flowing, watching them struggle to get in. More of her pack arrives and crowds the entrance even more. They are streaming inside so she doesn’t feel the need to slow them. It’s the onslaught of numbers that will make her attack successful. Her mouth waters with the thought. The first shriek echoes from inside.

Startled by a shriek sounding out inside the building, Lynn feels the jolt of additional adrenaline pour into her system. She expected to hear the pounding of night runners against the solid steel security doors. The sound of one actually inside stuns her and dread fills her mind. One inside means more on its heels.

That thought is verified as the first shriek is quickly multiplied by others. The once silent interior is swiftly filled with the screams of night runners emerging into the interior downstairs. She knows they are coming from the warehouse. Watkins’ report of thousands of them fills her with a dread she hasn’t ever known. Lynn takes a deep breath knowing that if she lets fear take hold, they are all doomed.

“They’re downstairs coming from the warehouse. All teams reorient to cover the entrance. Cover the stairs and escalator. No one makes it up,” she shouts into the radio.

Lynn watches as some teams change their position and soon the shouts of the team members join the din of the night runner screams. The leading edge of the horde of night runners arrive and are brought down by a volley of gunfire. The muted sounds of the gunshots are lost in the vast noise filling the interior. The only evidence that rounds are streaking out to their targets are the night runners falling to the ground. Others push from behind and leap over the fallen bodies of their comrades.

Lynn sets herself up with Black Team by the large set of stairs leading upward. There are only two ways up and she has directed some of the teams to cover those chokepoints. The others she has set up to thin the mass of night runners pouring in downstairs. She knows their relentless nature so they must keep them from getting upstairs. Some screams from the others crouched by the dining room and kitchen areas add to the massive volume of noise filling the sanctuary.

Night runner dead and injured pile up under the balcony, brought down by the substantial amount of gunfire pouring into their midst. Still others behind them come and they slowly advance regardless of the amount of rounds streaking into their midst. Soft flesh and hard bones are torn apart by the forceful impact of rounds slamming into them. Some of the injured attempt to crawl away but are trampled by the ones pushing from behind.

Slowly, the mass of night runners forge ahead in the face of the volume of fire. Magazines clatter to the ground as the soldiers reload. Night runners appear in all quadrants under the balcony as they spread out in the lower interior. Hundreds lie on the ground but are lost in the racing horde. Still they come. A fleeting thought occurs to Lynn wondering if they have enough ammo. The screams emanating from the other survivors force that thought from her mind and spurs her on.

Sandra feels many of her pack vanish from her mind. The crowd around her stretches far around the corner of the building and she senses they have gained some ground. Still, she feels the loss of so many deeply. This must be done but she wishes it wasn’t at such a great loss. She’ll need a host left after this to capture the two-legged one and to deal with Michael if he tries anything. Not that there’s much she can do as his pack is so much greater than hers, but she won’t give up her prize willingly.

Looking to the stars twinkling in the sky, she knows they have enough time left in the evening but they will still have to be quick. She has to yet find a lair for her dwindling pack. Turning back to the door, she clears a space and enters.

Coming into the actual interior from the large room just inside the door, the full din of noise assaults her ears. It’s so loud she wants to cover her ears to diminish the almost painful volume of it. Her pack crowds the downstairs under the upper level. They are brought down as soon as they enter and she senses rather than sees a growing pile of bodies. Shrieks from her pack resound in the large, open space; shrieks of hunger, rage, and pain. She edges around the sides under the overhang, looking upstairs over the heads of her pack. Seeing some two-legged ones as they rain death upon her pack, she searches for one of them in particular.

She continues around the perimeter searching upward. The stink of the two-legged’s guns fills her nose as does the iron smell of blood as it pours from the wrecked bodies of her pack. She is anxious and dread surfaces that she won’t be able to find the female. If she doesn’t, she’ll take the secondary goal of killing all of the two-legged ones. A hint of their aroma ascends above the other odors and she feels rage begin to build. The anger is both an inherent one from the sight and smell of the two-legged ones and from the damage they are doing to her pack.

Keeping the rage under control but feeling it just below the surface, she edges farther around. Her eyes widen and her heart leaps. There! Above by the stairs on the far side. Sandra sees the female she saw through the two-legged one’s mind so many nights ago. A mixture of emotions filters in. She doesn’t have many, but those she does have mix — hunger, anticipation, rage, and a feeling that would be most associated with glee. She directs her pack to that single set of stairs and shows them an image of the female and her position. The pack responds with a louder chorus of shrieks.

Lynn sets her small crosshair on yet another target. The room is filled with the acrid stench of bodies torn asunder and gunpowder. The upper balcony has a haze from the smoke ejected with their rounds. They are keeping the night runners at bay for the moment. Hundreds have fallen yet there is still a multitude pushing from behind. They haven’t reached the escalator as yet but they are attempting to scale the elevator. She and Black Team have been holding the wide, wooden stairs clear and the bodies lying at the foot of the stairs attest to their ability to do so. The bottom four steps are lost from sight under the carnage they are continuing to inflict on the horde attempting to gain the upper levels.

Lynn flinches as the shrieks screaming from below actually grow louder. She didn’t think that was at all possible but it grows to the point where the very walls shake. The floor beneath her boots trembles from the pounding of night runners below. She watches as the night runners shift direction as a single mass. They are heading under the balcony and her way.

Some still try to get to the escalator and scale the elevator but the majority of them seem to be coming her way. The shift is so quick and sudden, it takes her by surprise. She directs her fire into the horde starting to scale the stairs. There’s no time to make a radio call redirecting the other team’s fire but she hopes they will realize the change in flow and respond. Her teams and others direct fire into those attempting to climb the stairs. Night runners are packed on them and race upward. As fierce as the fire is that is directed into them, it isn’t enough to keep them from rapidly advancing upward. Lynn has the sense that they’ve failed but continues to target night runners after night runner with her fire.

The sheer volume of rounds leaving her barrel heats it. Exchanging an empty mag for a full one, she pours more fire into the mass of night runners closing in. Lynn thinks about pulling back and establishing another line past the escalator and is about to issue the command when a surge pushes the night runners up and over the teams protecting the stairs.

The suddenness of the surge surprises Lynn. The leading night runners that make their way through their fire slam into her. She is hit and goes down with her head hitting the hard linoleum floor. Stunned, she watches as her gun clatters to the ground beside her and is kicked away by a swarm of feet that are suddenly there. Rolling to her side, she reaches for it but it remains just out of her grasp. She pushes upward knowing she must fight. If they don’t fight them off, all will be lost. She is hit hard in the head again and slumps to the floor.

She feels the coolness of the linoleum on her cheek. Feet race by her limited vision. Fear envelopes her. Another hit to the head stuns her. She must rise. She is scared, not really for her own life as she’s seen the face of death many times. She is afraid for the others and the sense of her own failure. Her vision hovers on the edge. This is the end. Please make this quick and painless, she thinks as her breath stirs dust on the hard floor. Jack, please forgive me for failing. I love you! Her peripheral vision of the small amount of floor and feet she can see draws inward. A tear leaks to the ground, dropping to mix with the dust under her head. She is at least thankful she doesn’t feel any pain. Her vision fades.

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