“That went well.” I groan out, finding myself laying on my back with very little air in my lungs. No one laughs. I can’t blame them.
Two more of the assassins Oscar brought with go down in the still raging firefight. Things don’t stop just because something blows up. When I roll over I see that more mercenaries join from the far end of the tarmac, where another Humvee keeps pace with them. Slowly, this time. The heavy rounds shred our sniper in the plane, along with the pilot and co-pilot. Unlucky bastards.
It’s around this time that I think maybe our plan has gone awry, just the slightest bit. It’s the exact same time that a grenade lands in the middle of our huddle. Chase is first to act and gives it a nice kick away under a SUV where it explodes.
That’s the first sign that it’s not in our favor, the firefight that goes on.
“We tried.” I say to Nova, who is laying beside me and bleeding from a series of road rash and shrapnel wounds. She has no clever response because she is still unconscious. Just fucking great. Chase tries to stand, and someone shoots him in the leg. Red blossoms and he curses, falling back to the ground beside Oscar and Robert. Then he apologizes for cursing.
The mercenaries close in around us, even that Humvee comes up. It could turn us to red mist if the gunner decides to go that way. He does not. Lucky us. I note the absence of a light machine gun chugging away, The Karelian must be gone too. Damn it.
I’ll give Robert this; his death was fucking spectacular.
He struggles up to his feet, smoothing out his ripped jacket and wiping blood away from cuts all over his face. He tugs the sleeves of his jacket down and cracks his neck. To his credit he doesn’t go into a “don’t you know who I am” speech.
“Alright, come on then!” Is what he says as he throws himself at the mercenaries. I always thought he was a book learning sort of guy, rose to the position by being shrewd over being a talented killer.
I was wrong.
It’s like watching an amateur boxer go up against Ali, one on one is no contest for Robert. He uses momentum and movement in a way that almost makes me jealous. He uses the first merc’s body as a shield, letting the man’s vest soak up all the stray gunfire as he unsnaps the merc’s pistol from a thigh holster. He takes out two more and keeps carrying that body with him, deeper into the circle.
Vests and flesh can only take so much punishment and if you put twenty amateurs up against Ali he would have gone down too. The first salvo of bullets that tear right through the merc, the truly dead merc, rip right through Robert’s abdomen and upper thigh. He cries out and falls to one knee, dropping the body. Another burst shreds his right shoulder to something the consistency of ground beef.
A dozen of the mercs close in around him, guns aimed at his head. He looks up, slow-like, and grins between all the blood seeping out from what I can safely bet are destroyed lungs. And he laughs. Oh, how he fucking laughs at them, big gobs of foamy blood spraying out. The lead merc does some sort of disgusted snarling noise and steps up with a handgun, to press it against Robert’s head.
Robert holds up his hand and gives them a good look at the three or four grenade pins he’s still holding on to. I roll on top of Nova and I hear Chase do the same for Oscar, because Oscar grunts out a hacking noise under the pressure.
We don’t see Robert die. We don’t see the mercs torn apart by shrapnel.
It’s just over for them and him, just like that. Nine men dead just to kill one, a fair price for any assassin. Doesn’t help Robert, he’s still dead. We’re not far behind.
“Get the girl! Kill the rest. Go!” Someone says through their balaclava. I hate mercenaries, they love balaclavas. You know what’s wrong with them? They’re hot, sticky, gross messes. If it has the mouth hole you’re constantly eating loose strings and if it doesn’t you’re just drowning in your own sweat. Disgusting.
“Go!” This time the voice isn’t muffled.
I recognize it.
I turn my head to see the speaker scooping up Nova in his arms, a rifle slung over his back. He heaves her up and catches my eye. Shakes his head and sucks in the corner of his mouth to make a weird squelching noise. I always hated that.
“Shouldn’t have gone for the plane, too obvious. You never did shut up about when I did it.”
“You mother-fucker,” I scrabble for a handgun but someone steps on my wrist, hard. They pin my hand to my chest and drive all the air out at the same time. A good ol’ two-fer.
“That’s a story for a different time.” Declan winks at me and disappears into the Humvee, tires squealing while they barrel off to join the police cruisers at the gate and out of sight.
Shit. Shit. Shit.
Rough hands grab me, tug me to my knees into the most submissive position an assassin can end up in. The pre-execution one. On your knees.Chase, Oscar follow.
“We’re fucked.” Oscar says. I wonder if he wishes he had a final cigar. I sort of do.
It doesn’t matter. Because there’s no time for one.
A merc puts a bullet into Oscar’s head just like that. The old man crumples to the tarmac. The shooter is a big guy, probably could have rivaled The Karelian. He ignores the old man bleeding out on the pavement, kneels before Chase and pulls down his balaclava. He puts the barrel of his gun under Chase’s chin, pushing up. Chase looks more bothered by the hole in his leg than the man.
“Last words? Legend?” The big guy throws the word out with all the disdain someone of his stature can muster. Prick.
“Tic tac.” Chase offers. The big guy snarls and begins the squeeze the trigger. I close my eyes and the shot echoes out.
Then another. In too rapid succession. Not a sidearm, more like a light machine gun. I snap my eyes open and watch the big guy disintegrate into red explosions through his vest, tumbling back with each pummeling round. My own mercenary guard will be distracted by the incoming gunfire, so I duck to the left. His shot is slow and misses, though I think I will suffer some extensive and long-lasting hearing. As the hailstorm continues I move back, putting my shoulder under the barrel of his rifle. I throw my head back, hoping for contact, and I find it.
I’m not a huge fan of slamming my head into another man’s groin, it just doesn’t suit my morals. All’s fair in war though. So I do it. I feel something pop.
Sorry. Even in all this, sorry.
They should have taken the two seconds it takes to slap flexicuffs on someone because this wouldn’t happen. I grab his rifle and tug it, breaking his index finger when it gets caught in the trigger guard. His shrieking intensifies to a fever pitch.
Yup, going to have hearing damage.
I flip onto my back and find all the rage over failing her. Over letting her be taken. I take all of that and I empty every bullet in the magazine into him. I feel guilty for a nanosecond because I start too low, the first few bullets tear apart his already damaged groin before climbing up to his belly button before it continues on into his chest, neck and head.
Then he dies.
I see it happen in slow motion. I am up, snatching a magazine from his vest before he can fall to the ground. I have it slapped in before anyone around us is reacting. I drop to a knee and hit the selector switch for single fire. I hear the satisfying click and I know it’s ready.
I can hear my heart pounding, the heaviness of my breath as things clear. I can see the flickering fire of the limo and smell the acrid smoke of leather seats and oil burning. I see eight mercenaries still standing, scattering in the face of The Karelian. I hear the slow, distant roar of the massive man shouting his rage into the abyss. I imagine he is marching towards us with grim determination.
There’s movement near the vehicles, where Anastazie pulls herself out of the backseat of a SUV. She takes aim and joins the fight. I see the slow movement of the slide of her handgun, the ejected casings as they ping out and hit the pavement. I can see the forty-five rounds spiral through the air and sink into mercenaries.
I see Metze, not tapping his leg. Coming out from a shattered hulk and bleeding from a dozen small cuts and at least one bullet wound. The left half of his face is ragged and burned but he’s coming on, firing his sidearm as best he can. I see the grim determination, dare I say the thrill of the kill, flooding his face through the pain.
I can see the blood fountains and the sweat and the stink of all the horrendous things that come with battle and death. I see Chase’s knife drive between the fibers of a vest that does nothing against a blade and I see the last five men standing recovering from the shock of the assault.
I take a long, deep breath. I blink out the sweat and soot and blood and funnel all the rage down into a calmness. I feel the rifle’s weight, predict the recoil pattern of each shot, and I raise it to my shoulder.
All of it happens over maybe five seconds. The rifle butt hits my shoulder and I snap off the first shot, then four more, as the sights jump between targets.
Five men drop and it’s over. I let out the breath that I was holding for those seconds, letting the sound of crackling fire and a pounding heart come back in a sudden rush. Chase is on one knee with a knife in hand to throw, Anastazie in the middle of reloading, The Karelian standing there with that machine gun by his hip.
“Shit, you couldn’t have done that before?”
“They took her.” I say. Looking out towards the gate where the ambush started from. At all the bodies. Then at the fake motorcycle cop bikes laying on their sides. And I make what is likely the dumbest decision of the day.
I sprint for one.
“Wait here!” I shout.
“Where the fuck else would we go?” The Karelian shouts back. His is louder. It’s not fair. I struggle the bike up, barely, and find that I am staring at the burned mass of flesh that is Metze’s face. It startles me.
He straddles a bike beside me and we make ready to take off in chase of the vehicles that might be long gone, it’s been at least sixty seconds since they left. That’s long enough for a lot of things to change.
Metze looks at me with one good eye and smiles. His leg is tapping on the bike and he has his weapon tucked under one shoulder.
Then he says something, just before we take off.
“I’ve always wanted to ride a bike.”
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