Cayo Elina 52
‘Hector has changed.’ Gus realized, ‘He’s stronger, he has more force of character, but he still defers to me.’ With a shrug Gus dipped into the future slightly to see the best course of action.
“What?” Hector asked, but the shorter man ignored him. “Hey, Gus, what?” He asked again shaking Gus’s shoulder.
“Hmm?” Gus asked, coming back.
“Nothing. Have them start from there and tell them to get the hell out of here after they make their distraction.” Gus said. The plan was simple; the grocery store where the rounded up civilians were being kept was guarded by around thirty men. These men were alert and behind sandbags and cover, some were on the roof of the long, low building, others were at each exit. Gus and Hector were watching the building from behind, huddled in another old, looted store with two others. At Gus’s word Hector clicked a battered hand held radio and said two words into it; ‘Start. Scatter.’
The prearranged words could have taken any form, but they let his crew know to fire on the guards in the front of the store, then run for their lives. Gus already saw that neither the skinny fourteen year old girl, nor her fifteen year old lover would live through the coming engagement, but they would do the job they volunteered for. In a low whisper he said, “The girl gets hit first.” A fusillade of sound came from the front of the store, quickly followed by return fire and a high pitched screaming that didn’t stop. “The boy goes all Rambo on their ass. Not half bad, either.” More gunfire and the girl’s screaming turned to grief as she watched her boyfriend cut down standing over her.
“You knew?” Hector whispered back.
Gus only nodded, “The screaming will draw some of them out the second attack will wound three Cubans, kill another, then the Cubans go out in force to recover their wounded. That’s when we take the back door. Be ready to shoot the guy on the roof, and for God’s sake Hector, aim high!”
Moment later another barrage of gunfire sounded from the other side of the building and someone in charge was yelling at the men to form up and to recover the wounded. He yelled for the guys on the roof to provide cover fire and Gus nodded to himself. “There, that’s what we needed.” The two men at the back of the store were suddenly alone and very scared looking in Hector’s eyes.
“They’re just kids too.” He said to Gus.
“I’ve got them. You worry about the guy on the roof.”
“Gus, there isn’t anyone on the roof.”
“There will be.” He turned to the two other people with them, one was a young man, the other an old woman, former army, veteran of the first Iraq war back when overwhelming force opened up her convoy to ambush, because that’s the only things the Iraqi’s could strike. She had fired her weapon in anger, or so she claimed.
“Flores, you don’t fire, not at all, you pick up the weapon from the guy on the left.” The other guy, Kurt, stared at Gus, waiting for instruction, “Reid you get the weapon from the guy on the right and so help me if you fire that shit gun you’ve been cradling in your pocket I will be forced to throw you in the canal. Don’t. Do. It. Not until we are inside, okay?”
The man nodded and Gus thought he might even mean it, but these things were so hard to predict. “Okay, we go…Now!” Gus exploded out of the building running straight for the two men behind the barricade, one of whom was lighting the other one’s cigarette.
‘Where the hell do they get cigarettes from in a zombie apocalypse?’Gus thought, he knew the Cubans had them though; they had seen many of them smoking and the smell was bringing up cravings Gus thought he had long since overcome. One of the men shouted in alarm as Gus closed the distance between them, trying to bring up his rifle. Vaulting the sandbags, Gus was among them, stabbing and slicing them to ribbons in seconds. Neither let out a cry for help and a single shot went off as Hector fired at a soldier that seemed to appear by magic on the back corner of the roof. The man fell onto the hood of a junked car and slid down between it and the building. Flores grabbed the proper rifle, but Reid stopped as he looked at his, it was coated with blood and the spurting hadn’t yet stopped from the young man on the left.
“Give him a second, then wipe it down with his shirt. If you put on their helmets the guys inside might think you’re soldiers. Worth a shot.” Gus said by way of advice.
Reid had apparently been a smoker too as he plucked the still burning cigarette from the dead man’s lips and took a drag. “Better than sex.” He offered it around, but Gus declined, noting the blood splatter on the lower end, neither Hector nor Flores took him up on a drag either. Digging into the dead man’s shirt Kurt came up with almost a full pack of cigarettes. “I’m rich!” He proclaimed, stashing them in his pants pocket. Flores, not to be outdone, took the other man’s matches.
“Fuck.” Hector said, watching them loot the bodies. “Just leave that stuff, we need to be moving.”
“He’s right. Reid you’re first, move on through the store room, the doors separating them from the main store are missing. When you get there, shoot at the front window, there will be other targets, but just do as I say. Flores, you got the perimeter guards, three left, three right, don’t miss. Hector, my man, you stick close to me, we’ll be rushing to the front door. Reid, I’d really appreciate it, if you wouldn’t shoot me in or Hector in the back. Once the people inside are down tell them they can run out the back and try to get away or stay put, their choice. Warn them about the guards on the roof. That will keep most of them in the building. When we get through the front windows, we’ll have the sand bags to hide behind, but only for a minute until the guys on the roof figure out what’s going on. After that, we’ll play it by ear, but look for a roof access somewhere inside, we know these guys have a few grenades and I’d hate for one to be tossed down into all those civilians. Got it?”
“Run in, windows, watch for grenades. And don’t shoot you in the back.” Kurt repeated.
“Perimeter guards, then rush to the sandbags, shoot a few seconds and fall back.”
“Follow you.” Hector said, nodding. “Easy enough.”
Gus only laughed. “Alright, let’s go!”
The plan worked like a charm. Reid burst into the building and let out a long stream of inaccurate fire that still managed to hit several of the soldiers at the front in the back. Flores took down the cringing guards in less than five seconds and Gus and Hector made it to the front of the store and into the disorganized soldiers before they even realized where the bullets were coming from. Hector watched as Gus leaped to the top of the sand bags out in front and then onto the sign at the front of the grocery store, ‘Marcos Mercado’, which he climbed like a monkey up onto the roof.
“Mother fucker.” Hector swore. No fire was directed at him from up top and Flores reeled backwards as a bullet caught her in the shoulder from one of the troops out ‘rescuing’ the wounded men in the street. Hector turned and started firing; he was joined in a moment by Reid as Flores pulled herself back into the store through the window. She was helped through by some of the former hostages and many more of the twenty or so people scooped up the guns of their former captives to add to the firepower coming from the building.
“Where’d the little guy go?” Reid asked.
Hector only pointed up and the other man nodded, ducking down below the sand bags to reload.
“Hey! Look at this!” Reid came up with a grenade from one of the soldier’s belts.
“Well throw it!” Hector yelled, as the gunfire coming towards him intensified.
Without looking Reid pulled the pin and tossed the grenade in an overhead arch that carried it beyond their sight out into the street. The resulting explosion caused the firing to die down for a minute and both men popped back up to shoot at anything that moved. There were still a lot of Cubans moving, they were scattering into the surrounding buildings and taking cover behind old cars and other rubbish. All too soon Hector and Reid were pinned down, unable to take a shot without fear of getting hit themselves.
A grenade bounced off of Reid’s helmet and into Hector’s lap.
“Fuck!” Hector yelled throwing it back over the barricade. It exploded pretty quickly, barely after clearing their protection and they heard orders in Spanish for the men to prepare three grenades.
“What do we do?” Reid asked.
“Retreat, we can’t stay here.” They bolted back into the store, taking a kid who had picked up one of the guns with them as he stood and watched the grenades fly over the sand bags.
“Get down!” Reid yelled, pulling the kid to the floor with him just before the grenades went off.
Underneath him Gus felt the building buckle, he saw the roof bow up near the front of the store, but there was nothing he could do for those down below. Ahead of him he saw where the bullets were going to be and did his best to avoid being in those spots when they arrived. Two of the men on the south side of the building were following a ‘spray and pray’ tactic of firing and Gus was having a harder time avoiding their random sprays of gunfire than the bullets from those who were aiming directly at him. The three soldiers at the front of the store were already down, one was surely dead, his head cut almost off, the other two were down and wouldn’t be getting back up, but Gus didn’t waste time checking their futures to see if they ended now or later. There were still five men on the roof, the three to the north seemed to be led by a minor officer, Gus guessed she was non-commissioned, she seemed to have too much sense to be anything else. Upon seeing her men fire ineffectively she yelled out for the guys on the south side to keep Gus busy with automatic fire while she and her men prepped grenades.
‘When the hell did these guys all get hand grenades?’The troops on the shore hadn’t had nearly as good of equipment, they were lucky to have anything other than knock off AKs that could handle semi-automatic fire. He turned and ran for the non-com.
She instructed the men to drop their rifles, pull the pins from their grenades and engage Gus in hand to hand. She did the same thing, throwing herself at Gus and dropping the grenade at his feet as she reached for him.
“Viva la revolucion!” she yelled tackling him to the ground.
Gus let her, it was the best thing he could do. The other two me jumped on him as well, one pressing the grenade to Gus’s head. ‘Now that won’t do!’ He thought, breaking the man’s fingers as he knocked the hand grenade towards the two men near the south end of the building. All three of the grenades went off at the same time, Gus felt a sharp stab of pain in his left leg as he took a shard of shrapnel. The people on top of him went slack, one man started to scream and Gus felt a warm, wetness trickle down through the bodies onto him.
‘Not a scene from any war flick I ever saw. Pissed on by a wounded man.’Of the options he had, this one wasn’t that bad. Casting a quick look across the roof he saw only one of the soldiers there, he was down, clutching his stomach and slowly kicking his legs. Gus saw he would die of infecting in one of many…many…dead on the roof, carried down by comrades who liberated the store, lowered down the inside ladder by Gus in a fervent attempt to save his life. Living with a Miami woman Gus introduced him to, Raising two kids and talking to a super zombie neighbor, while bartering with Gus for a push lawn mower to replace his machete… ‘Whoa! Gotta watch that, don’t go too deep! I can’t afford a fifteen minute break in the middle of combat without someone to watch my back.’ He pulled himself back from the brink of viewing the man’s future content that the guy wouldn’t be causing him any problems in the short term.
Gus rolled the bodies off of him; none of them were dead, but all of them were heavily wounded. The woman was recovering the fastest and rolled away from him as he pushed. She was up on her hands and knees, then used one hand to unstrap her helmet and push it off of her head, a bloody gash was pouring blood into her eyes and she tried to staunch it with one hand while backpedalling from Gus at the same time.
“I don’t want to kill you.” He said, repeating it in Spanish, in case she didn’t understand English.
“Capitalist! Your time is over!”
“It’s always the hard way.” Gus muttered as she pulled an ancient, heavy pistol out of her holster. ‘What’s a non-com doing with a pistol? Oh, fuck, those are bars on her shoulder. Who know the Cuban army was so progressive?’ Gus rolled sideways easily avoiding the one-two shots she aimed at him. His hand found a solid round object and he instinctively picked it up. He was surprised to see it was a grenade and more surprised to see the pin was missing from it. ‘Dud. One of the grenades must not have gone off.’ It was still heavy and he tossed it as hard as he could at the woman, she raised her hand to try and block it, but her wounds were too many and her arm was too slow, it smashed into her left eye and broke the top of her forehead, leaving a four inch indentation in her skull before bouncing away.
The woman fell backward without another word and Gus limped over to take her pistol and the extra ammunition she had for it. “Sic semper tyrannis.” He said as he took her belt knife and relieved her of her other grenade.
He crawled to the front edge of the building and focused lightly on the future. Gus didn’t bother using his eyes to figure out where the soldiers were located; instead he looked into the future for the precise location to toss it that would do the most damage. After a cursory glance he counted to ten, pulled the pin, counted to three and tossed it sideways using his mind as a guide to tell him to release. The yells of alarm and confusion told him he got it right, but his view into the future told him that the fight wasn’t over and that very soon grenades were going to be landing on the roof.
Gus was climbing down the ladder when the first of them went off. ‘I guess I won’t be bartering for the old push mower after all. Seeing the future and all the lost potential is a bitch.’ He thought as the explosions continued. “It’s me, Gus! I’m one of the good guys.” He yelled as he continued climbing down. The group of former hostages eyed him warily until they could see that he wasn’t wearing a Cuban uniform.
“Go and get the others, we need to leave before they bring reinforcements. Tell them Gus said to come and that I climbed down the ladder from the roof.”
One of the young men went back out into the store, where fresh gunfire was erupting, a young woman, the very woman in Gus’s vision who hooked up with the now dead Cuban on the roof. “I’m sorry.” He told her.
She smiled and asked, “For what? You’re hurt.”
Gus shook his head as she checked his leg, pulling up the trousers that Ambros had scrounged up for him from the ship. “I…I did something to you, took something from you…” Seeing her confused look he thought, ‘Aw, what’s the use.’ Aloud he said, “Nothing, I mean thank you.”
She checked his leg and insisted on bandaging it, even though the jagged gash was scabbed up and had forced the serrated piece of metal to the surface. “I’m going to pull it out.” The young lady said, before grabbing the piece with her fingers and giving it a yank.
“Fuck.” Gus said, as the piece of sharp metal cut her hands and their blood, for just a moment, mingled. “Shit, shit, shit. Wash your hands! Quickly.”
“It’s okay, only a small cut, we must get something on your leg to stop the bleeding.” A peculiar look came over her face, just for a second.
Gus checked the near future. “Damn it. Let’s go, Hector!” he yelled as everyone cleared out of the front of the store. To the young woman he asked, “What’s your name?”
“Lila. Who are you?” she asked, sweat beading on her forehead.
“I am Gus. I am very pleased to meet you.” Gus said, not pleased at all. ‘In less than three minutes I killed four bright futures and all the futures their kids could have had.’
“Out the back, Gus?” Hector asked, pressing two hand grenades into Gus’s hands.
“Yes, and quickly! Head along the canal until we get back into your territory, I think there might be some navy troops that have come over the bridge, if we get to them we’ll be safe.” Gus stowed the grenades in his jacket pockets.
Hector led the first group out, the rest followed in a steady stream with Kurt, several of the hostages helped wounded, including Flores move faster towards safety. Lila was staying back, waiting for Gus to move out and sticking close to him in case he needed help moving with his injured leg.
A low, rumbling and clinking of metal on metal sounded from the opposite way everyone was fleeing.
“What’s that?” Lila asked. She and Gus were the last ones left at the back of the grocery store; they heard men entering the front, checking the room bit by bit as the moved forward.
“That would be the real tanks.” Gus said, grabbing her by the elbow and pulling the shocked woman towards the noise along with him.