By mid-afternoon Alex had done enough work for the day and had settled in to read one of his books. He loved reading and had thousands of books in his digital library on the servers in his bunker. There was nothing better than spending the morning working and the afternoon relaxing and reading.
He was just about to doze off when an alarm blared from inside his house. His eyes snapped open, then he dashed in to check his screens. Two cars threw dust as they worked their way toward his house. Alex hoped they would break an axle. They were from the Sheriff's office.
He cursed. As if the aliens weren't enough of a problem.
He thought quickly. Given that they had just been here, their presence today was unlikely to mean anything good. They were probably here for his supplies and would be ready for a fight.
He looked around his small home, taking stock of everything inside. There wasn't anything here he couldn't afford to lose. But this was his property, and nobody had any right to it but him. If he allowed them to push him over now, he'd be allowing them to push him over for as long as this crisis lasted.
He didn't want to be anywhere nearby when they arrived. Running to his bunker would've amounted to hiding, so that wasn't an option, but his house didn't provide the cover required to live through a shootout.
As it often did in these situations, his mind clicked into a different gear. Alex looked around the house, spotting the items he needed for a new plan. He moved quickly, grabbing a pair of walkie-talkies and one of his rifles.
As he had been for the last few days, Alex was already open carrying. He made sure to stuff a few extra magazines into the pockets of his cargo shorts. He wasn't nearly as prepared as he wanted to be, but it would have to do.
Alex turned one of the walkie-talkies on as he left his house, cranking the volume as high as it would go. He set it on the front porch then ran. From the video he had last seen, the cars were moving slowly and cautiously, but it still didn't give him more than a minute to find cover.
He sprinted, lungs burning and legs aching. He hadn't done nearly enough conditioning lately.
He crested a hill about a hundred yards away from his house then ducked so he was hugging the ground. He looked around, double-checking to make sure there wasn't any better cover. The small rise would offer him a little bit of protection, but not nearly enough to make him feel safe. At a hundred yards, even a pistol could land a lucky shot against him.
Still, it was the best he had.
He had just enough time to calm his breathing when the two vehicles came in sight of his house. Alex chambered a round in his rifle and drew deep breath as he watched the scene unfold below him.
Austin and a girl Alex didn't recognize stepped out of the first vehicle, while another one of the deputies stepped out of the second. Austin stood behind his open door, drawing his pistol and pointing it at Alex's house. The other deputy did the same. The girl who'd exited Austin's vehicle had closed her door, but when she saw what the other two were doing, she opened the door back up and crouched behind it. She brought something small out and brought it to her eye. At first Alex thought that she had some sort of rangefinder. But when he looked at the scene through his scope he saw she was actually looking through a video camera.
A video camera? What the fuck?
Before he could even start to puzzle out that mystery he heard Austin yell. He was close enough that the words rang clear. “Alex! I know you've got a ton of supplies in there. You've got thirty seconds to hand over half of what you have. Otherwise we're coming in and taking it all.”
Alex spoke into his walkie-talkie, keeping his voice low. “Does Chester know you're doing this, Austin?”
In the scope, Alex saw Austin notice the walkie-talkie for the first time. He pointed it out to the deputy, then crouched lower behind his door, suspecting a trap.
He yelled, “This isn't about Chester. This is about you doing the right thing and helping us out. Daniel died this morning because we didn't have the first aid to save him.”
Alex shook his head, hating that the situation had come to this. He had no idea who Daniel was, but even at this distance, he could hear Austin's voice crack at the mention of his name. But Daniel's death had nothing to do with him.
Alex spotted movement in the scope. Austin gestured toward the deputy. He moved low, preventing a clean shot. Alex watched, curious and nervous in equal measure. The man opened the trunk of the second car, hiding behind it for a few moments before reappearing with a rifle. The deputy was using the whole car as cover now, scoping the surrounding area with his weapon. Alex hadn't had enough time to don camouflage, so he figured he only had a minute or two at most before the deputy spotted him.
Alex swore softly. He didn't want to fight with law enforcement, but he wouldn't let them steal from him, either.
“Turn around, Austin. I only want to be left alone.”
“That's not going to happen. Your supplies can save lives, and I swore to protect those people.”
The barrel of the deputy's rifle slowly approached Alex's position. There was a chance the deputy might miss him, but that wasn't a chance Alex wanted to take. Low to the ground, he presented a small target, but that was no guarantee of safety.
Shit. He aimed at the glass to the right of the second deputy's head and pulled the trigger.
The glass shattered and Alex heard his shot echo across the plains. Both deputies reacted immediately, ducking lower and completely hiding from Alex's sights. The woman with the camera stood frozen in place as though she hadn't realized what had just happened.
Alex heard Austin swearing and checking on the other deputy. But his gaze was distracted by the woman. Either she had the courage of a seasoned special operations soldier or was dumb as a brick. He shook his head. A video camera was the least of his worries. He still had two deputies who no doubt wanted to hurt him to worry about.
“Leave, Austin. I won't give you another warning.”
There was no response, which only made Alex more nervous. Unless they were yelling, he wouldn't be able to hear them. No doubt they were planning their next moves. He focused on the scope, trying to pick out any hint of movement between the two vehicles. He saw nothing.
A cool wind blew across his back, drying some of the sweat. He took a deep breath and realized he'd been getting worked up. He inhaled, focusing on the scent of the grass and the dirt, centering himself. Calm conquered all challenges.
The only person in sight was the girl, and she continued standing tall behind the car door. Alex would've had no problem taking a killing shot. She was surveying the area with her video camera, and Alex wondered if she was searching for him. How stupid was she?
As he watched, dumbfounded, she switched her camera to her left hand, continuing to film, while reaching down and drawing a pistol with her right hand. He shook his head, not believing what he was looking at. The dumbass was going to shoot herself in the foot if she wasn't careful. Did she think she could use the video camera as a scope?
Alex blinked rapidly, as though he might be able to cause the illusion to disappear. The girl was so dumb, he struggled for words. His mute disbelief caused him to stop and stare.
But he had more important threats to worry about.
He ran his scope over the cars but couldn't see either of the deputies. Alex considered shifting his position, but then he saw a glint of light underneath the back right tire of the second deputy's vehicle. He swiveled his rifle around and turned his scope toward the light. It took a second to find the dark outline of a rifle from underneath the vehicle. The barrel pointed right at him.
He didn't even have time to curse before the muzzle flashed and the ground exploded less than a foot to his right.