"Now," Paula said.
Khamisi pressed the next buttons, one after the other.
The fence line for a full half mile exploded with a fiery twist of metal and barbed wire. Sections dropped flat to the ground, exposing the belly of the enemy.
Khamisi shed his tarp and stood. A motorcycle sped up from behind, kicking sand and dirt as it skidded to a stop next to him. Njongo waved him to mount. But Khamisi had one last duty. He lifted a siren horn over his head and squeezed the trigger. Its trumpet blast echoed across the homeland of the Zulus, sounding once again the charge of the Buffalo.
The explosions echoed down from above, flickering lights across the Bell chamber. Everyone froze. Baldric stood with his grandson Isaak by the control board. Ischke guarded Gray from a step away, her pistol leveled at his chest. Eyes drifted toward the ceiling, questioning.
Not Gray's eyes.
His gaze remained focused on the power meter on the console. Its indicators slowly rose toward a full pulse. Deaf to Gray's pleading, Baldric had activated the Bell. A rising hum penetrated the lead cylinder encased around the device. On a video monitor, the outer shell of the Bell glowed a pale blue.
Once the power meter reached its peak, a pulse would erupt and broadcast outward for five miles, killing Monk, Fiona, and Ryan wherever they hid. Only Gray was safe in the chamber, under the shield.
"Find out what's happening," Baldric finally ordered his grandson as the explosions died away.
Isaak was already reaching for the red phone.
The pistol blast startled all of them, coming on the heels of the muffled explosion, loud and intimate.
Gray spun around as blood splattered across the tiled floor.
Ischke's left shoulder bloomed crimson as she spun with the impact, shot from behind. Unfortunately, her pistol was clutched in her right hand. Knocked around, Ischke took aim at the shooter by the door.
Dr. Marcia Fairfield knelt in a shooter's stance, but with her right arm incapacitated, she had shot with her left, missing her kill shot.
Ischke was not so compromised. Even caught by surprise, her aim was rock solid.
Until Gray dove into her side.
Two pistols went off, deafening in the chamber—Ischke's and Marcia's.
Both missed their target.
Gray bear-hugged Ischke from behind, twisting her away from Marcia, but the woman was strong and fought like a wildcat. Gray managed to get his hand around Ischke's fist that held the gun.
Her brother ran toward them, a long German-steel dagger in his hand, held low.
Marcia fired from her stance, but she had no clean bead on Isaak either as Gray's and Ischke's tussling bodies blocked her shot.
Gray drove his chin into Ischke's bloody shoulder. Hard. She gasped, weakened slightly. Gray got her arm up and squeezed her fingers. Her pistol blasted. He felt the recoil in his own shoulder. But the shot was too low, striking the floor at Isaak's toes. Still, the ricochet grazed the man's calf, stumbling him a step.
Ischke, seeing her twin injured, savagely freed her arm and slammed her elbow into Gray's ribs. The air was knocked from him and pain danced across his eyes. Ischke broke free.
Beyond her, Isaak caught his footing, murder in his eyes, dagger glinting.
Gray did not wait. Lunging forward, he shoulder-checked Ischke from behind. The woman, still slightly off balance from breaking Gray's hold, flew forward into her brother.
Onto his dagger.
The serrated blade plunged into her chest.
A scream of surprise and pain burst from her lips. It echoed out of her brother. The pistol dropped from Ischke's fingers as she clutched her twin in disbelief.
Gray dove and caught her falling pistol before it struck the ground.
Skidding on his back, he aimed toward Isaak.
The man could have moved, should have moved, but he just held his sister in his arms, his face a mask of agony.
Gray fired from the side, a clean head shot, putting Isaak out of his misery.
The twins collapsed together to the floor, limbs entwined, blood pooling together.
Gray stood up.
Marcia ran into the room, pistol aimed toward Baldric. The old man stared at his dead grandchildren. But there was no grief in his eyes as he leaned on his cane, only a clinical detachment, dismayed by disappointing lab results.
The fight had taken less than a minute.
Gray saw the power meter for the Bell was in the red zone. He had maybe two minutes until the pulse. Gray placed the hot muzzle of the pistol against the old man's cheek. "Turn it off."
Baldric met his eyes. "No."
As the explosions echoed away, the frozen tableau in the upper hallway of the Waalenberg mansion thawed. The hyena creatures had flattened to the floor as the booming erupted. A few had turned tail, but the remainder stayed near their trapped prey. All around, muscled bulks rose back to their feet.
"Don't fire!" Monk whispered urgently. "Everyone into that room!"
He waved toward a side door, where they could make a better stand, limit their exposure. Gunther hauled Anna. Mosi D'Gana stepped away from the beast he had impaled with a spear. He helped Major Brooks to his feet. Blood flowed thickly from a deep bite to the man's thigh.
Before they could move farther, a savage growl of warning arose from Monk's other flank.
His name was whispered. "Monk…"
Lisa crouched over Painter's limp form on the floor, near another doorway. A massive creature, the largest by far, rose behind the pair, sheltered in the door, shielded by Lisa and Painter.
It shouldered up, stance wide, guarding its prey. Its entire muzzle rippled back from razor teeth, growling, blood and saliva dripping. It eyes glinted crimson, warning them back.
Monk sensed if any of them raised even a weapon it would rip into the pair on the floor. He had to take the chance, but before he could move, a shout barked down the hall, full of command.
Fiona stepped into view at the end of the hall. She stalked right past two of the creatures, ignoring them as they dropped, mewling, falling on their sides. A Taser crackled with blue sparks in one hand. She held another device in the other. The antenna pointed at the beast hovering over Lisa and Painter.
"Bad dog!" Fiona said.
To Monk's amazement, the creature backed off, growls fading, hackles lowering. As if under a spell, it lolled a bit in the doorway. Fire died in its eyes as it sank to the plank floors. A soft lowing moaned from it, half-ecstatic.
Fiona reached their side.
Monk stared up and down the hall. The other monsters fell under the same spell.
"Waalenbergs planted chips in the bastards," Fiona explained and hefted the device in her hand. "Had them wired for pain—and pleasure."