“Black C.A.S.T.L.E.” Chapter XIII – Lockdown

Kacie made her way back to the office suite after double-checking that the madman and Michael were still contained in their respective prisons. She thought maybe she could find something in the office that would help her get out of this mess. As she was about to enter the offices, her phone rang. It was Gemma.

“Gemma, please tell me you and the others got out safely.”

“Miss Lin, this is Agent Johnson with the FBI.”

For a second, Kacie thought Gemma was playing some sort of drunk joke on her and that either her impressions had gotten really good or she’d found some guy at the bar to be in on the joke. But as Kacie moved toward a window and looked down on the chaotic scene of flashing lights and snarl of vehicles below, it dawned on her that this was very real.

“Miss Lin, I need to ask you a few questions. Are you safe? Can you talk?”

“For the moment.” Kacie hoped she sounded calmer than she was.

“Can you make it out of the building? Can you help any others to get out?”

Kacie walked to the nearest exit and tried the door handle. She was met with the expected resistance. “No. Everything seems to be locked down. Besides me, there are six friendlies. Two hostiles have been contained; at least two more are active. I’m sure they have at least one person who has taken over the security suite.”

There was a second of hesitation and perhaps confusion on the other end of the line.

“Miss Lin, do you have any military or law enforcement experience?”

“Army ROTC, but just basic training.”

“That may be of use to us, and to the hostages remaining in the building. We’re doing what we can out here but it would be a tremendous asset to have eyes and ears on the inside. Can you do that for us?”

Kacie spent the next few minutes answering the agent’s questions over the phone. She gave the best descriptions of the other terrorists that she could, confirmed the viral species they’d been after and also that, yes, the stocks were safely in her possession. She also gave them the location of the known terrorists who had been neutralized and did her best to answer every question they asked.

It was during this debriefing that Kacie smacked right into Rick as he was coming through the lobby door, gun drawn.

“Jesus, Kace…” He holstered the gun in his waistband, more relieved than upset. “We tried all the exits,” the other five co-workers streamed in behind him. Kacie saw that Matt had possession of the other gun. “They’re all locked down, no way out. I guess we’ll just hunker down until the authorities get here.” He looked at her and cocked his head to one side, curiously. “Who are you talking to?”

Kacie handed him the phone. “The authorities. They’re here, and they want to talk to you now.”

Kacie wasn’t sure if this last part was true or not, but she had had enough of the Q&A session; the Feds had Qs and she supplied the As but when Kacie tried to turn that around on them, they stonewalled her. That was fine; they could discuss it once the terrorists were in custody.

Or dead, Kacie thought suddenly. It wasn’t something that had occurred to her, not since the sight of Dr. Nakatomi’s body at least. No time to think about that now, either.

Kacie left Rick red-faced and tight-lipped with frustration over answering inane questions from what he considered to be grossly overpaid and mentally under-equipped Federal suits. Her first stop: the break room. She was damned hungry now that the adrenaline had started to taper back down. But aside from cramming a couple of protein bars, Kacie wanted to clear a space in the break room freezer for the remaining viral stock; it wasn’t ideal, but it would keep the little buggers on ice longer than keeping them in the backpack’s small cooler, at least until Rick or one of the others could find some liquid nitrogen and a dewar to keep them frozen. She was more concerned about the viruses’ integrity–and containment–at this point than she was about the terrorists coming for them. Kacie knew they had something else in mind.

Kacie carefully emptied the contents onto the counter; if any of the vials happened to be loose, if they had happened to break, things would turn ugly very quickly. Luckily, the vials were all safely contained within the small cooler stowed away in the backpack. Kacie put it in the freezer under a bag of ice and next to a box of frozen pierogies which no one had laid claim to. She pulled the vent cover out of her bag and laid it on the counter. Her purse and jewelry spilled out, along with a pair of walkie talkies she’d overlooked earlier. She kept one for herself and left the other on Rick’s desk, along with her purse. She strapped on her copper bracelet and pocketed her silver ring and pendant.

Kacie made her way to the office supply closet. In addition to the usual paper, ink, toner, paper clips, staples, and other office paraphernalia cluttering the space, Kacie knew there was an emergency kit buried back somewhere back along the top shelf. Once she’d moved the heavy boxes full of reams of printer paper aside, she found an electric orange case with a fine film of dust on it.

Inside it were a first aid kit, flashlights, water, facemasks and gloves. Not exactly an anti-terrorist took kit. She took the first aid kit and one of the flashlights, snapped the lid shut and brought it back to Rick’s desk. He’d apparently finished his conversation with Agent Johnson and was fiddling with the walkie talkie.

“No, no, no!” Kacie shouted, slamming the emergency kit down on his desk. “That’s just for listening. They might not know we have them, so if we can stay a step ahead of them, the better for us. As for us…” She held her hand out and Rick dropped her phone into her palm. “Only text, no calls.”

“You got it, boss,” Rick said with a smile.

“By the way,” Kacie said, “the viral stocks are in a cooler in the break room freezer…”

Rick’s mouth hung open; it was the first time Kacie could remember seeing him speechless.

“It’s the best I can think of at the moment,” she said with a shrug. Rick barked a belly laugh.

“Well, that freezer has needed cleaned out for months. Now we just have to nuke it and get a new one. Too bad, I think I had some pierogies in there.”

“Is anyone hurt?” Kacie asked suddenly. She thought that maybe taking the first aid kit had been premature. Luckily, Rick shook his head.

“Shipshape, thankfully.” He rubbed his swollen nose. “I’ve taken worse hits on the ice. Nothing to worry about.”

“I won’t argue with you; I’m keeping this first aid kit just in case. There should be another one on the next floor down if you can get to it somehow.” A thought flashed through Kacie’s mind. “Do you still have your zombie preparedness kit?”

“You know it.”

“Can I take a look?”

“Knock yourself out.” Rick keyed open a lock on the lower drawer of his desk. Inside it was a large black duffel bag packed to the gills with all sorts of supplies; some legal, some otherwise.

“Okay, we can use those,” Kacie said, pointing.

“For the cameras?”

“Exactly,” she answered. She spied something tucked away far in the back of the drawer and pulled it out, smiling. “And I’ll take this, too.”

Rick scratched at the side of his jaw. “And you’re sure you don’t want a gun?”

“Nah, I’m good with this.”

Rick shook his head. “Alright, Kace. When do we do this?”

“No time like the present.”

Image of PPG Place via Derek Jensen(Tysto), Wikimedia Commons

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