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Chapter 22 – The Sweeper Battalion

 Chapter 22 - The Sweeper Battalion

The morning sun slowly rose higher and higher, unleashing its scalding heat upon the world. The light of the sun spread across the desert wastelands, kissing the faces of the Blackflag Outpost warriors and bathing them in fiery, blood-like light. Even when the light of the sun grew so bright that the outpost guards could barely see, they still continued to squint and stare as the battalion moved closer and closer to them.

They were the true predators of the deserts, the locusts of the wastelands, the most terrifying and notorious beings these barren lands had to offer!

Sweepers delighted in roving about the wastes and attacking caravans and units, but usually they never dared to launch direct attacks against bases as large as Blackflag Outpost. Blackflag Outpost had a population of more than ten thousand, after all, and it had thousands of able-bodied men. Without a doubt, it was a tough bone to chew for any sweeper unit.

But things were different right now. The disastrous beast wave had just come to an end, resulting in multiple breaches of the barricades and heavy casualties to the outpost defenders, all of whom were exhausted. This was as weak as Blackflag Outpost ever had been. If a sweeper battalion was determined to destroy Blackflag Outpost, this really was the most perfect opportunity.

Even figures like Mad Dog and Slyfox had heavy looks on their faces. A sweeper battalion was every bit as dangerous as a beast wave, but there was a difference. Beast waves might be savage, but in the end they were nothing more than a pack of foolish animals. Sweeper battalions, however, were formed by human mutants.

Mutants weren't necessarily stupid. Some of them were quite intelligent, and the smart ones would often be given leadership roles. They would help forge armor, craft weapons, tame beasts, drive vehicles, or even operate firearms. Sweeper battalions had their own military tactics. They understood the principles of reinforcement and they could analyze for weaknesses. Dealing with them was completely different from dealing with beast waves!

"Listen up, rookies. Don't do a single damn thing without orders." Slyfox slowly began to load bullets into his pistols. "I've never heard of such a large sweeper battalion operating in this area. There's somethin' seriously fishy going on here."

In this age, ultraviolet radiation was so heavy it could virtually cause blindness. Cloudhawk forced himself to keep his eyes open as he stared at the impending battalion. He couldn't tell how many people were in it, but he could tell that this was indeed a large force.

Cloudhawk suddenly trembled. He could somehow hear a strange sound ringing out from far away. He wouldn't be able to describe this sound to anyone; it wasn't something he heard with his ears. Rather, he was 'hearing' it with some other type of extrasensory perception. It was as though an invisible guitar string was in the air in front of him, and when the wind blew it plucked the string, creating a thrumming sound.

What in the world was that sound? Why did it seem so familiar? Cloudhawk couldn't help but think of the similar, strange feeling he had experienced in that underground passageway. He had followed that strange sensation until in the end he had found the strange stone he now wore around his neck. Did these sweepers have equipment similar to his stone? That was impossible, right?

Mad Dog saw Cloudhawk's face turn pale, and he squeezed a grin onto his hideously scarred face as he spun his snow-white machetes in the air. "If you are afraid, kid, you can hide behind me. Rookies like you aren't equipped to deal with foes like them."

"Fuck that! When have I ever been afraid!" Cloudhawk had fought by Mad Dog's side in that inn, and so he was able to say this without any reservations. However, a solemn look then appeared on his face. "But I have the feeling that we shouldn't be in a hurry. Let's not be the first to act."

Cloudhawk didn't try to explain the strange feeling he had. If he did, the mercenaries would probably just think that he was going mad. However, Cloudhawk really could feel some sort of energy blowing towards them like dandelions on the wind. The strange energy had already surrounded the area around their base, and he had a very bad feeling that something was about to happen to them. This type of feeling, a sensation of mortal danger, was almost never wrong!

Slyfox also had the feeling that being in the vanguard was a bad decision. He immediately ordered the mercenaries to withdraw slightly. The outpost guards and the elite squads could form the front lines; there was no need for the Tartarus mercenaries to fight with them over that 'honor'.

The dozens of Tartarus mercenaries fell back by a few dozen meters. Right at this moment, a powerful tempest suddenly arose, sweeping up all the pebbles and sands on the streets. It was like a small sandstorm had suddenly attacked the outpost, causing all of outpost guards who had been readying themselves for combat to be caught offguard.


"Why is there wind?!"

"Not good. I've got no vision!"

Although the weather in the wastelands was always bad, the timine of this minor sandstorm was a bit too suspicious. Everyone's field of vision was completely blocked off, making it impossible for them to see what maneuvers their enemies were carrying out. As for the sweeper batallion, it picked up the pace. The ground began to tremble, while the stones on the streets began to rattle like drops of oil and water in the frying pan. Everyone could sense that the danger was drawing closer and closer.

"They're here!"

"Careful, careful!"

The multiple ferocious and heavily modified trucks slammed into the city barricades like giant battering rams! Thud. Thud. THUD! The enormous heavy trucks rammed into the barricades, causing earth-shaking explosion sounds. The stacked sand bags and heavy boulders were sent tumbling downwards by the force of the great collisions. Quite a few of the trucks rammed straight through the barricades, bowling over and crushing quite a few of the sand-blinded guardsmen who were caught offguard.

Every single vehicle was bristling with sharp spikes. When they drove past the guards, they were like meat grinders that kicked up a storm of bloody rain. The outpost guards began to howl miserably as they fell to the ground, with some being impaled onto the spikes of the vehicles.

"Damn them." Captain Grizzly of the elite squad roared furiously, "Retreat!" But alas, the sandstorm made it so that his voice simply could not carry. Right at this moment, a number of these crude vehicles slammed into each other, causing the deaths of at least twenty warriors. The vehicles then reverse a few meters before slamming into the walls anew, causing the nearly complete destruction of the outside perimeter of the outpost.

The wind turned inwards, bringing with it the sound of hoofsteps which rang out like rain drops in a storm. Ten or so scale-covered, twin-horned mutabeasts which were shaped almost like bulls were being driven into the outpost. Every single one of these mutabeasts was covered with ugly plates of iron armor. The iron plates not only provided them with protection, they even had razors and spikes fixed onto them.

The eyes of the mutated bulls were covered by swathes of black cloth, preventing them from seeing where they were going, while their tails had been set alight. The blazing fire behind them caused them to completely lose control, and they charged straight into the masses of guards within the outpost.

The outpost guards were sent flying, one after the other, with some being gored to death and others being trampled to death. These wild beasts were simply overwhelmingly strong, and they also had those iron plates for protection. There was no way that any of the ordinary base guards could stop them at all. Within just a few short minutes, the bodies of the mutant bulls were stained with blood and gore, with the outpost defenses in a state of complete chaos.

"Kill those things!" Ten or so outpost guards howled angrily as they charged forwards in unison towards one of the wild bulls. The wild bull first knocked two of them flying, gored a third, then lifted its hooves up and trampled down a fourth while the sharp spikes on its body tore into the chest of a fifth. As for the attacks of the guards, they didn't seem to have much of an impact at all. In the end, Captain Grizzly had to personally intervene. He severed the bull's neck with one chop from his saber, and only then was the maddened beast's rampage brought to an end.

That wild rush from the ten or so mutant bulls wasn't enough to actually defeat the outpost, but they did have a major impact on the outpost's defenses. By now, the sandstorm had already come to a halt. The sweepers had been given more than enough time to penetrate the outpost, and so all the soldiers were forced to fall back to their second line of defense.

When Slyfox saw the haggard state of the defenders, the fat on his face jiggled a bit as he laughed. "Fuck me, good thing we withdrew. Otherwises, those fuckers would've gored us in our asses as well."

"This isn't the time to revel in their misfortunes!" Cloudhawk was truly rendered speechless by this damn fatso. "We're in really bad shape right now!"

There were even more sweepers than they had originally predicted, with more than ten of those retrofitted heavy trucks. They even had two giant supply trucks behind the attack trucks, as well as several dozen wastelands motorocycles, several dozen giant riding lizards, and many bigfoot birds.

How many sweepers were there? There had to be at least three or four hundred... and this was a conservative estimate!

Cloudhawk knew that combat power had nothing to do with raw numbers. These sweepers were all brutal, ferocious mutants who had joined together to wreak havoc upon the world en masse. Compared to ordinary sweepers, they had better weapons, were more powerful, and were far more fearsome opponents!

It was incredibly rare for a battalion of more than three or four hundred sweepers to appear within a few hundred kilometers of this reach. A battalion like this was completely capable of laying siege to an outpost with a population of around ten thousand... and they had appeared at just the right moment, when the strength and morale of the outpost had yet to recover.

Now, they had been able to breach the outer perimeter of Blackflag Outpost without even needing to fight.

The two sides were roughly three hundred meters away from each other. One strange, bizarre-looking mutant after another came into view. More than eighty percent of these sweepers were highly mutated mutants, with twenty percent being moderately mutated mutants.

There were around ten or so mutants who were particularly striking. They had ugly faces and were of differing sizes, but all of them were at least three meters tall and about four times as bulky as an ordinary human being. If Cloudhawk wouldn't believe that mutants like this could exist, if it wasn't for the fact that he was seeing them with his own eyes! These creatures didn't look like humans at all; they were nothing more than vertically-walking behemoths!

But if you thought that the only advantage these behemoths held was their great size, you would e completely wrong. Their chests, arms, and thighs were completely covered in steel plates, and their weapons were giant warhammers that weighed more than two hundred kilograms. These weren't human beings at all; they were walking, steel-clad mobile fortresses!

In the wastelands these giant mutants were generally referred to as 'maneaters'. Maneaters possessed incomprehensible amounts of strength, and when they used those enormous warhammers they could cave in even armored vehicles with their blows. A single ordinary maneater would be able to effortlessly dominate a squad of over ten outpost guards... but the ten-plus maneaters here were all armed to the teeth! They would definitely pose an enormous threat to Blackflag Outpost!

Clank! Clank! Right at this moment, yet another large group of highly mutated sweepers appeared, and they lined up neatly behind the maneaters.

These sweepers weren't as terrifyingly large as the maneaters, but they were still twice as bulky and muscular as ordinary men and roughly two meters tall. They were fully outfitted with self-manufactured sets of metal armor and helmets, and they held steel shields with their left arms and heavy war-axes with their right.

These creatures were known as sweeper 'thugs' and they served as the medium infantry for sweeper battalions! Only one in every ten sweepers was chosen to become a thug, and thus they were all particularly fierce figures. They were dressed in heavy metal helmets and thick metal cuirasses, making them look almost like giant metal cans. As for their heavy war-axes, those things were able to lop off limbs as easily as one might pluck a flower.

The rest of the sweepers weren't outfitted in such an orderly fashion, but they were still quite well-equipped for a wastelands army. Some had sabers, some had warhammers, some rode giant lizards, and some drove vehicles.

Thirty or so comparatively short mutants were particularly eye-catching. These mutants had only been moderately mutated, and it was possible to tell that they were once human. Most of them were equipped with longbows, firearms, and other long-distance weapons.

Cloudhawk felt as though he had seen a ghost. How the hell was it possible for sweepers to be equipped with firearms?!

They had heavy shock troopers, medium infantry, riders, archers, formations, combat tactics, and complete sets of weapons and gear. In the wastelands, this was essentially a proper army!