“Shit! The Inner Sanctum!” I didn’t hear Zoe come up the ladder behind me, but when I turn she is there, knocking into me, and then shoving me aside to get a better look. The barn doors open only a crack and we press our faces to that aperture. The golf-ball sized hail still comes in a steady stream and when they hit the ground shards from the ice pop up stinging our faces. The pounding on the roof and our proximity from the men seems to mask the noise of the engines.
“Caleb!” I motion to the bikes. He runs over and shuts both of them off and then is back at the barn door peering through the opening.
Zoe says, “Remember when I said the American Anti-Religious Police won’t stop until all people of faith are dead or re-educated?” She faces me and her gaze bores into mine. I nod, not wanting to look away but I do because the heat coming from her prickles my skin.
“We’ll these are their hateful older brothers. A cell within a cell. A faction that believes anyone not with them is against them. They once killed nineteen members of their own group as they slept, because they let a pregnant woman live to have her baby.” Sera moans holding her belly at this revelation and Caleb goes to her side, putting his arm around her. Zoe and I crouch low. Sera and Caleb stand leaning into one another.
Outside, despite the hail, six men perform a highly methodical search of the outbuildings. We didn’t bother to check the rusting steel silo or the two portable steel buildings, but the men wearing tan and light green dessert camouflage uniforms complete with camouflaged hoods covering their heads and faces, take nothing for granted. The men start at the silo, which is located, closer to the road. The leader, holding a .50-caliber death dragon, makes a circling motion and the other five take up positions around the building.
I check for my holstered weapon and finger its sleek titanium body. It is so lightweight and I am so used to it, I often forget it is there. Caleb checks his weapon, too. Our time ticks away: 13:23 before liftoff.
Zoe sinks to the floor and sits on her haunches. She says, “We’ve got to kill them. There is no other way.” She stares straight ahead. Two of the men burst through the silo door, one high and one low. Zoe turns and scrabbles on her knees to the trap door. She looks at me and then at the others. “Are you coming?”
The men burst through the first steel building. Like the building near it, it is about eight feet by 40 feet. After the two building, the men will either come to the barn or the house. Glancing at the motorcycles, I know there is no way we can retrieve them without drawing fire. Right now we have three advantages: surprise, weapons and our will to live.
“Caleb, go with her and start passing up the grenades and the explosives. Leave the claymores. We won’t have time to set traps. Sera, we need your expertise. Can you work fast?”
Sera freezes at the window. Following her gaze I see the earth rising up from beneath us. The barn shakes and I struggle to stay upright. Lightning crackles and seems to split the ground into four pieces. We see the cone shaped sonic booms, one after another, before we hear their deafening shock waves. Sera drops to the floor, holding her hands to her ears. She screams, “It’s the beginning. Ultima is here!”
“No, not yet! We have time!” But as I look out the door and the once stationary landscape starts spinning around us, I believe she is right. The earth is dying right before our eyes. The silo pulls from its roots like it is a gangly weed and sails across the horizon. The storage buildings stay rooted for now but are hit by flying debris like wheelbarrows, paint cans, garden tools and the back seat of an old car. Wooden boards kept in a pile by the barn fly through the air looking like pick up sticks. The earth swirls around us bringing with it blinding dust that makes the outside world look like thick mushroom soup. The pressure knocks me to the floor. I crawl toward Sera, gravel digging into my hands, arms and knees. Both bikes fall over with a clatter and skitter across the bare earth floor. I grab Sera by the waist and drag her to the trap door opening. She whimpers and I know the rocks are digging into her body too. I also know if the men of Inner Sanctum are still alive, they will seek shelter. They will abandon their search and head for the house or the barn. Can they make it? Can we make it?
Caleb pops his head up from the cellar. “Take her!” I yell. We both grab Sera. I hold her under her arms. Caleb wraps both arms around her legs. Together we lower her onto the ladder.
The wind forces the barn doors to open wider. A wooden slat skitters across the floor. I trap it under my elbow.
“Hurry!” Caleb yells peering up from the cellar. I take the slat and walking at a fifty-degree angle fight my way to the door. Grabbing both doors I pull them toward the center, then slide the slat into the handles. Before the door closes, I think I see figures walking toward me. Hurrying I climb down ladder and shut the trap door. As I do so, I say a prayer.
About Bethany Spotts
Bethany Spotts is completing her second young adult novel. She has published articles on job-seeking skills in a national magazine, The Black Collegian, but is still seeking publication for her fiction. She believes nothing you write is ever wasted and so soldiers on in this most delightful profession.