THE LANGUAGE OF GOD
Those couple of people who hadn’t made it out the door yet froze at the voice. Gang-banger took a step forward. “You really think…?”
The thing about the standard two-handed grip, other than allowing you to better aim with the sights and compensate for recoil, was that it kept your pistol on target if you had a tendency to talk with your hands. Gang-banger’s gesture wasn’t big—something like a wrist shrug—but it caused the barrel of the pistol to deviate almost two inches. That was enough for Barron.
His thumb clicked the safety lever on the side of the AK as he stepped forward. Grace let out a little screech as he swept the rifle up and struck Gang-banger’s wrist with it, knocking the pistol away. He stepped through the swing in one continuous motion, releasing the rifle behind him like a major league batter as his right hand snapped forward and grabbed the kid’s collar on the opposite side. He grabbed the kid’s tunic with his other hand, his wrists forming an ‘x,’ and then twisted the collar tight, forcing his forearm against Gang-banger’s throat, choking him.
As the kid flailed with his arms, Barron swept his leg, knocking him to the ground, Barron falling forward on top of him. Barron’s weight landed on the forearm pinned against Gang-banger’s throat. There was a crack, and all the fight went out of him. The entire process had taken maybe two seconds.
“Are you crazy? What…?” Grace started to ask, but Barron shushed her.
Footsteps sounded in the corridor leading to the vault. Barron grabbed up the pistol on the floor and sighted toward the corner. Grace’s boss appeared first, followed by Lefty. “What the hell are you two…?”
Barron put a round into Lefty’s hip, rocking the man back. Grace’s boss tore out of the man’s grip and ran out of the line of fire. Lefty spent a precious second trying to grab her back instead of attending to Barron, in which time Barron put two more rounds into Lefty’s chest. He stumbled back as his prisoner raced for the door.
Barron wasted a second to assess the man’s wounds. He probably should have kept shooting, but wanted to save ammo for the guys still in the vault; he would need some suppressive fire to get a good solution on the shotgun guy. That half-second of wasted time allowed Lefty to duck back around the corner from which he’d come.
No blood from the chest wounds, Barron realized. Lefty was wearing a vest. Reasonable to assume the others were, too. Blood on the floor, though. The hip shot had scored, apparently.
Barron dimly heard shouted voices above the ringing in his ears. He advanced to the corner, peeked around, saw Shotgun drawing down on him. He ducked back as a shotgun blast tore at the corner. Ducked back around and hit him with a snapshot that sent him reeling; his return shotgun blast went wild. Grey fired back, and Barron dodged back around the corner.
“Get out of here!” Barron shouted to Grace.
“No!” Grace replied, though her posture was uncertain. Beyond her, the AK kid was getting to his feet.
“Then bring me that rifle,” Barron said above shouts from the vault. He ducked around the corner, tried to shoot Shotgun, who was struggling to his feet. The shot went wild as he had to duck back immediately under fire from the vault.
“It’s empty,” Grace said.
“No, it’s not!” Barron said.
“But the bullet holes in the ceiling…”
“I bluffed,” Barron said. The AK kid’s head snapped around at that one, just in time to see Barron put a bullet into his head. Grace shrieked. “And search him for extra magazines while you’re at it.”
He heard a crash from the vault. He ducked around the corner for a quick look, managed to see Shotgun disappear back into the vault and a steel cart dumped onto its side blocking most of the doorway. He ducked back again as more pistol shots rang out, though not as big a volley as before. They were conserving ammo, too.
He could hear voices from the vault, but the ringing in his ears kept him from making out the words. Still, they didn’t have many options. They were in a room with only one exit, and time was not on their side. If they were still in there when the cops arrived, they’d be stuck. But with three of them and a cart for cover, they could send two guys up each side of the hallway with one guy back behind the cart for suppressive fire to keep Barron pinned down until they had him flanked.
Not the worst plan in the world, if they had been facing practically anybody else.
“Here.” Barron glanced to his side to see Grace holding out the rifle and a second magazine. Her mascara had run from tears, and her eyes were terrified, but she was still there beside him.
“Set ’em on the ground,” Barron said, then dropped to one knee and raised his voice. “You guys might as well give up. Once the cops get here, there’s only one way this ends.”
“Give up?” Grey’s voice sounded incredulous. “We’ve got you outnumbered three to one.”
“That’s one way to do the math,” Barron said. He snapped around the corner and put two shots into Shotgun’s chest as he started out of the vault. Fire from behind the cart went high as Barron took another shot at Grey, who was already ducking back into the vault. Barron ducked back out of the line of fire again as pistol shots pounded into the corner at his level. “Here’s another. A minute ago, you had me outnumbered five-to-one. At this rate, you have about 90 seconds to live.”
“You really think you can take all three of us?”
“If I were just another man, probably not,” Barron admitted. “But you’ve heard about these supers who have come out since the First String left?”
“Daddy, no,” Grace said at his side.
“I’m one of them.”
There was a moment of silence, then a derisive snort of laughter. “You’re a superhero? Then why are you shooting at us with a pistol instead of throwing fireballs or something.”
“Please stop,” Grace said.
“That’s not what my power is.”
“Then what is it?”
Barron looked at Grace and saw her pleading eyes as she said, “Don’t say it, Daddy, please.”
But of course, he had brought it up precisely so he could say it. Because he so rarely got to speak the truth that constantly fought to be spoken. The truth that had cost him so much in the three years since the world had changed. Looking Grace in the eye, he said, “I speak the language of God…”
“Which orders the universe and holds it together.”
“Damn it, Daddy, please stop,” Grace was crying again.
“I speak the language of numbers,” Barron finished.
There was another long pause, and then Grey’s voice said, “Wait, you mean math? Your superpower is math?”
But Barron barely heard him. He was too busy watching Grace walk quickly toward the exit doors, swiping away tears as she went. And though he dimly realized that his heart (what was left of it) was breaking to see her go, he was glad she would not be here to see the rest.