DeMarcus’ eyelids start to move but when the lights hit his pupils he closes himself back in the darkness. His head’s pounding harder than before. Thinking hurts; even breathing hurts. Does he have a concussion? Must have bounced his head off the linoleum floor when he passed out. Rubbing his hair and trying to get back to his feet, he notices a burning smell. Instinctively whipping his head around the room in search of that scent makes him want to scream. All other thoughts disappear though and his head feels clear when he sees a giant jagged hole blown through the steel doors leading into the lab. He stares at the hole from his knees.
That shouldn’t be possible. These are some of the most secure doors money can buy. Despite that, the hole’s there. That’s not entirely a bad thing. Oxygen has forced its way in through the opening and he can breathe without issue. There’s still a bit of gas in the room but it’s mostly cleared with the room no longer being sealed. That means the chemical has likely spread through the rest of the facility though. Searching for his phone on his hands and knees, after a minute or two he finds it settled under a cabinet. His hand barely fits underneath but after some effort he’s able to snake the device out. His call log reveals it’s been over an hour since his call to 911 ended. They must have hung up when he stopped answering.
The log reveals a number tried to call him back multiple times but hasn’t done so for half an hour. They probably figure he’s dead. Sorry to disappoint. Clicking on the number, there’s only one ring before a familiar voice booms in his ear. He quickly jerks the phone away as the noise stings. “Who the hell’s calling me?” comes Grady’s voice from the other end.
“Don’t scream, my head’s killing me. It’s DeMarcus again. Sorry to disappear on you. I passed out again.”
Grady brings it down but only slightly. “Figured you were dead. Guess it’s good you’re not. What the hell’s going on in there? We heard some sort of explosion like fifteen minutes ago.”
Blinking a few times and looking at the door to the lab, it clicks. “Must have been right here. They breached the lab. Didn’t think that was possible. I woke up and the door was in a million pieces. If I wasn’t as low to the ground as I was that might have gone bad for me. No sign of anyone. Where are your men? They probably need to be careful throughout the place now. With the door blown, the gas is spreading. It’s pretty thin at this point so maybe not a big deal, but it’s not trapped anymore.”
“I’ll let them know. We haven’t made much progress yet. Not only do they still have the door held down but we got a call a few minutes ago telling us the place is wired to blow if we go inside.”
Closing his eyes tight and squeezing them, DeMarcus stumbles into a chair. “They may be telling the truth. These doors are high end, supposed to be able to stop anything and they managed to blow their way in here.”
Grady gets quiet. He coughs a few times. “Well, bomb squad’s on the way. Hopefully they can help us figure it out. Little concerned they broke into that lab and left you breathing. Seems kind of odd, doesn’t it?”
That’s an odd he could get used to. “I guess, maybe they thought I was dead already.”
“Maybe, hard to say. Did they take anything out of there? Does anything but the door being open seem different from before?”
He’s been so focused on the door that he hasn’t even thought about why they’d go to such lengths to break into this specific lab. Taking in his surroundings for the first time since waking up, DeMarcus looks for anything missing. It doesn’t take long to find it. “Ya, there were a bunch of other containers around here that weren’t damaged. Some gases, some liquids, they’re all gone. They cleared this place out. If they could blow my lab, there’s nothing saying they can’t blow the others. There are a lot of people locked down in other rooms. You need to get your men in here now.”
“That won’t do a lot of good if they blow the place to kingdom come. That’ll end with you and your friends all dead. We gotta do this smart. You’re going to have to hold tight a little longer. The bomb squad’s almost here. Until then try to keep your head down. We’ve only heard one explosion so far so they likely didn’t blow anywhere else open, at least not yet. The lab you’re in, it’s the main lab, right?”
“Kind of, there’s a main lab on each wing. So this is one of the three main ones. Wing C never got locked down, so they don’t need to blow that open. They have what they want from this wing. A Wing’s still locked down if they haven’t blown it though. Someone has to help them. If they’re going after the main labs, that has to be their next target. That’s where I locked all the employees there.”
Once again Grady stops talking. “Give me a minute.” He’s talking with someone, staying quiet enough that DeMarcus can’t make out the words. “Maybe you’re right. Or maybe they knew where they were going and already have everything they need.”
“How would they know that?”
“You said yourself one of the other guards didn’t show up for work today. Might have been him, could have been someone else. No real way to tell at this point. Are the main labs labeled in anyway?”
He has to think about that. Not really. “Just with a number, this is technically lab B3. Why?”
“If they started in one of the main labs, that probably means they know where they’re going. Points to an inside guy. Or inside person I guess. I dunno, could be a woman. Point is, they know where they’re going. That means you can’t assume their targets. For all we know the stuff they want isn’t in Wing A. Your friends over there could be just fine. Or maybe they only had the explosives to blow one lab open. Again, we don’t know. We’ll be in there as soon as we can. Here, I’m putting you back on with the science boy. He’s really excited you’re not dead. Tell him to tell me if anything changes.”
There’s some fumbling but it isn’t long before Jerry’s back on the line. “I’m really glad you’re alive DeMarcus. When the line went dead, I assumed they found you or something. What’s going on in there.”
DeMarcus is glad to hear Jerry too though his enthusiasm isn’t appreciated at the moment. “I passed out. Was out for around an hour. When I woke up, somehow they blew through the doors here. Didn’t think some random crew like this would be able to do so but apparently they’re good. They took pretty much everything in the lab that wasn’t bolted down. Probably only left me alive because they figured I was already dead.” Jerry whispers to someone in the background. “Who are you talking to man?”
Sounding startled, Jerry says, “Nobody important, just another employee who showed up. They know a lot about those labs. There’s some really dangerous stuff in there. That chemical you described earlier isn’t the only thing. We were working on stuff they can’t get.”
Rubbing his still sore head DeMarcus says, “Ya, well I think they have it. At this point the cops just have to make sure they don’t get out of here with it. They probably have everything they could want in C Wing too.”
Suddenly gunfire explodes in the background. DeMarcus can hear it ricocheting off the walls. With his head still ringing and his mind filled with mud, it’s hard for him to place how far it is, but it sounds close. Jerry shrieks and it sounds like he almost drops the phone. “I hear guns. Are you okay? What’s going on in there?”
Ducking behind a table, DeMarcus tries to keep his voice down. “Jerry, I need you to be quiet right now. I’m okay but I think they’re close. I don’t want to draw attention to myself.”
Jerry does as he’s asked and shuts up, though the sound of his heavy breathing’s still prevalent through the phone. DeMarcus promptly turns the volume down. He reaches for his pistol, determined to be ready if one of the gunmen comes through that door. He’s not ready to die and leave Jesse alone.
It doesn’t take long for the sound of automatic weapons to stop. Before they do, DeMarcus hears a sound that could be a cry, though he can’t be certain. Maybe he imagined it. Hard to tell which he hopes means they’re further away than he thought. No way of knowing who it was or why they were shooting. The security guards are likely all dead and everyone else should be locked down at this point. Maybe someone from the basement snuck upstairs. Or maybe they left some people in C Wing and they followed them. Or maybe someone’s shooting their gun off like an idiot. No matter the reason, he’s relieved when it’s over.
Waiting for any sign that it’s safe to start talking again, nothing jumps out. A few minutes pass and he starts to fear Jerry’s going to hang up again. Finally he quietly says, “Alright, I think they’re gone. I think someone might have just been shot, not really sure. Tell Grady.”
He can hear Jerry trying to get words to come out of his mouth and Grady losing his patience with him. After a minute or so Jerry comes back. “He says he’s trying to get in there, but it’s still going to be a little bit. He thinks you should stay put or try to find some new cover with the door to the lab blown. Wait, he wants the phone back.”
Suddenly Grady’s voice is back on the line. “Dodson, listen, the bomb squad’s almost here but it’s going to be at least another half hour, maybe more, before we can breach that building. With that door blown, you’re a sitting duck, right?”
He fidgets in place. ”I guess, hadn’t really thought of it like that. I mean, I have my pistol if it comes down to it.”
“Ya, and these assholes have automatic weapons and body armor. You’re out-gunned, by a lot. You need to try and find cover again. Is there anywhere you can go hide? Can you sneak into one of the rooms you locked down?”
“Not a chance, I can’t open them anymore. It takes four people with codes to override code red. Those rooms are secure unless they can blow them open. I don’t have the artillery they do.”
“That’s not helpful. You need to figure something out. What about Wing C. They might have cleared out of there by now, right? Do you think you can get over there and lock it down now? Maybe they haven’t taken everything and you can secure it. At the least you can put some safety between you and these guys and let us know what the hell’s going on over there.”
There’s a sudden beeping in DeMarcus’ ear. He pulls his phone away and sees he’s under five percent battery. “I can try, no guarantee I make it though. Even if I do, my phone’s almost dead so I might not be able to let you know.”
“Shit, turn on power saving or something. You’re our eyes in there.”
Needing both hands for this, DeMarcus sets his pistol down on the table next to him. Looking down at the device, he tries to figure out how to enable power saving. It’s not something he uses regularly. Usually he leaves his phone plugged in at his station all day. It’s older and the battery’s shot but when it’s plugged in twelve hours out of a day, that doesn’t matter as much. Finding the power saving option, DeMarcus looks up to see a man standing in the wreckage of the door pointing an automatic weapon at his head. Only his eyes are showing but they’re wide, surprised to find someone still alive.
His life flashes before his eyes. Thoughts of the wonderful life he’s carved out for himself in recent years and all the work he went through to get there. He sees his parents. Will they even care? The girls, will they even remember him? He sees the love of his life in his mind, the pain in his head drifting away as he focuses on his rock. That man is never going to forgive him for leaving him alone. The attacker raises his gun while DeMarcus raises his hands. His gun’s too far away, he’ll never reach it in time. He squeezes his eyes shut, not wanting to see the bullet that will end his life coming. In one last attempt for mercy he shouts out, “Don’t shoot, I’m not a danger to you.”
He fully expects those to be his last words. He squeezes his eyes together and hopes the pain’s over fast. Time passes and there’s nothing. After a few seconds of waiting for the shots, DeMarcus tentatively opens his eyes. Through his raised hands, he can see the gunman still has his gun pointed at his head, but the man’s making no move to fire. His hand seems to be twitching slightly but any delay’s an opportunity. Is he hesitating? Does this guy not want to kill anyone? The rest of his crew doesn’t seem to have an issue doing so. Maybe he can work with this.
“What’s your name man?” There’s no reply. “Listen, I’m DeMarcus Dodson, that’s my name. I have a family and people who love me. You don’t have to kill me. Don’t fire that gun. Point it away from me and let’s talk.”
The man does as he’s told, pointing the gun down at the ground instead. His face contorts with anger. “We’re here for the chemicals, not to be nice. Sorry that you got in the way but I need to put you down.”
The man reaches a club hanging off his hip. Does he not want to make noise by shooting? “You don’t have to put anyone down, I’m not a threat. I don’t want to hurt you. What’s your name man?” Still no reply. This time more forcefully he says, “Tell me your name man.”
The man’s eyes go wide and his lips shake. “My name’s Abel Linman.” Not much to go on but it’s a start. He’s still advancing on DeMarcus with the club.
“Come on Abel, you don’t have to attack me.” The man gets closer and DeMarcus raises his voice. “Don’t attack me with that fucking club. Don’t attack me at all, let’s just be cool here and figure this out. Can we do that?”
Abel lowers the club and stops advancing. He might actually have found a reasonable guy, though maybe only intermittently.
Feeling in control of the situation, DeMarcus crosses his arms. “Where are the rest of your men and what are you here for? How many of you are there?” Abel is back to not cooperating. With his gun still firmly in his hand, DeMarcus slowly reaches for his on the table. Abel’s eyes follow his hand but he doesn’t raise his weapon again. His hand starts shaking as DeMarcus wraps his own hand around a gun. “Come on man, just answer my questions. We don’t have to make this difficult. Drop the gun while you’re at it; you’re not going to shoot me.”
That seems to have been what he needed to spill his guts. The man drops his gun which bounces off the floor. “We’re here to steal a bunch of chemicals. That’s all I know. Didn’t have a reason to ask much else, as long as they’re paying I’m glad to get what they want. There’s fifteen of us but only eight managed to slip inside. The others will have fallen back to our base.”
“Where did the other seven of your men who made it inside go?”
“Two of them are patrolling upstairs with me. They’re around somewhere, not sure where. The other five are downstairs trying to get into your warehouse.”
“What about the men at the door, the ones holding the police off?”
The man laughs. “Those are just automatic turrets.”
“Why did you blow this lab? That door was crazy strong. Seems like a lot of resources for whatever you got.”
“The main chemical our employers want was in here. Kind of a bust though since we’d damaged most of the containers.”
“Isn’t that a problem?”
Abel shrugs. “Probably. Above my pay grade. As long as I get paid I don’t care.”
“How did you know where to find the stuff you wanted.”
Grinning, Abel leans in. “We kidnapped a guy who worked here and made him tell us.”
“I don’t have a clue, I wasn’t part of the group that grabbed him or the group that got it out of him.”
“Do you actually have the place wired to explode?”
Slowly he shakes his head. “We’re not that stupid. We’d be blowing ourselves up with all of you. We’re all planning on walking out of here, with the chemicals we came for.”
“What did you do to the other security guards up front? Are they alright?”
Maybe it’s DeMarcus’ imagination but he thinks the man’s grin grows. He doesn’t seem like a very nice person. “No, they’re definitely not alright. I assume they’re dead. We shot them all real nice anyway. Didn’t stop and do an autopsy or nothing but they all ended up with a lot of holes in them. Most people wouldn’t be alright after that.”
Abel’s eyes are flashing back and forth between DeMarcus’ hands and he dives right for him. As he jumps backward DeMarcus realizes the man wasn’t going for him at all but rather for his phone which he’s still holding. He was fast enough to keep it away and his attacker falls to the floor, landing wrong on his leg and grabbing for it. He rolls to his knees, trying to get back up but struggling to do so. DeMarcus leans down and pistol whips the guy hard enough to give him whiplash. He crashes to the floor and after another strike to the head, he stays still.
Desperate to update Grady, DeMarcus looks down at his phone and finds the call was lost at some point during his skirmish. Worse news is that he’s down to his final percentage of battery life. Apparently power saving mode didn’t do much to help. He tries to get a call off but before he can even unlock the device it’s logo flashes and it powers down.
“Fuck,” is the only word he can manage at the moment. At least this asshole didn’t kill him. DeMarcus walks over and after re-holstering his pistol, picks up the man’s gun. Examining the automatic weapon, he finds it’s heavy enough that it’s uncomfortable to lift. They give these guys heavy duty firepower. It’s also incredibly powerful and a big upgrade over his pistol.
Picking over the man’s gear, he hopes to find something among his swat team junk which might help but it’s all too small. He has a good half foot and probably a hundred pounds on Abel. The only piece of the suit he takes is the helmet which he slaps on his head. Better than nothing. He eyes the bullet proof vest with longing. He’d never get it over his shoulders though.
With Abel out of commission and communication no longer an option, the only path forward is the one Grady suggested. Get to C Wing and try to lock it down. He has to hope he can avoid the two guards Abel said are still patrolling this floor.
Glancing through the blown door, he finds the hall before him abandoned. He checks the other two B Wing labs and is glad to see both are still sealed, including the one he left all this wing’s scientists in.
Trying to make his way back to the atrium between the wings, DeMarcus almost trips over a man in a blood smeared lab coat laying face down on the ground. He crouches and rolls the man over to find it’s Kriss Scout, one of the head scientists and the same man Jerry’s been asking about.
He checks for any sign of life but the man’s not breathing and is starting to get cold. The bullet holes and blood covering him should have been his first clue. It’s been at least ten minutes since he heard those gunshots and now he knows what they were from. Kriss is beyond help.
Without any other options DeMarcus makes his way to the atrium. There’s no sign of other shooters and he starts to wonder how much he can trust any of what Abel told him. Maybe he was trying to confuse him or leave him open to attack. If he wanted to do that though, he could have just shot him. He wishes he knew why the man put his gun down and talked. Without better options, DeMarcus cautiously creeps toward C Wing, hoping he’ll find something more positive than the body he leaves behind.