The outer gate. The inner gate. The loading dock. The doors leading from the parking lot into the western security wing. The doors leading from the cafeteria to the patio. The front entrance. The lobby. Every hallway on each of the facility’s 16 floors. There were cameras for each area, often covering every conceivable angle. They were all displayed in miniature partitions across Stan Kijek’s many monitors. He had seen the hero take out West. He watched out of the corner of his eye as Malanan and Strong now combed through the labs for him. But only one scene held his attention at the moment.
As Stan enjoyed the last few sips of his coffee, Mulgrew’s broadcast from the office’s conference room occupied the main monitor. He had the sound muted. He could only take about ten seconds of that idiot’s self-important prattle at a time. Mulgrew was one to keep an eye on, not just because he was a part of the plan but because he was an agent of chaos in an otherwise finely tuned machine, one that Stan only had to put up with a little while longer.
Let him enjoy his theatrics, Stan thought. Let him enjoy his fame. Stan watched the madman’s chosen hashtag rise through the ranks of trending lists. It had yet to reach critical mass, but that was fine; the real authorities hadn’t arrived yet anyway. Let it reach a boil, Stan thought with a sip.
When the ceiling of the conference room gave way in a shower of broken drop-ceiling tile caused by a body falling to the floor, Stan spit the last of his coffee directly onto the monitor just as Mulgrew turned to face this unexpected interruption.
The good news, as far as Kacie saw it, was that she hadn’t broken any bones. The bad news was everything else. She stood up from her where she had fallen to a crumpled heap onto the floor of the conference room, raising the backpack in front of her like a shield as she did. A good thing, too, since the ranting and raving madman had ceased his monologue and was pointing a gun right at her.
“Stop!” she heard herself say, as if she was watching from the other side of the broadcast behind the safety of a phone screen instead of a cheap fabric backpack. She held it higher. “If you shoot me, there’s a good chance you’ll hit these vials, and I don’t think you want to do that.”
Kacie saw a flicker of movement from her peripheral vision. She dared not look toward it. She kept her gaze focused on the gun-wielding stranger in front of her and did her best to put some fear in her voice. It wasn’t hard.
“Please, this is what you want. Just take it and let us go.” She held the bag out towards him. He chuckled, a high-pitched sound that sent a wave of gooseflesh crawling up her arms.
“Ah, you must be my new courier then. Pray tell me what happened to the old one?”
“He got cold feet.” Kacie didn’t know where the sudden urge to be a smartass came from—probably her lifetime of practice–while there was a gun in her face.
“Well then, just hand it over and you can join our little production. We’re just getting….”
Mulgrew never had a chance to finish. Even as he turned to face Rick, swinging the gun in his direction, he never saw Matt closing in from the other side. The gun went off, but Rick was already in close enough to be past the barrel; he’d have a hell of a ringing in his right ear for the next day though. Matt took Mulgrew low at the knees. The eco-terrorist went down in a tangle of his own twisted limbs and whacked his head good on the conference room floor. That was all it took; he had knocked himself out.
“Shame. I really wanted to punch this asshole in the teeth,” Rick said. A second later, Kacie threw her arms around his neck. “Ow, easy Kacie Kasem. I still have to breathe, you know.”
“I’m just glad you’re alright! I’m assuming you got my text? You guys moved pretty fast.”
Kacie turned to thank Matt, but he was back by Becca’s side; the two of them kept reassuring each other that they were both fine. Feeling like she was intruding on something private, Kacie swept her eyes around to the other hostages: Joel, Phil, and Joie were all white-faced but seemed to be okay. She nodded and they nodded back.
“Matt’s a young gun; I was just lucky,” Rick said. He put a hand on the wall to steady himself. “And adrenaline’s a helluva thing.”
Kacie reached down to pry the gun from Mulgrew’s hand. While she was kneeling, she opened her bag and took the other gun out. She handed them both to Rick.
“Let’s hope our luck holds out.”
“Jeeze, Kace! What are you, Dirty Harry all of a sudden?” He took one without questioning where the other had come from. “Don’t you think you should keep one?”
Kacie shook her head. “Guns aren’t my thing. Besides, we managed pretty well without them so far, haven’t we? But just in case,” she put the other gun in his free hand, “take it and give it to someone else you trust. You’ve got to get everyone out of here as soon as you can. There’s at least one more guy around here with a gun and probably another one in the security suite. I’m pretty sure they’re watching over the cameras.”
Rick toed the unconscious body of Mulgrew. “What do we do with this guy in the meantime?”
Kacie smiled at him. “I think I have an idea.”
Stan was torn. He wanted to laugh at watching Mulgrew get taken out in such an amateurish fashion, wanted to nod approvingly at the little hero’s play so far–and a girl no less!–but his sense of caution told him that this was no longer a game. It was Serious City from here on out. He radioed his remaining teammates.
“Heads up, fellas. Don’t ask how but Mulgrew’s been taken out. I’ve still got command here, so don’t you worry about that either. Just proceed to Phase Two.”
“Understood,” Malanan answered.
“And a word of caution. Our hero, who appears to be little more than a girl–go figure–has herself a buddy. He’s that guy you cracked good a couple of times, so be wary; they’ve got our guns.” The silence carried a little longer this time.
Stan wiped the remaining drops of coffee from the monitor and set to work. There’d be no coffee breaks for the next hour or so, but if things went according to plan, he’d never have to work another day in his life.
“You sure you want to do this, Kace?”
Kacie nodded. “It’s more important that you get everyone to safety. And,” she held up her phone, “you can still be my eyes and ears. That’ll level the playing field somewhat.” She gestured up to the cameras. “What you said about this nutjob’s broadcast means that the cops will probably be here soon enough anyway, but I just have a bad feeling that these guys are counting on that.”
It was Rick’s turn to nod, though he clearly didn’t like the plan. “We’ll try the exits but if they’re locked down, we might just shelter in place, make a stand.”
“That sounds like as good a plan as any. Read that in your zombie outbreak preparedness books?”
Rick smiled. “Something like that. Anything else I should know before we do this?”
“Just stay clear of the labs.” Kacie’s eyes suddenly lit up with warning. “Oh yeah! And do NOT open the autoclave! OR the walk-in freezer!”