Chapter 7

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 Father cracks the safe with a deft hand and we bust out the 'big guns': a modified, scoped Belgian FN for him and an M4 for me. Neither of us are a fan of 'spray 'n pray' methods, going for precision instead of area covered.

            I drape a couple belts of NATO rounds over my shoulder. "Sure miss the tank right about now. We taking Charlotte out to play?"

            Father purses his lips. "Hmm. No. I've seen their fortifications. Towers are better for our purposes. Sounds like they're coming from the forest to the north and the road leading east. You take one of the east-facing towers. Let's go!"

            "You're the one yammering," I joke.

            We dash off in different directions. The night is a concerto of gunfire and screams.

            Humanity's population dwindles¸ I think, and people still feel the need to kill each other over matters of belief or ideology. I've never liked killing, but I picture the Kawitzen with their wide-eyed faces and neo-environmentalism and I know which way my barrel will face.

            I reach the stockade perimeter to find it intact. The tower is a wooden structure about twenty feet high, built of local cedar. Men and women line the stockade wall, firing, reloading. I can hear someone on the tower, swearing like a gangsta rapper. I climb up to give him a hand.

            He's got a pretty sweet set of night vision goggles, as well as a Winchester with a scope. I realize that I forgot to snatch my low-light gear from Charlotte.

            "What's the sitch?" I ask as I start setting up a spot on the small platform.

            "Hey, you're the new girl," he remarks.

            "Hey, you're Mr. Goggles," I throw back. "Small talk later. What are we dealing with?"

            He ducks down behind the tower wall and I hear a trio of bullets ricochet off the wood.

            "Based on radio chatter? Thirty to forty of 'em. The League comes well-armed. Determined to indoctrinate us all one of these days."

            "They seem like they're more interested in killing you."

            "Only the ones who fight back." He goes to one knee to return fire. I let his volley act as covering fire and peer up over the tower ledge. Dark tree line. They're firing from dense cover on either side of the road. I'm betting they're not complete idiots; this is likely a diversion tactic while they blow off the stockade gate.

            "Trogdor, this is Phoenix," my belt radio squawks, "give me the Picasso and Bach, over."

            "Picasso is blue," I reply, "Bach is nocturne. Charlie Sheen carries an echo, over."

            There's a moment of radio silence. When it comes back to life I hear intense gunfire from Father's end.

            "Eagle on Sheen? Over."

            "Megatron," I say. "Loading, Phoenix. Over." I glance at Goggles. "Can I borrow those?"

            "What, why?" he asks. "I'm the best shot in the village."

            "Not anymore you're not," I say. It sounds like bragging but I'm referring to Father. "I just need to get a look at their heavy hardware before they blow your barricade sky-high."

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