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Brooks scratched his nose and pushed himself up from the desk that he was leaning on. The coffee cup was discarded as he gave Ellen a brief explanation,“The FOE are american based, we won’t be dealing with them out where we’re going. asked good questions, so I’ll answer them anyway. The F.O.E. rely on precision and meticulous attacks. They can’t afford to have the public turn against ‘em and will go to great lengths to prevent using heavy firepower to take down our folks. Now that don’t mean they’re doing it out of respect for kindness,” Brooks’s face twisted into a scowl. “The F.O.E. are still zealous. They’ll be ruthless and brutal if they catch us.” He coughed before carrying on.

“As for what the plan of action is if they do ever catch you, it’s to rely on your instinct. Or the instinct of the next best person. It’s the measures we take before a mission that's supposed to stop them from catching us. They can mess and scramble with blue magic to prevent its use so you’d be solely relying on a clean getaway to lose them, something they wouldn’t allow unless they’re being sloppy.” He wet his lips before turning to Angeline.

“There ain’t mercy regarding children from the F.O.E. If the VU fall they’ll get strung up dead either way. Now whether they actually got the gumbo to carry out said tasks is why we don't turn away volunteers. It’s easier to train people that are willing over those who want to...” Brooks trailed off momentarily, glancing at the doors to the headquarters, "...To try and live a normal life." He shook his head slightly. "We need all the hands we can get."

It was a bit of an unnecessary addition on my end. With the map he carries with him I just meant to imply that he’d try to acquire a local map of whatever area he’d find himself with, if there’s not one available at the location he’s at then he wouldn’t have one!

Brooks (And Abigail)

“aw shit. Cops. how far off are u.”

Brooks exhaled through his nostrils and shifted his weight in the seat. His stiff, calloused fingers reached out to tap out “close” and press send with one hand on the steering wheel but it's a clumsy affair made with unpracticed movements. He adjusted the rear view mirror, squeezed the steering wheel in his fists, and once again glanced over at his passenger. Abigail was peacefully curled up in her seat, baseball cap drawn low over her eyes and oblivious to the world around her. His expression softened slightly, turned contemplative - then hardened with a clenched jaw and focused on the road ahead. He gently eased up on the accelerator to avoid going too fast out of sheer nerves and waited impatiently for the next little ping that would tell him what he needed to know.

”i think they saw me. fuck. you have your gun? i think we’ll need to” The message cut off, stopped as it was sent. A tense moment of anticipation followed.

”yeah they saw me theyre coming in my direction now, im gonna head inside the shack and wait for them or something”

”fuck man, shit, if they report us we are fucked”

Brooks slowed and stopped the car. “Girl.” he reached out, nudging her shoulder to wake her up. “Girl. Wake up now.”

Abigail grunted, rubbing her eyes. "The tower?" She asked blearily.

“Get out and get into the trunk. Now. I’m going to drive a bit further and then give you the keys. Don’t get out unless you hear my voice or i’m gone for more than half an hour.” his eyes remained fixed on the road, deciding to additionally kill his headlights.

Abigail stared at him open mouthed, then back at the road, then down at her lap. She started stuffing sweets into her pockets. "What if I need to pee while I'm in there?"

“Then you piss yourself. Now go.” he raised his voice in annoyance.

"Awh," Abigail whined. She got out. The trunk clicked open and she wriggled her way inside, pulling the top down to the best of her abilities. Three quiet thumps on the back seat sounded out.

Brooks continued driving, this time slower and with much more care as the road ahead was practically pitch black. He drove until he had reassured himself that he was at a reasonable walking distance from the shack Billy was holed up in. He pulled aside and killed the engine, reached into the glovebox for his pistol, checked it was fully loaded, grabbed the keys and quietly shut the door before moving back to open the trunk and chuck the keys at Abigail. “Thirty minutes.” he reminded her again. Abigail flashed him two thumbs up. She had a tootsie roll stuffed in her mouth.

Brooks shut the trunk and stuffed his pistol into the back of his pants by the waistband. He didn’t follow the road but took a detour off road and watched to not run a foot through any prairie holes. He walked with the intention of having the position behind the cops who he hoped were distracted by the shack and Billy inside it. He walked with the primary intent of spotting a vehicle the cops might have used to arrive at the shack or any humanoid figures around the shack.

True enough, there it was - a Ford Mustang GT, marked with the colours of the Arizona Highway Patrol, blue lights still flashing like a harsh beacon against the night sky. As Brooks looked around the car, itself about fifty feet back along the dirt road out to the brick house Billy was hiding in, he caught sight of the pair of cops it belonged to.

Two men in puff jackets with the state police logo stitched onto the shoulder - one of them with his sergeant’s stripes.

Almost on cue, another text from Billy.

theres three of em, two out front and one dude comin round the back to see if he can catch me off guard. He wont tho

how you wanna handle this bud?

“Distract two out front. I take man in back. I circle round to help.” Brooks texted and then fully shut his phone. He was intent on catching the man circling the shack off guard, quietly. He advanced using the darkness as cover, partially crawling and ducking until he was close enough to the man and out of sight of the two out front. He closed the distance, prioritising staying quiet over moving fast and latched onto him with a chokehold from behind, struggling against him with the intent to lower him to the ground to finish the choke.

As the cop was about to reach for the door handle, he was pulled from his feet to the floor, his weapon thudding harmlessly against the dirt with the safety still on. For the briefest of split seconds, there came the beginnings of a yell of surprise, a sort of half-noise that died in his throat when the choke came on.

“Well, uh, hey fellas. Can I help you gentlemen with somethin’? I’m uh, just out here with my, uh, well…” a sweet sounding young voice with a heavy southern drawl came from inside the house, around to the front of it, “... with my girlfriend.”

Possibly the most obvious lie Brooks had ever heard - but from the sound of it, enough to give the cops pause.

“Sir, we’re gonna need you and your lady friend to exit the house through the front door, with your hands up.”
“Now uh, I uh, well, uh…”

The cop, tight and struggling in Brooks’ arms, gave a faint groan before shuddering and falling still. Not dead. Not yet. But unconscious and incapable for a little while at least.

Brooks didn’t waste a second. He took advantage of the brief moments of unconsciousness the cop had to grab his gun, flick off the safety and check if it was loaded before shimmying alongside the house. Forgoing stealth completely at this point, he abruptly started firing at the two cops at the front of the house, aiming for the one furthest away and hoping that Bill would be quick to react and take the other one during the moment of fatal surprise.

“Fuck, shoote-” the furthest cop got out, before collapsing into a backwards spin with a scream as two shots caught him in the shoulder.

There was a moment of commotion as the other officer flinched his head down reflexively, and Billy broke open the shutters on the front window of the cabin with the butt of his gun. The cop on the ground pointed his pistol haphazardly at the front of the house and started firing wildly as his sergeant dove for cover.

In the distance, Abigail could hear gunshots.

Brooks ducked back to the side of the house for cover, slinking away towards the back to first finish off the cop who had passed out and secondly to reposition on the other side of the shack whilst the cop on the ground wasted his bullets.

With the sharp crack of another gunshot from the rear of the house, the wounded cop stopped firing and tried to scramble to his feet - only to be met by a 5.56 to the back of the head, putting him down for good.

“Officer down! Officer do- shit!” The sergeant behind cover started screaming into his radio before his cover started being shot apart from inside the shack.

Brooks, now on the side of the house, walked a wide bow around the officer pinned taking cover until he had a clear shot to finish him off whilst Billy continued to rain down fire at the man.

In the end, both guns fired at the same time, the officer in hiding turning and raising his weapon just a split second after Brooks came around and at him. The difference in the matter was where each shot landed; Brooks caught the cop in the throat, the cop caught Brooks in the arm.

The cop lived a moment more, and squeezed a second shot off into the dirt as he slumped backwards.

Silence fell on the night like a blanket, adrenaline masking the pain for a few more moments. A cursory glance would reveal that the injury itself wasn’t very serious - it was more of a very nasty graze on the outer aspect of his upper arm than a true gunshot wound, and all the really vital bits had been spared so the arm was actually still functional. But it still hurt, and it would take precious, scarce, elusive time to heal.

“Hey bud, you alright out there?” Billy eventually raised his voice.

Brooks spent a solid minute grunting, groaning, and grumbling with a mixture of pain and annoyance. Calming himself as he painfully writhed on the ground. He reached out to get himself up with the help of Billy. “I’m getting the girl, then we’re going. They called backup.” he stated before hurrying his way back to where he had parked his ride.

Brooks knocked on the boot of the car, “Out. Now. HURRY.” he anxiously started tugging on the lock, waiting for her to unlock it from the inside. There was some fumbling and the trunk popped open. Abigail unfurled from its confines, stretching painfully.

She blinked and looked at Brooks. "You're covered in blood," she murmured, not sure what to do about it.

“Get out. Hurry. We have to go.” he reached behind him, making sure his own pistol was still there tucked under his waistband as he looked around down the main road, paying attention to both noises and lights in the distance. He started trudging ahead of Abigail, occasionally jogging as he moved with a spring in his step and always looking behind him for Abigail.

Abigail had no trouble keeping pace with him. She moved like a baby gazelle - erratically, drunkenly, and with the wide eyed bestial fear that one can only really experience when being hunted. She looked like she was one loud noise away from bolting. She paused only to stare at the corpses littering the dust in front of the shack. "Are they dead? Did you-WOAH!" there was a quiet womph and a small arc of purple flame as Abigail finally noticed Billy, and her tunnel vision gave her a fright. As she threw her arms up to protect her face, another small gout of flame shot from the base of the palm, cutting a bright flash into the night. "Who the fuck are you?! Hey Brooks, I think you missed one!"

“Stop that!” he reached out to grab her wrist. “He’s helping us. Now come on, into the shack.”

“Nice to meet you too, kiddo. Name’s Billy. Please don’t set me on fire, heh” Billy gave her a silly grin, before turning to Brooks. “I’m gonna need a couple ticks to make the call, so- aw Jesus, fuckit, what the hell happened to your arm? One a them got you, didn’t they?” He continued as he produced a cheap plastic flip phone from the pocket of his faded orange body warmer, and clicked for quick dial.

"Wait, what's wrong with his arm?" Abigail was being half dragged into the shack by the wrist caught in Brooks' hand, and she turned slightly to gawp at the wound. "Is that your blood? Did you get shot? Chrisalmighty, did it hurt?" She reached out to poke his bicep.

“Yes, and I’m trying to goddamn ignore it - no thanks to you two,” Brooks pushed Abigail’s hand away. “Stay here,” he ordered her, depositing her in the shack. He went outside and fumbled for a pack of cigarettes in his jacket pocket, patting his breast pocket and scowling. “Got a lighter?” he asked Billy.

“Yeah, sure. That shit’ll kill you though.” Billy added almost by reflex, fishing a cheap bic lighter out of the other pocket of his body warmer as the phone in his other hand finished dialling and the call connected.

“Hello?” Came a voice on the other end.

“Hey, this is Bobby calling. I think I left my jacket at yours last night, it’s got my keys in it. Mind if I come over?”

There was a pause of about twenty seconds - long, tense seconds - before the person on the other end replied.

“Yeah sure man. It’ll be about five minutes, is that good?”

“Well we’ve had a bit of trouble on our end, see. Can we be there any faster?”

Another brief pause.

“Not really.”

Billy looked up from the phone at Brooks.

“Five minutes ok?”

“Five minutes.” Brooks nodded at Billy.

“Five minutes.” Billy repeated into the phone, before hanging up.
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