The Insider – Part 6

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a serial by Joseph Benedict

“Fourth floor… they’re definitely entering something now.” Dave said, staring at the screens displaying the elevator’s descent. He opened another window, and poised with the pointer over a single button. “Third floor…now!” He clicked and scrambled out of the chair.  “Second floor with no power! Let’s get there before they pry the door open!”

“Stairs?” Hawkins asked the tech, twisting him around by the arm.

There!” the tech yelped, pointing to a door in the corner of the room. He ran as Hawkins forced him forward.

Fang and Dave darted after him, shouldering through the heavy metal door with guns ready. Faint echoes of boot soles and weapon straps sliding over cloth flowed down the passage from far above. Fang darted around Hawkins and the tech as Hawkins hesitated. At the top of the next landing, she poked her head around the corner looking up the next set of stairs and turned back to the others, beckoning.

Read more…

a serial by Joseph Benedict

Part 1
Part 2

Part 3
Part 4

Part 5

 


 

“Fourth floor… they’re definitely entering something now.” Dave said, staring at the screens displaying the elevator’s descent. He opened another window, and poised with the pointer over a single button. “Third floor…now!” He clicked and scrambled out of the chair.  “Second floor with no power! Let’s get there before they pry the door open!”

“Stairs?” Hawkins asked the tech, twisting him around by the arm.

“There!” the tech yelped, pointing to a door in the corner of the room. He ran as Hawkins forced him forward.

Fang and Dave darted after him, shouldering through the heavy metal door with guns ready. Faint echoes of boot soles and weapon straps sliding over cloth flowed down the passage from far above. Fang darted around Hawkins and the tech as Hawkins hesitated. At the top of the next landing, she poked her head around the corner looking up the next set of stairs and turned back to the others, beckoning.

Staggered with Fang half a flight ahead to scout for trouble, they wound up the stairs at a run. Hawkins released the tech’s arm, letting a jab of his rifle spur the man on ahead of him. The four of them made it to the forth floor without seeing any of the guards they could hear above. Fang swung the door open without slowing and ran into the second floor.

The interior was the same polished marble as the basement. Rather than an open office space, they found narrow halls lined with heavy, windowless doors. At the end of the hall, the elevator doors were jammed mostly open. Fang saw no one inside. Hushed voices and the sound of hurried footfalls faded down the corridor running past it.

“Move!” Fang ordered and sprinted. She reached the T-junction at the end of the hall and rolled through it, into the elevator. As she tumbled, she glimpsed Melbourne and several turning guards around him.

Two on the left, one on the right, she thought, frowning. There had been four in the elevator.

Dave halted at the corner of the junction with his gun ready. Fang held up two fingers, pointed, and flashed just one, pointing the other way. He nodded and together they slipped out of cover, firing.  Their bullets tore into marble walls, spraying glittering chips across the floor, but the guards had disappeared. Fang peered at the four-way intersection where they must have run and grimaced.

Right or left, she wondered, eying the windowless doors lining the hall.  Or neither? I hate guessing games.

 

The force of the blow glanced off the glossy helmet, but as Fang followed through, whirling to land in a fighting stance, she could feel something strain and break beneath the armor. The guard’s head snapped back, and stayed at an awkward angle.

 

She gestured down the hall. She and Dave had just stepped away from cover when she heard the muffled click behind her, and the hiss of a well-oiled mechanism sliding in its track. They turned, too late, to see a pair of guards leaning out of one of the rooms, leveling rifles. One wasn’t wearing the full body armor and black visor they had seen on all the previous guards. He aimed his pistol from a crouch out of the line of the other sentries’ fire in charcoal slacks and a pinstriped purple dress shirt.

Hawkins burst forth from the hall, holding the tech in the same one-armed grip Fang had used earlier.  Bullets roared from every gun.  Fang and Dave ducked and turned, knowing this pincer ambush by heart, and caught two of the guards at the opposite end of the hall with precision fire as they peeked around the corner to shoot.

The guards fell, but Fang knew that the armor would keep them from taking a neutralizing wound. She lowered her gun and charged, leaping into a flying kick as the man on her side of the hall crawled to his feet. The force of the blow glanced off the glossy helmet, but as Fang followed through, whirling to land in a fighting stance, she could feel something strain and break beneath the armor. The guard’s head snapped back, and stayed at an awkward angle.

Dave hauled his guard to his feet, popped the man’s helmet off, and held him like a human shield. To their right, the bend in the hall was revealed.  Melbourne stood in the center of the hall. The last guard held his gun up to the doctor’s head.

“Fa—Shen?” Melbourne stared at them with wide eyes. “Oh… no!  You can’t!”

“Weapons down!” the guard’s shout was slightly muffled by the visor. “Keep your current distance or I will be forced to execute this man.”

“And what about your friend?” Dave asked, nudging his gun against the temple of the guard in his arms.

“Dave!” Fang shouted.

“I didn’t take this job to make friends.” The guard holding Melbourne began to back slowly down the hall.

“No!” Melbourne shouted. “You can’t!  You won’t be able to get me ou—” He bit off the last of the word as the guard smacked him in the head with the gun.

Fang darted forward, closing some of the distance while the guard was distracted.  He recovered quickly, firing his submachine gun at her with one hand. She dove sideways toward the wall, pirouetting off the marble surface like a stray riot round, then tucked and rolled diagonally across the floor, drawing closer as the guard’s ammunition tore up the tiles inches behind her. Dave fired once. His shot didn’t knock the gun out of the guard’s hand or do any obvious damage, but the hefty round fouled the man’s aim as it slammed into his arm. Fang shot to her feet in the few seconds of safety, reaching, hoping to disarm the guard before he could fire again.

But the man was well trained. He brought his gun around with a tight, practiced motion. Fang watched the barrel lining up with her face and despaired.

I’ve killed her, she thought. Now I’ll never get to—

Melbourne’s hand was darting up. Fang kept moving, hoping. The doctor twisted in the guard’s grip and pushed the weapon with all his strength hard. It was neither a powerful blow, nor did it move the gun much at all, but it sent his first bullet roaring past Fang’s ear and gave her the half-second she needed to close and slap the weapon away.

Fang struck the guard below the ribs with an open palm, grabbed his helmet, then kicked his feet out from under him.  She let the man’s weight and momentum strip the helmet off in her grasp.

He started to say something as he hit the floor, but Fang swung the helmet down, cracking it across his forehead. The hall was quiet.

“I can’t believe you!” Melbourne smiled, reaching out to Fang with wide arms.

Fang noticed that one of his hands was torn and bloody. Then she saw the handcuffs hanging from his wrists and realized what he must have done to push the gun aside.

“Doctor!”  She intercepted his hug and grabbed his wrist for inspection.

“Chang!” Dave said suddenly, darting back toward the first hallway.

Hissing at herself for becoming distracted, she let the doctor’s hand go and turned back toward the elevators.

“Wait, child!” Melbourne gripped her elbow and held her back. “Listen to me!”

“There’s no time!” Fang reversed his grip on her arm, grabbed his uninjured hand, and hauled him after her, racing after Dave.

Hawkins was at the end of the hall, alone. Two guards and the tech lied on the floor around him. He turned, appearing to be unharmed, but Fang saw blood covering the front of his shirt and pants. Neither of the guards were bleeding, apparently taken down with unarmed strikes when the bullets proved useless. But the tech was covered with great open wounds on his chest, neck and legs. A great unbloodied swatch of skin around his neck was the only part of his body not flecked or covered in blood.

“You used him as a shield?” Fang demanded, stopping just outside the pool of gore.

“I did.” Hawkins exchanged his gun for one of the guards’ and walked through the mess. “It was the best option I had available to me at the time.”

“We needed him!”

“Children, listen!” Melbourne bellowed, turning both of them roughly to face him. “You have to go. Now.”

Hawkins shook his head.

“We still have to secure a route out of the building.” He nodded toward the elevators. “We can’t risk losing you in one of these bullet storms.”

“The elevators are no good,” Dave wheezed. “They’ll have sent them all up by now. The parking lot is a bad idea too.” He was holding his arm.

Fang saw blood oozing through his tightened fingers too.

“You’re shot!” Fang stepped toward him, but he waved her away.

“It’s nothing.” He grimaced. “Not for me, but—”

“Take whichever route is fastest—and safest, for the three of you,” Melbourne said impatiently. “I can’t come with you.”

Fang narrowed her eyes, giving him her full attention at last.

“What do you mean? What’s happened? Hart’s got some kind of leverage on you already!” She hissed in frustration.

“No, no.” Melbourne reached up to his shirt collar and pulled the polo down a few inches. He turned his head, revealing two thick puncture wounds on the side of his neck.  “Some kind of nanotechnology he took with him when he left us. It could be toxin, or some kind of micro-charge in an artery. He said it would kill me if I didn’t stay near one of the transmitters and I believe him. Bastard.”

“But they were taking you to a helicopter,” Fang said, kneeling in the blood and reaching for one of the guards’ jackets. “There has to be one with them.”

“Yes.” Melbourne reached down and pulled her to her feet.

Fang started to fight, to protest, but she saw resignation as she looked into the doctor’s pale blue eyes. She let him draw her to her feet.

“But there’s no time.” The doctor shook his head. “And we have no idea what other kinds of fail safes he had them design. You can still help me though. I need you to escape so you can bring Dr. Braun a message. Hart’s much farther along than we had guessed. He doesn’t have any gifted subjects, but the nanobots alone he’s producing here from the Generation 5 he took with him are nearly caught up to what you’re using now. Worse, it looks like he’s abandoned the idea of finding gifted individuals entirely and re-engineered his version to work with the body directly. They have a test subject here—”

“I know,” Fang said. “I saw him.”

 

 

To be continued.

 


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