Toxic Vol. 1 Susceptible States Part 15

Ten minutes go by and nothing happens. DeMarcus knows there have to be a lot scared scientists upstairs to deal with but he kind of figured they’d be down here by now. Thinking about Alexis and Layla safe upstairs makes him happy and he doesn’t have to tell himself to feel that way. He hopes some of the other guards survived. He knows it’s a long shot but the only attacker he asked about them wasn’t sure they were dead. Maybe someone made it. They gave him a chance to get started. He’d love the chance to thank them.

Another eight minutes pass before he hears a door bang open in the distance. Someone scuttles forward. “Clear!”

Someone’s coming down the hallway right outside this office. DeMarcus pulls his feet down. “I’m in here. Don’t shoot, name’s DeMarcus Dodson. I’ve been working with Grady on the phone to get this place open.”

A man in tactical gear fills the doorway. Two more wearing the same follow him. “Put your hands up sir, just for security you understand.” The man grabs his walkie talkie. “We found him sir, he’s hurt but safe.”

Raising his arms in the air hurts, his left wrist hangs limp. “Do I really need to do that? This hurts like hell.”

“I understand sir. We’ll make it quick. That computer terminal there opens the doors down here, correct?”

“Ya, it’s pretty easy. I’m already logged in. Just select the downstairs locks and enter the password. It’s in the texts on the phone sitting on the desk.”

“Excellent sir, I appreciate it. I’m told there’s still some people we need to watch out for?”

“Ya, three attackers are locked up in the president’s office. The president and a couple other employees are safe in a door five to the right of there. A few of the attackers are still in the storage area if you want to grab them.”

“Sounds good, we’ll make sure to handle it. Can you stand up and step away from the computer for me?”

Doing as he’s asked, DeMarcus stands and moves aside. There’s now a ton of men in tactical gear running through the hall in the direction of the other offices. “Can you tell me more about the people upstairs? Is everyone okay? Did any of the other guards make it?”

“I’m afraid I don’t have those details sir but we’ll try to get them for you when we can. Can you turn around for me?” Once again DeMarcus does what the man asks, facing away. He feels someone start to frisk him and rolls his eyes. After all of this you’d think they’d realize he’s on their side.

As they finish he expects them to let him put his hands down. Instead he feels a hand slip over his face and something being shoved into his mouth. He can’t say a word before it’s forced completely inside. He tries to spit it out but it’s too large and a hand covers his mouth to make it even harder. He starts to feel light headed. The last thing he hears is, “For what it’s worth, I’m sorry about this.”

Part 14

Part 16

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Toxic Vol. 1 Susceptible States Part 14

DeMarcus does as he’s told and finds Big Man standing behind him with a gun pointed at his head. “Figured out your little trick with telling people what to do. Not sure how you do it but you’re not getting in my head again. You’re going to do the listening now. I know that terminal can open this place up and I assume you know how to use it. Nod if I’m right.”

Slowly DeMarcus nods his head.

“Thought so. When I woke up my head felt clear. Well, for the most part. Still had to fight to do the things you told me not to but I could get through it. For the most part. Still couldn’t pick up my gun, but I found a way around that. Grabbed one of the other ones. I don’t know who or what you are but here’s the deal. I’m walking out of here. I have a plan to make that happen and I even have good news for you. I need your help to do it so you get to live. If I’m not getting out of here though I can assure you I’ll let you die with the rest of them. Nod if you understand.”

Once again DeMarcus nods his head. He has to press his lips together to avoid yelling something out. He wonders what would be faster, Big Man’s bullets or his words. He doesn’t want to find out if he doesn’t have to.

“More good news for you. None of my men are walking out of here with me, clearly. So I’m not getting more than I can carry. I have an escape waiting for me on the roof though. Helicopter I can call in any time. Right now though this place is locked down and I can’t get to them. You can change that. I could change that for that matter, but I’d never get from here to the roof after opening the place. The cops will catch me on the way and I’ll be dead. I need you to give me a head start.”

DeMarcus cocks his head, trying to get the okay to speak. Big Man sighs and rolls his eyes. “You can speak if the first word makes it a question. Figured out the questions don’t work earlier.”

“Why,” he pauses after the first word, “would I help you get out of here?”

“That’s easy. You’ll be dead if you don’t. Not just you either. I can open all the doors from here if I want. I can make sure those three you tucked away end up dead. I heard you mention a girl in a lab somewhere. I’ll make sure she’s dead. I’ll even make sure the people you locked down at the start of this are dead. I might not get them all before the cops get me but I’ll get enough. You wanted to protect them. Now’s your chance. You give me eight minutes. That’s all the time I need. After eight minutes you open the doors. I’ll be gone before the cops know it, you all live, most of your stuff’s safe here. You blow the doors early though and I’ll be even closer to those labs and kill a lot more of them before the cops get to me. Do what I say and it’s a win for everyone.” Big Man stands there waiting on a response. “You can speak. Question word first.”

“If,” he again pauses, “I do this, how do I explain where you went?”

“You don’t even have to tell anyone about our deal. Who knows where I went? Slipped out in the confusion. Your call but I need an answer. No words this time, just nod your head.”

Closing his eyes, DeMarcus thinks about seeing Jesse again. He thinks about all the people he wants to help in this place. With his eyes still closed, he nods his head. When he opens his eyes again Big Man’s holding a grenade.

“Don’t think I’d leave without a little insurance do you?” He takes a few steps backward. “I’m backing out of here. You say anything while I’m in ear shot and I throw this back in here and you’re dead. Done. Keep your mouth shut and we both get what we want.” He starts backing out step by step. DeMarcus looks at the time on the phone in his pocket to know what time to open the doors.

After two minutes he starts the process of logging in and trying to disengage the red alert. His first attempt to type in the password leads to a message saying the password’s wrong. He starts to freak out but a second try goes through. It’s hard to type with only one working hand.

Time keeps passing and DeMarcus tries to use it to familiarize himself with the system. He finds the basement’s on a separate switch from the upstairs but there’s no way to unlock the outer doors without also unlocking the inner ones. Unless the tied up attacker he left locked in with Alexis got free that’s not an issue. The only attackers he’s worried about are down here. He waits until the seven minute mark before calling Grady back.

“What the hell’s taking so long? Get this thing open.”

“Good to hear from you too. You try typing with one working hand. I figured it out and I’m about to open things. Get everything ready. I’m leaving the basement sealed until your men get down here. I’ve got a few of them locked up down here and I’m nervous they can still be a threat. Upstairs you’ll find one tied up in C wing with a girl named Alexis. A and B wings both have a bunch of scientists locked up. There might still be an alive attacker in B wing though I don’t think you need to worry about them. Get down here fast.”

He desperately wants to tell them to watch the roof as well. If Big Man figures out he’s been double crossed though he might run back inside and go after the scientists. He can’t risk it, not after everything he’s done to get this far.

“We’ll be down as soon as we can. Just hang tight. I’ll send a doctor down for you too.”

“Thanks Grady. See ya soon.”

Eight minutes are up so DeMarcus overrides the code red. On the phone he can hear excited cheers in the background as he assumes the shutters are going up. After a moment Grady ends the call.

With nothing to do except wait, DeMarcus kicks back. He puts his feet on the desk and tilts the chair backward. This is a great chair. The vice president has good taste. He starts getting excited at the prospect of seeing Jesse. A nice shower sounds nice too. Looking at his wrist takes away the joy of that a bit. He knows he’s going to be in a cast and won’t be able to fully enjoy a shower. “It’s not a big deal.” Immediately he stops worrying about it. He’s alive, it could be a lot worse.

Part 13

Part 15

Toxic Vol. 1 Susceptible States Part 13

Walking back to the storage facility, DeMarcus pulls the phone out and calls Grady back. “You get the explosives yet?”

“Not yet, but I’m close. The last of the attackers should be neutralized at this point. I found the executive staff. A few of them were killed but there’s three that were still alive including the president. They’re locked down safe.”

“Not bad Dodson, guess you were right to go down there. If they’re all safe though why don’t you lock yourself down and wait for us.”

“Well, the guys messed my wrist up and I’m bleeding pretty bad from my head. I’m okay for now but I don’t really want to suffer through this for another six hours or however long it takes you to get in here.”

“Fair enough. Look, the explosives are apparently in a plastic case in the back right corner of the warehouse. They’re marked highly flammable. Do not run with them, do not jostle them. They could go up very easily. Get them and then get to the vice president’s office. We’ll walk you through wiring it when you’re in place.”

Following every direction Grady gives him to find the case, DeMarcus almost laughs when he reaches the right aisle. There’s the woman who he sent away earlier, with her face on the ground and her hands on the back of her head. When she hears him coming she starts to move. “I’m not here for you, stay where you are.”

Pulling the case off the shelf almost causes it to crash to the floor. He feels panic rising in him but manages to hang on and steady it. This thing’s heavy and usually he’d use both arms to carry it but with his left wrist broken that’s not an option. Lugging it out of the storage area he checks on the other two men and finds them still where he left them.

Soon he’s outside the vice president’s office. “Now what Grady?”

The man hands the phone off to Jerry who instructs him on how to open the case and wire the explosives. Four wires have to be run between several components and they need to be perfect or he’s going to blow up like a pinata. Several times Jerry has to adjust his directions to compensate for DeMarcus’ wrist but finally the bomb’s built and in place. All that remains is to insert the final wire and then haul ass around the nearest corner before it blows up. “You’ll have maybe ten seconds, so you need to move once it’s in.”

“You realize I’m going to be on the ground to insert the wire, then have to get up with one good arm and make it at least ten feet, right?”

There’s a long silence. “Ten feet would be awfully close. Don’t slip getting up.”

He breathes in and out a few times. His nerves are shot. After everything he’s gone through here he’s not ready to die. “Calm down.” It only takes a moment and suddenly he feels calm, in complete control. His mind clears and he knows he has this. A part of him knows how weird it should be that he can calm himself down with a few words but right now he’s grateful for it.

Connecting the last wire, he uses his good arm to push himself to his feet. As soon as he’s standing he takes off sprinting. Reaching the corner, he dives to the right so he lands on his right side and doesn’t hit his injured wrist. Once he’s on the ground he puts his good hand to his ear and shoves his other ear into his shoulder.

He feels it before he hears it. Heat rushes by him and is immediately followed by wood and debris. Even with his ears covered he fears they might burst. The noise hurts almost as much as his wrist. It only lasts a moment but the entire building feels like it’s being shaken from its foundation and his ears are still ringing. When he gets to his feet he finds a layer of dust covers everything including his clothes. He brushes them off and puts the phone back to his ear. “You still there Jerry?”

“Good to hear your voice DeMarcus. A little warning might have been nice though. Even over the phone that was loud as hell.”

“Sorry about that. I’m heading in though. Text me the log in information for this computer. I’ll take it from there. I’ll see you soon.”

He hangs up, knowing he needs to focus. The hard part’s over but he’s still got to get into this computer and undo the lock down. He hopes the controls let him choose what to open as well. Some of the men he left alive are locked in and he doesn’t want to let them out.

Stepping over the remains of the door, DeMarcus is thrilled to find the inside of the vice president’s office isn’t badly damaged. The computer terminal seems intact. He moves toward the desk but before he can get around it he hears a click behind him. “Open your mouth and I fill you full of bullets. Reach for a weapon and I do the same. You’re lucky I haven’t already done it but I need you. Turn around, but do it slowly.”

Part 12

Part 14

Toxic Vol. 1 Susceptible States Part 12

The person holding a gun to DeMarcus’ back could open fire but so far they hasn’t. They must want something. Keeping himself under control DeMarcus knows if he’s going to get out of this he needs to find out if he’s right about what that chemical did to him. Ever since he got sealed in a lab with a massive dose of a new mood controlling drug everyone seems to do exactly what he says. Weird stuff that he can’t think of another explanation for. Jerry said it was possible he was made a conduit for the chemicals.

“Don’t shoot. Can you take the gun off my back?”

They don’t shoot, but the gun doesn’t go anywhere. “You’re not in control of this situation. Keep your hand away from your gun.”

DeMarcus doesn’t know why but he’s surprised to hear a woman’s voice. She speaks with confidence. Something didn’t work but he tries again. “Take the gun off of my back.”

This time she complies. He’s terrified but also excited. Turning, he finds a pretty blonde who can’t be older than twenty five. Her hair’s done up and she has pink nails that match a pair of pink combat boots she’s wearing.

The woman looks confused and starts to open her mouth. Before she can speak he says, “Don’t say anything.” Her mouth hangs open and after a moment she closes it. Now she really looks confused. Her hand shakes and she keeps pointing her gun at him. She still doesn’t fire. “Why don’t you give me the gun?” She makes no move to do so. He decides to rephrase. “Give me the gun.” Now she holds the gun out and offers it to him.

He’s starting to get the hang of this. They don’t do things he asks. Only things he tells them to do. “Walk to the far end of this warehouse, lay on your face, put your hands behind your head and stay there with your mouth shut until someone comes and get you.” Her eyes go wide and she looks angry but she does as she’s told.

Turning back down the aisle, DeMarcus sees the situation hasn’t gotten better. The accountant’s been forced to his knees and is openly weeping. His tie’s been removed and is tied around his eyes. The lawyer and Mr. Sarraf can’t look. The bull of a man is standing over him with his gun pointed and a grin spread across his face. “I’m giving you a last chance. Where are the chemicals I need? Tell me or you’re dead.”

Between sobs the man manages to say, “Do you really think I’d die to protect this place if I knew? I just do the books. It doesn’t matter anyway. Even if I knew, you’d still kill me.”

The big man’s jaw drops. “No, I actually won’t. You don’t have to believe me but I’m a man of my word. I don’t have time to check every box in this place before the cops get in here. I might luck into the stuff I need but there’s a good chance all of this was for nothing if you don’t help. I need you. I’ll reward your help if you help me.” He takes a moment to turn to Mr. Sarraf. “For the record though, no, I don’t think you have a clue where the stuff is. I think the big guy here does though. I’m hoping he’ll feel bad enough watching you all die that he tells me. I might be wrong though. Maybe he doesn’t know. Or maybe he’s just that cold.”

Knowing he can’t wait anymore, DeMarcus steps into the aisle. Both guns immediately swing toward him. “Drop your guns.” Both men’s eyes go wide as they release their weapons and they fall to the floor. They lean down to grab them. “Don’t pick them back up. Leave your guns where you dropped them. Stay where you are.” They do so, though both stand back up and look at each other with fear in their eyes.

Mr. Sarraf comes running his way with tears streaming down his face. “I don’t know if I’ve ever been happier to see anyone DeMarcus.” He wraps him in a giant hug.

The accountant’s jerking his head back and forth. “What the hell’s going on?” DeMarcus walks up to him and pulls the tie from around his eyes. Looking up, he sees who came to help and seems speechless. He puts his hands over his mouth and falls backward.

The two attackers look back and forth at each other. The big one has a sneer on his face. “Who the hell do you think you are?”

“Nobody you need to know. What are you doing here? What’s this about?” The two men look at each other for a moment but neither says a word. “We’re going to play it that way?” He looks straight at the bald man. “Tell me, what’s your plan?”

“Not that complex. We broke in hoping to steal a bunch of chemicals. A lot of the ones upstairs and some we were told would be in storage. Got most of what we need ready to go upstairs but these idiots weren’t any help finding what we needed down here.” Once he finishes the man’s eyes go wide and he throws his hands over his mouth.

Turning to Mr. Sarraf, DeMarcus gets a strange look on his face. “Did you really not know where this stuff was?”

The older man looks ill. “Not most of it. I might have led them to a few pieces if I really wanted to but they’d have likely killed us anyway when they realized I couldn’t lead them to the rest. Besides, you know the stuff we keep here is too dangerous to let them have.”

DeMarcus’ head slams forward into a metal bar. The world spins around him and he can’t clear his head. A fist punches him in the face. He raises his arms to try and block the next punch but it’s even harder and it feels like his left wrist shatters. He falls to his knees where he’s kicked in the gut. All the air’s forced from his lungs. He tries to tell the man to stop but he can’t manage a word. Everything spins as the lawyer screams. She tries to run and the accountant’s right behind her. Mr. Sarraf after a long look at DeMarcus follows.

The big guy jumps onto his chest and punches him again and again. “What the hell did you do to me? Why can’t I pick up my gun? If you don’t say something soon I’m going to bust your head open.”

Blows keep raining down so there’s no chance for DeMarcus to answer. He starts to feel light headed and fights to stay awake. The man relents for just a moment. “Tell me what I want to know.”

“Stop.”

That’s all it takes. The man freezes. His eyes go wide and he seems to realize something’s wrong. There’s a slight twitch in his arm as if he’s still trying to punch but his body won’t allow it. They stay like this for over a minute. DeMarcus doesn’t have the strength to get out from under the man and he’s got no interest in moving. Finally DeMarcus catches his breath. “Get off of me.” The giant man complies but when he’s on his feet he tries to get away. “Stay put.” The man stops walking away.

With his right arm DeMarcus wipes his head. When he pulls his hand back he finds it smeared with blood. Looking at his left wrist, it’s limp and he can’t move it. Anger rises in him. He almost messed this up. He has no idea where the last three survivors and the other attacker went. He needs to find them. He turns to the big guy. He wants to do sadistic things to the man, or even better make the man do sadistic things to himself. Now isn’t the time though. “Follow me. Don’t do anything to hurt me or anyone else.”

They take off down the aisles, searching for any sign of people. He finds the remaining three near the entrance to the storage area. The attacker’s chasing after them but without his gun he’s not that dangerous. It looks like someone got ahold of the lawyer’s red hair because it’s been pulled from the ponytail she had it in.

DeMarcus runs right at the attacker and tackles him to the ground. His wrist hits wrong and he lets out a scream. The man skids away. DeMarcus scrambles up first and looks right at the attacker. “Stay down.” The man looks at him but doesn’t do anything else. He looks over at the lawyer and Mr. Sarraf. “You two alright?” They each give a weak nod.

His attention returns to the attackers. “Tell me who you are.” They both start to speak at once. “Stop. Point at whichever one of you is in charge.” They both point at the larger man. DeMarcus turns to the smaller one. “Sit facing a wall. Don’t move, don’t speak.” He then turns to the larger man. “What’s your name?” It takes him a moment to realize why it isn’t working. “Tell me your name.”

“My name’s Rupert Corey, but everyone calls me Big Man.”

“Okay Big Man. Answer my questions from here on in. How were you planning to get out of here?”

“There’s a way to override the lockdown in some of the offices, for the real big shots. I just figured I’d force that idiot over there to let me out.” He points at Mr. Sarraf as he says it.

DeMarcus closes his eyes and curses under his breath. That was a better plan than he had and it won’t work. “Why are you doing this?”

“Because with what we get here we can start the process of taking back America. I’m also getting paid a lot of money. That doesn’t hurt.”

Realizing he doesn’t have any other questions DeMarcus decides to have a little fun with the man for all he’s done. “Bang your head against that metal shelving behind you until you pass out.”

Watching Big Man bang his head against the shelving repeatedly is cathartic. He looks at the lawyer, the accountant and Mr. Sarraf to see if any of them has a problem with it. The lawyer’s eyes are wide with excitement. The accountant looks a little queasy but doesn’t say anything. Mr. Sarraf doesn’t have much of a look on his face at all. Blood’s pouring out of the man’s head by the time he hits the ground and stays there.

Getting back to business, DeMarcus goes up to Mr. Sarraf. “Time to go. I have a question though. Do you happen to have keys for any of the offices except your own?”

“No, why?”

Looking down at his feet DeMarcus swears under his breath. “I may have locked a group of them down in your office. So if you were counting on using that to get out of here, we’re going to need a new plan.” Mr. Sarraf’s face droops. “Don’t worry, I have another idea. First, we need to get the three of you to safety.”

Taking the lead, DeMarcus exits the storage area, moving toward the offices. As they walk he informs them of Grady’s plan to blow open the vice president’s office. Mr. Sarraf doesn’t like it. “I know the explosives he’s speaking of, they’re very unstable. One wrong move and you’re dead. We’ve taken care of all of them. Why don’t you just lock down with us in one of these offices until help comes?”

He points at his left wrist. “Mainly because this hurts like hell and it could be hours. I also have a girl upstairs in one of the labs locked up with one of these maniacs. I can’t leave her longer than I have to.”

They nervously look at each other before the accountant stops for a moment. “Not that I don’t appreciate your help, but why are all these guys listening to you?”

“We can worry about that later Jack.” Mr. Sarraf looks nervous. DeMarcus wonders if he’s already figured it out.

“I don’t mind answering Mr. Sarraf. I got locked in one of the labs with a bunch of chemicals meant to alter moods. Now I seem to be able to alter moods or make people do what I want. Kind of weird.”

The accountant’s eyes go wide. “So wait, if you tell us to do something we’ll have to do it?”

Shrugging, DeMarcus doesn’t stop. “Seems like it. I haven’t gotten to test it out in that much detail so I don’t know how it works but it seems like people do anything I tell them to.” He raises his left eyebrow. “I guess I could test it out on you if you like.”

“I’m good.”

Reaching the offices, he picks one that has three chairs and a desk and leads them inside. Mr. Sarraf doesn’t like it. “Why don’t I come with you and try to help with the explosives? With your wrist it’s going to be very difficult to manage.”

“Appreciate the offer but my job is to keep you all safe. I’ll be able to focus better if I know you’re all locked in here.” He considers telling them to stay put so there’s no issue but he decides against it. They’re not fighting him, there’s no reason to force it.

Steel shutters close between them and once again he’s alone.

Part 11

Part 13

Toxic Vol. 1 Susceptible States Part 11

Moving around the last corner before the entrance, DeMarcus isn’t sure whether to be relieved or not that it isn’t locked down. If the executives had sealed themselves inside he wouldn’t have to worry about them getting hurt but he’d also have no way to get the explosives he needs. The doors are closed but there’s no shutters covering them. He considers locking it down now. If the last of the attackers are inside they won’t have a way out. Neither will anyone else in there with them though.

Turning the handle, he pushes the door open inch by inch. He can hear people inside but he’s not sure how many. They’re far enough away that whatever they’re saying is muffled. He’s only been in the storage area a couple times for lockdown drills. He vaguely knows his way around but he’s never had to find anything.

Sliding through the door, the smell he found in C wing upstairs fills his nostrils. It’s the iron smell found in blood. He tries to prepare himself for the worst. He can’t see anything to worry about at first. All he finds are row after row of shelving units. They’re lined with boxes, tanks, crates, and every other storage item he can imagine. There’s less obvious stuff stacked up as well. He sees a lawn mower, a snow mobile, what he hopes is a fake skeleton, and all manner of other gear. This is supposed to be a storage unit for all of their experiments but over the years it’s served as a place to dump anything they had laying around.

Every time he walks around a corner DeMarcus expects to be confronted by a group of armed men. Each time he turns the corner he’s again met with an empty hall. This place is so huge someone could get lost and he starts to fear he will. He continues hearing voices but with the high ceilings and metal walls of the storage area everything echoes. The smell in his nostrils never lets him forget the other thing he might find.

A body. He turns down a narrow path near the right wall and there’s a man laying on the ground. He can see a pool of red beneath him. He moves to the man’s side to check for any sign of life but he knows what he’ll find before he feels the lack of a pulse. He’s dead. There’s barely any warmth left to his skin. A closer examination finds the man’s chest filled with bullets. He tries to place the man but can’t come up with a name. He’s definitely seen him walking the halls on more than a few occasions but he doesn’t think they’ve ever spoken. Does he work in legal?

This hall’s a dead end so he turns around to go back the way he came. When he returns to an intersection where he can choose which way to go, he turns right hoping it isn’t the way he came. He’s past the point of knowing.

Turning to his left he’s met by a woman he recognizes immediately. Daisy’s the secretary for Mr. Sarraf, the president of the company. She’s a sweet, slightly older woman who always takes the time to say hello to the security guards when she comes in. She brings cookies in every few weeks and drops a few off for security every time. Her peanut butter cookies are the best he’s ever eaten. He realizes quickly that he’ll never have them again. Her body isn’t as cold as the last one but she’s not breathing. Someone shot her, likely with the same gun they used on the last man. Her eyes are still wide open, her face twisted with terror. DeMarcus takes a moment to close her eyes before moving on.

He wants to charge into the open and get revenge but he also wants to see Jesse again. That desire keeps him from giving away his position. He can explode later. For now he has to be smart. At the end of the hall he thinks he hears voices. He can’t be sure with the echoing going on but he decides to check it out. He has to find these guys before they kill anyone else. There should be at least a half dozen staff down here. He’s only found two bodies so it may not be too late to save some.

Approaching the end of the aisle, he hears an automatic weapon firing and a scream in the distance. That’s clear enough that he can place it. It came from his right. Running in that direction, he hopes the sound of gunfire will cover the pounding of his boots. When he thinks he’s found the right aisle, DeMarcus turns and glances down it.

Standing in the aisle are two men with guns. One’s a fairly unassuming man with short hair and a cut across his left cheek which is still dripping blood. The other’s one of the biggest men DeMarcus has ever seen. He has to be nearly seven feet tall and built like a bull. His face is smashed and more resembles a bulldog. The top of his head’s completely bald though he has a massive beard that hangs down to the middle of his chest.

They’re surrounded by three employees who are still alive, including Mr. Sarraf. The other two are one of the company’s lawyers and the accountant. Neither is close with DeMarcus but he’s still glad to see them alive. Another woman’s lying on the ground bleeding. He can’t place her but he knows she works down here doing something. She’s still twitching and fighting. The accountant seems to be trying to fight back a gag and Mr. Sarraf has his hand over his eyes. The attackers stand there watching her die.

DeMarcus wants to help her but from the amount of times she was shot, it’s too late. Maybe if an ambulance could be in here now but he still has no clue where the explosives are to get into the vice president’s office. Even without these guys in the way he’d be lucky to get out in a half hour. She doesn’t have that long. He has to worry about the three people who still have a chance.

After she takes her last breath the large man returns his attention to the rest of the group. “I don’t know about you folks, but that didn’t look like a lot of fun to me. Anyone want to volunteer to be next?” Nobody steps forward. “Didn’t think so. Can’t say I blame you. I wouldn’t either. If you don’t want to join the rest of your group though, I’d start cooperating. You know what I need. I’ve told you again and again. Lead me to it and I’ll head out of here and leave you breathing.”

Mr. Sarraf finally removes his hand from over his eyes and takes a moment to glance down at his dead employee. He quickly averts his gaze. “Everyone here is trying to cooperate with you. Do you have any idea how much stuff we have stored down here? Look around you. I don’t know where anything is stored, let alone those chemicals. I want to tell you. I can’t. I’ve tried to lead you to the right general area but that’s the very best I can do. If you wanted someone to be more specific you should have brought one of the scientists down. Go get one.”

“A little late for that Mr. Big Wig. They’re all either dead or locked down. I was planning to take a few hostages but didn’t count on your security locking most of the upstairs down before I could get to them. That leaves me with you folks. Nobody’s coming to help. It’s just you and me. Figure this out and you can survive. Otherwise we’ll play this game again and another one of you can join your friends.”

Something cold pushes into DeMarcus’ back. He freezes. From the shape it has to be the barrel of a gun. He wants to scream. The sight of that aisle distracted him even though he knew there were three of them left. What the hell is he supposed to do?

Part 10

Part 12

Toxic Vol. 1 Susceptible States Part 10

“Still with me DeMarcus? Grady wants to speak with you.” There’s no answer. “Not again. Can you hear me?” It sounds like the phone’s moved away from the speaker. “I think I lost the call again.”

“I’m here Jerry. Don’t have much to say, but I’m still here.”

With a sigh of relief Jerry says, “I’m passing the phone to Grady. Just give me a second.”

DeMarcus Dodson’s slumped against a wall, his head in his hands. He wants desperately to call his boyfriend Jesse but his phone’s long since dead. He found another on one of the people who broke into his job but when he went to call he realized he doesn’t have a clue what Jesse’s number is. He always just clicks his name in his contacts. He can hear several men pounding on the metal shutters blocking the door behind him. “Stop banging on the shutters in there.” They do so immediately. That doesn’t make him feel better.

A new voice is on the phone. “I’ve got an idea to get us in there Dodson. You up for helping out?”

Sighing, DeMarcus considers hanging up. “Not really Grady. Did Jerry tell you?”

“Tell me what?” There’s no sign in his voice that he knows what DeMarcus is talking about.

“Don’t worry about it. What do you need?”

“We still can’t get ahold of enough of your night security guys to override your crazy security procedures. We can cut through the doors eventually but this stuff is high end. It’ll take us hours, at least, with traditional materials. We got ahold of a couple guys on the board of the company who can override but they’re hours away. The vice president submitted a list of your projects in development though and there’s a set of high end explosives in one of the storage containers in the main storage area.”

“You’re saying it’s strong enough to blow through the shutters?”

“Not even close. We’ve got another plan. Apparently in his office, you can use his computer and your badge to override this alone. His office likely hasn’t been locked down but his door will definitely be locked and it’s a heavy duty door. Nothing you’ll be able to knock down. The explosives should get you in.”

DeMarcus takes a deep breath, trying to take this in. “Unless the door goes flying and breaks the computer. Or unless I mess up with the explosives and get myself killed.”

“It’s a risk. The alternative is sitting in there alone for at least another five hours. You said there’s still at least three of them left. Want to sit around hoping you keep getting lucky?”

“Where do I find these explosives?”

Grady spends the next few minutes telling DeMarcus exactly where to find the explosives. They’re complicated. He’s going to have to wire them perfectly or he’ll blow himself up instead of the door. Once he puts the last wire in place he’ll only have ten seconds before it blows. “Don’t try to remember all of that. Call us when you’re in place and we’ll walk you through it. Does the phone you’re on now have enough charge?”

He has over 50% battery remaining so he figures it’ll last. “I’m letting you go now Grady. I’ll call once I’m outside his office. Before I do though, can I ask you to do me a favor?”

“Depends what. I don’t have a lot of time.”

Sighing, DeMarcus wants to scream at the man. “Try to have someone call my boyfriend and let him know I’m alright. Or if they can’t now, do it afterwards if I don’t make it out. I want him to know I’m thinking about him. I’d call myself but his number’s in my phone and it’s dead.”

There’s a long silence on the other end. “I can do that Dodson. Keep yourself alive so I don’t have to give that second message though.”

Hanging up the phone, DeMarcus slips it into his pocket. The storage area’s straight ahead and there’s a good chance the last of the attackers who invaded Secure Solutions Chemical are inside. The smart move would be to go anywhere else. There are offices down here he could lock himself inside. All of the company’s office workers and executives are probably in there with the attackers though. If he doesn’t help them they may not last until the police get inside.

Part 9

Part 11

Toxic Vol. 1 Susceptible States Part 9

It doesn’t take long to return to the atrium where DeMarcus can take the elevator or the stairs to the basement. Neither option appeals but he quickly decides the elevator’s out. If the door opens and there’s a group of attackers on the other side he won’t have anywhere to go.

Pushing open the door to the stairwell, the lighting’s dim and he can barely make out the first landing down. To get where he’s going he’ll need to climb down four of those. Approaching the first, DeMarcus realizes someone shot the lights out. Looking further down, there’s no more light below. They must have destroyed all the lights, leaving only the light on the top landing. Anyone following them will have a hard time.

Without another viable option DeMarcus pulls out the attacker’s cell phone and finds the flashlight app on it. This gives him enough light to make his way down. Each time he turns a corner he worries a shadow will jump out with a machine gun but so far he’s alone in the dark.

Reaching the bottom of the stairwell, DeMarcus moves to the door. He places his ear against it, hoping to hear something on the other side. There’s only silence. Slowly pushing the door open, he glances around the corner and is relieved to see no sign of the attackers. The lights in the hall are still on. For now, he’s alone.

It’s rare for him to spend time in the basement level where only their storage facilities and the executive offices are found. He tries to remember the floor plan and the fastest way to the storage facilities. He starts moving forward and soon wishes there were a few less lights. With every step he’s afraid he’ll stumble upon an enemy.

Turning the corner to the main downstairs lobby, his fears are realized. Before him are three attackers, all of whom are armed with machine guns. They’re staring right in his direction and any pretense of surprise goes out the window. He doesn’t even bother to raise his weapon. He throws himself back around the same corner.

Within seconds bullets start flying past him, bouncing off the walls. Several lights in the hallway are hit, darkening the hall and causing glass to plunge to the floor. After a moment the bullets stop as his attackers realize their bullets can’t turn corners. With his back against a wall and his pistol clutched in his hand, he wonders what made him come down here. He could be sitting safely in the lab upstairs. His fellow guards sacrificed themselves to give him a chance to help though. People have stepped in to give him a chance his whole life. He has to pay that back.

Listening for any sign of movement he suddenly hears a crunch as someone steps on glass. He points his gun around the corner and fires off a few shots. He can’t see where they’re going but maybe he’ll get lucky. “Get back or I keep shooting.” He hears all three of them retreating. “Look, we don’t have to die down here. I don’t know how you think you’re getting out but the cops can’t be far from getting inside. I can’t imagine your plan was to be here this long. Why don’t we work out a deal?” They stay silent.

Glancing around the corner, he sees the men approaching again. Once again he fires off a few shots. “Get back. Don’t make me say it again.” They do what he says, running backwards and exposing their backs. That’s weird. He almost fires a shot in each of them but they have enough body armor that he’s not sure he can make the shot. He can’t imagine they’ll negotiate if he kills one of them.

Once they’re back a distance they see him poking his head around the corner. They raise their guns and start firing again. DeMarcus ducks back. “Stop firing. Let’s talk.”

There’s no more gunfire and a confused sounding voice says, “What do you want to talk about?”

He doesn’t have an answer. They’ve killed enough people already that one more really shouldn’t matter. Yet every time he comes across one of these guys, they seem hesitant to kill. “None of us need to die here. Why don’t you turn yourselves in?”

The answer’s more gunfire. So much for talking. Soon he hears footsteps on the glass again. They keep repeating the same pattern. He considers running but doesn’t know where he’d go. To even get back to the stairwell he’d have to cross the hallway. He’d be dead before he got close.

Raising his gun in front of him, DeMarcus says a short prayer and hopes this is quick. Trying to gain the element of surprise, he rushes around the corner and starts firing. As he does so, he says, “Put your guns down or die.”

The strangest thing happens. With a man rushing them with a gun, all three men put their weapons down. DeMarcus stops firing, not wanting to kill unarmed people. They look confused and rush him. “Stop where you are or I will shoot.” All three stop. Why are they listening to him? At this point his jaw’s pretty much on the ground. “Lay flat on your stomachs and put your hands behind your heads.” They do what they’re told. “Put your left hand on your butts.” Three left hands go to three butts.

With adrenaline pumping through him DeMarcus isn’t sure how to respond. They’re all on the ground at this point but he doesn’t have a way to restrain them. There’s a part of him which would love to put a bullet in the back of each of their skulls but they’re surrendering. “Do any of you have any sort of handcuffs or tape or anything like that?” There’s no response. “Come on, tell me.”

Simultaneously all three of them say, “No.”

At least he knows. Looking around for anything that can help, DeMarcus realizes he’s just outside Mr. Sarraf’s office. The president of the company, maybe he’ll have something useful in his office. “Stay put.” He finds the door unlocked though it looks like someone left in a hurry. After a rushed search he doesn’t find anything useful. He realizes the offices lock down as well though. “All three of you, slowly get up and march into this office. Keep your hands behind your heads. If you give me a reason to do so, I will shoot you.”

They do as they’re told and are soon inside. “Stand against the far wall.” Once they’re there, he locks the office down. The steel shutters slide over the door as the three men stay where he told them to.

If the first first guy he took out was telling the truth there should only be two more attackers down here though one was unaccounted for upstairs. At this point he’s incredibly confused. Thinking back on his earlier encounters with the attackers he realizes that each time he was faced with one of them they did exactly what he told them to.

His breathing’s ragged and he feels like he needs to sit but his mind’s elsewhere. He keeps flashing back to those encounters and trying to think of different reasons they would have listened but he can only think of one.

With his mind racing this fast he can’t focus. Under his breath he says, “Just calm down DeMarcus.” In seconds he feels his mind start to clear. The worry and panic subside. He suddenly feels okay. He knows things are bad. He knows his situation hasn’t changed at all. He’s completely calm though. It takes him a moment to realize that he may have just forced himself to be calm by saying it. That should freak him out even more, but it doesn’t. He stays calm.

Pulling out the phone, he calls 911 again and asks to be connected back to Officer Grady. “What?” He’s not surprised at Grady’s response.

“I need to talk to Jerry. Now.”

“Not until I get some answers. Did you go into that basement? We’re not far from breaching but we can’t find enough of your night security guys to override the lockdown. The bomb squad’s confident it’s safe though and we took out the turrets.”

“Ya, I’m in the basement. Took down most of their guys. I think there’s just a few more left. They’re probably in the storage area and I’m headed there next. I haven’t found any of the executives down here yet. Need to talk to Jerry first though.”

There’s a pause before Grady says, “How do you keep taking down armed guards? Do you have military training or something?”

“No, that’s actually what I need to talk to Jerry about. I have a theory.”

There’s some jostling on the line and then Jerry’s back on the phone. “Really glad you’re okay DeMarcus but you should not be down there. The stuff in storage is really dangerous and can cause a lot of problems.”

“I know. I think I might already have a problem. What more can you tell me about the KJC2800?”

“Not a lot, I told you pretty much everything I know before. It’s an experimental mood controlling drug. Early stages, only basic animal testing done so far. Theoretically though it can be used to make people highly suggestive, which can be used to alter their moods.”

“So wait, basically people will just do what you say?”

“It’s not quite that simple. It won’t force anyone to do anything. If it ends up working though, theoretically it should just make them highly suggestible. They should have an overwhelming urge to do whatever they’re told or feel how they’re told to feel, even if it doesn’t make sense or seems like a bad idea.”

“Well that’s screwed up. I think it works though Jerry.”

“Why?”

“Because since I was stuck in that stuff, everyone is doing exactly what I say. I tell them to drop their guns and they do. I tell them to lay down and they do. Whatever I tell anyone to do, they do.”

There’s only silence on the other end of the phone. After a minute he can hear Jerry whispering to someone in the background but he can’t make out what he’s saying. “Are you there Jerry?”

“I’m here. How sure are you about this?”

“Pretty sure. I didn’t notice at first, just thought these guys were having a hard time shooting me. That doesn’t make any sense though. They slaughtered everyone in C wing. Why would they hesitate to shoot me?”

A long silence follows but finally Jerry returns. “Fuck.”

Part 8

Part 10

Toxic Vol. 1 Susceptible States Part 8

The silhouette of the man trying to kill them blocks the light from the hall but he stops firing as he enters the lab, clearly a little more cautious about unloading in an area with so many unknown factors, even one so empty. Alexis has managed to pull herself behind a table while DeMarcus stands defenseless. He raises his hands, not seeing any other options. “Don’t shoot. You don’t want to do this. You don’t need to hurt anyone else.”

Standing there ready to fire his gun, the man keeps it pointed right at DeMarcus but doesn’t pull the trigger. He has a look of confusion on his face and he glances rapidly between the gun and his target. His face looks more frenzied by the second but he still doesn’t attack. That’s a start.

Stepping toward the man, DeMarcus tries to seem calm even though his brain’s screaming. He knows that he’s once again seconds from dying but he has to keep fighting. That’s the only way he’s going home. “Put the gun down and we can talk. Just start by putting the gun down. That woman has been through more today than most people go through in a lifetime. Don’t hurt her.”

Placing his gun on a lab table to his left, the attacker looks confusingly between DeMarcus and his weapon. “What the hell is going on with me? I should shoot you but for some reason I can’t.”

“Maybe you grew a conscious, I don’t know what else to say. I appreciate you not killing us though. Let’s go from there. What are you doing back in C wing? You already cleared it out pretty well.” The man stares back and doesn’t respond. “Come on man, you can tell me.” Still nothing. “Alright, I guess you aren’t going to tell me. That’s okay. Why don’t you take a seat?”

DeMarcus moves close enough to the man that he can reach a hand out. The man grabs it and swings him by the arm into the nearest wall. His back hits a lab table awkwardly and he feels pain shoot up and down his spine. He can hear Alexis let out a yelp in the background. Trying to get his head on straight and focus, he suddenly feels himself being tackled and slammed into the ground. He lands on his shoulder and pain takes a journey to his arm.

His attacker’s strong and starts delivering punch after punch to DeMarcus’ face. The man’s wearing a pair of rings and with each blow he can feel them busting through his cheeks. He tries to reach for his gun which he notices isn’t far away but the man knocks his hands away. He doesn’t reach for DeMarcus’ gun though. Seemingly satisfied with the amount of pain he’s dishing, the man reaches for a knife sticking out of his belt.

“No!” It takes a minute for both DeMarcus and his attacker to realize where the scream came from. They both turn their heads to find Alexis standing a few feet away. She suddenly seems to realize that she’s drawn the man’s attention. Her look of defiance quickly changes to fear but the attacker doesn’t go after her. He returns his attention to the man he’s on top of. As he turns his head back he feels a punch to his ribs before being shoved aside.

DeMarcus starts to roll after him but stops himself and climbs to his feet. Scrambling for his gun, he’s able to point it right at the man before he can get off the ground. “Drop the knife.” The man does as he’s told. “Put your hands up.” He again listens. “Stand against the wall. Now.”

The gun seems to be a great tool of persuasion. He does this as well and DeMarcus pats him down. There aren’t any other weapons on him. He’s found them all. He finds something more important though. A phone with a nearly full charge. Trying to get into it, he’s stopped by a locking mechanism. He points his gun right at the man’s head. “What’s your pin? I need to make a phone call.” The attacker picks this moment to stop responding. “I’m not playing, tell me your pin.”

“6972.” The man moves his hands over his mouth after saying it. His look of confusion gets worse each time he speaks.

Entering the pin, DeMarcus expects it to be a lie but he’s shocked to see the phone unlock. He quickly goes into the phone’s settings and turns the pin off. He doesn’t want to risk forgetting it if he needs it later. Once that’s done, he starts looking for something he can use to tie the man up.

Clean rags in the corner work great as a gag and duct tape from a supply closet makes sure they stay in place. He takes a lot of pride in wrapping it tightly around the man’s entire head, making sure to get it in his hair as well. He’s careful to leave the nose unblocked but that’s it. He even wraps it around the eyes. With that done, he uses the rest of the tape to secure the man’s hands behind his back and his legs. He fights at first but when DeMarcus says, “Stop moving,” he listens.

Walking up to Alexis, DeMarcus holds the attacker’s gun and knife out to her. “These are yours from now on. Do you know how to fire a gun.”

Eying them, she takes a small step back. “Not really, I’ve never had to.”

Nodding, he pushes them toward her and she slowly takes the gun. He sets the knife next to her. “Well good news, this is an automatic. Just releasing the safety and spraying is pretty effective.” He takes a moment to point out the safety and how to release it. “Just don’t start firing unless you’re pretty sure I’m already dead. I don’t want to go through all this to get killed by a friend. Keep it pointed in his direction.”

Returning to the phone, DeMarcus calls 911 and is quickly connected to an operator. “Hi, my name’s DeMarcus Dodson. I’m a security guard with Secure Solutions Chemical. I was on with an Officer Grady awhile ago. Apparently he’s at the scene here but my phone died. I found another one so I need you to connect me back to him. Can you do so?”

He’s put on hold but the woman quickly patches him through. Grady picks up sounding distracted. “You keep surprising me Dodson, figured you were dead again. What the hell happened?”

“One of them found me, we got into a fight but I managed to take him down. By the time we were done the phone was dead so I couldn’t call you back. I’m in C wing now though and it’s mostly locked down except for the room I’m in. They slaughtered this wing. Everyone’s gone except one scientist who managed to play dead. Another one of them found us but I took him down. Getting lucky in here but that can’t last. How’s it coming out there?”

“Slowly. The bomb squad aren’t confident enough to breach yet. Probably still at least a half hour. Why haven’t you locked yourself down yet?”

Looking at Alexis, he sees her staring at the gun, almost in a trance. He walks to the other side of the lab, hoping she won’t hear him. “Because I’m considering going to the basement. That’s got to be where the rest of them are now and it’s where all the most dangerous stuff’s stored. The big wigs might have locked it down but I’m not confident in it. I can go check it out but I’ll need to lock the scientist in here first which means I again will have nowhere to hide. Hoped you guys were coming in hard first, or at least you weren’t far behind so I’d have backup coming.”

“You should lock yourself down. I’ve checked the blueprints, there’s no way out through the basement. They aren’t getting away.”

“They have to have an escape plan of some sort. The first guy I took down was blabbing about their plan. Said they kidnapped an employee here and got information from them. They know this place. Maybe there’s not a way out but they might be planning on using something down there to make one. Some of that stuff might do it. I really think I should go after them.”

Grady pauses for a moment to say something to someone else before returning. “Dodson, you’re going to get yourself killed if you do that. There’s too many of them. We are coming soon but we have to be sure we’re not killing you all by rushing in. Stay put and hang on.”

“For what it’s worth, the guy who told me they kidnapped someone also said the bomb was bullshit.” He glances to Alexis but she doesn’t seem to be paying much attention to him. He still lowers his voice. “I don’t know that he was telling the truth but I’d be willing to risk it to get some help in here. Oh, before I forget, those aren’t men at the doors if you haven’t figured it out yet. Just automatic turrets.”

“We figured it out but thanks. I’m going to give you back to Jerry. He’s practically about to wrestle the phone away from me anyway.”

Guilt hits DeMarcus hard. Jerry’s a good guy and one of the scientists working here. He was lucky enough to pick today to run late for work. His friend Kriss was unaccounted for the last time they talked but now he knows Kriss is dead. He doesn’t want to tell Jerry but doesn’t know how he can get around it if he asks. He could lie but his voice would probably betray him. Jerry’s excitement when he comes on the phone makes it worse. “Good to hear you’re okay DeMarcus, I was worried. Any side effects since we talked? I’m still concerned about how much KJC2800 you breathed.”

Chuckling, DeMarcus moves to the doorway and glances out. No other attackers in view. “Takes more than they have to kill me. I’m actually feeling pretty okay at this point. No other issues. Haven’t passed out for awhile. Maybe it’s wearing off. You can run a bunch of tests on me once I’m out of here. Can you do me a favor though?”

“I can try. What’s up?”

“Tell Grady that when he comes into C wing that the right lab has a young woman named Alexis in it and she has one of the attackers’ machine guns. She’ll be locked in but don’t shoot her when they open the door. She’s with an attacker but he’s tied up. Also tell him I’m going to the basement after these guys. Send backup as soon as possible. Thanks.”

“DeMarcus, don’t—,” Jerry’s cut off before he can finish. He can’t answer questions about his friends if he’s not on the phone. A few seconds after hanging up he gets a call back but he doesn’t answer.

He returns to Alexis who looks lost. He puts a hand on each of her shoulders to get her attention. She looks up at him but doesn’t seem better. “I have to go, they’re probably in the basement by now and you know how dangerous the stuff down there is. I have to make sure they locked that down if I can. I’m glad you’re okay and I hope I see you outside.”

Pointing at the man, her eyes go wider. “You can’t leave me with him. What if he tries something?”

“If he tries to get out of those bonds, at all, you shoot him. Don’t hesitate and don’t feel guilty.” Turning to the attacker he says, “Do you hear that? Don’t try to get out. She’ll kill you with your own gun if you do.”

He grabs the man’s knife again and this time makes her actually grab it. “Just in case. When you hear the police try to enter, get rid of the gun. Don’t give them an excuse to shoot.”

She’s shaking at this point but nods. “Just don’t get hurt. I’d better see you outside.”

“That’s the plan.” He smiles before turning away, trying to project confidence he doesn’t feel.

Stepping back into the hall, he’s glad to find no sign of other attackers. He turns to look at the control panel to lock the room down. This is the last door that isn’t locked on the main floor. By locking it he’s leaving himself no way out. His only hope is outside rescue or getting to the basement. He enters his code anyway. As the steel shutters slide over the lab’s entrance, DeMarcus hopes he isn’t saying goodbye to the last friendly face he’ll ever see.

Part 7

Part 9

Toxic Vol. 1 Susceptible States Part 7

Racing toward C wing, DeMarcus Dodson keeps turning around to make sure he isn’t being followed. Most of the facility’s already locked down so there aren’t a lot of places left to go. He didn’t reach C wing before being trapped in a lab so the rooms there should still be open. If anything hasn’t been stolen yet he can lock it down and keep it safe from the people who have invaded their office. If it’s already gone he can at least help any employees left in the area and lock himself down so he’s not shot by the first attacker who stumbles upon him.

The thieves are still around here somewhere. When they invaded Secure Solutions Chemical DeMarcus and his fellow security guards locked the place down. It wasn’t enough to keep the threat out but it should keep them in at this point. Every escape route should be locked and if the police gathered outside the building had managed to breach he’d have heard. As he gets close to his destination the hair on the back of his neck stands up. Something’s about to go down. He can feel it.

Turning the corner into the main stretch of C wing, DeMarcus’ eyes almost bug out of his head. He feels like they must be betraying him. All he sees is red. It’s everywhere. Smeared on the walls, on the floor, you can barely tell the walls were originally painted blue. Then he notices the bodies. There’s at least six of them in the hall, slumped only feet from each other.

Hurrying to the the first man’s side, he recognizes one of their scientists. A man named Greg, or John, or something like that. He’s never taken much time to talk but DeMarcus has seen him come and go every day for years. Checking his pulse proves a waste of time and he’s not breathing. He’s beyond any sort of help.

One by one DeMarcus checks all six of them. Some of them he knows by name while others he only recognizes by their face but they’re all familiar to him. Kind men and women who he chats with almost every day. Others who pass him by without a word. The attackers didn’t pick and choose. Guilt washes over him. He could have come to C wing first. If he’d done so it would have been locked down before the attackers got here. All of these men and women would be alive right now. Of course the people in A or B wing might have taken their place. Since the shooters came this way first perhaps the people in both the other wings would be dead. He made a choice though and for these people, it was the wrong one.

The last body he comes across gives him pause. The man’s face down but DeMarcus flips him over and confirms it’s a man named Brent who works in A wing. While locking their section down his friend Layla mentioned Brent had gone off to use the bathroom before the lockdown’s started. Somehow he ended up here. He took a bunch of shots to the chest and isn’t breathing.

After seeing the scene in the hall he’s hesitant to check the labs but he knows he has to. The first one he glances into is empty. There aren’t any people or much of anything else left. Someone ransacked the place and took everything they could carry. Several cabinets are empty and a glass container lies shattered on the floor. Without knowing for sure what this lab was used for it isn’t possible to say what was taken but clearly it’s a lot. Tanks have been torn from walls, the computer’s gone, and lockers in the back corner have been broken open. He considers locking the room down but decides to see what the rest of the wing has in store before doing so.

In the main lab of C wing a far grimmer scene awaits. Four bodies are spread out and the room’s as bloody as the hall. Most lie on the floor but one’s slumped across a desk. DeMarcus takes the time to check each of the four, one at a time, hoping someone might have survived. None of them did.

Once he realizes there isn’t anyone here he can help DeMarcus takes stock of the room. There’s a few chemical holding containers which are cracked or damaged though none that look as badly damaged as the ones in the lab he was trapped in earlier. He’s still worried about what the chemicals he was locked in a room with and forced to breathe for hours are going to do. For now he has to focus on his current situation. He can worry about that if he survives. A few of these are still clearly full but are leaking slightly, bad enough that they were left behind.

Everything that isn’t damaged is gone here as well. The attackers know how to strip a laboratory. They can’t have been down here long, but they managed to clear out at least two labs and he still hasn’t checked the last one in the wing. Finding nothing of use, DeMarcus steps out and decides to lock this room down. He doesn’t know how damaged those containers are or what their contents might do and it can’t hurt to be safe. If he has to lock down in one of these rooms, he’s not picking the one with all the dead bodies anyway.

The last lab in C wing’s the smallest of the three but as he steps inside, he can already tell it’s the grimmest. He almost doesn’t notice the bodies. The whole room isn’t sprayed with blood. The carnage here is more contained. Most of the lab looks normal but in the far corner, huddled together, are a mass of bodies. Making his way to them, it looks like this group huddled together out of fear. It didn’t help them. Someone fired indiscriminately into the crowd.

DeMarcus starts pulling the bodies apart, trying to make sure they’re all beyond help. He’s not a doctor but he has first aid training. The bullets went right through the people on the outside of the stack and into the next ones. Pulling the bodies off the pile, he tries to be careful with his colleagues. Moving an injured person can be risky. Each one he pulls away is already dead.

Reaching the bottom of the pile, something stands out about the last body he comes to. She’s a younger girl, probably just out of college. At first glance he thinks she has red hair but after a moment he realizes it’s blonde. The realization makes him want to puke. He recognizes her but only vaguely. She’s fairly new, probably having started in the last few months. She’s said hello in the halls a few times but they haven’t really talked. She always seems chipper though. Reaching her, he starts to look her over for any sign of wounds. There’s plenty of blood covering her but as he looks, he realizes none of the bullets reached her. He can’t find any injuries. She’s pale but thinking back, he thinks that’s her natural coloring. Why isn’t she breathing then? Did the bodies of her coworkers suffocate her?

Pushing lightly on her chest is all it takes. Suddenly the girl’s gasping for breath and her eyes shoot open. “Please don’t kill me.” She blinks a few times, her arms moving to block her face. She cowers for a moment before sneaking a glance between her arms. Once she sees him she blinks a few times. “Wait, I know you. You’re one of the security guards aren’t you?”

Nodding, he tries to stop her as she attempts to sit up. “I am. Name’s Demarcus. Are you hurt? What happened here?”

Her eyes are still blinking but after a moment of looking around the lab she shakes her head. “I don’t really know. We heard gunshots in the distance and a few people went out in the hall to check on it. We saw them get shot and we ran back into the lab but we can’t lock things down on our own and there wasn’t anywhere to go.” Tears start forming in her eyes. “We huddled together and then I heard the gunshots and screaming. When they all started falling, I went down too. I played dead until the shooters were gone. I know it was cowardly but I didn’t want to die and didn’t know what else to do.”

She looks so pale that he starts to worry. She needs medical attention or at least some water but he has none to offer. “You were smart, don’t feel bad about that. You couldn’t have done anything more to help them. Things are bad out there. The cops can’t get in and the shooters are still running around. What’s your name?”

“Dr. Chysim.” She pauses a moment before lowering her voice. “Alexis. Don’t call me Dr. Chysim. Sorry, used to the doctor thing. People just push you around if you don’t demand respect but now’s not the time. If I’m going to die though I want the last thing someone calls me to be my name.” She’s soaked through with the blood of her colleagues. It’s on her clothes, on her skin, in her hair. She doesn’t seem to have fully processed that yet which may be for the best.

After checking her for injuries DeMarcus helps her to stand. She’s unsteady at first but manages to hold onto a table. “Alright Alexis, we need to figure this out. You and me, together. I need to get ahold of the cops again to find out what’s going on out there. My phone died so I lost my connection to them. Do you have a phone?”

Her eyes have locked on the door and she won’t look away. “They make us check our phones in up front before we come back to the labs. Security thing, they don’t want us taking pictures of classified stuff.”

“Makes sense, but bad for us. We can’t get up front right now.” Alexis starts to bite her lip and he worries he’s laying too much on her. He’s glad he didn’t mention there might be a bomb. “Don’t worry, we’ll figure something out together. Are there any land lines or anything back here?”

“Nothing. They took everything from the labs. I could hear them in here ransacking it. Said something about a gang but I couldn’t make out the details with the bodies on top of me.”

“It’s all good, that’s more than we had before. Look, if we can’t contact the cops then there’s not much point worrying about it. We need to lock ourselves down and trust them to do their jobs. Let’s go over to the lab across the hall. Nobody died in there so at least we won’t have to see the bodies. We will have to pass your coworkers in the hall to get there though. Do you think you can manage that?”

“I’ll be okay.” Her eyes won’t leave the doorway and she’s not very convincing but they don’t have many options.

Helping her away from the pile, DeMarcus takes the lead and jumps into the hall. With his gun drawn, he looks for any sign of people coming after them. There’s no one around except for the dead. Alexis’ eyes linger on them but she doesn’t say anything. She seems too calm considering what’s going on around her but for now that helps. She can feel the depth of this once they’re home.

Locking down the lab they came out of, DeMarcus motions to Alexis to go into the final open lab. She starts to walk that way but when she’s two steps from the door an attacker with a machine gun rounds the corner. He seems relaxed until he sees the two of them. His body tenses and he raises his weapon once he realizes he’s no longer alone. DeMarcus shoves Alexis in the back, pushing her into the open lab as gunfire fills the air. She falls to the floor, skidding into a table. She hits with a clang before scrambling further into the room.

The man’s a terrible shot, seemingly content to spray the entire hall until he hits his target. DeMarcus knows he needs to lock their last lab down as well but it takes at least 10 seconds and there’s no way he can stand there that long without dying. Instead, he dives forward, sliding into the lab himself. He hits the floor wrong and his gun goes flying. Scrambling to his feet, he tries to locate it. It’s his only weapon and they can’t have more than a few seconds until the shooter enters the room. Every second counts.

Part 6

Part 8

Toxic Vol. 1 Susceptible States Part 6

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.”

“Who?”

“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.

Part 5

Part 7