endless number of night runners still pouring through the warehouse door. A quick thought enters, How did they manage to get into the building? But he puts that aside. There’s time to figure that out later, he thinks, reloading and sending additional projectiles speeding into the teeming mass. If we survive.

Another thought enters. He is thankful that Allie isn’t here and is instead off with Jack. At least she’ll live to see another day. They’ve been kind of an item lately but have kept it secret. He isn’t usually fond of her always running around with Jack as that sometimes isn’t the safest place to be. Sure, Jack is resourceful and manages to get out of whatever situation he finds himself, but he always seems to be in the thick of it — whether intentional or that’s just his lot in life — and that worries Drescoll.

He worries first, because Allie is always there with him; and second, because of the group of survivors. Jack has done a good job of bringing them together and helping them coalesce into a team. There are plenty of people here who could lead, but everyone looks up to him — for right or wrong — and they can’t afford to lose him at this juncture. Even with him running off seemingly every few days, he’s a figurehead for many here.

Drescoll feels the heat from his barrel and readjusts his hold on the fore-grip. Smoke puffs rapidly from his suppressor as he adds to the steel curtain raining down on the night runners. He’s still not used to the silence of firefights using suppressors. To him, there should be the sharp, staccato sounds of rounds being fired. However, the shrieks emanating from below more than make up for the decreased volume of gunfire. Shouts from the other team leaders as they direct their soldiers rise above the din from time to time. Time is now measured in the number of night runners falling to the floor. The dead and injured begin to stack up in piles under the overhangs, forming small walls in places.

Drescoll watches as a ripple runs through the horde below. They suddenly turn and pour toward the stairs where Lynn and Black Team are holding their own. The speed of the sudden shift startles him as he continues — like the others around him — to fire burst after burst. The number of night runner bodies lying motionless shows that progress is being made, but the vast amount behind seems endless. The stream of night runners trying to gain the stairs is staggering, and they eventually make headway despite the determined efforts of Black Team and the others attempting to hold the second floor.

Another ripple runs through the mass and Drescoll watches in horror as they pour upward and over the top, swarming around Lynn and the rest of Black Team. All of those defending the stairs vanish under the multitude of bodies.

“All teams, form a line across near the escalator. Nothing gets by,” Drescoll shouts into the radio.

As heavy as his heart feels for Lynn and the others down, he knows the remaining teams must maintain if any of them are to survive the night. Grieving will come with the morning…if they make it. There are others to protect, and the fact that the night runners are now firmly entrenched on the second floor makes surviving a much more difficult matter.

The sound of boots pounding on the hard linoleum floor as soldiers rush to their new positions mixes with the clatter of night runners on the stairs, the ear-piercing shrieks, shouts of commands, and the moans of the dying and wounded. A thin haze from spent gunpowder hangs over the interior. The smell of it combines with the stench of blood and spilt entrails.

Drescoll pulls into position with the other teams forming a line across the second floor. This is to be their last line of defense, the only thing standing in the way of the wholesale slaughter of the rest of the survivors. A wall is formed as the rest of the teams spread across amidst a rattle of weapons being readied. Tension prevails, yet Drescoll can see determination and anger etched on the faces of the others — they too saw Black Team go down. With some on their knees and others standing, they wait for the night runners to enter their lanes of fire.

The night runners pause and then begin swarming back down the stairs much to the amazement of Drescoll and the teams. Many forms of, “What the fuck?” drift from the teams. He’s confused by the actions of the night runners. Adding to his incredulousness is that he sees Lynn’s blond hair in the midst of the packs as they make their way quickly down the stairs. They are carrying her out! He’s not sure if she’s alive or dead, but the fact that the night runners are one, taking her, and two, retreating, leaves him stunned. He doubts the teams would have been able to hold off the vast multitude of night runners, so the fact that they are hurriedly retreating is surprising to say the least.

The last of the night runners disappear through the door leaving a number of their kind behind — dead, dying, or shrieking in pain. The din that accompanied the horde leaves with them. With the exception of the moaning of the wounded and an occasional shriek from the mass of bodies below, silence prevails. The stunned teams look on in disbelief. Moments ago they were forming a last line of defense and now the building is empty; leaving a very surreal feeling.

Drescoll shakes his head to clear his amazement and brings himself back to the here and now. They aren’t out of it yet and he knows that; relaxing now can put them in another dangerous situation. For whatever reason, the night runners have fled, well, fled is the wrong word — they have left.

“Watkins, take the stairs. Mullins, you have the escalator. The rest of you, on me,” Drescoll orders.

“What about the civilians?” Horace asks.

“We’ll check on them later. We have to secure the building and check on Black Team first.”

Rounding the corner, he watches as several members of Black Team rise shakily to their feet. All but one manages to stand. Their faces are splotched with blood, whether their own or from the night runners is yet to be determined. They slowly pat themselves down checking for injuries and to assure themselves that they are, in fact, still alive. One staggers to the side and empties his stomach. Another is still down and moaning.

Drescoll kneels by the wounded man. He is shaking and convulsing with deep wounds about his face and neck which are bleeding freely. Placing one hand firmly on the most prominent bleeder, he turns to Specialist Taylor.

“Taylor, you’re in charge of Black Team. Put pressure on his wounds and send someone for the doc. This man needs blankets and an IV set up.”

Taylor looks around confused, “Where’s the first sergeant?”

“She’s gone,” Drescoll answers.

“What do you mean gone?”

“I mean they took her,” Drescoll responds.

“Took her? Who took her?”

“The fucking night runners. We’ll discuss this later. Right now, fetch the doc and take care of this man,” Drescoll says.

Taylor shakes his head in disbelief but sends someone for the supplies and the doc before kneeling next to his wounded team member. Drescoll rises and motions for the other teams not already posted to follow him. Cautiously walking down the stairs, alert for any sudden onslaught by hidden night runners, they make for the first floor. The footing is perilous and slick due to blood coating the steps and they have to step around a host of bodies lying on the treads. A few of the night runners are only injured, but their moaning is brought to a quick end with several well-placed shots. Reaching the first floor, the teams spread out. Sporadic shrieks rise from the piles of bodies that litter the floor.

“Cressman, finish off the wounded ones. Horace, you’re with me. We’re checking out the warehouse. Stay alert. If anything happens, we regroup upstairs covering the approaches,” Drescoll says.

“How in the hell did this happen?” Horace questions, looking around at the destruction.

“I don’t know, but we’re going to find out. We need to make sure the night runners are in fact gone, seal this place up, and then figure out what happened,” Drescoll answers.

Drescoll looks up to the balcony where the others are huddled out of sight in the dining and kitchen area. Several heads poke above the railing and he motions them back to their places. Muffled gunshots begin to punctuate the interior, silencing the moans one by one, as he, Horace, and the rest of Green and Blue Teams make a wary approach to the warehouse door. He still can’t figure out for the life of him why the night runners would take Lynn or why they would just leave when they were gaining the upper hand. It doesn’t make sense, and it’s just another unfathomable aspect regarding the night runners.

Blue and Green Teams stack up at the entrance to the warehouse. With hearts racing, they enter quickly with Green Team going left and Blue Team to the right. The soldiers hug the walls as they enter this potentially hostile domain. Lasers zip about in the darkness searching for targets. Nothing. The warehouse is empty.

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