Eventually the schemers recommended the two of us catch a few winks of sleep. They'd wake us when they had plans.
And wake us they did. But not because of a plan.
"Come on, get up quick. They're here!"
Nic grabbed Cea's arm and jerked her up from the ground. He went to grab me, and in the moment that he hesitate I jumped up on my own.
Cea was the first to ask, "What's going on?"
"They sprung the trap! They jumped us. They're on us. They've surrounded us. We thought we could play games with time, I can't imagine why!"
Games? They? I was a little foggy from my nap.
Then gunfire erupted twenty feet above my head and I was firmly awake. This was no game, and I remembered exactly who they were. I just wasn't sure how one played this non-game.
Cea tugged me along, "Come on, Phil, up the ladder. We gotta get out of here."
"But we'll get shot up there!"
"Shot up there or shot in a prison yard, take your pick."
It was not a choice I was accustomed to making. I didn't want this. I didn't want to be involved with guns and bullets and
Up the ladder, out through what remained of a cardboard box. I was surrounded by junk and noises.
I heard Augustine shout down from the main floor, where no one was allowed, still. "They're coming on from the front. Get to the combat van!"
Nic laughed, "What? You think the United failed to guard the back alley?"
Augustine bellowed from above, barely audible over gunfire, "What? You think you want to go out the front?"
Judging by the flashes of fiery light and the whining of bullets I was hearing from above, I figured that not even stubborn Nic would argue.
I yelled, "Why are the blowing up a pizza parlor?"
Stanyard hung his head down the hatch to the main floor, "Because I am shooting back. But ammo is not a regular topping, and I'm about to run out, and when I do, or before, they will be in here and heaven save us if we are still when they get in!"
Nic jeered again, "Let's hope heaven does save us, because I sure as hell won't be going there!"
Cea slapped her brother across the face.
And to me, time paused right there. No one mastered Nic. No one touched him without his permission unless it was me running into him again.
But time didn't pause for anyone else. Stanyard yelled again, in unison with Ephesus and my daddy, who had already climbed the ladder to the garage, "Run!"
Cea bolted up the ladder. I remember that the adrenaline caught me about the time I saw her last foot disappear. I was finally processing things as they happened.
I reached for the ladder, only to have my arm thrust aside as Nic jumped the first few rungs and was up like a shot. I climbed right behind him, his heels grazing my forehead.
When I got up everyone was lying flat on the ground, so I did the same. Bullets whizzed through the garage door only inches above our heads, and bounced around hissing with heat. Smoke was filling the air. The garage door was constantly being pierced by more rounds, letting little shafts of light in, which only managed to show more of the dust filling the air.
Then my brave brother saved us all.
Crawling across the floor he got to the huge black van that had rescued me once before. He opened the door remotely with the keys. I never knew where he got them. We each crawled on our faces over to the van, then made the brave hop up into the floor of the van.
Bullets bounced off of the barely cracking glass. They must have actually stolen this one from the military.
We were all in, pile on top of each other. What was so good about being in a van? As soon as Augustine stopped shooting back they'd rush in. Casualties while fighting rebels was terrible press for the United, so they preferred to take as much precaution as they could.
Then I heard, faintly, a tapping on the back of the car. Augustine must have been pounding it. Ephesus popped up the back door and Stanyard rolled in. Before it was down again I felt the car rumble. The engine had started.
Ephesus was driving.
And then we were flying.