He collected a few of them anyway before following Jason out into the courtyard. His tarrying lured a crowd of their enemies into the lobby from adjoining hallways.
“This way,” Jason said. The few threats scattered about outdoors began to converge on them. There was barking in the distance.
He looked backward at the building they left behind. He watched his partner pitch a grenade at the pursuers that were streaming from the exit. It blew the glass from the doorway and blackened the lettering above:
Asylum for the Feeble-Minded & Insane
They passed under the wrought-iron arch and beyond the red brick of the courtyard walls.
All about them smoke plumed into the sky from a city aflame.
“Over here.” Jason led the way to a truck, a residential mover, abandoned and side-lying, its contents strewn after it like a great carcass scavenged. They picked their way down the street past furniture, clothes, decorations, a smashed phonograph. They went around it to the paddy wagon that wrapped its front fender. Jason forced one of its doors open. “Take these,” he said. The other man armed himself with the Thompson submachine gun and spare drum magazines from the body of the officer inside. Jason took the pistol. “To the left,” he warned.
A river of foes dressed in clothes and uniforms as diverse as they were repetitive spilled from a nearby alley. The closest one, slovenly in a ragged suit and fedora, fell under steady fire from the tommy. Two canine figures sprang forward snarling. Quick and decayed-looking, they took the gunmen unawares. They circled and attacked, forcing the victims back to the alley. The response was equal parts defense and counterattack.
Spectacular as it was, it was short-lived. The gunners went down in a fury. Mauled from all sides they took more than four times their number with them.
As it faded, the view from one of the men lying in the street amid continuing savagery, lolled over the way he had come. Silhouetted against a sunrise the color of blood, supported by the masonry was the centerpiece of the ornamental arch—EST. 1917.
They blinked in unison. The rate of it set the tempo for the inactivity of their faces. The words hung before them, OBJECTIVE FAILED. Two sets of numbers ticked upward in a blur, each reaching its respective total. Then they summed into a combined total.
Jason’s grip on the controller loosened. “Woo-hoo!” he yelled. “Hey, Ran. That’s a new high score, dude.”
“No it’s not.” Ran Large looked across the sofa at his friend, incredulous.
“Yeah it is. For co-op.”
“Oh, yeah,” he acknowledged. “And—” he raised a finger, pausing “—my individual score smoked yours.” He laughed.
“Next time, baby, next time.”
* * *