Needless to say, we ran to the nearest boat on the dock. In the brief moment I spared to look behind me, I saw the Charon we had stolen was now in dozens of pieces, the cabin where Joseph had been completely gone. I quickly decided that Sunny didn’t need to see that.
As we got to the boat, Sunny said, “He’s dead, isn’t he?” Her statement was emotionless, but when I looked down, I saw that tears were streaming down her face.
I heaved her onto the boat and gently set both her and the captured gun down on the deck. Meanwhile, John was kicking down the door to the boat’s cabin and Kyle was setting up the bipod of his M-21 on the aft of the boat. “There’s a good chance of that, yes,” I said. “John, how close are you to getting us moving?”
As I said his name, there came a crunch from John kicking in the door. I looked up and saw him searching the cabin. “Uhhh…” he said nervously, “there’s no key.” He spent a few minutes searching. “There’s no fucking key!” Shit. There were other boats. In fact, there was even one right next to us. The thing was, I was pretty sure we’d have a similar problem with those. On top of that, this one seemed to be in the best shape. All the others were rotting away.
I stood up. “We don’t have time for this. Nari, do you think you can hotwire this thing?” She nodded and ran into the cabin.
“They’re coming!” Kyle said. “Right side, halfway down, one just stuck his head out.” I grabbed the Deet rifle and ran over to the rear of the boat.
“Ok,” I said, aiming down the sights, “we need to keep their heads down until we get the engines on. John, cut the ropes.”
“On it,” John said.
But before he could get on it, Nari cried out. “Wait!” she said, “the boat has no fuel in it!”
I paused. The image of the boat just stalling out when we turned it on filled me with a horrific, but understandable, dread. Before I could formulate a plan, Nari shot out of the cabin and ran for a fuel tank. It was on the far end of the dock.
“Nari!” Sunny yelled out weakly, then began coughing. Suddenly, the enemy opened up. The sound of bullets hitting the water cut her off.
“Cover her!” I yelled. I opened up with the Deet rifle at the alley some Deet soldiers had just come out of. That was when I discovered the nice thing about the rifle. While it was still much more uncontrollable than an M-4 or something firing similar rounds, it was much more controllable than my G-3.
Still, the three Deets had dug in. I could barely see them through the red dot scope on the gun. Still, all we needed to do was keep their heads down until Nari could come back. With a hundred rounds and only one position, that should have been simple. Unfortunately, the enemy had other plans.
When Nari had just got to the fuel pump and my gun’s LCD ammo counter was reading fifty-five, there was a bright flash off to the left and a wave of heat. That was soon followed by another flash and an ungodly hissing and bubbling sound. I turned around to see that on the other side of the dock, a massive column of steam was rising out of the water.
“Kyle!” I shouted, “Bouncy ball of doom to the left! Don’t let it fire again!”
“I know!” Kyle replied. “I think the fucking thing burned me from all the way over here!” That was crazy. I had no idea how something could be so hot it could cause burns at that radius or boil the fucking ocean. I did not want to think about what a direct hit would do to the boat or any of the people on it.
As Kyle began to fire on whoever had the bouncy-ball gun, Sunny staggered upright, lifting her AK. “Nate,” she said, “I can kind of move and I can definitely fire my gun. Where do you want me?”
I could barely hear her due to the gunfire, but she sounded a bit better. “Good to hear,” I said. “Help Kyle. We can’t let that thing fire again.” She nodded and began moving to the left side of the boat, firing her AK in short bursts.
Nari, meanwhile, was coming back. From the left side, one of the Deets began to shoot at her, his bullets striking the water on the other side of the dock. I was suddenly suspicious. The shots were definitely missing her, but they seemed to be deliberately missing her. Any shooter with formal training knows that you need to aim at where your target is going to be. This guy was aiming at where Nari had been.
Still, I was worried for her and the rest of us. It looked like they were faking trying to kill us, but if they were using real weapons, there was always the chance that they could “miss” and hit one of us.
My chain of thought was interrupted by Nari jumping into the boat, fuel line in hand. “Do you need help opening the gas cap?” I asked.
“No,” she said, “but I’ll need you to cover me when I go out again to turn on the fuel pump.”
I checked the ammo counter on the Deet gun. Forty-two rounds left. “Ok,” I told Nari, “tell us when you’re ready.” As she screwed in the fuel line, I got out my G-3 from my pack and set it out beside me.
As soon as that was done, Nari called out, “Done!” She then began moving to the side of the boat, getting ready to jump off.
When she was in position, I picked up the Deet rifle again and called out, “Everyone! Suppressive fire!” We all began shooting with the intent of getting our enemy to stop shooting, or at least decrease the volume of fire. I was somewhat thankful that the murder ball had fallen into the water on the other side of the dock. The steam cover it was creating was very useful. My only concern was that the water would come down as burning, radioactive rain.
By the time Nari had reached the fuel pump again, the Deet gun had run out of ammo. When I bent down to pick up my G-3, I heard Kyle yell “TAKE COVER!” I flattened myself on the deck of the fishing boat as Kyle’s rifle cracked. Above me, the world was bathed in a bluish-white light and the sounds of screaming and burning suddenly came as the Deets on our left stopped firing.
Slowly, the light turned from white to blue to orange. I looked up. The right side of the village was completely on fire. Everything was burning, from the wooden pier to the asphalt of the street. A few points of the water were steaming up as well. As I took all this in, a Deet soldier realized that “stop, drop and roll” doesn’t work when the ground is on fire. He got up, climbed over a Jersey barrier and jumped into the water, flames completely engulfing him. Even from this distance, I could smell everything that was burning.
I instantly raised my G-3 and turned my attention to the right side and began to use the scope. It was so nice actually being able to see the enemy. “Kyle,” I said as I squeezed off a round at a Deet soldier peeking above a shop window, “are you ok?”
“Yeah,” he said. “I accidentally hit a weird-looking weapon and the Deets just ran off. I figured out what would happen after that pretty quickly.”
“Good call,” I said. “Let’s hope they’ve exhausted their attack.” As I said this, the Deet soldier I had shot in the head got up again. That was as terrifying as it was annoying.
“I’m sorry,” Sunny said as Nari climbed over, “but they’re just getting started.” I looked down the main street. Two fresh squads of Dragon’s Teeth soldiers were coming towards us.
“Aim for the stomach and knees,” Nari said, panting a bit. “They don’t have armor there.”
I took her advice. The Deet reinforcements were moving out in the open, making it easy for me to draw a bead on them. None of them were firing. The only thing they were doing was maintaining spacing. I pulled the trigger, causing one of the ones near the front to collapse.
Instantly, ten of the remaining ones opened up. One of the others reached down to pick up his fallen comrade. “Wait,” I said, incredulously, “that one’s carrying an injured one forwards!”
It was true. The injured Deet was being carried by his buddy. Both were firing wildly. I put a stop to that by shooting the one carrying the injured Deet.
“They must be Legionaries,” Nari said from the cabin. “One of my fellow students said that they seemed to have a zealous warrior culture and talked about multiple incidents where one would get cut in half by a machinegun but kept advancing.”
“Good to know!” Kyle shouted, continuing to return fire. “Any idea how to defeat them? Or do we just die now?”
“Kyle!” I said. “Not fucking helping!”
Nari suddenly spoke up. “Their armor can’t withstand knives or blunt objects, unlike the Picts’ and the flame retardant they use on their armor actually catches fire when exposed to their plasma weapons.” She sounded hopeful, but then she cut herself off. “No, wait,” she said, “that’s stupid. We can’t get that close and we don’t have plasma weapons.”
“Nice try,” Sunny said. Suddenly her tone of voice changed. “Shit, there’s more of them on the right.”
“More are filtering in from the left as well,” Kyle said. “Anything else?”
“Do you have any chemical agents?” Nari asked. “They need to switch from rebreathers to deal with most forms of chemical warfare. If we can surprise them with some Sarin or mustard gas…”
“We’d also die because our rebreathers can’t filter that shit out either,” John said. “Besides, why the fuck would we be using chemical weapons? There’s civilians around!” His gun clicked. “Oh, uh, Nate,” he said as he reloaded, “I’ve got only four mags left. After that, I’m going to have to start refilling by hand.”
I sighed internally. Nothing was going right today. Reminded, I checked my pockets. Not counting my pistols, I was down to five magazines myself. The magazines we had had used up, plus dozens, maybe hundreds, of spent bullet casings were scattered all over the deck. That wasn’t counting either of my pistols, because, let’s face it, I wouldn’t be able to hit jack shit with them at this distance.
“Ok,” I said, “how are we doing for ammo?”
“I’m going to have to switch to my MP-7 soon,” Kyle said, pulling the bolt back on his M-21. “I’ve only got three mags left.”
“Last mag,” Sunny said. “Only half remaining.”
“Do you have any flashbangs?” Nari asked suddenly. “Their visors are built to react to when their plasma weaponry firing…”
“And a flashbang might trick them into thinking that that just happened!” I said. “Nari, you’re a genius!”
“I know,” she said smugly.
“By the way,” I asked Nari, “how much of the tank is filled up?”
“Almost a quarter,” Nari said. She squeaked as suddenly bullets began to hit the cabin, shattering the windows and splintering the wood.
“NARI!” Sunny screamed. She then fell down in a fit of pained coughing. Apparently, that was just too much for her cracked rib.
“I’m fine…” Nari said. “I’m fine…”
“We barely had enough fuel to get from China to here,” John said. “We might be able to get to South Korea on a quarter.”
“Then we’re going to South Korea!” I said, ejecting an empty mag from my G-3. “Nari, start getting this party bus moving when we’re over a quarter tank.” Suddenly, in the distance, I saw one of the Deets get down on his knee and aim what looked like a large gun. “EVERYONE!” I shouted, throwing myself to the deck and covering my eyes, “GET DOWN!”
As I fell on the deck, I noticed that Sunny was already on the ground, clutching her chest and whimpering in pain. Then, the world turned a bluish-white and the temperature rose uncomfortably.
Eventually, the light faded away. I looked up to see that the boat next to us was completely on fire, a ghostly reddish-blue light shining from the hold and what little remained of the cabin. It was also rising into the air like the Titanic, further lending to the illusion that it was being swallowed up by the netherworld.
“The tank’s a quarter full!” Nari called out.
“Thank God!” I said, turning my attention back to killing Deets. “Nari, get that fuel line out of here! John, untie us! We need to leave yesterday! Kyle, I want you to throw a couple flashbangs at them. See if we can’t keep their heads down.”
There were affirmative responses as everyone got moving. It went well for a while. Kyle and I fired a few rounds at the Deets advancing down the main street, then Kyle got up and threw a flashbang. As soon as it exploded, several Deet soldiers began grabbing at their helmets, desperately trying to fiddle with them.
“It’s working!” I shouted. “Keep it up, Kyle!” I kept firing downrange. “By the way, how much time do we have before we can get this party bus moving?”
“Nari’s looking at the setup right now,” John said.
“It should be fairly simple to hotwire,” Nari said.
“Next flashbang awAGH!” Kyle’s warning was cut off by a yell of pain. I heard him fall to the deck. When I turned around, I did not like what I saw. Through his clenched fist, an alarming amount of blood was leaking.
Nari laughed as a bluish-white glow lit us up from behind. “It’s working!” she said with a mixture of smug satisfaction and giddiness as the engine grumbled to life. Then there was a hiss of evaporating water, which quickly came back down on Kyle, Sunny and me in the form of burning rain.
Through the pain I managed to yell out, “THEN FUCKING GO!”
Nari and John didn’t need any further encouragement. The boat, however, did. It lurched forwards like an elderly arthritic sloth awoken from an afternoon nap. Eventually, it got up to speed eventually, bullets occasionally biting into the sides of the hull.
When the gunfire had finally stopped, I looked out from the aft of the boat. The fishing village was out of sight and there was no sign of pursuit. As I watched the coastline race by us, I suddenly realized something: Despite the fact that they let us go, we had almost died.
“Holy shit,” John said, “We survived!” He laughed triumphantly, and repeated, “We survived!” People, mostly John and Nari, began to celebrate. Sunny, though, was able to crack a smile and Kyle began to laugh in relief.
“Well,” I said, as I stood shakily, “let’s hope we’re still celebrating when we contact the University. We might not be out of this yet.”