Jess shivered, watching her breath turn into a cloud.
It mixed with the rest of the misty, frigid wind from the winter storm blowing in through the smashed storefront windows. It was cold as hell, just like every single day since she was delivered in this little hole in the mountain. Funny thing was that she was starting to care less and less. On day one, she thought she'd freeze her ass off in the drafty bunker the others had found buried beneath the rocks, snow, and ice. Today, sitting facing the brunt of another blizzard…she felt a fire kindling within.
The enemy had thermal vision. Her little squad had nothing of the sort. What they did have were some advanced foil winter gear that held in and masked body heat. It wasn't perfect, but it was all the rag-tag group had managed to find in the bunkers. And the bastards tromping through the snow right now would have a hell of a time picking her out. If everything worked the way Jess wanted, one might just walk right past the window, giving her time to exact a little revenge.
But when did everything work out the way she wanted?
C'mon, you bastards. Little snow couldn't hold you back. Where are you?
Shifting uncomfortably in her crouched position, Jess leaned against the window frame, careful not to brush against any of the broken glass still lodged in the metal. She squinted through her goggles, the only exposed part of her face. She wanted to wipe away some of the moisture collecting on the front, but she dare not set down her carbine. So she squinted, trying to make out shapes in the snowstorm raging through the mountains.
She could see a few feet into the old town street. Unlike most major cities hit by the war, there weren't any stalled or shattered vehicles scattered about. Jess had grown so used to the sight that this place seemed fake. No craters, either. Occasionally, when the wind and snow parted ever so briefly, she could see the untouched brick façade of a shop with second floor apartments across the way.
But she still couldn't spot the enemy.
"I've got movement on the east side."
Jess perked up at the voice in her ear. She still didn't know most of the names, save those in her squad, but she thought she could place a face to this guy. Shorter, spiky blonde hair. Claimed to be a good sniper. That must have been what he was doing now; watching the east side of town.
Is that where the enemy was coming in?
Jess gritted her teeth, itching to move. The cold was starting to get to her now, but more than anything she wanted to go out and meet the enemy. None of this hiding guerrilla crap was satiating her bloodlust. These monsters wanted a fight; they had picked the middle of a blizzard to come flush them out. Why couldn't she oblige them on that count?
"Yeah, I see them," she heard the commander chime in on the channel."Small group; probably eleven total. They're taking it slow, too. Let's see if we can't lull them as far as Third Avenue."
Jess growled inside. Third avenue? That was halfway across town from where she was! She wasn't going to sit in the rubble, waiting while the rest of the squadrons got action she was missing out on.
Jess was halfway made up in mind to change positions when she heard footsteps on broken glass.
Tensing, she instinctively crouched lower, barely peeking over the lip of the window. Her eyes searched hard in the whiteout, a sudden trill of anxiety and adrenaline coursing through her. Had she imagined it?
No. No, she hadn't. She could see now as three human shapes took form along the sidewalk near where she was hidden. They sauntered slowly down the way, coming from the west side of town, and now easily visible in their dark body gear. Jess knew from that moment they were enemies. She and the rest of the squadrons were all dressed in white gear.
Whoever these assholes were, they seemed to have no problem sticking out like sore thumbs in the middle of the storm.
Jess knew she should probably radio in; report the bizarre movement. What were these three doing here, while the rest of their buddies made a big show on the east of town? But Jess didn't want to miss the opportunity. She wasn't going to wait until they were out of earshot for her to make the call.
She was going to butcher them all.
Tensing, she licked her lips as the three figures walked within feet of her hiding place. All three of them had massive rifles, all pointed downward casually. None of them looked too particularly interested in being there. Lax and unaware. This was going to be so easy…
They were almost right where she needed them. One had slowed, glancing across the street. The other two continued forward casually, bobbing their heads as if chattering through their private radios. Just a little closer. Just a little…
An explosion of pure adrenaline propelled Jess up from her hiding place, snapping her carbine up and yanking down on the trigger hard. She screamed out in spite of herself, flailing backwards as the sudden recoil knocked her off kilter. The burst of rage and disorientation left her dazed and tossed around.
She slammed her head against the floor, coming to her senses.
Bouncing on impulse, she spun around, realizing she had dropped her carbine. Shit. Whatever madness had possessed her had turned her brain to mush. She still felt a little dizzy from the bloodlust, and it took her a moment to get her bearings.
She was on the floor of the same shop she had been camped out in for nearly the last hour. The blizzard raging outside had left half a foot of snow immediately around the front, where the windows were broken in. And now she could see two limp bodies lying draped over the window seal. She also thought she could hear voices in her earpiece radio set—someone screaming about gunfire—but her ears still rang from the rush of blood and the sound of her carbine. Those things were loud.
Before she could process anything further, a heavy weight knocked her flat on her back. Someone's knee drove hard into her gut. She curled instinctively into the fetal position, pain shooting through her middle.
Strong arms pried her apart, and she felt someone straddle her hard in the middle, both knees pinning her arms down. A rough hand reached down, ripping off her winter mask, exposing her face and short blonde hair to the icy cold. She coughed hard.
The enemy soldier in black loomed over her, staring silently down at her. Jess was still too disoriented to think much, but she wondered why the hell he hadn't shot back. Now she was beginning to feel really uncomfortable with him sitting on top of her like this…
"Jess! Respond, damn it! Kylor said he saw gunfire from your position! What happened?!"
Well now she could hear well enough what all the commotion was in her earpiece. She just couldn't tap her mike to respond. And bastard number three was still just staring down at her dumbly. She wished she could see past his own black winter mask to read his expression. What the hell was he even thinking about?
Jess was through with this. As soon as the soldier shifted his weight, finally having decided on something, Jess yanked her right arm free of his knee. He reacted quickly, trying to pin her again, but Jess already had her knife in hand, plunging into his leg.
The soldier cried out mutedly through his mask in agony. He let up on his weight, and Jess took advantage of the situation, pushing back against him. It would have been hard to imagine a year ago that she could have done it, especially since the guy had seventy pounds on her easily. But in a few tedious seconds, she had knocked him off her entirely, focusing on her laborious training from her new leaders.
As soon as she was free of his weight, Jess leapt up, lashing outward with her elbow hard in his face. Then she spun around him, drawing the knife cleanly across his neck. He flailed for a moment, Jess wondering if she had cut deep enough. But it didn't last long, and soon he dropped back down, crimson blood dying the snow something other than the black and white washed out scenery around them.
"Jess!" the voice in her earpiece cried out again.
"I'm here," she replied breathlessly. "Just had some asshole to take care of first."
"Well thank God! We've got enemy tangos moving in from the west now, too! Move up with your squad!"
"Gotcha," she replied quickly.
Glancing off to her side, she spotted where her carbine had fallen aside, a small layer of fresh snow piled atop it. She scooped it up quickly, glancing back briefly at the enemy soldier lying face down in the bloody snow. The fire from before was gone, but that was okay. That much adrenaline and rage had nearly killed her.
This was a job best done cold.