Unacceptable Losses: Part Five
This is it, I thought. I’m going to be blown to pieces.
I had time to think about diving on the grenade to save Pipa, Natasha and Alice from the full force of the blast – but not the time to act. The grenade exploded in a blast of light and sound, blinding and deafening me – but not killing me.
Disorientated, I lost a chunk of time and memory crawling on my hands and knees, not knowing where I was or why I felt like I’d woken in Ibiza after partying too hard. I slammed into something and tasted blood. My thoughts were scrambled and confused until I heard someone calling my name. My senses returned – first sight, then hearing. I was on the cold ground on my back, looking up at trees and sky. Three dead zombies were on my left. My girlfriend Pipa was shaking me and looking into my eyes. I struggled to focus. I was amazed to be alive, looking up at Pipa.
“Kris?” she said. “Are you all right?”
I could feel no pain except in my head. My body seemed intact. “Yeah. What happened?”
“You got hit by a stun grenade,” Pipa said.
Oh. Of course. I remembered the attack then. And I remembered the soldier. Where was he? How much time had I been stunned? “The soldier. He didn’t want to kill us?”
“No,” she said. “He had this on him.”
She showed me a stun gun.
I was still confused. “Where’s the soldier now?”
“Alice killed him,” Pipa said, stepping to one side so I could see the soldier on the ground with an axe wedged in his skull. “She really whacked him. She saw him coming down from the tree and attacked him before he could attack us. The stun grenade went off just as she started swinging her axe. She – we – were really lucky. We were all stunned – but you got it the worst. I think he thought the stun grenade would make us all incapacitated long enough for him to capture everyone – but you took the brunt of it. Are you sure you’re okay? You look pretty dazed, Kris.”
I sat up, head throbbing, hearing a whistling. “I feel like I’ve got the hangover of all hangovers – but I’m physically okay. Hey – I just realised he couldn’t have been alone. Someone else released the zombies. We have to get back to the Battle Bus before his friends show up. Help me stand up. We’ve got to get out of here.”
Pipa pulled me to my feet. I had a bad headache and nausea – but my mind was clear. “Get Alice. Tell her we have to go.”
Pipa dashed off. I leant against a tree until I could stand straight. Natasha was stripping the dead man of his weapons. “Kris, this man is not ordinary Pure Blood. He has tattoo of red lion. That means he is Elite Squad. Very dangerous. They are better trained than ordinary Pure Bloods. They are like Special Forces.”
I stared at the axe. “He doesn’t look too dangerous now.”
“They never fight alone,” Natasha said. “They will be coming for us. We must go – but I want axe.” Natasha tried pulling the axe out of the dead man’s head – but it was jammed. “I can’t remove axe. Alice is strong. Axe buried deep. I am impressed. Not bad kill – for English girl.”
“Leave the axe,” I ordered. “We have to escape now.”
Pipa emerged dragging Alice by an arm. Alice was coughing and wiping her mouth. She looked dazed. She must have been hit by almost as much of the stunning effect as I had been. Natasha led the way. The four of us hurried like our lives depended on it – which they did. I had my gun out – but I honestly could not have taken an accurate aim if I did encounter the enemy. We broke out of the woods opposite the bus. It looked a long way across the field. We paused to look for enemies – but I didn’t see anyone.
“Rav,” I said on my radio. “Is everything clear?”
“Yes,” he said.
“We’re coming,” I said. “Don’t shoot us.”
We sprinted across the field.
We were ten metres short of the bus when Ravinder opened the door. For a moment I was happy to see him because we would be safer once we were inside the Battle Bus.
Then I saw a knife to his throat.
A balaclava-wearing soldier was standing behind Ravinder, using my friend as a human shield. He was armed with an automatic weapon aimed at us. He sprayed the ground at our feet with bullets.
“Drop your weapons or die!”
We were on open ground with no possibility of escape. He could cut us down with a single burst if we even tried to fight back. I froze. Natasha looked at me, waiting my order. I knew what she was thinking. Did I want to give up or fight? She was obviously willing to risk fighting. Nothing scared Natasha. Not even death. But I didn’t want to die. I didn’t want Pipa killed. But I didn’t want to surrender either. I wondered what would happen if we all dived in different directions and started shooting at the bus. Could we force the enemy to take cover while we escaped? I wanted to risk it – but I didn’t do it. Faced with superior fire-power and a human shield, I had no choice. I shook my head. Natasha sighed.
“We’re surrendering!” I said. “We will drop our weapons!”
I dropped my gun and put up my empty hands – loathing myself for giving up like a miserable coward. I wasn’t capable of leading anyone – except into trouble. Natasha and Pipa also dropped their weapons. Alice didn’t have anything to drop. The furious look she gave the soldier gave me a clue where her axe would have been if she had not lost it.
A few seconds later, a soldier exited the woods. “You got them, Grinder?”
“Yeah,” Grinder said.
The second soldier crossed the field. His shaved head was painted black and green to camouflage him in the woods. He was also armed with an automatic weapon. We would have been slaughtered if we had not given up. I had made the right decision to surrender – but it made little difference to how I felt. Dex had sent me on a simple rescue mission that I had turned into an absolute mess. The first soldier made us all wait with our hands up until the second got to us.
“Nobody move,” he said. “Slick, I’ll frisk them. You cover me.”
Grinder frisked everyone and made us lie down on our stomachs. He tied our hands behind our backs. Ravinder was next to me, his eyes an inflamed pink.
“Kris, this is all my fault,” he whispered. “That guy sneaked up on the bus when I was trying to contact HQ. He tossed some kind of gas bomb inside. I couldn’t breathe. It was like sucking in fire. I panicked and opened the door, letting him in. I am so stupid, Kris. I let you down.”
The soldier was far enough away for me to speak without him overhearing. “Rav, tell me something. Did you get through to HQ before he got you?”
“No,” Rav said. “I failed. Nobody knows we need help, Kris.”
I felt despair. The Family didn’t know we were in trouble – so they would not be sending support. Rav looked ashamed – but I was not angry at him. I was to blame for our dire situation. Rav whispered more apologies that I didn’t want to hear. “Kris, when when you called me, I wanted to warn you. I would have said something – but he had a knife to my throat. I’m so sorry, Kris.”
“It’s not your fault,” I said.
It was all mine.