Chapter 21

There wasn’t three o’clock in the morning yet, but the stars turned pale already and the sky faded. By that time little squadron approached the atomic station and even managed, through the new gate, to percolate in its courtyard, as they planned yesterday.
Agnetha got well enough soon because the bullet broke her rib indeed and then tangentially went out from the body. After that, the farm dwellers and the guests held a consultation. In one warm evening, sitting down to the wooden table in the courtyard, they decided that except Miriam and her mother Dorothy, the rest will go to fight against bandits. Taking into account that Antony stepped beyond his nineties, he was offered to stay at home too. Former champion didn’t want even to hear about to remain with woman and child. He wasn’t persuaded by reminding of the circumstance that Dorothy and Miriam will not just stay at the farm, but in case of corresponding requirements, they would protect it.
Nobody called in question the leadership of the former professional military, Antony’s son and Miriam’s father Nicolas.
“The best time for attack is just before dawn when for a human is most difficult to fight with sleep,” Nico, the man about his fifties, robust and with massive built, had started. “But I have doubt that we couldn’t act in that way. It’s very probable that before doing to bed they’re locking themselves in the command module.”
“Then what we should do, attack them in the daytime? But how? They”, Tony pointed at the engineers with a polite gesture, “are saying that it’s not easy to sneak up to NPP.”
“Reasoning from that I believe,” in response, Nico continued to unfold his plan. “We should approach the station before daybreak. Then lay an ambush and take aim at a door of command module yet in the darkness. The bandits actually should be there, as you are saying,” he addressed to the engineers.
“Yes,” Agnetha replied without hesitation. “There we have one bunk, also the fridge and food store. At the second store, there are rest of beds, it’s possible to sleep only in that building.”
“Understood,” former military man said. “I think, our advantage is that they believe you both remained without the rounds and nobody would bother to help you.”
Having been entered the courtyard the group divided into two parts, also in accord to previous agreement. Hans and Agnetha made a detailed draft of NPP’s territory for Nico. Based on it he composed the battle schedule. In harmony with it, Nico himself and Antony laid down on the ground under the big lilac bush and aimed the command module’s door from here – from the distance about thirty meters.
In the same time engineers concealed themselves behind round pond with fire-prevent water-supply. This five-meter radii poll situated farther than the lilac bush from the building and its one-meter height concrete wall were guarding them much better. They were invisible even from the third floor, not to mention the second one. The plan was to wait until enemies will leave the building and kill them from the lilac bush. That took Nico, as a most experienced shooter. If one of them would stay on the upper storey as a watcher, he will be fired from behind the concrete wall of the basin. During that skirmish, Nico and Antony will penetrate into the building and finish the last marauder.
Though, the concrete isn’t transparent, so Hans and Agnetha weren’t able to observe the battlefield. They should be squatted down till son and father will open their fire. If they would have been stood up earlier and be seen by enemies looking from above, then the war plan would be failed. For the evildoers fortified into the inaccessible, locked building nothing was dangerous.
The former soldier asserted such disposition because he wanted to see the battlefield in every single second. The engineers argued that Nico and Antony shouldn’t put themselves under bigger hazard; the plant bush is no shelter at all. Nico has calmed them down. One more time he reminded them that it took two weeks Agnetha’s recovery and during this interval, if the robbers didn’t totally forget former owners, at least, they would feel themselves freely and relief. Not like in first days when they, of course, were on the alert and watchful. Also, the enemies will not be able to concentrate their fire only on the lilac bush; they will react on the fire from three directions because Agnetha and Hans would start shouting from different sides of the pond.
“What is the matter?” the old man doubted at that consultation. “Nico, are you putting me behind your back? Maybe it’s better to find for me one more place for we would start firing from four spots?”
“No dad,” the man immediately dispersed Antony’s suspicions. “Certainly we should be together, to open double-fire, erect its wall between us and foe, don’t let them look anywhere but only in our direction.”
Tony listened to these words being more and more frowning. In the end, he hardly nodded in sign of agreement. Into engineers eyes, some thought conceived too but they asked nothing and even didn’t look at each other.
The waiting lasted a very long time. Finally, near to eight o’clock, both the engineers being in the shelter behind the pond, also father and son camouflaged under the bush, in morning quietness clearly heard the subdued clinking of the keys. The waylay liberators prepared their weapon.
The door opened and burly man with wide black beard peeped out. With machine gun in his hands, he carefully examined the courtyard alighted with the fresh sun. As usual, noticing nothing questionable the bandit slightly relaxed. Then he came out, yawned and pulled out from the building by three steps.
Nico and his team were patiently waiting. Blackguard made one more step; then he half turned back and rudely shouted:
“Hey! Come out! Breathe the air, there is a stench in the room, don’t you feel it?”
“He mentioned one alias”, Tony started whispering, “so, there is only one man in the building, they’re two in total.”
Nico rose his palm to his father showing him that it was evident. Former army officer now was even quieter and simultaneously he felt satisfaction. It turned out that all he left is to wait until the second robber would appear.
In the new day stillness, when there were no waft of breeze nor birds piping, marauder’s every movement was neatly heard for Agnetha too. Of course she agreed with Nico’s plan but still, she wasn’t pleased with comprehending that these kindest folk are under much more dangerous because of her. What a cover is the thin and delicate flower stalk? In the same time, she is behind such a solid concrete wall.
The woman, bothered with her own conscience, decided that it will be more fairly if she would draw the enemy’s first fire to herself. What they could do with people behind the solid barrage? Next, until bandit would be occupied with firing to her direction, Nico could finish them from the flank. So, the moment she heard marauder’s voice and understood that the enemy is watching not to her side, Agnetha decided it’s time to fulfill her thought – to lean out of a shelter and shoot.
The bearded man noticed some movement with the corner of his eye and instantly, don’t waiting for an answer of his accomplice, turned back toward the courtyard. What he saw had astonished him –someone popped out from behind the pond!
“They’re here!” He roared and accompanied his shout with fire burst.
The first bullet missed Agnetha and she rushed back into her cover. The robber, without stopping his fire, retreated toward the door. Simultaneously his mate appeared on the threshold and seeing what’s going on he made one wide step aside from the door, aimed the pool and started his bullets whine toward that area.
The bearded man, which was walking backward, accidentally pushed comrade with his shoulder and involuntarily forced him to redirect his fire to another side – exactly to the bush where father and son were laying. The latter was confused with such unexpected, uncoordinated beginning of the battle. Enemy’s bullets had chopped down several twigs of lilac and at the same time, Nico heard Antony’s groaning. He turned his head to his father and saw the scene which shocked him. Tony was laying flat on his belly. The bullet hit him at a side of his right shoulder, in the bottom of his neck. Nico determined it seeing Tony’s blood frequently dripping on his flannel shirt. The blood was of light color and flowing fast what was indicating the damage of a carotid artery… fatal damage.
The man, having been stung with that picture, immediately turned around and started a reciprocal fire to robbers. Not like their one – random, but well-aimed one. The bearded man fell right here and in addition, the bullets launched by Agnetha and Hans began to fly in his body too. Meanwhile, Nico’s fire had scythed the second evildoer but the latter didn’t stay motionless as his accessory. He was shooting in response and concurrently crawling back into the building. Nico sent him several more bullets and was confident that some of them undoubtedly stroke the mark. He noticed haw difficulty the criminal dragged his body over the threshold.
The engineers covered by their own shootings approached to the lilac bush. They passed around it and found themselves stood over the harrowing view. Nicolas was pressing blood stained piece of fabric against Antony’s neck.
“What a disaster,” Agnetha lamented. “It’s my fault, I wanted they shoot to us first…” The woman hit her head with her hand.
“No, daughter,” the old man interrupted her with a whisper. His faint voice was clearly heard in the grave silence restored after ceasing fire. “It seems, that is our family’s fate…”
“What are you talking about, Tony?” the woman asked in despair.
“Did you forget, Agnetha? In our clan… I’m not the first who struggled for the sake of the progress…” As if he was uttering his words with his exhale, the old man, going away before their very eyes, gathered all his remained forces and smiled.
“What do you mean, dad, you’ll be well and fight again!” Nico told him confidently.
“Yes, of course,” Hans tried to hide his confusion too. “We have a store of bandages, spirit, iodine… right now I’ll go in the module. All of you heard they were only two and I think that second now is croaking if not already did it.”
“It’s my fault, I’ll check!” Agnetha exclaimed wrathfully.
“Agnetha stop!” Nico exclaimed. “That is the wrong way.”
The woman didn’t pay the attention to his words; she rushed toward the opened door of the building.
“Follow her but don’t burst into the room immediately,” Nico ordered to Hans. “Staying by the wall, throw something in front of the door. For example, take off your shirt.”
Hans nodded and darted off.
“Give me some water,” Tony asked his son.
Nico unfastened the leather flask from his belt and at the same time, he heard muted machine-gun fire. In a minute Agnetha ran out from module without a weapon in her hands but instead with a bandage and two phials.
“I don’t need drugs anymore,” Tony was hardly fighting with every single word. “I want to say goodbye to my folk.”
First Nico was going to resist this whish, but then he decided that there is no time for idle soothe. He looked at his father with eyes widened with despair and nodded. Almost ten seconds passed in the oppressive silence till thru his receiver Nico heard disturbed voice of his daughter.
“Dad, how’re you?” Miriam talked without brakes between words, “have you killed already them? Are you all right?”
Nico hesitated shortly and then answered freshly:
“Yes, evildoers are terminated and we… well, grandpa was wounded but we will cure him and he will get well.”
At this moment Tony appeal his son with forefinger and in response, Nico turned the gadget to him. The old man started talking with all his zeal and with frequent pauses:
“Mira, sweetheart, every man will die… now is my turn… besides, I have an appropriate age for it.” He managed once again to portray the smile, invisible for his grandchild.
“Grandpa, please don’t talk that way,” Miriam asked him tearfully.
“You’re a smart girl and you would understand it… I also didn’t want to part with all of you forever but… call mom, honey…” Tony’s words became more and more indistinct.
When his fearful daughter-in-law, with a vibrating voice, said: “I’m here, Tony, how’re you?” for the old man remained time just to say her name:
His life wasn’t able to coax from the eternity even that part of a second which is enough to say “goodbye”. Nico bent his knees by his father’s body, seized his head with his hands and put his face against the ground. Agnetha fell on earth too, bowed and put her head on her knees. The woman was bitterly crying. Together with Antony she was mourning the loss of her perished friends…