I'm really thankful for a lot of things this Thanksgiving weekend. I love this part of the country, I have the world's most kick-ass girlfriend, and I'm still alive after enduring thirty minutes of pure hell.
"How are you doing," she asks me.
"Okay," I sigh. "How many did you get out there?"
"Just three. That leaves close to thirty enemy."
"What do you think they'll do?"
"Well, they're not having much luck shooting us out. My guess is that they were hoping for the element of surprise. They don't have much time left. My guess is that the authorities will stop by soon. They'll have to flush us out or destroy the house. My guess is that they're waiting for backup, or they would have attacked already."
"How did they know you were here?"
Ellie shrugs. "My 'source' of information must have been a setup. They probably knew that if I knew you were in danger, then I would show up."
"I'm sorry, Ellie. I know how much you hate all this, and I've put you right back into it."
"Hey, Alex, it's my life. I had a feeling it would find me again. But I don't mind if it's a good cause. I'll fight to the death over you."
"Thanks. And I'll do the same for you." To emphasize the point I squeeze off a few rounds. They answer back. "But that thing you do to people...I don't think I could do that. Why do you do that?"
Ellie grimaces a little. "It's kind of my thing. I do it to intimidate potential revenge seekers. The crazier I seem, the less likely people will come after me. I've been trained from an early age to use whatever weapons are on hand, and I generally don't bring any to a fight. I just use either whatever the target brings, or just my bare hands."
She crawls away to check on Marcia and Brad and to take a few shots out the back to keep them honest. I look down and only can find two clips of ammo remaining for the automatic weapons. We still have the shotgun and a few shells for that, and a number of handguns. Ellie also has a few rounds for her specialized sniper rifle. At the rate of a dozen rounds a minute, we're going to run out really quick. I hear the sound of some engines approaching and then it stops. Ellie quickly rejoins me.
"Looks like reinforcements are here. And not they kind I'd hope for." She begins her litany of Russian cussing again.
We can spot more people spreading out. We shoot at some, but we're trying to conserve ammunition.
"I swear if we get out of this, I'm going to get to the bottom of it," says Ellie. "You don't attack an agent of the Chinese government like this. I don't know what you've uncovered, Alex, but they are sure going to great lengths to get you out of the picture. I'm so sorry I didn't listen to you earlier. I had gotten so wrapped up in my own problems."
"Hey Ellie, it's Ok. I understand what you've been up against. I want to get to the bottom of this too. I think Carrie knows more about this than what she's telling me. Every time I listen to her, something bad happens."
"You should stay away from her," replies Ellie. "Something's wrong with her. I'm going to dig around her past and see what I can find." She squeezes off a round, and I hear a scream. "Forty-one," she breaths, "assuming he doesn't make it."
"I'm sorry I got you involved with this crap," I say. "You've been a great friend to me, and I didn't even realize or appreciate it."
"Something's happening," she says. I peer out. Someone is waving a white flag above a rock. "What?" she yells out to the flag bearer.
A man appears from behind the rock. "This is your last chance. We'll take down the whole house if we have to."
"Give us a minute!" yells Ellie. She turns to me. "What do you want to do?"
During the lull, my father rambles down the stairs. He looks disheveled and he's bleeding from a couple of places, just minor wounds. "I'm out of ammo," he says, and I raise my empty hands at him.
"Go check on Brad, he's next to the stove with Marcia."
My dad waves at us and heads over there. Ellie is waiting for my response. I think about everything we've gone through in the last few weeks. I think about my brother clinging to life on the cold kitchen floor.
"Fuck 'em. Let's fight this thing out. I'm sick of getting pushed around. Take no fucking prisoners. Do whatever you have to, Ellie, and let me know how I can help."
She's about to respond when we hear a whistling. A trail of smoke heads our way, then explodes in the ground twenty feet away from us, throwing mounds of rocks and dirt into the house.
"RPG," shouts Ellie. She shoots off a few rounds and I keep firing until all I hear is the empty click of my weapon. I throw it to the ground in disgust.
We're completely out. "This is it, Alex," she says. She slides over to me and we huddle up together. I wrap an arm around her. We both stink, a mixture of sweat and blood and dirt, but there's no one in the world that I'd rather have near me right now. Ellie pulls out a gun and hands it to me. "If it looks like the end, I need you to shoot me. I can't be captured alive."
"Ssh." She puts a finger to my lips. "Alex, for someone like me there are fates worse than death. I have enough information in my head to start wars on every continent, but I've been working to prevent those wars. I cannot be taken alive. Do you understand me?"
I nod and take the gun, and pull her close. We see the men start sidling towards the house, wary of any traps we may have set. I see a couple with shoulder-fired rockets, ready to tear down the house. Every man seems to holding an assault rifle of some type.
"Fucking amateurs," whispers Ellie. "I'm going to be killed by goddamn amateurs."
Without any more cover, they approach the house by twos and threes, trying to avoid our line of fire.
"Okay, that's better," Ellie says. "Those guys over there are getting set up to shoot us. Looks like they're going to fire in some tear gas, and then mow us down as we jump out. It doesn't look like they want prisoners."
I gulp, my throat feeling tight. I swear I'm not as concerned about dying as I am about losing Ellie. I hold her close.
I hear a quiet whumping sound. It grows in intensity, until a large helicopter zooms overhead. I now can see it as it circles in the distance.
"Come on!" shouts Ellie. We run into the kitchen where my family is huddled. The helicopter returns right at treetop level. I can see it through a hole in the wall where a window used to be. On one side a long gun barrel points out. As the helicopter approaches, the barrel begins blazing a long streak of fire.
"It's a Gatling gun," I exclaim.
"Probably two thousand rounds a minute from the sound of it," replies Ellie. She says some kind of Chinese prayer from the sound of it.
I watch as the gun levels the men and trees surrounding the house. The bullets disintegrate everything in their path. A couple of vehicles explode. Six black-clad men descend on ropes onto the ground, and start chasing the men in every direction. One of the attackers fires his RPG at the helicopter but fortunately it misses and detonates harmlessly in the woods. Ellie leads me out towards the helicopter which lowers a basket of firearms to us.
"Stay here," Ellie shouts over the din as the helicopter rises away to pursue the attackers. "Make sure no one circles back to the house, and get Brad ready for evac. I'm going to show these people what the Chinese government is all about." She hands me a new weapon, a SAW automatic rifle. I retreat back to the house as Ellie dons a headset and begins chattering with the other defenders.
From a distance I hear the chopper, the buzz of its gun, and firing of weapons. It doesn't take long until I see a column of men with their hands on their heads walking back to the house. The six defenders and Ellie surround them. She runs back towards me. I breath a quiet sigh of relief when I see she's not covered in blood again.
"Okay, let's get Brad." The chopper lowers down a stretcher, and we carry Brad out. He's barely conscious, but he responds when pinched. The men also lower the Gatling gun and a few other things, since they can't just fly over to the hospital loaded with weapons. They raise Brad up and also lower a harness to pick up Marcia. She leans over to me and Ellie before she gets on.
"I want to thank you for what you did," she shouts over the din. "You saved our lives back there. I won't forget it." The helicopter raises her up and then takes off towards the nearest hospital.
I can't believe it's over. But my dad's house is ruined, there's a contingent of Chinese agents and their captives on the lawn, there are burning cars down the road, and a couple of craters here and there. Not to mention the piles of shell casings everywhere. We're really going to have to come up with a good explanation for this when the authorities show up.
Oh yeah, we still have a turkey in the oven which should almost be ready by now.