“Sennett’s screaming,” Ginny said quietly, looking towards the door. Marcella and Etta looked up, then looked away.
“That started fast,” Sandi said, her voice terse.
“This doesn’t change anything,” Lee said, “We planned for this. Detective Montgomery is going to be fine as soon as the others get back with the cure.”
“You can’t promise that,” Ginny said, “You don’t know that any of us are going to be okay and you shouldn’t lie about it.”
“I’m not lying,” Lee said, smiling, “I wasn’t raised to lie. But I have faith in the commander. She’ll bring that cure back. And Marcella seems pretty sure that it’ll work, right?”
“I’m sure that the research said it would work,” Marcella said, looking uncomfortable. “I mean, obviously I haven’t tested it myself. I couldn’t really tell you for sure that it’s going to work.”
They could hear a rattling sound coming from the hallway. “Sounds like she’s gonna take the damn thing off its hinges,” Etta said. She looked wide-eyed at the door. “We can’t let her die. She’s got a kid.”
“I’ll go check on her,” Lee said. He checked his holsters for his weapons then headed for the hallway.
The door to Sennett’s office was still closed. The banging had ceased. Lee crept up to the door, setting his ear to it. He could hear heavy breathing, but that was it.
Lee sighed with relief. He stepped away from the door.
Movement outside in the courtyard caught his attention. He stepped to the side to look out of the window just in time to see the end of a row of soldiers walk into the building.
“That’s either really good or really bad,” Lee said, backing toward the door of the office.
“What is?” Sandi asked.
“The line of soldiers coming into the building,” Lee replied casually. “There’s no real reason to panic. They might be here to help us.”
“Not based on what we’ve seen of the soldiers so far,” Marcella said, shaking her head.
“I’m going to go talk to them,” Lee said.
“Shouldn’t someone go with you?” Etta asked.
“No. Stay here and keep the door locked until I get back,” he replied.
He shut the door and waited until he heard the women shove the desk in front of it before he headed down the hall.
When he reached the balcony that looked down onto the ground floor he slowed. He crouched under the half wall and crawled to the escalator. Carefully he inched his way until he could see down the escalator.
Five squads of soldiers stood at attention, all eyes on the commander standing in front of them. They wore hazard masks and body armor and carried large automatic weapons.
“We’re going to search the entire building,” the commander said, “Be thorough. Check in utility closets, pantries, under furniture. Don’t just sweep a room, but don’t dawdle. We’ve got a lot of ground to cover. If you find someone, issue a quick headshot and move on.”
Lee stood. “Commander,” he called.
The soldiers looked up at him, then back at their commanding officer. She turned and aimed her weapon at him. The others followed suit.
“Hold up there,” Lee said, pulling his badge out of his pocket and holding it up for them to see. “Lee Cherry, IHP. I’ve got some questions for you.”
“Fire,” the commander said calmly.
Lee dropped back behind the wall as a hail of bullets hit it. “Okay that does answer my question,” he muttered. He pulled his electric pistol and glanced around the corner. “Never had any love for a cleanup crew,” he said.
He fired at the commander, hitting her between the eyes. She fell, but a squad leader ran up to take her place almost before she hit the ground. “Advance,” he said, waving his squad ahead.
The soldiers started up the escalator, two abreast. Lee fired over and over, dropping each of them. But the soldiers behind stepped over the bodies of their dead fellows and kept coming. He bolted down the hall, away from the offices.
As he ran he could hear the clanking of boots behind him. “Need an idea, need a plan,” he said.
Then he saw the dining hall doors ahead. Someone had lashed them closed with a belt then pushed a desk in front of them.
Lee hit the desk at a run, hoping that his inertia would make up for his hurt shoulder. He shoved the desk away, then cut the belt away with his knife. Then he ran for the closed office across the hall, praying that its door wasn’t locked.
It wasn’t. He shut the door behind him, locking it before shoving the desk in front of it.
He sat on the desk, listening. He noticed for the first time that a woman’s body was sitting on the desk chair. A bloody hole was blown in her head, the weapon lying on the floor beside her. Lee grimaced, trying not to puke.
He could hear the soldiers coming down the hall, just as the doors to the dining hall squeaked open. Soon he could hear screaming and guns firing. Lee closed his eyes, trying to remind himself that this was a cleaning crew. They’d come in willingly to kill unarmed civilians.
It didn’t help.
Eventually, the sounds in the hall died away. Lee listened as the survivors, berserkers by the shuffling, inconsistent footsteps, left. When the sounds died down he shoved the desk away, desperate to get back to the office before the berserkers found it.
When he opened the door, though, he was surprised to see someone looking out of the lunchroom. He wasn’t a soldier, and he didn’t look sick. He was wearing a button-down jacket and slacks, both stained.
“Hey,” Lee whispered, gesturing for the man to come to him.
The man froze, pulling away from Lee as though preparing to run.
“No, it’s okay,” Lee said, “I’m an IHP agent, I’m here to help.”
“Oh, Thank God,” the man said, nearly collapsing. “I’ve been trapped in the pantry for days.”
“What’s your name?” Lee asked.
“It’s Bobby,” the man said. He came out into the hall and hugged Lee. “I don’t think I’ve ever been happier to see someone in my life!”
“Just wait, then,” Lee said, giving Bobby a reassuring pat on the back. “My team will be back soon with the cure.”
“The cure for what?” Bobby asked.
“The people who are trying to kill us,” Lee said, “Come on, there are some other survivors down the hall.”
Copyright © 2018 by Nicole C. Luttrell
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