Coming into the middle of a pitched battle, Fiddlestix and her companions must find a way to turn the tables against the Noir. Can they do it in time? Or will the Harlichs pay for her mistake?
The top of the tank was open, the interior smoking. A quick check showed bodies of three Noir soldiers. There was no sign of Stumpy.
“This way,” Loki called softly. He was following Stumpy’s tracks in the soft earth. “He must be rigged up,” he indicated one of Stumpy’s footprints. The indentation was deep. “No way that little guy weighs that much.”
They heard the battle before they saw it. Explosions rocked the ground. Automatic weapon fire rattled in the woods ahead of them, punctuated by screams of wounded men. To Fiddlestix, who had lived through more battles than many had even read about, it was as familiar as breathing. To their left they saw the lines of Harlich soldiers taking cover behind the trees.
What looked like the entire Noir army was facing them on the other side of an electrified fence that was topped with razor wire. Like a shadow, Stumpy wove between them, cutting throats and stabbing systematically. The Noir scattered in his wake, screaming and terrified as the angel of death passed.
Fiddlestix saw Karl among the Harlich men in the front line. Buzzard followed her, but Loki disappeared into the woods. The last she saw of him, he was working his way over to get behind the Noir lines.
She called softly, but he heard her. Keeping his head low, he ran to meet her dragging her behind a tree, hugging her to him.
“I knew you’d come back,” he said proudly. “They’re better organized and equipped than we thought.”
“It’s Varin,” she told him sadly. “It has to be.”
“Come, Hannah, we need you on the line.”
Running low, they arrived at the front, taking cover behind a huge pine tree. Resistance was dwindling, the ranks of the Noir falling back, retreating from Stumpy’s invisible blades.
“They attacked down here a few hours ago,” Karl told her quickly. “Then they came by the river and hit the docks. Dirk went there with reinforcements. I haven’t heard from him.”
“He’s hurt but alive. I found him right after we arrived.”
“Thank God,” he whispered. “We heard an explosion at the gate, but no one reported back to me.”
“The tank came in that way but Stumpy got it,” she told him.
“One of the men Deacon sent.”
She grinned and pointed across the field as one Noir soldier lost an ear and the throat of the next one erupted in a scarlet wave of blood. “He and Loki are working the ranks.”
A Karl’s blank expression, Fiddlestix realized that she and her team were the only ones who could see him, figuring it had something to do with the Shine issued goggles. Apparently, Loki was equipped with the same sort of device. He moved like a ghost amongst the Noir, destruction in his wake.
The Noir parted toward the rear and the Harlichs saw a military troop transport. An ominous air hung around it, making Fiddlestix shiver. The truck gained speed, running down its own, crushing them beneath the tires.
“Fall back,” Fiddlestix bellowed. “Karl, I think he’s put his cybered guys inside. Get your men out of here!”
The Harlich men withdrew in orderly fashion, moving like a wave away from the truck and its deadly cargo.
“Tully, I need you,” she spoke into her radio calmly.
“Coming!” The Aussie demo expert arrived at her side in less than ten seconds. “I was on my way down here when you called, sweetheart.”
“See what you can do.” She pointed to the oncoming truck.
He laughed, rubbing his hands gleefully. “Oi, don’t give me something hard, eh? I might stop loving you.”
He chuckled as he took something dark green and compact out of one of his many pockets. “Magnetic explosive,” he told her happily. “Little something I concocted when I was bored.”
He fiddled with it and his handgun a moment. Satisfied, he looked up at them happily.
“Has to be programmed, see, to follow the bullet.”
Taking careful aim with his right hand, he held the green object in the upturned palm of his left. He shot once at the oncoming truck. The bullet hit the canopy in the back tearing a hole the size of his fist in the fabric. A silent missile followed in the bullet’s wake hitting the canopy two seconds later.
“I’d take cover were I you,” he smiled. “In three, two, one.” He ducked down, covering his ears with his fists.
The effect of the magnetic explosive was impressive. It started as a soft poof inside the back of the truck then erupted in a gout of orange flames. Shrapnel scattered hundreds of feet in every direction. The truck groaned to a halt. Movement in the back indicated that someone had survived.