Another shell slid into the breech of the Roman-built MkXIII Praetor assault cannon.
KLANKK! The noise echoed off the cold stone walls of the cave.
Goddamn ! Jesus bit hard on his cigar as he squinted through the crack where the huge round stone blocked the cave’s entrance. Behind him, his hijacked Roman flat-bed Quadriga jeep rumbled menacingly. Jesus had had to take out three elite legionaries to get this baby. It had a rapid-fire, gas-powered, self-loading, recoilless ballista mounted in the back and a pair of forward-aimed high-output Scorpio machine-crossbows above the headlights. The powerful engine (a full CDXXX cubic unciae swept volume) could out-pull a well-fed mule train or an African elephant.
Outside, the Roman motorised cavalry revved their engines, ready to move out, their job done. Or so they thought, Jesus told himself with a wry smile.
His hands and feet ached like hell and he had a gash at least VI unciae long, but apart from that he was in good shape. He hefted the Praetor and looked along the sights, lining it up with the big red-faced centurion in the lead wagon. Jesus recognised him: this was the guy who’d laughed as he stuck him with the spear three days ago. Long Johnnius, the troops called him.
I could blow you away right now, motherfucker, thought Jesus, but that wasn’t the plan. Later, there would be time for pleasure, but this was strictly business.
The Centurion raised his arm and the column began to move. OK, Jesus muttered. Show-time!
He jumped behind the Quadriga’s wheel and gunned the engine. The stone moved a little, and then a little more. He risked another push and the gap opened to a couple of pedes. OK. Enough. The Roman column rolled by, truck after truck, their pennants fluttering in the warm Springtime breeze, and Jesus counted them down. X, XI, XII, XIII, XIV! Go go go! The Quadriga’s engine screamed as Jesus slammed his jeep straight against the huge stone, rolling it into the road right in the path of the last truck. The Roman driver swerved to avoid it and slewed to a halt in front of the cave, but it was to be his last move. Three heavily-armed apostles appeared as if from nowhere and with a deft stroke, the big bearded one killed the soldier where he sat.
Rocky! laughed Jesus. You didn’t let me down.
Christ, no, Boss, boomed Rocky. You ok?
Jesus shrugged. I’ve been worse. What the hell went wrong?
Don’t know what the fuck. It all looked ok. That night in the bar? When you told us the plan?
Jesus nodded. I told you, get me inside and I’ll do the rest. I’ll capture Pilate, blow the communications and we’ll be out again in an hour.
Well, Rocky went on, all the boys knew their jobs. Everyone done it right. Judas was great – had ’em believin’ you was unarmed. That guy, he oughtta get an Oscar. So what the fuck happened? That’s what I wanna know. I get my hands on whoever blew it? He’s dead.
OK, Jesus said. What’s the point? It’s done. Here we go: Plan B. How many guys we got left?
Hard to tell, Boss. XV, maybe XX tops.
Jesus grunted. It’ll have to do. Come on, let’s get this ammo-wagon back on the road.
Pontius Pilate was in good spirits. The Prefect of Judaea had put to death the leader of the Jewish uprising and he was looking forward to rich rewards from his Roman masters.
Hey, see you Jimmy? he shouted at his Nubian slave. Gie’s that there bunch o’ grapes there, Son. Och, look, just go an’ peel ’em for us there, ya lazy fucker. Aye. Right enough. And while you’re at it, pour us another wee dram o’ that Judaean whiskey. Nae bother.
As he reached for the goblet, a gigantic explosion blasted a hole in the palace wall and when the dust cleared, it revealed a figure silhouetted against the fires in the atrium. Outside, more explosions echoed, punctuated by the heavy klakka-klakka noise of the Scorpios and the deeper resounding thud as the ballista demolished Pilate’s fortress.
Who the fuck are you, Jimmy? Pilate started, but as Jesus stepped through the opening and into the room, a grimace of pure fear spread across the Prefect’s face.
Wha’ aboot ye, Jesus? he greeted. Ye’re lookin’ well for a deceased punter. A thought ye were deid.
Somewhere at the back of the room, a door flew open and someone cursed.
What the fuck – ?
Without a word, Jesus whirled, drawing his short-bladed gladius in one smooth movement and driving it into the chest of the attacking red-faced centurion, Long Johnnius. Jesus smiled grimly. Well, motherfucker, he spat, how does it feel?
Pilate flattened himself against the wall. Ah for fuck’s sake, Jesus. If ye cannae tak a joke, what’s the world comin’ tae? Surely we can work somethin’ out? I mean, you’re probably pissed off, what wi’ bein’ crucified an’ all, but –
Pilate’s words were cut short as another shell slid into the breech of the Praetor assault cannon.
Jesus studied the whimpering Prefect of Judaea for a moment, then spat.
Crucify this! Motherfucker!