Will bolted out of the bunker, leaving Ty to contend with Commander Jensen and his shirkers, Harold close on his heels.
He might have gloated about two Men in Black beating the entire platoon to do battle—Ty would like that—but one man trumped them all, Sergeant Cosgrove.
Down the hill, the sergeant confronted a starship from another world, the kind the grays use with the likeness of a line of silos teetering on top of a locomotive. He stood in an eerie cone of light that shone from it even during the day, shoulders back, rifle in hand, defiance against the impossible.
The ship settled into the dirt, and Will half expected one end of the silos to tilt the ship sideways, but it stayed balanced and straight.
Will charged toward the sergeant. It might be too late for the operation to succeed, but he’d be damned if he’d let the gray devils take Cosgrove.
Cosgrove went to his knee and pointed his rifle toward the vessel, still fighting the light that freezes a man still, but he didn’t move as the doorway to the starship’s inside disappeared. Nine grays walked out, wearing those protective cocoons that absorb bullets, two carrying a litter like the one they’d previously used on Will, four fanning out to surround the sergeant. One grabbed the soldier’s rifle and set it aside. When they positioned Cosgrove to tie him down to the litter, Will fired his Colt into the air.
The grays jumped and turned to him, then dropped everything to run back to the ship. Behind Will an onslaught of shots fired and tore up the dirt between the off-worlders and their vessel. The grays cowered and held their heads.
Around the edge of the ship’s opening, a couple grays aimed a tube the size of a fire log toward the bunker. Will aimed and shot. They jolted backwards, dropping the tube on the dirt.
Will surveyed the scene. A horde of Jensen’s men charged down the hill, not tightly as they’d drilled with Harding, but welcome nonetheless. Harold ran past him toward Cosgrove.
The air shimmered green around the grays, flickering like a mirage, and they skulked back toward their ship. Though the bullets ripped up the ground around them, they had no effect inside the haze.
“How’s Cosgrove?” Will asked.
Harold checked his eyes and stuck two fingers in the sergeant’s neck. “Unresponsive, but he seems okay.”
Will picked up the rifle and went after the demons.
As the grays reached the ship’s entry, the doorway started to form from the edges, slowly this time. Three hopped in. Will closed in on the last one and dove for him, wrapping him up around the legs. They went down. Will crawled forward and punched him several times.
Four of the grays turned back on him. Will raised his rifle, but a gray grabbed the barrel and yanked it away. Another grasped his arm. Will twisted away, and pulled his revolver, shooting the closest in the head. It went down, but the other three pummeled him with white clubs that shocked him and threw him to the ground.
Jensen’s men pulled the grays off. Will kicked away as he recovered and stood up. The off-worlders swung the clubs wildly, pushing the men back, and stumbled into the ship, dragging their companion with. A few soldiers managed to get in with them, and Will raised his gun, but couldn’t steady himself.
“Get out! You’ll be trapped.”
Jensen’s men grappled by the door, not letting up, but the clubs disrupted them and held them back.
As the door narrowed, Cosgrove ran by him, picked up the tube they’d dropped, and held it in the opening until it closed upon it, lodging it firmly. He stepped back and the tube crushed, then shuddered, sending him to the ground next to Will.
The door’s edges were crushed, but it managed to close and the ship started to lift.
Will thought the effect of the clubs disrupted his senses because the ship tilted to one side, not the normal way of it. He glanced up the hill and exulted at the site of hundreds of lines looped over that side of the silos, then anchored to the bunker where Doc stood out in his blacks, helping to secure them. Ty ran from soldier to soldier, pointing and gesticulating, the soldiers sending more and more lines over the silos using the heavy-duty crossbows Harold had made for that purpose.
The ship struggled to pull away, then twisted upward, arching end over end, and crashing into the earth beyond the bunker.
“Like Gulliver and the Lilliputians,” said Harold.
Will laughed. “They were supposed to hit both sides, but the commander straggled too long.”
“This might have worked better,” said Cosgrove.
Jensen’s men swarmed the ship, ramming it with logs and hammering away with any tool they could find. Will, Harold, and Cosgrove jogged up to join them. Commander Jensen talked animatedly to Ty and smacked him on the back, but turned to the others as they arrived.
Will nodded at Ty. “I suspect they’ll be taking the Men in Black seriously from here out.”
“Oh, I do,” said Jensen. “Didn’t imagine anything like this.”
“Not who I meant,” said Will.