"Someone has to have heard our car go up, or the gunfire," Ellie whispered as the two of them slunk down the dark alley.
"Maybe," Johnny grunted, crouching next to the hulk of a long-abandned shipping trailer. "We have to assume no one called it in, though. Have to assume we're on our own until we miss checking in with the office."
Ellie checked her watch.
"That's more than 50 minutes."
"Guess that's what we get for getting shot up so quick," Johnny whispered, grinning. "But wait -- it gets so much worse."
"Riley knows were here, and that we've made his location. That mean he's gonna split his forces between two tasks," Johnny told her. "One, killing us, and two, packing up and getting the fuck out of here."
"So even if we do manage to survive until backup, he's gone."
"Yep. And when he's gone, he's gone. He can ghost himself like you wouldn't believe. That's if we go with his plan," Johnny said.
Realization dawned over Ellie's face, and she smiled.
"You mean if we run and try to avoid his guys," she said. "Which we fuckin' won't."
"I knew I liked you for a reason, Detective," Johnny grinned, checking the ammo in his Glock. "Here's how we go -- rules of the desert. Guy points a weapon at you, you kill him. We pick up their guns and keep going until we break through or they kill us. You good with that?"
Ellie didn't hesitate in the slightest -- she just slammed a fresh clip into her weapon and smiled.
"Fuckin' A right," she said.
Johnny had expected at least a tiny pause before her answer, as she took few seconds to consider the consequences, but there wasn't one. Ellie had answered instantly and without fear. Johnny's admiration for her, already high, multiplied tenfold in that moment.
"Right, then. Whichever way we go in will have guards on it, and we're closest to the back gate, so. . ."
Johnny trailed off, heading for the gate. His finger rested lightly on the Glock's split trigger as he scanned the loading dock for guards.
They saw him before he saw them. Gunfire erupted around Johnny and Ellie, and they dropped on the concrete and returned fire.
It was still too dark to see the guards. Johnny could see the muzzle flashes from their rifles, however, which sounded like AK-47s. He aimed just above one of the flashes and fired. The flashes stopped abruptly from that position, but there were still three more. Ellie managed to take out two, but one was on the move. He was running into the building, firing wildly behind him as he ran. Johnny and Ellie emptied their clips at his receding muzzle flashes. The gunfire stopped soon after, but Johnny didn't know if they'd hit the guy or he'd simply run inside the building.
"Let's go," he said. He ejected the empty clip from his weapon and jammed in a new one, bringing the Glock up in front of him as he crept toward the building. He heard Ellie right behind him. They made it to a rusting forklift fifty feet from the loading dock and ducked down behind it for a second.
"That's, what, five down? Can't be too many more than that," Ellie said.
"Eric says there are a lot of these National Militia fucks. I think we should give up keeping count and just keep shooting until no one's shooting at us," Johnny said.
"You would say that, though. You're losing," Ellie said, smirking.
"I've shot three. You've shot two. I'm one up on you."
Johnny chuckled softly.
"It's not like this is a competition, Ellie," he told her, smiling.
"Well, not a close one, anyway," she said, smiling back.
He was just about to open his mouth to say something -- something witty and charming, he hoped -- when bullets started flying around them. Johnny popped up from behind the forklift and started firing.
The gunshots were coming from the open dock, and there were a lot of them. Johnny guessed that the guy who'd run inside had come back with as many friends as he could round up. He heard a mix of M4s and AK-47s.
"Reloading!" he yelled, then dropped behind the forklift. Ellie popped up and started firing. Johnny slammed his last clip into the Glock.
"Out!" Ellie yelled a second later, dropping down next to him. Johnny stood and opened fire again, trying to pick his targets carefully. Still, it only took him ten seconds to burn through the last of his ammo. He crouched behind the forklift, which still rocked with gunfire.
"Well, this sucks," Ellie sighed, holding up her empty Sig Sauer. "What's the plan now, Deputy?"
"They'll be coming close soon. Only shot's to try and take one of their weapons before they kill us," Johnny said, shrugging. He pulled a knife from his boot.
"Nice. You always carry that?"
"Never know when you'll need a knife," Johnny said. The gunfire slowed, and they heard voices from the dock.
"Hold up! I'm gonna go check it out," a voice yelled. It wasn't Riley's. Johnny flipped the knife around in his hand, ready to throw it.
He listened intently, trying to hear the approaching footsteps. His concentration shattered thanks to gunfire directly in front of him.
"Fuck!" Ellie yelled, flattening herself to the pavement, trying to make herself as small a target as possible. Johnny did the same.
It took him a moment to realize the bullets weren't landing anywhere close to him or Ellie, and that the men behind them were screaming.
Seconds later, a man in body armor and night-vision goggles walked up to them.
"Hey, Sarge. Looked like you needed a hand," Alex said. He had an AR-15 in one hand, and three handguns in his belt. He handed Johnny and Ellie a gun.
"Alex? What the fuck are you doing here?"
"Apparently, Sarge, I'm saving your ass," Alex said, smirking.
"How'd you know where we were?" Ellie asked, checking her new weapon. "I got released about the same time y'all left. You," he said, nodding at Ellie," talk kinda loud. Made a quick stop at my place for gear. Followed the Sarge's trail from the burning car."
"You can't be here. You're not a cop -- you could face charges," Ellie told him.
"No. We need all the help we can get. Alex, I'm deputizing you as of, say, 90 seconds ago," Johnny said.
"You can do that?" Alex said.
"I think I remember seeing something about that in the employee handbook," Johnny grumbled. "Now, got any more of those NVGs?"
"Nope. But they're wearin' 'em," Alex said, jerking his head at the loading dock.
"Right. We'll grab those and their M4s," Johnny said.
"Go ahead. I'll cover you," Alex said, leveling his AR-15 at the loading dock and crouching as Johnny got up from behind the forklift.
"I thought we confiscated all of your weapons," Johnny heard Ellie say as he walked up the ramp to the dock, his gun ready.
"Yes, ma'am. The ones I let you find, anyway. One thing Haji taught me is that stashing guns in caches is really efficient."
There were six corpses. None of them were wearing body armor, but three of them had night-vision optics -- Russian Kalinka D-203s. Vassily had supplied them well. Johnny grabbed two pair of the NVGs and two M4s. One of the bodies had a utility vest loaded with M4 and AK-47 magazines, so Johnny took it. He carried everything back to the forklift, where he set it all on the ground.
"Let's load up. You ever used an M4, Ellie?" Johnny said.
Ellie shook her head.
"I've trained with M16s, though."
"Same thing, just more reliable. Alex, you're on point."
"Copy that. What's the ROE here, Sergeant?"
"Weapon equals hostile," Johnny answered.
"I like that. I like that very much," Alex grinned.
"All right. Let's move. Wish we had time to call for backup," Ellie sighed.
"I woulda, but y'all confiscated my phone," Alex said.
Johnny slipped on his borrowed Russian NVGs just in time to see Alex head into the loading bay doors. Johnny waved Ellie through next. He brought up the rear, and the three of them crept silently into the building.
"Four o'clock," Alex said quietly. He fired four rounds. Johnny heard a body fall from a height and hit the floor hard.
"Hostile down," Alex whispered. "We're looking for Riley, am I right?"
"Roger that," Johnny whispered, scanning the large, open dock for enemies.
"I was him, I'd be top center of the building. Roof, maybe. Make us run the fuckin' gauntlet to get to him," Alex said.
"Agreed. If he hasn't hightailed it already," Johnny said.
"Nah. He hasn't. Not unless he can start his trucks without the ignition systems," a fourth voice whispered from behind Johnny.
Johnny spun around fast. Even with the green tint and blurry optics of his NVGs, he recognized his buddy Eric, who was smiling.
"Eric? How the fuck --"
"Easy. Followed your guy Alex from the office," Eric said. "You've got incoming up on your right, there."
Johnny whirled and fired his weapon. He saw a shooter raise his AK-47, then drop as the bullets hit him.
"These night-vision goggles are pretty fucking bad-ass," Eric said.
"Eric, get out of here and call in backup," Ellie hissed, creeping forward and scanning the dock with her M4.
"Already did that. In a couple minutes, this place'll be crawling with uniforms and SWAT," Eric said, strolling casually along behind the group. "On the door. Two guys, coming hard."
"On 'em," Alex said, firing his AR-15. Johnny watched as two men burst through the door at the end of the dock. They had barely made it a step into the room before Alex's bullets dropped them.
"Eric, how are you seeing these guys?" Ellie asked.
"I'm observant. Oh, and I hacked into their camera and comm systems. I've got eyes all over the building, and most of these guys are tagged. Technology is fun, isn't it?" Eric grinned, holding up a small netbook.
"OK. You're with us until backup gets here, then," Johnny said. He reached into his belt and pulled out the 9mm Ruger Alex had given him. "Here. I won't tell anyone if you won't."
Eric took the gun. Johnny noticed that Eric was wearing latex gloves.
"No fingerprints and no GSR," Eric explained. "In case anyone decides to test me."
"Fair enough. Which way do we go?"
"Hallway's clear now," Eric said, checking his screen. "I count 12, 13 more guys. Looks like we go up."
"You see Riley on that?" Johnny asked.
"Yeah. He's up on the roof with four other guys. They're packing up. Rest are on the second floor. Wait, scratch that. They're on the move -- coming down stairs on either side of that hallway."
"Alex?" Johnny said.
"On it, Sarge." Johnny and Alex hustled to the door as one, going through at the same time and setting up with their weapons pointed in opposite directions. Johnny was aiming for the door at the west end of the hall -- Alex at the east. As soon as he saw movement, Johnny opened fire with his M4. He shot the first man out in the head, dropping him. The second man tripped over the first and went sprawling. Johnny shot the last two.
"Clear!" Alex yelled.
The second man -- the one Johnny hadn't shot -- pulled himself out from under the bodies of his comrades. Johnny held his breath and aimed, putting one bullet in the man's braincase -- but not before the man rolled something down the hall at him.
Johnny barely had time to yell "Grenade!" before the thing exploded, turning his vision red, then black.