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'Improvise,' I Said
The problem with classified information is that there's always someone who cares about it. Occasionally, the someone will care enough about it to develop homicidal tendencies if you want some too.
Which is why we were slightly concerned when we realized Jared had been missing for about half an hour now.
We were even more concerned by his last statement into the mike. “Oh, crap, I think they've spotted me. They're coming- I can't- ack!”
This was followed by what sounded something like dart rifle going off.
So naturally, Jesse, Anthony, and I were on the verge of totally freaking out.
“Jesse, do you have access to the blueprints?” I asked into my headset. “We could find the detention block.”
“Uh, yeah. Not sure how to get a copy to you guys, though.” Here was a slight issue- she was in a small computer lab, Anthony and I were hiding in a closet. At opposite ends of the building.
“So…I guess we just have to meet up with each other,” Anthony sighed.
“Meet up with Jesse, figure out where Jared is, break him out, and get the heck out of here,” I summarized.
Jesse scoffed. “And just leave the disks behind? The whole reason we're even in here and not on a beach someplace and you want to leave them behind.”
“Of course not. It just…slipped my mind,” I defended.
“Slipped your mind?! How on earth-”
Anthony drowned her out. “Don't forget, Benson will probably wake up in an hour. So what ever we do, we have to be done before then.”
“So meet up with Jesse, figure out where Jared is, break him out, find the disks, and get the heck out of here in under sixty minutes,” I said.
“Well, what are we waiting for?” I asked cheerily.
Anthony rolled his eyes.
We left the closet and slipped carefully down the corridor. I noticed with a little concern the lenses watching us. “Jesse, you still have the cameras on a loop, right?”
“Of course.” A little grouchy. “Where do you want to meet me?”
“We don't have the blueprints,” said Anthony unnecessarily. “How are we supposed to know?”
“You know how to get to the east wing bathrooms, right?” she sighed.
“Yes,” I answered firmly. Always useful to know where the nearest restroom is when breaking into a hostile complex.
“I'll meet you there ASAP.”
“Okay,” said Anthony. “See ya there.”
Thirty seconds later, we were in adjacent stalls, waiting for Jesse to show up. I leaned against the door. “I hope Jared's okay.”
“Me too,” sighed Anthony. His voice echoed weirdly. “The guy just seems to have the worst luck.”
“How do you mean?” I didn't have anything else to look at, so I examined the white tiled floor.
“Well…take his last mission, for example. You ever hear about that?”
“Well, he was in a group that was investigating drug trafficking in LA. But both they and the traffickers accidentally got caught on gang territory, so there was a three-way knife fight in the middle of a cemetery. Hundreds dead.”
I felt a half a second of concern before laughing.
I could tell from his voice that he was smiling. “Seriously, though, Jared got stabbed and spent two days in the hospital. Poor dude.”
“Yeah, that's- shh!”
I heard a slight noise and caught my breath. Someone was coming. The door opened.
Jesse. I smiled and stepped out. Anthony did too. She raised an eyebrow. “The men's bathroom? Did it not occur to you that that might be a little awkward?”
With some embarrassment, I realized I'd forgotten to check which restroom this was.
She turned outside, glanced around, and gestured us out. “Okay. I got those blueprints on my laptop here- detention sector is two halls over and up a flight of stairs. I also got the location on those disks, which are in a storage room somewhere in the office block. We've got-” she checked her watch- “fifty- four minutes left, so we'd better get a move on. How are we going to break Jared out?”
I glanced at the map and started moving purposefully. “We'll get to the detention area. Then we improvise.”
“Gotta love your planning style, Taylor,” Jesse said, exasperated.
“Don't you just?” replied Anthony, jogging to catch up to me. I didn't stop. Jesse followed resignedly.
Two hallways, one stairway, and an easily-picked door lock later (honestly! They hadn't even switched to electronic locks?), we stood in the detention wing. There are cheerier places. In fairness, it wasn't bad- just not great either. A long, looong white hallway with doors set in stretched ahead of us. Each had a little plaque with a cell number on it and a small card that read either ‘occupied' (in red) or ‘not in use' (green). Only a few, as far as I could see, were red.
“Well,” I said, “I guess…we…just…uh…”
I was saved the trouble of having to invent a plan on the spot by footsteps coming down the stairs behind us.
Jesse moved quickly, locking the door behind us. They probably had keys- but it'd look suspicious if the door was wide open.
I pressed myself against the wall with the door on my left; Jesse and Anthony did the same on the other side. As soon as it opened, we'd strike…
The key turned in the lock and it was flung open. I, somewhat lacking in the foresight department, was smashed against the wall. Ouch!
I came out from behind the door, rubbing my forehead. Anthony and Jesse had been quick and silent- two guys were already down. The third was upright, for now; Jesse had her hand around the back of his neck. His eyes rolled and he fell.
“And now we just grab their keys!” I said triumphantly.
Two of them had key rings- with maybe ten keys on them and a passcard. The card was for the cell doors, we discovered. I had one ring, Jesse had the other, and Anthony stood guard.
I didn't even get to open a door before Jesse called, “Hey! I've got him!”
Her first try. I ran across the hall. Jared stood there, blinking in the light- his cell was dark and open behind him. “Oh, it's you.”
“All you can say after we rescue you,” sighed Jesse mockingly, shaking her head.
“Well, you kind of took me by surprise,” he retorted, smiling slightly. “There I was, getting ready to jump the guard, and you show up.”
“Thanks.” Jared added.
“So…how are we getting out?” asked Jesse.
“Taylor, you've been coming up with all the brilliant plans,” she said.
“Okay,” I said automatically. “We…um…lock those guys in Jared's cell… take their uniforms, and just walk out.”
“Getting the disks on the way,” Jesse reminded me.
“What guys?” asked Jared.
Anthony pointed to the unconscious guards as I answered Jesse. “Yeah. We'll get the disks too.”
Anthony tapped me on the shoulder. “Uh, Taylor? There's only three uniforms and four of us.”
“How do you feel about being a prisoner again, Jared?” asked Jesse brightly.
“It's not like I have much of a choice, huh?” he grumbled. The other three of us were already getting dressed- I just put the uniform on over my black tee and jeans.
“Nope,” sighed Anthony. “Here, hold out your hands.”
He had a pair of handcuffs.
Jared, muttering under his breath, allowed Anthony to place the cuffs around his wrists but not snap them closed. Jesse and I rolled the unconscious and now half-naked security into Jared's cell.
I grabbed one of Jared's arms, Anthony got the other, and Jesse led the way. We marched down the hall.
We went clear to the other end- there was an elevator there, and this was closer to both the exit and the office block.
“We'll want to get up to the second floor,” said Jesse quietly as we waited. “And right now we're on the first sublevel.”
The door opened and we marched right in. The elevator was entirely brushed steel. Jesse pushed the button. I felt gravity shift slightly as we moved.
But we stopped, suddenly, much sooner than we were supposed to. My heart sped up. Did someone…
Before I could even finish the thought, the door opened and a guy got in. He was holding an open laptop with one arm and sporadically typing with the other. He glanced over the four of us once, checked the button panel, and then faced the door as it closed and we moved upward again.
I kept my face straight. The keys clicked. I couldn't see what he was doing.
Jared was sweating.
On the second floor, the door opened. First the other guy got out, then we did. I jostled Jared slightly but roughly- he took it tiredly. We marched down the hall.
We were at the end of this hall-at an intersection- when there was a voice behind us. “Excuse me,” said the guy who had been on the elevator with us. It was a pleasant tone, as though he was about to ask the time.
We stopped. Jesse turned around and Anthony and I craned our necks. Jared didn't move, hanging his head.
The man smiled politely. “I'm sorry, but that really is a pathetic disguise. Clichéd, too.”
At that instant I heard a siren go off- and a bullet whizzed over my shoulder. I ducked instinctively, looked up, and realized that there were two groups of guys in uniforms closing in on us. Somehow the guy with the laptop had used it to set off an alarm. Something had given us away- maybe the fact I'd forgotten to get the badge off my guy, maybe the fact our weapons were ours and not the ones issued to the guards. I don't know.
I drew my gun. So did Jesse and Anthony and Jared- he must have gotten it off the unconscious guards. Another shot flew over my head, and I shot back.
The slight smattering of bullets was showing every sign of becoming a hail. I heard something splinter and turned my head- Anthony had kicked down a nearby door. I paid for my lapse of concentration with a shot that almost hit my upper left arm.
About four seconds had passed, now, since the first shot. Any longer and we'd probably be shredded. So I did the sensible thing and dove into the doorway Anthony had made after everyone else.
A large, semidark, and pipe-filled space opened in front of us. Plumbing and electrical maintenance, probably. I ducked quickly behind a tank of something- the others had all done the same.
The enemy started to push through the door- but I had the vantage point and began picking them off. They were quick to fire back. I pulled my head in and half a second later a bullet was there. I grimaced- unlike us, they were shooting to kill.
With a sinking feeling, I realized that more and more people were pressing through than we could stop. We would be overwhelmed in a moment or two.
A hand grabbed my shoulder roughly and I spun around, ready to kick the owner into next week.
Fortunately for Anthony, he dodged. “Jeez, Taylor! We can't hold them off- best thing to do is scatter.”
And then he was gone. I dashed off into the half-lit maze of pipes.
Over a thick tube on the floor, dodge to my left, squirm through a mass of wires. Please don't electrocute me.
In a few minutes, the sound of the firefight had faded. My heart was pounding. I didn't know where I was. I moved a little slower, but kept on twisting and turning to discourage pursuit. They were searching for us. I could hear them shouting to each other. Crud.
I saw someone- with a such a slight build, it could only be Jesse. I caught up to her. She jumped.
“Taylor! Don't do that!”
“Sorry. Seen anyone else?”
“Yeah. The other two are hiding. Come on.”
I followed her and we were soon reunited next to another door.
“I checked the blue prints- this one leads into the office block,” hissed Jesse.
“Good,” said Anthony. “We've got like twenty minutes left. Now what?”
Of course, they all looked to me.
“You take Jared out and find a getaway vehicle. Jesse and I will get the disks and meet you near the east gate,” I invented rapidly.
“Good enough,” sighed Jesse. “Come on, let's go. The disks are just down the hall.”
“Wait,” said Jared. “Where are they?”
“In a storage room in the office block,” said Jesse, picking the door's lock. “Why?”
There were noises far behind- the searchers were getting closer. We had to move soon.
Jared looked nervous.
“They wouldn't happen to be next to conference room 534A?”
“Yeah, that's exactly where,” answered Jesse, a little uncertainly. “Why?”
Jared swallowed. “I already checked there, before I was caught. There was nothing.”
“They've been moved, then,” said Anthony in a stunned voice.
Where? No idea.
“What are we gonna do?” whispered Jesse.
“Improvise,” I said.