She just wasn’t telling him the complete truth. Which fit in exactly with the corollary from Rookie Rule Number 1: Always know that you are never, ever being told the whole story.
It was almost three forty-five in the afternoon. The ETA for the zombies was now less than an hour. A surge of adrenaline shot through him every time he thought about that. He tamped it down. Be calm. Think. He’d handled a zombie before, with far less preparation. He could do it again. His Glock was secured on his right hip, his zip-front sweatshirt keeping it and his gun belt with extra ammo hidden from sight. He’d also donned his black tac vest, very aware that something that could so easily trash a car wouldn’t be hampered by it. But he had to wear it—and his smaller Glock in the ankle holster. For extra protection, his assault rifle was racked in its usual place.
By comparison, the weapons the space commandos wore seemed strangely small and light. Jorie was decked out in much the same manner as when he first saw her: headset with its eyepiece (swiveled down for the moment), dual laser pistols, and various gizmos attached to a belt (all hidden by the sweater). Her high-tech rifle rested on the floor.
Oddly, it wasn’t their weaponry that was foremost in his mind at the moment. Their camaraderie—or lack of it—was.
He glanced at the passengers in his backseat through the SUV’s rearview mirror. There was a power struggle under way. He’d been with BVPD too long not to recognize one. But this one centered on him and the lives of everyone he knew.
A detective’s sixth sense told him he’d been off the mark in his initial appraisal of Commander Mikkalah. She was responsible for his kidnapping and that damned thing in his shoulder, but, despite that, he was beginning to see that Jorie did take people’s lives into consideration. That same sixth sense told him Rordan didn’t.
And that, he suspected, was where the lines were drawn. The players had chosen their sides.
On Jorie’s was Tamlynne Herryck, now wearing his old black and white Tampa Bay Lightning T-shirt over her sleeveless uniform top. Tammy, he’d dubbed her. But Jacare Trenat—Jack, wearing one of Theo’s Old Navy T-shirts—had sided with Kip Rordan. Theo didn’t speak a word of Alarsh, but he knew if he dubbed Rordan Pompous Asshole he wouldn’t be too far off the mark—though Uncle Stavros would probably call Rordan a malaka. Too bad he’d loaned Rordan his Bucs jersey. He hoped like hell he’d get that back.
Jack, it seemed, was doing all he could to get his nose far up Rordan’s butt. Though to be fair, Jack was young. Just a rookie. He had that bright, shiny look in his eyes that was a combination of a desire to please and a belief that he could save the world.
And Rordan, with his swagger, was just the kind of malaka a rook like Jack would admire.
Of course, saving the world—Theo’s world—was Jack’s job. If it hadn’t been his own world at stake, Theo might have found the entire situation amusing: intergalactic space commandos falling prey to petty office politics. He just hoped Jorie Mikkalah was up to the task of not only the zombies but whatever Rordan was planning as well.
He stopped for a red light. Jorie had been focused on her scanner gizmo since they’d left his house but she looked up at him now.
“Ten minutes,” he said, anticipating her question.
She nodded. “I need to position Rordan and Trenat first before we remove your people.”
“Lieutenant Herryck and I will take the opposite position. You can return to your structure. We’ll meet you back there in about one sweep.”
“Whoa, wait a minute.” The light turned green. He stepped on the gas. The SUV stuttered, then surged forward. “I’m part of this mission, remember? And it’s a long walk—”
“We’ll use the PMaT to transport back to the ship when the juveniles have been dealt with.”
Peemat? Oh, that damned thing that spins your guts out through your eyeballs, then puts you back together again as you go from Point A to Point B. A thought struck him. “Why do you need me to drive you to the park if you have that transporter?” It was certainly quicker and more efficient, though nauseating.
Yeah, okay, so I’m a stupid nil. Theo returned Rordan’s reflected smirk with one of his own. “Skata na fas, malaka,” he said under his breath. Eat shit, asshole.
“But you said you’re going to transport back—”
Rordan said something in Alarsh, short and quick.
Theo saw Jorie shrug. Her answer was equally short and sounded—though he had no idea of the content of the exchange—casual, almost offhand. But her fingers were tight around her scanner.
He didn’t like not understanding their language. He liked it even less that Rordan understood his. He hoped this was just petty office politics and that they were all on the same side when it came to the zombies.
And here she was doing the same thing because Rordan—and intergalactic office politics—prevented her from saving lives at a crowded mall during Christmas week.
So Theo decided to do the only thing he could: tilt the balance in Jorie’s favor. He made his decision as he dropped Rordan and Jack at the far end of the park by the tennis courts, then Jorie and Tammy at the other, next to the baseball field. A quick trip around the perimeter announcing—via his PA system, with blue strobe going—the possible sighting of a rabid raccoon cleared away the few remaining joggers.
He turned the lumbering vehicle back toward the ball field, parked it just behind the row of low bleachers, and got out. Jorie trotted toward him, frowning. He leaned on the front of his SUV, arms folded across his tac vest.
Opticals. Eyes. And legs. And writhing energyworms and long, flailing, razor-sharp extenders. He sprinted after her to where red-haired Tammy stood, rifle in one hand, scanner in the other, then stopped. Both women’s heads were bent over their scanners but, damn it, no one was looking around. Someone should be. He remembered the green glowing circle, the thing oozing out—impossibly—from its center. He turned, squinting through his sunglasses into the late afternoon light.
Something slammed him from behind, crushing him to the ground. Grass, dirt, and gravel were pushed into his face, and he heard his sunglasses crack. Then, with sickening clarity, Theo realized he could no longer breathe...