SMS and Cyber stood paralyzed in the entranceway, frozen at the sound of the gunshot.
Rufus sprang into action immediately. He lifted up the back of his jacket, withdrew a compact submachine gun, and went barrelling around the corner into the kitchen. He and the other gangsters were yelling at each other in panicked voices and screaming Jovo’s name.
“We’ve got to get out of here!” said SMS.
“She’s dead!” cried Rufus from the other room.
“I see him!” shouted one of the other gangsters.
“Guys,” said SMS again, “we’ve really got to get out of here.” He put his hand on the doorknob and was about to turn it when the gunfight began in earnest.
Multiple machine guns chattered. Cyber dove onto his stomach and Pavelec grabbed SMS by the shirt collar and dragged him to the floor. Bullets ripped through the thin wall dividing the entranceway from the kitchen and smacked into the steel door.
One of the gangsters screamed, then trailed off into a gurgle. His gun clattered onto the floor.
Pavelec reached over to the box where Rufus had stashed her handgun, pulled it out, and began to army crawl towards the living room.
“What are you doing?” hissed SMS. “We have to leave!”
“And you don’t think they might have the main exit covered?” said Pavelec.
SMS looked over his shoulder at the door and imagined half a dozen big, burly gangsters with machine guns standing outside, waiting for him to open up and let them in. He gulped. “What’s going on?”
“That’s what I’m trying to find out,” snapped Pavelec. She started to crawl again.
Another hail of bullets rained through the kitchen window and perforated the wall. Rufus stumbled out of the kitchen and crashed onto the table where Jovo had been sitting. It collapsed under his weight and he rolled onto the floor, pressing his hands feebly to blooms of red on his stomach and his shoulder.
“Pavelec, you’re a cop!” said SMS. “Can’t you call us some backup or something?”
Rufus looked up from his wounds, wide-eyed. “You’re… a cop?” he said, and then slumped over as his eyes rolled back into his head.
“They wouldn’t get here in time,” Pavelec said. “And I left my radio in the car.”
The window at the far end of the living room exploded inward, and someone wearing urban camo, heavy boots, and a ski mask swung inside. Levelling a nasty looking machine gun, he fired a burst into the kitchen. Then he pointed with his left hand and shouted, “Elle est ici!”
With snakelike quickness, Pavelec brought her handgun up and double-tapped the attacker in the forehead. He crumpled.
Cyber darted forward and unclipped a rectangular plastic device from the soldier’s belt. Almost as an afterthought, he snatched up the man’s gun, as well.
“What is it?” said Pavelec.
“GPS communicator,” said Cyber, fiddling with a flap on the side. “Whoever these people are, they’re organized.” He exposed a mini-USB port and wrapped his thumb over it. “I see four on the street at a distance, probably snipers watching the windows. Two more outside on approach. Three outside the hall door.”
“That’s their weakest point, then,” said Pavelec. She leapt to her feet, rolled the dead soldier onto his stomach, and grabbed something else from his belt. “This is how we’re getting out of here: Cyber, watch the windows. SMS, when I say ‘Go,’ yank the door open and hide behind it. As soon as I say ‘Shut,’ slam it closed again.”
“Just do it,” Pavelec commanded.
SMS nodded nervously.
“Okay,” said Pavelec, hefting the item she’d taken from the soldier in her hand. “Ready? Go.”
SMS yanked the door open, and Pavelec tossed the object through it.
SMS threw his weight against the door. He both heard and felt a stream of bullets smack harmlessly into the steel. Then there was an eardrum-splitting BANG, followed by a series of soft thuds.
“Get back,” ordered Pavelec, shoving SMS aside. She held up her handgun and inched the door open. “Okay, let’s go.” When SMS hesitated, she grabbed him by the shirtsleeve and yanked him into the hallway. Cyber followed at their heels, swinging the door shut behind them.
Three soldiers in the same camo and ski masks were rolling on the floor, holding their heads. “Flashbang,” said Pavelec. She pulled back one of the soldiers’ masks. “They’ll be out of it for a while. Cyber, can you fake voice signals?”
“Yeah, but I haven’t heard enough of any of their voices to replicate them. Plus the guy in the apartment was speaking French, wasn’t he? I don’t know French.”
“Here,” said Pavelec, peeling an earpiece off of one of the writhing soldiers. “Do your best with it. Introduce some static, if it helps to disguise things.”
“Will do,” said Cyber. He handed his gun to SMS, who took it awkwardly. “Just point and shoot,” said Cyber, helpfully. “And hang on tight.”
“Uh huh,” said SMS, blinking nervously.
Cyber went to work, moving quickly. He used a pocketknife to strip the wires connecting the earpiece to the transmitter, laid his finger onto the bare wires, and concentrated for a few seconds. “Okay,” he said, “I told whoever’s listening that everything’s all clear. Not sure they’re buying it, though. I tried to add in a French accent, but…”
“We’re going to need to do something else then, I think,” said Pavelec. “What can you do with the GPSes?”
“Give me a minute to figure them out.”
“We have to move,” said Pavelec. “I hope you can work on the run.”
“Roger that. We’d better hurry. They’re at the windows.” Cyber gathered up all four GPS units and clipped them onto his belt, along with the communicator. He kept his thumb on one of the GPSes as Pavelec led the way through the halls to the main entrance. “Hold up here,” he said, when they were approaching the lobby. “There are two in the parking lot. I’m going to call them inside.” He grabbed the wires of the communicator again. “Here they come.”
The three of them ducked behind a corner out of sight of the front doors. After a few seconds, they heard running footsteps approaching. The locked inner doors rattled, then were shattered with a burst of gunfire. “Par là!” called a voice, and the stomping footsteps faded down the hallway.
“Go, now,” ordered Pavelec, and they sprinted out through the shattered doors and into the parking lot. They dove into Pavelec’s car and she fired the ignition.
“We’re out!” said SMS, sighing in relief and lowering his machine gun.
“Not yet,” said Cyber, as he monitored one of the GPS units. “Here they come.”
Four soldiers had appeared in the front doorway.