N.C. came out of the guardhouse to call to him, standing in front of the knife-wielding Becomings. “Gordon, I really think you should get in here. This is bad.”
“That’s not the plan. Got your checklist for airbase defense?”
Gordon made himself hold N.C.’s gaze. It was horribly uncomfortable to look so intently into another’s eyes, but it had the effect he’d hoped for.
His hectic expression calming a little, N.C. nodded. “I got it, man.” He stared out into the blind well of the dark and shuddered. “Give us what time you can, but take care of yourselves too. Good luck out here.”
He went back inside the guardhouse. The gate began to close, locking the armed Becomings outside of Freetown. They watched the desert, listening to the strange sound of the approaching attack close in.
Amanda said, “Wish these damned lights weren’t so bright.”
Gordon answered, “The humans need them to see by. We’ll be okay.”
He didn’t feel as confident as he sounded, especially as the whirring sound resolved in the patters of scores of feet racing towards them. And then the lead group of mutants hove into view, coming out of the darkness and into the circle of the floodlights.
Gordon stared. The Gulchers didn’t do these things justice. I can’t believe any of them were ever human.
A few Becomings screamed at the sight of the monstrous beings, as did the humans manning the two rickety towers erected inside Freetown’s fence. Even Amanda shouted, “Mary, mother of God!”
Gordon forced his terror to the side. “Fire!” he yelled as the front line of attackers came within range.
Shots blasted the air, taking out the mutants as they closed the distance, but there were more and more coming. The dark seethed with movement. Gordon’s team of thirty Becomings showered the onslaught of monstrous creatures with bullets, holding them off. His gun grew hot in his pincers as he laid down fire, knowing the impossibility of fighting off so many. They were only buying time for the Freetowners and the refugees of Gander’s Gulch to escape, however. No one expected them to hold the town.
Too soon the shouts of those running out of ammo began to sound. Gordon himself had gone through several rounds, and he was on his last.
He shouted into his headset. “Becomings, we’re done here! To the east gate for convoy defense! N.C., prepare for west gate breach!”
Gordon and Amanda brought up the rear of the line as his people raced around the fence protecting Freetown. The mutants concentrated their attack on the gate itself, however, leaving the Becomings to run for the eastern side as fast as they could. As the two furthest along in their transformation, Gordon and Amanda’s enhanced speed quickly put them at the head of the pack.
N.C.’s voice shouted through Gordon’s earpiece. “They’re coming through the gate! Get ready, everyone!”
Gunfire lay like a blanket in the air from the west end of town. Gordon tried not to think of his unarmed Becomings just inside the gate, reduced to fighting the mob of monstrosities with only knives and their bare hands.
After a couple minutes of running, he rounded the corner of Freetown’s fence half a dozen steps ahead Amanda. The open eastern gate midway down was a welcome sight. The escape convoy had already begun speeding out through the night towards Cyrus Air Force Base.
Even more welcome was the cache of ammunition waiting to reload their guns. The rest of the arriving Becomings did so with orderly haste, another boon from Gordon’s drills. Gordon tried not to notice he seemed to be missing half his group. This was not the time to wonder if they’d run away into the desert or were dead.
The remaining Becomings assumed defensive positions on either side of the road coming out of Freetown, ready for any attackers that might have decided to follow them.
Gordon reported their readiness. “N.C., we’re at the east gate! Convoy is moving out, with five away!” The stench of his gasoline, which they’d put extra into production just for this emergency, hung heavy in the air.
“Copy that! We’re keeping them tied up at the west gate, but there are too many. We’ll have to fall back.”
Amanda’s shout claimed Gordon’s attention. “Here comes company!”
Gordon counted about two dozen figures coming towards them. “We’re under attack! Take them out!”
His group fired on the mutants, defending the escaping trucks and Humvees as they raced away. The firing from within Freetown was coming closer, warning him that its fall was imminent.
Confirming his fears, N.C.’s voice crackled over the headset. “All town defenses, fall back to the town center and reset! Go!”
Gordon’s gun was spent, and he turned to run to the cache for a reload. A weight slammed against him, driving him to the ground. Something shrieked overhead and bright, vicious pain ground into one arm.
Gordon screamed in surprise, hardly believing his own eyes when he saw the fanged horror chewing on his forearm. It was trying to eat him, unimpressed when Gordon’s other fist slammed against its head.
Becoming had gifted Gordon with twice his normal strength. He still might as well have been beating the slavering monster with a butterfly wing for all the reaction his struggles got.
Gunfire splattered nearby, and the hideous thing tearing at Gordon splattered too. It fell to the hardpacked desert ground, finally releasing his arm.
Amanda lowered her gun and ran towards him. He waved her back. “Defend the convoy! I’ll be fine.”
“Like fuck you will,” she retorted but went back to convoy defense anyway.