Outside, Wes and the others were unaware of the problems inside the building. They had problems of their own.
“Where are the markings?” asked Wes as the whole group stopped and hid behind a towering round fuel tank. “Something must have happened to Ganglee.”
Quin Ganglee was their man on the inside, and he was supposed to have left the phosphorescent markings. But they weren’t there. They had searched and searched, but to no avail. There simply were no markings, and they now found themselves deeper within the bewildering maze of tangled, curving pipes and giant storage tanks than they had planned. They were losing their bearings, and their ten minutes were almost up.
“What now?” asked Jat.
“We do the only thing we can do,” said Wes. “We guess. We plant the explosives on anything that looks important and as many as we can get to. Hopefully, they’ll still be within range.”
The group split up and went out in all directions, emptying their backpacks of explosives as quickly as they could. But Wes had no idea that Gell’s group had stepped into a trap, much less that he was about to do the same. In a clearing about fifty yards ahead of their position waited a large contingent of Naborn soldiers, and as the rebels ran from tank to tank, the closer they came to their unexpected surprise.
Wes and Teagan worked together, each mounting an explosive on the lower portion of a storage tank. They activated the audient triggers and then moved on to a nearby pumping conduit. Wes quickly attached another device, while Teagan looked out ahead of them in search of the others. Lann and Git were off to her left. Boz and Dayne were to her right. And about twenty yards ahead, she saw Jat. But while everyone else went about their work cautiously and carefully, Jat sprinted from target to target. He seemed to be looking for trouble, and sure enough, as he came around the curved wall of yet another fuel tank, he stepped right into the set trap of the Naborn.
“NABS!” he yelled over his mic to warn the others while running for safety back around the tank in the opposite direction just as a red laser burst struck the ground at his feet.
Wes flinched at the loud scream in his ear. Knowing his brother’s voice, his mind blocked out the warning, and while the others he could see ran for cover, Wes moved further out into the open. “Jat, where are you? What’s wrong?”
Before he could get an answer, Teagan grabbed him and pulled him back to safety behind the pumping conduit just as several laser blasts smacked all around them. Looking up from behind the pipes, he finally found Jat; he was pinned up against the wall of the fuel tank, his head twisting back and forth in both directions, not knowing from which side the Naborn would strike.
They came from both sides. Jat fired two bursts at the one coming from his right, ripping through the soldier’s stomach and knocking him hard to the ground. He turned on his feet and shot four more times at the next attacker, missing with the first, then hitting him in the knee, shoulder and face. Acting not at all like a young boy, Jat used his head and ran across the way from the tank to a metal ladder leading to a catwalk above a long distance of straight pipe and took up a sniper’s position.
Watching from behind the heavy metal pipes, the scene unfolding before Wes and Teagan was surreal. They could see some members of their team, but few of the enemy. They saw red and blue laser bursts streak around and between the tanks and pipes in all directions, often times hitting metal and sending sheets of orange sparks cascading down to the ground and glimmering in puddles of water. They saw a Naborn go down from a shot from -- somewhere -- and he slid on his back across the concrete, writhing in pain. They saw Boz Golan charge down a tight space between two tanks, and just as he left their sight a dozen or so red bursts reflected off the metal walls. They could see it all. Guns shooting, mouths screaming, sparks flying. Absolute chaos. But they heard nothing, not a sound except for the occasional panicked scream or call for help as the others passed in and out of communication range. Not hearing it made Wes feel as if he weren’t even a part of it, so he removed the plug from his left ear and without thinking dropped it. Instantly, the sound of laser bursts all around the facility poured through his now open ear like a thundering waterfall and flooded his brain.
At that very moment, two soldiers rushed Wes’s position, firing blast after blast off the machine he and Teagan hid behind, each burst making a loud, whining thump as they hit. Wes had never killed a man before and always assumed that when the time came, much thought would be involved. He was wrong. There was no time to think. He just instinctively rolled to his right between bursts and got off two perfectly placed shots, hitting one of the soldiers in the chest and the other in the neck. Their bodies continued their forward momentum a few steps more before collapsing to the ground. Wes’s stomach turned and groaned as he looked at what he had done. Face down, the still bodies bled out onto the pavement. His hands began to shake. But war allows little time for contemplation, and he was forced to clear his mind and dive back behind the pipes as more shots came their way.
“Jat? Jat, come in,” he asked, holding a hand to his open ear and looking into Teagan’s eyes. “Jat, do you hear me?”
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