Category: Zombie Strike

Monday Fiction – Zombie Strike Part 10 Chapter 106

Jerusalem, Israel; 6 October 2011, 1600 hours local; Countdown: 2 months, 25 days

Quentin McLintock hated gollums. He learned a great deal about them over the past two years. The five-and-a-half-foot tall creatures’ flat black skin was decorated with blue painted runes. The runes marked the creatures as the reanimated warriors of Xipe Totec and bound their muscle and sinew to their ancient muscles. Unlike the zombies, gollums would never decompose away. They would fight until they were destroyed. Major Rabin snapped up his Tavor assault rifle and fired a quick burst at the oncoming gollums. The bullets struck their target, but the gollum didn’t even slow down its sprinting run. The minion laughed at Rabin’s shocked expression. Mateo pulled the Israeli soldier back to the rest of the group.

“Don’t waste ammo on them,” Mateo instructed Rabin, “Gollums are indestructible until you can break their medallion. Sport, slow them down a bit. Quentin, Jim-“ Mateo froze as he called their dead teammate’s name. The team had been pushing so hard, they had barely a few minutes before Jim’s body was boxed up and taken away. Mateo shook himself. “Quentin, Chief, get ready to get up close and personal. The rest of us will try and keep them under control.”

“Oh this is going to be fun to watch,” the minion taunted, hovering back up on top of a building. The team ignored him. Sport unslung his XM-25 grenade launcher. At least M&W brought their normal gear when the firm’s representatives met back up with them. Quentin fell into stance with his warhammer gripped tightly. He hated fighting these things. They were like rabid monkeys that never tired and were always trying to bury their obsidian axes into their opponents. Chief Stahl stood next to Quentin holding an entrenching tool in his hands. The rest of the team was behind and to their sides. Quentin turned back and nodded to Sport. The Brit unleashed a pair of grenades. The nice thing about the XM-25’s grenades was the operator could tell them when to detonate. Sport didn’t bother wasting fragmentation grenades on gollums. The things would just shrug off the shower of metal. Best thing for gollums were simple high explosive. The two grenades exploded about fifteen feet in front of the gollums and about ten feet in the air. The eight in the center were knocked off their feet by the concussion. The remaining four bounced off of buildings and bored down on Zombie Strike.

Gunfire erupted from the line. The team concentrated on just two of the gollums. They weren’t trying to stop them. They were just slowing them down so Quentin and the chief could take on the gollums two at a time. One gollum leapt at Quentin bringing its axe over its head. As it came down, Quentin blocked the gollum’s axe with his warhammer. The volcanic glass blade rang the metal head of the warhammer. Quentin snatched the gollum’s arm and slammed it into the ground. It tried to use the hard pavement as a springboard, but Quentin pinned it with a heavy boot. He blocked several frantic axe strikes as he grabbed hold of the gollum’s stone medallion. The half-dollar sized disc was etched with the mystical hieroglyphs and gave the gollum its invulnerability. As Quentin pulled the medallion’s leather cord tight, the gollum dropped its axe and fought frantically to keep its protective artifact. Strong as gollums were, Quentin was much stronger. The worn leather snapped. The gollum let out an unearthly howl. Quentin didn’t waste time and kicked the creature back out into the street. Robbed of its mystical protection, the Zombie Strike gunners quickly tore it apart with bursts of fire.

The chief was already working on his second gollum. The first lay decapitated next to him withering away to bones in minutes. Quentin smiled and focused on the creature snarling and charging at him. Gollums terrified Quentin the first few times his team battled them. They seemed like unstoppable killing buzz saws. They were still dangerous. Seraph found that fact out when one pounced on her back in Odessa. Against a properly armed and prepared team, the gollums didn’t stand a chance. Quentin fell into his role. He waited as the team let a gollum close, and then as soon as he’d removed the gollums’ medallions, the shooters took them out. It was hard, nasty, and Quentin had to focus on his job. The chief grunted as a gollum managed to sneak a blow past. The axe bit deep into Stahl’s side. Quentin punched the gollum in front of him and whipped his hammer out. Stahl’s gollum collapsed as the hammer drove down on its collarbone. Stahl nodded thanks and the thrust out with his tool. The sharpened blade easily cut through the leather strap holding the gollum’s medallion in place. Almost before the gollum could wail in anguish, a burst of fire broke its head open. Quentin didn’t see the body fall. His own gollum tried to rake his face with bony fingers. Quentin grabbed the creature and shoved it to the pavement. Holding its wrists in one meaty hand, Quentin pounded the gollum’s medallion with his hammer. He’d nearly driven it through the gollum’s torso before the stone shattered. A single hammer blow to the gollum’s head ended it. There was the eerie post-battle silence as Quentin stood up from the withering corpse. He was breathing hard as he looked up at the minion. The Truth cultist cocked his head to the side, almost as if surprised by the outcome. Mateo replaced the magazine in his carbine before looking back up to the minion.

“Where’s Jocasta?” Mateo asked, his tone somewhere between bored and annoyed.

“You think I’m going to tell you?” the minion shot back, “You may have destroyed my warriors, but you won’t be able to escape this outbreak alive.”

“Listen, I really don’t have the time to deal with your stupidity. I’ll make this simple. Either tell me where Jocasta is or I’ll kill you and find her on my own,” Mateo said.

“You’re insane. You can’t kill me!” the minion replied.

“Jess, take the shot,” Mateo said quietly into the radio. The minion realized a half-second too late that the team sniper snuck off during the battle. He never felt the 7.62mm round as it hit perfectly at the base of the skull. Mateo turned back to the team, not even deigning to watch the body fall.

“Major, tell your people to expect a decapitation strike. It will probably be with gollums or whatever other creatures the Truth decides to use. It may be led by Jocasta,” Mateo said. As Rabin walked off to call his leadership, Mateo turned to Chief Stahl and The Steve. The team medic had the former soldier’s armor off and was inspecting Stahl’s wounds. “Is he good to fight?”

“The bad news is that he’s got some cracked ribs,” The Steve said, wrapping the chief’s mid-section with tape, “The good news is he’s only got cracked ribs. A little happy juice and he’ll be good.” The Steve gave his trademark thumbs-up and returned to wrapping up the chief. Rabin stormed back to the group.

“The prime minister is dead,” the Israeli reported, his face ashen, “They’re sending a helicopter for us.”

“What’s going on?” Mateo asked.

“I’m not sure,” Rabin said, “Some of the IDF is fending off the attackers. They said they were fighting nightmares.”

“Looks like they had another nursery,” Chief Stahl gritted out. Mateo looked grim.

“Major, as soon as that helicopter gets here, we’re going to try and rescue your people. Jocasta’s probably among them,” Mateo said, “You’d better tell your people to prepare a back-up plan if we fail. Those creatures will be much worse than those gollums we just fought.”

“What would you suggest?” Major Rabin asked.

“You still got nukes, right?” The Steve asked.

[Zombie Strike Part 10 Chapter 107]

Monday Fiction – Zombie Strike Part 10 Chapter 105

Jerusalem, Israel; 6 October 2011, 1515 hours local; Countdown: 2 months, 25 days

Quentin McLintock pushed the woman to the street and brought the warhammer down. The zombie’s skull split open, spilling rotten brains on the street. Its companions let out their hunting moans as they turned to their new prey. Quentin heard echoing moans from dozens of throats. Maybe thirty or so zombies were now bearing down on him. Well, no one said the hero business would be safe or easy.

“Run,” Quentin told the frightened woman. She looked up at him in shock. Quentin pointed emphatically back down the street and barked, “Run, now!” The woman scrambled along the pavement for a few yards, found her feet, and sprinted back to relative safety. Quentin turned back to deal with the three zombies in front of him. He cursed to himself as he slammed the warhammer into the first zombie. This was not what the team expected when they landed in Jerusalem earlier in the day. Quentin spun and batted away the second zombie’s groping hands with the haft of his hammer. He swept his artificial leg out and knocked the third zombie off of its feet. As it struggled to get up, Quentin slid back out of the reach of the second zombie. He waited for it to take a couple of steps towards him before thrusting. The blow tipped the zombie backwards. As it fell, Quentin smacked its head like a baseball. The zombie stopped moving before it hit the ground. Casually, Quentin walked over to the last zombie still struggling to get up and dispatched it with a single hammer blow. Picking up a discarded newspaper, Quentin wiped the gore off of his hammer.

“Well that was nicely done mate,” Sport said jogging up the street. The diminutive Brit had his XM-25 slung across his back and was cradling a pump shotgun. “The woman’s fine, by the way.”

“One good thing, I guess,” Quentin said, looking at the four corpses on the street. Hunting moans echoed in the streets as more zombies started their slow shamble to the noise. “Have they located Jocasta?”

“Nope,” Sport answered, “Somewhere in this neighborhood. Let me tell you, the Israeli’s are a bit put out by that woman.”

“Not every day that their cultural minister turns out to be working for the Truth and unleashes a zombie outbreak in their sacred city,” Quentin said. “We’ve got to find her before the IDF or Mossad does.”

“Yeah, yeah, I know,” Sport said, clearly not wanting to go over the day’s events. Quentin couldn’t blame him. It had been bad enough the first time. Sport motioned down a side street. “The boss wants us to meet up a few blocks over.” Quentin consulted the map on his PDA.

“Okay, follow me,” Quentin said. Sport grunted as Quentin started running.

“Not bloody natural for someone your size to run like a footballer,” Sport grumbled.

“I played football in college,” Quentin shot back.

“Real football, not that corruption of rugby you Yanks play,” Sport retorted. Quentin decided to let the little man have the last word. He was going to have a hard enough time keeping up with Quentin’s pace. In a few minutes, the two met up with the rest of Zombie Strike outside an abandoned professional office. Quentin grimaced at the sight of the tight-faced uniformed man standing next to his team leader. So, Mateo hadn’t been able to shake him yet. As soon as he saw Quentin and Sport, Mateo strode over to them.

“Any luck?” Mateo asked in a low voice.

“No, just a few zombies,” Quentin answered in the same hushed tones. “Our friend is coming over.” The uniformed man stormed over.

“Mr. McLintock, my government is being very lenient in letting a team of armed foreigners run around the infected zone. I would appreciate you not abuse our trust in you by harrying off on your own,” Major David Rabin stated in slightly accented English.

“If he didn’t mate, that lady would now be prowling about looking to eat you,” Sport said, trying to catch his breath.

“While I appreciate your protection of an Israeli, please don’t expect me to believe that was the reason you two split off,” Rabin said, clearly not amused.

“Prove it otherwise,” Sport challenged.

“Enough,” Mateo said before Rabin could respond. “We still need to find the sorcerer.” Rabin shot Mateo a sidelong glance, but didn’t say anything. The career military intelligence officer still didn’t believe Zombie Strike about the true nature of Jocasta Cheveny. He was having a difficult enough time dealing with the idea that she raised the zombie horde. The idea she was a mystic in the service of a powerful, but secret cult in the service of an Aztec god was a bit too much for Rabin at the moment. The four men rejoined the rest of Zombie Strike.

“So where do we go now?” Chief Stahl asked.

“After the zombies,” Mateo answered, “She’s got to be there somewhere to control this many of them.”

“Matt, what if she’s not there?” Jess asked. Mateo gave his foster daughter a quizzical look and motioned for her to continue. “The question I keep asking is why. Jocasta already destroyed the Levant Scroll. Why didn’t she just leave through one of their portals? Why raise the zombies? What else could she be after?”

“Just for the record, you’re getting too smart,” Chief Stahl told Jess. The former soldier looked at his team leader. “She’s right. We’re looking at this wrong. The horde may just be a distraction to keep the Israeli authorities – and us – busy.”

“Hundreds of zombies as a distraction?” Rabin asked incredulously.

“Wouldn’t be the first time,” Mateo said, mulling over Jess’s comments. “Okay, Jocasta destroys the Levant Scroll in a big, flashy news conference because she claims it’s a blasphemous document to all of the Abrahamic religions. Does so and orders the dead to rise causing a zombie outbreak. Do you think she knew we were in country?”

“She may know now, but doubtful when all of this happened,” Rabin answered, “My people were barely warned before that odd helicopter of yours landed.”

“Could she be after another artifact?” Mateo asked Quentin.

“I don’t know. I don’t think so,” Quentin said, searching his mind. “The Levant Scroll was the only item in Israel that was outside their possession. Nothing in the stuff we grabbed from them mentioned anything else.”

“How about regime change?” Chief Stahl suggested, “Israel’s one of the few countries that hasn’t been subverted by the Truth. What if they have their people ready to take during the fun and games?”

“How very perceptive,” a new voice said from above. The team all brought their weapons up. On top of a five-story building across the street from them, a minion stood. This one was male, dressed in the tight ninja suit that was the minion’s uniform. In his outstretched hands was a golden pyramid. Quentin figured the minion had a shield up. The Truth’s minions learned the hard way what happened when you confronted Zombie Strike without defenses. The minion stepped off the roof and levitated down to the street.

“Well, I can certainly see why my fellow Champions are worried about you,” the minion said, almost as if praising the team. “None of us expected anyone to figure out what was actually happening.”

“Dear God, what they said was true?” Rabin said. The minion looked at the major and laughed. The major flushed in shame and anger. He unslung the Tavor assault rifle and aimed it at the minion.

“Wait,” Mateo said, grabbing Rabin’s shoulder.

“Why?” Rabin demanded. Mateo wordlessly pointed down the street. The rifle nearly slipped out of Rabin’s hands as he saw the sprinting forms of a dozen gollums.

[Zombie Strike Part 10 Chapter 106]

Monday Fiction – Zombie Strike Part 10 Chapter 104

Odessa, Ukraine; 4 October 2011, 1425 hours local; Countdown: 2 months, 27 days

Quentin McLintock charged the sorcerer as the man began uttering words to a spell. Like most folks, the sorcerer didn’t realize exactly how fast someone Quentin’s size could move. One moment, the Truth sorcerer was waving his hands and chanting, the next Quentin was slamming the four-foot iron rebar into the man’s midsection. Quentin felt the ribcage give way as the iron bar folded the man in half. The sorcerer grunted and fell to the ground. He didn’t get back up. Quentin whirled on the next sorcerer to take down. The shock wave picked him up and threw him into a wall of the courtyard. As Quentin looked up, he saw what caused the blast. Alan stood in the middle of the courtyard, his scarred face scowling as blood poured from his now-broken nose. Jim must have gotten in his first lick. The cowboy picked himself up off the cobblestone ground and dusted himself off. Jim gave Alan a satisfied grin.

“Not expecting that?” Jim asked.

“I’ll admit that you caught me off-guard,” Alan said, wiping the blood with hand, “So, you’ve hurt me. You got your lick in. Now, do me a favor and go away before I have to kill you.”

“You’re still not getting it Alan. I’m not letting you leave this courtyard alive. You’ve caused enough damage,” Jim said. Before Alan could respond, Jim charged the Truth’s lead sorcerer. Alan threw his hand up to cast a shield. Jim bounced off the sudden energy barrier, but he didn’t fall back. Instead, Jim angled the bounce to hit a wall to Alan’s right, and launched off from the wall to attack the sorcerer from a new direction. It was like human billiards. Alan tried to swing his shield around, but Jim’s fist connected with the sorcerer’s body first. Alan grunted and slid back a few feet.

“Nice trick Jim,” Alan grunted, holding his injured side, “Looks like I’m going to have to actually take you seriously.”

“About time,” Jim answered, wrapping his scraped and bleeding fists with a couple of handkerchiefs.

“Just to make it clear, I don’t want to kill you. I’ll stop the moment you relent,” Alan said, trying to plead with the cowboy.

“Don’t you worry about that. I’ll relent when you’re dead,” Jim said. The courtyard grew silent. Everyone’s attention was riveted on the two combatants. Jim and Alan were still as statues as they stared at each other. Tense moments passed.

“DIE!” Alan yelled, releasing a bolt of black-purple energy. Jim slid under the bolt like a baseball player sliding into home plate. Alan stepped back as Jim leapt up with a punch. Jim pressed forward with a fast series of jabs. Quentin recognized the movements from Chief Stahl’s training sessions, but these were faster and more fluid. Alan blocked the strikes, but just barely. He was clearly surprised by Jim’s sudden speed. Alan snap kicked the cowboy, but Jim slid to the side to avoid the blow. It was a trap Jim saw just before Alan thrust a glowing hand into the cowboy’s chest. Jim screamed in pain as the blow drove him to the ground. Jim could barely breathe as he tried to stand. Alan strode over to stand over Jim.

“Why? Why did you try this?” the sorcerer demanded, “I gave you chance after chance to avoid this fate. Now you’re going to die in some far-off land. What made you think you could kill me?” Jim reached to the small of his back and pulled something out. With impossible speed, Jim leapt up and grabbed the Truth sorcerer. Before Alan could react, Jim drove the small knife into his chest. Thunder rocked the courtyard. Alan staggered back, looking at the crude knife in disbelief.

“Made a deal with the spirits of Raven and Coyote. Seems they were a might bit put out when you defiled their holy ground back in Wyoming. I kill you, and they’ll see about getting your curse off my daughter. Seemed a fair trade,” Jim said, still holding the burn from Alan’s chest strike.

“Spirit knife?” Alan asked. Blood came out of his mouth as he spoke. Jim just nodded. Alan looked around. “I should have believed the Levant scroll.” His eyes focused on Jess. A look of sudden realization came across his face.

“Why didn’t I see it before?” Alan asked, staring at Jess. The girl brought up her rifle as the sorcerer took a step before. “Of course, you’re the —-“ Before he could finish the sentence, Alan crumpled to the ground. Sudden memories flooded Quentin’s mind. He jumped up and sprinted across the courtyard. He quickly grabbed his two friends and fled down the nearest alley. He’d barely made twenty feet before the courtyard erupted in a mystical explosion. The next thing Quentin knew, he was on the ground. The three zombie hunters shakily stood up. Billy jumped down from a nearby roof. Jess let out a happy squeal as the spirit wolf snuggled up next to her.

“Jim, are you good to go?” Quentin asked, looking at the cowboy. Jim gave a pained smile.

“Good enough,” Jim wheezed. Quentin gave him a skeptical look. Jim’s chest still looked like he’d run into a hot iron, and it sounded like he’d broken some ribs. Jim waved off Quentin’s concern. “I’m hurt, but we need to get to that truck. The team needs us if we’re going to survive to find the city of the dead.” Jess walked over and examined the wounds.

“Jim, we need to get you back to The Steve,” Jess said.

“Fastest way to do that is to get the truck,” the cowboy insisted.

“I don’t like it, but he’s right,” Quentin said. “Jess, take the point with Billy. Jim, you stay close and be careful.” Jess gave Quentin a cold stare, but didn’t say anything. She stormed up the alley with Billy in tow. The pup’s tail swished nervously. Quentin helped Jim out of the alley, each man holding a pistol. The quartet picked their way through the streets. Something about the magic explosion from Alan’s death pushed the zombie hordes away from this part of the city. They could hear the echoing moans, but they didn’t come across a single undead. Quentin smiled bitterly as they reached the truck. He carefully lifted Jim into the driver’s seat. The cowboy was weak, but he dismissed all of Quentin’s attempts to have him lie down. Jim was the best driver Zombie Strike had, especially for large vehicles. Jim waited as Jess and Billy climbed up on the roof. He gave Quentin a confident smile and put the truck in gear. Even hurting and weak, Jim easily navigated the large SUV through the streets of Odessa. Jess’s rifle cracked as zombies tried to stop them. Jim rolled over a few more. In a few minutes, they were behind the rest of the team.

“Let’s go,” Mateo said as the truck pulled up. Zombie Strike loaded the wounded Seraph into the truck before piling in. As soon as the Chief closed the rear door, Jim spun the truck back to the docks. He didn’t even give Jess the chance to kill zombies. He simply sped past the few hordes that tried to get in their way. In less than ten minutes, Jim was crashing through the marina’s gate and sliding the truck next to the docks. At Mateo’s command, Zombie Strike leapt out of the truck and stormed onto the yacht. As expected, there was no one aboard. Chief Stahl and Sport sprinted to the ship’s control deck as Quentin started cutting the ropes. He’d cut three before he realized Jim wasn’t on the boat.

“Matt, where’s Jim?” Quentin yelled. The team leader looked back at him in surprise.

“What he’s not with you?” Mateo asked back. The two immediately sprinted back to the truck. They found their friend behind the wheel looking all the world as if he was asleep. Except he wasn’t breathing. Quentin gingerly lifted Jim’s lifeless body out of the truck’s cab. He fought back tears. Quentin knew Jim had been hurt worse than he’d let on. Why didn’t he force Jim to go back to The Steve? Mateo gripped Quentin’s shoulder and gave him a knowing look. Wordlessly, the two zombie hunters walked back to the ship. There would be time to talk after they’d made their escape. As they laid Jim’s body down on the deck, the Guardians appeared. Quentin gave the two stone-faced Aztecs a murderous look. If they noticed it, they ignored it.

“So where are we supposed to go now?” Quentin demanded.

“The sorcerer told you,” the Guardians answered. Quentin stared at them as his mind replayed the battle in the courtyard. What had Alan said that told him where to go? His mind came to Alan’s dying words. He should have paid attention to the… Quentin dashed up to where Chief Stahl and Sport were easing the ship out of port.

“We need to get to Jerusalem as fast as possible. The last clue is about to be destroyed.”

[Zombie Strike Part 10 Chapter 105]

Monday Fiction – Zombie Strike Part 10 Chapter 103

Odessa, Ukraine; 4 October 2011, 1300 hours local; Countdown: 2 months, 27 days

Quentin McLintock dropped the empty magazine out of his pistol and quickly slammed another home. He hit the slide release and brought the pistol back up. Two rounds of 10mm brought the zombie down. It was just a bit too close. Seraph groaned in pain behind him. If Quentin didn’t link back up with the rest of the team, she was going to bleed out. Assuming he could survive the next few minutes.

“Matt, where are you guys?” Quentin asked over the radio. The Truth was obviously very annoyed with Zombie Strike for going after its close-held secrets. They pretty much cleared out Odessa’s downtown and brought in hordes of zombies with minion controllers. Just to add fun, they also brought gollums and a group of sorcerers. It was a gollum’s axe responsible for the nasty gash in Seraph’s midsection. Maybe if that vision hadn’t sucked all of Zombie Strike in, they would have been prepared for the ambush. As it was, Quentin, Seraph, Sport, and Seraph’s French agent, Marc had been split off from the rest of the team.

“I have no clue,” Mateo answered, “Everything’s in Cyrillic. We could be a block from you, we could be a mile. I hate these old cities.” Quentin looked around him. His little team found cover behind the wreckage of some construction equipment. The minion controlling the small horde in front of Quentin actually melted a bulldozer with a beam from his artifact. Unfortunately for the minion, he couldn’t generate a blast that powerful and keep up a shield. Sport’s slug nearly decapitated the minion.

“Seraph’s hurt bad,” Quentin reported. He looked around. “Matt, can you see that church spire about fifty feet up with the gilded cross?”

“Looks brand-new?” Matt asked, “Yeah, it’s to my ten o’clock, maybe a couple of hundred yards.” Quentin consulted the map on the PDA strapped to his forearm and did some quick calculations.

“I think we’re about six blocks west of you,” Quentin said, “Can you get to us? I don’t want to move Seraph if at possible.” There was a moment of tense silence.

“Yeah, the chief thinks so. Hole up and see if you can think up an extract,” Mateo answered. Quentin let out a breath he didn’t realize he was holding. He looked down at the beautiful woman. She looked so weak holding the blood soaked bandage to her side.

“Marc, you and Sport keep that horde off of us,” Quentin said. The Frenchman looked at Quentin with wide eyes.

“Are you mad?” Marc asked, “You want me to fight the undead with this?” He shook the Glock 17 Sport handed him earlier. Quentin grabbed the man by the front of his shirt and lifted him off the ground.

“Yes with that pistol, and when that runs out, either find another or pick up a stone to throw at them. You will fight them until you are dead or we’re extracted, do you understand me?” Marc paled as his eyes locked onto Quentin’s cold dark eyes. The French agent swallowed hard and wordlessly nodded. Quentin released him and bent down to Seraph.

“Hold on Seraph, help’s on the way,” Quentin said quietly, stroking the woman’s hair. She looked up and gave him a mirthless smile.

“You think even your pill pusher can fix this up?” she asked, every word wracking her form with pain.

“He’s dealt with worse,” Quentin said, trying to look confident. He looked down at his PDA. How were they supposed to get everyone out of this city? They’d driven into the city in Seraph’s huge, slightly armored SUV. From some pirated television signals, Quentin saw most of the downtown was flooded with groups of undead. They were trapped between the Black Sea and zombies. How were they going to get out? As he stared at the map, the solution smacked him in the face.

“Quentin, hold your fire,” Mateo said, startling the big man out of his thoughts, “We’re coming up your back.” Quentin looked up as Chief Stahl and The Steve trotted over from a building corner. Chief Stahl moved up to help Sport and Marc. The Steve hands were already yanking all sorts of medical gear as he kneeled down next to Seraph.

“Got this dude. Don’t worry. The Steve will fix up your lady friend good,” The Steve said, his trademark smile plastered on his face as inspected the wound. The Steve thumbed back to where the rest of the team was trotting up. “Dude, the boss is going to need you to figure out how we’re going to get out of here.” Quentin nodded, unhappy about leaving Seraph. It was his fault that she was hurt. If he’d been faster taking down that gollum, it would never have managed to get a piece of her. That didn’t mean The Steve was wrong. Quentin got up and walked over to Mateo.

“You come up with a solution?” Mateo asked, slinging his G36.

“Maybe,” Quentin said, holding up his PDA, “The truck is parked in this garage about eight blocks north of us. A small team could get up there and get it.”

“That’s a pretty infested area,” Mateo commented, “What good’s getting the truck going to do us? We’re not going to be able to drive out of the city.”

“No, but it will get us to the docks,” Quentin said, highlighting some streets. “Trying to go this way would be suicide on foot, but the truck with some shooters on the roof could make it. I checked the marina. A lot of boats left, but there are a couple of nice yachts and some speedboats. If we can get out into the Black Sea, we should be able to get some help from M&W.” Mateo thought about it for a moment.

“Okay. Take Jim, Jess, and Billy. Let Jim drive the truck and have Jess up top with her rifle,” Mateo said. “Get in, get the truck, and get back. Don’t waste time fighting unless you don’t have a choice.” Mateo motioned for the Jess and the cowboy to join them. The large spirit wolf trotted happily behind Jess. Mateo filled them in on the plan and sent the team off.

Jim took the lead. The cowboy was missing his normal rifle and revolvers, but he was handling the AK proficiently. Quentin came behind him with his Colt 10mm in one hand and a four foot length of rebar in the other. Quentin understood Jim missing his normal weapons. Quentin really wanted his normal warhammer. If they came across a hardware store, Quentin was going to get a sledge. Jess and Billy brought up the rear. Jess had her rifle slung and was holding her pistol in a low ready. The quartet slinked through the streets.

Mateo and the rest of the team was busy making as much noise as they could to draw as many of the undead to their position as possible. Even two blocks over, Quentin could hear the gunfire and explosions. Quentin didn’t know how Mateo’s group was blowing stuff up and he wasn’t sure he wanted to. It was doing the trick. The small alleys were deserted as they made their way north to the truck. They’d gone about halfway to the garage when the alley they were using suddenly opened into a small courtyard that had been converted to a parking lot. In the center of the courtyard were four Truth sorcerers chanting around what looked like a small version of the stone table the Truth used back in Wyoming a year or so ago. Billy growled as he stepped into view.

“Well, as I live and breathe, how did you manage to find me Nate?” asked one of the sorcerers. The sorcerer turned around and pulled off his elaborate gold and feather Aztec headdress. Quentin stared into the scarred visage of Alan, the Truth’s lead sorcerer.

“Just lucky I guess,” Jim answered congenially. The tall cowboy slung his assault rifle and cracked his knuckles. “There’s a couple things you need to know though Alan.”

“Oh, what?” asked the sorcerer, clearly intrigued. The other three sorcerers were taking up positions behind their leader.

“First, I just go by Jim these days. I put Nate behind me,” Jim said.

“Sad, but understandable. I take it things didn’t work out with her,” Alan asked, looking sincerely compassionate to his one-time friend and now enemy. “What’s the second thing, Jim?”

“I aim to end you here and now.” The courtyard crackled with electricity as the battle began.

[Zombie Strike Part 10 Chapter 104]

Monday Fiction – Zombie Strike Part 10 Chapter 102

Odessa, Ukraine; 4 October 2011, 0900 hours local; Countdown: 2 months, 27 days

Quentin McLintock waited patiently in the viewing room. The room was a cold, gray utilitarian thing. It was much like the rest of the museum, a left-over from the dark days of Soviet architecture, where the only positive trait was durability. Maybe not, Quentin thought, as the harsh fluorescent light flickered above.

“Mr. McLintock,” one of the assistant curators said walking into the room. The man was meticulously dressed in an expensive Italian suit. “I’m sure that I don’t have to explain the proper procedures for handling such a rare artifact.” The man’s perfect Oxford English held the perfect note of condescension.

“No, you don’t,” Quentin answered flatly. He didn’t quite loom over the much smaller Ukrainian man, but Quentin made his displeasure felt. The assistant curator gave a weak smile as he backed away. Quentin let the silence linger on a moment past uncomfortable.

“Where is the tablet?” Quentin asked. As if in answer, two guards stepped into the room holding a heavy steel box between them. Grunting, the guards placed the box on the metal table with an audible clank. Quentin donned an apron, mask, and surgical gloves as the assistant curator unlocked the steel box.

“You can leave now,” Quentin said pointedly.

“I’m not comfortable with leaving such a rarity without proper supervision,” the assistant curator said.

“That’s not the deal my employers made with your board,” Quentin said, “The endowment was made on the contingent that I was given full and unimpeded access to anything I wanted.” The assistant curator waved the two guards outside. As soon as the door shut, the small man spun and leveled a small pistol at Quentin.

“I don’t know why Zombie Strike wants the tablet, but you won’t succeed,” the man snarled. Quentin kept his eyes locked with the other man. He needed the man to focus on him.

“You’re not a Champion,” Quentin commented. The man laughed. It sounded slightly hysterical. Not a good sign.

“No, I’m not one of those fools,” the assistant curator said, “I’m just one of Dr. de Castilla’s friends. Now are you going to surrender peacefully or am I going to have to kill you?”

“Neither,” Quentin answered and pointed behind the assistant curator. Sport emerged from the shadows cradling a shotgun.

“You mind not pointing that thing at my mate?” Sport asked, “Otherwise I might have to end you here.” The man was frozen with fear as he stared at the twelve-gauge’s gaping maw. Quentin snatched the pistol out of the man’s hand before slugging him across the face. Quentin could feel the shattering of the jaw as the man crumpled to the ground.

“That is why I don’t want to spar with you,” commented Sport as he slung the shotgun. Quentin placed the handgun on the table and turned back to the tablet. Sport would handle securing the prisoner. Quentin had work to do. The Chekotsy Tablet was maybe three feet long and two feet wide. The hieroglyphs that were etched into its stone surface were radically different than anything else from Mesoamerica. It was used as evidence by all manner of conspiracy theorists from UFO enthusiasts to people looking for Atlantis. Quentin pulled out the small gold medallion Chief Stahl recovered in Barcelona. The tablet and the medallion shared many of the same symbols.

“How did Castle know to come here?” Quentin asked himself, “Why did he need to come here?” Quentin grunted with exertion as he lifted the tablet out of the steel box. It must have weighed a good hundred pounds. What kind of stone was this made out of?

“You have found the next part of the path,” the Guardians chorused, floating through the walls and hovering in the viewing room. The viewing room fell away. As reality came back into focus, Quentin was standing in a hospital room. It reminded Quentin of the museum. Dirty linoleum and neutral walls were lit by sterile white lights. The younger Castle was standing next to one of the six hospital beds in the room. The occupant was covered in bandages from head to foot, almost like a modern-day mummy. Castle looked down at the man with a sorrowful expression.

“Why did you have to try and kill me Michael?” Castle asked quietly.

“You’re going to destroy everything,” the wounded man said in a painful whisper.

“No, I’m going to save this world from destruction,” Castle said, “There’s just some distasteful things that need to be done before that can happen.”

“The firm will stop you,” the wounded man replied. Castle laughed. A cold, sorrowful laugh that seemed to come almost against his will.

“Why not threaten me with the Knights of Malta?” Castle asked, “They have as much a chance to stop me as your precious MacKenzie and Winston.” Quentin’s eyes widened in shock. How long had M&W been involved in fighting the Truth?

“Michael, we’ve been friends for years. I hate seeing you like this. Let me help you,” Castle said, pleadingly, “You don’t want to spend your remaining time in this place, do you?” There was a long silence. It was finally broken by Michael’s quiet sobs.

“No,” Michael whispered. “Dear Lord, Miguel, don’t let me die in this hellhole.” Castle gripped his friend’s bandaged hand.

“Michael Winston, do you willingly accept service in the Truth and accept Xipe Totec as your god?”

“Yes,” came the soft reply.

“Do you accept the path that is set before you? Will you walk it until the moment of Truth?”

“Yes.” With that word, Castle pulled out the gold medallion he’d retrieved in Barcelona. Reverently, Castle placed the metal disk on his friend’s chest as he mouthed a silent prayer. The medallion glowed, softly at first but grew in intensity until Quentin couldn’t look at it. As soon as Quentin could see, Michael was hovering over the bed. The other patients in the room were screaming in terror.

Quentin watched transfixed as the bandages dissolved. Michael’s body was a mess of burns and deep gashes. The glow from the medallion surrounded the destroyed body and pulsed. Michael’s skin sealed the wounds. The burns melted away to reveal healthy skin. In a few seconds, all of the grievous injuries were completely gone. The pulsing increased. Michael’s body stretched. New muscle expanded as Michael’s body grew and reformed. Quentin suddenly realized what he was seeing. The pulsing stopped suddenly. Michael landed onto the tile floor in a crouch. The gold medallion was imbedded in his chest. He slowly rose to his new seven foot height, marveling at his new body. Castle gave his friend a tired smile.

“You are now my Great Champion,” Castle said, “Welcome to the world Mikhail.”

[Zombie Strike Part 10 Chapter 103]

Monday Fiction – Zombie Strike Part 10 Chapter 101

Barcelona, Spain; 2 October 2011, 2345 hours local; Countdown: 2 months, 29 days

Quentin McLintock felt the world tilt and spin. It was almost as if he was being held still as the Earth continued its daily revolution. The world around him blurred. He looked around. The Guardians were standing some fifteen feet from him. They were unmoving as the world around them convulsed and shifted.

“What are you doing?” Quentin asked. He didn’t know how they were doing it, but he was sure this was the Guardians’ work. Reality pulsed painfully, reminding him that he was an observer. Again, Quentin didn’t know how that knowledge popped in his head, but he clearly remembered what that sensation meant.

The world slowed. Surroundings came into focus. It looked like he was on the same street where the church was on. The sky was light with gorgeous oranges and violets, but the streets were dark. That meant dusk or dawn. The streets were deserted. Quentin walked back to where the church should be. Off in the distance he could hear the sounds of some massive festival. As he walked closer, new sounds started getting stronger. Those he recognized immediately. The sounds of a battle were echoing in the street. Quentin cautiously jogged down the street toward the sounds. In front of the church, he found the source. In the center was a tall, thin man in a torn business suit. The man had to be over seven feet tall. His long brown hair swirled around his head as he snarled at his opponents. Quentin could feel the sickening evil power emanating from the man. Surrounding him were four men in older tactical gear and holding MP5’s. Six other men in similar clothing were scattered on the ground with horrific gashes. There was no way they would have survived those wounds. The four men were screaming at each other in Italian, but there was something odd about their accent and dialect. Quentin struggled to keep up with them.

“Use the holy rounds!” one of them yelled. He seemed to be leader. The others shouted back confirmations. The other three yelled back confirmations. If the tall man understood them, he didn’t show any sign. The street filled with the familiar buzzing of full-auto MP5’s as the four men attacked. The tall man seemed to blur and suddenly appeared in front of the leader of the tactical team. With a casual backhand, the tall man launched the team leader nearly twenty feet. The team leader crashed into a light pole and Quentin could hear the sickening crack of shattering bones.

“Jerusalem and the world,” the team leader yelled before curling into a ball. At least that’s what Quentin thought the man said. It was hard to decipher the Italian they were using. Then, Quentin saw him. A man crouched behind a newspaper box some thirty feet from the battle. He looked to be in his late twenties or early thirties, but Quentin recognized him. This was a younger version of Dr. de Castillia, the man known as Castle. The leader of the Truth. Quentin looked back at the tall man. Was that Giant? Was this the first battle between the Truth and MacKenzie and Winston?

As the tall man turned back to the remaining fighters, Castle dashed to the church. Quentin carefully followed. No one could see him, but Quentin wasn’t sure if he could affect things. He had a nasty suspicion that reality would punish him again if he did more than observe. Castle was reading from a worn, leather-bound notebook and looking around the old church. From the yellowing and wear on the pages, Quentin estimated the notebook was at least fifty years old. Castle stopped in front of the dais. Pulling out a long dagger, Castle pried up one of the floor tiles. He reached down and pulled something from the floor. Castle held it up to the light and Quentin recognized a gold medallion similar to the one Chief Stahl had pulled out of the altar. The Guardians were suddenly standing on either side of the altar. Castle knelt in front of the two ancient men.

“Are you the Guardians?” Castle asked, his Spanish words translating to English as they reached Quentin’s ears.

“We are the Guardians of the Truth. Who are you?” they both asked.

“I am Santos de Castillia, the descendant of the man who brought you to this land,” Castle said forcefully.

“We were not brought. We followed one of many paths. Why have you come here?” the Guardians asked.

“To stop the Great Death,” Castle answered. “I followed the Little Death from Britain. I knew what would have to be done. I knew I would need the power of this artifact to stop it and its horde.”

“The Knights outside this church could stop the Little Death. They and their god have stopped the Great Death before,” the Guardians intoned, “Why should you be this world’s protector? Why should the Flayed One give you the power?”

“My family has known what needed to be done. I have prepared for this my entire life. I will not falter from the path set before me,” Castle said. The conviction in the man’s voice bordered on fanaticism. It was kind of scary.

“Know this – you are on one of many paths that will lead to the moment of the Truth. You may live, you may die. You may see the coming of the Flayed One or you may prepare the way for the one who will usher the Flayed One’s return. Do you still wish to walk down the paths to the moment?”

“Yes,” Castle answered, reverently.

“Then, arise and know the Flayed One’s power is with you,” the Guardians said. Castle nodded solemnly. He strode out of the church. Quentin followed him. The tactical group was down to a single standing member. He was firing a Beretta at the tall man. The tall man shrugged the bullets off like they were BB’s. The tall man’s grabbed the last fighter by the neck. The attack was so fast, Quentin didn’t even see the tall man’s arm move.

“Knights of the Temple, it is time for you to fight again. Destroy the Little Death,” Castle said to himself as he gripped the gold medallion. Castle closed his eyes and started murmuring words under his breath. To Quentin, the man looked like he was praying. Castle’s eyes snapped open with a dangerous glint. The loud, familiar moans of the undead echoed through the street. The nine dead Knights staggered to their feet.

The tall man – vampire, Quentin belated realized – hissed as the zombies attacked. These zombies didn’t move like normal zombies. They ran like golems, but without the snarling ferocity. The vampire snapped the neck of the Knight in his hand and knocked two of the zombie Knights down with the corpse. Three more zombies leapt on the vampire and bit off long strips of flesh. It shrieked and tossed them off. Quentin saw the large gashes start to heal, but they stopped before they were completely healed. Black blood continued to pump out of the vampire. Others grappled with the vampire to bite off more flesh. The vampire punched one in the head hard enough to shatter its skull. The zombie Knight dropped to the ground in a jumbled heap. The vampire didn’t have time to celebrate its victory as the rest of the undead Knights continued to attack. As Quentin watched the fight, he watched the vampire start to weaken from the numerous half-healed bites. As it weakened, the zombies increased their mindless attacks. Finally, the vampire fell to the ground and was swarmed by the zombies. Its final scream melted into a gurgle as the vampire’s throat was savaged by one of the Knights.

“I release you Knights of the Temple,” Castle said. The zombies collapsed onto the vampire just before they all were consumed with a sudden intense flame. All that was left was some blackened scorches on the pavement.

“Now to the tablet,” Castle said as he dropped the gold medallion into a pocket and walked down the street as if nothing had happened.

Quentin felt the world spin and shift again. As reality resolved itself back, Quentin found himself back in the seat of Seraph’s truck. He looked over at his friends and teammates. They were all staring at each other in disbelief. All except for Mateo. The team leader wore the same neutral face that he’d taken to using for the past few weeks.

“I’m guessing we all saw the same thing?” Mateo asked. The others barely managed to nod. “So, now we know where Castle came from.”

“We also know why zombies are so dangerous to vampires,” Quentin said.

“They didn’t act like any zombies we’ve seen so far,” Jim said, “They acted more like gollums. Was it because they were created by that medallion?”

“I don’t know,” Chief Stahl said, holding his own medallion up, “So how does this little vision help us find the city of the dead?”

“Castle mentioned the tablet just before we were yanked back,” Quentin said. “I think he meant the Chekotsy Tablet. It was a tablet of some odd Aztec pictorals discovered in the 1950’s and taken back to Soviet Union. I’ll bet it was either an artifact or told where other artifacts were hidden.”

“Pretty good theory, but if it’s in Castle’s possession, how’s that supposed to help us?” Chief Stahl asked.

“Castle doesn’t have it. The tablet’s on display in Odessa,” Quentin answered.

“Texas or Florida?” Mateo asked.

“Ukraine.”

[Zombie Strike Part 10 Chapter 102]

Monday Fiction – Zombie Strike Part 10 Chapter 100

Barcelona, Spain; 2 October 2011, 2300 hours local; Countdown: 2 months, 29 days

Quentin McLintock shoved the antique door back into the door frame. The door was actually in good shape. The mountings, on the other hand, were rusted enough they cracked apart when Quentin knocked the door down. There wasn’t enough time to do repairs. As soon as the door was up, Jim and Chief Stahl shoved one of the pews against the doors to hold them up. It wasn’t much of a barricade, but it’d do the job.

“Sanctuary is secured,” Stahl reported over the team’s radio as he reached down and picked up one of the acolyte’s G36 assault rifles.

“Back door’s closed,” Sport answered, sounding out of breath.

“Roof’s set up,” Jess answered. Just before the team barricaded themselves in, Jess and Billy climbed up on to the small church’s roof. Out of reach of the oncoming zombie horde, Jess would be free to reign down fire as the team needed. Billy, of course, refused to leave her side. Quentin wasn’t sure how the large spirit wolf pup made it up the side of the brick wall, but he could clearly hear the soft thumps of him walking across the roof.

“Quentin, get back here. We’re about to clear out the rats,” Mateo said. Quentin trotted through one of the doors at the back of the sanctuary to the small church kitchen. He nearly gagged as he was hit with a thick black smoke.

“What is this?” Quentin asked.

“Something he cooked up,” Mateo answered, thumbing over at The Steve. The team medic, and sometimes mad scientist, just smiled broadly. In his hands was a small bottle. The thick smoke was pouring out of the bottle’s top. Mateo motioned for The Steve to move to the door that led down to the basement.

“Is that going to work?” Quentin asked.

“The Steve knows his kitchen sink chemistry,” The Steve answered confidently.

“One way to know for sure,” Mateo said. The Zombie Strike field leader opened the door a crack and shouted down at the acolytes in the basement. “Sofocar sus armas! Rendirse o quemar!Put down your weapons! Surrender or burn! Mateo waited for a brief second. Then, he nodded to The Steve, who opened the door and tossed the smoking bottle down into the basement. The basement erupted with the sounds of men screaming in terror. Footsteps pounded on the wooden steps. Quentin grabbed the first acolyte that appeared in the doorway. The startled man was yanked off his feet and slammed into a wall. He fell limply to the ground. Quentin drew his pistol and turned back to the others. Mateo and The Steve were ushering them to the ground with their own weapons. The four acolytes were quickly bound and relieved of their weapons. Amateurs they might be, but these guys had good equipment.

“What about the Guardians?” Quentin asked.

“I think they can take care of themselves,” Mateo answered, “We have a horde to deal with. Seraph, what’s the status on the zombies?”

“Maybe a hundred meters from the church,” Seraph answered, “The entire neighborhood’s fleeing in panic. Reports are the Catalan government is calling in the Army.” Mateo and Quentin traded looks. If the Spanish Army found the team, Zombie Strike could look to a long detention, if they weren’t turned over to the Truth outright.

“Matt, can I start shooting already?” Jess asked.

“Go to it,” Mateo answered. The deep throaty crack of Jess’s rifle was the only reply. Mateo turned to Chief Stahl. “We’ve got to finish this fast. Any suggestions?”

“See if Sport and Mountain can cook something up quick,” Stahl answered, “Explosives are the only way we’re going to end this quick. Otherwise, it’s a basic siege. We’ve got decent barricades, so crush is pretty far off. Anything those two can do?” Stahl pointed behind Mateo and Quentin. The two turned and saw the Guardians standing next to the overturned altar like living statues.

“We are the Guardians of the Truth, not of you,” the Guardians spoke, “Only one of you has been marked as being one of the five corners of the ritual. Some of you might or might not. If you perish here, then you are not.”

“Okay, then let’s get to surviving,” Mateo said. “Steve, go see what you and Sport can do.” Surprisingly, the medic didn’t correct Mateo about his name and instead trotted back to the church’s small kitchen. “Jim cover the back. Take an AK and one of the German guns.” As Jim left, Stahl, Mateo, and Quentin shattered the stain glass windows that looked towards the oncoming horde. As Mateo and the chief opened fire on the horde, Quentin started pushing pews over to the windows to act as barricades when the zombies closed. As Quentin heaved the last pew over, he looked back at the Guardians.

“What did you mean that only one of us was marked?” he asked of the stone-like ancient men.

“Five corners of the circle,” one said.

“Two have been marked,” the other continued.

“The other corners have yet to be completely revealed. Only in the city of the dead will all the corners be revealed,” the two Guardians said together.

“What if the marked one dies here?” Quentin asked.

“The mark will pass,” the Guardians answered, “Nothing is certain until the moment. Everything is paths of smoke until the moment. The moment will define the marked.” Quentin grimaced at their cryptic answers. The whole point of this mission was to get some clarity. He could have stayed back on Skull Island with the prophecies if the Guardians always talked like this.

“If you’re done with the Aztec fortune cookies, get on the horn with Seraph and find some way to get us out of here,” Chief Stahl shouted back between magazine changes. “We are not going to deal with this horde before the Mossos d’Esquadra show up, and I’d rather not spend time in a Spanish jail.”

“Seraph, have you managed to work any magic for us?” Quentin asked over the radio.

“Hold them for another ten minutes, love,” Seraph answered. “Be ready to exit out the front. Leave the bloody acolytes. Do you know how you are going to bring the Guardians?”

“I don’t think anyone brings them anywhere they don’t want to go,” Quentin said. As if they were hearing the conversation, the two Guardians nodded simultaneously. “We’ll be ready Seraph.” Quentin walked back to the Guardians.

“Are you going to come with us?” Quentin asked. The Guardians nodded again. “Why?”

“It is as foretold by the prophets of the Great Flayed One,” the Guardians answered.

“I don’t understand. You just said that nothing is certain until the moment. What can be foretold if nothing is certain?” Quentin demanded.

“Some paths are more likely than others. As we move to the moment, the false paths fall away. The path you are following is more likely to lead to the moment than others. You must be shown the past so you can see the future.” The chief was wrong. These two were more cryptic than the worse fortune cookie. Quentin walked back to the windows. Maybe taking down some zombies would clear the frustration. One of the acolytes had the common decency to have an MP5 submachine gun. Quentin preferred the 10mm version, but this one would do fine. The zombies were maybe a hundred meters from the church. A short burst from the submachine gun took down one in the front of the horde. Quentin lost himself in the battle. He wasn’t even aware of how long he’d been shooting at the zombies until Jess started hollering over the radio.

“What kind of SUV is that?” she said, “We’ve got some kind of huge truck coming up behind us. It looks like a luxury MRAP.” Quentin heard the giant motor rumbling as the vehicle neared.

“Time to go, chaps and lady,” Seraph said over the radio. “You might want to rush things a bit. Those zombies seem to be a bit attracted to my new toy.” As Quentin stepped out of the church, he paused at the sight of the vehicle. It did look like one of the luxury makers spruced up an MRAP, armor and all. Jess and Billy were on the roof of the vehicle. The girl was still taking shots at the horde. The rest of the team dashed out of the church, clutching all of their stolen gear. Quentin climbed in just after Jess and Billy swung down into the truck.

“Your new toy?” Quentin asked as he strapped into the seat behind Seraph. She gunned the engine and slammed the truck into gear. The huge vehicle leapt backwards with surprising speed.

“I’m sure my father’s going to have some questions about the expense, but really, how often do you get to play with something like this?” Seraph asked. Quentin didn’t have a good answer, so he just sat back and let the exotically beautiful woman navigate the leviathan of a truck through the narrow streets of Barcelona.

“It is time to show you more,” the Guardians’ voices echoed through his mind. Before Quentin could say anything, the world around him dropped away.

[Zombie Strike Part 10 Chapter 101]

Monday Fiction – Zombie Strike Part 10 Chapter 99

Barcelona, Spain; 2 October 2011, 2230 hours local; Countdown: 2 months, 29 days

Quentin McLintock kept his Colt Delta Elite 10-millimeter at a low ready. Next to him, Chief Stahl kept a beat-up AK-47 pointed at the old church. Marc, the last of their little group, stayed further back in the shadows with a disapproving look. The French investigator didn’t like how quickly the team broke out the firearms. He just sat back murmuring about American barbarians. Quentin and the chief ignored his disapproval. They kept a close eye on their teammates approaching the church.

Mateo led Jess, Jim, Sport, and the Steve down the boulevard with Billy trailing behind them a few yards. They looked to all the world like simple tourists who strayed just a bit too far off the beaten path. The two acolytes standing a sloppy guard at the front of the church looked over at the group and quickly dismissed them. Quentin tensed as Mateo’s team walked closer. He should have been with that group, not stuck in the shadows across the street. Chief Stahl put a calming hand on Quentin’s shoulder. Mateo had his reasons. It was over fast. Mateo took a step towards the near acolyte. The young man turned like he was going to say something. He never had the chance. Jim snaked past Mateo and hammered the acolyte with a precise fist. Jim easily had a hundred pounds on the skinny acolyte. The acolyte bounced off the stone wall and flopped to the ground. The Steve was tightening the zip-tie on the second acolyte before the first one hit the ground. Mateo signaled for Quentin and the chief to join up. Marc cursed as they jogged across the street as he tried to hold on to the oversized bag with the extra weapons.

“Well?” Mateo asked over the radio.

“You’re clear,” Seraph answered from her perch on a nearby roof. “The boys inside didn’t even hear you. Six of them are standing in the middle of the sanctuary. They look bored from their posture. I am unable to find the remaining four acolytes or the two minions.” There was a note of warning in Seraph’s voice. Mateo just looked at the feed from Seraph’s camera.

“Quentin kicks the door,” Mateo said, pointing at the big man, “We’ve got pairs of bad guys at twelve, two, and nine on the inside. Watch your zones.” The team stacked up as Marc dragged the two bound acolytes across the street. Quentin lined up against the heavy wood door. The anthropologist in him catalogued the intricate carvings. He really hoped they managed to take down these guys fast without too much damage to the church. The doors themselves had to be at least three hundred years old. Mateo gave the signal and all the extraneous thoughts running through Quentin’s mind stopped. It was just him, his team, and the door.

Quentin shouldered into the door like it was a tackling dummy. The heavy door hesitated for the briefest moment before giving way under Quentin’s charge. Quentin followed the door into the church and fell to the side as Chief Stahl came storming behind him. The distinctive chatter of the AK filled the church. One acolyte went down. The other acolytes were reacting, but they were too slow. Zombie Strike spread into their zones before the first acolyte thought to bring up his weapon. Jim took him down with the thunderous roar of his big Smith and Wesson. Sport killed another with a quick burst from his AK. The rest just dropped their weapons and screamed in Spanish. Mateo yelled back in the same language and motioned to the floor with his pistol. The three acolytes hit the floor so fast Quentin half-wondered if they fainted. The Steve and Sport secured each with heavy-duty zip ties.

“That was too easy,” Mateo said. He grabbed the closest acolyte and let out a rapid burst of Spanish. The acolyte shook his head. Mateo punctuated his demand by placing the muzzle of his pistol to the acolyte’s forehead. The acolyte’s dark eyes went wide and pleading. Mateo repeated his demand. The acolyte let out a squeaky string of Spanish.

“The rest of them are in the basement,” Mateo said, dropping the acolyte.

“That’s no good Matt,” Stahl said looking at his PDA, “From what I’m seeing we have one entrance in the back of the church. That’s it. Even amateurs like this could take advantage of that kind of fatal funnel.”

“That works for us just as much as it does for them,” Mateo answered. “Sport, Jim go make sure nothing comes up from the basement.” The two men nodded and rushed to the back of the church. Mateo turned back to Chief Stahl. “Do you know what you’re supposed to be looking for?”

“Not a clue,” the chief said. Then, the former soldier cocked his head as if he was listening to something the rest of them couldn’t hear. He walked over to the altar. Stahl looked it over, almost as if he was searching for something. The rest of Zombie Strike traded confused looks. Suddenly, Stahl tossed the altar onto its side with a deafening crash. Using his knife, Stahl pried open a concealed door on the underside of the altar and pulled out a small cloth bag.

“What in God’s name are you doing?” Mateo yelled. Stahl opened the bag and pulled out what looked like a gollum’s medallion, but this one was gold instead of stone. As soon as Quentin’s eyes locked on the medallion, everything fell away.

Quentin was standing on a tropical beach. Maybe a hundred yards inland was a thick tree line that led into what could only be called jungle. Quentin hated the jungle since the first time Zombie Strike went out two years ago. Out at sea, Quentin could see what looked like a Spanish galleon anchored. What was going on?

A cacophony of shrieks and indescribable noises erupted from the jungle. Out of the tree line emerged a ragged party of Spanish conquistadors dragging a line of bound people. From their dress, they looked like Aztec peasants. Quentin screamed at them to stop and pulled his pistol. Reality quivered angrily and Quentin fell silent. The warning was evident. He was only supposed to watch. There were six Aztecs, four men and two women. Some of the Spanish were firing their muskets back at the tree line. The party scrambled into a pair of long boats. As the Spanish rowed back to their ship, a creature emerged from the jungle. Quentin had seen one of those before. Back in Panama when the team fought the Little Death. It was a vampire before it adapted to the world.

The world shifted back to the church. Quentin blinked as he realized he was on the cold tile floor. He stood up groggily. He still felt as if his body was readjusting from the vision back to reality. Quentin looked over to where Chief Stahl had been standing. His eyes went wide as he saw two men in long brown leather cloaks standing over them. Their ancient faces were impassive like weathered granite.

“You should have dealt with the others before revealing the medallion,” the first one said. Well, sort of. It was like watching an old Godzilla movie. The man was clearly speaking in his own language, but Quentin was hearing English.

“Who are you?” Chief Stahl demanded, staggering to his feet. He had the medallion clenched in one hand and a pistol in the other. If the two men were threatened by the chief, they didn’t show it.

“We are the Guardians of the Truth,” the first one said, “You have seen how we came to this part of the world. This is the only the first step you must take if you are to fulfill your role in the coming of the Flayed One. Unfortunately, you have activated the defenses your opponents put around this building. We will talk again if you survive.” Before anyone could say anything, the two men faded like they were ghosts and sank into the floor.

“What the-“ Mateo started. Seraph interrupted the thought.

“Is anyone listening to me?” she practically screamed into the radio. “There are five hundred zombies coming down the street! They’re making a straight line for you.”

[Zombie Strike Part 10 Chapter 100]

Monday Fiction – Zombie Strike Part 10 Chapter 98

Barcelona, Spain; 2 October 2011, 1500 hours local; Countdown: 2 months, 29 days

Quentin McLintock stifled a yawn. After nearly two years of almost constantly traveling, he was slightly amazed he still felt jetlag. He sipped at the cup of coffee in front of him. The caffeine wasn’t as good as actual rest, but it would do in a pinch. The team lost a lot of time getting to this beautiful city. The Truth managed something rulers had been trying to accomplish for centuries – they’d forged a united Europe. Granted, it was under a group of dictators that answered to a supreme dictator. If Johann Spiegler wasn’t an acolyte of the Truth, he was certainly in their pay. Just to prove the point, one of the first things the new European Alliance did was to outlaw Zombie Strike.

“Catalans,” Mateo swore as he sat down next to Quentin. The team leader discretely passed a manila envelope to Chief Stahl. The chief cut it open and started passing out the contents. Mateo turned back to look out at the rest of the restaurant. The team wasn’t in the bad part of Barcelona, but they could see it from outside the door. Quentin looked at the photo in the fake passport. Not too bad. So, for this mission he was Quentin McCall, an American from Baltimore living in Italy.

“I’m sure they don’t understand you any better than you understand them,” Jess said, picking up her own passport. She blanched as she looked inside. “Why did they use that picture? I look hideous.”

“What’s the bloody problem?” Sport asked. He just glanced at his new ID before tucking it away. Jess looked over at Mateo. Her foster father just waved for her to answer. He was still too frustrated.

“You remember how hard it was to understand Americans when you first came over?” Jess asked. Sport nodded. He’d told that story plenty of times. “Well, the difference between the Spanish spoken here and the Spanish spoken in most of the Americas is more than just accent and a few different terms. Standard words are different. Needless to say, it can be a bit frustrating.”

“Must be. Boss dude looks like he’s about to punch someone,” The Steve said. “Should have sent Quentin. He’s the Zen dude.”

“I don’t know Spanish,” Quentin said. He turned back to Mateo. “Did we find out where we’re supposed to be going?”

“A church in the slums,” Mateo answered. “I texted all of you the coordinates. What about weapons?” Each of them was armed only with pistols and knives. Quentin also picked up a metal pipe at a hardware store. That was fine for fending off muggers and run of the mill criminals. Against what they were expecting to deal with, Quentin wanted a bit more.

“The good news is we got all of those Chechens’ weapons when Mountain, Sport, and I went back to get Billy,” Chief Stahl reported. Getting into Spain quickly and quietly forced the team to deal with less than nice people. They’d rode into Barcelona in a convoy of vans trucking in girls snatched from Eastern Europe and Southwest Asia to become prostitutes. Quentin wanted to smash the smarmy leader in the face the moment they met up in Sarajevo. The Steve calmed him down with promises the opportunity would come later. Apparently it had come when the smugglers had held onto Billy and demanded another 100,000 euros to release the pup.

“What’s the bad news?” Mateo asked.

“The commotion attracted the attention of those policemen in the funny hats,” Stahl answered. “I don’t think we left anything that could be traced back to us, but we were rushing a bit. We got some worn AKs, a couple of pump shotguns, and a good rifle for Jess. Plenty of ammo for them plus a bunch of nine millimeter. I put all of the toys in the hidey-hole.”

“Don’t worry, we covered your tracks,” said an achingly familiar female voice. Quentin turned to the speaker and saw an exotically beautiful Mediterranean woman slipping next to their table.

“Seraph?” Quentin asked, breathlessly. Memories flooded back from an archeological dig back in Mexico nearly two years ago. The battle Quentin first encountered minions. The night he’d heard the most beautiful voice in the world telling him help was coming and everything would be alright. She gave him a dazzling smile as she sat down next to Mateo.

“It does a lady good to know you didn’t forget about me,” Seraph answered coyly, her British accent giving the words an almost seductive lilt. Her face went into a professional mask as she turned to Mateo.

“My team covered yours after the incident with the smugglers,” Seraph said. “We have a good reputation with the locals. As far as the police are concerned, the Chechens ran into a rival gang of Romanians. What can you expect out of Gypsies?” Seraph shrugged dramatically.

“Your team?” Mateo asked, eyeing the woman suspiciously.

“Sorry, I’m Seraph MacKenzie. I’m your liaison with M&W for this mission. My team is myself and a couple of the firm’s best investigators in this hemisphere. I’ve been tasked by the firm to assist you as much as we can. I will caution you that with the current regimes across the continent, that support may be limited.”

“We noticed,” Stahl said flatly. As much as Quentin hated how the team snuck into Barcelona, the chief loathed their smugglers even more. There was some history there. Quentin was kind of glad the chief and the others had been forced to hurry up. He didn’t want to think what Chief Stahl would have done if he had plenty of uninterrupted time with the smugglers.

“Did you manage to get us anything besides running interference with the police?” Mateo asked.

“One of my team is currently keeping your church under surveillance. There are maybe a dozen acolytes guarding the place along with a pair of minions. We don’t have a method to gauge how powerful they may be,” Seraph said. “He’ll let us know if anything changes.”

“Good, we’ll hit the church tonight,” Mateo said. “In the meantime, everyone needs to get some rest. Sleep if you can. I want everyone back up by 2100 for brief and weapon load-out at the hotel. Ms. MacKenzie, I’d like you there as well. You know where we are?” Seraph nodded. “That’s it people. Follow your routes back to the hotel.” Quentin hung back as the rest of his team got up from the table. Seraph must have sensed he wanted to talk to her because she stayed seated as well.

“I tried to find you after that fight,” Quentin said, “No one would tell me where you were or how to get in contact with you.” Seraph gave him that mesmerizing smile again.

“I know Quentin. Quite flattering, actually,” she said, “If things were different, I might have been tempted.”

“If things were different how?” Quentin asked cautiously. It was bad enough having a crush on a voice. Finding out the woman behind the voice looked like she did brought all of those long suppressed fantasies back.

“You’re a dear,” Seraph said sweetly, patting Quentin on the arm, “I’m not married or involved if that’s what you were worried about. The problem is I’m a MacKenzie. As in MacKenzie and Winston. My family would have a fit if I dallied with someone so far below my station.” Quentin’s fear flamed into annoyance.

“I see,” Quentin said trying hard to keep his tone civil. With the exception of Sport, Quentin probably had the best grasp of the culture behind Seraph’s words. He’d spent years studying cultures were class distinctions were ironclad and unbreakable. It still hurt when it was pushed into his face.

“I’ll see you later,” Seraph said, getting up from the table. Quentin waved and turned to wash away the ashes of his dreams away.

[Zombie Strike Part 10 Chapter 99]

Monday Fiction – Zombie Strike Part 10 Chapter 97

Mumbai, India; 30 September 2011, 1500 hours local; Countdown: 3 months

Alan, the Truth’s strongest sorcerer, looked up as his leader walked into the apartment. Castle was still recovering from his injuries. It made the Truth’s leader a cranky man. Considering how many times Alan had been cut, shot, burned, and blown up in the service of the Truth, he wasn’t feeling all that sympathetic just because Castle got knocked out by the blast of one of Zombie Strike’s grenades. Alan rubbed the scar on his face and once again silently promised vengeance against that short Brit with the grenade launcher.

“Mikhail hasn’t returned?” Castle asked as he dropped into one of the over-stuffed chair’s in the apartment’s sitting room. An acolyte bustled over with Castle’s tea.

“No. Our operation in Belize ran into some opposition,” Alan said, joining Castle in the sitting room.

“Zombie Strike?” Castle asked, snarling as he spoke the name. Alan noticed the venom in his leader’s voice. For the past couple of years, Castle just considered Zombie Strike an annoyance. Mateo Cortez, Zombie Strike’s field leader, figured heavily in the prophecies guiding the Truth, but other than that, Castle always dismissed the team. Not anymore.

“Surprisingly, an armed response team from that insurance firm,” Alan answered. Castle grunted in response.

“Is there some reason we don’t have our people in the British government just close that firm down?” Alan asked.

“MacKenzie and Winston isn’t your normal insurance firm,” Castle answered, “They don’t sell car insurance or anything else so petty. They insure things like large corporations, NGOs, governments, and other insurance firms. According to our cat’s-paws in the British government, M&W threatened to destroy the international economy if we try to shutter them.”

“Worse than it is now?” Alan asked incredulously. Between the destruction of Earth’s satellite constellation and the instability caused from constant zombie outbreaks, the world economy was going through a depression at least as bad as the Great Depression.

“I believe them. The economy’s bad, but the foundations are there. M&W could tear things apart so bad we wouldn’t have anything to work with after the coming of the Flayed One.” Castle drained his glass and looked at Alan. “Speaking of the coming, have you had any success with the Key?”

“No. I have my people going back through the prophecies that deal with the Key to see if we missed something.” Castle frowned at Alan’s words, but he didn’t say anything. Alan felt the opening and took it. “I don’t think that artifact is the actual Key.”

“What do you mean?” Castle asked, sitting up in surprise.

“It’s got some power, but it’s not as strong as I would expect from something like the Key. Not nearly enough,” Alan said. “One of the things I’m doing is looking at what actually happened in Mexico when Mikhail retrieved it. Thank the Flayed One our soldiers were meticulous in their reports.”

“If that isn’t the Key, then where is it?” Castle asked.

Skull Island, 30 September 2011; 1300 hours local; Countdown: 3 months

Quentin McLintock stood in front of the team shuffling his notes. He looked up at the team. They were such a strange group of survivors. All of them were scarred physically or emotionally or both. Still, these were his friends. His family. He wished he could give them better news. Quentin straightened his shoulders and tried to keep his fear from showing.

“Jess and I have been examining all of the material surrounding the prophecies we’ve harvested from our raids on the Truth’s strongholds. They pretty much wrote down anything one of their prophets said. I’m pretty sure the Truth hasn’t figured out all of what’s actually prophecy and what are the nonsensical ramblings of a madman. They were nice enough to leave some passages highlighted for us.” There was a dark chuckle from the team.

“We found the date of Xipe Totec’s coming,” Quentin announced, “It’s going to be a busy New Year’s Eve.”

“How sure are you on this?” Chief Stahl asked.

“I’m very confidant. Several different prophets mention that the coming will happen on the turning before the Mayan calendar will reset. That happens December of next year. Two of the prophets mention that it will occur between the invaders’ years. I consulted with some experts and the consensus is that means the night of December 31st.”

“Have you figured out what I’m supposed to do with all of this?” Mateo asked. Quentin looked over at his friend and leader. Quentin didn’t know the details, but Mateo hadn’t been himself since Robyn suddenly packed up and left a while back. Since then, Mateo was emotionally distant from the team and focused on two things: stopping the Truth and killing Giant.

“There’s mention of a Chooser, an Undecided, a Champion, a Betrayer, and a Key,” Quentin said. “We know Chief Stahl is the Undecided. Giant told us that back in South Africa. I think the Key is what they were after Mexico City was destroyed, but the passages aren’t clear if the Key is an artifact or a person. I think the Champion is Giant, but I could be wrong.”

“I can’t believe Mateo would be a Betrayer,” Jess said, looking at her foster father. He didn’t say anything. Jess tried to comfort Mateo after Robyn left, but he was just as distant with her as with the rest of the team.

“Have you figured out where this coming is supposed to occur?” Stahl asked.

“Not really. There’s mention of a city of the dead or a city of death. It’s not exactly clear. The best I can tell you is that it’s on the North American continent.”

“Way to narrow the field mate,” Sport said sarcastically. Quentin frowned at the diminutive Brit. Of all of Zombie Strike, Sport was the one Quentin knew the least about and disliked the most. The man just ran too hot and cold. Sometimes he was the best team player, others it was like he hated everyone.

“Actually, there might be a way. Depending on how much you trust you put in these prophecies,” Quentin replied. Mateo motioned for him to continue. “One of the passages is a long speech by a former conquistador who the Aztecs turned into a prophet.”

“How’d they do that?” Jim asked.

“You don’t want to know,” Jess answered, visibly shaking, “That was one thing I wish I could unread and purge from my mind.”

“It’s pretty gruesome and only worked a couple of times,” Quentin continued, “This one though talked about how the Undecided would find the place of the coming. He would return to the beginning of the word.”

“Go back to the beginning of the word? What the hell does that mean?” asked Stahl.

“I was getting to that. From my studies of this sect of Xipe Totec worshippers, the words for word and truth are used interchangeably. To speak the word is to speak the truth sort of thing. We have to go back to the beginning of the Truth.”

“Dude, does The Steve and everyone have to go back to that island with the temple?” The Steve asked. Quentin shuddered as memories of Zombie Strike’s first battle with the forces of Xipe Totec.

“No,” answered Kenn Blanchard as he walked into the conference room. “It means we have to go back to where the Truth was formed. Where Castle discovered the first artifact and the prophecies that would guide him.”

“You know where this is?” Mateo asked.

“After Quentin told me what he’d found, I had a little chat with M&W. After some discussion, they released everything for distribution.” Mateo gave Kenn a hard stare.

“They’ve been holding information back from us?” Mateo asked, “Even now, they’ve been holding back information? You tell our superiors in M&W that if I find out something they held back got one of my people killed or injured, there will be a reckoning.” Mateo’s voice was cold as dry ice as he spoke. Kenn just nodded.

“So, where exactly are we jetting off to?” Jim asked, trying to diffuse the sudden tension in the room.

“At first, Barcelona.”

[Zombie Strike Part 10 Chapter 98]