pointed out that the chopper could just pick people off one by one if we tried that. It was fairly obvious, now that we re-thought it, that Les’s goons didn’t intend to leave any of us alive.
New plan: “Let’s move all the ranchers to the chapel,” I said, “To keep the kids out of harm’s way, until we can figure out a way to get ‘em out of here. There‘s a stairwell that runs straight from there to the zipline room. Mendayev, when I was a boy, some of the oldsters in church used to say that catholic monasteries had secret passages to nunneries so they could sneak around and have orgies without anyone outside noticing. Please tell me that’s true, ‘cuz we could really use a secret passage right about now.” Mendayev shook his head, no, and Franks pointed out that, per capita, this was primarily an Orthodox monastery anyway.
Many of the ranchers wanted to help, so Mendayev set to organizing them. I ran back to the garage, and peeked out the side door. The truck was minutes away, just south of the ruined dome/ranch/lab. I slammed the door. There’s got to be something I can do. Ah! The monastery was cinderblock, fireproof. I called some ranchers, and had them help me roll the bike and several 50-gallon drums of ethanol into the hallway. We left one in the garage, though. I sprayed eth all over the place using the high-pressure pressure cleaner on its lowest setting, then tossed a match and slammed the hallway door. That would at least slow them down some.
They didn’t come in through the garage. There was a car-accident kind of loud bang, and then Brother Theo’s voice came over the Walkie-intercom: “They’re coming in the front door.” Almost simultaneously, another panicked voice said “They’re on the roof! They’re on the roof!” “Pull everyone back from the main entrance,” Mendayev’s voice said. Yeah, we’d just lost the main entrance, I thought. I kept the walkie on while the ranchers and I slapped together some Molotov coctails. I heard Theo‘s voice over the walkie. “My friends,” he said, “This is a house of God, there can be no violence here I beseech y-” Then a bang. He was gone.
I ran up the stairs leading to the roof, peeked through: Two people with guns prowling around, a woman with a Mohawk, another wearing a full 19th century suit, complete with a cravat. There was a man in the chopper. While I was trying to figure out what to do, Dan popped out of an air vent on the side of roof opposite from us. He yapped, then ducked back in. Both of the goons turned and fired. My ranchers and I burst through with our Molotovs and let fly. “Aim for the intakes! Aim for the intakes!” I yelled. I figured the Bell was most susceptible there.
We threw our bottles. One hit uselessly on the roof, one hit the ’chopper near the port intake. One went through the open door of the cockpit, and set the interior on fire. The pilot shrieked and started batting at the flames, but there was simply too much fire. One down, I thought. The gunmen fired. Both my ranchers fell instantly, I would have too, but there were three targets and only two trigger fingers. The odds were 1.5 in my favor, just dumb luck. I ran back into the door, and some other ranchers slammed it shut behind me. We bolted it. Two of the ranchers leaned against it, one laughed nervously, then there was a flurry of hamburger and blood as one of the gunmen opened fire with a machine gun. Two more of my men were dead, while the rest of us fell down the stairs. Literally fell. At the bottom, a third rancher was dead, having snapped his neck in the fall. This was not going at all well. What to do next?
I used the intercom: “Zipline room, The chopper is down…” Was it down? Well, between killing the pilot and the theoretical damage to the intake, it seemed likely, “…start zipping kids over to the nunnery.”
“I know the chopper is down. We heard it land.” It was Brother Brijesh.
“No, no, I mean it’s now inoperative! Start zipping kids over.” I tried to report in to Mendayev, but there wasn’t a reply. Maybe the line was cut? Maybe he was in the can? The whole operation was coordinated