His eyes widen. "Do you think they brought their big guns?" Another rat-a-tat of bullets hits the wall.

            "I think someone, A.K.A. Mason-Jar, A.K.A. Turncoat McGee tipped them off that there'd be something here worth the gambit. Give me a few shots of covering fire and I'll try and take a peek through the woods."

            He hands over the goggles almost reluctantly, but he seems to trust in what I'm doing. Bonus, I discover as he takes them off, he's a cute young guy with dark hair and eyes. Then I'm reminded of Mason and remember that cute can be deceiving, even if they grow them good-looking on this island.

            "Careful with those," he says, "they were really hard to find."

            "What's your name?" I ask as I adjust the strap.


            "Well Connor, I'm Regan. And in case you can't tell, this ain't my first rodeo."

            "What's a rodeo?" he asks, but sheltered hippie questions are the least of my worries, so I just motion for him to give me the covering fire. He kneels up and sends a nice spray through the trees. I pop up to look. Sure enough, there's a good dozen to fifteen bodies out there, bright green in the brush. I glance through the cedars, looking for...

            I duck back just in time to avoid both the goggles and my brain exploding. Our assailants seem to be concentrating fire in our direction.

            "Whoa, Nelly," I exclaim, grabbing my walkie-talkie. "Trogdor to Phoenix, come in Phoenix, over."

            "Phoenix here," Father grunts.

            "Charlie Sheen going wild with two hot ladies, over."

            "Fuck," he says, breaking code. "Ok. Can send over own lady. Maintain, see if you can turn down the music, over."

            "Optimus, Phoenix. Over and out."

            Connor is staring at me. "Ok...what just happened?"

            I toss him back his headgear. "Ok, Goggles, listen up: they have an armoured car coming in hot with at least two people carrying explosives. If they get close enough we could snipe them but in the meantime I think we're getting your rocket launcher friend, so we have to try and clear out those woods of shooters or he's dead meat, capisce?"

            He blinks twice, then puts his goggles back on. "Ok, you got it." He kneels up again and takes a couple pot-shots. I hear a guy gurgle and go down in the darkness. "It's like you were trained for this kind of thing."

            I kneel as well, remembering my mental picture of the League shooters I saw from the goggles, and fire into the night. There is no scream but I hear a body drop.

            "Yeah, survival is kind of our gig," I reply. "That and salvage."

            We settle into a rhythm: cover fire, shoot, duck. Switch roles, cover fire, shoot, duck. I try to break up the pattern to keep them guessing, thankful that none of them seem to be sharp-shooters. Still, Connor gets clipped on the shoulder, drawing a bit of blood, and a bullet actually ricochets off my gun, reminding me once again how many scrapes I've had with death.

            "What do you salvage?" Connor asks after taking a shot.

            "Everything." I rise and fire, then duck again. "Knowledge, mostly. But tonight we focus on survival, k?"

            He glances over the wall, then ducks back down. "Shit, that big car is going to ram the gate."

            "Oh, fuck," I say, grabbing the radio. "Sheen knocking on the door...where's that lady? Over."

            "Carrying echo!" Shouts Father. "Keep turning down the music! Over!"

            Connor stands with me and we empty our clips into the bushes as an old armoured car comes barrelling out of the forest road. I get this sinking feeling in my chest when I realize the cab is empty.

            "Jump," I say, grabbing Connor's hand. We vault south over the tower wall, our hands breaking apart as we fall. Just as I'm rolling with the impact, I feel the heat and explosive wave of force as the loaded car detonates. It blows me flat against the ground, scraping my face. Ashes and splinters are flying everywhere.

            "Holy Jesus fuck," I say, hastily pulling bullets out of the ammo belt and into my empty gun cartridge. I glance at Connor. He seems ok but it looks like he landed funny on his ankle. I drag him to the tree-line for cover so we can prepare our next move. I whisper into the radio:

            "Trogdor to Phoenix: answer..." I stop, in shock, as I watch Charlotte peel down the road through the fire, Mason at the wheel.

            "No..." I whisper.

            "Phoenix here, come in Trogdor, over," the radio says.

            "Was that your...?" Connor wonders. "Ah, my fucking ankle."

            I explode. "You fucking jarhead asshole worm-face limp-dick turncoat puke-bucket son of a giant piece of shit!" I bunker down in the ditch, getting ready for the League to come at us in the dark thanks to my outburst.

            "Come in Trogdor, over."

            "Charlotte's freewheelin'," I say into the radio. "Scene is crowded." It's the code for radio silence so I don't give away my position.

            "What now?" Connor whispers.

            "Now it's fucking war," I whisper back. "Any questions?"

            Connor leans around his tree to peg the first oncoming League assailant in the head. "Just one...what's a trogdor?"

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