Ben was out of breathe, nearly doubled-over from the exertion of running to their position on the beach. “You want the good,” he paused to inhale jaggedly, “or the bad news?”
“Well, you’re here,” Rox said, “which means you aren’t trying to slow down the Army anymore. Can’t imagine what the good news even would be.”
“I finally stopped throwing up.”
“He’s lying,” Rui said, landing beside him. “He just ran out of things to throw up.”
“And I say that still counts.”
They heard the sound of a bullhorn keying, then a voice blared at them across the sand. “This is Colonel Samuel Peters of the United States Army. You are all under arrest. Lay face down, hands laced behind your head, and you have my guarantee none of you will be harmed.” The colonel and a handful of his executive staff stood at the front of a column of soldiers and armored vehicles.
“Rox?” Sonya asked.
She looked to her left, at the throng of refugees, most of them children, all of them looking worse for wear even after Cris had seen to their worst injuries, then to her right, and a contingent of American forces. As if to hammer home the contrast, a pair of tanks pulled up to either side of the colonel. “We can’t win,” Rox said. “But we can buy them time to get away. I’m going to do that. Anybody who doesn’t feel like facing down a tank, I’m sure they could use someone leading them away.”
“They’ll figure it out,” Ben said. “Because we’re not going anywhere.”
“Duh,” Sonya said.
“I was just going to fly away,” Rui said, “but Tombstone was always one of my favorite movies.”
“And here I was thinking I wasn’t going to get a chance to hurt anyone after what they did in that base…” Anita said, a disturbing grin growing on her face.
“Okay, we were having a moment until that,” Sonya said, wrinkling her nose. “That smile is really creeping me out.”
“Do we survive this?” Rox asked Anita.
“I was so excited,” Anita said, reaching for her holster, “I nearly forgot to- oh. Damnit.” Her hand dropped limply to her side.
“No. Wait for it.”
“United States forces, you are hereby ordered to stand down by the sovereign nation of Cuba,” they heard, over a second, crappier bullhorn.
“Wait,” Ben said, “is that-”
“Yes, it’s her.” Anita said, scowling. Laren was marching across the sand with a handful of officers from the Cuban Army. She motioned for Rox and the rest to join them.
“Should I?” Mahmoud asked.
“Wouldn’t be a party without you,” Sonya said, motioning for him to follow.
As they approached, they could hear the Colonel yelling. “We have air support, numerical and technical superiority, and the full might of the U.S. Federal Government. You’ve got a bunch of prepubescents, half of which can barely stand up straight.”
Laren looked up at the sky as a drone buzzed them, then turned to Mahmoud. “I want that drone at my feet.” Rox tensed, uncertain he was up for it.
The drone turned to make another pass, but this time kept angling, until it was pointed at the ground. It struck land ten feet from them, digging a trench and throwing sand until it came to a stop just in front of Laren, who put her boot on its hull.
“Do you have any idea how much those cost?” the colonel bellowed. He turned to his men and ordered, “Arms at the ready.”
“Radios,” Laren said, “no permanent damage.”
Mahmoud pinched the air and twisted, and their radios shrieked in unison through the earpieces, loud enough to be heard even ten feet away. Soldiers fell to their knees, or dropped their weapons, before turning off their radios.
“Now,” Laren said, stepping towards the colonel, “you gentlemen seem to have brought all manner of flyswatters to this thing, but what I think you even to this moment don’t get is this: you’re the flies. Tanks.”
“You’re welcome,” Mahmoud said, raising his arms.
“No way,” the colonel said.
The tanks rolled to an angle, blocking the colonel and his staff from Laren. Their turrets turned towards him and his men, backstopped by the opposite tank.
“Now, given that the U.S. is congenitally prone to swinging its dick around, regardless of the circumstances, even that might not be enough to dissuade you. But let me be clear, boys, we aren’t alone here. Nor are we invaders. We’re refugees, officially welcomed by the Cuban government. You might recognize our welcoming committee coming over that hill, a company from the Cuban military. They’re here, of course, with a dual mission, to welcome us, and to escort you back to your base, which you have clearly mistakenly wandered away from. Because if this isn’t an accident, it’s an armed incursion into sovereign Cuban territory. And that can’t possibly be what happened here.”
“What the fuck is the CIA even doing here?” the colonel gasped.
“I’m sure Langley is on the phone asking your superiors the opposite question as we speak. Now run along home, before we decide to keep your toys, or maybe leave them in Cuba for whoever might want them. Don’t forget your drone.”