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Monday Fiction – State Of the Writer

Now that Zombie Strike has wrapped up, I thought it would be good to go through my current writing projects and their statuses:

Promise to the Magic Heart – This is my fantasy novel I’ve been working on. Initial draft had flashback sequences, then I realized those were distracting and not adding what I wanted. So I ripped them out to do a "prequel" novel. That will still happen, but I really want to finish the main story first. Part of that is the main story is more fun, I have more done for it, and I want make sure that the prequel foreshadows. This may turn into a trilogy, but I’m not sure yet.

Irregulars 3 – No working title for this. It’s kind of stalled as I’m trying to figure out how to muddle to some of the conclusions I need to do in order for this one to lead into Irregulars 4. I’m thinking this will be a five-book series.

Avalon – I have plans to go back, do a directors cut of the original stories, and at least wrap that one up. It was originally supposed to be a writing challenge to see if I could turn out a 1,000 word chapter every week.

I have a few more ideas in the notepad that I might flesh out. If I can dedicate some time to just writing. Which is part circumstance and part self-discipline.

Let’s see where I’m at this time next year.

Army’s New Gats

According to various press releases the Army has awarded Sig Sauer the contract for the replacement of the M4 carbine and M249 SAW.

Sig Sauer will develop and supply the XM5 rifle and the XM250 automatic rifle variants of the NGSW over 10 years. It will also produce the 6.8 Common Cartridge Family of Ammunition.

What I find interesting is that depictions for both the carbine and SAW have silencers attached. So, it looks like the military is going to put cans on all their small arms. Which makes sense.

I’ve also heard rumors that the new cartridge was going to be polymer-cased to save weight, but there was no mention of that in the article. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

Monday Fiction – Zombie Strike Part 11 Chapter 120 – Epilogue

St. Louis, Missouri; 3 January 2017, 0900 hours local

Jess Montgomery handed the Secret Service agent her ID. She waited patiently as the serious man examined the picture and compared it to Jess. Another agent checked her purse and wanded her. Jess tried to keep the grimace off her face. She felt naked in just the simple dress and pocket book. She didn’t even have a pocket knife on her. Her dismay must have shown on her face because the smaller hand in hers squeezed reassuringly. Jess looked down at her ten-year-old sister and gave the girl a smile. The Secret Service agent repeated the procedure with Mercedes before ushering the two women to a waiting Special Agent Tredegar.

“Sorry about that, but, well, you know,” the tall thin man said, shrugging his shoulders.

“No weapons. I was told. Repeatedly,” Jess replied, smiling to soften the tone of her words.

“Everyone else is here,” Tredegar said, leading Jess and Mercedes into hotel. They bypassed hordes of aides, press, and security. Two FBI special agents fell into position to block them as Tredegar steamrolled his way through the standing people. Some looked like they wanted to protest, but they shrank back from Tredegar’s stern countenance. He’d certainly developed a harder edge since he’d taken over the FBI counter-intelligence group. A final door opened and the group hustled into the small ballroom.

“Matty!” squealed Mercedes as she saw her half-brother. The boy looked up and uttered a matching squeal. The two children sprinted over and hugged each other like they hadn’t seen each other in months instead of the few days. Jess sighed as Robyn walked over.

“We should have expected that,” Robyn said, as she embraced Jess.

“Where’s Tom?” Jess asked, looking for Robyn’s husband.

“Watching the twins,” she answered. Thomas Halford was MacKenzie and Winston’s vice president for American operations. He and Robyn met during a deposition which led to a promised date after the case concluded. Six months later they were married. Less than a year later, they were welcoming home a set of twins. Robyn looked back at Matthew and Mercedes Cortez. “Today’s about their father. He felt more comfortable staying at the hotel.” Jess just nodded.

“About time you showed up,” Sissy said, “We were beginning to worry about you.” Sissy wore a gray dress suit that somehow managed to be conservative and daring at the same time. Maybe it had more to do with the aura of danger that surrounded the woman.

“I’m glad you made it home alive,” Jess said, clasping Sissy hard, “We heard it went sideways in Paris.”

“It was a bit exciting, but we finished it,” Sissy said, “And that’s all I can tell you. My current employers would have enough of a conniption knowing how much you already know.” Technically, Sissy O’Connell was a security consultant. In actuality, she worked with a small multi-national task force working to eliminate the last vestiges of the Truth from their positions of power.

“Where’s Steve and Evan?” Jess asked, suddenly noticing the pair’s absence.

“The military has their own ceremony, they’ll meet up with us later,” Sissy explained. “C’mon, let me introduce you to Quentin’s family before the President gets here.”

Gateway Park, St. Louis, Missouri; 3 January 2017, 1100 hours local

Jess shivered in her heavy coat as a cold wind whipped off the Mississippi. She wished she were standing in the packed crowd of people instead of sitting up in the grandstand. At least then she could use their bodies for warmth and protection against the wind. The Secret Service could have at least let her have a cup of coffee up here. Those people rose paranoia to an art form. Finally, after what seemed an eternity, the President walked to the podium. The crowd roared as the President waved. A hush fell over the people as the President began speaking.

“My fellow Americans, we are here for an event our nation has waited five years to happen. We have watched our young men and women toil, bleed, and even give their lives for it. It is now my greatest honor to declare that the city of St. Louis is free of the zombies. As of this morning, the exclusion zone is lifted.” The President waited as the crowd cheered.

“These past several years have been hard for our nation. We have been besieged by threats from within as the zombies rose. We have been besieged by threats from outside as we saw so many of those we called friends turn against us.” The crowd went quiet at they reflected. The President continued, “Even with all of these threats, America persisted. Our true friends stood by us and we have formed the new Alliance of Free Nations. We and our AFN partners stood against the darkness of tyranny. We are finally seeing some of those that succumbed to the terror throw off their shackles. The new French Revolution is frightening, but we welcome any people willing to take back their freedom from those governments that stole it from their hands.”

Jess quit listening and gripped the small silver medal pinned to her dress. Mercedes had one just like it pinned to her dress. Small tokens of the thanks of a grateful nation. That’s what the President said when he’d given them to Mercedes and Jess. A nation that would never truly know what happened on this spot five years ago. What their father and friends sacrificed to protect them. Jess wanted to scream at the man when he’d uttered those words, but she just meekly accepted the silver medals for heroism, just as she meekly accepted the stern warnings that she could never tell anyone what she had done. She snapped out of her reverie as the President finished up.

“So now, we dedicate this new Gateway Arch to signify the rebirth of a great American city and the resolution of the American people to stand against those that would try to pull us down into the darkness.”

Gateway Park, St. Louis, Missouri; 5 January 2017, 2200 hours local

“Here, this will warm you up a bit,” Sergeant First Class Steven “The Steve” Mountain said. Jess gratefully accepted the flask from The Steve. The harsh liquor burned as it went down her throat. The Steve laughed as she handed back the flask. “She handled it better than you did Evan.”

“You probably gave her better liquor than that rotgut you gave me, Top,” Capt. Evan Torelli said. The two Special Forces soldiers shared a private laugh. Jess had been surprised when The Steve returned to active duty after the Golden Rite. She was even more surprised when little Evan disappeared and came back as not only a Green Beret, but an officer to boot. The two soldiers had been more or less permanently assigned to the forces clearing out St. Louis. What started as a diversion for Zombie Strike to stop the Truth and the Great Death turned into a full blown liberation campaign.

“Just for you Evan, I brought the good stuff,” Tredegar said, holding up a bottle of expensive Scotch. The FBI special agent poured everyone a glass.

“To absent companions,” Kenn Blanchard said, raising his glass.

“Absent companions,” the others chorused. So many of their team were gone. Jack Winchester, Billy, Slim, Jim, Quentin, Chief Stahl, Collin, Billy, Mateo. Even Sport managed to get killed back in fourteen during a battle with some Truth holdouts. There was a quiet moment as the remaining Zombie Strike members reflected on their fallen.

“So what has M&W have you doing now?” Kenn asked Jess.

“Well now that I’m a full-fledged college graduate, they’ve thrown me in their Unique Risk Management Division,” Jess said.

“Wasn’t that the same group that ran Zombie Strike?” Kenn asked.

“Yep. Apparently my previous experience fighting zombies was something of a plus,” Jess answered. “For right now though, I’m just a junior researcher. They still pay me great, which helps now that I have Mercedes.” The others grunted happily. Getting Mercedes away from her aunt and uncle had been hard and cost most of the money Jess managed to save while fighting zombies. Jess didn’t dwell on the memory. “Plus, they have me working in DC, so Mercedes can play with Matt and the twins.”

“That is good Little Sister,” a voice said out of the darkness. Weapons appeared in hands as two men walked into the light. Jess recognized one as Wolf. He looked like an older Native American in faded jeans and a button down shirt. The second man was unearthly handsome and an impressive light gray suit.

“What are you doing here?” Jess demanded, storming up to Wolf, “I haven’t seen you in over five years, and you show up now? And who is this?” Jess jabbed a finger at the other man. Wolf didn’t answer. He just engulfed Jess in a hug.

“I’m sorry Little Sister. I was grieving for my son. In my sadness, I neglected you. Forgive me, my Little Sister,” Wolf said.

“Doesn’t answer who he is,” The Steve said, keeping his Kimber trained on the newcomer.

“I am Michael. The arch-angel,” the man said. Everyone flinched as the angel’s voice seemed to flow through down to their bones. “My father asked Wolf to bring me to you.”

“Why?” Kenn asked.

“We received a message through the amulet embedded in Eric Stahl’s hand,” Michael said casually.

“How?” Sissy asked.

“We don’t know,” Michael said, “We did know that you should hear it.” The group was silent, unsure of what to do. Jess stepped away from Wolf.

“What’s the message?” Jess asked, her voice trembling.

“We are still alive, we love you, and we’re winning.”

END OF ZOMBIE STRIKE

Friday Quote – Larry Reed

Making war on ideas is not far removed from making war on people because ideas possess no existence apart from the minds of people. Those who seek to kill ideas – rather than debate them, advance them, or debunk them – are killers of humanity.

Busy Week At Ward Manor

Friday – Took a half-day from work to help The Wife transport over an old office chair, spare folding table, and MIL’s old monitor over to The Wife’s niece’s place. Niece really liked the dual monitor system set up we have on all of our workstations, and wanted something like that at her place. Well, we had some items we needed to get rid of… Plus we got to see the great niece.

Saturday – While The Wife and her SIL were out looking at paint, I prepped for my shooting trip on Tuesday. I got a bunch of different ammo and round-robin loaded up almost all of my spare M&P magazines. I also discovered that I’m a little short on my preferred self-defense ammo. That needs remedying. I also got the windshield replaced on the Xterra.

Sunday – Sunday we went to see The Little Shop of Horrors up at the Straz Performing Arts Center in Tampa. We had a lot of fun, even though the play didn’t start exactly on time. I don’t go to enough theater to know if that’s the norm. The play had a much darker end than the ’80’s movie, but still satisfying.

Monday – Since we have new local docs, The Wife and I had to go to a new-to-Derek place to get labs. I know this is normal for most folks, but I’ve been very used to having the lab in the same building as my PCC. (This is noting it more for my own edification than the readers’.) The Wife had the day off, and she and MIL were busy setting up their raised bed for their crop of succulents. Plus replanting an aloe vera. Plus replanting a couple of flowers that my mom gave us. Then we topped it all off by sending out the last payment for her car. We now have two fully paid-off cars.

Tuesday – Tested out the new gun. Which, because Derek didn’t check beforehand, required me to unload all of those loaded magazines, put the Tula ammo back in the box, and reload with some range ammo. I don’t understand the rules against steel-cased ammo. Not saying there isn’t a good reason, I’m just ignorant. The M&P9 2.0 shot everything I fed it. Including some IWI ammo that my other 9mms didn’t like. The only real issue I hit was that the slide stop was really stiff when the slide locked back. So stiff I ended up having to slingshot the slide to get it back in battery. Also, due the steel reinforcing the frame, the takedown lever heated up noticeably after quick firing a few magazines. Still, it performed well enough to get switched out as my new sidearm.

WTF Is Happening To My State?

This is a weird time in politics. Both of the major parties are being swept by their extremes, and its turning politics less about solving issues and more about performance art with state-sanctioned violence.

Case in point, the Florida legislature rescinded Disney’s special district. Over at National Review, Charles Cooke does a masterful job of explaining why that’s a bad idea.

Those who have defended the move argue that sticking it to Disney in this matter demonstrates that the Republican Party is willing to “fight” and will thus represent a victory for conservatism. But this is silly. Admirably, Governor DeSantis has already fought Disney, and he has already won. The policy about which Disney chose stupidly to complain is now Florida law. It passed both houses of the state legislature; it was signed by DeSantis, who had been correctly defiant in the face of Disney’s gripes; and it enjoys the support of broad majorities of Floridians. There is no need for the Republican Party of Florida to salt the earth here; it has prevailed in every particular.

Just as DeSantis is using his position as governor to prepare for a run for the White House, we have Nikki Fried suing over marijuana users being prohibited from possessing firearms. While I personally agree with this move, I do not believe for a second that Fried is doing this out of personal conviction. Other than the personal conviction that she doesn’t want to be a felon for holding both a medical marijuana card and a concealed weapons license. Considering all the money she’s taken from gun control groups, as well as all the clusterfucks she’s thrown into the CCW system.

Metal Tuesday – Brother’s Choice – Samael/Xytras – Passage

Derek Note – Since it’s The Brother’s birthday week, I let him choose the music.

This year I bring you not one song, not two songs, but two full albums… kinda.

Samael is a band that has changed a lot over the years. They started as straight-up black metal before moving into a more electronic/industrial metal.

The mid-point between these two styles was 1996’s Passage – one of my favorite albums and an amazing work:

In 1997, Xy (Samael’s keyboards/drum machine artist) did a side project called Xytras where he redid the entire Passage album as piano and syths. It is a wonderful conversion and well worth a listen even if you do not care for the heaviness of Passage.

Monday Fiction – Zombie Strike Part 11 Chapter 119

Gateway Arch, St. Louis, Missouri; 31 December, 2011, 2350 hours local; Countdown: 10 minutes

Mateo Cortez watched at the Gateway Arch exploded in light. In the air midway between the top of the arch and the ground, a hole appeared. Mateo’s mind recoiled in horror as he saw the very edge of the Great Death’s home world. He could feel the Great Death pushing its unnatural presence into the world. A tendril of otherworld terror seemed to wrap around Mateo. Then, a pulse of energy shot up from the golden pedestal and drove the tendril away. Brilliant white-gold light sprang up from the ritual lines drawn around him. In front of him, an arch of shimmering gold energy rose up from the ground.

Bolts of blue-white lightning erupted from the Gateway Arch. Gold-white lanced out from the energy arch. As the two energies collided, brilliant explosions lit the area brighter than the day. The attacks ceased just as quickly as they started. The two energies pulsed angrily at each other. The few surviving minions and gollums walked to the edge of the ritual area. They began a low chanting in the Aztec language. Mateo didn’t know what the words meant, but he’d heard Quentin and Jess speaking it enough to recognize the sound.

Two beams of energy erupted from the hovering Guardians to the top of the energy arch. A tear in the air appeared and a man floated out. The man was dressed only in a long leather cloak, loincloth, leather leggings, and a gold feathered headdress. His bronze skin and long black hair reminded Mateo of the Seminoles in Florida. The man held out his hand. The whip next to Giant levitated and the shot into the man’s waiting hand. Not man, this was a god. The god Mateo had been fighting for the last two-and-a-half years. Xipe Totec floated to the ground. He casually strode up to Mateo.

“I sense the fight in you against the path,” the god said in a voice that nearly tore Mateo’s mind apart. “You chose correctly in pillars of the Golden Ritual. Now, stop your futile struggle and take the next step. I will protect your line. Your adopted daughter, your daughter, and your unborn son.” Mateo’s eyes went wide at Xipe Totec’s words.

“What?” Mateo asked, his mind reeling.

“Focus, Mateo,” Billy said, “Father reminds you why you’re standing there.”

“Pup, your father and his family failed each time the Great Death threatened your worshippers. Your power may be necessary for the Golden Ritual, but your words are worthless.” Xipe Totec turned his gaze back on Mateo. “The artifacts are in place. The shield has been raised. Initiate the Key and seal the Great Death from our world for another thousand years.”

“Yes, Mateo, initiate the Key,” Castle pleaded. “Take the Key and release the power of the Golden Ritual before they break through.”

“Mattie, stay true,” Collin said from his position, “If you falter, that bugger will siphon enough power from the clash of energies to dominate every god on our world.”

“It is my right!” Xipe Totec yelled, and all of the humans fell to their knees. The gollums screeched in pain. “I let my people be decimated by the followers of your god. I let them die so that they would be reborn now. I set these events in motion. I set the path.”

“They knew what you did,” Stahl said, “That’s why they forced you to set the ritual like this. As powerful as you are, it will be a human who finally decides the fate of this world. It will be humans who either protect or damn this world. You, in your arrogance, decided that you’d make the path in such a fashion that when the human ascended to the moment, he’d think there was only one way to complete the ritual. That he’d have to give you exactly what you wanted.”

“There is only one way to complete the ritual and protect this world. Even your pathetic atomic weapons will not stop the Great Death. You must do what is needed Mateo, or everyone you love will be consumed by the Great Death.” Mateo met the intense gaze of the god with his cool countenance. Mateo was in this place for a number of reasons. One of those was his stubborn refusal to believe he was fate’s puppet. A malicious grin slowly spread across Mateo’s face.

“I am the Chooser,” Mateo stated, “I choose that the Key is the woman known as Jessica Montgomery, bound to me in love as my daughter.”

“What?” Castle asked in surprise. Jess slung her SCAR sniper rifle and crossed the threshold into the ritual area. She walked to the pedestal and picked up the obsidian orb.

“Command her, Chooser,” Xipe Totec demanded. Mateo held his foster daughter’s sad gaze. He desperately wished he could spare her this. No one should have to take this on their soul.

“Initiate the moment of the path Key,” Mateo said. She looked mournfully at Mateo, Stahl, Collin, and finally, Billy. She took a deep breath and started into Xipe Totec’s laughing dark eyes.

“I am the Key,” Jess said formally, “I initiate the moment of the path.” Mateo and the other pillars levitated above the pedestals. A beam of energy shot from Mateo’s chest to Xipe Totec. The god’s presence filled his mind. Mateo looked and saw similar beams from each of the other pillars. Xipe Totec glowed with power.

“I am the Key,” Jess said, with a determined voice, “I configure the power to seal the tear between this world and the other.” She held the orb aloft and stretched the obsidian like it was Silly Putty. Jess pulled it into a long thin spear.

“What are you doing?” Xipe Totec demanded.

“You made a very bad mistake in focusing on the Chooser,” Mateo said, “The real power of your Golden Ritual laid with the Key.” Mateo looked down at Jess. “Throw it!” Jess nodded, tears streaming down her cheek.

“No!” screamed Xipe Totec and the Guardians. Gateway Park rumbled like an earthquake.

“Screw you,” Jess said and flung the obsidian spear into the Great Death’s entryway. Mateo smiled as the spear entered the dimensional tear. Then, there was a flash of brilliant light. That was the last thing Mateo saw on this world.

Gateway Arch, St. Louis, Missouri; 1 January, 2012, 0000 hours local; Countdown: 0 minute

Jess watched as the Gateway Arch turned to pulsing red energy. The entire six-hundred foot structure shook and convulsed, and then shrank down to a floating circle maybe a hundred feet wide. Hundreds of streams of purple energy shot across the night sky into the circle. More streams erupted from the minions and gollums. As their energy was sucked into the hole, the minions and the gollums dissolved into dust. Then the circle quivered one last time and vanished into the night.

“This is the way the world will end, not with a bang, but a whimper,” The Steve said in an uncharacteristic soft tone.

“What?” Jess said, her eyes torn from where the circle had been.

“Some poem The Steve read a long time ago,” The Steve said, “Probably not the correct words.” Jess could only stare at the team medic in bewilderment. The Steve simply shrugged and then spun around. “Hey Tredegar, get on that fancy phone of yours and tell the bombers to abort before they make The Steve glow in the dark.”

Jess sank to the cold ground. She’d done it. When Quentin, Mateo, and Chief Stahl told her what she needed to do, she’d nearly ran away. Even until the last moment, she didn’t know if she’d have the strength to go through with it. Jess felt a warm arm go around her. Sissy tucked the girl’s head under her chin and gently rocked her.

“It’s okay, sweetie,” Sissy breathed, “They knew what they were doing. They gave up their lives to save all of us. I’m sure they’re in a better place now. Even the chief.” Jess let out a hysterical laugh. It dissolved into torrential sobbing.

“You don’t understand,” Jess managed between sobs, “I didn’t kill them. I sent them and Xipe Totec into the Great Death’s world. We didn’t seal the tear. We launched a counter-invasion.”

“What?” Sissy asked her entire body paralyzed with shock.

“It was the only way to make sure those vampires never came to this world again,” Jess answered, her voice barely controlled. “I sent Xipe Totec, Mateo, Collin, Billy, the chief, and Castle into their world to fight. It will be a war the Great Death never expects, and they’ll never recover from it. They’ll never threaten our world again.”

“What will happen to Matt and the others?” Sissy asked.

“They’ll be trapped in that world forever,” Jess said, “Even after they die, they’ll stay there. So no, they aren’t in a better place. And they never will be. That was the cost of protecting this world from the vampires forever.” Jess erupted into more sobs. Sissy could only rock the girl as her own tears fell down her cheeks.

[Zombie Strike Part 11 Chapter 120]