11 Chapter 21 When Worlds Collide
Peter and Cameron caught up with one of the scouts, falling in step with him as they made their way to their impromptu command center setup beneath a single large tent along the flank of the Fortress. They gathered under the tent and they got right down to it, "Good news and bad news. The good news is that there doesn't appear to be many of them left… maybe fifty. They've retreated to a fortified mansion at the north end of the compound. The bad news is that they've got heavy guns covering the only approach."
"We're in the eye of the storm now," said Peter, "What about the other problem?"
"You mean the "I'm dead, walking and going to eat you problem?" replied their scout, "Had limited contact but its growing in frequency and numbers, but it's only a matter of time." The radio crackled and the message it broadcasted was nothing but bad news regarding a mob of undead, hundreds strong that would be on top of them within a few hours.
"Looks like we have a deadline to meet," said Cameron, "Or we could just let the zombie horde kill them off for us."
Peter shook his head, "As tempting as that sounds, we started this and we have to finish it. Any strays get away and we'll have to deal with them for months after this. Fortifications?" asked Peter.
"Low rise walls around the mansion itself with one road access. One heavy steel gate covered by four machine guns. All located on the second floor, two on each wing. The mansion stretches farther back, but we'd be going in blind to the rear of the place."
"Do we have any maps of the area?" asked Peter. The only map they had of the area was dated but it still showed the buildings and the roads of Shasta Lake City. The mansion where the remaining Redeemers were holed up was a large building but not large in terms of its grounds and garden. Peter traced the walls and the gate, and it was clear that he was studying the distance between the mansion and the structure facing it across the street, "If these maps are accurate and more importantly, these distances are accurate."
"LAW," said Cameron, his finger stabbing several different locations on the map, "Take out those machine gun nests from these places, and blow the gate with the same."
"Advance with covering fire when we make our final assault." agreed Peter, "Clear everyone we can. Keep the medical teams and medi-evac by air on standby. We're in the eye of the storm. We're about to make it rain."
The area of Shasta Lake was formerly a more upscale neighborhood and was a ruined husk of its former glory, with the exception of the one Blessed Redeemers occupied mansion. For all of their supposed vigilance none of the guards noticed the crawling pairs until it was far too late. The eight Peacemakers popped up and within seconds sixty-six millimeter rockets streaked across the narrow expanse of road to pulverize the four gun nests.
The Peacemakers swarmed towards the gates when the quartet of LAW rockets acted as the fists of an angry God and the hinges crumbled as the Peacemakers advanced in a near military lockstep towards the flanked double doors of the mansion. The Redeemer response was quick as window after window disintegrated and the men within unleashed a wave of punishing gunfire.
During the 1980s, the "body bunker" style of ballistic shield was introduced across America. Composed of plastics, synthetic fiber and polyethylene armor to absorb gunfire, the body bunker was the tactical shield of choice as the bearer could wield the shield with one hand, and hold a gun in the other. The shields gave the advancing Peacemakers the heavy cover necessary to weather the storm as they closed up the doors ahead, even as Peter directed waves of overlapping gunfire at the walls of the mansion, blowing stone chunks from the walls.
Finally, the twenty advancing were beneath the field of fire, and most of them had made it, three out of twenty were either dead or wounded, somewhere along the paved driveway that lead up to this point. "Breaching!" shouted Cameron. The battering ram lived up to its name, the double doors caving beneath their strike.
The first eight men through the door locked their shields together creating a wall of armor for the remaining men and women who fell under Cameron's command for this phase of the assault. All of them were clad in body armor and Cameron felt that the order was fairly redundant but gave it anyway. The men and women under him deserved that, deserved the best, "Assault teams form up!"
The entry hall was clear to their flanks, and ahead, but also rising above them where a pair of staircases that circled elegantly, leading up to a balcony that would have overlooked the entry hall, "Team one: Sweep left. Team two: Sweep right. Team three: Second floor and left. Team four: Second floor and right! Team leaders: You know the call codes; use them if you have to. Execute!" Only fifty Peacemakers were left to finish the fight, Peter knew it would not be enough, but had no choice but to see it through. Of the thirty he had at the moment, only fifteen were actively shooting, the other fifteen were scattered up and down the line just waiting for the order.
Team Four, was the crew of the fortress and they stormed the right hand staircase and paused at the head of the hallway, doors lining both sides as the foursome split in to assigned pairs. Cradling the shield in one hand, he holstered the Desert Eagle and pulled the grenade from his belt, "Prepare to breach!" He opened the door an inch and dropped a small hexagonal cylinder in to the room.
Stun grenades are markedly different from traditional hand grenades as the former are designed to confuse, disorient or to distract a potential target. The "grenade" remained intact with the holes bored in to the canister allowing light and sound to escape as the 4.5 grams pyrotechnic charge detonated. The combined audio visual sensory assault was like being at ground zero of a lightning strike.
"Breach!" shouted Cameron as he rolled in to the room on the heels of the detonation. Gunfire rang out in the closed space, loud and vicious as several shots impacted the shield. Jaira was several seconds behind and pumped out a cloud of death to be rewarded with a spray of blood. Gunfire ripped through the walls as Cameron sent two rounds in to the movement directly ahead of him, knocking the figure through the window in a shower of glass and window pane.
On the other side of the corridor, Nastia and Robert fared better as they swept the rooms encountering no resistance on their side of the corridor. Eight rooms took them less than five minutes to sweep and left nine men dead in their tracks, "Team four: Clear!"
Team three joined them at the top of the stairs, and they were redirected to support the push along the ground floor. Tired, and battle weary the squad did exactly that, sucking it up as they descended and joined the butchered team one, having lost two to enemy fire. Cameron cursed as the report came in and twiddled the dial on his radio, "Peter, ground floor left: Suppressive fire!"
Peter acknowledged the call and waved to his line, two abrupt chopping motions followed by an abrupt sweep to the left was all the information necessary for fifteen rifles to open up, spraying down the entire wing with five hundred rounds, tearing through concrete and glass. Inside, the assault teams lived up to their name, and left no enemy standing, firing at any movement ahead of them and it took another two minutes to clear the front half of the building, ""Team one and three: Clear!"
"Team two: Clear!"
"Clear!" Cameron called, "Riflemen! Move to secure. Assault teams head count, ammo check and form up!" The entire assault had lasted all of fifteen minutes, "Assault teams: Head count and ammo check!" The final cost amounted to five from the assault teams but twenty Redeemers dead, no wounded and no prisoners, "Drills are bloodless combat, and combat is just a bloody drill," he muttered.
Sentries they had posted to watch the external walls reported that the dead were now visible on the horizon, the horde closing in with every passing moment. Gunfire broke the sudden stillness and in the moment of panic, the radio call came from one of the Peacemakers unfortunate enough to have stumbled across the last bastion of the Blessed Redeemers. The last they heard was a scream of defiance, where one man refused to surrender as bullet after bullet hammered him in to oblivion.
The rest of the Peacemakers spilled in through the same set of double doors. Whoever he was, there was little left of him upon the floor of what was essentially a ballroom. The sight of their butchered comrade with the Redeemers celebrating their kill, flaunting to the men and women of Redding was the proverbial "it." A single shout, a wordless cry and there was no telling where it came from. But the time of tactics and strategy was done.
The Peacemakers had only vengeance on their mind as they surged forward, guns on both sides blazing away entire magazines in an exchange of long range carnage. Spent rifles became impromptu quarterstaffs and clubs, warriors on both sides killing and maiming one another until two men found each other amidst the chaos. The black leather clad biker's impressive cape billowed as he drew his shotgun in tight and aimed at Peter. Scant feet away Peter's had the center of his opponents head within the sights of his Beretta. Both hesitated and blinked. Both their weapons gave dull hollow clicks, their magazines expended.
Cameron finally buried his knee in to the gut of his opponent, doubling the man over. He was about to hammer the man's skull with the butt of his gun when an elbow struck him in the back, throwing him to the floor. The shout was his only warning as he rolled, avoiding most of the Molotov cocktail, even as smears of the flaming mixture splattered his body armor. He slapped futilely for a moment before stripping off the vest and throwing it at the would be arsonist, seconds before two rounds from his Desert Eagle slammed the now flaming figure back first in to the wall. Burning, the corpse slumped down the wall and the dark green pineapple he had been holding rolled across the floor and came to rest at Cameron's feet, minus the pin.
In a movie, it would have been borderline comedic as Cameron grabbed the nearest Redeemer, shot him through the chest and piled his gasping enemy of the grenade. "Danger close!" He shrieked like a banshee, grabbing the nearest Peacemaker in to partial cover at the base of the many pillars that lined the flanks of the ballroom.
"What does "danger-close" mean?" she asked and he ignored the question, unable to answer as the area became an incredibly crowded mix of noise, tremor, and flying concrete, the world taking on a painful ringing as fire blossomed and shrapnel cut a bloody swath through those engaged in the art of war. Cameron pulled himself up in to a sitting position, his ears ringing with blood weeping from wounds both new and reopened. He shook his head to clear the cobweb and immediately regretted it. Stars and spots spun before his eyes.
He blinked and for the first time he saw the price they were paying, the fallen littered the floor like candy wrappers…there were more of his comrades among the dead that there were of the enemy. He struggled to rise, but the pain radiating upwards from his ankle and downwards from his knee told him that he would not be able to support his own weight. He dragged himself in to cover and going prone and cursed as blackness closed in. He slammed his head in to the ground and it worked, as the sharp influx of pain cleared his vision almost immediately. He fumbled a fresh clip from a thigh pocket and slapped it in to the Desert Eagle, took aim and fired in to the swirling mass of brawling individuals.
Across the room, things had come to head as Jaira spun off balance, the bullets taking her high in the chest, knocking her to the floor, leaving her gasping for breath as she struggled to roll over and bring any weapon to bear against her attacker. She heard the sounds of a scuffle behind her and managed to right herself, "No point in getting involved in this any further," she winced as pain lanced down her ribs. A bullet struck, followed by a second that knocked her forward a step. She may have looked and searched for blood but her last few spoken words, if there were any were lost over the crescendo of combat.
In the center of the ballroom, the respective leaders eyed each other warily as they backed away slowly, and began circling each other, "I am Arch Cardinal Jordan St. Jamais, blessed as the leader of Gods men, the men you have fought and killed this day. Who are you to challenge me in single combat?"
Peter met the eyes of his opponent, "Sergeant," he paused, "Commander Peter Sanchez, First Company, Redding Peacemakers."
"Indeed, our weapons are not conducive to settling this matter," replied the madly grinned Arch Cardinal. Finally, he lowered his hand weapon, "Once upon a time, before Satan turned the dead in to his walking servants, a man said that combat between humans is not about who has the better weapon, but that the measure of a man's skill as a warrior would be his ability to use himself, you understand, the body as a weapon." He undid the clasp that held the gun belt in its place, and dropped it behind him. The cape followed until the Arch Cardinal was clad in nothing but his vest, pants, boots and gloves, the latter of which were removed with slow casualness as he continued preaching, kicking away the gloves with a passion.
Peter flicked on the safety, understanding what his opponent was getting at, "Interesting concept," he tossed his shotgun aside, followed by his own gloves, before straightening to face the Cardinal as an equal. He nodded to one of the men he knew, "Collect our wounded and get them out of here." he cracked his knuckles, evenly balancing his feet shoulder width apart.
"We begin!" The Cardinal said with a wide animalistic smile that showed more fang than teeth as they gauged each other's stance as the tightened their circle upon each other, wolves searching for the fast kill in a circle of equals. The dead could have walked in and neither man would have cared, totally focused on the prize to be won: Victory.
Both stepped forward as Jordan launched the first assault, a quick snap kick to the chest. The blow didn't land as a hand whipped up and knocked the foot back down. Having closed the distance, Peter exploited it with a straight jab that was easily blocked, as was the follow up punch at the ribs. Parried by a forearm, Jordan countered with a jab aimed at the face that was just as easily blocked as part of the plan.
Both hands closed around the wrist of the punching arm and Jordan was pulled in and off balance as Peter's head snapped forward like a cobra, crashing in to Jordan's mouth. Peter followed through with a roundhouse punch and then an elbow to the temple. Peter's left knee came up in the beginnings of a knew to the face when the Cardinal rose up suddenly, driving a return elbow up in to Peter's temple that was quickly followed upon with another elbow smash and a jab that struck Peter square in the eye. An uppercut drove into Peter's chin, followed by a vicious snap side kick.
The kick gave Peter the moment he needed, dropping to his knees before lunging forward as both men went across the floor in a rolling tornado, scratching and clawing for control. Jordan wound up on top with his hand clasped over Peter's throat as the free hand formed a fist and drove down in to Peter's nose once and then again. The third blow fell but was caught by the wrist as Peter coiled his legs, pulling them in close as they rocked back and forth until he was able to press both boots against his opponent's chest. A quick kick hurled them apart.
Both scrambled to their feet and eyed one another warily. Peter wiped the blood away from his nose and growled. They charged at each other again with Jordan leading with a powerful punch across the jaw. Peter rolled with the blow and ducked beneath the follow up left hook. Peter left arm unleashed a trio of rapid fire uppercuts to the gut that culminated in a spinning back fist.
Hurting from the assault, Jordan snapped off a rapid series of one two punches that Peter blocked easily. Suddenly, he grabbed a forearm and pulled Jordan in toe a rising knee that drove the wind from him and shattered several ribs. An elbow drove in to the back of his head, knocking him to the floor and Peter closed in for the kill as he raised his foot to stomp down on the prone man's spine.
Jordan was quick enough to roll to the side and in to a crouch as Peter's foot came down upon the marble floor. His stance askew, Jordan's shoulder charge slammed peter back first in to one of the ballroom's many pillars. Something cracked, and Peter gasped in agony as he slid to the floor. With an evil smile, Jordan took a running start and slammed his boot in to Peter's gut, a brutal soccer that lifted Peter off the floor for several feet before he crashed to the floor on his stomach in the center of the ballroom.
Winded and bruised, Peter felt that arm lock around his neck, squeezing as it applied pressure in a chokehold. Blood streamed down Jordan's arm as he tightened his hold, "None can stand against the righteous who walk with God and kill the heretics, and purge the unclean that walk God's Earth!" Peter was driven forehead first in to the floor, "Be it by fist, blade or bullet, none can stand against the wrath of the God's soldiers! It is the wrath of the righteous that slays you and your heretic followers!"
Peter did not reply, but something within him snapped at those words as rage flooded through him, invigorating him as he pushed off the floor and raised his chin above the locking arm, allowing him to draw a single welcome breath. The arm around his neck might as well have been an iron bar for all the good scratching at it would do. Reaching back, he grabbed the exposed head savage thrust his thumbs in to the unprotected eyes.
Jordan cried out in agony, his grip weakening and Peter slipped free, opening up the distance between them. Bruised and bloodied, Peter planted a sidekick in Jordan's chest and followed his bloodlust in for the kill. He bore in hard and fast, pummeling a pair of rapid jabs to the stomach and leaned back, feeling the wind of the countering uppercut. He coiled around the extended arm like a snake and yanked, forcing the elbow in to hyper extension until the joint gave out with an audible crack.
Peter moved with balletic grace, releasing the ruined arm as he spun around his beleaguered foe to grab his head and drive him face first in to the bloodied floor. The impact snapped him upright and Jordan pin wheeled away, clutching his ruined arm to his chest. Peter snarled and wasted no time, punishing his opponent with a series of jabs, crosses to the chest, gut and torso that culminated in a thundering uppercut.
Arch Cardinal Jordan St. Jamais of the Blessed Redeemers stumbled back as Peter came in yet again with another quick combination of blows as yet another rib cracked. Fists rained on the chest and head in a furious assault as alternating hooks that had him swaying where he stood, on the verge of collapse.
Jordan's eyes almost swollen shut, nose crushed and bleeding, arm a mangled ruin, with multiple broken ribs. He managed to look up Peter and surprisingly enough, smiled as blood trickling out the side of his mouth from between broken teeth, "My faith has been tested and been found wanting. We walk with God, and there are more of our brothers, another chapter still exists to continue God's work." Blood spilled from between his cracked lips, "You will never stop all of us. And you will burn at the hands of my brothers!"
"Gun!" shouted someone, a minute too late as the weapon barked, and Peter rocked and fell. Peacemaker and Redeemer were gathered behind their respective leaders to watch the fight, and that one shot shattered the silence and the cease fire. Nastia and Robert retaliated first, walking bullets up the torso of the shooter, before a horrendous volley of point blank gunfire erased men and women on both sides. But the gathered Peacemakers had fired first, and in so doing, won.
Just like that the first post Armageddon war was over for Redding's soldiers.
"Cameron!" shouted Nastia. Cameron's attention was shifted away from helping a limping Peter. He looked to Nastia, and then past her, to the blood pooling around her limp form, "Its Jaira! She's…" Cameron rushed to her, his heart filled with apprehension that turned to fear and terror, with every step that he took.