Gordon was horrified when he took in the situation at the main entrance to the base. Carli, armed with nothing more than a flamethrower, was pinned behind the guardhouse that had once been the checkpoint for Cyrus’ comings and goings. Her squad took shelter behind stacked debris several yards behind her, laying down fire when the mutants guarding the main gate tried to creep up on her position. Many of the mutants were returning fire. They had gotten hold of Kevlar vests and pushed large crates ahead of themselves as they inched closer to Carli’s hiding place. The mutants seemed to be pretty poor shots, but Gordon knew Carli’s luck would eventually run out. And probably sooner rather than later.
Gordon swore to himself. She’d really put herself in a spot this time.
With a wild series of clacks, Gordon sprayed gunfire, fighting to get to her position. Taken by surprise, the mutants ducked behind the line of waist-high crates they used for cover. The Becoming reached his friend, and in un-Gordonlike fashion, lit into her.
“What the hell, Carli? Why are you here instead of back there with your squad? Have you got a death wish? Where’s your gun?”
She grinned up at him, as if they were playing cowboys and Indians instead of battling for their lives. “Damned thing jammed up on me. Fortunately, that mutant kindly donated his flamethrower.”
She nodded towards a dead mutant lying a few feet away. The misbegotten thing was a horror even now, its lips pulled back in a furious rictus, displaying all its fangs. Gordon had the urge to turn it over so he didn’t have to see its terrible face.
“Shit, woman. You’re lucky they haven’t gotten to you yet. Trade with me. Wait; one sec.”
Gordon could hear the mutant guards trying to creep up on them again, and he leaned out from behind the guardhouse to blast through the half dozen monsters, catching them in their ugly faces. His amazing accuracy was attributed to the fact they’d gotten close enough to hit easily. He practiced often, but he wasn’t actually that good a shot. Then he whipped around and fired from the other side. Unfortunately, the ones coming from that direction were already fleeing back to the relative safety of their barricade next to the base’s entrance. He only got two that time.
Gordon sheltered behind the guardhouse once more to find Carli scowling at him. “Now how would you holding the flamethrower work any better than me doing it?” she asked.
“I’m more expendable.”
Carli grabbed the collar of his hooded cape, hauling his face close to hers. He had no choice but to look her in the eyes. Despite her tiny size, her glare alone was enough to make Gordon want to shrivel.
“Get this through your head right here and now, Gordon. You are not expendable. For one thing, because we are fucked without you. For another – because I damned well say you’re not!”
Gordon’s surprise at her vehemence gave way to near tears. Amanda’s news on Jeff had made him doubt the leaders of Freetown, but Carli’s obvious faithfulness gave him renewed devotion. The non-Becomings were not his enemy. Especially not her.
Gordon smiled at the pint-sized fury, ridiculously happy given their present situation. “But I am faster and I can take more damage and keep going. Please, Carli. Swap me,” he begged. He wouldn’t let her get killed for all the world.
“Aw hell,” she swore. “I hate it when others are right.” She offered the flamethrower, holding her other hand out at the same time to take the gun.
They checked their situation, getting ready to run. The mutants were still hiding behind their crates and stacked debris, their freakish heads peering around to see what was going on. A quick smattering from Carli’s gun made them duck out of sight once more.
Her radio headset crackled to life. Gordon’s superior hearing picked up Elijah Webb’s voice, though he couldn’t make out exactly what was being said. It couldn’t be good, and Carli’s grim expression proved that. The civvies were only supposed to broadcast if they were under attack.
“The hospital?” Gordon asked.
“Right. Hustle, squad!” she yelled.
As one, the group of fighters broke cover, laying down heavy fire. The mutants shot back. Screams of both human and monster filled the air as Carli and Gordon ran for it. As soon as they joined the rest of the squad, the survivors ran for the hospital, leaving the main gate behind. Apparently the exit was high on the mutants’ priority list, because they didn’t pursue the fleeing group.