Episode 107. Part 2
Wednesday, 07 Sep 2518
08:15 hrs, local time
Our moment arrives when we find out the USO show will be put on tonight for the benefit of the soldiers at the VA. Christian takes the incendiary device with him at the start of his shift and though he fumbles it when introducing it to the trap, he manages to do so undetected. However, the bomb is damaged by the fumble and it goes off early.
The fire is detected, the cafeteria evacced and the fire suppression systems engaged. When the smoke clears, it is as we’d hoped—the grease trap is too damaged to use and must be dug out of the concrete foundation.
Let the jack hammering commence.
Since hospital personnel and other workers have been given leave to see the show, no one thinks it odd when Christian, Nika and Rina take off early or don’t even show for work. The cafeteria is screwed because of the repairs and Christian’s supervisor tells him to clock out and enjoy the show. Christian goes straight back to our ship. We’ve reparked our ship about two miles from the hospital and Christian goes to the top deck and waits in the shuttle, holding her on stand-by for our pick up signal.
Meanwhile, Nika and Rina have been waiting in the tunnels for the repairs to start and at Christian’s click on our comms, telling us he’s in place, we fire up the torches and get to work.
The jack hammering topside has thrown the vibratory sensors to a fare-thee-well, and Rina is free to go at the barriers with the torch. The demolition work seems to have knocked the conductivity sensors out of business too, since nothing goes off when Rina cuts through.
We snake through the opening and go deeper into the grounds, follow the pipes to find a pump room which would give us access to the rest of the Wing above. We find the ladder going through the tunnel ceiling to the pump room and once in the pump room itself, we cross it to gain entrance into the Wing proper. The door out of the pump room isn’t even locked. It swings out into a corridor and Nika inches it open, using the door for cover.
The hallway it opens into is long and narrow, running due north/south, and is lined on both sides with doors to the south of the pump room, and on with doors on the west wall to the north. Rigging the pump room door to remain unlatched and moving as quickly but cautiously as we can, keeping an eye out for guards or cameras, we inspect the run of doors and the rooms beyond them. Nothing but offices, mostly of the paper-pushing kind. A third of the way down from the northern end of the corridor is a t-intersect with another corridor from the west.
Nika takes a cautious look down it and spies a ceiling mounted camera 30 feet away where the corridor takes a right angle turn to the south. Based on the type, Nika knows its got only about 20 feet of viewing distance, it hasn’t seen her yet. She takes it out with her pistol and moves to the far corner. Peering around it she spies another camera 50 feet away at a right angle turn to the west. Again she takes it out and now that the coast is clear, she has Rina inspect the 5 doors on the west wall.
There are spy-hatches in the doors and sliding them back to look inside takes only a second. The first three rooms are empty. It doesn’t take long before a man shows up at the far end and shooting commences. He takes cover at the far corner and he and Nika trade shots. The fourth room holds Arden. Rina signals to Nika she’s found him and gets busy with her mini-blow torch on the lock. Nika keeps her position at the west corner, shooting down the intersecting corridor and keeping the guard pinned to his position.
Rina’s almost through the lock when another guard shows as back up for the first. Nika shoots out the camera in the ceiling of the corridor the guards are in, 35 feet away at a T- intersection of another corridor going north. She runs for the intersection and takes position behind its corner, now closer to the guards and better able to pin them down with her fire.
Rina checks on Arden through the spy-hatch. He’s just sitting in his room and looking a bit zombified, even though the noise of the cutter torch must be loud. Obviously drugged. Over her shoulder she hears Nika taking and returning gunfire. Rina ramps up the torch and works on.
Another man joins the guards at the far end of the corridor. He’s dressed differently than the others, in civilian clothing instead of the typical security TAC gear. He’s spare and lean, and calmly walks right down the middle of the hallway in a curious near-sideways gait like a fencer, apparently oblivious to bullets. He extends his front arm and Nika sees he carries a sword.
Who the hell brings a frikkin’ sword to a gun fight?
Nika takes aim on the swordsman and hits him square on his rearmost arm, winging him. Beneath the hole the bullet made in his clothing, Nika sees the distinctive gleam of high-tech body armor. Crap. The Swordsman barely falters from the impact but keeps advancing at a slow and steady pace, his sword arm extended with the blade flattened along his forearm to his elbow. Who the hell brings a frikkin’ sword to a gun fight?
Either an absolute lunatic or a big bad sonuvabitch.
Nika’s damned sure which variety she’s facing.
Nika: Romeo, we’ve got problems!
And she shoots again. The Swordsman ducks and the bullet misses him.
Make that a fast big bad sonuvabitch.
Rina: (Yelling to Nika) November, talk to me!
Nika: (To Rina) He ducked!
Nika backpedals to the rear corridor where Rina is cutting through the door. Nika plants herself behind the corner and lines up a groin shot on the Swordsman.
Rina nearly through when she sees Nika reappear at the corner. She realizes she’s out of time and turning off her torch, she puts her boot to the door and kicks it open. She runs in and grabs Arden by the arm, and starts hustling him out of there.
Rina: Arden, c’mon. We gotta go.
The Swordsman is nearly at our corner. Nika squeezes off her shot and hits him in the vitals, and he goes down.
Neither of the other two guards seem willing to risk their lives to Nika’s aim and hang back behind their cover. Nika moves forward to disarm the Swordsman. She gets close enough to see his face: the man is the spittin’ image of Arden, twenty years older.
What the hell?
Swordsman is stunned, gut shot and offers no resistance. Nika has to decide to drag him along for questioning or kill him outright now. Before she can decide, Rina and Arden pull up and Arden skids to a halt. The sight of the Swordsman dispels some of his lethargy and he points.
Arden: There he is!
Rina: Do you know him?
Arden: He looks like…. me.
Rina: (To Nika) Should we kill him?
Rina: All right. I’m checking the last cell.
She ducks back and checks. It’s empty. Crap. If their target is here, he’s deeper in the facility.
Rina rejoins the others and shakes her head.
Nika: Arden, go back around the corner, stand there and don’t move.
Arden, though drugged, is able to move on his own…and he turns around at Nika’s order.
The guards down the corridor maintain their positions and refrain from shooting.
Nika drags the Swordsman with her to the corner and now covered, she yells back at the guards.
Nika: If you let the guys I want go, you don’t die.
No response, but no shooting either.
Nika: I want my guys, I’ll give you yours back. Nobody else dies, we just wanna go.
Guard: This place will be surrounded in moments—
Nika: Blah, blah.
Guard: Put down your weapons. There’s no escape.
Nika: I’ll put a bullet through his head.
Nika gestures with her pistol around the corner at the Swordsman.
Guard: Put down your weapons and move away from the Operative.
Nika: I’ll just put a bullet through his head, I don’t care. Do you want that?
She leans out, grabs the Swordsman by his collar and hauls him up against the corner, using him as cover. She puts her gun to his head. The guards raise their weapons… but hold off shooting.
Nika: Give me my guys. All of them.
The guards start backing away.
Nika growls at this standoff and looks at Rina.
Rina passes Nika and the Swordsman to the T-intersect. Nika follows, pushing the Swordsman in front of her as a hostage and a shield. He’s still stunned and offering no resistance, but there’s no telling how long that will last. Nika draws even with the intersecting corridor and plants herself at a corner. Arden follows behind her. Rina enters the corridor and see it’s the same length as the one that held Arden, with five doors on either side. There are no guards.
The Swordsman stirs.
Swordsman: You know, this isn’t really going to work.
Nika: Just give me my guys and I won’t shoot you in the head.
Swordsman: Who? You want all of them?
Nika: How many you holding?
The Swordsman pulls out his key card and holds it up.
Swordsman: You might find this useful.
Rina takes it and inspects the each of the cells in turn.
Nika: Just what exactly are you people doing in here, anyway?
Swordsman: Keeping you safe.
Nika: Keeping me safe. Not bloody likely.
Swordsman: As a citizen of the Sino-Anglo Alliance, your safety is my concern. Can I ask what you think you’re doing?
Nika: I’m takin’ my guys and I’m leavin’.
Swordsman: Do you know what these people are responsible for?
Nika: I don’t know anybody except the guys I’m comin’ for and the guys I’m comin’ for ain’t responsible for shit.
Swordsman: I’m certain you really think so.
Checking the cells, Rina finds seven men: two strapped down to their beds, four lying down unrestrained, and Mike in the third cell down on the left… sitting upright in a chair and staring at the door. Rina opens that damned door and goes to him. He’s not tied to the chair—a bonus—and Rina wastes no time. She waves him forward.
Rina: You’re ride’s here. Let’s go.
Mike just sits and stares. He doesn’t recognize her.
Rina grabs him by the arm and the minute she touches him, Mike rises and follows her out of there. Obedient as a dog. At least he’s walking on his own. That’s got to count for something.
The Swordsman looks over his shoulder at Nika. His manner is calm, his voice mild.
Swordsman: When you leave, assuming you’re not destroyed as you try to escape from here, what are you planning on doing with my little brother? I mean, when the time bomb goes off?
Nika: Time bomb?
Swordsman: We all have one.
Nika: For what?
Swordsman: It activates us.
Nika: For what?
Nika: Maybe I’ll just take you with me. And you can give me some answers.
Swordsman: I’d be delighted to see your ship. And whoever’s helping you.
Nika: Maybe the answers you have just aren’t important enough to me, given the fact that I’m just here for my guys.
Swordsman: Really? And you’re planning on…?
Rina tries not to think about lobotomies and medical experiments as she leads Mike back to her team... and draws even with the cell next door and gets an idea. She swipes the card through the lock and swings the door open. The man inside looks up. Rina holds the key so he can see it.
Rina: It unlocks the doors. (She holds the key out to him) Do your best.
The man doesn’t move. Beside her, Mike waits.
Jesus, are they all zombies?
Her team is still talking. Rina drops Mike’s arm, goes inside the cell and gives the other man a shake.
Rina: Come on. Let’s go.
Nika: Romeo, you’re taking too long.
Rina: All right. Fine.
Not fine… but necessary.
Rina lets the prisoner go and leaves the cell door open, in case the man gathers enough initiative to free himself on his own. Rina severely doubts it, but she refuses to close the door and deny him that chance. She leaves him there without looking back. Rina marches out of the cell, pockets the card, and takes up Mike again. He’s standing right where she left him and he goes along without a word.
Nika puts her gun under the Swordsman’s chin.
Nika: Tell me about the time bomb.
Rina: (now even with the others) Can do this while we’re walking?
Nika: In twenty words or less.
Arden puts himself in front of the Swordsman and asks him earnestly:
Arden: Is this why they tried to kill me?
Nika starts moving, taking the Swordsman with her, her gun planted firmly against his jaw. We move back the way we came, toward the rear of the East Wing, the fire exit, and freedom.
Rina: (to the team) Let’s go.
Nika: Twenty words or less.
Swordsman: (to Arden) I’m sure you’d like to know why they tried to kill you. Do you think they were trying to save themselves?
Arden: But I’m …I’m not a killer.
Nika: (to Arden) He’s stalling us.
Rina: Let’s go, let’s keep moving…
We hit the door and step on grass. The corner with the ladder up is thirty feet away. Rina thumbs her comm live and gives it two clicks—nothing spoken in case the Feds are listening in.
At the shuttle, Christian hears Rina’s signal and takes the engines off idle and flies for our rendezvous point on the roof.
Behind us, we see the guards have followed us as far as the fire door, and still they haven’t fired on us. Why not?
Nika: (to Swordsman) Look. I’ve got nothin’ left to lose. Tell me about the time bomb or I’m takin’ the top of your head off.
Swordsman: If I tell you what you need me to tell you, you’ve got no reason to keep me alive.
Nika: I’ve got no reason to kill ya.
Swordsman: Oh, your kind doesn’t need much reason. I know all about the killing you’ve done. I assume you’re involved with the group responsible for where we’ve picked up Mr. Carter. On Beaumonde. How many people died there?
Rina clamps her jaw tight, thinking: They know Mike’s name. What else did the bastards force out of him? She keeps on moving, guiding Mike toward the ladder.
Swordsman: (continuing) I thought you didn’t care about killing?
Nika: I don’t care about killing anybody. I just want my guys back.
Swordsman: So the deaths of hundreds of innocent workers don’t bother you at all.
Nika: I didn’t have anything to do with it.
Swordsman: Or anything to do with the mastermind behind it.
Nika: Got my orders, too.
Swordsman: I see. So you do care about something. Following orders. Then perhaps we’re not so different.
Nika: Tell me about the time bomb or I’m taking the top of your head off. This is it. I’m done.
Arden: (upset) Don’t! Don’t! I need to talk to him.
Nika: We ain’t takin’ him with us.
Arden: I need to find out—.
Arden: That’s it! We’ll take him with us.
Nika: Nine. Eight. Seven.
We are almost even with the ladder now.
Nika: Six. Five. Four. Three. Two—.
Swordsman: Something might be of value to you.
Nika: Spit it out fast. I only got one left to go.
We’re at the bottom of the ladder now. Christian will be here any second.
Swordsman: That little keycard you’re holding, in the right hands, my hands, could be your ticket off this world. Without it, you’re not gonna break orbit. Unless you have a really great plan for that one. We’ve already alerted the air defense forces.
Nika: (Yeah, right) Of course, you have.
Rina leans in and murmurs to Nika:
Rina: Take both of them with us. The card and the man.
Nika: Blindfold him.
Rina pulls out her duct tape and wraps it around the Swordsman’s eyes, sealing the edges down tight against his skin, leaving no peepholes anywhere. She passed the tape around his head several times for a really good bond, and slaps the free end down.
Nika: Let’s go.
Rina: Let’s get the hell outa here.
On approach, Christian checks out the surrounding area. No military aircraft swoop down to blow him out of the sky. He sees only a few military vehicles driving around the edge of the fence, on the outside. He concentrates and brings the shuttle in low over the East Wing, hovering over the roof. A look out the windows shows the roof is clear. He engages autopilot and leaves his seat for the hatch, throws it open and holds his rifle at the ready, aiming it for the ladder up.