Haven Page 41


“Yeah, well, whatever. I need a gun.” Winky started walking across the lobby.


“We ready to do this?” asked Peter.


I put my arm around his shoulders. “You and me are ready for anything, right? We’ve made it this far.”


Peter resisted walking, making me stop too.


“What?” I asked.


“I just want to say a couple things, in case I die.”


“You are not going to die, don’t be stupid.”


“Just in case. I want you to know that I love you, first of all.”


I kissed his cheek. “Of course you do. And I love you, too. Come on.”


“I also want to thank you. For bringing Trip back to me.”


“Yeah, that was awesome, wasn’t it?”


“Yes. I had to slap some sense into him, but if you hadn’t brought his cheek over here for me to do it, we’d still be alone. So thank you. And he says thank you, too.”


“Make him tell me,” I said, giving Peter an evil grin.


“He’ll hate that. Okay, yes, I’ll make him do it.”


I hugged Peter. “Can we go now? I need to cover you in armor and bullet proof stuff.”


“Good. I look tough in that stuff, don’t you think?”


“Oh yes, definitely. About as tough as old Fuzzybeans.”


“Hey. Fuzzybeans has claws. Don’t count old Fuzzybeans out of the picture.”


We made our way down the hallway, passing kids running by in bullet proof vests and helmets, carrying guns. Their boots on the concrete floors reminded me of an army mobilizing.


It was scary to think that we were an army right now. And the enemy was coming for dinner.


***


The day passed slowly. Dark clouds rolled in, making the waiting and the nervousness worse. It was just as dusk was taking a firm grip on the landscape when an alarm sounded out of one of the watchtowers in the front of the compound.


I was in the lobby with Peter, Ronald, Jamal, and Winky. Paci and Trip were out in the field with Derek and Flick, Rob and Fohi as backup commanders. They were visiting each of the barriers and keeping spirits up, spreading news and reports, delivering food and water. Fuzzybeans never left Fohi’s shoulder. Every time they passed by the front lobby, we could see the splotch of white by Fohi’s neck.


Another alarm came right after the first from one of the watchtowers in the back.


“They’re coming on two sides!” said Peter, panic in his voice.


“What, you expected them to just come to the front door?” asked Winky, sarcasm lacing her voice.


She hitched her rifle up on her shoulder higher. The flak jacket was too big for her, and the helmet kept falling down. Mine didn’t fit any better. We’d both been sweating our butts off for hours.


A third alarm came from another watchtower on the back side of the compound.


“Surrounded,” whispered Jamal.


“Nobody panic,” I said, taking the binoculars from the nearby counter and putting them to my eyes.


I saw nothing at first. But then there was a movement up the street from the gate.


Red shirt.


“It’s that friggin’ Robson chick. And she’s walking with a bunch of fat motherfuckers.”


“Canners,” said Ronald. “Those are the only people with body fat on them anymore. Shameful.”


“She’s a canner?” asked Winky. “Why’d she let us pass if she’s one of them?”


“Wait,” I said, not sure what I was seeing. “It’s her, but … I’m not sure she’s with them.”


Robson hadn’t been the prettiest girl I’d ever seen before, but she’d undergone a not very good transformation since the last time we’d met. The closer she got, the more detail came into view.


“Oh, this is not good,” I said. “Not good at all.”


“What? Let me see.” Winky took the glasses off my face.


I looked at the twins and then Peter. “They must have taken her and her people prisoner. She’s pretty messed up. They’re marching her to our gates.”


“Why would they do that?” asked Ronald.


“To get us to surrender,” said Peter. “Don’t do it, Bryn.”


I frowned at him. “Of course I’m not going to do it.”


“But what if they threaten to kill them if we don’t?”


“Duh! They’ll kill us all if we let them in, idiot!” yelled Winky. “They’ll just have to die.” She was getting hyped up from the pressure.


I could feel it happening in my chest too, wanting to burst out in a fit of anger and fight. “Chill, Winky. We can’t get mad at each other, that’s not going to help.”


“Sorry,” she said, looking at the ground and handing me the binoculars. “Stressful.”


“We can’t let them kill any kids in cold blood like that,” said Ronald. “We have to stop them.”


“The only way to stop them, is to kill them,” I said. “If you’re ready to do that, then get your butt out to one of those barriers and get ready to shoot.”


Ronald opened his mouth to say something and then shut it. “I prefer to act as your guard.”


“Okay, then. Just take your signals from me.” I looked at Jamal and he nodded. “Keep your shields up and your eyes open.”


We all moved to the door. Another signal came from the first watchtower.


“Two whistles. They’re within shooting range,” said Winky.


“Let’s go out and see what they want,” I said to the twins.


“Where do you want me?” asked Winky.


“Stay here and watch our backs. If anyone gets through from one of the side gates or back, you take them down from in here.” I reached around my shield to grab hers and yanked it up. “Keep your shield up! Don’t leave your neck exposed like that.”


“Okay, okay, no need to be so bossy.”


“Do you know who you’re talking to?” asked Peter.


“Oh, that’s right. Go ahead and be bossy. I know you can’t help it.”


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I tried to kick her shin, but she moved too quickly.


“And where should I go?” asked Peter.


“Behind the desk. You’re Winky’s backup.”


“Seems kind of like the chicken’s position to me,” he said.


“You’re the City Manager. If you die, all our plans for civilization die with you. You need to just stay safe.”


He smiled. “You act like I’m the crown jewels or something.”


“You are,” I said smiling back. “You are the jewels in the crotch of this mighty empire.”


“You just called me testicles didn’t you?”


“Yes, I think I just did.” I pushed open the doors to the lobby, stepping out into the humid air just as a slash of lightning lit up the sky not far away. The rumble of thunder followed about three seconds later.


“Just a few miles away,” said Jamal under his breath. “What a night this is going to be.”


“You aren’t kidding,” said Ronald.


The twins lifted their shields and put them out in front. I stood in between them and did the same. Together, the three of us walked up to the gate to meet with the forward guard of the Bad Penny’s canner friends.


***


We stopped at the fence, and the canners stopped about fifty feet from the other side of it. They’d neatly sidestepped all the traps we’d set for them, thanks to that traitor asshole Gail.


“We’re here for the ball-biter!” one of them yelled.


Jamal snickered.


I nudged him in the ribs with the butt of my gun.


“Nobody here by that name! Sorry! Time to go back home!” I yelled.


“That’s not what we hear!”


One of them pushed Robson forward. “Got a gift for ya! Little trade!”


Robson took several steps in our direction. She could barely walk, she’d been beaten so badly. Her face was a mess of old blood and swollen bruised parts.


“Ohhh, no. Baby girl, don’t do it,” whispered Ronald.


“Robson, stop!” I yelled.


She halted and swayed where she stood.


“We don’t trade people!” I shouted.


Robson lifted a hand and put it to her face, crying into it and dipping her head down a little, as if the effort of keeping it up was too much.


“Robson does!” yelled a girl’s voice.


“Oh, Lordy. That girl …” Jamal recognized her as well as I did.


“Gail, this isn’t right what you’re doing!” I couldn’t see her. She was hiding behind a group of man-eaters.


“You’re one to talk! That’s your ball-biter there, guys. Go ahead and get her!”


Several of them ran forward.


“Better stop!” I yelled. “Last warning!”


They didn’t listen.


A warning shot came from a watchtower and hit the pavement near one of their feet.


That guy stopped running and froze in place, but the other one kept coming.


A second shot rang out and hit the second guy in the leg. He went down with a yell, blood quickly pooling below him on the pavement. “They shot me! They shot me!” He sounded surprised.


“Fucking idiot,” I said under my breath.


A voice came over a bullhorn from up in a watchtower.


Fohi.


“Testing. Testing. Can you guys hear me out there?”


“Who gave that boy a bullhorn?” asked Jamal, sounding mystified.


“This should be good,” said Ronald.


Fohi continued. “Hello, canners. Hello, Gail you sorry bitch. My name’s Fohi in case Gail didn’t think to warn you about me. I’m the munitions expert and armory manager all up in this hizouse. I just wanted to let you know that you are about to travel through a mine field, rigged by yours truly, not only in the front of the fence, but also …”


There was a brief pause and some whispering before his voice came out over the horn again, but this time facing away from us.


“… But also in the back and sides of our property. You see, the best part of a defense plan is one that is kept secret. And Gail, you were never in on my particular secrets, so canners … cannibals … you ugly motherfuckers who think eating people isn’t disgusting, wrong, and evil, better watch your step. Or not. I don’t mind if you blow your damn legs off in my traps. You’re just going to make me look good.”


The forward movement of the group stopped. There was some arguing going on in their ranks, but I couldn’t hear what they were saying.


Robson was looking at us and them. I could see she was weighing her options.


“Oh, shit, she’s going to run for it,” I said.


“You got the keys?” asked Ronald.


“No, I don’t have the keys,” barked Jamal. “The point is to keep them out, not let them in!”


“Robson, don’t!” I yelled. “We can’t open the gate!”


She froze with one foot in our direction. The look on her face was a horror to see. She knew she was a goner.


Winky came bursting out of the door.


I could hear the jingling of the keys in her hand.


Everything happened so fast, it was like my worst nightmare unfolding and I was stuck in mud, unable to react fast enough.


A shot cracked out from the group of canners.


Robson screamed, her body flying forward as she fell to her face.


Blood spread out across her back, but she wasn’t dead. She crawled towards us.


Several other kids were pushed out of the canner group. “Do the trade, Bryn!” yelled Gail.


The four kids who were walking towards us now, Robson’s group obviously, were clinging together and crying, three girls and one guy.


“Stay back!” I yelled to Winky. “Do not open this gate!”

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