“Black C.A.S.T.L.E.” Chapter XVIII – Evacuation

Spray-painting all the cameras in his little section of Black C.A.S.T.L.E. had given Rick a much-needed purpose in an otherwise helpless situation. Unfortunately, it had taken him all of about 10 minutes to finish the job. With the doors still locked down and armed gunmen roaming the facility, all Rick and the others wanted to do was get the hell out of there. Instead, they were stuck. That didn’t sit well with Rick Benes.

“I’m going to check the doors again,” he said to the others. They were all holed up in the same conference room they’d been confined to before; at least this time it was by their own decision.

Rick had been walking the very short perimeter of their office suite every 15 minute or so, testing the doors that exited to the stairwells on either end and checking the double doors that opened onto the floor’s main lobby. Each time he was met with the same result: A door handle that would turn and a lock that wouldn’t budge no matter how much he jiggled the handle, kicked at the door’s plate, or threw his shoulder into it until he was sore. He expected nothing different this time; it simply gave him something to do to quell his restlessness. So with gun in hand and a casual lack of caution earned by repeated failed attempts to open the doors, Rick resumed his rounds. The exits to the stairwells were, as expected, locked. The double doors to the lobby, however, swung open with ease.

Stunned at how easily his fate had changed, Rick stood motionless for a minute and the door nearly closed again. He jammed his boot into the opening at the last moment.

“Guys!” he shouted, hoping the others would hear the excitement in his voice and not the fear, “We got a way out!”

With foot firmly planted in the doorway, Rick waited–holding his breath without even realizing it–while the others gathered in the lobby. The formed up in single file by some unspoken agreement. Matt held the other gun and, along with Becca, protected the group’s tail end. Rick thought for a moment about bringing the spray paint to finish the job, but anyone watching the cameras blink out one by one would be able to track their path anyway. Besides, he felt certain that a speedy exit was preferable over a slow and stealthy one at this point. He just hoped what luck he had held out.

“Everyone ready?” he asked, just barely above a whisper. The group nodded in solidarity. “Stay low, stay close, and keep moving.” Rick moved forward through the door, gun drawn. They followed. The lobby offered no cover but was thankfully free of any hostiles. Rick signaled for them to wait while he checked to see if the elevators were working. Maybe it wasn’t the best tactical decision, but it’d be the quickest way out of the place.

Or the quickest way into the grave, Rick thought cynically, weighing his options as he pressed the elevators’ buttons. He was spared having to make that tough decision; the elevators were down for the count. He shook his head and rejoined the group.

To the northwest of their current location lay the chemistry department; to the southeast, the nanotechnology lab; and to the northeast, the executive suites.

“We’ll try for the offices,” Rick said. “Keep your heads down.”

Their luck held out. The door to the executive suite opened without a hitch. Rick ushered the others through the door and closed it behind him. He led his co-workers through the opulent and inviting office space that was the executive suites on the top-most floor of the facility. They’d been there before, of course, for the annual holiday party and the occasional celebratory event. Back then, they’d stayed as long as possible to better enjoy the free food–and booze–but now they just wanted out, overstuffed leather chairs and scenic views of the rivers be damned.

As Rick neared the closest exit door for the northeast stairwell, he thought for a brief moment that their nightmare was finally over. Then the handle turned of its own accord.

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