“Black C.A.S.T.L.E.” Chapter XXIII – Escape

Rick had just gotten everyone safely to the main lobby when he the building shuddered around him. It had felt like an earthquake. They’d had small ones pop up in the area more recently now that fracking wells had become a regular occurrence in the surrounding countryside; the engineers who had designed Black C.A.S.T.L.E. had taken that into consideration. Rick had faith in the building, but the slow and cautious descent through the stairwell had set all of them on edge. They had been so close to freedom only to find that the lobby doors were still locked down. And now this. The fire alarm sounded once more as strobe lights began flashing near exits that wouldn’t open. Rick wondered what had caused the shaking, if Kacie was okay, and what could possibly come next.

He turned to Matt. “Keep everyone here,” he shouted. “I’m going to check the security room to see if I can get the doors open. If you hear the locks click or see a light come on, anything really, try the doors, then get the hell out if you can.” By unspoken agreement, Matt handed Rick their remaining gun. Rick traded him for the walkie talkie. He’d be on his own from here on out.

The halls reverberated with the piercing keen of the fire alarm making it hard to hear if someone was sneaking up on him or if he was about to surprise someone around the next corner. Rick met no resistance on his way to the security suite. That should have settled his nerves somewhat, but it only put him more on edge. Seeing the body of the young security guard laid out on the floor, his head pillowed by a sticky pool of his own blood, did little to change that.

Rick was careful not to disturb the body as he set about trying to turn off the screaming alarm. There were banks of monitors everywhere but none of them seemed to be functioning at the moment. There was a column of flashing amber lights that blinked in time with a repetitive beep; at the bottom of the column was a master off/on switch accessed with a key, but Rick saw no key on the desk and he wasn’t about to check the corpse unless he absolutely had to. Instead, he pressed the buttons one by one; the facility went silent as a tomb once again. That’s when the corpse reached up and grabbed Rick’s leg.

###

Ben Bostick had seen his share of action in the sandbox. His flak jacket and armored personnel carrier had taken the brunt of fire from enemy combatants. He’d been lucky and managed to get back home without a scratch; many of his friends couldn’t say the same.

So, to be put down by a civilian with a small caliber shot at close range, no, that was something Ben Bostick’s mind, body, and training refused to accept. He had drifted in and out of consciousness. He had bled … boy how he had bled. And though the bullet had taken bone, blood, and brain with it, he was still alive somehow. Whether he would walk, talk, or rock and roll again, he had no clue; those were questions for God and doctors, in that order, and in due time. What he needed to do now was make sure that someone knew what he knew, someone who could take the fight to that back-shooting bastard.

Ben had laid still as a corpse, which was expected of him, barely breathing, never stirring despite the pain and the interminable itch that had crept across his entire body. He focused on what he heard when he could. And Ben Bostick had heard a lot. He had grown familiar with, if not accustomed to Stan Kijek’s voice, the way he grunted when he sat in his chair, the way he smacked his lips upon sipping his coffee, the way his boots struck and scuffed the ground when he walked. The boots in front of him now were not Stan’s boots, and their walk was not Stan’s walk. Friend or foe, he didn’t know, but without some serious medical attention soon, Ben knew he was a goner for sure.

He put every ounce of energy left to him into one desperate grasping motion aimed at the stranger’s leg…

###

When the corpse had moved, Rick Benes thought for the life of him that one of his favorite zombie movies had finally come to pass. The conviction was so strong that he nearly put another slug in the head of young Ben Bostick. Logic prevailed, however, and Rick knelt down, unable to understand just how the man was still breathing, and put his ear next to the dying man’s lips. He was saying something, whispering something. As soon as Rick made out what he was trying to say, something clicked in his memory banks. He didn’t understand it exactly, but he would certainly be following up on it.

“Hang in there, pal,” Rick said as he brought up the control panel and searched for the door controls. “The cavalry’s coming.” It took what felt like an eternity to open up the lobby doors, but when he did, Rick could swear he felt a cool fall breeze sweep through the place. “I’ll be right back, I swear it.”

Rick hauled ass out to the lobby just in time to see Matt and the others disappearing out the front entrance. Law enforcement personnel, armed to the teeth and outfitted for war, swarmed the doors. As his business casual co-workers went out, the militarized police swept in, guns drawn, rifle barrels pointed every which way, including some in Rick’s direction. He held his hands up, made a mental check not to try and reach for his ID badge until he was asked to do so, and called out for medical assistance.

“We’ve got a man down! We need medical attention immediately!” But these guys didn’t look like the sort that were concerned with patching people up. They seemed the type to do the opposite. It was only after the first wave of lawmen swept through the place and checked Rick’s ID that a medical team arrived. Rick practically had to fight the heavily armed men in order to stay behind and take the medics to the wounded man, but he’d be damned if he’d leave him behind.

Back in the security room, Rick hovered over the scene to check out the young guard’s progress. He was soon told in no uncertain terms to fuck off and let them do their job. That was fine with Rick. He turned and exited the security room. But rather than fleeing Black C.A.S.T.L.E., he went deeper into it. He still had his own job to do.

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