Part XXIV: Dies Irae
Matt had hunched down behind the barrel of the SHOFAR, presenting as small a target as possible to the increasing swarm of projectiles directed at him. It had become desperately clear that as the Nazi line advanced, their fire would become even more accurate. A larger caliber round had already been deflected by his Kevlar helmet, momentarily rocking his head back. But the shock delivered a fresh surge of adrenaline and with it a clarity in which he realized that what was needed was superhuman aggression and speed. There was also a terrible temptation to employ the demolition mode. All that seemed to hang between this decision and the hope of surviving the assault was the was Uncle Allen's warning of a life of regret, tissue thin as it was. More because the dilemma was wasting precious time, Matt decided to rally the squad with a counter-assault and break through to the Keep which was undefended behind the Nazi line. Matt gave the first signal for the assault, and the others poured fire on the forward positions as he freed the sonic weapon from its mount. At the second signal two smoke canisters arced into the courtyard, just in front of the demolished gate. Zil and Chevy burst out of cover. Chevy was peppering the nearest positions with his automatice shotgun. Zil had a pair of Uzis and with arms crossed at the wrists to stabilize his fire, sent waves of lead to break down the assault.
Under this concentration of fire, most troops would have fallen back for cover. The Nazi abominations instead advanced like clockwork soldiers into the curtains of fire. Many fell but the line still advanced. Matt and Edsel hadn't missed their cue and were also dashing into the path the other two had cleared for for them. But the Nazis were closing as well and one fast moving squad was threatening to beat them to the gate. Zil reacted like a panther to this threat, seemingly throwing himself at the advancing trio, rolling in a somersault and springing to his feet nearly under the rifles of the Nazis who only stopped when the impact of the Uzi rounds hammered them backwards. As the first two went down the third fired point blank as he stumbled over the tumbling bodies. Zil emptied the last clip into the back of the SS soldier as he went down, but then staggered like a marionette missing half its strings, trying to reach the gate.
Edsel and Matt had been able to put down two of the attackers from the other direction. Chevy reached Zil before he fell and threw him over his shoulder. Matt was unsuccessful in knocking the third out from cover, but before the remnants of the assault reached them they charged down the short passageway and up a long flight of stairs. At the top they set Zil down. He was bleeding out from an abdominal wound. "Not what I expected to find...beyond. Heh." A beatific smile surfaced on his pale face and his eyes set their focus on infinity. Choking back a sob Matt saw a helmeted head peer around the edge of the gate at the bottom of the stairs. He snapped off a shot, clipping his target enough to send the creature sprawling in the dust of the courtyard. Chevy nudged him. No one else appeared in the gateway below. Matt's suspicion that gate was now guarded was confirmed by the ghastly laughter that briefly echoed off the masonry. They advanced into the Keep.
For the unhappy few that were between Jetta and his objective, he was stealth and silent death. Most seemed to be some kind of technicians in lab coats. It made no difference to his kukri knife. Four denizens of the Keep died before they could raise an alarm. They had to move quickly, there was no time to hid bodies or clean up bloostained floors and walls.
They ducked into one of the rooms. It was full of lab equipment. A startled lab worker edged along a counter until Jetta's knife flew and sprouted in the man's sternum. Both soldiers turned to Yossi who gave a quick glance to the computer terminal and then nodded to them. They took up positions to guard the entrance and Yossi went to work. He unplugged a cable from the back of the Sun Sparc workstation and connected his own PC and booted its UNIX operating system. Electronic surveillance had already supplied him with a number of likely IDs and passwords, whisperings on wires that a remote sensor had gathered. The trick was to use them to lull the system into giving up its treasures without making it suspect it was being violated. All he needed was to get past the first line of defense. Then he would find the holes, the the treasure hoards left carelessly unguarded. There he would find the keys to give him ultimate power over the system. Suddenly the monitor went blank. A screen of text appeared. His German was weak, learned second hand by way of Yiddish, but it was harshly worded warning that he had done something verboten. "Crap". He had underestimated the Teutonic craving for control. But that was a weakness in itself. By not delegating authority, the dictatorial admin would have too much to keep track of. He had concealed his probes by routing them through spoofed locations, so the was safe from detection from with the network for the moment. Knowing that the system was now hostile and time was limited he started launching a number of distracting events across the network. The admin would have already started searching for the source of the unauthorized access request and Yossi needed to slow him down and misdirect him. Soon pings and probes started to pursue one of his decoys. Yossi had trouble containing his satisfaction. He had already taken a strong dislike to his opponent and his arrogant security policies. Yossi quickly went to work on getting access to the root directory while his adversary was on a wild goose chase. Yossi was already cooking up the nasty surprises that he would unleash once root was his, when a giant burst into the room.
He immediately slammed Jetta into the wall with a backfist and grabbed a stool and hurled it at Lincoln who barely had time to dive out of its path. Then the giant was on him. It slipped and shrugged off blows to the throat and solar plexus, and after deflecting a kick to the groin with a twist of the hip, it sent Lincoln sprawling across a lab tables scattering test tubes and sending LED-lit devices crashing to the floor. Yossi had typed a last command that would vanquish his digital opponent and only had to hit the return key, but the giant was advancing on Lincoln who was still trying to rise from the counter. Yossi drew his pistol and aimed at the huge target. It's massive head turned slightly detecting the motion in its peripheral vision. As the trigger broke the Nazi behemoth dropped into a roll to the side and somehow popped up close enough to swat the pistol from his grip. The giant gripped him by the throat and lifted him up off the ground with a shout of triumph that included one word Yossi's dimming awareness recognized: "...jude..."
Matt had barely turned the first corner inside the Keep, when they encountered the equivalent of a platoon of massive unarmed assailants. The wrongness was immediately apparent, despite the well developed physiques, there were slack jaws, watery vacant eyes and mishapen faces. Most were naked save for some type of loincloth. One creature was not fully developed on one side of its upper body, but flailed with its one powerful arm. Another had a pointed head and small doll-like face that was set in a thick mass that could barely be called a neck and was buried among huge shoulder and trapezius muscles. They absorbed twice the conventional firepower before falling, and although the sonic weapon was still effective even then there was a pause of a second before the misbegotten titans dropped. Again Matt felt the urge to employ the demolition mode. If he had used it before, would Zil still be alive...?
The last of the creatures, who was covered with a hairy pelt, was so close that when he finally succumbed to his multiple wounds, he fell on top of Edsel and it took both Matt and Chevy to roll the hirsute creature off and free their shaken comrade. The grotesquely surreal nature of the attacks was taking its toll, Matt found his mind drifting back to the spa, his lovely attendants, anything but the thoughts of the fresh horrors they would encounter around the next turn.
But there was no more resistance and they came to the part of the Keep where the operations center was suppposed to be. The intelligence of the internal layout had been good. As they approached the room the double doors were wide open. They sidled up along the wall out of the line of sight of the interior and at Matt's signal they burst across the threshold.
There were only three occupants. One was a blond haired giant wearing only fatigue pants. There was also a thin figure in the uniform of a general in the SS, clearly it was Brunner, but despite reports of being blinded in one eye by a Mossad letter bomb, there were no visible scars and both eyes appeared to be fully funtional. He also had the same skin tone and unnatural vitality of the other SS men. He had a Schmeisser machine gun cradled in his arm carelessly pointed at the third person, which was Yossi, propped up in a chair half conscious.
"Gentlemen, put your weapons down, we have important matters to discuss" Brunner barked.
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