Recap from Echoes
Rota and Skuld met up with them just past Kingman, at a truck stop lit up like they were trying to personally prevent darkness throughout the planet. They were met by Sokn, which meant “attack,” a Valkyrie with charcoal skin, snapping black eyes, and the muscles of a rock climber.
“I’m the sheriff for this county,” she said. “Saber informed me about the compound. Hear it’s got tunnels, a rabbit warren. A standard hate group, with survivalists. Truck drivers, warehouse workers, bartenders in shit-kicker bars, rodeo workers, cashiers. If they even have jobs. Clean-shaven, lots of muscles on the guys. The women don’t wear prairie dresses, but they are covered. Jeans, T-shirts, like the men. Hard drinkers, drink a lot of beer. They police their brass, make their own ammo, and have lots of guns, using a shooting range on the back forty. Hear rumors of an urban fighting range inside the compound, for the race war.”
Wraith snorted. “Lovely people.”
“It gets worse,” said Sokn. “They decided they needed more and bigger guns. Rocket launchers, stuff like that. They are harboring Ruden Wang. Ruden doesn’t look Asian. He’s had some eye surgery. Anyway, he’s nasty, had an in to get army weapons. The military removed this after Saber gave them a heads-up about the weapons he was supposed to supply, and how to get them. Now, Saber is posing as Ran Tran, a nasty little arms dealer, their conduit to US Army weapons. They’re anarchist, and are willing to work with one of the yellow races —that would be Saber, to steal from the government they hate. They’re planning on killing Saber, as if they were planning on sneezing.”
Wraith’s face got stony. “Not gonna happen. You know we’re under High Desert’s license. We’re here for our principal, Saber, to keep him alive. We want to leave lots of people in these.” She held up a plastic bag filled up with plastic ties. The Valkyries each held up their own ties.
“Arrests,” said Sokn. “That’s my sister those bastards took down. She’s still breathing. The US Marshals are pissed. They’ll be here come morning, but we don’t have time to wait. They’ll push up the date.”
“And Saber will be dead,” said Sigrun. “Recon?”
“Drone,” said Sokn. “Nailed down tight, perimeter patrol, twice the normal guards. Dogs, too, German shepherds.”
Rota grinned. “Got sleepy snacks,” she said. “Like Scooby snacks, but the dogs will wake up happy and relaxed in a few hours.”
“I love you very much,” Sigrun said to Rota, accepting a tube of the snacks. Everyone else got their tubes, too.
“The problem with stun guns is one shot and you’re done,” said Skuld. “I’ve got two specials; scientists in a trailer in the desert came up with them. Six shots, the wires just fall out.”
“Awesome,” said Wraith. “I’ll take one.” She took it. “Great feel.”
“Tiny wires,” said Skuld. “Bring it back and I’ll get more wires for you.”
“So, fast, silent,” said Sigrun.
“Duh,” said Wraith.
“Have fun storming the castle,” said Sokn. Everyone snorted at the line from The Princess Bride. “The van will be on the south side, the bikes the southwest side, the raiders the north side.” The raiders were Iron Knights and the Valkyries who were still on their way. They would be called in, either by cell phone code or by a certain number of shots fired into the air. “We’ll be expecting for you to get the women and children out, or for us to come in and get them.”
“Need more vans,” said Wraith.
“And, a lot of the women firmly believe in the crap they’re spouting,” said Sokn. “Be ready for resistance.”
“Resistance…” said Sigrun.
“Is futile,” said Wraith.
“Go,” said Skuld.” They melted into the dark, their jangly bits tied or taped down, and they melted into the hot desert night.
Jakob Rantry (Jack) walked his dog back and forth. It used German commands. He’d learned them. Sit, stay, attack. He was confident in his skills, learned from the man who became his father. Shoot, hide, move, then shoot again. They had killed a bad woman tonight, and the yellow man had crushed her phone so she could not call for help. He said he sent a message to his own people to bring the guns. Jack had seen a bunch of numbers, nothing that made sense. Jack was always right. So, no one knew if they would receive guns by dawn or not.
He heard a tiny scratch. The dog whined, and jaws snapped shut, twice. He strained, looking for the one who was throwing things at his dog. He was hit in the back of the head, and fell soundlessly to the ground. “Sitzen,’ said a voice behind him. The dog sat, and received a normal dog treat from Sigrun. Sigrun put the boy in plastic straps, on his wrists and ankles. He smelled okay, so the dog was not concerned. “Kommen.” The dog followed her. It had been undernourished; their new masters didn’t understand how much food a German shepherd actually needed, and their voices were rough. This new one smelled like food and sunlight, and so he followed.
Rota slid up the watchtower on the right. The watcher got an elbow to the face, and a smack to the back of the head. He went down, and was put into plastic ties. She took the radio off his belt, and slithered back down. She made her way to the watchtower on the right.
Skuld moved quietly to the left. She took out two at once with her knife handles. She got them in twist ties. She went along the wall.
Wraith was furious. Saber had asked for help, without even knowing that he was the father of three children. He’d been in the deep dark for a while, in shark-infested waters. He’d be pissed if he went to Valhalla without meeting his children, and even upon meeting him there, she would be hard pressed to explain her being unable to get to him.
She found the kitchen; the ancient plates and silverware were put away, dented and blackened pots scrubbed to within an inch of their lives. There was a large electric pot of coffee. Wraith slipped past.
Women bunked in a room nearby; Wraith could hear them breathing. She slipped past the storeroom, and avoided the room with the sleeping sounds. She slid left; right; left, the rabbit warren heading deep. She found a door down, and took it. She slipped the door closed, and heard a sentry walking through the halls. She waited, waited, and slammed the door open. He fell, and before he could scream, she cracked his head into the floor. She slipped him in behind the door, put on the plastic ties, and slipped him down the wooden stairs and left him in a storeroom underneath. Blonde hair, clean-shaven.
She went down a twisty hallway, until she heard the scrabbling of dog claws on concrete. She threw out the sleeper snacks, and the dog snuffled, and then ate. It breathed gently. She crept around, and found a German shepherd, undernourished.
She scratched the dog behind the ears, and said, gently, “Bliebe,” the command to stay. The dog laid quietly. She slipped forward, and found doors. She popped one open and found guns; black and gleaming, on racks. Grenades were on special holey shelves, their pins sticking out. She grinned, shut the door, twisted the bolt, and superglued it shut.
Rota took out the guy in the other tower. She hadn’t heard a peep from anyone on the radio yet, so they didn’t yet know they’d been infiltrated.
Sigrun now had two dogs. She kept them fed, and tied up their handlers. And handlers they were, as they hadn’t done anything to bond with their dogs.
Skuld tied up two more sentries. She took a radio, and heard nothing. She had the outside shell down, and worked her way inside, in concentric circles.
Wraith hinted, slunk, got closer. The bars were her first clue. She circled back, found the jailer with a buddy sleeping on cots. She shot one with the special gun, and choked out the other one until he passed out. She pocketed the gun and the keys, and slipped forward. She unlocked the bars, and quailed. She had no idea how she would get both Saber and the dog out.
Rota crept back down, and slipped to the right. That was her side now. She went toward the back of the compound, looking for the door or the tunnel out the back. They would have at least one.
Herja and April arrived late to the party. They first got all the bikes around to the right spot, then the van. Sokn drove up with a huge people-mover that sat twelve. They hopped out, grabbed each other’s necks, and said, “With your shield, or on it.” April and Sokn stayed with the larger vehicles, and Herja went to find the exit.
Rota found an exit blocked by a barrel of beer, designed to squeak if moved. She lifted it onto one plastic tie, then another, and slid it out of the way. The trap door was lovely to behold. She opened it, snapped a glow stick, and threw it down. She went looking for more exits. She left a glow stick under the barrel too.
Sigrun now had a third dog. She found another exit, a door that led to a ladder, and then into a tunnel. She threw down a glow stick. She then raided a storeroom and lowered boxes down, and, using a rope wrapped around her waist, she threaded it up her spine and over her shoulder. She piled them in as best she could, and sent the dogs down. They went willingly. She told them to go, and they took off at a run.
She heard a “Kommen,” and grinned at Herja’s voice. She heard the dogs scrabble out, and ran her line back up. She waited, and soon Herja was up the ladder. They clasped each others’ necks, and went to the left.
Wraith used her rope to tie Saber’s lollying body to her back, and the twist ties to keep him there. She ran, and found the dog still awake. She found some regular dog treats, and said, “Kommen.” She got them up the stairs before the dog fell with an umph at her feet. She knelt there, getting her breath back, and then she got the door closed, her husband still on her back. She found a tarp two storerooms down, and slid it under the dog. She nearly shot Rota as Rota soundlessly rounded a corner. Each woman sewed an end of her rope to a grommet on a corner of the dog’s tarp. They went as fast as they could.
Skuld superglued some doors locked. Including the entry to the men’s dorm, where she heard lots of snoring, and the outer door to that hallway. She lifted some boxes, and laid them before each door, absolutely silently.
The ladder made Wraith quail. They got the dog down first, and then Rota stood up top and got Wraith down the ladder, with Herja underneath. They scrambled down, and they left the dog as they half-carried Wraith with her man on her back out of the tunnel. They left her at the exit, and ran back for the dog. They got them all into the van. Next Wraith gave Rota the special gun, and ran back in as Wraith worked to save her husband as April drove like the wind.
They followed the screaming at a run. Sigrun and Skuld had a woman on the floor, bleeding, and screaming her head off. Rota shot her with the special gun, popped the wires, and shot the next woman through the door.
Herja set her feet and said, “Your men go to jail. Most will get “conspiracy too, which will get them out in less time. They decided to…”
A shot rang out. Sigrun eeled off to take care of it.
“…get guns from a nasty man,” finished Herja. “That’s the one they want. Anyone says anything terrible about him, they get less time. Help us get you and your children out, they won’t get caught up in this mess, or get shot. They don’t want you, so get out now. We’ve got transport. Leave you alive to set up for when your honeys come home.”
Two sharp shots and a thunk sounded out. Skuld grinned. “That’s how she rolls,” she said.
“Wait,” said a woman in a red T-shirt and shorts. She had two girls at her feet with her blonde hair, with her wide-eyed, thin face showing twelve kinds of terror. “No one wants us, we don’t have to testify?”
“Nope,” said Herja. “We get you out; you can do whatever excites your pretty little hearts.”
“Okay,” she said. “But we take Rina and Donna with us.”
“Okay,” said Sigrun. “But, we’ve got to move fast.”
“Can we bring our stuff?” asked another woman.
“Like they have room,” said the first woman. “We go. It’s what Todd and Wren would want. Get us out of the way, and let them take care of their business.” She grabbed her daughters. “Let’s go.”
Rota took the lead and ran toward the exit with the ladder. The other women grabbed kids and babies, and the occasional backpack, and ran. Herja took Donna, the brown-haired woman, and Skuld took Rina, another blonde with kinky hair. They were almost to the ladder when the grenades went off. The noise was deafening.