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Sad Centennial

This week marks one hundred years since the worst race riot in US History. And I hadn’t heard about it until a few years ago when it was mentioned on a podcast. (Stupid memory. Dude making a version of the VP9. Included stuff from the memorial in the box. Stupid memory.)

Let’s steal from Wikipedia:

More than 800 people were admitted to hospitals, and as many as 6,000 Black residents were interned in large facilities, many of them for several days. The Oklahoma Bureau of Vital Statistics officially recorded 36 dead. A 2001 state commission examination of events was able to confirm 39 dead, 26 Black and 13 White, based on contemporary autopsy reports, death certificates and other records. The commission gave several estimates ranging from 75 to 300 dead.

Monday Fiction – Zombie Strike – Part 7 – Chapter 74

Fifteen miles north of Redencion, Panama, 3 February 2011, 2005 hours local: Countdown: 10 months, 28 days

Eric Stahl threw all of his might behind the punch to the tiny vampire’s face. Pain shot up his arm as his fist landed right on the vampire’s chin. He almost dropped the amulet as he worked his hand. It felt like the time he punched the side of a tank. Okay, nothing was broken. He heard the whoosh of the air as the vampire sprinted back. Stahl sidestepped and punched with the amulet. This time he aimed lower and caught the small vampire in the center of her chest. A flash of brilliant light erupted from the strike as the vampire shrieked in pain. As his eyes cleared, Stahl watched the vampire pick herself up nearly ten yards away. Her chest looked like it had been hit with willy-pete.

“That HURT!” the vampire screeched, “How did you hurt me?” Stahl didn’t answer. He rushed the vampire. The forest blurred around him as he shot across the distance between them in an eye blink. He thrust his fist into her chest once more. His strike passed through her body effortlessly. Her eyes went wide and her mouth moved, but no sound came out. Stahl yanked his arm out of her body. The vampire collapsed to the ground. There was a brilliant flash of flame and heat as the body was yanked out of this world. Stahl whirled on the other vampires.

The monster vampires that had been ready to kill the Zombie Strike team and the Truth cultists charged him instead. Stahl picked out the monster in the lead and flung himself at the creature. Stahl leapt and met the monster in mid-air. Stahl felt his collarbone crack, but the intense energy swirling inside of him shielded him from the pain. The vampire whipped a claw strike at Stahl. The former soldier rolled under the blow and sprung up into the monster’s gut with a jackhammer blow. The vampire doubled-over and Stahl slammed it in the face with a right cross. As the amulet slid across the vampire’s face, it burned off fur and flesh. The vampire let out a rumbling growl as it stood back up. Stahl brought up his fist for another strike.

The world spun uncontrollably as all of Stahl’s energy vanished. Pain from the built up injuries flared angrily. He was on the ground without even remembering falling. The vampire loomed over him. It paused, almost as if gloating the sudden turn of events. Was this what Evans meant? That he only had a small reservoir of power, and he used it up fighting the female vampire. Well, he wasn’t going down without taking something with him. His hand slipped down his leg until it found the familiar grip. Stahl jerked the Ruger SP101 revolver out of his ankle holster. The vampire flinched as the red laser beam lit up its eye. Stahl exhaled and squeezed. The small revolver barked once, twice, and then three more times after that, emptying the cylinder. The vampire’s head snapped back five times as each .357 Magnum round hit. It swayed on its feet for a moment and then shook its head. It snarled angrily and took a step towards him. Stahl dropped the revolver and tried to drag himself along the ground.

“FIRE IN THE HOLE!” hollered a British-accented voice a bare instant before three thunderous booms rocked the clearing. The combined shockwave drove the vampire to the ground and pushed all of the air out of Stahl’s lungs. As the former soldier gasped for air, the vampire stood and charged back towards Zombie Strike. The vampire took maybe two steps before a dark form slammed into it. For a moment, Stahl thought Billy was finished with Pretty Boy and was taking down another vampire. Then the form materialized into the decaying corpse of a jaguar.

Stahl watched in horrified fascination as the various animal corpses stood up and charged the vampires. Collins, the cowboy, mentioned in passing the Truth had created zombies from animals, but Stahl had been skeptical. His shocked mind could only latch onto the fact that he now owed the cowboy five bucks. The zombie jaguar savaged the vampire with its claws and teeth. The vampire flailed uselessly at the undead animal. Its blows would knock the zombie jaguar off for the merest instance, and then the jaguar was back on the vampire. The jaguar finally grabbed the vampire’s neck with its jaws. The vampire screamed in pain and the two were consumed in burst of fire.

Stahl felt someone grab the drag handle on his armor. He craned his neck around to see Montgomery straining to pull him back to the tree line. A vampire dodged a charging zombie ram and lunged at them. Then there was a deafening boom and vampire bits rained down on the two. Stahl grunted as some metal splinters slashed across exposed skin.

“Sport, watch where you’re lobbing those things!” yelled Montgomery, “Chief, when did you get so heavy?”

“Montgomery, drop me and get behind some cover,” Stahl said with as much authority as he could muster.

“And let you pick up stray rounds and fragments? Not a chance,” Montgomery snapped back. Stahl wanted to argue with her, but he didn’t have the strength. She jerked him behind a copse of trees. Grunting, Montgomery propped Stahl up to see the unfolding battle. The Zombie Strike and Truth shooters formed a ring around the two sorcerers. Those two were busy chanting. About half the remaining vampires were fighting off zombie animals while the rest were trying to close with humans. Coordinated automatic fire punctuated with Sport’s grenades was making that a losing proposition.

“Where’s that wolf of yours?” Stahl asked.

“Fighting that other evolved vampire,” Montgomery answered, “Somewhere out there.” Montgomery nodded eastward. She unslung her rifle and took aim at a vampire fighting off a zombie bull. She casually placed two headshots. The two rounds weren’t enough to take down the vampire, but they distracted it long enough for the zombie bull to gore the vampire. The two creatures vanished in the blast of flame. Stahl wanted to join in, but he was completely out of weapons and ammunition. All he could do was watch. One by one, the vampires were brought down. The last two died when Sport dropped five grenades between them. The silence after a furious battle always seemed eerie to Stahl. It was an odd moment of calm after such intense violence. Minutes passed as the Zombie Strike and Truth people came to grips with the fact that they’d survived. Then yells of joy erupted across the clearing. Montgomery sank down next to Stahl.

“Oh my God, we did it,” Montgomery breathed.

“Yeah,” Stahl said, “You did good Montgomery. When we get back, I’m going to show you some new stuff. Think you’d make a pretty decent LRRP.”

“I have no idea what you just said,” Montgomery commented. “You know Chief, you can just call me Jess.” Stahl started to answer, but the last of his energy ran out. He could hear Jess screaming his name as the world went black.

[Zombie Strike Part 7 Chapter 75 – Epilogue]

Monday Fiction – Zombie Strike – Part 7 – Chapter 73

Fifteen miles north of Redencion, Panama, 3 February 2011, 2000 hours local: Countdown: 10 months, 28 days

Eric Stahl slid back as the tiny female vampire grinned at him. He brought up his M4. Maybe he could slow her down. The vampire’s form blurred. Stahl’s mind couldn’t keep up with how fast the little form moved. A tiny fist slammed into his chest plate. He felt the ceramic plate crack. A second hammer blow landed, and Stahl’s ribs cracked.

“Where is the bauble human?” the vampire asked casually. “I know you have it. I need it please.” She punched him again forcing all the air from his lungs. Stahl gasped for air. Pain wracked his chest. The ribs weren’t just cracked, they were broken. With as much strength as he could muster, Stahl slammed his M4 into the small vampire. She tore the front of his armor off as the blow threw the vampire off. She rolled for a few feet before coming up to a crouch. The vampire hissed and barred her fangs.

Good news, she couldn’t defy basic physics. Bad news, Stahl just pissed her off. Stahl brought up his carbine. The barrel was bent from hitting the vampire. She giggled like a schoolgirl as Stahl transitioned to his pistol. The vampire took sprinted towards him and then froze in midair. It wasn’t just her. The entire clearing looked like time stopped. Stahl could even see the bullets from Montgomery’s SCAR hanging in the air. Montgomery’s wolf trotted out from behind the girl.

“Did you do this?” Stahl asked the spirit wolf pup.

“Wolf does not have that power,” said a new voice from behind. Stahl whirled to bring his pistol to bear on the speaker. The wolf leapt next to him. A man walked from behind a tree. He matched Stahl’s own six feet. His features reminded Stahl of the Jordanians he’d worked with some years back. He was dressed in a light gray business suit. He walked towards Stahl as if oblivious to the incongruity of it all.

“Who are you?” Stahl blurted out.

“I am the Metatron,” the man answered. His words echoed with power. “The Lord God sent me to speak with you.”

“You don’t look like Alan Rickman,” Stahl quipped as he tried to recover. Metatron crooked up an eyebrow. “Sorry. Movie reference.”

“You stand at a crossroads. Both of this world’s survival as well your own beliefs,” Metatron said, ignoring the joke. The man, no angel, pointed at the amulet that hung at Stahl’s chest. “Are you prepared to let the Lord God help you?”

“If I’m not, then the world dies? What kind of BS choice is that?” Stahl demanded.

“You misunderstand. Your choice here will not doom the world. It will push events down one path or the other,” Metatron answered emotionlessly.

“So, it’s just my own fate,” Stahl shot back. He clamped down on his next words. He was letting his anger cloud his judgment. “Why me?”

“This moment is the sum of your choices,” Metatron answered. “I am here because the outsiders have once again challenged the Lord God. He wants you to act as His Champion in this.”

“Why the choice? Why not force me?”

“It would make free will worthless. It is free will that allows you to be truly powerful.”

“How can I be a Champion of God?” Stahl asked, “I acknowledge His existence, but I’m still unsure of Him being a force of good. Too many unanswered questions.”

“Right now, that’s enough. Accept that He exists and He can give you the power to defeat this outsider,” Metatron said. Stahl looked around the clearing. The fourteen monstrous vampires loomed over his Zombie Strike teammates and the Truth soldiers. Pretty Boy was bearing down on Montgomery. In a few seconds, the entire team would be wiped out. That was what was gnawing at him. He was given a binary choice. Accept the power and save everyone, or refuse it and the vampires win. Nothing was ever that simple. There were always more options.

“That is why you are such a dangerous individual,” Metatron said, startling Stahl. “You are rational and unwilling to accept things as they seem. Even with the Lord God, you are looking for options.”

“You can read my mind?” Stahl asked, his anger rising.

“Of course he can, he’s an angel,” answered Evans, coming alive. Stahl stood in shock as the Truth soldier walked off the line. Evans gave the angel a smug smile. “This one is still in play, but the Flayed One is willing to foreswear him. If you’re master is willing to just give him the power he needs.” Metatron cocked his head, but his face remained an emotionless mask.

“Done.” Metatron said. Without another word, the angel spun and walked into the forest.

“How in the hell are you walking about?” Stahl demanded from Evans.

“Xipe Totec. No to explain fully. You have to kill the maestro as soon as time starts back up,” Evans answered, pointing at the female vampire. The Truth soldier looked around nervously. “Damn, less time than I thought. Chief, remember, you’re the key.” Evans hurried back to where he’d been standing in the line of the prisoners.

Stahl started to ask how he was supposed to kill the vampire when his head exploded in pain and sudden knowledge. For the barest instant, Stahl’s mind was linked to God. He knew everything. He could see all the paths that everyone could take, and how they all interconnected. The instant finished, and he suddenly felt very small. Then his mind found two things. Knowledge and power. Smiling a predatory smile, Stahl walked over to his position. He looked over his shoulder. Evans nodded with understanding. Stahl craned his neck back to see Montgomery’s wolf. The creature nodded and even seemed to smile. It was ready to pounce on Pretty Boy.

Stahl braced and felt time unfreeze. The little vampire screamed down at him. Holding the amulet in hand, Stahl struck.

[Zombie Strike Part 7 Chapter 74]

Monday Fiction – Zombie Strike – Part 7 – Chapter 72

Fifteen miles north of Redencion, Panama, 3 February 2011, 1915 hours local: Countdown: 10 months, 28 day

Eric Stahl slid through the darkened forest. For the first time in a long time, he felt alive. He barely kept himself from grinning as he crept through the trees. The vampires were good. They might have even detected him if they weren’t busy escorting the prisoners. Apparently, entranced humans tended to make a lot of noise tromping through the forest. More than enough noise to hide Stahl. At his heart, Stahl was a true LRRP. He might have been a US Army Ranger, but most Rangers were little more than jumped-up airborne soldiers. Stahl made his bones in recon, and had been mentored by one of the few remaining LRRPs. The old sergeant trained Stahl to be silent, steady, and deadly. Ninjas were rank amateurs compared to LRRPs. They just worked at night. LRRPs owned the night. Now, it was his turn to pass on the traditions.

Montgomery and her wolf were about twenty meters behind Stahl. The girl mimicked Stahl’s movements through the forest. She wasn’t as quiet as Stahl, but she was quiet enough. The raw talent was definitely there. Then, there was her wolf. Stahl didn’t know how Billy went from a mottled white coat to the brown-black pelt. He was pretty sure it had something to do with the wolf’s origin. Stahl also suspected the wolf was somehow helping Montgomery creep through the forest. He’d made the mistake of dismissing the wolf as a simple pet. If he got out of this forest alive, Stahl would figure out exactly what was going on with those two.

The trio trailed the vampires and their prisoners. The Zombie Strike and Truth people shuffled along behind a new vampire. This one looked like a traditional vampire, instead of the seven to eight-foot man-bat monsters the team had been fighting. The vampire was very tall, easily six-six, with the stereotypical pale skin and black hair. His features were smooth, reminding Stahl of a long-list of pretty-boys he served with over the years. Except for his eyes. Human eyes tended to show up like bright orbs in nightvision, but the vampire’s eyes didn’t show up at all. There were just pockets of black in the white-green face. The vampire was talking constantly in a low, even voice. It was probably part of how he controlled the others.

The vampire and the group continued up the mountain. Stahl and Montgomery followed cautiously. He still wasn’t sure how he was going to free the prisoners. Heck, he wasn’t even sure they could be freed. Mind control was new territory for Zombie Strike, much less the mechanics of it. All Stahl could do right now was follow the group and hope for an opening. It was maddening, but that was part of the job. He learned that lesson the first time he watched a hostage die in a place not too far from this forest. The air started to warm noticeably. Musky scents floated through the air like invisible clouds. Stahl instinctively slowed down. He was picking up something from the six vampires guarding the prisoners. They weren’t as tense, and their gait opened up. Stahl stopped behind one of the thicker trees. Montgomery almost ran into him when he didn’t move. Instead she just slid past him and took up a position behind another tree five meters away. The girl was good.

Montgomery flashed the question hand sign. Okay, she needed work on her patience. He hand-signed back for her to wait. Stahl could make out her grimace as she took up her position. Stahl ignored her expression. He scanned the trees in front of him. They looked like a big clump of dark with a few shadows of green from the tiny bits of starlight. Did vampires act like humans, or was that just normal for them?

There was a sudden glint from a tree to Stahl’s eleven o’clock. The branches rustled. Something big just landed there. A sentry. They just wandered into the home of the vampires. Stahl waited patiently, intently watching the tree. He couldn’t see the vampire. The creature was hidden in the blackness of his nightvision. There were other ways to figure out where it was. The vampire couldn’t hide from the entire physical world. One of the branches was much lower. Stahl guessed the vampire was about halfway out. It looked like a good vantage point. Minutes stretched out endlessly as Stahl watched the tree. It always amazed Stahl that something could be exciting and boring at the same time. Finally, the tree shook again as the sentry continued his rounds. This time, Stahl did smile.

Montgomery followed as Stahl hustled towards the tree the vampire just vacated. Stahl didn’t know how many vampires were on guard duty, but he wanted to be inside their line before the next sentry came round. After about a hundred meters, the trees became sparse. Stahl could see where the vampires cleared out the forest. Jagged stumps littered the clearing. Carcasses of dead animals were strewn carelessly about. Stahl found a standing tree next to one of the carcasses. The putrid smell turned his stomach, but it should cover his own scent. Montgomery followed his lead, and dragged what had once been a panther next to her position. He couldn’t see the wolf.

About a dozen vampires were clustered in the center of the clearing. The prisoners were lined up in the center facing away Stahl and Montgomery. Pretty-Boy looked like he was talking to someone on the other side of the prisoners. Someone short and powerful from the way Pretty-Boy was bending over with his head pointed directly at the ground respectfully.

“These were the ones sent after us?” asked a beautiful soprano voice from the other side of the prisoners. Stahl almost dropped his weapon at the sound. The amulet burned under his chest plate, snapping him out of his stupor. Montgomery shot him a sidelong glance.

“They look different from the last time we came to this world,” the voice said, “Why aren’t any of them wearing crosses? Aren’t they supposed to be knights?”

“I don’t think so,” Pretty-Boy said, his voice finally loud enough for Stahl to hear. “These ones here are tainted.” He pointed at the Truth soldiers and sorcerers.

“Tainted, how?”

“I don’t know. Something is protecting them. Something we haven’t dealt with before,” Pretty-Boy answered. “The others are just common thugs with very good weapons.” He waved dismissively at the Zombie Strike team.

“No paladins or clerics of this world’s god?” the voice asked surprised.

“Not amongst this group. Just the one cleric in the village when we came in this world.” Pretty-Boy quickly stepped to the side as a small form emerged from behind the prisoners. She was barely five feet tall with a slight, but definitely feminine, form and cascades of black hair. As she turned, Stahl could see her doll-like face with the black abysses where the eyes should have been. An evil smile darted across her lips. She gently laid a hand on Pretty-Boy’s forearm, and then brought the tall vampire to his knees with a powerful jerk.

“Then where is the little bauble causing all of the commotion?” she asked pleasantly. The smile returned as Pretty-Boy gasped in pain, unable to answer. Stahl swallowed. The little form’s head snapped up. Her face locked onto Stahl’s.

“Oh never mind, I found it.”

[Zombie Strike Part 7 Chapter 73]