WE HAVE RIFT
Roland fired the M-240 from the hip—not approved procedure for accuracy, but he was a former Special Forces weapons man with three combat tours, and every 7.62-millimeter round went directly at the seventeen-inch screen of the laptop. The golden iris emanating from the screen sucked the bullets in like a raging ocean absorbing rain, without the slightest ripple or effect.
The laptop rested on a boulder at the foot of a mesa fourteen miles outside of Tucson. A generator was stuttering nearby, providing power to the laptop and having supplied energy for the initial opening of the phenomenon protecting the computer. Roland was still in his jump harness, having just completed a high-altitude, low-opening parachute drop through the night sky.
“Confirming a Rift,” Roland yelled into his throat mike. “Six Fireflies are out.”
Moms’s unflappable voice replied in his earpiece. “Roger. Inbound.”
Roland released the trigger after wasting a second fifteen-round burst, knowing bullets were now useless against the Rift. His head was on a swivel. He’d spotted six golden sparks come out of the screen just before his feet hit the ground, and who knew what they’d gotten into? The Rift was Doc’s problem now. The Fireflies were the real danger.
The Snake came roaring in, wings rotating from horizontal to vertical, jet engines pulsing, almost eerily silent as the thrust passed through sound dampeners. Doors slid open on both sides of the delta-shaped aircraft and fast ropes were tossed out. Four figures slid down. The fast ropes were released and the Snake rose to over-watch height. A door slid open at the nose of the Snake and the chain gun extended into firing position.
Racing from the discarded ropes, Moms—the team leader—led the way, her MP-5 submachine gun at the ready. Nada was on her right with his sub, along with Burns armed with an M-203, and Doc brought up the rear, carrying a military-hardened laptop of his own along with a small dish transmitter.
“Eagle,” Moms ordered the pilot, “get a Wall in.”
The Snake banked and raced in a clockwise circle, five hundred meters around the Rift, firing down probes every three hundred meters of the circumference. When the last one was in, they were activated, forming a Wall around the area of operations, and the Snake returned to over-watch.
Out of the corner of his eye, Roland caught movement as he shrugged off his parachute harness. He wheeled as a coyote launched at him from twenty meters away. An unnatural leap for a coyote and plenty of distance for Roland to stitch it with a solid burst. But close enough that the rounds weren’t enough to stop a creature taken over by a Firefly. The bullets barely slowed the coyote’s flight.
It landed on Roland, teeth snapping, claws ripping at his body armor.
Moms and Nada fired at the coyote on top of him, making the Delta Force live-fire training for hostage rescue in the Kill House at Bragg look like child’s play. Every round hit the beast, not a one scratching Roland.
The combined force of the fusillade knocked the coyote off Roland and he rolled in the opposite direction, bracing for what he knew would be next.
“H.E.,” Burns warned as he fired the forty-millimeter grenade launcher underneath the rifle barrel of his M-203. The high explosive round hit the coyote center of mass, blowing a huge chunk out of the creature’s chest and stunning it for the moment. It had been dead since Roland’s initial burst, but the Firefly still had enough to work with.
“Doc, forward!” Moms ordered. “Nada, cover him. Burns, finish it. Eagle, we got one in a coyote, scan for anything living.”
Doc—a short, balding man with thick glasses—was completely out of place among the military personnel blasting away with weapons all around him. And yet he ran toward the growing golden iris in front of the offending laptop. He dropped to his knees and opened up his own computer. He scrambled to connect a FireWire cable to the dish.
Roland ignored Doc, firing his M-240 at the coyote, but despite the damage, the remains of the coyote came toward Roland.
Burns fired again and this round blew the remnants to shreds. Roland slid the machine gun on its sling over his shoulder and grabbed the pistol grip attached to the tank of napalm on his back, pulling it out of its asbestos sheath. He flamed the remains, charring it to ashes.
A golden spark of light, four inches in circumference, lifted from the corpse, then disappeared into a wisp and then nothing.
“How many?” Moms was at Roland’s side as he slid the flamer back into its holster and readied the machine gun once more.
“Six. One down.”
“You certain?” Moms asked as the two went back-to-back to gain 360-degree coverage. Nada was hovering over Doc, head turning to and fro.
A new voice came over the team’s net. “Got two hot to your west, moving in tight to each other toward you,” Eagle reported from the Snake, hovering a hundred feet overhead. “Targeting. Looks like more coyotes. I’ve got a Wall surrounding you at five hundred meters.”
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