The agent ducked and rolled, coming up with his assault rifle trained on the barricade. He fired, once, twice, and two of the shooters dropped. Then he was rolling again, ending behind cover with Thomas, Gina and Katrina.
Lori sprayed one more time, forcing the shooters to duck down before leaping off the car and running for the wall to join them. The other seven had ended up on the other side of the hallway.
“What the hell is going on?” Kral’s voice buzzed through the agent’s earbud. It was faintly grainy from the interference of the explosions and gunfire “Did you set us up?”
“Don’t question me agent. And what would I gain by setting you up? No, this is a trap likely set for us by the Butcher” mentally he swore at Lian. So much for trusting her. But it was not the time to berate himself for that. He popped out from the cover and fired another few rounds at the barricade.
“I want ideas for solutions. Everyone give the suggestions to one person on each side, and then the two of us will confer. I’m putting Cassy in charge of collecting these plans for your side. Go”
The agent turned to the other four.
“Well? I want plans”
“If we can hold them off long enough for me to get to the groundcar and switch the turret into ordnance mode I can blast the barricade out of the way. Then we can pile in the groundcar and go from there”
“A sound plan, but it needs work. Such as how we are going to hold them off that long. Gina?”
“Don’t look at me for this. I’m no good at fighting”
“You’re an agent. Don’t give me that”
“Well, I did have one idea. If we can get someone to cause a distraction, such as Lori and someone else running for the turret then maybe someone can sneak around behind the barricade and take them out that way”
“But we might lose the people who are creating the distraction”
She shrugged “We run that risk every time we get out of bed in the morning. If need be I will volunteer to do that myself” she leaned out from behind cover and snapped off a single shot with her pistol.
Thomas looked between Gina and Lori, then at the agent.
“I have an idea, but if you didn’t like their ideas you definitely won’t like mine. We should get people into the groundcar. Then drive the groundcar right over the top of the barricade, with the people inside shooting from the sides. I know the groundcars. It’ll be hard to get it up the side, but once it is elevated it can climb that”
“And how do we elevate it?”
“Thats the part you won’t like. Someone needs to strap sonic grenades to the underside of the front bumper”
Gina took a break from shooting to look back at Thomas, a smile on her face “And then we can detonate them when its almost there. The blast will lift it enough to get it up there”
“Exactly. But there is the risk of them being shot while the plant the grenades”
Lori was smiling too “Yes, but the vehicle can survive the blast while maybe the barricade can’t”
The agent shook his his though “It’ll be vulnerable while its tipping. If they catch on to what we are doing enough force, including another grenade or a rocket launcher, or even a bunch of trash will tip the groundcar all the way over. Then whoever got inside will be trapped and we won’t be able to get anywhere with them. They’ll be stuck, and we’ll be down our groundcar and as many members as we had inside”
Lori and Gina grew grimmer and went back to shooting.
“I told you you wouldn’t like it” Thomas said with a shrug.
Katrina turned around long enough to tell him that she had no better ideas before going back to shooting.
“Well, those are ideas. Lets see what the other side has come up with” he flicked his earbud and it hissed to life again.
“Well? Gimme some ideas Cassy”
He fitted a grenade to the end of his assault rifle and leaned out from the wall enough to freeze the picture of where everything was in his mind. Then he swung his rifle out and fired after taking a moment to aim. He heard the whump of the grenade launching, depressed the trigger as he swung it back and forth, and had it torn from his hands in a spray of bullets.
He fell back further behind the wall again and drew his submachine guns as Cassy began to speak.
“Our best idea was that we could let them take the groundcar. Retreat enough so that they feel safe enough to come take it. Then, we blow it up. That’ll kill whoever is inside it, and also destroy the barricade. We can’t do it now though because we are too close”
The agent nodded. It was a sound plan. He knew that he could trust Cassy to come up with a good one.
“This is what we came up with. Create a diversion of running for the groundcar, allowing some of us to slip behind their lines. Those behind the lines can try and take them out that way while the rest of us affix sonic grenades to the underside of the front bumper. We gun the groundcar, detonate the grenades, and let the lift carry us onto the barricade. Then we can drive over it while those in the back spray fire out the sides. Once we get past Lori can switch the turret to heavy ordnance, and we can blast a hole in the barricade”
“That seems like a sound plan. Lets relay them to our respective groups”
The agent turned and told the four about Cassy’s plan.
Katrina shook her head immediately.
“It’ll deny us our greatest asset. If we do this then we have no heavy weapons and no mobile armour. Further all our extra gear is in there, all our ammo, all our other weapons”
Thomas winced as he looked down at his pistol “Yah, I didn’t get a chance to grab my RPG before I left”
“No” the agent shook his head “You are wrong about that Katrina. The groundcar is not our greatest asset. That is our minds, our determination, our will to win, and our knowledge that what we do is right. That is our greatest asset”
“Well, thats a fancy speech sir, but it won’t help us kill those shooters”
“No Thomas, it won’t. But I think that the plans are sound. Lets see what the other group has come up with” he flicked his earbud again.
“Everyone over here agrees with your plan sir. It seems to be the best solution that we can think of at the time”
“It wasn’t my plan. Make sure that Lori, Gina and Thomas get the credit”
“Of course sir”
The agent turned back to the three before him and nodded.
“You listening Cassy?”
“Tell everyone to get on the channel. I’m only going to say this once. We’re going with our plan. Lori, I want you to run for the groundcar. We’ll cover you. You’ll meet up with Alexander, Cassy and Kral inside. You take the turret as soon as you can. Alexander and Kral are to fire out the sides as soon as you get over. I want Lin to get to the front and place the grenades. Everyone else will stay at the sides and cover them.
“As soon as the shooters seem to be distracted Samuel and I are going to run for the back. Try and get over or around it, and start to take them out from behind. Don’t wait on us, don’t worry about our safety; thats our concern. As soon as you guys are ready, go. I want Lin to retreat back behind cover. I don’t want any mistakes here”
He waited for acknowledges all around, waited another few moments for Kral’s inevitable question, and blinked in surprise when it didn’t come.
“Ok. We go in three…two…one. Go go go!”
Lori leapt from behind cover as the other four leaned out to spray as many bullets at the enemy as possible. The agent tossed his submachine guns to Thomas and drew his pistol. As Thomas sprayed fire he picked off anyone who poked their head above the barricade.
He glanced to the side for a moment and saw that everyone had made it into the groundcar. Lin was crouched at the front attaching the grenades.
She gave him the thumbs up and turned to run. As he turned his attention back to the barricade and shot at a man poking up he saw the rifle recoil.
He spun back towards Lin as the man’s head snapped backwards from his bullet in time to see her fall forwards shoulders back as a spray of red mist.
He didn’t have time to mourn her death. It was his fault, but he couldn’t take any time. He hadn’t even found out whose side she was on.
He turned back and as the groundcar began to drive forwards he dashed out from behind the wall. The others behind him were still laying down a cover fire, so the shooters were all ducked down. He ran, shot the one who did poke his head up, and vaulted onto the top of the barricade.
Behind him he heard the sonic grenades detonate, and he knew that the groundcar would either flip, or the plan would work. He kept running, shooting at a woman with an RPG as he went. She would not be flipping the groundcar. Nor would the man with the grenade in his hand. The agent leapt, and brought his foot up into the man’s face. He felt the nose crack, saw blood spray as he continued his momentum up and around, landing on the man’s shoulders.
He aimed one pistol down and fired a single shot even as the man was collapsing from his weight, and pumped the trigger of the other as fast as he could, sweeping the area to the left of him. Then he tensed his legs and leapt into the air again, jumping for closer to the middle. He had seconds to help clear the area before the groundcar made it over.
He ran along the metal platform, feet drumming, heart calm as it always was when he fought, and smashed his pistol into the head of the first man. The woman behind him got a bullet in each shoulder and then he dove, sliding under her, tripping her up and ending up past her. The two shooters behind her had not expected him to come in low so he had enough time to shoot them each once before they even fired. But by then he was jumping back up again, and they were collapsing from the bullet through their necks. He started to take another step forwards when he heard a gun cocking behind him.
He knew that he couldn’t turn or drop in time. But he didn’t need to as Samuel’s bullet whizzed past his shoulder, dropping the woman. He looked. Between them they had cleared the walkway.
They both dropped as the groundcar flew through the air over them. It crashed to the ground and rolled before landing upright again. The top hatch opened and Lori climbed out, already flipping switches on the turret as Kral and Alexander jumped out the sides.
The agent took a second to look down at the woman. His bullets should have destroyed the muscles in her shoulders making it impossible for her to carry a gun. But while there were rips in her jacket in the right places he could see signs of body armour beneath.
These shooter were better equipped than he had originally thought. To have body armour they needed to be from the Earth Council. They needed to finish this quickly before their numbers turned the tide. He spun back to the battle and dropped the two soldiers approaching him.
“Shoot for the head and the limbs!” he shouted, hoping that his team could hear. He ran further down the walkway, hoping to get out of the way so that Lori could blow a hole in the barricade without hurting him. He ducked under a stream of bullets and leapt into the air again. He spun, coming around to face the three shooters below him. His eyes widened as he saw a woman with one of the new explosive round shotguns. She fired.
He felt himself flying backwards across the hall. He slammed into a body and they both went down. He threw himself back to his feet at the same time as Samuel did. They stood back to back and opened fire.
The agent was glad of his body armour now. If he hadn’t been wearing it he would have been dead.
But why would soldiers shoot for someone’s chest? They would have to expect that some of them at least would be wearing body armour.
“Something isn’t right here” he shouted to Samuel over the roar of the battle. He couldn’t elaborate as the woman who had shot him was coming towards him again, and had just finished reloading the shotgun. He was trapped. He couldn’t shoot her in time, and couldn’t duck aside because Samuel would be killed then. He couldn;t take a shot like that to the face, which was where she was aiming it.
His deliberation was ended as the barricade disappeared behind a cloud of smoke and flame. The entire structure shook and he almost fell off. The second time it shook he did fall off, accompanied by a second explosion.
He tried to turn in the air, but slammed down hard. He raised himself onto one arm and looked up at the shadow that fell over him. He was dead now.
But he didn’t die. He rolled to his feet, shaking his head to clear his vision and saw Kral pumping fire in both directions down the barricade.
“Lori got the ordnance gun working. I suggest that we get to the barricade and then be ready to provide cover fire for our friends to get through” Kral shouted at his as he moved over to cover Samuel too.
The agent nodded and ran to the clearing area of smoke. He shot a thumbs up towards Lori then ran into the gap, Samuel and Kral joining him.
“What were you saying about this not being right?” Samuel asked as he ran up.
“I was saying that the woman shot me in the chest. She should have expected me to have battle armour on. But she didn’t. Why would a trained soldier shoot for the chest?”
“You’re right” Kral turned looking a bit disturbed “They are too well equipped and trained to be militia; they need to be true soldiers, but no true soldier would make that mistake of another soldier”
“Unless they thought that we weren’t soldiers…”
“I said that they must have thought that-”
The agent’s response was cut off by the roar of a propeller vehicle and the boom of an explosion. The agent spun to see Lori and Alexander flying through the air, and the groundcar spinning to rest upside down, flames pouring from it.
Lori and Alexander landed, and rolled, limbs at wrong angles, and blood started to pool around them.
“Medic!” Kral roared, his voice shattering the stunned silence.
“Already on it” Thomas tore past them, medical kit dangling from one hand. He dropped to one knee between the two. A moment later a Dragon swung around the corner, circular lift turbines spinning.
It was one of the newer models. Sleek and gray it had gatling cannons mounted on the nose, one for each side, and larger ordnance turrets mounted on both the belly and the top. These turrets swung from side to side, the domes covering the gunners swivelling with them. They gunners wore the odd targeting helmets that fused their nervous systems with the sensors and turret. The turret would react to their thoughts.
The domes for the twin pilots were also visible. They sat, again with the cognition hoods on, hands playing over the controls before them. The agent knew that the controls were mostly for reassurance and show; so long as the cognition hood was on and the pilots alive they did nothing.
The sleek beauty of the killing machine, the lines, the weapons, the fear inducing presence was too much. If the agent had been on his own he would have faced it and maybe even won, but he could not win now, not with the lives of a team to look after, not after fighting a long hard battle with the rebels.
The downdraft from the turbines whipped his coat about him and flung stinging debris at them. Kral swore softly.
“Surrender traitors!” an artificially magnified voice boomed from the Dragon as the beats swung to aim the gatling guns at the hole in the barricade and at the three of them.
The agent turned to look at Samuel and Kral. Samuel clenched his fists while Kral took a moment to change the cartridges on his guns.
“Its your lead”
The agent looked back up at the Dragon and down at his team. The groundcar was burning, Thomas was scrambling between Lori and Alexander trying to patch their wounds, and the rest of the team looked in no condition to take on an aircraft.
He dropped his weapons.