The Blackhawk landed, it didn’t hover. There were two pilots in the cockpit and four black-clad, heavily-armed operatives in the rear compartment. The chopper landed facing the house, as Baxter predicted, and the four soldiers deployed, two at a time. Two dropped to one knee, the others ran forward, took up a new position, dropped to one knee, and the first soldiers advanced again. As they did that, Lindsay Barnes, nee Falconer, lined up her first shot.
It hit directly in front of the pilot on her right, but the canopy denied the bullet, and a spark flashed in the rotors from the ricochet. The pilot’s hands flew up in panic, but that was all. As she adjusted her shot, she saw him talking into his mic, and she knew she’d draw fire any moment. The second rifle shot hit the base of the rotor the chopper made an angry noise in response.
“No one leaves,” she murmured, and dove for cover.
Gunfire rattled and whined against the siding of the house, mostly focused on the top windows. On that signal, Baxter rose up in the living room and concentrated his fire on one soldier. There was no good shot to get through the armor, but that wasn’t the point. Three shots mid-mass put him on his ass and the others dropped. An instant later, there was a mist of pink around the fallen soldier and Baxter heard the report of the rifle from above him.
Behind the fight, the chopper tried to lift off, and a haze of oil spilled into the rotors, causing an abstract, messy swirl. Baxter dropped for cover as the soldiers recovered, taking cover behind the Jeep, returning fire with their MP5s.
Baxter pulled the end off a flare he’d found in the trunk of her car. It burst into blinding life, and the threw it out the window.
He thought he heard a screamed command, and two of the soldiers dove away from the vehicle, up and running as the fire from the flare ignited a puddle of gas, which streamed up the side of the Jeep. Baxter dove down again, hands over his ears, mouth open to keep his ear drums from bursting.
The gas tank was pretty empty by this point, but it did the trick. The gas tank combusted with a whump and the Jeep rolled over on its side, away from the house. The soldier who wasn’t as fast had his leg pinned beneath the Jeep, and his teammates, mercenaries apparently based on their reactions, were content to let him burn and scream instead of pull him free.
Barnes popped up and covered the copper for a moment, unable to find the soldiers through the flame and smoke. The helicopter had rotated about 30 degrees, enough to maybe wing the pilot, but both of them were spilling out the door on the far side, using the chopper as cover.
There was a swirl of smoke as a downdraft swept it away from the smoking Jeep in the yard. What little gas remained was burning off. Another Blackhawk swept overhead, and she felt the vibrations more than she heard it through her ringing ears. She saw ropes drop from it.
The two soldiers on the ground fired blindly at the house to cover for their compatriots, but Barnes was confident she tagged one of the soldiers waiting to rope down to the ground before she retreated to cover again.
At more or less the same moment, they both wished that they had headsets to talk to each other. There was no way to form a plan together now, it was all improv, and Baxter feared for Barnes’ keeping up, and Barnes just accepted they were dead.
They had never considered this possibility, they’d been too focused on the fight they knew was coming to imagine a bigger one. And of course, they’d believed Smith, goddammit, of course they had, and of course he’d lied.
Three or four more soldiers were on the ground now for a total of...six, there were six. Only six, she specified. That was all. No big deal.
She heard the bark of the Glock from below her and stood up, matching his shots with her Sig. She saw a soldier coming around the Jeep on the left side, so close he must have been roasting, and he slapped a hand to his thigh and fell over. As he hit the ground, it erupted up beneath him, and suddenly there was blood and he was on fire.
Neither of them saw the soldier who came around the right side of the Jeep step in the bear trap, but even through their partly-deaf ears, they heard his scream when it closed over his ankle. Two more down, almost as quick as thought, and just like that, the odds were back to the original equation. The two of them, four enemy combatants. But maybe only half the ammo now. She wanted one of those MP5s.
The gunfire fell off as the soldiers regrouped. They were in the shelter of the Jeep, covered by the smoke, coming up with something. And as soon as they had time to think, as soon as they had a plan, the home team advantage would evaporate.
She ran down the stairs, bringing the rifle and the spare Glock with her.
“Take it!” Glocks have no safeties, so she didn’t throw it, simply slapped the second gun into his hand. The rifle stayed over her shoulder. “Reload and cover me!” she yelled, and although his face registered surprise, Baxter, old and unfit as he was, didn’t hesitate. He slapped a new magazine into one gun, checked the load in the new one, and followed her out onto the front porch.