A pair of Dragons were swinging across the light-well toward us.
Pivoted, the FAL swinging up, let loose two quick bursts.
The rounds punched through the Dragon on the left. He lost his grip on the line and plummeted to the ground below, arms pinwheeling.
Saw the other Dragon hit with bursts from Mouse's M4 and follow my ganger down.
Then: squeak of footsteps to my left.
A Trog bolted toward me from the rear stairwell entrance, hatchet in hand and upraised.
Swung the FAL at him and fired.
He crumpled in mid-run and went sprawling.
A series of shotgun blasts echoed across our floor.
Sounding like she was doing just fine.
Mouse and I exchanged grins.
Then ran for the rear stairs.
* * *
As we reached the fourteenth floor landing we ran into a trio of Trogs who were just coming into the stairwell.
They skidded to a stop and jumped back, obviously startled.
We dropped the first two with a burst of fire from the rifles.
The third Trog pushed past his dying chooms, moving fast, staying low, and leaped at me, a wide-bladed knife raised and poised to strike.
Pivoted, holding the FAL like a fighting staff, and cracked him in the head with the rifle stock.
He dropped against the metal banister and into a heap at my feet, the knife clattering down the concrete steps.
We continued up the stairs.
* * *
Passed landing after landing, rifles sweeping, alert for more gangers who might enter the stairwell.
And then we were on the top floor.
Exited the stairwell into the main corridor, rounded the corner, and stopped outside the corner unit.
Popped my optic clock.
Twenty minutes until deadline.
We angled on either side of the door. I took the left. Mouse took the right.
The door was slightly ajar.
What the hell--?
Mouse must've seen the look on my face.
"What?" she said, her voice pitched low.
I inclined my head at the door.
"Fuck," she said.
I stepped back and looked at the door again. Lights were on inside the unit.
Mouse stepped up to me and put her head next to my ear.
"So?" she said.
"Okay," I said, keeping my voice low. "We go in. I'll hook right. You go left."
"Full mags," I said, dropped the FAL's magazine, switched it out with a fresh on, slapped it in, and racked the charging handle.
Mouse did the same with her M4.
I pulled the FAL's stock to my shoulder and looked at Mouse.
"Ready?" I said.
"Go," she said.
And my phone chirped.
Mouse and I exchanged looks.
It chirped again.
We both stepped further back from the door.
"Cover me," I said.
Mouse nodded and turned away, rifle swinging into position.
I pulled out my phone and looked at the display.
It chriped again.
"Get out of there now," said the voice on the other line.
I recognized it.
"Jade?" I said.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Mouse glance over at me, frowning.
"It's a trap, Kat," said Jade, her voice sounding as if she were partially short of breath. "Gold's not there. Get out now."
And she hung up.
I put my phone away.
"What?" said Mouse.
"Jade," I said. "She says Gold's not there. And it's a trap."
"What the fuck?" said Mouse.
"Exactly," I said, strode forward, kicked the door open, and went in.
A quick glance at a completely unfurnished unit. No furniture except for a floor lamp to one side of the living room.
Then the window directly opposite the front door exploded under a hail of automatic fire.
I ducked, spun, and bolted back into the corridor.
"Shit!" said Mouse.
"Jade wasn't kidding," I said.
Then: running footsteps.
At the far end of the hallway across the light-well, six Trogs toting spiked clubs and hatchets emerged from the low block and stopped by the main lift bank and stairs.
Then another set of footsteps and three more Trogs emerged from the rear stairwell, stopped, hefted short-handled axes.
Mouse and I slowly backed up to the middle of our corridor, rifles at the ready, then stopped. I had the FAL trained on the trio by the rear stairs. Mouse had the half-dozen in her sights.
"Four more," said Mouse. "Far end."
Ten Trogs now, on the other side of the light-well.
Starting to fan out along the far walkway.
I drew in a deep breath.
"Gonna get ugly in here," I said.
"Last stand," said Mouse.
(to be continued...)