring at Jess with incredulous looks. She quickly looked down and desperately wanted to shrink into her armor.

“Who told you what?” asked Billy stepping in front of her. His voice was urgent. As Jess looked up, she saw Billy was anxious.

“The giant coyotes that saved me,” Jess said, completely confused. Why was Billy acting this way? “One of them told me that minion would tell us where to go and that we had to stop Giant before daybreak.”

Coyote’s Pack?” Billy asked. Jessica could hear the capital letters in his voice.

“Yeah, I guess, why?” Jess asked. Billy didn’t answer her. He just reeled back and began muttering in a language she couldn’t understand.

“Would you mind explaining what’s going on to your team lead?” Mateo asked, his voice starting to get that tight control that signaled Mateo’s growing anger. “I thought you said that the dogs were nothing to worry about.”

“I thought they were Wolf’s Pack, not Coyote’s,” Billy answered. The team all looked at him in confusion.

“Start at the beginning Billy,” Mateo ordered. The short Native American nodded, but he still looked like he was in shock.

“Look, I’m sure some of you have heard some of the old Native American legends, and you know that some of the tribes worshipped totem animals,” Billy began, “Well, the totem animals are real. They’re a bit more than Earth spirits, but not quite gods. My family have been spirit warriors for the Wolf for a very long time. Wolf sometimes allows some of his pack to come into the real world to help his warriors in time of great need. That’s who I thought Jess was talking about earlier.”

“But it was Coyote, and not Wolf,” Quentin said, “Why is that so bad?”

“Where Wolf is the warrior, Coyote is the trickster,” Billy said, “The two are brothers, but where Wolf is noble, Coyote is disreputable.”

“Wait a second, I thought the crow was the trickster,” Quentin said.

“Crow is, but he’s the brother of Eagle,” Billy answered, “Look, it gets complicated to explain fully. The point is that if Coyote’s Pack is here, he’s playing his own game. His goal may or may not be the same as ours.”

“But they saved me twice,” Jess protested, “And they called me Little Sister. Why would they do that?”

“Um, probably because you’re Wolf clan,” Billy answered nervously. Jess felt her eyes go wide in astonishment. How was she Wolf clan? As far as she knew, there wasn’t a drop of Native American blood in her.

“So can we trust anything from Coyote?” Quentin asked.

“We can’t answer that,” Mateo snapped, “Slim, are you good to go?” Slim nodded with a fierce determination in his eyes. “Good, I want you and Sport to find which of those Humvees are in the best condition and get them ready to move. Quentin and Billy, help the soldiers finish securing the scene. Collin, The Steve, I want you two to squeeze out every drop of intel you can from that woman without killing her. I’m going to make a phone call, and when I get finished, we’re going after Giant.” Jess followed Mateo as the team broke up to their assigned duties.

“Mateo, I uh—“ Jess started, and then trailed off. How was she going to talk to her foster father? He turned to her and smoothed back her hair. Before Jess could react or say anything, Mateo kissed her on the top of her head.

“Jess, don’t worry. It’s going to be alright. Just do me a favor and concentrate on the mission,” Mateo said calmly and warmly.

“You’re not mad?” Jess asked.

“Oh, I’m furious, but I’m not sure if I should be angry with you, Billy, or myself,” Mateo answered, which just confused Jess even more. “We’ll work this out when we get home. Right now I have to make a phone call.”

“To who?”

“To Kenn,” Mateo answered, “We’ve been bouncing around to every other spirit’s tune, and I’m sick of it.” He reached under his armor and pulled out a small medallion. “I haven’t really talked to God since my divorce. I think it’s about time to ask Him for some guidance.” There was some deep emotion in Mateo’s voice that touched Jess.

“Do you want me to pray with you?” Jess asked.

“Yeah, I’d like that” Mateo answered, “Thanks.”

[Zombie Strike Part 5 Chapter 40]

Monday Fiction – Zombie Strike – Part 5 – Chapter 38

Mexico City, 27 June 2010, 2312 Hours Local: Countdown: 1 Year, 5 months, 3 days

Jessica Montgomery instinctively went limp as the Humvee was violently flipped. Her body slammed painfully against the restraints. After the first couple of seconds, the violent motions completely disoriented her. Jess couldn’t tell which was up, down, or even left or right. All she could do was feel the pain. She watched helplessly as the soldier sitting next to her bounced between the ceiling and the floor before being flung out the window.

Just as suddenly as it started, the Humvee came to rest. Her body hurt all over. It reminded Jess of the time Mateo let The Steve go all out during a hand to hand combat lesson. Jess managed to access her PDA and trigger the pain meds. Oh, how she wanted to just lie there and wait for the medicine to take effect. Mateo’s relentless instruction over the past several months kicked in. Gingerly, Jess found the releases and undid her restraints. More pain as she fell a short few feet. The truck was upside down. Thank God, she’d kept her helmet on. It could have been much worse.

She crawled to the door of the Humvee. It was partially open from the force of the blast. Jess peered through the shattered glass. In the odd green palate of nightvision, Jess saw the lower half of someone in a minion’s ninja suit. The minion’s casual stride was all female. Slightly behind the minion were half a dozen zombies standing like decaying statues. Jess felt a thump above her and heard the screeching howl of a gollum. This was worse than any of the tactical problems she’d faced in training. Only this time, if she was wrong, she wasn’t going to just get that annoying look from the adults. She would end up a zombie.

Jess slowly drew her pistol. There wasn’t time for an elaborate plan, or even a simple one. She aligned the three glowing dots at the minion’s legs. If Jess was going down, she would at least take that one with her. The pain medications finally kicked in, and she felt the edge of her hurt go numb. Jess felt a predatory smile spread across her face. This must be what Collin felt when he stalked someone. The anticipation of waiting to spring the trap. Jess forgot what she was planning next as the cab of the Humvee exploded with sound.

The soldier riding shotgun emptied his M4. The roar was deafening in the close confines of the vehicle cab. Jess’s head throbbed, and she nearly dropped her pistol. Her hearing protection must have been damaged at some point. Jess shook her head to clear the fuzziness. She needed to get into the fight. A brilliant green beam blew out her nightvision. In fact, it wrecked most of her electronics. Frustrated, she tore off her helmet. A sudden breeze alerted Jess that the front half of the Humvee had been sheared off and thrown at least twenty yards away.

Jess knew she should have been scared. Hell, she should be paralyzed with terror. Instead, a cold rage surged through Jess. Her eyes hadn’t adjusted to the darkness, but the minion’s casual walk and darker clothing drew Jess’s eye. Jess brought the pistol up again. Her finger brushed the trigger in a gentle squeeze. Jess heard the muted scream of pain and surprise. The minion dropped to the ground, writhing in agony. Instantly, the zombies with the minion staggered towards the wreckage of the Humvee. Each let out the unmistakable sound of a hunting moan. Jess had to work quickly. Every zombie within earshot of those moans would now be homing in like a missile.

Jess half crawled, half rolled over the sharp edges of torn metal. The scrapes and cuts burned as sand and dust rubbed into them. Jess did her best to ignore the pain as she came up into a kneeling stance. No longer needing the element of surprise, Jess flicked on the flashlight mounted on her Kimber. She had a good ten yards. Jess took a deep breath, sighted on the closest zombie, and squeezed. The bullet lanced cleanly through the bridge of the zombie’s nose before shredding the brain. The zombie collapsed like a marionette as its strings were cut. Jess was already transitioning to the next zombie. This one went down with a shot straight through an empty eye socket. The third received an unintentional double-tap. Numbers four and five went down with single shots each. Jess laid her sights on the last zombie.

She barely caught the glint out of her eye. Instinctively, Jess ducked and brought up her arm. The obsidian hatchet splintered Jess’s bracer. The force of the blow drove her to the ground. Her pistol skittered across the asphalt. Jess turned to see the gollum above her, holding its axe above its head. The blade came down unbelievably fast. Oh God, this was how Jack Winchester died. Jess closed her eyes. She heard the axe coming down and then stop. There was no pain, not even the dull thud sensation she feared. After a few seconds, Jess opened her eyes. The obsidian axe was hovering six inches above her head. The gollum was frozen like a statue. Its eyes were fixed on something behind Jess.

“We meet again Little Sister,” a deep voice said in her mind. The voice felt warm and safe. The gollum scampered back as the giant dog stepped protectively over Jess’s prone form. The gollum hissed and waved its axe as if to threaten the animal. The dog barked once. The gollum scrambled back. It turned to run, but barely got a few yards before two more giant dogs pounced on it. It was fascinating and horrifying to watch the two dogs savagely dismember the gollum. As each part of the gollum was ripped free, it withered to dust in seconds.

“You have to be more careful, Little Sister,” the voice said again as the dog sat down next to Jess. “You are needed in the future.” The giant animal panted patiently as Jess’s mind processed all that had just transpired. She watched transfixed as four more of the giant dogs emerged from the darkness. Their matty brown coats were strangely easy to see in the darkness. It was almost as if they glowed. Two of the animals hunched over the wounded minion and snarled menacingly. The other two gently pulled Slim from the wreckage of the Humvee and gently laid him on the ground.

“Who are you?” Jess finally managed to say as she turned back to the dog that saved her.

“We are Coyote’s pack. Or at least part of it,” the voice answered. “Listen very closely Little Sister. That one knows where the Foul are going.” The dog nodded towards the moaning and sobbing minion. “You must find the Key, Little Sister. You must have it in your hands before dawn breaks. If you don’t, then there will be much more death before this journey ends.”

“What is the Key?” Jessica demanded, “Why do you have to be so cryptic?” The dog looked sadly down at her.

“We wish we could tell you,” the voice answered, “Coyote only tells us these few things, so that we can tell you. Your pack comes. Don’t forget.” The giant dog bent down and licked Jess across the face. Jess recoiled at the warm slickness. Then, the animals were gone, as if they vanished into thin air. Jess stood up at the sound of roaring engines and screeching tires. She froze in mid-step. She was moving. Her pain wasn’t gone, but it wasn’t any worse than after a hard sparring match. Her hand reached up and touched where the giant dog licked her. What had he done to her?

The area went bright as daylight as several Humvees surrounded the battle scene. Jess blinked at the sudden light. Strong arms enveloped her and lifted her off the ground. She recognized the ferocious hug as Quentin. As he set her down, Mateo greedily snatched her into another hug.

“I thought we lost you there,” Mateo whispered into her ear. She could feel his tears on her cheek. Jess knew she should be mad at her foster father for scaring off the one guy she had fallen in love with. At that moment, she let go of her anger and just reveled in the warm hug. When Mateo let go of her, Jess saw that the Army and Zombie Strike had quickly secured the area. The Steve and an Army medic were tending to Slim. Collin and Sport were holding their weapons on the minion who was having her leg tended by another Army medic. Apparently, everyone had figured out who the bad guy was.

“After your Humvee was hit, zombies just came out of the woodwork,” Mateo said as Jess watched all of the activity. “We tried to get back to you as fast as we could.” Jess’s eyes locked on to Billy. His armor was dented and smeared with fluids that Jess didn’t even want to think about. Mateo was talking about the battle, but Jess didn’t hear him. She had nearly been killed more times than she could count in the space of a little over an hour. Giant dogs saved her twice and then talked to her. She had no idea how or if she was going to survive tonight, but she knew what she needed to do. She stormed away from Mateo. She loved her foster father, but this was it. Soldiers and teammates got out of her way as she crossed the battlefield. Billy turned just as she approached. He started to reach out to her, but stopped as his eyes met Mateo’s. Jess grabbed Billy’s head and forced him to meet her eyes.

“Billy, do you love me?” Jess asked, quietly, but forcefully.

“Yes,” he answered, like he was relieved to finally acknowledge what he felt, “But Jess, we can’t—“ Jess cut off his protest as she yanked down his head and kissed him.

[Zombie Strike Part 5 Chapter 39]

Monday Fiction – Zombie Strike – Part 5 – Chapter 37

Mexico City, 27 June 2010, 2200 Hours Local: Countdown: 1 Year, 5 months, 3 days

Jessica Montgomery’s eyes snapped open at the sound of the animal snarl. Her assailant froze in horror, his wide eyes focused on something behind her. Jess rolled onto her belly and came face to face with the largest dog she’d ever seen. It kind of looked like a German Shepard, but tan and light brown. Oh yeah, and it was the size of a pony. It stared at Jess’s assailant with teeth bared and muscles rippling. The animal should have terrified her, but she just felt very safe.

The gunshot startled her. Jess felt the bullet pass over her. A splotch of red blossomed on the animal’s shoulder. The creature didn’t even shudder from the impact. It almost seemed to smile just before leaping over Jess. The man let out a terrified scream. Jess heard bones crunching and the scream stopped instantly. Jess twisted around. The animal was gone. The man was still on the ground.

“Sweet Savior, what was that monstrosity?” Slim asked as he slumped down next to Jess. She stared at the tall Brit for a moment. She had been so transfixed by the creature, Jess had completely forgotten about her Zombie Strike teammate.

“Are you okay?” Jess asked.

“I’ll survive, but I’m bloody getting tired of being banged about every time we sortie out,” Slim answered. The two helped each other up and found their rifles. Jess would have time to figure out the giant dog later. Zombie Strike should have started their attack on the zombies brought by the recent firefight. Jess and Slim found a small building that looked relatively unscathed. The two scaled up onto the roof. The battle was evidently underway.

“Lead, Rifle is back up,” Slim reported as Jess set up her weapon.

“Thank God,” Mateo breathed over the radio. His command voice returned with the next sentence, “We’ve linked up with the Army. How much more are we facing?” Slim scanned through his scope. Jess took a brief second to make sure Billy was with the rest of the team. There he was, fighting six zombies with a baton in one hand and a Glock in the other. She smiled as she watched him casually destroy the half dozen zombies. He was just so graceful.

“Lead, I’m estimating a couple hundred walkers,” Slim said, “They’re too thick for me to get a good estimate on crawlers.”

“That’s what I thought,” Mateo said, “You’re on over-watch.” Zombie Strike and the soldiers formed a loose half-circle. Billy, as one of the team’s close-quarters specialist anchored one end. Quentin, who could have been mistaken for a human wall, anchored the other. The soldiers made up the center. They were pouring a lot of fire downrange. The Zombie Strike team were methodically whittling at the front edge of the zombie horde. Small piles of re-killed zombies grew as the team went about its work.

“Target 0-3-0,” Slim said in a low voice. Jess brought her rifle to bear on a zombie that slipped between the Army’s and Collin’s field of fire. She brought it down and cycled the bolt. Slim was giving her new coordinates as she felt the next round chamber. A zombie got too close to Sport. Jess vaporized its head. The fight raged as the humans fought off ten times their number in zombies. She concentrated on taking down the ones that managed to get just a bit too close to the line. The team’s fire shrank the horde until it was just a few pockets of stragglers. Those were quickly finished off. Jess and Slim rejoined their team after picking their way through the ruins to avoid crawlers and possibly buried zombies. Mateo and Collin were talking to one of the soldiers. The Steve was busy tending to the soldiers injured in the firefight against the drug gang earlier. Quentin was opening a crate.

Billy stepped in front of her. The world seemed to stop for a moment as she looked into his dark eyes. Eyes that silently asked if she was okay. Jess answered with a smile. Relief washed over Billy’s face. She felt him take her hand. Even in the middle of a destroyed city, it all felt magical. She heard footsteps behind her. Billy looked up and suddenly went cold. He yanked his hand away. Jess could only stand there stunned as Billy turned and walked off. Anger seethed through her as she put the pieces together. Jess whirled around to face her foster father. Mateo was still glaring at Billy’s back.

“Matt, why did you do that?” Jess asked keeping her arms tucked across her chest to keep from punching Mateo. He looked down on her, and suddenly it all made sense.

“You told him to stay away from me,” Jess said in her coldest voice.

“He’s five years older than you,” Mateo shot back. He silenced her next volley with a hand gesture. “He’s an adult and you are not. This is not the time or place to discuss this. We will have this talk after we’re through here.” His tone made it clear he was speaking as her team leader, not her foster father. Jess seethed, but it wouldn’t do any good to scream at Mateo. It would have been a lot easier if they all weren’t in the middle of trying to stop their shadowy nemesis from fulfilling an ancient prophecy of doom.

“The Army says they’ve seen Giant,” Mateo announced as the team gathered around. Jess opened her forearm armor bracer to access the PDA underneath. “Some of the Colonel’s men spotted something matching Giant’s description heading towards this area.” A box appeared on the map as Mateo highlighted the area.

“Just Giant?” asked Quentin.

“No, he’s brought some friends along,” Mateo answered. The map flipped to an image captured by a nightvision camera. Giant was easily recognized. Four others were dressed in similar costumes. That made them minions. Another six were only wearing loin cloths. The painted runes showed clearly in the image. Gollums. Jess swallowed as she remembered the last time she encountered the nearly indestructible creatures. Ironically enough, it was here in Mexico City during the fight at the museum.

“Bloody hell, six gollums,” Collin said, echoing the team’s thoughts, “Well this certainly got more interesting. In the Chinese sense of the word.” Jess suddenly understood why the Chinese saying of May you live in interesting times was a curse instead of a blessing.

“What about giant dogs?” Slim asked. The team turned to him. Slim quickly explained to the group. As he finished, Billy barked out a laugh.

“Don’t worry about them,” Billy said, “There isn’t time to go into it now, but trust me. We don’t have anything to fear from them.”

“Okay, if you say so,” Mateo said, “The plan is to find Giant, find out what he’s after, and grab it before he does. If we have to fight, best bet will be divide and conquer.” There were no questions. The Army was kind enough to give the team a lift to the target area. It was clear that Col. Allen, the commander of the Army’s anti-zombie force didn’t want his troops going up against Giant and his group. Jess couldn’t blame him. Jess and Slim were loaded into the back of a Humvee. As the convoy sped along the devastation, Jess began thinking about Billy. More to the point, how she was going to convince Mateo to stop interfering. She knew her foster father was trying to protect her. To his credit, her last boyfriend had been killed fighting zombies, and she’d taken it hard. Why couldn’t Mateo see she was stronger now?

Jess was ripped from her thoughts as the Humvee rocked violently and then rolled over.

[Zombie Strike Part 5 Chapter 38]

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