A clockwork boy part 10

2200 hrsJuly 10th, Hilton Head island.

Captain United States (Safe Zone) Navy, Alonso Wheeler, was a slender man with dark hair and brooding features, at least according to his ex wife who was now as dead as the majority of the world ending his painful alimony payments. The fact that I haven’t gotten a pay check for six years is something to brood about later, he told himself. With a mental shrug he shoved the totally irrelevant thoughts aside. Turning his attention back to the men who were offloading cargo from the ships hold into the small craft that had been lowered along side the softly rocking three masted white hulled Tall ship..

Just watching the men work, reminded him of the men he had trained with aboard this very Ship, before the dead had risen. They deserved better he thought, all of the people who had died had deserved better of course but those men he had known personally.

The Zone had gotten lucky first by having Casey an experienced sailor teach them the basics of handling a ship like the Eagle. Casey himself was no expert on Tall ships but had known enough to impart basic skills including navigation by star and sextant.

The second stroke of lucky had been finding, twenty eight men and women, including three highly experienced officers in the Survivors of Charlestown who had been crew on the various tall ships that had been in port when the dead had risen.

Their experience had proven invaluable in training more crews to not only man the Eagle, but the U.S.S Constitution and several of the Schooners in the Charleston harbor. The Zone was becoming a true maritime power, assuming they could learn enough to not only maintain the ships they had, but to do extensive repairs and eventually build new ones.

Focus he told himself sternly trying not to think of what might happen if the Crew dropped one of the crates they were offloading. They handled each crate as if their lives depended on it. And they should considering each crate was loaded with 16 grenades each. Made in the new Mt. Pleasant Powder mill, number II thank you, the first one blew up one fine night. The grenades used the newest batch of gunpowder that had been produced using the powder formula’s that McBride and Calvin Horst a pre walking dead chemist had come up with.

The grenades resembled the old German potato masher grenades from world war’s one and two. A double walled container, packed with powder and round shot, that looked like a soup can mounted on a stick.

At least they are safer than saying trying to fire a bullet packed with the same powder which tended to produce a large amount of smoke and occasionally produced overpressure that blew weapon barrels apart.

Overpressure wasn’t really an issue in grenades. Which was why the mill was currently only making grenades and mortar rounds. Both were easy to make and didn’t require extensive machining or smelting to make the cases.

Neither did bullets, but for some reason Jared and the council were hesitant to blow up their own people with exploding weapons preferring instead to blow up any enemies that took it in mind to attack the zone or the zones growing list of allied communities.

All of which had nothing to do with his current mission, which was to get the grenades which had been bound for Harbor town, up to the Marina where Erin Brinn and the other leaders had gathered for a summit and found themselves front line in a war.

He would have preferred to sail the former Coast Guard ship, The eagle, A three masted Barque, called a Tall ship in Modern or old modern times, straight up the broad and offload, but the old nav charts showed that the depth for several miles into the broad was only around eight and a half feet, the eagle pulled a draft of about twice that, around 17 and a half feet to be precise.

She wasn’t small ship, not with a compliment of 8 officers and 50 sailors and able to berth 150 more if they carried little cargo. Usually they carried another sixty trainees along with forty real US Marines or sometimes Soldiers instead of Marines..

She wasn’t speedy by old modern standards, and a few other types of tall ships like the old clipper carried more sail area than the 22, 280 sq feet of sail the eagle used, and were designed to reach higher speeds.

The Old Eagle could pull 19 knots in the right conditions, around 22 mph, he thought doing the conversion automatically. How ever those conditions were not something the crew would really want to experience to often in reality. In reality the average cruise speed was around 7.5 knots with a range of 5,450 nautical miles. of course that kind of trip and its time depended a lot on conditions, supplies, weather and a host of other issues.

What was really nice from the new world perspective was she didn’t need fuel to get about either. The fuel production facility that had been set up on Sullivan was finally producing just enough excess to half fill the Tank of the Diesel engine and the three generators, though only one was normally used and that only intermittently since it was used to power the most important system on the old ship. The water osmosis system that supplied fresh water while at sea.

It was at least nice to know that if they were ever becalmed they could fire up the Engine and cruise for several hours at or around seven knots. Which wasn’t much by the old world standards but in the here and now of the Post Undead apocalypse it was something to cheer about knowing that they had the ability to use the engines in emergencies.

He knew that Eric stone would have preferred to get the Eagle up the broad so that
three, 25 pound deck guns could be brought to bear on the raiders.

The Howitzers originally used by the army in WW 2 and recovered along with some ammunition from two National Guard armory’s and one museum, had been mounted on the Eagles deck along with a six smaller pieces mounted three to port and starboard. They gave the Eagle a hell of a punch both at sea and in close to shore if needed.

Two ships gone pirate that had started preying on the boats that Sullivan was sending north had learned the hard way that things were a changing, both technologically and in terms of a Navy presence, when the Eagle had sunk them with all hands from a range that didn’t allow the pirates to fire on them. .

The U.S.S Constitution was just as heavily armed at this point, as was one of the Schooners, ammunition how ever was still a major problem that probably wouldn’t get much better for another few years.

He smiled as he thought of his Navies weapons his sun faded blue eyes glittered with the amusement. The Raiders boats were going to be discovering that little fact in short order when the Constitution arrived at the Skull creek Marina to join the Scout schooner that had spotted the anchorage and the small band of raiders still camped there to keep guard over their small craft.

Limited ammunition for the cannon or not, The M2 .50 caliber machine guns and the heavy cannon aboard the constitution would make short work of the Raiders small craft and camp leaving the main raider force with no where to go but hell.

Allen hurried along the dark multi laned road wanting to see for himself what his scouts had reported ten minutes ago. So far there had been no contact with any Enclave forces. He didn’t expect that to last how ever but if fate was kind it would be after his force was across the inter island bridge and on the Marina’s front door step.

Most likely there were guards posted on the far end of the bridge who would see them coming but he should be able to rush at least half his forces across and overrun what ever barricades the Pines might have erected to control the end of the bridge.

Luck, I hate having to rely on luck and having to pray the other side are complete idiots and screw up when I need them to, he thought as he passed the toll booths and came to a stop seeing the glow to the south on the other side of the Broad. Lights, not lanterns either, he thought, they were too bright for Lanterns. Not his was the sharp edged light from electric lights and if they had lights what else did they have.

Washing machines, hot water, Working Medical equipment maybe even DVD players to watch movies every once in a while. He felt the anger he had carried since his family die, surging through him like a drug. Far to few of his people would feel anger at the sight of those light’s he knew. They would see what they had been missing all this time and many might wonder if not attacking the Enclaves might give them a chance to live here with all the amenities they had on this fucking island. I can’t blame a single man or women for longing for what we used to have. I can only hope they stay loyal to the me and the plan. That was a bridge he would have to cross if and when he came to it.

He crept forward with his command team following closely behindtill he reached the scout team that had been left in place to keep on an eye out.

“Anything new” he asked sliding up beside one of the men after exchanging the sign/countersign challenge he had almost had to force down the throats of the various raider teams before they started to understand how important something so simple was.

I shouldn’t be surprised at the resistance to learning basic military skills and doctrine, all we have had to face for a long time now are untrained civilians whose idea of a fight was firing blindly, running hither and yon before running away or surrendering, assuming they weren’t all dead by the time we got past their defenses.

Of course we are in no way close to be an army ourselves, but we are learning discipline and given time and some real experience we might shake down into a real army. Time we might not have if we don’t settle down and start learning how to farm and make our own weapons and ammunition not to mention basic medical supplies and skills.

Allen was honest enough with himself to know no one in the raider force had any clue on how to do any of those things, but if they could take the Enclaves with out killing a lot of people, those people would have the skills to support his own forces.

I but only Dieter has a real clue what I have planned for the future , Allen thought half amused. An amusement that faded as the scout he lay beside reported and the mans pointing figure showed Allen exactly what he had hoped wouldn’t be there.

From where he lay the road narrowed into a four lane road that cross the bridge, right at the entrance to this bridge someone, the Pines he assumed, had moved vehicles and debris to build a barricade across this end of the bridge. In the moonlight the barricade looked like insubstantial, just more shadows in a night filled with shadows. Here and there moonlight gleamed off of metal or glass.

He didn’t like it, even with out the barricade his force would have to come together losing the protection that being spread out allowed. Massing his men and funneling them onto the bridge where a single machine gun or a small unit could mass its fire across the narrow front doing far more damage.

Damn it, so much for securing the bridge and launching a surprise attack he thought bitterly, we might get close before they spot us, but there is no way we are going to get to the barricade unseen so the element of surprise will be shot.

Their only chance was to rush the barricade and get across the bridge before the other side could mobilize. Assuming of course there is no barricade on the other side. It wasn’t a pleasant thought but he wouldn’t know till they got to the other side. I can have the mortars set up back by the toll booths to support us if needed.

Drop a bunch of shells on the other end, which shouldn’t be to hard to get right and soften up what ever defenses were there clearing the way for his main force before they got there.

I should have planned on a year or more to train the force, I really should have. It was a great thought he knew. Hind sight always was but the truth was he doubted most of the other raider teams would have stayed for the training. Raiding was kept them fed and supplied and a year in one place, even with the warehouses in Savannah, wouldn’t have looked attractive to them. instead they might have just loaded what they could take and headed out to greener pastures.

“all right Tommy pass the word to the rear, get the teams organized we attack in an hour and I want Bragga’s people leading the charge. “ He smiled savagely at the thought. Let that bastards men bleed first for screwing up my plans. They want to attack so badly to get first dips on the spoils well I will just let them. That way if there are a lot more men over there his men will get the lions share of lead before the rest of the force does.

“Take it easy Pastor, you don’t want to tear out the stitches” a deceptively young looking Zone Medic said as Keith woke and tried to sit up.

“what happened?” Keith Wells asked his voice slurred from sleep and drugs. Drugs that most of the world considered lost for all time these days.

“Well Pastor, from what I have been told you are one lucky man. Apparently, one of the Terrorists objected to you being murdered and threw himself on you. The Man saved your life. The bad news is two of the bullets passed through him and entered you, thanks to him they had lost enough energy and did a lot less damage on your insides than they otherwise would have but what they did do was bad enough.

You will probably have limited range of movement in one arm and reduced lung function thanks to one bullet and you will probably have a limp from the one that clipped your left hip joint. So if you love to Tango you might want to consider two stepping from now on.” The Medic replied with a friendly if compassionate smile that reached his dark green eyes.

“I thought Baptists didn’t Dance,” A familiar voice said from the doorway. Wells looked over and saw Waylon Tucker standing there decked out in his odd looking armor, the helmet with its attached mask tucked under his left arm.

“So I hear, But I am not a Baptist” Wells said thankful he was sounding more normal. “what happened with Jason. I must have been knocked out because I don’t remember anything after the first gun shot.”

“You smacked your head pretty hard on the floor when you were taken down” Tucker commented as he walked over to stand beside the bed Wells lay in .

a look of surprise suddenly filled Wells face as he looked up and finally realized that the light in the ceiling was burning. “how,” He began then shook his head. “you got the Steam powered generator running I see” He added as his mind cleared enough to put things together.

“Sure did, got the whole place lit up like Christmas, well parts of it really.” Tucker said. “as for what happened. Jason got away, Herman and some of the Guard are beating the bushes for him. But we have bigger problems, apparently Baker met with a raider and spilled the beans about the summit. Bakers Wife Elisa, and most of their people didn’t take kindly to the Messenger of the Lord’s most current and egregious mistakes and removed him and his cronies from leadership. His wife took over control and led most of their security force here to both warn us and to help repel any attack.”

“the Lord does work in mysterious ways” Wells said thoughtfully. “I take it the other leaders are still here or we would have fallen back to the Pines already.”

“All of them, in fact Snow and Coats sent messengers off across the broad using one of Franklins boats and their forces are going to engage the Raiders from the rear once we have them bogged down at the bridge. And I would appreciate you thanking God in your next prayer for the Safe Zones support. They are supplying us with some ammunition and other things, its not a lot just what they had on their ship that was supposed to go to Harbor town, but the zone representatives diverted it to us thinking we might need it a bit more, and since Erin was here and agreed there is no problem with us taking possession of it.”

“You can thank him your self Waylon, I’m sure he wouldn’t mind” Wells replied with the ghost of his former smile.

“Pastor, I cant say I am much of a believer so I would feel like a hypocrite if I started praying at this moment. But coming from you, if God is up there and paying attention, He might take it a little more seriously.”

“Waylon God doesn’t care when you start praying to him, only that you do and you believe when you do.” Wells said. “Now if you would help me get up, I think it might be better if we send some one to parlay with the Raiders before we start killing each. Who knows we might be able to settle this peacefully.”

“Pastor, I doubt very seriously your in good enough shape to even try and I doubt the raiders would be interested in backing down with out rape and loot even if you are able to muster enough energy to meet with them and they bother to meet with us to listen to a pitch.”

“Maybe so Waylon, but I think we would all feel a little better if things end up badly knowing we tried to stop the killing.” Baker said determinedly.

“lay back down Pastor or I will have the good medic Sedate you even if it costs me an arm and leg for the drug.”

“I am sorry Waylon, I cant” Keith Wells said fixing a look of promised god fire and wrath on the medic if he even dared to follow such an order. The medic knew when to show discretion and stepped back with another patented friendly healer smile holding his hands up in surrender.

“I agree he shouldn’t be up and moving around this soon” The medic said looking at Tucker. “But I cant make him stay in bed and if you will pardon my saying so, to often in the past political leadership has moved into combat risking the lives of the military with out consideration that another option like diplomacy might succeed with the threat of force used judiciously and intelligently behind it if talks fail.”

Coming from an SF Medic, Tucker had to take the idea seriously and Wells, If the raiders were willing to talk, would be the best person to talk for the Enclaves. But showing the raiders that the Enclaves knew they were in the area would destroy the surprise factor that Eric stone and Ben had spent a while explaining its importance. At the same time allowing Pastor Wells to talk to the Raider leadership once they had been pounded on and knew they were going to lose might save lives in the end.

“Pastor to be honest, as much as I would love to believe that simply waving a white flag and talking to them will keep any one from being killed, I know it wont happen. Look at the last time they hit the island. They shot any messenger that even showed his or herself. They raped and murdered their way around the island till we organized enough to drive them off. Besides there are two factors that pretty much kill the idea, one the raiders are already at the Toll booths and about to attack so you wouldn’t be able to get there in time to stop the initial attack and secondly your not going to be doing much walking for any distance for a while to come.” Tucker said. “But I promise this much if we can blunt their attack and have a chance to offer a parley, I will make sure you are brought forward to negotiate with them. Because frankly injured or not you’re the best man I can think of for that job.”

with the plan that Eric Stone, Ben and the others had come up, once the raiders were stuck in the trap and the Forces from Astoria and the Township hit them from behind, they might just be tempted to talk, or of course flee through the gap that Eric Stone insisted on leaving in the envelopment for the raiders to retreat through.

The Former SF man had insisted that if the raiders had no way to retreat from the battle field they would fight even harder and killing more of the Enclaves people and getting more of their own killed than might otherwise have died on both sides.. Tucker was no soldier, much less a tactician, but it made some sense to him from things he had read over the years.

“is that acceptable Pastor?” Tucker said in an oddly formal tone. Wells studied the younger mans face for a moment and realized that Tucker had done some growing since the attack on his life and all that had followed.

Keith hated the idea of men being killed with out trying to stop the conflict before hand, but he also was no fool and knew that Tucker was right about the raiders most likely reaction. “Yes Mr. Co president it is” Keith Wells replied formally, “I will need one of the carts to get me to the negotiations when the time comes.” Wells said struggling to sit up, pain flashing across his face as the medic stepped forward to help him sit.

“Let me go talk to the others and see if they agree. If they do, and I see no reason they wont, then you get your wish. But only if the Doc here says your able to do it with out making things worse.” Tucker said glancing at the Medic who He was sure wouldn’t let the pastor snow him into approving anything if the pastor wasn’t really up to the challenge. Tucker shook his head and a lopsided grin flashed “your to damn stubborn for your own good”

“I am in good company then” Wells replied. Tucker grunted an unintelligible reply then strode from the room.

In a movie the camera would have swept in over the island following the roads revealing the crumbling empty homes and business’s that loomed over the darkened streets. It would have lingered how ever briefly on the abandoned cars, some with their doors still standing open from the DAY, their interiors filled with old leaves and trash. Others held the bones of their previous owners. Men and women trapped inside their cars, left to starve while the undead pawed and beat on their vehicles.

That camera might have lingered on a faded and weathered Teddy bear in the middle of a street dropped by a six year old girl who hadn’t escaped the undead. It might have shown a dropped purse, left behind by a thirty year old mother of four who died two blocks away, beating on a door begging for the occupants of the house to let her and her children in. It might even have shown the blood stained porch that was the only monument to the life of that long dead mother and her children.

But tonight under a sky studded by brilliant stars and a bloated moon, men and women, creatures really, moved through the woods, swarmed around the dilapidated buildings and empty streets, just shadows in the darkness as they flowed after the large force of raiders that had disturbed them.

The Scarred one’s, the diseased, and the cursed were just some of the names they were called by on the island of Hilton head. Exactly how they had come into existence could only be guessed. But what was known that in the darkest hours of the Time of the undead, they, the inhabitants of a now nameless enclave had resorted to eating the undead. Then had come madness, cannibalism and disease. Most were as close to mindless, animals, as could be envisioned. No one really doubted that it had all started with eating the flesh of the undead but no one knew for sure.

The scared ones moved quickly, with a disjointed jerking speed, occasionally sniffing the air or cocking their heads to listen for their prey then took off in pursuit once more, focused entirely on the hunt.

Eric Stone stepped back, giving Ben Ramo a gesture of Privacy as the Lt. stared at Waylon Tucker his friend and Leader in disbelief. “… is this hair brained idea the reason you went and put on that armor Waylon.” Ramo asked. That the armor could take small arms fire wasn’t the question it could, Waylon had done a lot of book research then practical research into making the ballistic plates that were composed of steel heat hardened in motor oil then laminated together with various things that Tucker had never really discussed with Ben. What ever it was, Ben had seen Tucker testing plates and had been surprised that the process worked at all. In fact Tucker had made enough of the laminated plates to replace several sets of worn out plates in Guard armor.

“No I put on this armor because I am going across with the Tank when the time comes and don’t even try to argue with me Ben. I want the men to know that I am willing to share the risks I am asking them to take and I think its something we need to demand of our leadership in the future. Because lets be honest we can no longert afford career politicians whose only experience in risk taking as eating high fat foods or maybe if we are lucky being a cop, ordering our military into harms way with no combat experience and no idea of what risks we are asking them to take when we send them out.” Or actually paying the price that the soldiers pay when we order them out he thought. God knows that kind of real experience would stop a lot of the idiot political posturing if Presidents and Members of congress had to actually share in the risks they asked others to take.

The one thing he had learned over the years was that very few soldiers who faced combat or the prospect of combat were drum beating war hawks. They knew what war cost in blood, sweat and tears and thought war was something that should only be fought for the right reasons, and as a last resort after careful consideration.

Ben opened his mouth to argue, but damn if Tucker wasn’t right on the money and judging by the expressions of the nearby guard soldiers who had overheard they were impressed. But Tucker was no soldier, if he was killed! Ben force himself to remain silent for a moment as he considered the idea and the impact it would have not only on the Guard but the other Enclave leaders. It would damn sure show how seriously the Pines leadership took their promise to protect those who attended the summit. Not to mention that it underlined the Pines and Tuckers desire to form a stable island wide government despite any obstacles.

“Okay, okay. You’re the boss, and you’re a total idiot. But your also correct.” Ben admitted grudgingly.

“I am an idiot Ben, you have no idea how scared I really am at the idea of facing this.” Tucker admitted quietly looking ashamed. “But its got to be done.” Despite lowering his voice, the men and women nearby, many of them soldiers heard the comment. If any one understood the fear and knew how much courage and determination it took to face it and see their way through, they did.

“Waylon, the only soldiers who aren’t scared at the prospect of fight are either to stupid to understand whats about to happen or so divorced from reality to realize they can be killed along with every one else.” Ben said with a understanding smile filled with more respect than he had ever shown his friend before. He patted Tuckers shoulder with one hand then straightened to attention and snapped a parade ground perfect salute his old drill instructor would have been proud of it.

Tucker gravely returned the salute understand the respect Ramo was showing him with out a word. Then ruined the moment as his hand came down by saying. “we who are about to die salute you”

“Damn it Tucker, you asshole” Ben said with a shake of his head. “Get out of here Co President stupid. I want SFC Wielder glued to your ass from now till the end of the battle, if you die he had better die two seconds before you do.”

“Got it, But should my butt be bare or can I keep my pants on. Call me homophobic but I prefer pants on with the Good sergeant behind me.”

Eric Stone made something that sounded suspiciously like a laugh as Ramo shook his head sadly. “God help us your already sounding like all of us dim witted soldiers.” Ramo said.

As Tucker and Wielder the Tank captain, who had been standing nearby, headed towards the Faux tank, Ramo heard “…Trust me I prefer your pants to stay on. But to be honest its been a while since I had a date with a woman. Your butt is just cute enough to …” then they were out of earshot.

“I think Mr. Tucker will do quite nicely as a leader.” Eric Stone observed. “you should have made sure he knew that pissing his pants when being shot at the first few hundred times is not only natural but normal too!” Stone said with a grin.

“you pissed your pants, your lucky the first fire fight I was in, I crapped my drawers” Ramo said as the soldiers and Stone laughed. “ had to ditch em and go commando till we got back to FOB the next day.”

“been there, done that too” Stone said grinning. It was a joke more or less but more than one soldier had soiled himself at the start of combat over the centuries, much to the delight and distraction of his brothers in arms who had probably come close to doing the same thing themselves.

“Yes, He will do very nicely” Stone repeated.

From the Journal of Chris McCaffrey.

I will never admit this outloud and deny it if any one reads this journal and tries to spread it around. Stephanie was right, I should have kept my butt back at the Marina. I can barely move with out a lot of pain and if the Raiders attack and overrun the building, the only way I will escape is if someone else risks their life to try and carry me. Which means I am going to die because I am not going to let any one risk themselves for my butt when I was to proud and to stupid to sit this one out.

Hear that Eric, You knew better and still let me make the call, thanks. No Doubt if I do die Stephanie will have the word stupid inscribed on my tombstone and let that damn cat pee on my grave.

Right now, thanks to the Tuckers batteries Ori and I have been able to take full advantage of My Night vision goggles and the Night Vision scope on Ori’s sweet as hell Sniper rifle. Because of that we have been watching the raiders gathering silently down below. They tried the doors of several nearby buildings including the fire station but finding them locked, we locked them behind us, they have ignored the building. That wont last once we start shooting of course, but at the moment the fire station is just one more abandoned building. If they werent trying to remain quiet I bet they would have just forced the door open since they wouldn’t have to worry about the noise.

What I cant figure out is what Ace Eric has up his sleeve, reading between the lines of several of his comments, I know he has something planned but he is being pretty tight lipped about it. Not to mention the fact that he is bending the hell out of the orders he and the SF have been given. I don’t doubt that most will support his interpretation that by aiding the enclaves he was ultimately protecting Our Harbor Town trading partner and soon to be ally but any one could see that smoke screen for what it was in an eye blink.

Well Jared will approve it and if Jared takes a stand most of the people in Sullivan will back his opinion of the matter no matter what the council may say. The council was at least happy that Jared rarely every stepped into political sphere to oppose any ruling or law, and utilized the cult of personality that had risen around him to interfere in the workings of the Government. Which was yet another reason so many respected and backed him when he did.

And God help those who tried to maneuver Jared or his opinion into supporting their personal political interest. Even if he approved of what ever they were trying to accomplish.

Anyway back to current events and a personal note. If Ori whispers one more knock knock joke I am going to put an ice pick into his ear, to kill him silently. The man really has no idea how to tell a joke even a knock knock joke. He must have been in hell during grade school. Okay to be fair once the raiders got close he has only whispered two, but that was two, two many.

It must be hell to know, no matter how funny you want to be, you fail at. Its like screwing up masturbation only with an audience to witness your humiliation.

Anyway, with the way those raiders are concentrating the battle wont be long in starting.

It was a dark dream, but on he had, had before. It was a gray day with misting rain that moved around like curtains of fog. Distorting the brake lights of the cars that waited in line ahead of him. It was the last day of the old world, till that day he had believed that the dead would be stopped and life would return to normal.

Until that day he had thought that the island would weather the storm and the undead would be kept out and the plan to begin to bring in main land survivors would bear fruit and then they could begin to retake the cities where hundreds of thousands hid waiting for salvation. Then the alarm had sounded, the dead had arrived and were sweeping across the island like one of the Seven plagues of ancient Egypt. A plague sent by an irate god angry at his creations for turning against his will.

His mother, a devout southern Baptist sat beside him pale and in pain from something that he had hoped was the flu and not one of the really bad bugs that were making the rounds. She sat there in her seat staring at the bible clutched in her hands and praying softly for their deliverance.

He saw again the National Guard soldiers moving down the long line of waiting vehicles, ordering every one to abandon their cars because of a wreck that had blocked the road and as he had later learned there just wasn’t enough room in the Enclave for all the cars.

“take only what you need, food and a few clothes and what ever medications you have, leave everything else” the Soldier at his window had said, his face just a flesh colored blank in the dream. “stay in the middle of the road, let the cars on either side act as a barrier, do not panic.”

Jason again explained in his dream as he had so long ago in the real world his mother wasn’t able to walk the two miles to the Enclave and once more the Soldier had promised that there were military vehicles almost a mile up that would ferry any one that needed it, but those vehicles couldn’t make it this far because of the conditions and the wreck.

Jason had gathered what they needed and helped his mother from the car and into her wheel chair. Wrapping her in a rain coat he piled the few supplies they were taking in her lap then started pushing her towards the promised waiting vehicles.

“We got to smart for ourselves Jason, we played god with the world using technology, all that gene splicing and time saving devices” she had preached in her shaky voice. There were times when he was awake he couldn’t really remember her saying that, but those words and what the realizations he had, had later on had been the driving force behind his finding the real wisdom of the Lord and his faith..

She had rattled on and on about Technology and the word of God and how man had failed the most basic of Gods tenets, hard work and humility, while other survivors rudely shoved past them in their haste to reach the Enclave and the safety it promised.

Once more through the curtain of misting rain he heard the first screams and knew that that the dead had arrived. As in the past gun fire rang out before and behind him all along the line of now mostly abandoned vehicles. He felt sick to his stomach knowing what was coming and knowing there was nothing he could do to turn back time and stop it. He pushed faster, trying to get through the now fear maddened crowd. Some one, he never knew who it had been or if they had even survived the day had ran into the wheel chair knocking it over and spilling his mother and their supplies onto the ground.

Jason had tripped over the chair skinning his knees and one hand on the gritty, rain slicked pavement as he fell to the ground, the smell of exhaust and old oil filling his nostrils. By the time he rose to his knees trying to right the chair to get his mother back into it, the first of the undead had stumbled between two abandoned cars just feet ahead of him. A woman, a dark haired attractive women of middle age, went down screaming as the thing grappled with her, taking her down biting and tearing at her tanned shoulder. Then another had appeared behind it and more loomed darkly in the rain forcing their way between the bumpers of the car the first zombie had came from. .

Jason got his hands under his mothers arms and heaved her into the chair his back protesting, but there was no place to go in the chaos that milled around them and in seconds the chair was toppling over again as a man, screaming, fell against the wheel chair, a zombie biting and clawing at his face. His mother had hit the ground hard just in time for a badly overweight man to trample across her stomach and chest as he escaped a zombie.

Her scream of pain drew the attention of the zombie that chased the overweight man, its face shredded and bloody turned down to the ground its dead eyes locking on his mother. its teeth snapping in hungry anticipation as it leaned forward. Jason felt his world crumble again as he tried, in slow motion to lunge forward and drag it away from his mother but the dream showed no mercy just like god hadn’t in the real world so many years before. The zombie fell on her, and blood began to spray.

“Run Jason, Run for you life” She screamed in more pain than her constant ailments had ever produced. “remember what The lord wants from each of us and live in his presence.” He had stood there for he knew not how long, being buffeted by the herd of panicked humans, almost being knocked over as his mother screamed at him to run till she died there in a pool of her own blood that was slowing being washed away by the rain..

As the thing that had killed her rose to its feet, and latched on to a pretty girl in a soaking wet sun dress, he saw his mother sit up eyes milky and dead. Then her head snapped back, blood and bone spraying out behind her as a passing soldier shot first her then the zombie that had killed her.

Only then had Jason began to run leaving her corpse and their supplies laying on the rain slicked road, He had run with out thought, with out seeing the reaching hands of the undead that appeared and disappeared as he ran past. He never saw the people that sometimes ran with him, never saw the ones that died or the ones that lived with him.

The only thing he was aware was the reanimated face of his dead mother and her final words.

He snapped awake, still laying in the mud and weeds he had hidden in beside the broad. It was full dark now, it was time to finish gods work, he thought touching the small pack that sat beside him. Time to bring the wrath of god to Tucker and those who worshipped at the alter of technology then he could die and finally see his mother and the rest of his dead family. He knew that being in heaven she already knew he had devoted himself to the God he had avoided most of his adult life and that she would be overjoyed at the knowledge. It took a few minutes of the pain and anger that the dream had filled him to fade.

Thank god I used the extra explosives to build a smaller, just in case device, he thought. God had guided his hands that day of that he had no doubt. There was enough explosives inside the package of nails and ball bearings in the pack to take out anything within a sixty foot radius.

All I need to do is keep out of sight and stay near the water where all the tall weeds and thick shrub will hide me till I get close to the veranda and figure out where Tucker is. I bet the SOB is yucking it up with his cronies about the deaths of Amy and the other loyal Brothers I’ve lost today.

Loyal, I only wish all of them had stayed loyal it was a tragic waste that the Devils minion Keith Wells had corrupted and led two of Gods sheep into hell. God willing Wells will be with Tucker when I bring the word of God to the Heathens.

He opened the pack and armed the weapon then feeling the strength of the lord flow through him he donned the pack while sending a swift prayer winging towards the star spangled heavens and the Lord who lived in that glorious vista then he got to his feet and began his slow steady way towards his destiny.

Tucker glanced up at the stars for a moment, wondering if any one he had once known was still alive and looking up at the same stars somewhere else in the world. Dream on, he told himself as he pocked his head back into the open engine compartment of the Faux tank to finish the last minute adjustments.

“Promise me this thing isn’t going to explode when we start it” Wiedler asked a grin in his voice. Tucker didn’t bother to shine the bulls eye lantern at the soldier to see the amusement on the other mans face.

“I promise it wont explode when we start it. But if I walk a safe distance behind its only to admire the tank not because something might happen” Tucker replied as he adjusted the speed regulator. He had been tinkering and making adjustments for the last half hour, anything to keep his mind off the rising fear that threatened to drop him into a comatose state.

He wiped a hand across his brow then swore as he felt the streak of grease and oil it left behind.

Weidler harrumphed loudly then laughed. “I am the commander of this clanking disaster in waiting, don’t make me order you to drive.” Tucker chuckled and if it sounded a bit strained or forced, Weidler didn’t comment on it. The man was doing his best to help keep my mind off what I am heading into.

Weidler climbed out of turret and dropped to the ground beside Tucker with the ease of a man used to climbing on and around big vehicles.

“Mr. Tucker, I want to tell you that I respect what your willing to do.” Wiedler said in a serious tone, his youngish face looked older in the light of the lantern. “I also need to tell you that you shouldn’t risk yourself out there. I think all of us Guardsmen feel the same way about it. Your to damn valuable to our getting some of our old world back.”

Tucker closed his tool box and placed it in the compartment beside the engine and locked it down before he replied. “Thank you Sergeant.” He responded turning away from the tank and leaning back against the cool metal. “I have so many people trained well enough to replace that I am not that important in the over all scheme of things anymore.

I may be scared of dying, But this is something I have to do. If I back down, take the out your offering. I will keeping taking the outs because there will always be an excuse.

I have to do this! I have to see it through to the end no matter what that end might be. Call it pride, call it stupidity or a long delayed Macho jag I should have experience in high school..”

“believe it or not Mr. Co-president. I do understand most soldiers do too.” Wiedler said, he started to say more but the ready light signal flashed from the yacht Club window before he could. “looks like its time to mount up, the Raiders are on the move again. No matter what happens you do what I tell, when I tell you.”

“No problem sergeant.” Tucker said.

Wiedler held out his hand to Tucker. “welcome aboard Mr. Tucker.”

Elisa Baker sat with her back against the barricade that had been erected earlier that evening. Never in her life had she expected or planned to be where she was at. She glanced at her Husband, who sat huddled miserably beside her. She knew he felt betrayed at what she had done to him, and he had a right to those feelings because she had.

Bodica, the warrior queen is what she was becoming and would probably end up suffering the same fate. If that was the price for doing what she believed was the right thing then so be it.

She tilted her head back to gaze up at the stars that hung there in the night sky, glittering like impossible jewels. A cool wind blew off the broad, drying the sweat that had beaded her forehead and arms. Her eyes dropped to the glittering lights across the Broad, and she felt a moment of grief for the loss of the old world and all the people who had died. She wiped the tears away feeling stupid. But those lights were like Beacons of what was and what might still be, fairy lights of a realm denied to mortal man like a technological Eden.

Fear had been her constant companion since the dead had risen but this was a completely different kind of fear.

“looks like they are finally on the move” Carson Ferguson, said as he ducked down again. He was one of the Soldiers from the Pines Defense force assigned to work with her unit her at the barricade. Equipped with one of the few working NVG’s his job was to act as a spotter, at least till they assault began.

Tuckers people had been busy, she thought glancing to her left where a tripod bearing what looked like an old theater spot light stood ready. it was one of six that had been set up along the barricade, along with several other devices that if they worked would scare the hell out of the raiders who lived through their use.

Till today she’d had no idea what the Tucker and the pines had been up and she had been impress and equally furious that her husband and his cronies had seen fit to deny her people the benefits of the Pines hard work.

She had no doubts after meeting Tucker that he and his people would have gladly traded their technology with The Wonderland enclave if her husband had stopped being an arrogant ass and just worked with them.

“when this is over, I would like to have a few of these” She commented.

“It can be arraigned,” Ferguson said as he checked his weapon, then took a quick sip of water from his canteen, his mouth dry. “that’s supposed to be part of this summit so I’ve heard. But I’m just a grunt Maam, so take that with a grain of salt.” He said then shrugged in the moonlight before rising to peer over the barricade. “activate the spots on my mark” He told the waiting technician.

Allen watched as Bragga’s men advanced towards the barricade in a slow crouching walk. Bragga hadn’t been able to argue or bluster his way out of the honor of leading the assualt, not this time. all the other leaders had been furious at how badly he had screwed up the plan, by alerting Astoria Bragga had put the largest and riches of the Enclaves beyond their reach for the foreseeable future.

Allen was sure that the Private conversation that Dieter had with Bragga before Bragga had announced his acceptance of the new plan had gone something like. “Do this or I will kill you.” More subtly phrased of course in that cold precise, crushed gravel Dieter voice. . And honestly Dieter was the only person who could get away with talking to Bragga like that with out starting a small scale war. Namely because Dieter was scary as hell when roused and his men were only slightly less dangerous than their leader .

As Bragga’s men got closer and saw no sign of movement they broke into a jog spreading out to present less of a target to any one that might be hiding behind the barricade.

Once Bragga and his men got the barricade, they would have to concentrate their forces again to get across the bridge, but there was no way that could be avoided, and the bridge would funnel them straight into what ever defenses were waiting. What ever happened Bragga was finished, either his unit would be destroyed or he would be dead. The best of both worlds would be for both to happen of course. .

Bragga had almost reached the barricade and there had been no shooting yet, Allen was just starting to think that the barrier was unmanned when the first gunshots rang out.

Ferguson watched the first wave of raiders come on, they had broken into a run apparently with the aim of simply rushing over the barricade in a tactic known since the dawn of time and only given the name mass assault some several hundred years ago.

It had been used successfully in more battles than had ever been written about, but there had been almost as many failures for many reasons. The tactic had been pretty much regulated to isolated instances and special circumstances after the 1860’s for reasons that the Raiders were about to find out.

He almost held his breath watching the distance between raiders and the barricade shrink, then finally they passed the marker he had set out three hours ago.

“Now” Ferguson said chopping his hand down forgetting that with out NVG’s the others couldn’t see him as well as he saw the world around them. But the single word was all the needed.

Men and women rose into position along the barricade of old cars and debris, and began to fire single shots at the approaching raiders who now hit a dead run to close the remaining distance as quickly as possible to get in close.

Valery WyKopf, an apprentice of the Technical guild had been picked personally by Tucker to help support the men and women at the barricade. At Fergusons order he plugged a thick cable into the large battery, one of only three of that size that had been made. The six carbon arc spots, whose design was barely different than the first carbon arc light from a thousand years ago, flared to life spilling brilliant light across the four lane road and weed choked verge to either side revealing the raiders to all the world. .

Valery turned to the box mounted on a tripod beside him and grasped the crank handle and began to turn. From the grill on the front of the box, a very distinctive and familiar sound to any who had seen old movies, rose into the night sky.

The raiders speed faltered as surprise and shock struck them, but it was only for a moment they were committed to the attack and any hesitation would cost them lives. They raced forward into the light not able to see their targets but fired anyway hoping to hit the defenders or at worst make the defenders duck, which kept them from shooting the approaching raiders.

He cranked for a full minute the sound rolling out hammering at the night, then he stopped cranking and the rotary head inside the case slowed and the sound changed into a dropping from a wail to a moan. He began to crank again repeating the pattern. Once it had announced an attack by air, tonight it was a signal and a warning to raiders..

“there’s the signal” Weidler said. “take us across Mallory”

Private Eugene Mallory, didn’t need to be told twice he engaged the drive train, disengaged the brake and with a hiss of steam and billow of smoke from its stack the tank lurched forward. “We didn’t blow up so far so good” Weidler shouted down into the tank to Tucker who sat white faced and sweating, ready to fire out of the one of the gun.

“Says you” Tucker muttered barely able to hear Weidler over the noise of the tank. His bladder and sphincter were arguing over who would actually ruin his pants first. Hopefully they would keep arguing till after the battle was over. “I swear Granny I will carry clean underwear with me from now on.” Tucker said hoping he got used to the heavy vibration. Anything to keep from thinking about the fact he was in a steam powered metal box that he had built for fun and profit headed towards a fight where people would be trying to kill him. Ben is right I am a total idiot, He told himself.
As the Tank turned onto the main road and approached the bridge picking up speed.

From the Journal of Chris McCaffrey.

I thought I would write this down before the battle, while I had the chance just in case I don’t make it.

I never wanted to be a soldier, I don’t even like shooting people. yes I carried a badge and a weapon back in the old days, but if you’ve been reading my journal you know I avoided using force as much as possible. If I had to, then I did.

So lets face it there are two types of raiders, Some do what they do to survive because they are or were in areas where no one cooperated, leaving any one outside themselves or their families to make it or fail on their own. They don’t have the skills to farm, or hunt, they don’t know anything needed for this new world. Those kind of raiders are a natural response by people who will do anything to survive. But if given the knowledge, skills and a chance they would settle down somewhere and give up raiding. I can understand them and empathize with their situation.

It’s the other kind of Raiders, who are a blot on humanity they love that the old law and order society is gone so they can do what they want, they kill and rob, burn and destroy because they like it. And they need to be wiped away before they can destroy more lives and send us straight back to the stone age and savagery. I wont enjoy what I am about to do, but I want it on the record that I feel it needs to be done. I am proud to be a part of trying to rebuild and no matter how it turns out in the end it’s been worth the effort.

I just hope that Ryan and Garret are all right, we had a report from them a few hours ago but nothing since. Stephanie will go bat shit crazy if Her husband is dead. Got to go. but one final thing, a nice thing about the end of the world so far, no damn incident reports to write up and file after a fight or weapons discharge. YAY a paperless office finally.

McCaffrey watched the main body of Raiders start forward, hoping to get in fast behind their first assault and carry the bridge. They should have already been moving forward, he thought watching the band of two hundred that remained in place. He wondered what they might be thinking seeing the lights and hearing the air raid siren as their scouting force came under fire.

If you were smart you would be heading the other way, he thought. But like the trash you are your going to keep going driven by anger and revenge till your smacked so hard your knocked on your butt. People like that always got angry when they force a situation to violence, they would show no mercy to those they attack then get angry when the people they attacked responded in kind. Total idiots, you set the very rules you hate. Every one of the men and women on your side that gets killed is because of you, and then you charge straight into the grinder to kill the people that dared to oppose you and kill your buddies.

Chris stiffened slightly as he saw four teams of three men each spread out just in front of the toll booth and begin to set up something that looked like tubes with legs and a base.

Beside him Ori grunted. “those are mortars” Ori whispered to him. “those are primary targets.”

“it just keeps getting better” Stephanie muttered from the darkness to Chris’s left. Her only job, along with two soldiers was to provide security for the sniper team once the raiders moved on their position.

Of course it does, what else did you expect. Pie throwing and seltzer water sprayed in our faces, Chris thought as he figured out the ranges to the mortars, Ori didn’t particularly need Chris to do the math. But Chris needed to figure out the ranges to various points so that he could estimate ranges to any threat he spotted that needed to be quickly dealt with by Ori, or himself if it came to that.

Having a man like Ori McBride with him, made Chris feel better. But he would really like to have Henry there. They had worked together for so long and through so much that they were a team, they knew how each other operated and didn’t really even have to talk all that much about what each of them needed to do in a given situation. But for sheer skill in hitting a Tango, you just couldn’t beat McBride and that rifle of his.

From the barricade a flare arced up into the sky exploding high over head casting even more light over the battle field, the flare began to drop slowly swinging from the small parachute that kept it airborne.

It was almost time, Chris thought as he made sure his weapon and extra magazines were close at hand.

Holy shit Meuller thought as he ran, all his previous bravado long gone as men on either side of him began to fall to the enemy fire. He was half blind from the spot lights, the air raid siren made it hard to concentrate. He had actually heard at least three bullets shriek past his head.

This was nothing like the other battles he had been in. No! lets be honest here, I’ve never been in a real battle till now. everything else I’ve been involved in were just fights, quick and dirty fights. Where we had surprise, but none of the places we have raided had this much firepower, much less the ammunition to waste.

Tommy, Bragga’s right hand man went down, the back of his head exploding as a bullet exited his skull. To Muellers right, the men began to spread out into the overgrown verge, a few broke and ran for the woods unable to take it anymore.

Mueller snarled angrily not really sure if it was the cowardice of the escapees that really upset him or the fact he wasn’t the one escaping. Well I’m here and as they say in for a penny in for a pound. He smiled again as the survivors of the charge reached the barricade and scrambled over, at least two shot guns boomed blowing the raiders back off the barricade and into their fellows, who were too tightly packed to scatter.

Meuller hit the barricade and scrambled up, his testicles drawn up tight, stomach knotted. He could barely see thanks to a spot light that shone almost directly into his face, he reached the roof of the battered SUV crouched, pointed his rifle down and saw a familiar face, a very familiar face looking back at him. She smiled, with not a shred of humor, her weapon centered on him, that’s that idiot preachers wife, what the hell is she doing here which was as far as his mind got and then there was noise, fire and pain.

Bragga already wounded, reached the top of the barricade just in time to see Mueller go down. Bellowing angrily he leaped to the ground on the other side, it was a mad house. At least some of his men had gained the other side and hand to hand fighting swirled around. The woman who had shot Mueller, staggered as Diesel Haines landed beside her and smacked the butt of his rifle into her stomach. Bragga smiled evily as his front sight settled on the stupid bitch who had shot his friend.

The second wave, five hundred men and women were almost to the barricade, where the fire had slacked off as the defenders attention was focused on the raiders who had gotten across. Emboldened they screamed and shouted, firing at any targets they could see, which was mostly shadowy looking shapes in the bright lights.

Behind them, the first mortar opened fire, it got one round into the air before the loader fell over dead with a new hole in his head.

“got him,” Chris called out as Ori chambered another round and put down the next man of the mortar team. “looks like they have a clue where we are at” Chris called out as he saw at least forty men turn towards their location and began to advance.

Chris lifted his own rifle, sighted on a raider and fired. Left and down, he noted adjusting his aim and firing again. the raider tumbled to the ground. he swung to the next target, settled his sights and fired again. by the time he got to his third target, bullets were beginning to strike the building. Guess they saw the muzzle flash, he thought.

Colin Baker, saw his wife go double over as the raider slammed the butt of his rifle into her solar plexus, another raider, dressed in dark camouflage, never noticed Colin as he lifted his rifle aiming at Elisa. Despite all that had happened today, no matter how she had humiliated him and destroyed not just his life but his ego, he still loved her as foolish as some might thing that was.

He had never been an exceptional brave man, and the sight of the viciously smiling man and the, to his mind, very large rifle in the raiders hands scared the crap out of him. But despite the fear Colin Baker shot to his feet, one hand pushing the rifle up and away as he slammed his shoulder into the raiders side, lifting with his legs and back. the raiders shot went wild and the Raider knocked off Balance fell to one knee. Colin grabbed at the pistol he carried drawing it as he fell on top of the Raider. Instinctually punching at the other man, forgetting for just a moment that he held a pistol in hand.

Bragga managed to half turn towards the seemingly crazed Enclave fighter, just as a left hook took him in the jaw snapping his head back. he dragged his rifle around just as the right fist slammed into his chest, the pistol in the right hand going off.

The sound of the gunshot rocked some sense into Colin, who knew his only chance to win this fight was to forget fists and that was exactly what he did, he pushed the pistol against the others mans chest as the righter swung his rifle. He pulled the trigger as fast as he could, then the rifle struck his head sending him crashing to the ground. How many shots had he gotten off, two at least he thought, his mind fuzzy as he struggled to sit up, his vision swimming.

Elisa Baker, crouched behind the barricade fighting the terror that filled her as bullets cracked by overhead and the occasionally grenade went off nearby sending shrapnel shrieking through the air. She helped Colin sit up, proud of what he had done even though it had been a stupid thing to do. I do love you, even if you are a insensitive idiot, she said silently touching the side of his face. “thank you for saving my life” she whispered.

“I love you” he said and that was really the only answer that mattered, she just hoped they both lived through this madness. She looked around sadly seeing nothing but Bodies were sprawled around her. so many bodies, friends, new allies and raiders mingled peacefully in death. What a waste of life, God what a waste of life.

“here comes the next wave” some one shouted.

Elisa dragged her attention back to what needed to be done. “Private Rollins, its time” she called out not even sure if the good Private was still alive.

“on it Maam, the stocky dark haired National Guardsmen said as he pulled the tarp off the tripod mounted weapon. It looked like one of those hand cranked machine guns from the civil war movies, she thought as the six brass barrels flashed in the light of the arc lights. It was exactly what it looked like, up to a point, Rollins had no idea what kind of ammo the Original Gatlin had fired, but Tucker had designed this one to fire one of the ammo types that they had a lot of and no weapons to fire it out of.

One thousand rounds of .38, in a rotary magazine that mounted on top, with an effective range of three hundred yards the next wave or raiders were only eighty yards out when he began to turn the handle and turn the weapon slowly to one side, sweeping its fire across the line of Raiders. He grimaced, it wasn’t enjoyable work, but a dead raider was a good thing. not that all of the ones he shot were dead, if he had to bet he would say more than half were only wounded.

They aren’t going to break Elisa thought popping up for a look. they were engaged on three sides and still they came on. She didn’t know if it was fury, stupidity or just plain stubborness
.

She had done her best to help stop the disaster her husband had set into motion but it looked like it might not be enough. The Safe zones people were still in the fight further up the road, but they were pinned down and taking heavy fire.

“You need to get back to the Marina” A white faced Collin said, wiping at his sweat slicked face with one hand, in his other he held a rifle he had taken off a dead raider. He was a bloody bruised mess she thought sadly. He caused this, and I thought forcing him to experience the whole thing would teach him a lesson. Now I realize I might have gotten him killed, some lesson.

“I need to be here” She stated shaking her head, unaware of how exhausted and battered she looked. .

Something flickered in Colin’s eyes, something that might have been respect. “I never really saw how strong you are till today.” He muttered. “I’m sorry for… well everything” he said and to her ears he sounded sincere. She wanted badly to believe it was at any rate.

“Apology accepted but I am not leaving here.” she said then ducked even lower as something screamed by over head trailing smoke behind it. It crashed into the ground twenty feet behind her, killing three of her men, and erupted into a ball of flame and shattered pavement that shot into the sky.

“what the hell was that?” Some one hollered.

Elisa didn’t know what it was, but she didn’t have time to dwell on it either since the Raiders chose that moment to make a strong push for the bridge and the barricade that Elisa and the others manned as Mortar rounds began to fall around them blowing a breech in the barricade.

”I hope this thing can go faster” Private Mallory yelled, as the steam Driven faux tank clanked forward.

“it can” Tucker said as he finished making an adjustment. It was a tight fit inside the thing with two other men inside. He could deal with it for as long as it took.

The tank slowly gathered speed as it approached the bridge, Tucker yanked the cord as he peered out of the viewing port and the steam whistled wailed like a lost soul.

They were doing 30miles an hour as they reached the halfway point of the long bridge, which was about as fast is the tank would be able to go. And not for long, Tucker thought, and this ups the odds of the engine crapping out, or joy of joys exploding or something.

He pulled the cord twice more, wondering what the raiders were thinking hearing that haunting wail approaching them. Weidler manned the SAW,

Okay you can do this, he told himself as he donned his helmet and closed the mask. the raiders were about to get one hell of a nasty surprise, and not just from the tank.

It was not the best ride in the world, it smelled of hot oil, decades of grime and vibrated with treads.

Holy crap he thought a moment later as a Mortar shell missed the bridge and struck the water, it exploded sending a plume of water up and into the air.

He pulled the steam whistle cord once more then hit the switches mounted to interior wall below the view port. Spot lights mounted on the turret blazed to life bathing the bridge and the barricade in bright white light throwing the men and women who crouched behind the protection the barricade offered from the raiders, into stark relief. The Raiders had stumbled to a halt, startled and half blinded by the sudden appearance of new and brighter lights, staring in shock and fear. Then panic spread and the assault force began to break apart shedding men and women who had taken to much in to short of a time. “Screw you” Tucker said as the Weidler opened up with the SAW sweeping its fire across the raiders who were racing through the gap in the breech.

The battle raged for what seemed like hours but in fact were only minutes, it was the chaos theory on full display, a Murphy’s law exhibition on individual scale. The enclaves personell were advancing from the left flank pushing the raiders off balance.

The Raiders faced with the SAW on the Tank and at least two more to their right flank, had two choices, fall back or pushforward taking the momentum away from the Enclave. Falling back would only expose them to more ranged fire costing them even more losses. It was really no surprise that they rushed in close where they could use fists and Melee weapons instead of using anymore of the rapidly dwindling supply of ammunitions.

The fighting in and around the barricade rose in intensity an orgy of close quarters combat and destruction as the Faux tank pushed forward, its weapon engaging targets as close in as possible.

“holy shit” Weidler shouted as the tank nosed through the breech, taking heavy fire, some of which was getting through. Directly in their path was man with something that looked like a hand cannon, or maybe a bazooka. “Out, out out,” He shouted as leaped from the turret and plummeted to the ground.

Tucker threw open the side hatch, fresh air flowed in cooling his sweat slicked skin as he climbed up to the lip, he was half out the hatch when there was an explosion. Metal shrieked, steam hissed and bellowed around Tucker as he flew through the air before smacking into the side of a SUV that had been part of the barricade.

Mallory climbing out of his own hatch had caught his foot in the steering wheel the tank lurched into a turn that moved it 25 degrees to the right, ruing the carefully placed shot that should have struck it dead center on the front face.

Instead the rocket struck towards the back, the explosion ripped and tore at the metal Killing the tank.

Tucker lay on the ground stunned trying to catch his breath as the battle that raged around him moved a little to the west leaving him in the eye of the storm at least till someone spotted him moving and opened fire.

“You had better be alive or Lt. Ramo will break every bone in my body” A voice said, it took a Tucker a second to place Wiedlers voice.

“I’m alive” Tucker said. His voice muffled by the mask he wore.

“thank god” Nathan Wiedler said. “Mallory”

“Over here, Sergeant. Twisted my damn ankle.” Mallory called out.

Tucker sat up as bullets tore up the ground around them. Six raiders were headed their way, drawing machetes and knives. Don’t know if I should be thankful they are low on ammo or not. being hacked to death is worse than being shot. Tucker said as he climbed to his feet. Weidler opened fire with his rifle hitting one raider, the rest spread out and ran towards them covering the short distance quickly weaving from side to side as Wiedler fired.

Back when the dead had still been walking, Tucker safely in the enclave had sat down and added a few things to his steam punk armor that would help him against the undead. he had never had to use them but it looked like he was about to field test them. he touched a stud on each of the ornate looking box like devices on each arm. They were as long as his forearm and four inches wide, two inches thick. With the stud pushed in, a pin slid out of place and a high tension spring shoved a foot and half long blade out past his fist, a bulge on the tang of each blade tripped a lever inside the box that locked the blade in place.

He had jokingly called them his wolverines, they would have worked pretty well against the undead, he wasn’t so sure about other humans though, especially angry, killers with an axe to grind.

Weidler took down a second Raider, Mallory fired from where he lay taking down a third then the others were on top of them.

A tall blond haired, dark eyed raider with a scarred bisecting his left eye, loomed over Tucker, swinging a blood stained machete him. Tucker blocked with is left arm, the strength of the mans blow rocked him.

He half expected the raider to utter some idiot one liner like “I’m going to gut you” or some such but the man only grunted, anger glittering in his eyes.

Tucker had never tried to kill anyone he hesitated allowing the raider to draw his weapon back for another swing, in movies regular joes never seemed to have a problem picking up a weapon and gun down every bad guy in sight. And it wasn’t that easy, he thought as he looked into the other mans eyes and saw the burning hatred in those eyes and know he was about to die if he didn’t do something. He put his whole body into the rising punch and took his first life.

.

Back before the dead people, idiots, had loudly proclaimed that violence in movies and Tv shows had desensitized people to the pain and suffering involved in combat. What a load of horse shit he thought, it only desensitized you to the crap you saw on screen and in games. Well it was bullshit, he thought looking down at the puddle of puke by his feet.

Nothing he had ever seen in a movie or a computer game had prepared him for the howling chaos around him, the cries of the wounded and the stench of death. And it damn sure had done nothing to keep the gut wrenching fear from his belly or prepared him for killing another human being. .

The heavy fighting was swirling back towards them again, and more raiders were racing toward the shattered barricade holding their fire unless fired at to conserve their own ammo.

“You okay Sir” Private Mallory asked in a too calm voice. As he worked his way painfully over to Tucker.

“Right as rain Private” Tucker replied, his voice breaking embarrassingly.

“Just keep to cover Sir, the Lt. will have my balls if something happen’s to you.” Weidler said as he finished banding the worst of his wounds.

“I’ll try not to get killed to keep you out of trouble” Tucker replied dryly the ghost of a smile appearing for an eye blink. “your radio working?” Tucker asked seeing the radio Mallory wore..

“no Sir the battery is as dead as Miss June 2010”

“Damn shame that” Tucker said sotto voice. “she had great legs” he had to joke or he would end up just staring at the corpse of the man he had killed.

“I’m more of a boob man myself” Mallory said, white teeth flashing in the darkness.

it was funny he thought, he had seen conversations just like this in movies and had always thought it was BS. But here he was, scared shitless and cracking bad jokes.

“if you two are finished.” Sergeant First Class Nathan Wiedler asked slithering up between Tucker and Mallory. Overhead another flare burst into brilliant red light “that’s the fall back signal we are giving up this side of the bridge.”

“Can you make it sir” Weidler asked Tucker who nodded. Now that’s stupid, he cant see me, Tucker thought. most of the spot lights were dead and the few that still worked had mostly been knocked over, their beams shining pretty much all over. .

“if it means becoming less of a target, I can move as far and as fast as needed.” Tucker replied.

“Good to hear Sir, you’ve got more balls than most. You just move when I tell you, stop when I tell you and keep your ass low as you can get it and you should be fine..” Weidler
replied.

“should?”

“shit happens no matter how good you maybe. No guarantee’s in life” Wiedler said. “If you want a cheerful thought sir. You volunteered like the rest of us Mr. Co-President.”

“a polite way to remind me that I am a total idiot”

“Something like that” Wielder said a grin in his voice that faded as he looked towards the mass of human shaped shadows that flowed towards them. “time to go, head back across the bridge, Mallory you stay with him. I will bring up the rear. Do no stop… Tucker. Its our job to buy time with our lives if necessary, its not yours.” Weidler said

Tucker was too scared and too tired to argue, he got to his feet staying in a crouch and started towards the bridge, trying to ignore the bodies the littered the ground. the few remaining raiders at the barricade were either to wounded to keep fighting or falling back. But that left the rest of the rapidly approaching force, which heavily outnumbered the remaining defenders at the barricade the enclave troops on the wings were already turning their fire on the mass of raiders.

Rich Taylor was bored, he wanted in on the battle being fought at the bridge but instead he was stuck back here playing rear guard along with a hundred other guys. Who was going to attack them back here. No one that’s who. Aint no one back here to fight us, those Astoria people aren’t going to come calling, or we would have seen them before now.

He wasn’t a tactical genius by an stretch of the imagination though he had once done pretty well at Call of duty. Nor was he a big fan of the “Plan” nothing had gone right since they got here and now this supposedly lightly defended marina was putting up a hell of fight, no one had ever put up much of a fight, most of them didn’t even have enough ammo to put a up a fight. Not here, and those rumors about some kind of twisted diseased assholes overrunning the Airport that Bragga had seized. What was next a bigfoot sighting in the john, or maybe St. Carrie the call girl would show up and offering a 90 percent discount for one night.

He paced across his assigned area, paying more attention to the random thoughts that flowed through his mind than on his surroundings, because after all no one was out there. he was proven wrong sixty seconds later when five Scarred erupted from the brush and took him down. all along the line, men were being taken quietly and killed. their bodies hauled off by the children to be consumed later. The scarred ones never wasted food.

Once the sentries were taken out, the scarred ones continued on, entering land they had avoided in the past, taboo land where others of their kind had been obliterated. to say they thought of anything was wrong, with the exception of a handful who still remembered something of their former lives the majority of them were nothing more than human shaped animals. .

They were close to their prey, the sounds they were hearing meant food was there, they picked up their pace speeding silently through the darkness.

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