Chapter 23 unedited.

 

“Reaper, to Newaygo Command, respond over.” It was just after 7am and the Reaper spoke distinctly into the microphone and immediately a voice responded. After the short verification process, Jason received a confirmation then the young male voice spoke.

Patching you through to Newaygo actual, Reaper.” Then a few seconds later, Jay’s voice came over the satellite link.

Jason, how’s it going there?” Jay sounded anxious and in the background, the Reaper could hear the voices of several young children.

“As well as can be expected. Our defenses are laid in and we’re ready as we’ll ever be. I have a data chip here that I’m about to transmit. It shows our plans and all the information we have to date on the cult. Just in case, brother.”

Hold one, Jason and let me make sure their ready to receive. Command are you receiving,” Jay barked into the circuit.”

Ready, Sir. Reaper, go ahead and transmit. We’ll receive it.” the soprano voice of Captain Rider was online and immediately Jason pressed the button to transmit the contents of the flash drive to Newaygo. The upload took seconds only and then the green light signified transmission complete which prompted the Reaper to ask for verification.

“Newaygo, verify upload complete.”

“Reaper, upload is complete and I’m pulling the plans and information up now. Commander, I’ll print these off and get them too you ASAP but from what I can already see, their vastly outgunned.” responded the female Captain of the Governor for Newaygo’s Intelligence and communications departments.

What’s going on, Jason? Talk to me.” Jay said.

“Well, let’s just say we are outgunned, but the odds are getting better. Thanks for putting the words for assistance out. Quite a few have showed up and while we actually outnumber the bad guys now, they still outgun us. However, we have some very special defensive strategies planned,” remarked the Reaper as he smiled at the obvious concern in his commander’s voice.

You’re welcome, Jason, how many showed up? LSS put an all call out for support from any good people out there that might be able to lend a hand, but we didn’t know if it would work.”

“Over a hundred and their still coming in. Just good people doing good things where God intends them, Jay.”

Yeah, so tell me, what are the odd’s?”

“I would say, eighty percent in our favor, it really depends on how stupid they are.”

And if they go in smart?”

“Fifty percent.” intoned the Reaper.

Jason, I have no assets I can send you at this time. I took a chance on a resupply of some major munitions. I screwed up and sent all our 130’s to haul the load. I have some gunships, but even with extra fuel tanks, the distance is too far. I’m sorry. I didn’t anticipate the situation to escalate this quickly.

“What happens happens. You know my beliefs, Jay. But, just in case the situation goes south, I would very much enjoy talking to Emma one last time.”

First of all do not say that. Second, darn right, you can and here she is. They were just getting ready for school. It’s papa J honey.” Jay’s voice came over faintly along with some noise that indicated he was removing his headset and passing it to his youngest child.

Papa J?” Emma voice came through clearly and Jason’s heart eased for a moment as he cherished his memories of her.

“Hi, sweetie.”

What’s wrong, Papa J? This is early for you to call me.”

“I know sweetie but I have to do a few things and might not get to talk to you for awhile.”

When are you coming home?”

“Listen sweetie. Just like your daddy, Papa J loves you with everything I have. I will try to see you again, but I want you to know that even if I can’t make it when you want me too, I’ll always be watching down on you.”

Christ almighty,” the voice of Jay could be heard in the background before Emma’s sweet voice was heard.

Okay, Papa J. I love you. Now, I need to go to school.”

“Sweetie, go to school and learn everything. You’re a smart little girl. I love you.”

I love you too, but I said that already.” Emma’s sweet laughter tinkled as again the Reaper heard a rough sound indicating the headset being removed then Jay’s voice came through loud and clear.

I am going to move heaven and earth to get you some support. We’ve had more feelers from other communities and I’m hopeful.

“Jay, it is what it is. If the Lord decides it’s time, then so be it. I’m just worried about these people here in Macon. We are outgunned as I said, but we’ll fight the good fight. Is Emma really in school already? She’s only three.”

No, she’s in day care but she can count to thirty now, backwards and finally knows her alphabet. We’re working on simple words in the evening.”

“Wish I was there.”

Wish you were also, brother but I know better than to ask you to bug out.”

“Won’t happen, but the thought is appreciated. Thanks for letting me talk to Emma.”

She’s your godchild. You expect me to refuse?”

“No, and you’re a good friend. Thanks, Reaper out.” Jason instantly cut the connection before more words could be said and looked over at Chief Thomas as he disassembled the equipment. The chief looked back, a somber expression on his face. It was obvious that he felt the connection the Reaper had with those in Michigan.

“Take care of this. If I don’t make it, you have copies of the protocols for contact,” he growled.

“Gotcha. Don’t worry, Captain. It will all work out.”

“Well if it doesn’t. You know what to do.” The Reaper responded a he headed to the bank rooftop and the highest building in Macon, as dawns early light illuminated the sky.

 

*****

 

Dave spit tobacco juice to one side, splattering the edge of the concrete barrier behind which he and Henry, along with four more of their farming group were crouched.

“Bad habit Dave,” remarked Henry as he peered over the low wall, his .270 Winchester held ready.

“At least I gave up smoking a decade ago,” said Dave as he worked the tobacco around his gums. His 30-30 lever action was propped up and ready to fire as he talked with his old friend.

“Not sure chewing’s an improvement.”

“Don’t care, we probably won’t make it. Don’t care about that either, as long as we do our job and make a good accounting for ourselves.”

“I care if Rebecca and Samuel make it,” said Henry as he looked at his friend.

“Add Richard to that list and you have a deal.” and Dave spit again, a growing dark stain decorating the almost white barricade before them.

“I’ll make you a better deal. Kill them all and let God sort them out.” Henry said.

“Best deal I heard all day,” grinned Dave, through stained teeth.

 

*****

 

Stanley sat sideways on the loaders hatch of the M1A2 turret while gripping both a hand hold and the edge of the M240 Machine gun mount before him as he as conversed with Mayer. They were currently approaching Chillicothe and he was bored with the slow pace they were making. Already the sun was in the sky and he fretted that they would be too late to help.

“Can’t this thing go any faster,” he asked for at least the second time this morning as he stared out over the almost barren landscape. Mayer had just finished explaining the operation of the M240 7.62 caliber machine gun and Stanley couldn’t help but wish the Captain would let him give it a try.

“No and I share your concern, Stanley. The HET’s are pushing the cars out of the way as fast as they can. Maybe we will make better time on the east side of this next city. Don’t worry, we’re almost there.” Gregory grinned at his new friend’s agitation and looked out over the road before them. He could see they were now entering the cities limits and wondered if another group would approach them.

As the convoy approached perpendicular to the center of town, they continued in the pattern the general had advised and as enemy contact was not considered a major possibility, Greg kept the pigs they called tanks on their trailers instead of rolling alongside. The goal was to stave off debilitating faults and maintenance to a minimum for as long as possible. Mayer’s HET, H1 was currently in the lead, with H2 and H3 along either side to push cars and trucks out of the way. This continued to create a lane wide enough to allow passage of their entire convoy and to give the smaller vehicles some maneuvering room.

Suddenly both Jordan and Mayer heard automatic gunfire from the left and behind. As both turned, they saw flashes coming from the several vehicles parked a hundred meters off the roadway and slightly behind the midpoint of their convoy.

“Enemy contact northwest, machine gun fire. We have casualties,” shouted Second Lieutenant Hansen of Second Platoon over the command frequency.

Immediately, Mayer was shouting into his microphone. “All units, weapons free and return fire. Transports H1, 2 and 3, echelon left and hold. All other H transports hold in place. Smaller vehicles get behind them for cover.” As the three lead transports turned left at a forty-five degree angle then came to a stop with their front blades almost touching the center concrete divider Mayer’s muted his microphone for a second and shouted at Stanley, “Stanley, get off the tank and into the cab of the HET, now!

“Aye, aye, Sir,” said Jordan as he slid down the side and sprinted for the cab.

Then Mayer’s was keyed into the open ‘all hands’ circuit again. “All tanks return fire with secondaries. Stop that incoming fire.” Mayer’s loader had already raised his hatch and the M240 was blazing on full automatic while Greg raised himself up high enough to bring the M48 .50 caliber heavy machine gun to bear on the rapidly disintegrating vehicles that had fired upon them.

All of a sudden, bright explosions lit the landscape further to their north and as Mayer looked in that direction, he saw the distinct arcing flares of rocket trails, then two more explosions occurred as missiles impacted the ground no more than two hundred meters away. They appeared to originate from the roof of what looked like a motel almost a thousand meters away and were probably AT4’s from their visible signature. Technically, while the AT4 could fire out to a maximum distance of over 2000 meters its effective range was little over three hundred and even if they managed to hit one of his tanks, the damage would be confined to peripherals.

“Enemy contact north, heavy rocket saturation,” shouted Second Lieutenant Hansen of Second Platoon again, over the command frequency.

What the fucking hell, Mayer thought as he instantly keyed his command frequency just as four more rockets left the rooftop in high arcs, landing only a hundred meters away this time. Bastards were getting more accurate.

“Hot Break! Hot Break! Hot Break, H1, 2 and 3. Drivers get those chains off and lower the ramps. Black 6, Alpha section White platoon, button down warm the beasts up. All other tanks keep returning fire with secondaries. Switch to primary target north.” Normally when unloading something as large and heavy as a main battle tank from a transport trailer, they would use a ground guide in front and behind the tank. Using hand and arm signals, these guides would direct the tanks driver into a safe unload of the fighting vehicle in a manner that did not damage the off ramps of the trailer. In this case, a ‘Hot Break’ meant the tanks driver would do his best to back straight off, hopefully without damaging the trailer, but if that were to happen, so be it, for it was more important to bring the heavy guns into action than to leave them out of the fighting altogether. In this instance the HET drivers, who were part of First Platoon but trained in tank loading operations, were instructed to pop the chains and after pulling the latch pins, to lower the two hydraulic ramps each trailer possessed. The unloading process normally took five to seven minutes, but in an emergency could be done in three to five and Mayer could both feel and hear the fifteen-hundred horsepower turbines fire up as he crew got to work, making the beast ready.

“Black 6,” the incoming voice crackled as the microphone tried to suppress the roar of automatic gunfire from close proximity. “I have two down and see one wounded in a Platte city truck near us. Taking cover behind the other tanks as instructed.” Again Hansen was keeping Mayer informed of the convoy’s situation and as he did, Mayer witnessed two more rockets arc down from the top of the building and though these were closer, they still fell at least fifty meters short. Time to put a stop to this, Mayer growled.

“Red one, pop smoke, pop smoke, pop smoke. Put up a barrier between central elements and that building.” Mayer commanded as he slid fully into the turret and hit the lever to lower the commander’s hatch tightly overhead. As he did, he automatically brightened the display on his CITV (Commanders Independent Thermal Viewer) and looked out over the multi color display, almost immediately identifying the nearby building and its small flashes of light from the upper floor and roof.

“Ramps are down, sir.” The voice of one of the drivers came over the net and Mayer was responding.

“Black 6, Alpha section White platoon. Offload and on me, V formation. Driver, back it up.” Instantly they were moving backward and as they rolled down off the ramp without the slightest sideways tilt indicating a successful offload, Mayer was issuing internal orders again. “Hold right tread, pivot left. Move towards that motel, highlighting on BFT now, straight line, stop at center divider.” Mayer manipulated the Thermal Imaging array, bringing the motel from which the arcing missile flashes could still be seen in sharp focus. Moving the sighting crosshairs on the top center row of what were obviously rooms he commanded. “Gunner, Load MPAT, structure highlighted.” Switching channels in seconds, he continued, “All Alpha White, load MPAT, MPAT, MPAT, target acquisition data being sent now,” and immediately he hit several buttons transmitting the data to White platoon Alpha section. As he did so, his tank broke through the concrete center divider then rolled over the top of several cars before coming to a stop between the two highway lanes

“Load MPAT,” his gunner shouted.

Mayer wanted a MPAT round which was effectively a high explosive missile versus Armor Piercing or Sabot as it was called, which would simply blow through the building. When and if he fired he wanted to light them up.

“Up!” That shout came from below and loud enough Mayer could hear it not only through his CVC headset but also through the background noise of the moving tank. He grinned, knowing the loader had a MPAT round in the breach that was ready to fire.

“Identified, range nine hundred!” The Gunner shouted, indicating, he had acquired target, was sighted in and was ready to fire the main gun at the Tank Commanders order.

He shook his head as more incoming small arms fire proceeded to bounce off his tank, then two more rockets were fired outward, these missing by almost fifty meters and Mayer’s distinctly heard the sound of shrapnel pinging off the side of his tank. He grinned again, knowing the beast he rode within was almost impregnable.

“Fire, all tanks, upper third, fire when ready, one round only.” Mayer commanded and a second later the tank lurched as a heavy thump sounded from within the turret indicating the main gun had fired. From the panoramic display within his commanders turret he was saw the flashes as the other tanks arrayed on either side of his fired also.

“Target destroyed.” shouted the gunner.

And indeed, the target was destroyed, as four High Explosive rounds impacted the upper third of the motel and literally disintegrated the structure in a huge explosion of white light and heavy smoke. A few seconds later, they again all heard the loader shout “Up!” indicating another round had replaced the spend shell casing and was ready to fire.

“Target acquisition still holding.” Shouted the gunner at almost the same time.

“Gunner cease fire, White platoon Cease-fire, cease-fire, cease-fire. Alpha section White platoon on me, same formation, proceed at ten klicks and stop at three hundred.” Mayer switched channels again issuing more commands. “Convoy cease-fire, cease-fire, cease-fire. First Platoon, ready up. Form flanking positions thirty meters out and behind White, Alpha section.” He knew that first platoon, currently the drivers and additional hands aboard many of the front half of Task Force Northern Freedom were donning their equipment after exiting their vehicles and forming into their original platoon.

Even moving at ten kilometers per hour, within minutes, they had closed the distance to within three hundred meters and the driver seeing the range rolled the tank to a stop as Mayer lifted the microphone for the bullhorn mounted on the outside of the tank. What the hell, he muttered, if any were still alive, he supposed he should give them a change to surrender.

“Attention, building firing on United States Military Convoy, Task Force Northern Freedom. Drop your weapons and file out with hands raised. You have thirty seconds to comply.” He barked. Mayer would give them one chance to surrender but that was it, and only because they were or used to be fellow Americans.

“First Platoon, move in and look for survivors. Weapons free and take out anyone firing in your direction are the current rules of engagement.” Mayer shouted and seconds later, he saw infantry running forward as First Platoon moved up from their concealed flank positions and converged on the mostly destroyed building.

“Sir, Nothing to report yet. We’re closing in on the motel and what we can see from the smoke and fire is mostly rubble. Wait, I’m identifying two very obviously dead Tango’s. How much searching do you wish?” Second Lieutenant Powell asked over the command frequency.

“We’re not staying here forever, but it would be nice if there was one survivor so we could find out why they were firing at us with military grade weapons. You sure those you found already are dead. Regardless, give it fifteen minutes, if you don’t find anyone alive, we’ll scoot and keep an eye out for additional hostiles,” he answered.

“Body parts only, Sir on the two so far and will do. Proceeding into what’s left of the building now.”

“Be safe and cover your six, Powell.” Mayer barked.

“Jones is covering my six, Sir. We’ll be fine Black six, over.”

“Black six, out.” Mayer responded and then waited while he zoomed the telescopic sight on the imaging screens. It was almost to the deadline when Powell reported in.

“First Platoon to Black Six,” came the call and Mayer instantly responded.

“Black six, go First platoon.”

“One survivor, nearly dead and almost a full dozen deceased Tango’s; adult males and two females. Mil spec hardware all over the place. It looks like they raided an armory, Sir. We also have active zombies moving into the area numbering about thirty, at this time. Should I call up the medics? Be advised the survivor probably will not make it, one leg gone, part of an arm and bleeding out fast. We put tourniquets in place but experience says this one is a goner soon. No other hostiles visible at this time.”

“Is he conscious, platoon one?” asked Mayer.

“Yes, Sir he is; barely and talkative.”

“Get what information you can, then leave him. Have your platoon gather up all the undamaged military equipment you can carry and get back to the trucks. I want a clean sweep,” ordered Mayer as he continued to ponder the situation.

“More than we can carry by ourselves, Captain. Looks like two full pallets of AT4’s alone, scattered all over the place but still secure in their casings.”

“I’ll send assistance First Platoon. Second Platoon, ready up and assist in the recovery of military munitions and equipment. Pile everything in any unused space in the vehicles, don’t leave anything behind. Bravo section White platoon, disembark and stand ready on south flank.” A chorus of ‘Yes Sir’s’ greeted his words and he levered himself half out of the turret as he waited.

Almost another thirty minutes passed before recovery operations were complete, and Stanley fretted the entire time beside him, for as soon as the coast appeared clear he had gone to check on his wounded, finding only one of his men hurt superficially. He then returned to Mayer’s transport, just in time to watch as the huge metal machine was loaded back on the trailer.

“Last word we received out of Newaygo, was today would be the day Macon was attacked, Greg. We need to get a move on. I may take my boy’s ahead.”

“Stanley, it’s not even 0900 and we’re only two hours away if we push. I would prefer you stick with us after what happened here.”

“Do you swear you’ll push then?”

“Yes, even if some of the equipments damaged. You have my word. Since this is now at least a semi-hostile zone, I am leaving one platoon of hogs out for security. They’ll roll with us.” Mayer intoned as he looked at the other man.

“All right then, we’ll stick with you.” Mayer nodded as he keyed the command frequency.

“Task Force Northern Freedom, saddle up, we’re moving out. Proceed at optimum speed. H1 if your blade is damaged, switch out. Let’s roll.”

 

*****

 

Penny was excited; for this was the day, the sinful would perish. Those who worshiped the false God, Jesus Christ and those who did not worship any God and/or did not accept the reign of Children of Mesoch and the land of Magog, would find themselves burning in the hot coals of Hell in a few hours.

Lovingly she stroked her AK-47 for hours, dreaming of the faces she would extinguish and the pain and misery she would cause. Then, realizing the rifle could be considered a phallic symbol, she desisted of her caresses along it’s cold, metal and wooden construction.

Daylight had arrived over an hour ago and she and her fellow female Children were ready for the death and destruction that would soon prevail upon the town. That the Children of Mesoch might also suffer casualties was not really considered, for though they knew some would die, that that did would be the weak and closet sinful. The ones the one God needed to weed out of the Children, so that future generations were stronger.

Penny looked forward to many of her fellow women and for that matter all of the men perishing, even though she knew, that was an impractical outlook. They were all inferior to her own dedication, training and faith. Soon, she would be more than a Lieutenant in Rho’s army of Chosen and if she had to take a man, it would be Rho only. She knew he preferred younger brides, but she would illustrate her virtues in the upcoming battle.

“Is your group ready, my Penny,” inquired Rho, as they stood near the cross. The day had dawned over an hour ago and before them were arrayed twenty-six of the armored gun trucks. Only the completion of the last two was keeping them from attacking the city. High above them, she could hear Jaaziah groaning and she frowned. The failure was not dead yet, and when she was queen she would devise harsher, yet quicker ways of dying for the unfaithful. Jaaziah was unfaithful, for he had let Rho, and by extension, the Children of Mesoch down and there was no forgiveness in her heart for failure.

Rho stood before her in his new suit of gold washed armor, styled in an ancient pattern she didn’t recognize but assumed it was copied from that worn by the Children of Mesoch when Magog was a thriving metropolis in the Middle East. She had only seen him wear it on special occasions and she had to admit the way the sun shone off its highly polished surface made it appear that Rho had light emanating from his body.

“Yes, my Lord Prince,” she said as her eyes traveled downward from the cross to gaze at him. She frowned as she spoke again. “I think we should attack now. We should not give them more time to prepare and I dislike allowing them to surrender. We will never be able to trust those who do. They should all be put to the death, today, including the wounded.”

“First, never call me Lord Prince again. There is only one Lord God, which is the God we worship. Second, we will need more converts, Penny. You know our numbers are not enough. We will accept those who surrender and embrace our faith, yet at the same time, they will be closely watched. We need greater numbers in order to subjugate this continent.” Rho said sternly then paused for a second before continued as he looked down on her. “This has already been discussed in council meetings and you never spoke up then.”

“I’m sorry my Prince, I never meant to offend. I just feel it would be better to keep ourselves pure for we are the pure Children of Mesoch. Anyone we let in would be of impure blood. We should simply grow our numbers from within, and then when we have enough we strike across the continent. We should kill all the impure and start fresh!” The last was said with fervor as her eyes glowed, while thinking about crossing the country, bringing everyone to their knees.

“Penny, sometimes I worry about you. You’re a good Lieutenant of the Children’s Army’s but you are from Chicago. Everyone here in this new land of Magog is a convert with the exception of your Prince. I am the only one of true blood here.” The last was growled as his gazed sharpened, watching her closely. “It would take many generations to grow our numbers to those we would need. No. We will accept converts. There will be no killing of those who surrender and there will be no putting to death those who are wounded until all have had a chance to convert. There will be plenty of time to crucify them later if they do not choose the faith.”

“Yes, my Prince.” Penny replied and Rho again eyed her narrowly for he did not hear agreement within her voice. Then shrugging he gave up and dealt with the next Lieutenant who was gathering his troops.

 

*****