Fight and Flight
Paulo had only a split second to react, as his brain kicked into high gear and drew the only logical conclusion; a soldier was about to enter the shed. Li or the any one of the others would have approached quietly and then given the two-note whistle to alert the inhabitants before entering, this person walked with a lazy confidence and poor noise discipline. With the heavy wrench still in his large hands, the Argentinean did the only thing he could think of and desperately hurtled towards the door.
Amber gasped, paralyzed in place in the middle of the room as a dusty black combat boot stepped over the threshold, followed by a trouser leg in DPM clothing. Her eyes trailed up in horror as the rest of the scraggly soldier casually strolled into the building; he was a skinny, tattered specimen with scruffy fatigues that hung off his tall frame, a red beret sat atop his head at a jaunty angle. Amber took in the glazed expression in his eyes and relaxed posture; possibly the result of drugs, she concluded.
The feature that jumped out the most however was the battered looking AK-47 assault rifle that he held lazily in his dark arms. Amber noticed the curved magazines, housing death, that were slung upon his basic combat webbing and oddly enough, that there was not one already attached to his rifle. Man this guy must be the slackest soldier in their army to be so careless, she realized with a shock.
Slack or not, the man could hardly fail to notice the slim, dark-skinned girl standing right in plain sight with a terrified look on her face. The soldier's face twisted through several expressions, starting with shock, then anger and finally most disturbingly; an evil, lustful smile.
He reached for a magazine for his rifle, completely fixated on the girl, which was why he didn't notice the stout, dark haired boy lunge at him from the side.
Paulo exploded towards the soldier swinging the heavy wrench baseball bat style, aiming for the man's head. Perhaps due to the noise Paulo made or simply some reptilian part of his brain picking up on danger cues, the soldier turned at the last minute, causing the tool to glance off the side of his head. The diminished blow still caused the man to stumble and drop the magazine, in an attempt to bring his hands up.
Paulo grunted at the searing pain in his ribs the shot had cost him and his arms jolted from the follow-through, chambering the wrench to his shoulder for another shot. The soldier's second hand found a grip on the empty weapon, just ahead of the magazine slot and with a snarl brought the weapon up and across his body in a defensive posture.
Amber was still stuck in shock as her friend viciously launched into his assault against the enemy. With a dry mouth and a buzzing in her chest, she realized that this situation was too much like déjà vu of the bloody fight that had occurred in the hotel. Her brain was firing off signals, but her body seemed too slow to respond. She had to help Paulo she knew that, but how? A mop and a deep sink full of dirty water sat up against the closest wall. Seeing no other weapons in sight, Amber strode over and drew the mop by it's thick handle, wielding it like a staff.
As she closed the distance to enter the fray, Paulo launched in overhand with his weapon in another powerful swing aimed at the soldier's head. For his part, the soldier had recovered quickly from his initial shock and he raised his empty amalgamation of metal and wood with both hands to parry the downward blow.
The jarring impact of the block sent shock waves of pain down Paulo's thick arms and broad shoulders, eventually reaching his broken ribs and causing him to pause and gasp for air. What little air he was able to suck in, was pummeled from his lungs an instant later, when the wily soldier whirled his rifle around and delivered a stunning blow to Paulo's stomach with the butt of the weapon.
Red spots danced in front of the young mans eyes, as his diaphragm was rocked with a spasm and he stumbled back dropping to his knees, lungs seemingly unable to inflate. Through a darkening vignette, Paulo could only watch gasping for air, as a sneer crossed the soldier's face and he lifted the rifle up, barrel first, to deliver another smashing blow.
The man's killing blow was halted by a sudden crack, as the mops handle caught him hard across the ribs.
Amber whipped the handle back to her body, keeping it forward and vertical as a barrier between her opponent. The dark soldier snapped his head in fury towards his forgotten victim and left the broken Argentinean that was hunched on the floor.
The mop snapped out again before the man could react and crushed the fingers on his left hand against the barrel, Amber was morbidly satisfied to hear several gruesome snaps, as multiple fingers were broken. Before she had a chance to withdraw the mop for another blow however, the soldier dropped his rifle and instead took up a grip on Amber's weapon. Amber raised the stick horizontal in anger, to keep some distance between herself and the rangy warrior. With one good hand and a couple of unbroken fingers clutching the opposite side of the mop, the filthy man took the opportunity to overpower the girl and used the stick to push her back up against the wall.
Amber cried out, as her back slammed hard against the wall and the dirty hands opposite hers violently forced the staff up her body until it was pushing heavily against her throat. Drawing laboured breaths, Amber stiffened in horror, as the dirty Solambian shoved his body up tight against hers and his yellow teeth appeared in an evil smile. She felt like his rotten breath was choking her as much as the stick across her throat.
Her mind panicking from lack of oxygen and her body weakening, Amber realised with a stunning clarity that she was probably going to die, suffocated by a filthy soldier in some broken country. Her hypoxic mind drifted to the friends she would never see again, one in particular catching in her mind. A startling mix of tears and anger filled her face, as she realised there were things she would never get to say to him. No chance to say goodbye, she wept internally, as her vision began to fade.
At that thought her whole body revolted against her death and in one final surge of energy, the dying girl drove a knee up between the man's legs. The effect was devastating and instantaneous. The wiry soldier yelped in what was the ultimate pain and recoiled backwards dropping the mop.
It took a second before Amber's body realised it was no longer supported by her throat and she dropped forward onto her knees, sucking in frenzied breaths through her burning throat. Dizzy beyond belief, Amber coughed and spluttered, as her newly opened throat rebelled against its recent trauma. Amber's vision was clearing more and more with each inspired breath and it allowed her to witness in disbelief the rise of her would be murderer.
One hand clutched his damaged manhood, as he struggled to his feet, swearing in his countries harsh sounding language, his eyes were ablaze with hatred. With his free hand he slowly picked up his assault rifle from the floor and withdrawing a hand from his crotch, he snatched a magazine off his bandoleer. The curved magazine slid into the mag recess with a resounding click, completing the recognised picture of evil that was the AK-47.
With a shaking, injured hand, the soldier cocked the bolt back with his two good fingers, the harsh rasp of metal on metal combined with the sound of a bunching spring caused Amber's burning chest to skip a beat. The final sinister noise of the bolt being released and the working parts slamming forward, chambering a bullet, seemed to herald Amber's death.
Resolutely she closed her eyes.
As the black finger strayed towards the trigger guard, a shadow reared up behind the distracted soldier and slammed into him from behind. A shallow breathing Paulo carried the soldier with the momentum of his tackle right into the wall, smashing the soldier square on into the metal, causing a resounding thump. The deadly weapon slipped from the battered man, as it was his turn to fight for air, struggling for breath he scrambled frantically at Paulo's arms that held him pinned to the wall.
Releasing his hold to draw a fist, Paulo roared as smashed one of his huge mitts into the African man's head with terrible force, knocking him sideways face first into the basin. Paulo's thick fingers wrapped around the ailing man's neck and forced his head into the murky water. Blinded by a red curtain, Paulo held the man there while he thrashed and kicked in vain, his struggles becoming weaker. At the sudden cessation of movement, it suddenly dawned on Paulo what he was doing and he immediately hauled the man out, letting the filthy body spill back across the floor.
Feeling his heart pounding in his ears, Paulo turned to rush over to Amber, a concerned look on his face.
"My god Amber, I thought he had killed you! Are you alright?"
Amber's throat was in agony and she suspected talking would just aggravate it so just she nodded instead with moist eyes, as she weakly hugged her friend. The small amount of pressure she could muster was enough to make Paulo collapse in pain beside her, clutching his ribs and sucking in air hard between clenched teeth. He also became acutely aware of a terrible pain in his hand and looked down to see the hand he had punched with earlier was quickly swelling up; bolts of pain shot through it whenever he tried to move his fingers.
Worry lined Amber's face and despite the terrible pain in her throat, she croaked at him.
"Are you? Is he…?" She couldn't finish her sentence, as she nodded at the soaked soldier lying only metres away.
Paulo gritted his teeth harder and spoke in gasps.
"I'll live, he's not breathing though."
Amber could only stare speechless at what seemed like the millionth dead body she had seen that week. Death seems to follow us lately, she grimly thought.
"That is unless you want to give him CPR" Paulo said exhausted, a hard look in his eyes.
Amber shook her head glass-eyed.
She remembered how close she had came to death at this mans hands, how his filthy body had been forced up tight against her own and she shuddered. Surprisingly, she realised she felt no remorse for this man at all. He would have happily killed them both and maybe done worse things to her first if they hadn't defended themselves.
A crash from across the room made both friends jump.
An untidy head of black hair poked up from the scrap metal bin and Amber suddenly remembered their reluctant guide. The small boy fully emerged from his hiding place with a new found look of respect for Paulo, as he hurried back over to the friends.
Proud to be in the presence of such perceived heroes, the boy declared happily.
"You both very tough to kill him."
"It's not like that, it was an acci-" Amber gravely tried to explain, before she was cut off by a familiar two-toned whistle. Knowing Paulo didn't have the breath to return it, Amber puckered her lips and returned the call.
Second's later Li erupted into the room.
"The others are on their way here, I hope you guys are ready to leave here.." Her voice trailed off and disappeared when she spotted her two friends slumped against the wall, wrecked and the body of the soldier splayed across the floor in a shallow puddle of water.
"What the hell happened here?" She managed to gasp, her face alight with concern, as she ran over to the two teens leaning on the wall.
Amber started to huff out a hoarse reply, her face cringed in pain when Paulo cut her off.
"We ran into a complication.." He quickly snapped, refusing to meet Li's gaze. "We are ready to go now though."
Li was about to push the matter when she heard a second whistle from outside.
"That's the others," She jumped, "We can discuss this later, but now we have got to get out of here."