Neo-Exodus: Part II
By: Matt Lucas

The building was thankfully intact from the mortar fire. It was two stories, so the battalion divvied up into two squadrons of five between the first two floors. With guile they crept into their positions, silently observing their foes.

German tanks rolled into the main drag. Three of them hovered around the fighters' location, guarded by unnatural mongrels and sadistic Nazis. On the second floor, Roberts, Sherman, Lee, Gida, and Davis bided their time, awaiting their moment.

In a flurry of action, Goldberg, Owens, Claypool, Isley, and Dolan burst forth from the first floor, unleashing a vicious onslaught of bullets into the fray. Mercilessly they cut down serpopards as each man scattered in five separate directions. The serpentine cats gave chase and a hail of griffin's dive bombed the men.

The Nazis, however, whirled about in confusion. Chaos reigned as they failed to decipher their targets' location through a stampede of mythical monsters. Not only that, they were guarding slow–moving, unagile tanks that struggled to navigate Ras Ghareb's narrow streets.

Utilizing the Nazi confusion to their advantage, Roberts gave the order to open fire on the bewildered soldiers. The second–floor squadron released a barrage of gunfire down on their adversaries, picking them off one by one. Their onslaught would be abbreviated, however, as the tanks' barrels began slowly shifting their direction.

Sensing their time was short, Lee, who was the eyes of the operation, bellowed the order they all knew he would eventually have to give.

"Jump!" Adam Lee roared.

The leap wasn't far, maybe about ten feet to the sandy earth below. But that didn't make it any less disconcerting. Fortunately for the team, the sounds of tank canons firing provided the necessary motivation to take the leap of faith.

In unison, the five remnants soared out the windows. Two missiles whizzed through the air, rocketing between Roberts and Gida as well as Goldberg and Sherman. A plume of fire mushroomed at their backs, searing their necks with immense heat. The shockwave propelled them forward, careening them towards the tanks.

Roberts, Lee, and Sherman landed with grace, deftly rolling before bouncing back to their feet, seamlessly firing into the Nazi squadron. Gida and Goldberg were less fortunate. Goldberg crashed onto one of the tanks with a bone crunching thud. Gida was sent skidding across the sand.

The Brooklynite desperately scrambled to his feet only to be instantly assaulted by a swooping griffin. The winged lion barreled into Gida. Its razor–sharp fangs clamped down on his meaty trapezius muscle between his neck and shoulder. The soldier bellowed in anguish as the monster violently shook its head, tearing flesh from bone.

As the griffin's mighty wings beat, Gida felt his feet lift from the earth. Despite his searing agony, the soldier refused to relent. His free hand scrambled near his belt buckle, clamoring for the hilt of his knife.

"I'm nobody's dinner!" Gida snarled through gritted teeth, thrusting his blade upwards, through the bottom of the lion's jaw and up into its skull.

With a guttural gurgling, the griffin released its prey. When his feet hit the ground, Gida realized his mangled left arm was immobile. He'd have to finish this fight with only his right.

"Screw it, a one–armed Italian from New York is worth a hundred Krauts," Gida reminded himself as he charged one of the tanks.

Leaping, Gida grasped the tank barrel and pulled himself up onto the platform. He charged the top hatch, wrested it open, and dropped into the cockpit. The inhabitants were caught by surprise.

The first whirled around, wide–eyed in terror, shocked by the bold maneuver. The look remained on his face even after Gida hurled his knife into the Kraut's chest. Once the first threat collapsed, the tank operator abandoned his captain's chair to charge Gida, drawing his German Luger.

Before he could fire a shot, Gida batted the pistol away, leaving his foe exposed. He delivered a swift punch to the tank pilot's face to stun. The big American then grasped the back of the German's head like a baseball and slammed it against the inner wall. Filled with rage, Gida repeated the bashing until the Nazi's cranium was little more than skull fragments and pink brain matter.

"I think you got him," Goldberg observed, peeking in from the top hatch before joining his comrade below.

"That was a little excessive," Gida sheepishly admitted.

Goldberg shrugged. "Best kind of Nazi is a dead Nazi. You know how to drive this thing?"

Gida inspected the controls. "Eh, sure. It's just buttons and levers. How hard could it be?"

Back outside, Sherman, Roberts, and Lee battled through the horde. Fortunately, they were able to use two of the Nazi tanks for cover, utilizing proximity to hide from the tank operators. The third machine, however, was being driven too erratically, so they avoided that one.

Griffins swooped down from the black sky, only to scrape their talons against metal, missing their targets. The Nazi soldiers fired wildly, but their bullets harmlessly ricocheted off the tanks' steel. The three Allied soldiers huddled for cover, savoring their tactical advantage.

They'd intermittently bob from cover to return fire like gophers bounding from tunnels to sunlight. Roberts, Lee, and Sherman kept their pattern of movement erratic, eliminating the chance of having their next move anticipated. The plot worked for a time, until reinforcements arrived.

A serpopard brigade charged onto the scene. Five monstrosities led the assault. Three bounded atop the tank, while two others crept around the sides. Their elongated necks would prove to be an issue.

The three serpopards on top ferociously lurched forward, thrusting the poisoned fangs at the Allied trio. With no choice but to retreat from the safety of the tank, the human combatants backed away. However, the remaining two serpopards flanked the trio, encircling Roberts, Lee, and Sherman.

"How are you guys on ammo?" Roberts' voice quaked as the monsters approached.

"I'm damn near empty," Lee admitted, captivated by dread.

Sherman was in a similar predicament. "I got three shots and there's five of them."

"Shoot," Roberts cursed, "I'm out too."

The serpopards sensed their angst, bravely inching closer. From the right, one of the beasts lunged its neck forward. Roberts dodged to the left. When the serpentine neck was overextended, he clenched the creature's neck, just behind its head.

Summoning all the strength he could muster; Roberts pinned the serpopard's head under his armpit. As the monstrosity writhed, wrestling to free itself from his grip, Roberts plunged his knife into its neck.

Blood spurt from the mythical animal as it crooned in anguish. A searing sensation washed over Roberts' forearm. His clothes sizzled and his skin began to burn as flesh melted from his arm. The serpopard's blood was just as acidic as its venom.

"Bad idea! Very bad idea!" Roberts bellowed, releasing the serpopard's neck.

"Screw it," Sherman growled, turning and firing a shot at the other hybrid creature prowling on their flank. Now only the three standing atop the tank remained.

"What do you suppose we do with them?" Lee pondered, knowing Sherman only had two bullets left.

Suddenly a faint whistling filled the air followed by a massive explosion. A melody of carnage resonated through the desert. A metallic symphony moaned, and beasts shrieked in agony. A ringing filled the trio's ears as they were propelled backwards from the shockwave.

Once their senses returned, Roberts, Lee, and Sherman turned to see Goldberg's head peeking out from one of the other tanks. As Goldberg waved to them, they realized who'd provided their salvation when they saw the mangled tank they'd once used for cover.

"Get in!" Goldberg urged. "Time to go!"

In a frenzy Roberts, Lee, and Sherman scurried to rejoin their squadron. Lee and Sherman descended into the tank's bowels unscathed. However, Roberts wasn't so lucky.

A serpopard attacked, lunging through the air and striking out with its elongated neck. Its fangs plunged into his calf. The commanding officer wailed in agony as the acidic venom infected his bloodstream.

The vicious beast's onslaught didn't relent. Violently it shook its head, tearing away at Roberts' flesh and slinging the commander about like a rag doll. The serpopard soon slammed Roberts down against the tank.

Holding him in place with powerful jaws, the remainder of creature's body climbed atop the tank as if it were pulled by string. Placing a heavy paw on Roberts' chest, the monstrosity reared back, ready to unleash the killing stroke.

Baring its teeth, the jaws of death sped towards Roberts. The commander lost hope as a mouth teeming with razor–sharp, venomous teeth careened towards him with murderous intent. He closed his eyes and tried to remember home.

He'd left behind his wife, Vanessa, and child, Grace, to join the war effort. Now, at the end of his life, his mind drifted to Vanessa's warm embrace and declaration of pride in her husband's courage in the face of war. The smell of lavender filled his nostrils, recalling the last time he held his baby girl and pressing his lips to her chubby cheeks. At least his last thought would be a good one.

A brutish shout erupted from Roberts' right. Jolted, the officer was torn from his peaceful escape. When his eyes opened, salvation arrived.

Owens soared through the air with an axe raised over his head. The tracers of Nazi bullets zoomed past the soldier, but each one miraculously missed their target. It was as if time had stopped, allowing Roberts to witness the heated race between the axe blade and serpopard's deadly fangs with his life hanging in the balance.

Just as the creature's jaw got too close that its noxious venom dripped onto Roberts' shirt, its body went limp. Owens struck down with a mighty blow, severing the serpentine neck from its feline torso. Panting, Owens collapsed onto the tank's platform to recover from the dire sprint to save his commander. Leveraging the serpopard's corpse for cover, Owens found a brief moment of solitude amidst the chaos.

Owens contorted his neck, rolling to lock eyes with Roberts. "You're not dyin' on me yet."

Roberts snorted. "I stormed Normandy, its gonna take a lot more than a damned snake bite to take me down."

Shortly thereafter the remainder of Owens' squad arrived to lay covering fire around the lone remaining tank. Goldberg pulled Roberts inside to join Gida, Lee, and Sherman. Meanwhile, Owens, Dolan, Davis, Isley, and Claypool reloaded and laid covering fire, hindering the Nazi advance.

Despite their recent success, a wave of caution permeated the battalion. The onslaught ominously slowed. Their enemy was plotting something and, whatever it was, it wasn't good.

Soon the shooting came to a halt. The Nazis instead formed a semi–circular, defensive formation around the Allied troops. The serpopards took a similar formation, while the griffins landed in droves atop buildings, biding their time to strike. The five soldiers outside the tank, stopped laying covering fire to conserve what little ammunition they had left in anticipation of what was to come.

The jackal–headed god and Pharaoh strode through their forces, taking their position at the front to face their much–maligned adversaries. A hush fell over Ras Ghareb. Only the guttural growls of the malicious serpopards could be heard.

"Hear me," Pharaoh proclaimed in a proud voice, "your valor is most impressive, but your resistance is futile! Abandon your iron chariot and swear fealty to me and I will grant you peace and prosperity during my reign!"

With Roberts out of commission, Davis stepped in to assume authority. "I think we're gonna hang onto the tank. It's pretty cozy inside and we've grown accustomed to a certain lifestyle."

The resurrected Egyptian sneered at Davis' arrogance. "Two gods stand before you and an army unlike any the world has ever seen. Your choice is simple: kneel or die."

Claypool raised his hand with an observation like a child in school. "Excuse me, but there's only one God and I'm pretty sure he doesn't wear eye–liner."

Pharaoh scowled. "You insolent little—!"

"And also," Claypool interrupted, "I know you're new to English, but I think you're mixing up dog and god. Your buddy there's got a dog's head not a god's head. It's important to me that you understand the difference."

"Very well," Pharaoh relented, no longer interested in mercy towards his foes, "you'll have the death you deserve." He turned to the jackal–man hybrid and nodded.

The interspecies being snarled and placed its palms upwards. Fire emanated from nothing, consuming his fists. Undaunted by combat with mortal men, the monstrosity strode pretentiously into battle.

Sensing this battle wouldn't be easily won, Davis called to his comrades in the tank. "Goldberg and Sherman, get out here! Lee, keep watch over Roberts and Gida, they're useless in this fight!"

"I am not useless!" Gida protested from inside the tank's cockpit as Sherman and Goldberg climbed into out and into the fray.

"Out here you are!" Davis countered. "Try finding a way to help from in there!"

Within the confines of the steel machine Lee, Roberts, and Gida contemplated their role in the fight. However, the serpopard's poison continued to permeate Roberts' blood stream. A dull, distant stare washed across his face as he entered a trance. Yet, before he dozed off, he had one last command for his men.

"Listen to Davis," Roberts ordered, "he's the commander now."

With Roberts drifting off to a state between life and death, Gida and Lee turned their attention to contributing to the fight at hand. While they sought out relevance in the refuge of the tank, the battle outside erupted. Their sense of urgency percolated as cries of distress resonated from their comrades.

Outside, the battle against the Egyptian god, Anubis, fared poorly for the remainder of the regimen. The glowering beast was supremely quick and seemed to possess the strength of ten or more men. Hurling balls of fire at his adversaries, Anubis ensured the combatants remained on the defensive.

The Egyptian god's strategy proved successful. Isley, Owens, Claypool, Goldberg, Davis, and Sherman spent much of the initial battle dodging for cover as explosive fireballs scorched the air. On a few occasions, a soldier was able to squeeze off a shot against the humanoid jackal, which seemed to intermittently hinder the monstrosity.

Interestingly, whenever a bullet struck Anubis, his serpopard and griffin subjects would recoil, screeching in pain. Owens and Davis, who'd found shelter behind a pile of rubble, noticed the peculiar phenomenon. They exchanged inquisitive glances, pondering how to leverage the first chink they'd unearthed in their enemies' armor.

"They feel his pain," Owens realized.

"If we can put enough lead in him, it might buy us enough time to escape," Davis theorized. "The Navy should be close to our location by now. All we have to do is hold them off for a few minutes."

Owens hopelessly sighed as flames impotently crashed into the wall of rubble at their backs. "That'll take hundreds of shots, we don't have that kind of ammo left."

Epiphany struck Davis. A devilish grin snuck across his face. "No, it'll only take one shot," he insisted, turning his eyes to fixate on the tank.

Owens smirked, grasping Davis' plot. He grabbed his radio to relay the message to his cohorts in the tank. "Boys, we need you to aim that gun at our canine friend."

"You see how fast that thing's movin'," Lee protested, "how are we gonna get him to stay still long enough for a shot? We've only got three more shells in here!"

"Leave that to us," Owens replied with a stoic confidence.

With new resolve, Owens and Davis sprinted from cover. Davis' Thompson sub–machine gun hurled bullets from his final clip at Anubis. Owens lent his sidearm to the fray, carrying the trusty axe as a supplemental weapon.

Anubis had been focused on Isley, Claypool, Sherman, and Goldberg, who'd been darting in different directions, when the hailstorm of bullets struck. When the barrage landed, Anubis backpedaled, freeing the others to unleash their own onslaughts.

With an enhanced attack, Anubis dropped to a knee, sporadically flinging fireballs at his foes to no avail. The offensive wasn't deadly, but it distracted the Egyptian god long enough for Owens and Davis to reach him. In the background, the tank cannon hummed as Gida shifted it into position.

To be continued


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