Chapter 3: Ten Hordes Attacking
The men were a credit to soldierly. They arrived right as the horde began hitting the compound. All of them, that is, except for the team from tower 2.
I turned to Hafton, who was one of the members of the tower 1 team.
“What did you see in Tower 2? We need Thyger, right now. And where’s Locht?”
“No sign of anyone, sir.”
Suddenly, the entire side of the tower shook. Elves, seemingly oblivious to the freezing winds, were dismounting from armored personnel carriers shaped like toy trains. Or rather, would have looked like toy trains, if not for the steel armor shaped like skulls wearing stocking caps, and the motif emblazoned on the fronts of two crossed candy canes over the sort of eye I had last seen floating above the pyramid on a one-dollar bill. The tower was dancing a jig under the barrage of an increasing number of nutcracker mortars. I saw an elf pull smartly down on the back handle, the figure’s teeth open, and a shell launch into the air.
The glass shattered with the impact, letting in the freezing wind and emphasizing the sounds of the mortars and tanks. Peeking above the ledge, I sighted the sniper rifle on an elf planting a nutcracker, and dispatched him with a shot to the forehead.
“Season’s greetings,” I growled under my breath. I ducked back, and switched on my radio.
“Thyger, respond. Fall back to tower 4, copy?”
Dead crackling came over the radio. I braced as the tower took another hit, and then tried again.
“Thgyer, this is Captain Mesner. Fall back to tower 4, do you copy?”
Still nothing. I stood up, quickly, and grasped the sniper rifle again. Most of the elves were wearing green suits, but one of them in a dark red uniform with gold epaulets just begged to be tagged. I lined up the shot with my breath pattern, and was about to squeeze, when an even larger force rocked the tower from below as a gumdrop tank fired its cannon. A shot buzzed past my ear as I fell backwards.
Someone was sniping me. They learned quickly. Mr. Kringle had been doing more up here then making toys and manipulating world finances.
I gripped my radio to try one final call to Thyger, when a weak voice came through.
“Captain? This is Thyger, reporting in, sir.”
I pulled the radio around to shield it from noise.
“Thyger, what’s your twenty? Can you make it to the tower?”
“Negative, sir. And I need Graile down here, fast. We’ve got an elevator, and it goes well below this tunnel, but it’s got some sort of internal auto-turrets guarding it. Small caliber, but it did a number on Dorhaise’s armor. This set seems to be motion-activated, so I can’t just flash-bang them. They need to be hacked.”
I unstrapped my pistol, stood up, sighted a target and squeezed off two shots. The wind was too strong for me to correct as accurately as I had with the sniper rifle, though, and I only managed to graze a private before I got back to the radio.
“Is Locht with you, Thyger?” I said, checking the clip.
“No sir, I’m sorry.”
I swore under my breath. Locht was still downstairs, then. Incidentally, with Pearson’s body, and unless we hurried, soon to be as dead. We didn’t know where to look, but we had to look fast.
What we needed, right now, was a way to get to that base, and someplace we could send Pearson’s body where it wouldn’t be found by those short little demons. It wasn’t pleasant, but there it was. No man left behind. Not even a dead one. What we had was a quickly disappearing vantage point, a well guarded elevator two wings away, and enough munitions to level New Hampshire immediately downstairs.
The last was Thyger’s department. But first, we’d need an escape plan, which meant we’d need the elevator anyway. But how to deal with Pearson?
And then, as the tower swayed dangerously under a cannon shot from below, I had a jolt of inspiration.
I waved my hand in the air.
“Attention!” I shouted above the noise. All the men pulled in their rifles, ducked below the ledge, and turned to face me while kneeling. “Teams 1 and 2, we’re going to retreat to tower 2, double time. Graile, prep your tool kit on the way. We’ll need every spare second. Teams 3 and 4, go downstairs for Locht and Pearson. And be prepared to meet us near the base of tower 2 in the munitions dump when I call.”
* * *
We burst into the antechamber of tower 4 to find Thyger crouching over the wounded medic and applying a field bandage. He ripped off a salute as I stepped in.
“The control box is here, sir,” he said, gesturing at a silver box on the wall.
Graile took out his handheld computer and plugged into the control box. I went to Thyger, and whispered to him.
“Thyger, this place is a munitions dump. We’re sitting right on top of a great number of explosives, and I heavily suspect that that’s why they’re restricting the shelling to the wings. Got any idea how we can use a nearly unlimited number of explosives?”
Thyger’s brow furrowed seriously. After a moment he said.
“That depends. Gunpowder, liquid, or plastique? And how much of it?”
“All three, plus a century of ammunition. All about equally proportioned.”
He thought again. Finally he decided. “I’ll rig the plastique, then. It needs electronic charges, otherwise it’ll just make a cheerful fire. The other two will go up like fury with a flame, though.”
There was a click, as Graile finished with the box. Two thumps emanated from the other room as the turrets dropped dead.
“Finished, sir. They did everything but remove the control box to guard those things, but with the speed they built this place, they probably needed it to manage all the electronics. This one seems to interface with a larger network, though, so it was tough.”
I turned to the others. “Alright, gentleman, into the elevator. Next floor, bombs, explosives, and munitions. Going down.”
* * *
The men I sent to the ammo dump were waiting by the elevator with Freals when we arrived, as I had expected. What I hadn’t expected was the huge pile of bombs waiting with them.
Freals’ radio had gone dead, but he had heard the sound of the shelling because it was impossible not to in this echo chamber. Rather then abandon his post, however, Freals had gone through the crates around him and grabbed extra insurance while waiting for backup, since he knew from our earlier trip what was in them. He had a beautiful pile of C-4 bombs one wire from completion.
It wouldn’t be enough to eliminate the entire army outside, or detonate the munitions dump. But given the hasty construction of the building annex, it was more then enough to get us a tank… if we played our cards right.
“Thyger, finish rigging this building. Four men, come with me, and get Pearson ready.” I grabbed an armful of C-4 and cautiously opened the door, “We’re going to fetch him a ride.”
I stepped out into the blinding snow, and ran towards the far wall, where the elves were still pounding on tower 4. I opened the door as silently as possible, and urged the others in. If this was going to go off right, we’d have to get to the far end of the tower. Two hallways connected towards the front. I turned the corner and opened the door.
And I hated what I saw. We had never looked at the compound from this angle, so we hadn’t seen the wall of ceiling to floor windows all along the base. But, the structural supports on this portion of the building were out in the open, just like I needed. If only…
“Right, here’s the plan. Plug the wires in and start the timers now. When they have twenty seconds left, we’re going to make a break for it, down the hallway. Leave the bombs by the columns, and run for the far door. They’re fixating on the top, so they won’t see us for a moment. But we can’t risk them breaking through and diffusing these. Everyone ready?”
“Alright then. Gentlemen, start your timers.”
* * *
The entire run seemed like it was in slow motion. The elves only caught sight of us as we were mere yards from the end, with one column and five seconds left. The hallway was riddled with holes behind us, but we were already diving through the door.
What happened next sounded like the end of the world. The whole row of support columns on this side of the building was blown away, and similar to a tree with a slanted cut, promptly fell on that portion of the elf army not fast enough to get out of the way.
“Run back, and tell Thyger to hurry up. They won’t be stunned forever. This is only the first wave.”
Then I ran back through the door. There were stone blocks everywhere, intermingled with elves and their equipment. But there, not fifteen yards out, was what I had really been looking for. A somewhat dented gumdrop tank, with the hatch thrown open and vacated by a driver apparently unhappy to see that our performance had brought down the house. I clambered in, hastily, and maneuvered it over the wreckage amidst the confusion.
“Attention. I’m driving a tank into the courtyard now. Bring out Pearson,” I said to my radio.
Locht’s voice returned, “Acknowledged, Captain.” So they had gotten back. Good.
Through the side machine gun flap, I saw them bring Pearson. I opened the hatch, and helped hoist him down. Then I turned the tank around to face the hole in the wall we’d come in through, and slumped him so that both levers were on. The tank began to move forward.
“So long, Pearson. We’ll send an air drop around to pick you up, and fly you back… while we make certain there won’t be any red-suited psychos climbing down the chimney of your crematorium.” And with that, I climbed out, and jumped down off the tank as it continued at a merry click off between the minefields and through the hole we had made coming in.
I pulled out the radio, called in Pearson’s trip and an approximate location for him, and ran back to the depot.
Thyger greeted me as I returned.
“Charges are ready, Captain.” He said. Then, glancing into the distance, he added hurriedly, “I think we better go.”
I looked back, to see nine distinct waves of red and green advancing hungrily on the compound at speed. Evidently, someone had gotten word of the building trick.
As fast as we could, we ran into the compound, into the elevator, and pressed the basement button. The elevator descended so quickly, it seemed as though our feet might leave the floor. After a suitable pause, Thyger pushed the jury-rigged detonator that he had made with Graile’s help.
There was a sound best described as “THWUM”, followed by a concussion which nearly shook the elevator off its cable, even at this depth.
I was nervous about entering the compound, but if the elevator had been guarded that heavily, then they certainly didn’t expect us to come down it. We had the element of surprise, and even the optimistic possibility that they would think errant shelling had caused the explosion and that we were now dead.
It was nearly disappointing to have the door open on a grey cement hallway with the obligatory florescent lights and a metal door at the end. But the hairs on the back of my neck stood on end. Something about this scene had “Ambush,” written all over it.
“Advance with caution”, I warned in a whisper.
I steeled myself, and approached the door. I grasped the brass handle with one hand, and signaled that I would count to three with the other. Then I prepped my rifle.
I was going to be ready for whatever was behind that door.
One. Two. Three.
I was not ready. There was no way on Earth I could have been. What was behind the door was, in fact, a graceful blonde elf in approximately a square foot of fur lined clothing.
“Well, Hello, big boy.” She said, pulling a candy cane from between her lips and winking one giant green eye, “Are you from the naughty list?”