Almost cut off. Chris stomped on the brake and slewed the wheel over, throwing Gorman and David against me as I was crushed against the inside of the door. A moment later, he stomped on the gas again, struggling slightly against the sluggish weight of the armored vehicle, roaring up Am Pumpwerk, around the back of the “Autohaus” at the intersection. The other vehicles followed, chased by bullets and at least one rocket, which skipped off the pavement, as the idiot shooting it apparently tried to compensate for recoil that wasn’t there.

We didn’t get far, though. A black UAZ Hunter roared out into the middle of the road in front of us, the doors flying wide and an HK21 sticking out through the “V” of the door on the right. The machinegun opened up with a ripping, staccato thunder.

The gunner wasn’t very good, fortunately, and rounds sailed over our vehicle with a snarling crackle, but this wasn’t going to end well. We might be able to push past that Hunter, but then a moment later, two more shooters with LAWs came around the back.

We weren’t going to dodge those rockets, even if they flinched.

“Get out, get out, get out!” David and I kicked our doors open before the vehicle had even stopped moving, and I dragged Gorman out with me as I dove for the side of the road. Chris wasn’t far behind, dragging his go bag and his own SBR with him.

A moment later, one of the LAW rockets hit with boom, the vehicle rocking as smoke and frag blasted from the grill. A faint flash blasted through the interior, as the High Explosive Anti-Tank round blew a plume of superheated plasma through metal, plastic, and ceramic. It was followed a moment later by a second blast as the other LAW hit. The Land Rover started to burn.

I was already hauling Gorman through the bushes next to the road and toward the “Autohaus.” Momentarily letting my weapon hang on its sling, I keyed my radio. “Smiley, Deacon. We have troops in contact, motorcade disabled, at…” I looked up at the building, but there was no sign.

“This is the T&R Ihr Autohaus, on the intersection of Hauptstraẞe 3 and Am Pumpwerk.” Gorman was clearly scared, but he was keeping his head.

I passed the information along. Since the war had started, GPS had been entirely too unreliable for anything more than about a grid square level of accuracy. Which wasn’t going to help us when we were waiting for our QRF. “We are strongpointing in the Autohaus. Be advised, the enemy has anti-tank rockets and at least one drone.”

“Good copy, Deacon. QRF is spooling up as we speak. Fifteen minutes.” Smiley had proved himself over the last couple of months and easily a dozen incidents, though so far, we hadn’t seen anything this serious since Strasbourg.

The Autohaus was a car dealership, and while there was a lot of glass in the front—much of it probably already shattered by concussion and gunfire—the back was mostly solid brick, with only a couple of doors, all metal and windowless. I hauled Gorman toward one of the back doors, passing the double line of cars parked close together in the back. Between the cars, the big outbuilding at the end of the row of bushes, and the couple of houses and outbuildings beyond that, we had some cover and concealment for a few seconds, giving us some breathing room.

I tried the door, but it was locked. That didn’t last long. Reuben showed up with Tony and Jordan, dragging the trail vehicle’s breacher kit, while the rest of Gorman’s German PSD laid down 4.6mm fire past the vehicles, trying to keep the attackers suppressed while we found a way into the building.

Gorman straightened and knocked on the door, unwilling to just have us break it down right away. The gunfire continued to echo off the surrounding buildings, but it had slackened somewhat, as the attackers tried to maneuver, and Bachmann, Forney, and Häusler kept laying down cover fire.

I could appreciate Gorman’s sentiment, but when you’re under fire is hardly the time for sentiment. We could pay for the broken door later.

At any rate, nobody answered the door, to my complete lack of surprise. “Reuben, break it open.”

My big secondary medic, whom the late Phil Kerr had called “the biggest Mexican I’ve ever seen,” much to Reuben’s displeasure—he’d insist he was “Texican,” not “Mexican”—already had the Halligan tool in his hands, his SBR Tactical dangling from its sling in front of him, and he slammed the duckbill into the crack between the door and the jamb, throwing all his weight on the shaft as he wrenched on the door.

The door was metal-sheathed, and I could see this being harder than it looked, but again, Reuben was a big dude, and he was putting a lot of force on the Halligan, not only with just his weight. Pushing hard against the ground with his legs—and I’d seen what Reuben could squat—he strained, the veins popping on his neck as the door cracked, then the latch tore through the metal jamb with a hellish shriek.

We were in.

I went in first, David on my heels, weapons level and clearing the corners. The door opened onto a short hallway, with what appeared to be offices on one side and utility rooms on the other. I half expected some of the attackers to be coming in the front, but for the moment, we had the back to ourselves.

I held on the hallway leading toward the showroom in the front while David and Chris stacked on the utility room door. I might have been able to hear noise from the front, gunfire and smashing glass, possibly shouts, but my hearing was so brutalized by years of gunfire, explosives, and helicopters that I couldn’t be sure what was coming from in front and what was coming from the back, behind me, through the open door.

Chris reached around David and threw the door open. The two of them flowed in quickly, and I heard no gunshots. Stepping forward, I cleared the door as Greg, Reuben, Jordan, and Tony hustled Gorman inside behind me.

We needed to clear the building, but leaving Gorman outside where the bullets were flying was not going to be a good idea. I held on the hallway for a moment, until Jordan squeezed my elbow and said, “With you.” Then I was moving, sidestepping to the door to the offices—there was a narrow window above the door handle, through which I could see the desks and computers—threw the door open, and went in.

Half a dozen people were huddled under the desks, peering over the tops and past the computers as we made entry, SBRs leveled, clearing our corners quickly before we moved to one wall, carefully checking the dead space beneath and behind each desk, scanning each worker, checking hands and demeanors, just in case someone there either decided to try to play hero, or else was on the bad guys’ side.

Whoever the hell the bad guys were. The list of suspects in post-EDC Germany was pretty long.

“Everyone stay down!” Jordan had not been what I might have considered the team’s go-to public relations man. Being the sole black man on the team, and also, due to his skin color, something of a rarity in some of the places we’d been lately, he’d been carrying a chip on his shoulder the size of an Abrams tank since long before I’d met him. I knew him well enough that I knew it wasn’t entirely unjustified—the man had been recruited into the Triarii after his mother had been beaten to death by Fourth Reich neo-Nazis, after all—but it had been a constant thorn in my side, within the team as well as out. But he was mellowing a bit, and at the moment his tone was even and almost friendly. “We don’t want to hurt anyone. We’ll do what we can to keep you safe. But you have to stay down on the floor and stay in this room.”

We hit the last of the offices. There was another door leading out into another hallway, and we stacked on it momentarily, as Jordan looked back over the frightened faces huddled behind or under the desks. “Lock this door, and stay where you are.”

I led the way out into the hallway, and immediately found myself in a gunfight.

Even as I came out through the door, half a dozen men in dark clothing and balaclavas burst into the showroom. They were carrying a mix of MP5s, G3s, and what looked an awful lot like a G36. The man in the lead, the one with the G36 lookalike, sprayed bullets across the receptionist’s desk as he ran through the doorway.

Their own noise and violence distracted them just long enough to give me a chance to start shooting before any of them had a shot at me. I dumped the guy with the G36-ish thing, hammering three rounds into him as fast as I could squeeze the trigger, the red dot tracking slightly up the side of his torso with the recoil. My suppressed .300 Blackout was downright hushed after the rattle of unsuppressed 5.56 fire. But there was no missing the spatter as my third round went into the side of his jaw and blew out a chunk of flesh, bone, and fluids, splashing them into the next man’s eyes.

That guy didn’t get time to wipe the gore out of his vision, as Jordan shot him a split second later, blowing his brains out even as he tried to shove the falling body off himself. The dead man had momentarily pinned him against the doorjamb, and Jordan’s bullet shattered the glass behind him as his skull got ventilated.

I dragged my muzzle across the group while they desperately tried to get out of the doorway, riding the reset to dump the mag into them as fast as I could. Six to two is not good odds, no matter whether the two got the drop on the six or not, and I had to even things out as fast as possible.

One went down hard, a pair of holes punched in his chest, spitting blood as his heart and lungs got pulped by two 220-grain bullets. Another took a round to the shoulder as he moved, shoving his way past the dying man and deeper into the showroom. He staggered as the impact turned him partway around, and I followed up but missed as a burst of 5.56 fire blew brick and plaster into my face. I ducked back into the hallway as Jordan threw himself behind the receptionist’s desk.

The bad guys were scrambling for cover behind anything that might get between them and a bullet, from the stacked wheels along the big glass picture windows to the lime-green Porsche parked in the center of the open floor. They’d left three dead men in the doorway, but that still left three of them in front of us, along with however many more were out front, not to mention those closing in from the back parking lot.

Somebody really wanted Gorman dead.

I was covered by the corner from the guy who’d dived behind the stacked wheels, but the two behind the Porsche had me. I threw myself flat on my side, rolling over my SBR to bring the red dot to bear underneath the car, at least as best I could.

The Porsche was awfully low to the ground, which didn’t give me much of a window or much of a target. I dumped about six rounds beneath the vehicle, though I’m pretty sure at least one or two ricocheted off the concrete floor and into the undercarriage instead of into the bodies on the other side.

At least one went home, though, as the man collapsed with a scream, apparently getting in his buddy’s way, since the fire from the other side of the sports car suddenly stopped.

If I’d had a frag, I might have ended it right there. But I didn’t have one, since carrying frag grenades on PSD missions tended to be frowned upon. I still would have taken a couple anyway, except that we had some delicate relationships to think about, and if we used the damn things, we’d have the Army all over us.

So, I had to move. Scrambling to my feet, I used the momentary pause in fire—aided by Jordan’s bullets sending shattered glass cascading over the shooters on the other side of the car from behind the receptionist’s desk—to hook around the corner and go after the one who’d taken cover behind the stack of wheels.

I almost got my head taken off, as the guy fired a long burst at me as soon as he spotted movement, 9mm rounds ripping past my ear and into the wall behind and above me. He wasn’t controlling the recoil all that well, which is the only reason I survived, and he was drilling holes in the ceiling when I shot him four times in the chest, throat, and face. He crashed back against the glass and the low brick wall at its base, leaving a red smear on the plaster as he slid to the floor.

Then I was up and moving on the front of the car, even as Jordan got up and headed for the back. He held just off the corner as I went around the grill, not even pausing as I shot the man with the G3—maybe it was an HK33, since everybody seemed to be shooting 9mm or 5.56—twice in the chest and twice in the head, turning my muzzle on the second man with an MP5 and splashing blood, brains, and hair against the brightly-painted side of the car.

Being almost entirely certain that they were dead, I still stepped back around the car, ducking down to a knee behind the front driver’s side wheel while I scanned the parking lot and the road beyond for more bad guys.

I might have seen movement, but right at the moment, the road was pretty clear. The civvies had scrambled for cover as soon as the shooting had started, and nobody else wanted a piece. I was sure there was a Bundespolizei unit in Bremen, but for whatever reason, they weren’t getting involved. They’d have been here by now if they were.

I had my suspicions about that. The Bundespolizei were criminally understrength, but I suspected that while they might not be that eager to go running into a firefight with only a handful of dudes and a couple of G-Wagens, there was also a political angle there. They’d deny it, of course, but it wouldn’t matter to us if we were dead, nevertheless.

A lot of the establishment in Berlin and Paris still weren’t happy that the EDC was gone. They’d take full advantage of the power vacuum for their own benefit, of course, all the while mouthing platitudes about the Council having gone too far, but the truth was that they all tended to agree with the EDC’s goals and ideals, what there were of them. Guys like Gorman and the rest of the Verteidiger in Bayern, or Nouveau Gallia, or any number of more “conservative,” “nationalist” movements throughout Europe were persona non grata at best.

There was no way the authorities in Bremen, or anywhere else in Germany outside of Bavaria—well, a chunk of Bavaria—or a couple other minor cities were going to risk their cops to rescue the likes of Wenzeslaus Gorman. The man advocated for cleaning up the jihadi enclaves, lower taxes, and a Germany that was effectively economically independent—even from the Americans, which perhaps made our presence a little problematic, but who cared—and to them, that made him the next best thing to the return of Heinrich Himmler.

Not that they’d say that. Repeating those names was frowned upon, somewhat more in Germany than in the US. The implications could be made, though.

It was ironic, given the fights we’d already had with the Fourth Reich, which had a considerable presence in what used to be East Germany, and Gorman hated those bastards.

“Golf Lima Ten, this is Tango India Five Six.” Tyler Bradshaw led the infantry section that had been our trail unit since we’d inserted into Slovakia on a rescue mission, over a year and several lifetimes ago. Now he was our QRF. “We are five mikes out. Three trucks and an M1200.”

“Roger. Be advised, bad guys have LAW rockets and IEDs. Advance carefully. We are currently strongpointed in the T&R auto dealership.” I wasn’t going to bother with the German over the radio. “Principal is secure, and we are holding position.”

“Good copy.” Bradshaw wasn’t a particularly talkative man in person. He was even less so over the radio.

A renewed storm of gunfire sounded outside, around the back of the building. They couldn’t have that many shooters left, but a couple could still cause us trouble, especially if they hauled out any more LAWs.

More movement, in the bushes across the road. I tracked in on it, but had no target.

Anyone in that field was probably going to have a bad day. There’d been quite a few cows out there, and while they would have run from the gunfire, if there was a bull in the mix, he was not going to be happy.

I fell back from the window, moving deeper into the shadows. The staff must have turned the lights off as soon as the shooting started, which was smart. If the bad guys had started shooting at movement, it would have been harder to see any movement inside the showroom with the lights off.

“Looks like they’ve bugged out.” Jordan should have known better than to say something like that. I was too busy watching my sector to give him the stink-eye for taunting Murphy, but a moment later the thud of another explosion was followed by the crackle of 5.56 and 4.6mm fire from the back of the building.

“You had to say it.” I shifted across the room, falling back toward the hallway, while Jordan covered the front. Nobody was stirring around the semis that were still jackknifed across the road, even though there was more gunfire echoing from what sounded like the far side. Maybe Bradshaw had overestimated how long it was going to take them to reach us.

The deep-throated thumpthumpthump of a heavy machinegun answered that question, especially when several rounds smashed right through the trailers partway across the road.

Bradshaw had arrived.

If only that meant it was over.


Power Vacuum comes out on Kindle and in Paperback Feb 15.

Power Vacuum Chapter 2

Peter Nealen

Peter Nealen is a former Reconnaissance Marine and veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan. He deployed to Iraq in 2005-2006, and again in 2007, with 1st Platoon, Bravo Company, 1st Recon Bn. After two years of schools and workups, including Scout/Sniper Basic and Team Leader's Courses, he deployed to Afghanistan with 4th Platoon, Force Reconnaissance Company, I MEF. Since he got out, he's been writing, authoring many articles and 24 books, mostly Action/Adventure and Military Thrillers, with some excursions into Paranormal Fantasy and Science Fiction.

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