Winter – Chapter 18 – 05

            “We’re starting to do this too damn often, Thom,” Matt said as he thrust a scabbarded sword in his brother-in-law’s direction.  “How many more people and things are going to show up to potentially kill us?”
            Thom’s fingers closed around the scabbard.  He began to belt on the blade as he answered Matt’s question with one of his own.  “This year, this month, or into perpetuity?”
            “Real funny,” Matt muttered.  He nodded toward the shotguns.  “Reloading those is going to be a problem if we end up in a straight fight.”
            “We’ll just have to hope,” Thom said.  Hope that the first volley makes them run.  How many people can I get up on the walls with shotguns?  How many can I pack into that gap in the walls?
            How many of us are going to be dead before this is over?
            He swallowed bile and rounded up an armload of shotguns.  “We’ll just have to hope they’ll want to talk.”
            “Talk and then take our shit, probably,” Matt muttered under his breath, scooping up an armload himself and stuffing a bag full of ammunition boxes.  “You wouldn’t be flipping out if you suspected anything but.”
            “We have to hope, Matt,” Thom repeated.
            “Right.  Where’s rally point?”
            “Under the watchtower,” Thom said, long strides carrying him out of the tent and back in the direction he came.  Already a small knot of people was gathering near the watchtower, where Rory still perched with Kellin, both squinting into the distance.
            “Start handing these out as soon as we get there,” Thom muttered to Matt.
            “Roger that.”  Matt took a deep breath and exhaled slowly.  “How are we going to pull this off, Thom?”
            “With a lot luck and a lot of guts.”  Paul’s back already.  That was fast—Carolyn must have sprinted the whole way out to the pasture and they must have driven the flock hell-bent for leather all the way back.  Unless he was already on his way back for the day or something…  Thom shook himself and stopped wondering what could have driven Paul and the sheep back from grazing so early in the day and was instead grateful that he was already back.  He thrust a shotgun into the other man’s hands.  “You’re the best with one of these.  If I send you up on the watchtower, what do you think your range will be?”
            “With a slug?”  Paul shrugged slightly.  “I can aim it at a hundred or so, but I can’t guarantee it’ll do any damage at that range.  It’s the nature of the beast.”
            Thom nodded slowly.  No better or worse than I thought.  Not for the first time, he silently cursed the fact that most of the firearms they’d been able to gather were shotguns.  That was going to put them at a disadvantage at range.
            Unless the sound of a bunch of shotguns cocking all at once scares the crap out of whoever’s coming.  He suppressed the urge to knuckle his eyes and laid the other shotguns in his arms down on the ground, letting Matt handle the distribution.  “Head on up to the watchtower, then,” he told Paul.  “Did Carolyn tell you what’s going on?”
            “Yeah, someone’s coming and they might be violent.” Paul headed for the ladder, handing the shotgun back to Thom.  “Let me get partway up, then hand it up to me.”
            Thom nodded, glancing toward the others.  Drew crossed his arms.
            “What’s the plan, Thom?”
            “We’re going to put some people up on the walls,” Thom said.  “They should be wide enough in some places, strong enough.  We’re going to pack a bunch in the gap.  Try to rack the first shotgun round all at the same time and hope that gives these folks pause.  Whatever happens, they’re not just going to run us over like a bunch of kids unable to defend ourselves.  We pushed back the camazotzi and the Greys.  We can set some raiders back on their heels and show them we’re not here for the picking.”
            Easy prey we’re not.  Anyone who makes the mistake of thinking that’s what we are is going to get a nasty surprise once they try to take a bite of this piece of pie.
            One way or another.

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