At The End Of The World – Snippet 22

Instead, a bunch of them came running out of the superstructure and set up around the forward weather deck, from the waist to the bow. They were scanning the high points behind their ship. Including, of course, the Karrakatta.  A moment later, the men who had ducked back into the rear hatch came rushing back out; three of them kept sweeping their weapons back and forth across the same high points. The rest set to work on lowering the two dinghies. “Captain –” I started.

“I see it. They’re readying the boats at the taffrail again?”

“Yes, sir.”

“The others are all looking for Chloe. They know they can’t land safely without suppressing her.”

“So what do we do?”

“You wait until I start my diversion.”

“Your what?”

Chloe had overheard. “His diversion.”

Everything seemed to happen at once. The captain started firing at the men lining the bow of the ship. He didn’t hit any — the range was more than two hundred yards — but he came close and certainly got their attention. They leaned their weapons over the bow toward the captain —

Two of the zombies stuck on the isolated length of pier started pushing and shoving to get a better look at what was happening around them — and fell into the water. Blake, who had been watching them from the edge of the main plant’s shadows, whooped and shouted something at them, waving his flensing knife in their direction —

The two raiders on that side of the bow swung their weapons over at him and started firing. One of them had a real AK-47, a machinegun.

Blake turned, took one running step backward and then sprawled, his flensing knife flying away, that hand now clutching his hip.

It happened so fast, I didn’t even gasp. And the next second, Chloe fired. One shot. Then she ducked down as she worked the bolt. “I missed again. Shit.”

“One miss is to be expected at this ra –“

“Willow. I fired five shots the first time. And only two hits.” She rose up slowly; I scanned the back of the ship. Although she hadn’t hit anyone with her shot, they were all crouching down, still scanning. One of them was pointing in our direction, seemed pretty convinced the shot had come from Karrakatta. Two of the others were focused on an elevated overseer’s office at the eastern end of the plant. “They’re going to see you next time,” I told Chloe. And then I remembered. “They hit Blake.”

“Shit,” she said, blew out a long breath and prepared to rise into her armored sniper’s notch for another attack.

I slipped over into my back-up spotter’s slot — never be in the same place twice — and realized that the bridge crew had seen that the Voyager was not only moving, but angling toward them. “Their ship is turning to port, Chloe. The guys at the stern are looking around, surprised. The two on the far right are looking back through the hatchway –“

Fully in the shadows, Chloe rose up carefully, settled the rifle on her sawdust-filled sandbag, began staring down the scope.

The riflemen up at the bow seemed to get instructions from the bridge; they started moving across to the port bow, where they might get a shot at Voyager.

Captain Haskins evidently saw that; his FAL began banging away again. Five fast rounds: one of the raiders went down, twisting on the deck. Then he fired once every other second or so. The raiders who had been moving along the bow stopped where they were, sheltered, did what the captain had told us most pirates will do: rather than following orders, they stopped to shoot back at whoever was shooting at them. They all emptied their magazines at the captain’s position, reloaded, did so again.

Voyager edged closer.

The bridge crew blew their horn, probably to get the attention of their team up at the bow.

Chloe exhaled, took her next shot.

I swiveled back to look at the stern of the ship.

One of the raiders was down on his back, arms wide, a dark puddle spreading around him. The others ducked behind their two dinghies, started yelling. Two jabbed their index fingers fiercely at Karrakatta.

Chloe had already worked the bolt of her rifle, was snugging it against her round cheek. “Time to die, bastard.” She squeezed the trigger.

She missed, but it put a hole in one of the dinghies. They all started firing at us.

I thought we were going to be dead in the first few seconds. But initially, they didn’t even hit the pilot house. And since we were in the shadow of its overhanging roof, they had no way of actually seeing us, unless they saw the flash from Chloe’s gun.

Chloe took three seconds to reload, her frown deepening. “I’ve fucking had it,” she growled, rose up and didn’t even wait for me to spot for her.

Three times she squeezed the trigger and worked the bolt. I got my binoculars over in time to see one raider drop his rifle and clutch his arm, and then another fall back with a red smear where his right collarbone used to be. Chloe ducked back; the return fire was closer now, going through the weathered wood of the pilot house and ringing against the improvised iron plating like we were hidden inside a church bell.

I slipped back into my first spotter’s position, watched the pirates pull back inside the aft hatchway again, dragging their wounded in after them. They weren’t getting their boats down in the water anytime soon, now. I had one moment to wonder how badly Blake had been hit when the captain started shooting faster again and shouting, “Willow! Chloe! The bastards at the bow are moving portside.” He coughed; his throat sounded tight, constricted. “I can’t get shots at them anymore. And Alvaro and Johnnie are –“

I looked beyond the waist of the pirate ship’s weather deck; the Voyager was sweeping in and slowing.


By the time she was on her feet, the Voyager had maneuvered to come parallel and drift alongside the enemy ship — and big, broad-shouldered Johnnie jumped up and slung an industrial garbage bag of liquid fat onto the fishing ship’s weather deck. As it broke, splattering and spreading, the riflemen rushed to that side. Alvaro, steering from the deck-wheel, raised the revolver in his right hand and fired three times at them.

They ducked, but it was more like a bobbing reflex; they were already rising again the moment he was done shooting.

Chloe choked out a sobbing curse, yanked the gun around with a sudden desperation that I had never seen in her before.

Johnnie hurled another container over on to the ship’s deck — this one a ten-gallon jerrican — swinging it away from him with both arms, like he was throwing the hammer in the Olympics. The jerrican trailed a spout of oil as it cleared the enemy’s gunwale — and Johnnie dove for the deck.

Alvaro, being agile and fast, had already leaped up the stairs to the top of the pilot house. He fired three more times at the riflemen who poked up over the port bow; they hunched back down, shooting blindly. With everyone ducking and firing at the same time, no one seemed to be hitting anyone else, even though they were barely fifteen feet apart.

Alvaro dropped the revolver.

A rifleman stood to get a better shot at him . . .

Chloe screamed, “Fucker!” and fired.

The rifleman went down.

Alvaro had pulled another gun from his belt: the flare gun. He aimed it carefully, his waist on level with the enemy’s deck.

Chloe’s rifle fired at the same time that the other two riflemen at the bow popped up to shoot at Alvaro.

Who fired the flare gun and then fell off the pilot house, hit by one or more bullets.

And suddenly I could not hear. Not because of Chloe’s gun — that was loud and steady enough — but because of her banshee screams. Somehow she seemed to be crying and shrieking and shooting and cursing all at the same time.

A second gunman went down at the bow; the other one scrambled to a blind spot in the lee of the superstructure, having to skirt the spreading oil as he did so.

Johnnie got up, heaved another, smaller jerrican of the oil on the deck. I could see its puddle spreading to where the flare was still burning.