In a practiced motion that reminded Captain Henry of a samurai the Arab wiped his blade clean on the dead man's trousers and returned it to his belt. The Arab turned back, extending a hand to help Captain Henry up, and made a disconcerting clicking sound that seemed to emanate deep from within the man's throat.
Captain Henry accepted the helping hand, but vowed to himself never again to turn his back on the swarthy Al Qaeda operative.
"There, put us down there. We'll blow through the goddamn wall if we have to." Raylene motioned towards the side of the Palace below closest to Tara's fading transponder signal.
The two women flying the Imperatrixian drop ship struggled to manipulate the controls. They had done well enough so far, but the controls were designed for the significantly larger Imperatrixian pilots and tight turns required frenzied arm movements. The beetle shaped spacecraft's engines whined like jets and it swung with impossible nimbleness back around towards the facing side of the Presidential Palace. The technician managing the majority of the controls rolled madly at the oversized trackballs and the craft descended quickly towards the cobblestone pavement. As they descended further lights on the dark control panel began flashing.
"Landing autopilot is engaging." The technician explained and lifted her hands from the control surfaces.
The drop ship put down gently on extruded landing struts and the troop bay doors swung loudly open. Raylene was the third out of the craft, firing her buzzing hummingbird pistol at what few defenders there were on the rooftop.
Cokey Washington's hand hung limp in Dale's tight grip. Occasionally she tried to pull it away but her efforts were weak and simpleminded. She stopped struggling almost as if she assumed her arm were paralyzed and accepted it. Dale had clung to her since their arrival in Mexico City, carefully guiding her away from groups of the zombie-like soldiers whenever he could. Through luck and his sheer willpower they had averted being included in several disastrous offensives against the various bloodthirsty attackers at the Presidential Palace.
Cokey shifted her grip on the AK-47 cradled awkwardly. They were moving now, part of a group of more than a hundred of the zombie soldiers forming a circle around a wheezing invalid in a mechanical wheelchair. Dale had pushed and prodded Cokey until they were in the back of the group, hoping that whatever fate awaited them came from the front. He stared with fascination at the pumps and gauges attached to the arcane apparatus of the wheelchair. Dozens of hoses and cables ran from these into the frail body of the elderly man seated in the wheelchair itself. One that entered at the base of the man's skull occasionally leaked viscous yellow fluid down the back of his neck.
Dale heard gunfire echo behind them and began to think twice about moving himself and Cokey to the back of the group. Just then they reached a simple wooden door and the man in the wheelchair powered his hissing and clicking body forward. He raised a key to the door's lock with a palsied hand and allowed the front ranks of the zombie soldiers to push past him into the room beyond.
The shooting started almost immediately.
"Wound! Don't! Kill!" The man screamed, his voice modulated mechanically and his words emerging in a shrill staccato.
Bullets whined past Dale and blasted apart a stone sculpture of a Spanish conquistador. By now Dale recognized the sickening sound of even more shots making contact with soft human flesh. A number of the soldiers in the front ranks toppled like ten pins, some stone dead, others writhing with mortal wounds and still trying to fire at their attacker. As Dale pulled Cokey with all of his strength behind the relative cover of the wall he caught a glance of a woman in a sheer bra and military fatigues, a snarl of anger on her face, a bucking machine pistol in her hands. The carnage she was inflicting on the zombies, hamstrung by orders, was terrible.
Then all hell broke loose.
Are you concerned that you may be a character trapped in a Tom Waits song? Be smart and learn the warning signs before it's too late. Also, it's too late. It has always been too late.
I'm haunted by a recurring vision of a skeleton flipping me off. To avoid seeing this terrifying image in bumper sticker form, I pay someone with a blank bumper to drive in front of me at all times.
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