“Don’t be a bakebrain, we can’t get over that.”
“Oh yeah, well you might not be able to—“
“Look, you might want to die of cement poisoning, but I’m not looking to catch deceleration trauma because your bakebrained ass wants to—“
I took another look at the massive stack of cars before us and had to agree that we weren’t getting over it. At least not without drawing the attention of whomever had built it in the first place. “I bet it’s filled with bugs.”
That got their attention. The arguing stopped as all of our eyes scanned the rusted and jagged looking mountain of cars before us. “Yeah, we’re going around.” Everyone simultaneously agreed.
Donegar led us off to the side and through the high scrub grass of the yard. The houses were dilapidated and ramshackle. For the most part they seemed pretty damned unlivable but when you’re on the run you’ll go just about anywhere. With the years since the bomb many edgerunners had made their way back to the CZ despite warnings of insects, ghouls and other foul nightmares.
“Keep your eyes peeled—“ the warning was lost in the growl of the dog that launched itself at Donegar. I didn’t hesitate, a gentle squeeze of the trigger and I downed it with a muffled pop.
“Huh, a rrrr-Rottweiler.” Wesley’s gruff stutter took note. I realized they were pretty much the first words I’d heard him say since we’d started this trek. For some reason this struck me as incredibly amusing and I fought the urge to chuckle as we carefully picked our way through the pitch black back yard and back to the street.
My laughter didn’t last long as up ahead the looming shadow of the old overpass bridge revealed a dark shadowy recess we’d have to get through. If it weren’t for the fingernails on chalkboard sound of its screech I’m pretty sure the ghoul would have gutted Wesley. At first I thought it was crying in excitement but as the second creature echoed its sound I realized it was alerting any others in the area of the prey that had entered their domain.
The firefight didn’t last long. Mostly because I was so intent on just staying alive that the details blurred by in a rapid blur. There was running, and panting for breath, and the secure safety of my trigger, the luxuriously satisfying buck of the gun as bullets rained forth. And then there was more running and stumbling, more shots and more soul searing minutes of certain death.
We were through the underpass and could see our target, The Salty Crab, up ahead. No one had gotten seriously injured but we were all suddenly much more aware of just what we’d gotten ourselves into. The arguing had stopped. Hell, all talking had stopped. We moved like a unit. Guns on a swivel. On high alert in a tight V.
Dad would have been proud.
With only hand motions, we sent our comms to text only and split the group. The mage and I were headed for a nearby building. We’d take care of the trolls patrolling the front as the other three took the rear advance.
One of our more recent runs had revealed to me the armored quality of a troll’s skin and I was actually looking forward to seeing how my beloved “Baby” was going to stack up against it. I looked forward to giving this a try like some women looked forward to trying out a new recipe or trying on new shoes.
The rotten shape of the houses surrounding the fenced in bar weren’t ideal and in the dark we chose the best one we could. Scaling it didn’t take much of an effort really, but one look at the roof and I motioned Stallion to hold. I examined the area through Baby’s scope and realized our options weren’t any better around us and my timeline was accelerating as I saw the three figures of Pirate, Shade and Donegar rounding the back.
“Frack it!” I darted across the roof on as light a step as I could manage, dropping to my knees and extending out flat as I laid Baby before me. Concentrating on setting the angle, I left Stallion to his own devices as I zeroed in on the Troll guard at the front. A notch here, a twist there, I wasn’t going to get a test shot but the wind around here was as dead as everything else and I hoped the staleness of the air would allow me to rush this job.
I tuned out the sounds of the elf making his way across the roof toward me and instead timed my shot with the arrival of our other companions. I went completely still, as I drew my finger gently ever inward, sucking in a sharp breath. When Baby jerked against my shoulder and made the familiar sound of her shot I released on a soft whispered exhale, as the tension poured from me.
The sight of the troll’s head snapping back drew a wicked quick grin and I was just about to turn my scope toward his partner when he stayed on his feet, his head coming back up to turn in my direction. My heart skipped painfully hard in my chest cavity. Quickly I rescanned my target, tightening my scope. I could clearly see the bullet hole in his forehead and with a glint of moonlight I could make out the metal of the bullet lodged there. “Frack!!”
I began refocusing for another shot, calculating the distance as he altered it with each angry step in our direction. From the peripheral I could see his friend also moving our way but I couldn’t take my attention from my target. With laser focus I latched onto that hint of metal and with one last adjustment to my scope I pulled. And Baby delivered. THUNK. Through the enhanced vision I watched as my second bullet landed with fierce velocity directly atop the previous shot and sunk it through the Troll’s thick skull and into his brain pan. His body shuddered to a stop as his head rocked back solidly. This time the entire body tumbled afterward, crashing to the ground with the suddenness of fatality. The sheer pleasure of such a shot had me tingling in excitement and it took everything in my power not to release a shout, instead I choked it back to a moan.
“Yeah, you wanna play, Bridge Dweller?” I talked shit into the cradle of Baby as I turned the scope toward his friend. He was seriously armed and I could just start to make out the rocket launcher on his massive shoulder. Time to take care of that.
Just as I drew in my breath for another trigger pull, I heard the crack of the roof behind me and jerked my head around in horror to see Stallion drop through the soggy structure, catching himself with his elbows. His wide eyes met mine and I half sat up to offer him a hand when clearly something yanked him downward.
A glance back over my shoulder revealed that I’d given the Rocket Troll too much time. Hugging Baby to myself I rolled for the edge of the roof, no way was I going to be able to protect myself from damage. I just hoped my warning was heard by Shane, “INCOMING!”