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Good bye 2020

This year has been a roller-coaster for the Ward household. I won’t rehash the crazy politics or the plague. Everyone’s been dealing with that – and many people have had a much harder time than The Wife and I had. A lot of that was good planning, but there was also a lot of just luck.

For us, the roller coaster really started in March, but not for the reason that you might think. In March, we sold my Tampa house. The negotiations started back in December, but we finally closed at the beginning of March. Yay, we freed up a bunch of cash! Plus we got some cash influxes from the sale. Some of that was used to buy two new handguns (a Ruger SR1911 Commander and a Steyr L9A1). Some of that was used to buy The Wife a Cricut Maker. Some of that was used to pay down our debts. A good deal was needed when the world went insane with COVID. Both The Wife and I were thrown into full time telework. We used some of the funds to upgrade the home office, since we would both be using it. MArch was also the month we pulled the plug on our planned trip to go out west so that The Wife and I could meet each other’s family out that way.

April and May went by in the blink of an eye as The Wife and I adjusted to our new routines. My prepper instincts meant we were never in danger of being out of toilet paper or other essentials. In fact, we were able to spare some to one of our neighbors. That’s the nice thing about prepping. You can help those in need. Our Toastmasters club transitioned to Zoom.

Then came June. The Wife was talking with one of her friends, and it came up that the friend’s daughter was looking for a car. When the friend mentioned the daughter was looking for something like a Hyundai Elantra, The Wife joked that she could sell the daughter hers. Yeah, it turned out to be not so much a joke, and we ended up selling the car. There was some discussion if we could be a one-car family, but her job was talking about bringing people back in July. Which we could technically do, but there was the unknown as to what my job would do. So, we started looking for a new vehicle. Or more to the point, we started looking for a new-to-us vehicle. I convinced The Wife to forgo a brand-new vehicle and at least see what we could get in the used market. She converted when she realized that for the cost of a bare-bones new SUV, she could get a fully-loaded three-year-old SUV. She loves her “new” vehicle.

July was a month of cancellations as we were forced to cancel our birthday plans, and our anniversary plans. The Wife’s job pushed back her return to the office. There was also a shake-up at her job and at the vet office we used. In the writing world, we would say that July was a month of foreshadowing.

August started the roller coaster into a series of ups and downs in very rapid succession. It started on a high note with my brother-in-law getting married. Due to COVID, it was a small ceremony, and many of the attendants were there virtually. Also, The Wife got dragged in as the officiant because the initial officiant backed out citing plague concerns. Still, a very high note for what had already been a kind of fucked up year. Then the down. We finally got fed up with our vet practice and transferred care to a new place where one of our favorite vet techs started working. Over the next six weeks, the mother-in-law lost two cats and we lost our two oldest cats. Some of it was just that they were old cats, but there were some issues that our previous vet practice missed completely. There was a high point among all this loss. At the end of August, we welcomed my new niece (technically great niece) to the world.

Now we turn to September. The Wife and I bought a new house. Well, technically we bought a house that was being built. We’d been looking since before the Tampa house sold back in March. We found a house in Bradenton that we both liked, but we wouldn’t be able to move/purchase until spring of 2021. Plus, the house was over a hundred years old (built in 1911!), and we had some concerns. Then we went into one of the new developments springing up in our area. One of the models just spoke to us. We talked it over, and signed the contract for a new place that will complete in spring of 2021. The high point was when we maxed the options, looked at our budget, and realized we could afford it. Unfortunately, with the sudden need to stockpile cash, we made the hard decision to not renew our Toastmasters membership. That was a difficult decision.

October we finished the refi on our current place. The plan is to rent this place to the brother-in-law and his wife, so we wanted a lower payment and consolidate the first and second mortgages. This turned out to be of more import as the refi also smoothed over a hiccup with the approval process for the mortgage for the new house. Yeah, that was a fun phone call with us flipping through refinance mortgage documents to verify details. By the end of October, everything was seemingly smooth.

First week of November. Everyone was focused on the election. The Wife and I had something else to focus on. She was informed that her position was eliminated. The shakeup that began in July had claimed her position, and that of her entire section. No chance to go to another department in the company, just you are out on the street after twenty years of service. Make an appointment to come get your stuff from your desk. Yeah, and we had a call with the mortgage company for the new house a half-hour after that call. So, November was a month of sending out applications, resumes, going on interviews, and hoping that we wouldn’t have to walk away from the new house. The day before Thanksgiving, The Wife received an offer. It was a pay cut, but not as bad as we hoped. Plus there were some fringe benefits.

December had The Wife going back to the office. Except it was her new office. She has a commute about as long as I did before they sent us out on telework. After seven months of having her in the home office, it was odd to be the only one home all day. Plus, with her new commute, I’m having to do all the afternoon chores. All sorts of changes.

I won’t say that 2020 was the worst year for the Ward family. Too many good things happened. I will say that I’m hoping 2021 won’t be as full of changes. If the move is the only big change next year, I’ll take it.

Buying Your Speech for $2K

According to Reason, Senator Mitch McConnell is willing to go along with $2,000 checks for everyone – as long as he can backdoor changes to Section 230.

Section 230 has taken a lot of heat from both sides of the aisle. The left thinks it allows the amplification of hate speech, while the right asserts it allows “Big Tech” to silence them. They’re both wrong. Section 230 simply doesn’t hold websites liable for comments made on them by other parties. Removing the Section 230 protections will dampen free speech on the internet. It will silence radicals on both sides. I doubt even cat pictures will be safe.

Metal Tuesday – 2020 Top Albums

> I’ve asked The Brother to do another year in review.


Gonna be honest, this year there was a lot of good music, but nothing really caught me and kept me coming back to it over and over again. Still some excellent music, though.

Album of the Year

Ehrling cover

Ehrling – Tropical Confessions 5

My Album of the Year is an EP from an artist I discovered this year through a Minecraft YouTuber who uses it during building timelapses.

The Heavy Stuff

There was good music this year, despite nothing really hijacking my brain. Here is the heavier stuff I got my groove on to. These are listed in alphabetical order. I care not for ranking!

Dark Tranquillity cover Fires in the Distance cover Noumena cover Slow Fall cover Ulcerate cover

No Death

And in the more rocking, but slightly less aggressive cohort, we have the following.

10 Years cover Amaranthe cover Garmarna cover Andy James cover Katatonia cover

EPs

There were other excellent EPs besides my Album of the Year and I really recommend them. They are all pretty heavy.

Dawn of Dissolution cover Hinayana cover Soilwork cover

Monday Fiction – Zombie Strike – Part 6 – Chapter 51

Skull Island, South Pacific, 25 July 2010, 0700 Hours Local: Countdown: 1 Year, 3 months, 6 days

Slim Thomas felt his body shaking apart. Waves of thunder reverberated through him. He barely remembered to clamp his hands over his ears and open his mouth. The pulsing force continued to hammer his body for what seemed like an hour. Then, it stopped, and Slim felt hands grab him. Slim lashed out with kicks and punches as he searched frantically for his weapons. His eyes couldn’t focus on the dark blobs standing over him. Slim aimed a snap kick at one of the blobs and realized he was on the ground. When did that happen? Then he started hearing voices. Tinny, echoing voices. Human voices.

“Stop fighting,” said a voice Slim could finally make out. The voice sounded gruff, but compassionate. To be honest, Slim could have been imagining it. His hearing was coming back slowly. Hands helped him to his feet. His vision focused on the unmistakable sight of American troops surrounding him. Sudden panic hit Slim as he remembered the wall of armored zombies. Then he looked into the maze. Pieces of zombies were scattered around in a blanket of gray flesh and bone. Slim couldn’t even distinguish the zombies that had been wearing the bomb suits.

“Yeah, the captain says sorry about that,” said the soldier holding him up. “The Strykers cut it a bit close with the Bushmasters.” More soldiers were mopping up the few zombies that survived the onslaught of heavy chain gun fire. The high-pitched pop of an M4 signaled another crawler put down. Distant thunder rumbled across the horizon. It was only until the heavy chattering of an autocannon Slim realized the thunder was artillery.

Slim knew he was still out of sorts, but the minion was still out there. As much as he hated to depend on the drugs built into his med system, he knew he didn’t have much choice at this point. Slim opened his PDA and triggered a battle cocktail. Slim felt as the pain killers and stimulants hit his system. His hearing was still tinny, but the vertigo and weakness vanished. Slim gave the soldier a quick once over. Slim couldn’t decipher the chevrons, but from the number of them, Slim figured the soldier was probably a senior sergeant. The familiar horned skull patch of the US Army’s anti-zombie Task Force 11 seemed to grin at Slim. He looked past the sergeant to look at his two teammates. Sport was already strapped to a stretcher. Quentin had the same disoriented but ready to fight look Slim suspected was on his own face.

“Sergeant?” Slim ventured, guessing at the man’s rank.

“Daniels, sir,” the soldier supplied, nodding his head, “Alpha Company, Stryker battalion.”

“Okay,” Slim said, not sure what a Stryker battalion was, “Where is the minion? Do your men have him acquired yet?” Sergeant Daniel’s face went pale. That wasn’t a good sign.

“We were told that your team dealt with the minion in charge of this outbreak,” Daniels said, clearly terrified with the prospect of dealing with a minion. Slim couldn’t blame him. He didn’t want to go another round with that one either.

“We handled the junior one, but the senior minion was responsible for this ambush here,” Slim answered. Slim caught Quentin’s eye and motioned the other zombie hunter over. He needed the big man’s expertise.

“What’s up?” Quentin asked. He took one look at the soldier’s fearful expression and guessed. “Other minion’s still out there.”

“Too right,” Slim answered, “I don’t fancy leaving him about to wreak mischief.”

“You must be feeling better,” Quentin commented, “You’re talking Brit again.” Slim ignored the big man’s jibe.

“Sergeant Daniels, my compliments to your officers, but I will need you and your men to accompany us as we endeavor to ferret out the minion.” Daniels cocked his head, clearly not understanding the order. Bloody colonials.

“He means you need to call your boss and let him know that Slim and I are borrowing your people to hunt down the minion,” explained Quentin. Daniels nodded slowly with dawning understanding.

“Not necessary, Mr. McLintock,” said another voice. The three men turned to see another group of soldiers hop the entrance to the maze. The leader returned Daniel’s sudden salute. Must be an officer, but Slim couldn’t decipher the four squares on the rank insignia. He made a mental note to study American ranks. The leader continued to speak.

“Sergeant, continue mopping up here, and then report back to your company,” the man ordered. He turned to Quentin and Slim. “Gentlemen, I’m Chief Warrant Officer Stahl. You may call me Chief Stahl, or just Chief. My team and I have been assigned to help you.”

“Green Berets?” Quentin asked as he surveyed Stahl’s team. The eight soldiers just looked lethal. It wasn’t just their weapons or gear, which seemed much better than those carried by Sergeant Daniels and his soldiers. It was the way Stahl’s soldiers stood. Relaxed, yet ready to do immediate and brutal violence. They reminded Slim of The Steve during an operation, and of Collin. Slim buried the pang of betrayal. The Steve was right. Vengeance could wait until after they survived.

“We’re Lurps, not Special Forces,” Chief Stahl answered. “All of us have our Ranger tabs if that makes you feel any better. Well, everyone except for Smith. He’s only Force Recon.” From the grins on the men’s faces showed a strong camaraderie. It reminded the two zombie hunters of their own field team.

“Be nice, Chief Stahl,” Quentin warned, “The head zombie killer used to be a leatherneck,” Stahl didn’t rise to the bait. He just gave a knowing smile.

“Very good Chief,” Slim said. He didn’t know what a lurp was, but they had already wasted enough time. “The minion we’re hunting was last seen going deeper into the maze. He can raise a bullet-proof shield, so don’t waste your ammo.” The soldiers nodded at the comments.

“You sure he’s still in here?” one of the soldiers asked. As if on cue, a beam of brilliant purple energy lanced into the sky from deep within the maze. Slim’s eyes tracked the beam into the sky. A burning fireball plummeted to the ground.

“Dear God, I hope that was just one of the Predators,” murmured another of the soldiers.

“Chief, if you and yours want to wait here while Quentin and I settle things with the minion, I would understand,” Slim said quietly when he saw the look of shock on Stahl’s face.

“All of those things they said about the minions are true,” Stahl said. It wasn’t a question.

“Mostly,” Slim confirmed.

“Well, if I wanted safe, I’d have done as my mom wanted and became an accountant,” Stahl answered, “No sense in stopping now. Besides, the colonel would skin my hide if I let you take on that on your own.” Slim nodded. He braced his MP5/10 in a low ready and led the group into the maze. As his hearing returned, Slim could hear the minion’s smug laughter.

Washington DC, 26 July 2010, 2315 Hours Local: Countdown: 1 Year, 3 months, 5 days

Mateo Cortez looked at the screen. He was crouched in one of the FBI’s covert observation vans. In the odd green hues of nightvision, Mateo watched as the entrance team stacked up at the front of the house. Spotters confirmed Ted entered the house some twenty minutes earlier. Mateo felt the rage roar inside of him as one of the monitors watched the average looking man in slacks and a polo shirt walked into the house. One of the techs kept running the footage. Something about getting a clear ID. Mateo recognized the face, and that was enough for the agents. This man was responsible for the kidnapping of Mateo’s ex-wife, and assisting in the killing of Mateo’s friend Nigel Brown, and the near killings of Kenn Blanchard, Zombie Strike’s leader and Mercedes, Mateo’s five year old daughter.

“Team ready,” SWAT’s leader announced, “No movement in the house.” The special agent in charge of the operation looked at Special Agent Tredegar for any last minute information. Tredegar nodded. The SAIC didn’t even look at Mateo. He’d made his opinion on an armed amateur in his command post known quite explicitly. Mateo was surprised there hadn’t been a PowerPoint with all the buzzwords the SAIC threw around during his little speech. A chill ran down Mateo’s spine. Certain it was nerves, Mateo ignored it and focused on the monitor. His entire body was tensed as he waited to hear the command to enter. A stronger chill flashed through him. Not nerves. Something was wrong. He could feel it. Mateo turned to tell SWAT to abort. The explosion picked up the van and slammed it on its side some fifteen feet from where it had parked.

Mateo heard the moans of the injured techs. He ignored them as leapt out of the van. The front of the house was gone. It kind of reminded Mateo of the dollhouse he’d bought Mercedes for Christmas. Open it up and see all of the rooms. Debris and FBI agents littered the lawn and street. Mateo focused on the movement in the house. His weapon was up as his mind immediately recognized the familiar walk of zombies. The first two zombies were brought down by instinct. Mateo’s eyes scanned the house. Maybe twenty or so. Less now as he pivoted and took down two more.

Screams of panic filled the street as the wounded agents saw the first walking corpse emerge out of the shadows. Some of the wounded tried to crawl away from the house, while others could only lie and scream. The noise just drew the zombies in. Right into Mateo’s sights. Undead after undead fell as Mateo placed hammer pairs into their skulls. Mateo was swept up into the familiar, simple action. Spot zombie, shoot zombie, find next target. Reload. Continue process. Mateo’s mind registered the last zombie at the back of the house. Just as he had practiced many times, Mateo advanced into the house. Something trapped the zombie. From the shadows, it looked like the explosion overturned a table. The zombie was just stuck there, unable to pass the waist high barrier. Mateo flipped on his flashlight. He wanted to make sure he finished this one properly.

Mateo froze as the light hit the zombie. He couldn’t move. He could only stare at the snarling face of Maria. Maria the zombie. The weapon came down as Mateo stared at Maria. She uselessly lunged at him. Mateo tried to bring his carbine up. The weapon was almost excruciatingly heavy. How could he do this? Maria was the mother of his child. And, if he was being honest, the one true love of his life. Each time Mateo tried to bring the carbine up his mind was flooded with memories. Maria when he first saw her, on their wedding day, just after giving birth.

The two gunshots shook Mateo out of his reveille. He watched in horror and relief as the two red holes blossomed on Maria’s head. Mateo stood immobile as his wife’s corpse collapsed to the ground. As soon as Maria was on the floor, Mateo whirled and brought up his carbine. A sad-faced Collin stood maybe fifteen feet away with a smoking Glock in his hands.

“I’m so sorry Matty,” Collin said.

[Zombie Strike Part 6 Chapter 52]

Heavy Metal Christmas Lights

We are pre-empting the normal Friday Quote for these videos:

Christmas Truce

This has been a year the likes of which will go down in the history books as momentous. There will be historians publishing books on 2020 for decades. Particularly as the long term effects become apparent.

It is also a year where we have been at each others’ throats far too much. Sometimes over petty bullshit. Sometimes over significant disputes. Sometimes because of ginned up controversies so others could make a buck.

Yet, let us look back one hundred and six years ago. When men locked in a life and death struggle took the moment of a shared holiday to remind each other of their common humanity. Maybe we could take their example and just pause. Just try for a little while to not to kill each other.

It won’t last. The 1914 Christmas truce didn’t either. Yet, even a day or two of respite would be good for this country.

Star Wars TV!

I finished up Season 2 of The Mandalorian. Just as with the first season, the second season’s storylines were great. Plus, like any great sequel, the creators upped the ante and let us see real life characters only seen in the cartoons. The ending was just bleeding awesome. How do you do successful Star Wars. This Is The Way.

The movies have been up and down. The original trilogy is still classic. The prequel trilogy was an excellent concept executed poorly. The Disney trilogy started off okay, but lacked a consistent story arc and felt more like someone trying to recreate a great painting by doing a paint-by-numbers. Honestly, it was kind of the inverse of the prequels in that it was a bad concept executed beautifully. Rogue One and Solo are actually some of my favorite films in the universe. So it wasn’t just Disney that fucked up.

Yet, the recent Star Wars series on television has been just consistently damned good. Season 7 of Clone Wars and The Mandolorian have exceeded my expectations at nearly every turn. Then, Disney announced a slew of new stuff. I will admit, I am salivating.

Metal Tuesday- Metallica – For Whom The Bells Toll*

Well, sort of.

Monday Fiction – Zombie Strike – Part 6 – Chapter 50

Skull Island, South Pacific, 25 July 2010, 0620 Hours Local: Countdown: 1 Year, 3 months, 6 days

Slim Thomas looked at the oncoming zombies. He could hear the hunting moans behind his small team. Worse, the lightning bolt that knocked out Sport also burned off all of the team’s Nasty Stuff. They were surrounded by some five hundred zombies who were hunting for Quentin, Slim, and himself. Not good odds by anyone’s reckoning. Well, maybe if you were a Spartan. Slim doubted even Leonidas would have faced his three hundred against a zombie horde. The thoughts triggered memories and a quick plan. The reason three hundred Spartans could stand against somewhere between ten and fifty thousand Persians was because the Greeks forced the Persians into a bottleneck. Essentially, the Greeks avoided crush by forcing the Persians to send only a portion of their force at a time. Slim’s father called a defeat in detail.

“Quentin, hold onto Sport and follow me,” Slim said, “We’re heading to the maze.” Quentin gave Slim a questioning look, but he followed the lanky Brit as they ran through the forest. Slim didn’t care if the zombies heard every step. He wanted them to follow him. Slim didn’t have the Hot Gates, but he had something that would work in a pinch. The maze was at the edge of the forest. The Frenchies that owned Skull Island before Zombie Strike planted the maze while they were trying to build a resort. Zombie Strike had better things to do than trim up a hedge maze that was outside the compound’s perimeter. Still, they didn’t want the odd zombie wandering in and making the maze a death trap. So, concrete barriers were placed in front of the two entrances. No one went into the maze, except for one brilliant instance.

Jack Winchester had been a Zombie Strike team member killed on the team’s first mission. Before that, he’d been the sole survivor of a team competition when ZS was a reality show. Slim remembered watching Jack hop over the concrete barriers and hold off maybe twenty zombies with his trademark pair of silver Brownings. The hedges had grown so thick, the zombies couldn’t force their way through, and they couldn’t climb over the concrete barriers. Jack whittled down the horde and then escaped. Slim just needed to hold out long enough for The Steve to send out someone to get them.

Slim and Quentin charged through the forest. Slim could hear as the two groups of zombies started to come together as they trudged after the zombie hunters. There were a few zombies in the forest. These were stragglers from when the main horde of zombies came through on their way to the compound. Slim got most with quick hammer pairs. A couple more were put down by Quentin’s warhammer. The maze came into view. Slim and Quentin sprinted the last twenty yards. Slim slung his submachine gun and vaulted over the four-foot tall barrier. He turned to help Quentin with Sport. It wasn’t needed. Slim stood amazed as Quentin leapt over the barrier with all of the grace and ease of antelope.

“Close your mouth Slim,” Quentin said as he lowered Sport to the grassy ground. “Have you ever tried jumping over an offensive line?”

“What’s an offensive line?” Slim asked, momentarily dumbfounded.

“In football,” Quentin answered, unslinging his MP5/10.

“Football doesn’t have an offensive line. They have forwards,” Slim replied.

“American football,” Quentin snapped with mock anger.

“Oh, that bloody rip-off of rugby you Yanks call a sport,” Slim answered, his tone softening the jab. “It’s almost as bad at that tragedy called hockey you and the Canucks play.” Slim brought his MP5/10 up as the first zombies emerged from the tree line.

“Never insult the glory of the ice!” shouted a voice from behind. Quentin and Slim spun as the black clad minion stepped from behind one of the hedges some thirty feet into the maze. Neither zombie hunter hesitated. The two sub guns stuttered with twin bursts. The bullets slammed into an invisible shield with sparks of brilliant purple energy.

“Don’t worry, I’m not quite as idiotic as that other Champion,” the minion said. Slim could almost see the smirk behind the black balaclava. “Although, I have to admit, you did surprise me. Mr. DuBois should have completely knocked you out of the fight before my zombies showed up. Instead, you have fought hard, slowed and disrupted us, and managed to kill Isaac. One would think you were a bit more than prepared.”

“Maybe Zombie Strike is just that good,” Quentin snarled, keeping his weapon trained on the minion.

“That’s a good possibility,” the minion said, “That’s why I brought my newest toys to finish you off.” The minion stepped back. A line of zombies in bomb-disposal suits walked out. The suited zombies stood shoulder to shoulder and spanned the eight-foot wide path. Slim could see more zombies fill in behind the suited zombies.

“Actually, I have to admit, the idea came from Alan,” the minion said. Slim and Quentin shot each other an uneasy glance at the mention of the powerful sorcerer’s name. “Still, you can try to fight it out here, or face the other zombie horde. Either way, you all should be dead within an hour or so.” The suited zombies began their slow shamble towards the hunters.

“Well, what do you think?” Slim asked Quentin.

“We can’t run,” Quentin answered, “No way we’d make it through that horde with me having to carry Sport. Those zombies in the front are tanks. They’re supposed to make us waste our bullets on them. With those heavy helmets, they can’t bite. It’s the ones behind that are dangerous.”

“I’m not so sure,” Slim began. Before he could utter another word, his world was rocked with unbelievable thunder.

Washington DC, 26 July 2010, 2230 Hours Local: Countdown: 1 Year, 3 months, 5 days

Mateo Cortez walked back into the waiting room and pulled his foster daughter aside. Special Agent Tredegar and Robyn Adams looked up in surprise, but didn’t say anything once they saw the look on Mateo’s face. Jess kept her face neutral as she followed Mateo into a secluded alcove. Mateo hesitated for a second. He didn’t want to tell Jess what was going through his mind, but she needed to know. She was as much a member of Zombie Strike as he was. That meant getting to deal with the bad stuff.

“Collin’s the shooter,” Mateo said bluntly, “He’s been working for the other side for a while.” Jess’s mouth hung open in shock.

“How?” she asked before her voice trailed off.

“He left me a recording of his meeting with Ted after Nigel was killed,” Mateo said, “They’ve got one of his family, and they’re using that as leverage against him.”

“What are we going to do?” Jess asked, horrified.

“You’re going to stay here with Billy,” Mateo said, “I don’t think Collin would try to finish off Kenn here. He’s not that foolish. On the outside chance he doesn’t have any other choice, you’re going to need to be here to protect Kenn and Mercedes. You still have your back-up?”

“Yeah, in my ankle holster,” Jess confirmed, still in shock.

“Keep it there until you need to use it,” Mateo said, “But if you have to, don’t hesitate. Collin’s not our friend anymore.”

“But if they’re holding one of his family hostage—“ Jess started, but Mateo’s glare cut her off.

“Then he should have come to us,” Mateo said, “He’s a professional. He knew that. He made the other choice and betrayed us.” Father and daughter shared a moment of uncomfortable silence.

“I need you to do one other thing,” Mateo said, “Ask Ms. Adams to get a hold of Skull Island. We need the rest of the team here.”

“Where are you going?” Jess asked.

“I’m going to hunt down Ted,” Mateo answered. “I need to save Maria if I can, and Ted’s my best bet for finding Collin.”

“What are you going to do when you find Collin?” Jess asked, her voice quavering. The look on Mateo’s face was all the answer Jess needed. She visibly recoiled from her foster father. She never wanted to see that look on his face ever again. Jess fled from the alcove. Mateo watched as she fell into one of the chairs and hugged Billy. The spirit wolf pup licked her face before scanning the room. Nothing was going to get past that one. Mateo walked back out to the front of the emergency room. There were still some of the Metro Police cars in the parking lot. Which one held his weapon?

“Going after Ted?” Special Agent Tredegar asked softly. Mateo nearly jumped. How did someone as clumsy as Tredegar sneak up on him?

“What are you talking about?” Mateo snapped.

“Ted, the member of the Truth holding your ex-wife hostage, and blackmailing your friend and colleague into assassinating Kenn,” Tredegar said. Mateo couldn’t hide his astonishment.

“Oh come on, you didn’t think we wouldn’t keep strict surveillance on you the moment you landed?” Tredegar answered his voice suddenly assured and confident. “We intercepted the message Collin DuBois sent you.”

“Okay, who are you?” Mateo asked, his voice a dangerous calm.

“Special Agent Tredegar, Federal Bureau of Investigation,” Tredegar answered, “Lead investigator on all actions perpetrated by the occult terrorist group known as the Truth. Probably one of the few people in the government who understand exactly how dangerous the people you’ve been fighting actually are.” Tredegar paused as he looked away for a moment.

“Part of learning about the Truth is also learning about Zombie Strike,” Tredegar said, “Which is why I didn’t keep that message from Mr. DuBois. I knew how’d you react once you’d heard it.” Mateo’s rage deepened. It was taking a lot of willpower not to throttle the federal agent.

“Why was that important?” Mateo asked.

“You wouldn’t have believed me if I told you Collin was the one who killed your friend Nigel,” Tredegar answered, “You had to hear that for yourself. Now, unless I miss my guess, you’re heading to find Ted to get Collin’s location and rescue your ex-wife.”

“Maybe,” Mateo said, the words forced through gritted teeth.

“Well, what say we go pick him up?” Tredegar asked with deadly seriousness, “I have an FBI SWAT team sitting on his position. I’d rather have you on scene when we get him.” Mateo looked at the agent. Dumbfounded, Mateo followed Tredegar as the FBI agent walked to the unmarked police cruiser he was using.

“Oh by the way, your guns are in the back,” Tredegar said as the two men climbed into the car. Mateo could only smile.

[Zombie Strike Part 6 Chapter 51]

Friday Quote – Robert Heinlein

The capacity of the human mind for swallowing nonsense and spewing it forth in violent and repressive action has never yet been plumbed.

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