“Black C.A.S.T.L.E.” Chapter XV – C13H17Cl2NO

Kacie and Rick split up after spray-painting the cameras in the halls and labs of the 16th floor of Black C.A.S.T.L.E. They each had their own jobs to do: Rick had to find a way out of this place and get the others to safety while Kacie had to find out what the remaining terrorists were up to and hopefully stall their plans long enough for the cavalry to arrive. Tall orders for each of them.

Kacie circled back to the animal surgery lab where the stringy-haired madman was seated in the corner on the floor trying to calm his breathing. He paid Kacie no mind and she returned the favor. Luckily, what she was after wasn’t in the lab but in a small preparatory room just outside of it.

Surgical tools and drug solutions could be passed to the operating lab through a sort of sterile airlock after going through a decontamination procedure. Samples and specimens taken during operations could pass back through a similar door. Kacie had a momentary thought that the madman might try to worm his way through this escape hatch, so she eased her mind by ensuring that it was locked from her side. Then she set to work.

She pulled open drawers and chemical supply cabinets. She knew what she was looking for, but there was always the chance that something else, something useful, would catch her attention. What she laid down on the countertop work space was this: a boxcutter, six individually wrapped sterile syringe needles, a chunk of dry ice that was slowly subliming in a Petri dish, a handful of microcentrifuge tubes that could hold 1.5mL of liquid, empty test tubes similar to the ones the viral stock had been kept in, and a bottle labeled C13H17Cl2NO, known commonly as ketamine. As she worked, feeling a bit like MacGyver, Kacie tried to conjure the type of focus she had while working on some routine, monotonous task in the BSL-4 where a slip in concentration could claim your life. This situation was no different. What she was doing seemed silly in one respect, but in another, her preparation could very well save her life.

It wasn’t long before Kacie put that preparation to the test. With a can of spray paint in one hand and her weapon of choice in the other, she made her way back out of the BSL-4 and its offices, blacking out cameras as she went. For the first time, she was able to move out into the other departments on the 16th floor. She tested an exit door and found that it was still locked.

So they need access to this floor, but for what?

The top floor of the facility–the one not jam-packed full of the equipment needed to keep the facility running, at least–housed, in addition to the BSL-4, executive office suites with a massive conference room featuring a stunning view of the confluence of the Allegheny and the Monongahela forming the Ohio River, a nanoelectronics department which utilized some of the same type of clean room equipment as the BSL-4, and an FDA-approved chemistry lab. It was outside the chemistry lab, in a maze of cubicles, that Kacie spied Harry Strong.

It was a good thing she saw him first. His gun was drawn. He had a mean, hungry look in his eye that told Kacie that, whatever this man was searching for, he would not be denied. Kacie meant to complicate that.

Keeping low to the ground behind a cubicle wall, Kacie set her can of spray paint down and reached for the small plastic tubes she’d prepared. Each of them held a little chunk of dry ice that was slowly giving off carbon dioxide. She capped two of them and threw them down the corridor away from her, and away from the gunman. Then, she waited. An excruciating 30 seconds went by before the little tubes exploded with a loud pop at just about the same time.

Kacie heard the man’s footsteps as he went to investigate. She crouched, brought her weapon up to the ready position, and peeked out around the cubicle wall. Her target was in plain sight. He was facing away from her and looking for the source of the miniature explosion. She aimed and fired.

A bright yellow foam dart with a needle-sharp tip, courtesy of Kacie’s DIY anti-terrorist preparation, flew true and sank itself into the back of the man’s neck. He swiped at it as if it were an annoying mosquito. It was only after his fingertips brushed the dart that he turned in confusion to locate the source of the odd projectile.

But Kacie had already taken that moment of hesitation to pull the spring back on her toy gun, loading the next modified dart into its plastic chamber. She’d also taken up a position near where the gunman had just come from, thinking it the last place he’d go next. And she did all this in a matter of seconds. Quiet as a mouse, Kacie pulled out two more poppers, capped them, and threw them back in the direction she’d just come from.

If she had been counting on the man to investigate again, she’d have been blocked from taking a shot by the high cubicle walls. Instead, she counted on his caution to pull him directly into her line of sight. Sure enough the gunman circled around the outside of the cubicle maze rather than making a beeline for the sound as the poppers went off. Kacie circled with him in the opposite direction tracking the crown of his head with the barrel of her absurd little gun. She timed the speed perfectly, so when her second dart flew, it met the gunman at the intersection of two corridors in the cubicle maze and sank eagerly into his thigh.

As the man cried out, Kacie was reloading and on the move. Except as she crouched this time, her phone slipped out of her back pocket, which was stupidly too shallow to hold modern smartphones. Gemma–or more than likely, Agent Johnson–chose this exact moment to call Kacie, setting the phone buzzing and vibrating across the tile floor like a wind-up toy. The gunman was on her in a heartbeat. She fired but he knocked the dart clear out of the air with a backward swipe of his hand. He aimed the gun at her head.

She got her first good look at him. His face showed battle scars. A hard man, then. He was of an average height but broad, solid. Capable. Kacie would not be winning a head-on fight, especially not when the barrel of his gun gave him a distinct advantage. She dropped her toy gun and kicked it to him. To her relief, he actually laughed. A dark laugh, but a laugh all the same. Then he steadied his aim.

“Game over, hero.”

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