The metal on metal squeal of the Jeffery’s brakes snaps me from my trance. My sons. All I can think of are my sons.
I shake the dead twitchers from my mangled legs and drag my body back toward the discarded shotgun, popping two more shells from my bandolier on the way. I hear Bertha swearing underneath the continual torrent of .50 caliber shells raining down from her perch on the Jeffery.
No sooner than I shove the shells in the chambers and slap the shotgun shut, I turn to witness a twitcher’s head explode a few feet away.
“Papa!” I hear Mykola chamber another shell and just as quickly spend it. Leonid scoops me over his shoulders, this time like a sack of feed. From my perch I finally witness the carnage in its entirety. We had become the main attraction, twitchers streaming toward us by the hundred.
Mykola covers our retreat to the Jeffery, firing his 12-gauge faster than I could focus on the spent shells ejecting from the chamber. Writhing limbs surround us on three sides. Finally I spot Pyotr, a whirlwind standing in the tracks at the head of the Jeffery, amidst a stack of dead twitchers three feet high.
“I’m out!” Mykola backs against the armored car scrambling to reload.
“Pete, time to go!” Leonid strains at the hand holds on the Jeffery’s side. “Hold on, Papa. This is going to hurt.” He lunges up the side in two quick motions and hurls us both onto the top. I flop off his shoulders like a dead fish and roll down into the passenger compartment. All I can see now is Bertha straddling the .50 caliber M2 against a red and violet sky.
Pyotr flies over the edge of the Jeffery followed closely by Mykola and the sound of scratching nails on armor plating. Dizzily, I realize we’re already in motion.
“Papa!” Pyotr scrambles down to my side while Mykola leans over the edge to dispatch the freeloaders.
“I’m fine. I’m fine.” I prop my head up with Pyotr’s help.
“You look like govno.” He smiles.
“Well, I’ll fit right in.” I grip him by both shoulders and smile back. “You’re crazy, my son.” I pull him toward me. “Thank you.”
“Your legs.” Mykola joins us.
“They mean nothing. We’ll cut them off when we get home.” I embrace my youngest as well. “For now let’s stop the bleeding.” I look them both in the eyes. “We’re not home yet.”
By the time I tie off both legs and we reset the M2 so I can operate it, the helium plant looms on our left and the hunt ring just ahead on our right.
“Papa, the gunfire is coming from the refugees, not the plant.” Leonid is right. Other than the blinding flood lights around the perimeter, the plant is asleep.
“Tose ain’t refugees. Dem’s da U.S. army.” Bertha points at the side of a wagon emblazoned with a white star and containing two back-to-back Browning M2s struggling to hold back the breaker of twitchers. A straggling of men rally to the protective bubble the guns temporarily create.
“You mean we risked our lives for a friggin’ war?”
“Pyotr, whoever they are they don’t deserve to feed the twitchers. The plan hasn’t changed. We’re getting them out.”
“Hold on! Track’s coming to an end.” Leonid yells from the driver’s seat as he engages the Jeffery’s tires. The rubber squeals against the rails until we burst through the deadman and onto a dirt road.
“Alright. Bertha, take the wheel. You’re gonna’ be my legs.”
“Just so you know, I ain’t got my license renewed in seven years.”
“Just get us to those machine guns.” She cackles as she leaps toward the front to relieve Leonid.
Seconds later my eldest joins the rest of us. “What’s the plan, Papa?
I look them in the eyes and grin. “The Founder men are gonna’ tear hell a new corn shoot.”