"Bridge coming up," Jose Garcia said into his radio, as the convoy hummed toward the old I-55 bridge across the Mississippi River.
On this side of the river, they were in friendly territory. The old city of West Memphis had been razed to the ground to make sure they had clear fields of fire, and the fortifications that Phoenicia had built, combined with continuous, random patrols all up and down the west bank of the river and the surrounding countryside would make it very difficult for scavs or barbs to do any damage in the former state of Arkansas. The east side of the river was a different story altogether. Memphis, or at least it's skeleton, was still in the hands of the barbs.
Jose hated taking convoys through the old cities. there were just too damned many places for the scavs and barbs to hide - too many chances for ambush. Problem was, there just weren't many usable bridges left over the old Mississippi river, and all of them connected through the old cities on one side or another. Why the hell they had to annex some damned place in Mississippi before pacifying its northern neighbor, Jose didn't know. Like most Phoenicians, he had voted for Gavin Thompson's son for President in the first election, and for the most part, had no real reason to regret his choice, but sometimes he wondered about the decisions that were made on behalf of Phoenicia.
Phoenicia continued to grow, and President Chen-Thompson had continued his father's policy on expansion: He annexed only those places that were unclaimed or that asked to be annexed. In the early days, though, it had been a little easier. Sure, there had always been fighting with renegade bands of scavs or barbs that wanted to set up their own little kingdoms, but most of them had been afraid of the might of Phoenicia. Still were, truth be told, but with fewer and fewer pre-sickness things of any value to be found, the lure of Phoenicia's seemingly limitless food, fuel, and ammo supplies as well as her manufactured goods, including operational vehicles and the fuel to run them, was just too strong for fear to keep the scavs at bay for long.
These days, they were smarter, so Phoenicians who ventured in or near their territory had to be, too. Instead of sending scouts ahead in the old urban areas, the entire escort stayed with the trucks. What this tactic lost the convoy in forward intel, it gained them in not having the scouts captured and held hostage. So far, in all of the cases Jose knew about, that ploy had done the scavs no good. Following the example set by Gavin Thompson at the battle for the Citadel, Phoenicians did their damndest to rescue the hostages, but whether they were successful in the rescue or not, they made damn sure the scavs got nothing for their trouble but death. It was tough, attacking when your friends or comrades might get killed, but if Coyote Who Rides a Horse could do it with his wife's life at stake, it was incumbent on the rest of them to uphold the policy. In the long run, Jose guessed, it would mean fewer kidnappings. In the short run it meant fewer scavs, and occasionally, fewer Phoenicians, so they kept the scouts with the convoy in the danger zones.
As the convoy reached the middle of the bridge, they left Phoenicia held territory, and the cleared roadway behind. From this point forward, they would have to avoid roads congested with the rusting hulks of pre-sickness vehicles when possible. As in the case of the bridge now facing them, it was sometimes impossible to avoid the congestion. In those cases, they cleared their own path. The car mover at the front of the column systematically picked up the old piles of rust and stacked them to either side, clearing the way for the trucks that followed, and making it even more dangerous for barbs to hide among the hulks.
The car mover was an invention of the folks up in Sillyvale. It greatly eased the task of running convoys on the old freeways, especially when they expected to need the road more than once. If things went well with the new annex, they would soon have their own forge in operation and cleanup crews would begin collecting the old cars in this area to be melted down so the metal could be re-used.
Every muscle tense, every sense alert, Jose watched through the mesh that protected his vehicle's windshield from thrown objects as they approached the eastern end of the bridge. Once they got off the bridge and into Memphis proper, they left the freeway and hit the city streets. The car mover switched to its armored blade as it got to the relatively clear city streets again, pushing aside the few vehicles they encountered rather than taking time to lift them out of the way, and the convoy headed southeast.
They avoided the interstates until the ruined buildings began to thin out. They traversed almost due south on a wide thoroughfare with very few of the old cars on it. Finally, the old map that Jose carried told them it was time to turn east onto Winchester Road. They would cross the old Airport and hit Lamar Ave/US 78 just before it left Memphis and headed south into Mississippi. Scouting reports said that route was pretty open all the way to New Albany, with only a little congestion before they reached their destination near Tupelo. By avoiding the vicinity of the hospital they should be able to reach the new annex without too much trouble - if they made it out of Memphis.
They had smooth sailing along the wide expanse of Winchester Road and Jose began to think they might make it without a fight. Once they reached the airport, the terrain would be too open to allow for any good ambush spots. True, there was the tunnel under the old runway, but he didn't plan on taking them through that. They would simply cut across the runways and re-join the road on the other side.
"Hey, Jose," the driver of the car mover called over the radio. "We've got a problem. Looks like the little bridge over that creek just before the airport is out."
"Crap!" Jose cursed. "Okay, hold up while I check alternatives..."
His natural inclination was to head south toward East Raines, but as he studied the route, he realized that he would have to cross I-55 at least twice, and couldn't be sure that those overcrossings were stable. True, the one they had just crossed on Winchester had been okay, but ... If he went north on Winbrook, it was a much shorter jog to East Brooks, which would bring them out not far from their planned route across the airport.
"Turn North on Winbrook. That takes us through an industrial area, but there should be another crossing over that creek on East Brooks," He told the driver of the car mover.
"Which one's Winbrook?"
"Oh, sorry," Jose said, "last one to the left before the bridge."
"I see it. Here goes."
Jose didn't have to tell his people that a forced detour could mean an ambush. There were enough veterans on this trip, and they would tell the rookies.
When the bridge on East Brooks turned out to be down, also, the hair went up on the back of Jose's neck. What to do? They were pretty heavily armed, and to the best of his knowledge, the scavs in Memphis only had crossbows, but his knowledge was pretty sketchy. He was about to order the convoy to turn around, when the driver of the car mover came back on.
"Hey, I can see an intact bridge just to the north, there. Can we get to that?"
Jose studied the map and saw that a street called Directors Row led to another bridge over Days creek. That was probably the one the driver was seeing. He surveyed the surrounding area. It was fairly open - not great terrain for an effective ambush. He looked at his driver, a veteran of several years.
"What do you think?"
The driver looked around, checked that his M16 was ready and easy to get to, then spat out the window and said, "It's your call, Jose. Was me, I'd head back to Ar-kansas, but then I never wanted this job to start with. I reckon there's scavs down that road, but I reckon we can handle 'em. Always have before."
Jose nodded. He had never failed to get a convoy through, but he was pretty sure they were going to have a fight on their hands.
"Listen up everyone," he said into the mic. "We're probably being led into an ambush here, but the only other way across this creek is pretty far to the south, and we don't know much about the terrain that way. Everyone make sure your armor is secure and if you're not driving, try to get to a firing position. Car mover, you go first. If you make it through, we'll follow. Don't try to be heroes. If it gets too hot, hightail it out of there and we'll find another route."
The car mover drove slowly through the industrial area traversed by Directors Row, and appeared on the other side of the creek.
"Didn't see anything in there boss," the driver said, as he pulled up on the other side.
"Okay, people," Jose said as he motioned his driver forward, "let's go, but keep your eyes peeled."
The last truck in the convoy had just made the turn and was about half a block up Director's Row, when the bridge was blown.
"Reverse!" Jose shouted into his mike, too late.
A blast on the street side of its base toppled the four- or five-story building on the corner into the street behind them, effectively blocking their retreat.
"Out of the trucks!" Jose didn't have to hear the blast to his rear to know that they were boxed. "Fifties, covering fire! Everyone else take cover!"
He had no way of knowing, yet, just what they were up against, but from the look of the buildings on either side, this was going to get ugly. This had once been an industrial area with widely spaced, warehouse-type buildings lining both sides of the street. The gaps between those buildings suddenly filled with heavy wooden barricades, pushed from inside the warehouses by raggedly clad barbs. They were well and truly screwed.
The fifties were chewing the facades off the buildings, trying to keep the ambushers away from the windows and rooflines, but already three of his people were down with crossbow bolts sticking out of them.
"Kill the ones pushing the barricades!" Jose shouted. If they could leave some gaps in the defenses they might be able to ... Even as he thought it, he realized it was already too late.
He could have let them stay in the trucks, of course, and they would have had some protection, but experience had taught them that because of the limited fields of fire from inside the vehicles, they could not fight effectively if they stayed with the trucks. More than one convoy had been found stripped with the bodies of the people still inside the vehicles, looking like porcupines.
"Lander One Zero, get the fuck out of here!" Jose told the car mover. "See if you can make it to the new annex!"
"But sir... !" the driver of the car mover protested.
"You can't help us, One Zero!" Jose cut him off. "Just get your asses out of there! They're more interested in us, anyway!"
"Roger, Lander," the driver said reluctantly as he moved his vehicle off toward the airport.
Jose switched frequencies on his radio as he dashed into a recessed doorway. "Moonbase, this is Lander One, do you copy? Over."
"Roger Lander, Moonbase copies."
"Moonbase, Lander has been grounded. Situation critical," Jose panted, then loosed a three round burst at the head that appeared briefly in a window across the street. "Will execute procedure Delta Tango as soon as Lander personnel are clear."
"Copy that, Lander," the operator at Moonbase, over in what used to be Arkansas, did not sound happy. "You will execute Delta Tango. Good luck, Lander."
"We'll need it, Moonbase. Lander out." Jose switched back to the convoy's frequency. He didn't blame the Moonbase Operator. He wasn't too happy about the situation himself. Delta Tango was the new policy to come out of Phoenix, and it made sense. If the convoy was lost anyway, there was no point in letting the scavs have it. The policy would serve as a deterrent, and keep scavs from using Phoenicia's own technology against them. "By the numbers, fifties rig for Delta Tango and join up. On my mark, Lander One One - go!"
The machine gun on the lead truck went silent and ten seconds later, the gunner appeared, dashing back past Jose's position. "Lander One Two - go!"
The gunner from the next truck joined Jose in his dash toward the rear of the column. "Lander One Tharee - go!"
As he said 'go!' Jose keyed the first detonator and the truck he had ridden in blew, taking a couple of over-eager scavs with it. He continued leapfrogging toward the rear of the column, triggering the detonators for each truck as the one behind it cleared. He waited until his unit had cleared the pile of rubble that blocked off the rear of the column before detonating the last two trucks. Those were the fuel and ammo carriers. The blast of the fuel truck didn't ignite the bio-diesel but the secondary explosions from ammo that cooked off in the ammo truck did. The entire block behind them became an inferno, and Jose smiled grimly when he saw a couple of scavs, coated in burning bio-D, staggering through the flames, screaming
Jose had paused to make sure his job was done, and the rest of the unit was already half a block away when he turned to join them. He had not gone ten yards when something hit him and his lights went out.
When he awoke, Jose was strapped to a wooden chair, naked. The pounding in his head was not helped by the shrieks of someone in agony nearby. There was a painful sensation in his groin, and as his eyes focused, he saw two copper clamps with jagged teeth, green with corrosion, attached to his scrotum. That was going to be really bad news later, but for now, the screaming drew his attention
Jose almost puked when he saw what was causing the noise. Ten feet away, one of the women from his unit who had fallen to a crossbow was being sodomized by a scav who looked like he hadn't washed since the Sickness. Every once in a while the rapist would grab the crossbow dart that protruded from her upper torso and twist it in the wound, laughing as his victim screamed even louder.
"So, Mr. Firebird," an almost toothless face, as dirty as the other, was thrust in front of Jose and he gagged at the fetid stench that accompanied the words. "You joined the party fin'ly!"
"You don't know how much trouble you're in, whoever you are," Jose blustered. "Phoenicia will hunt you and your people down and execute every one of you! You do not fuck with Phoenician convoys!"
"Wall," Toothless grinned, "fust, they gotta ketch us! Meanwhile, I don't think little miss tight ass over thar's gonna last a whole lot longer, so I better go git me some 'fore she croaks! Bubba'll be along ta see to you by 'n by!"
The first rapist gave the crossbow bolt a final vicious twist as he finished his business, and suddenly his victim was silent. Jose hoped fervently that she was dead, and that her suffering was ended. He had only met her yesterday when the convoy formed up, but she was under his command and it tore his guts out to know that he had let her down so badly. He hoped the fact that none of the rest of the unit was in the room meant that they had made good their retreat.
Toothless picked up a bucket of dirty water and splashed some of it in the woman's face. When there was no response, he bent to listen for breath sounds and touched his fingers to the side of her neck.
"God damnit, Cletus!" Toothless exclaimed. "You done kilt her 'fore I got my turn!"
"Hell," Cletus said, wiping himself with a dirty rag, "she warn't no fun nohow, what with bein' half dead an' all."
"Well, what the hell 'm I s'posed to do? Go around with the blueballs all day?"
"Hell, ya got another one right yonder," Cletus nodded in Jose's direction. "Have at it!"
"Now you know Bubba wants to talk to that'n! He'll have my hide if I..."
"Shit, Jack," Cletus laughed, "you really think yours is big enough to do that much damage? If anything you'll just soften him up a little for Bubba!"
Jose, listening, knew what was coming, and tried desperately to prepare himself despite the twisting in his gut. He knew that Toothless Jack wouldn't be able to fulfill his purpose if he left Jose tied to the chair, and the Phoenician waited for him to loosen the ropes that held him down.
As soon as one hand was free, Jose grabbed for the makeshift knife in the other's belt. Before he could jerk the knife loose, he was doubled over in agony, writhing with the pain in his gonads. Through the haze of his agony, he saw Cletus, grinning, with his hand on a switch.
"Now you just quiet down and take what's comin' to you," Cletus said as the pain finally subsided, "or I'll leave that juice on 'til Bubba gits here."
As he was being led to the table, Jose tried once more. His foot lashed out and caught Toothless Jack between the legs, but his lunge toward Cletus was a tenth of a second too slow. His punch caught his other captor in the throat just as the switch attached to the wires that were still connected to Jose's most sensitive area closed.
Thrashing on the floor in agony, Jose desperately tried to tear the clamps loose, but every time he touched them, the muscles in his arm spasmed so badly that he couldn't control it well enough to get the clamps loose. In desperation, he lunged for the wall and managed to knock the plug free of the outlet. Gasping in blessed relief, and cursing Phoenicia for having turned the power grid back on in this area, he reached for the clamps, only to find himself staring at the front sight of his M16 as it was thrust under his nose.
"You jest leave them clips where they are, Sunny Jim," a new voice said calmly. "That's a good boy. Now git yore ass over to that table. I don't know if Jack's gonna be able to finish what he started, but me an' the other boys got a few questions fer ya, and we're gonna have us some fun while we ask 'em!"
"We gonna do 'im, Bubba?" one of those who had come in with the big man holding Jose's weapon asked.
"'Bout's well," Bubba shrugged, "them cunts back on the island ain't no fun no more. This'ns fresh as a daisy."
Jose struggled as they bound him face down over the table, next to the body of the dead woman, but it was no use. For two hours, he endured the rape, the taunts, and the torture, but in the end, he told them everything they wanted to know, just to bring an end to his suffering.
"Moonbase, this is Retriever. Over."
"Go ahead Retriever," the Moonbase operator answered.
"We've got signs of recent activity in one of the buildings about a block from the ambush site, over."
"Roger, Retriever," there was a pause on the other end, then a different voice came on. "Retriever, this is Moonbase One. Enter with extreme caution. We know they've got at least two of the convoy's weapons. Over."
"Copy that, Moonbase," Sophie said into the throat mic. "Entering with extreme caution. Retriever out."
It was a textbook building sweep, bottom to top, room by room, closet by closet. Any locked door was kicked in or pried open. The only regret Sophie had was that they couldn't toss grenades ahead of them as they entered each room. They found Jose and the woman from his unit in a room on the third floor.
Sophie felt the heat rising in her blood as she surveyed the scene, and vowed that she would find the scavs responsible and administer her father's brand of justice. She fumbled for her mic button.
"Moonbase, this is Retriever, do you copy?"
"Roger, Retriever. We read you five-by-five."
Sophie had no idea what that holdover from pre-Sickness days meant, but she gathered that they heard and understood.
"Moonbase we have two, I repeat, two bodies," She reported, marveling at the emotionless dryness of her voice. "You'd better brace for impact, Moonbase."
"Copy that retriever," the voice on the other end sounded suddenly fatigued. "We read that subjects have been tortured and killed."
That was the thing. If you were a scav, you didn't put a bullet in the head of the person you were interrogating unless you had everything you expected to get from them.
"Linda, post lookouts," Sophie said to her First Lieutenant. "Sarge, you and your trackers see what you can do about finding out where these people came from."
The sergeant cast a baleful glare in her direction. "People, L.T.?"
"I use the term loosely, Kyle," She gave him a tight-lipped grin. "Just find 'em and we'll determine from their entrails what species they are."
While first squad kept watch, second squad put to use all of the hunting and tracking skills that, as Phoenicians, they had learned since birth. Sophie had hand-picked them, as she had everyone in her unit, because she knew they were the best at what they did. Then she had trained them as a unit until they worked together seamlessly. This team was the best that Phoenicia had to offer by design - Sophie's design. She had grown up with Linda Ramirez and Kyle Nguyen, and knew their capabilities better than anyone. Around that core, she had build the best Search and Recovery team in Phoenicia. In their case, however, some had begun to joke that the S&R meant 'Sentence and Retribution'.
Sophie was aware of the jokes, but did not see any reason to change her tactics. Things were different now than when her father had run Phoenicia. Back then, the scavs and barbs could still find enough stuff to get by on, and if they couldn't, they took it from each other, so it only took a few ass-kickings by Phoenicia to make them leave the new nation alone.
Now, however, pickings were getting slim in the pre-sickness ruins, and the scavs and barbs were joining together into larger and larger bands. They guarded their territory jealously, and gazed longingly at the relative plenty enjoyed by Phoenicians. They taxed those within their territory who tried to live more civilized lives, taking food and goods that they made for themselves, and didn't like it when those groups chose annexation by Phoenicia over paying tribute to the barbarians.
As a result, while they still feared the might of Phoenicia, they took every opportunity to hijack her convoys or raid her enclaves. As she had just seen, they didn't mind raping and torturing Phoenicians, men or women, to get information as to the whereabouts of more Phoenician supplies, operating procedures, convoy schedules - anything that they thought would help them against their nemesis.
No longer was it feasible to issue warnings and kick the offenders out of Phoenician territory. They simply came back more determined than ever. Oh, Sophie always followed the protocols, but more and more, she was running into scavs and barbs that had already been given a second chance. She wasn't going to give them a third.
Not only was Sophie's team - one of the few full time military units in operation - the best at what they did, but they used the right tools for the job. In this case, the right tools were two teams of dogs. The first team was the tracking team. Their sensitive noses could follow a days-old trail at a run. The second team was the combat team. While their noses weren't as sensitive as those of their partners, they could detect an ambush long before the ambushers knew the team was coming, and in a fight, could flank an enemy that had the rest of the team pinned down. Those two were direct descendents of the dogs her dad had taken with him to the Citadel - the ones he had taken from those who kidnapped a couple of the women with him, after killing the kidnappers.
Dogs could be fooled, however, and the trackers on her team could find signs of human passage even where no scent could be found. As the dogs and the trackers made their way north, the rest of the team kept their eyes peeled for trouble.
Three hours later, just north of the I-55 bridge, near the banks of the river, the scent dogs began to show their excitement - their prey was getting close. These dogs had been trained not to make noise, but their body language was easy enough for the handlers to read. A few minutes later, the other pair alerted, eyes, ears, and noses all pointing in one direction.
With a quick series of hand signals, Sophie deployed her team. The scent dogs and their handler took cover in an abandoned building with good fields of fire. The rest melted into the surrounding ruins like ghosts. Trained hunters, almost since birth, they knew how to make their way through almost any terrain without making a sound.
Sophie and two members of first squad faded into an alley, half a block from the street they had been traveling. The alley paralleled their previous route, and ended a block and a half later. They came to a cross street and had to jog over another half block to continue their forward progress. They followed the street for a block. It ended at another cross street, on the other side of which ran a railroad track, red with rust. on the other side of the steel rails was another, broader street, then a stretch of cracked pavement through which weeds and bushes were growing that ran right down to the muddy waters of the river. Rather than expose herself on the street, Sophie posted the two with her to keep a lookout and entered the building to her right through a doorway whose door hung from one rusty hinge.
She found a stairwell and climbed the steel stairs as quietly as possible to the top floor. As she came out of the stairwell her nostrils were assaulted by a foul odor of something burning. Quietly, she slung her assault rifle - one of the Sillyvale models built on the same design principles as the Metal Storms that had protected the Citadel. Her knife slid silently from its leather sheath as she studied the litter on the floor between her and the scav lookout who, every few seconds would draw smoke into his lungs from what looked like a small bundle of burning corn husks.
With her path chosen and foot placements memorized, Sophie glided swiftly and silently across the intervening distance. Her hand went over his mouth as the guard was starting to exhale, and he reacted like a startled wild animal, but it was too late. Sophie jerked him backward, off-balance, and her blade sliced cleanly through the dirty shirt as it pierced his side, just below the rib-cage, and lodged briefly in his kidneys. The shock of that penetration kept him in place long enough for Sophie to draw the razor edge of the blade swiftly across his throat, severing both carotid arteries and opening his windpipe like a second mouth. He could not have screamed if he wanted to, and as the blood pumped from his body, he quickly lost the ambition to do even that. Whatever he had been smoking fell from his fingers as his hands went to his throat, as if, somehow, they could staunch the bleeding and give him back his voice. He turned and took two halting steps in Sophie's direction as she backed swiftly away. She didn't fear the man, since he was already dead and just didn't know it yet. She just didn't want to spend the rest of the day sticky with his drying blood.
With a stricken look in his eyes, the scav fell face down into the litter of his guardpost, and added the rest of his blood to the mess. Sophie stepped around the spreading pool, staying in the shadows as she surveyed the scene five floors below. To her disgust, her hand was trembling so badly that she couldn't hold the binoculars steady. She took out the mouse-nibbled map that she had found in a trashed gas station, and soon located her position - on the east side of the Wolf River Lagoon. To the north, she could see the old monorail that crossed the lagoon. Further north, on the other side of the crumbling ramp from the I-40 bridge, she could see the streaked sides of the giant stainless steel pyramid that was labeled as 'Pyramid Arena' on her map. Those were interesting features, but her attention was on the encampment from which smoke rose in several places, across the lagoon on the spit of land labeled 'Mud Island'.
She had to hand it to the scavs. If you were going to make an urban area your territory, having your camp at the tip of a peninsula wasn't a bad way to enhance your security. With the adrenalin finally settling in her system, Sophie once again scanned the area, this time with the binoculars. As she swept them over the stranded monorail car suspended over the lagoon, she thought she saw movement and swept back.
There! The scavs had at least one lookout on that car. Given the one she had killed and the one in that car, who, as she watched, shifted the weight of an M16 from hand to hand, they were either expecting pursuit, or were a very canny lot. Okay, she had her work cut out for her.
"Recovery One to Recovery, rendezvous at separation point, over."
All she got in return was a series of clicks as the team responded by briefly keying their mics. She counted clicks and was relieved when she got the same number as the members of her team.
Back on the street, she collected the other two from her three man team and headed back, staying on the side street until they had reached the cross street where the unit had separated. She assumed she would have heard shooting from the man left with the scent dogs if anything had gone awry, but acting on such assumptions could get one killed, so she and her team exercised even more caution as they approached the rendezvous point and entered the building where the scent dogs and their handler had taken refuge.
She smiled to see the barrel of the handler's assault weapon trained steadily on her. "Lovely day out, isn't it?" She said. "Not a cloud in the sky!"
With the passphrase properly delivered, the dog handler relaxed and lowered his weapon.
"Good to see you, L. T.," he grinned, "I was getting a little lonely here with nobody to talk to but these mangy mutts!"
His floppy-eared charges turned mournful eyes in his direction as if to say, "Aw, what do you want to go and insult us for?"
He reached down and scratched them each behind the ears and spoke soothingly to them. "Hey, just kidding guys!"
With the rest of the team assembled, Sophie went over her plan, using the old map to plot the movements of her people.
"Okay, looks like the ambushers used a boat to get across the lagoon. They've got at least one guy with an M16 in that thing that's suspended over the lagoon that looks like an upside down railroad car. Unless I miss my guess, they'll have lookouts on the I-40 bridge, as well. Linda - take two guys and find them. Kyle you and one of your team take the monorail. Lisa and Roger, you're our best swimmers, so you're with me. We'll swim over and come up from the southern tip of the peninsula. The rest of you, swing east and double-time it to the North so you can come down the peninsula from that direction. Take the map. You'll need it more than the rest of us. It'll take you at least an hour to get into position, so the rest of us will hold until you're ready to begin your assault. They're bound to have lookouts here, where the old houses end, but if I were you, I'd filter through the housing area instead of coming straight down the road. Let us know when you get here. On your signal, Linda and Kyle will kill their lookouts, and my team will start our attack. You come down from the north and give 'em holy hell. Keep about three of your weapons on full auto. I know it's a waste of ammo, but it'll scare the living crap out of 'em if they haven't seen these weapons in action before. Any questions?"
"Are we taking any prisoners?" Linda asked.
"Only if they throw down their weapons and surrender," Sophie answered. "Even then, keep a close watch on 'em. Also, anyone who was in that room where we found the bodies is dead meat."
There were nods all around, as if it was what they had expected to hear. This was Standard Operating Procedure for Sophie's unit.
"All right, it'll be dark by the time we're in position, but when we turned the grid back on for own new annex, it came on here too. The scavs may have lights, but you know how to handle that."
She turned to the handler for the scent dogs. "You go north with the others, but stay out of the firefight unless you're needed. I'll want your dogs' help identifying the people who were in that building with Jose and the girl."