Rather than going into the thicket, Laura lead us forward to the building, where there was a ramp leading down to a large industrial metal door. Security cameras lined the walls, shifting and whirring to keep the lenses trained on us.
“We’re going through the front door?” Dennis asked, glancing up at the cameras.
“If we’re assuming Clark has gone into the main boardrooms or the main control room, this is the easiest way in,” Laura replied.
There was a keypad embedded beside the door, and Laura bent down slightly to scan it briefly. She quickly typed in 6 digits, and a light flashed green. With slow clicks, the door started to lift open.
“Not very high security, huh,” Wolfgang remarked.
“Well, it’s not often that they have unwanted visitors here,” Laura said, as she stepped away from the opening door. She grins. “Also helps that Clark hasn’t changed his password since the days we were married.”
We ducked under the opening gap, and we were hit with a blast of cold air. The sweat on my skin from the blaring sun cooled instantly, leaving a lasting chill. Along with the concrete, it felt like we had walked straight into a refrigerator.
We all subconsciously started rubbing our arms, hoping to keep warm. Heathcliff shivered, and Laura pulled him and Wolfgang under her arms.
“Come on, kids, the faster we move the less we’ll feel the cold.”
The lights in the tunnels flickered as we made our way down, speed walking around corners and down dim paths. The hallways were big enough to hold military vehicles, with a towering ceiling and walls wide enough to hold our group standing side-by-side. There were moisture streaks down the sides where leaks dripped from the pipes, pooling in the corners.
“You would think that a secret base like this would be more well-maintained,” Dennis said. “I was kind of expecting plush carpets and all that jazz. Or something like the sinister black metal of the submarine. This is just….”
“Depressing?” I finished for him, and he nodded.
“More fitting of a post-apocalyptic movie than an action one,” he replied.
“Things can’t always be like the movies.”
There were a series of clicks coming from down the hallway. Through the dim lighting, we could see a group of black-clad men turning the corner, most of them reloading their guns.
“Are they on our side?” asked Heathcliff.
Laura narrowed her eyes. “I don’t think so,” she whispered back.
The henchmen seemed to have the same idea, as they yelled out, “Hey, you, stop right there!” They started charging towards us.
“Does anyone have one of those perfume grenades?” I whispered?
There was a flutter of people patting down clothes and packs.
“Got one!” Dennis exclaimed. He pulled the pin out and threw it towards the oncoming crowd.
There were yelps of surprise as the purple cloud exploded around them that quickly turned into coughing. I couldn’t see any of them, except for a few arms and legs that would jut out of the cloud before disappearing back in again.
“Good timing,” Laura said. “Now let’s go get them.”
Laura ran right into the cloud, disappearing in the purple. The rest of us stood there.
“I don’t know how she does it,” Dennis said. “She walks right into it like it’s nothing.”
I looked up at him, and he had blanched at the prospect of walking into the perfume.
“How about you just stay out here and just make sure the cloud doesn’t dissipate?” I suggested.
He looked relieved. “I knew I could count on my little sis for great ideas.” He quickly ruffled my hair before concentrating on the now pulsating cloud of perfume.
I took a deep breath, and rushed into the cloud.
I couldn’t see anything clearly, but there were soft breaks in the gas from people’s movements, rippling the cloud. Feet in boots I didn’t recognize started making its way towards me, and I kicked blindly towards it. There was a crack as my foot made contact with the guy’s leg. As he flinched, I hooked my foot around the back of his knee and pulled.
There was a bang right by my ear as his gun went off, missing me entirely. I could hear a clang as the bullet hit metal, and a steady hissing noise followed it. He cursed, and I used that sound to make an educated guess as to where his face was.
I punched once and missed, grazing his jawline and ear. Before he could retaliate, I threw out my left fist too, and I could feel a square connection borderline where his forehead met his eye ridge.
Fire made its way up my scalp as another man beside me grabbed my hair and pulled downwards. I fell forward on my hands and let my feet kick upwards and forward. Grabbing the man’s neck between my ankles, I twisted, causing him to lose balance and fall as well. I scrambled up and kicked the guy in the ribcage.
Somebody behind me hooked his arm around my arms and throat, holding me solidly in place. Panic bubbled up as I felt my air slowly getting cut off, but I felt a rush of warmth to my right.
A billow of steam rushed out of the pipes, probably from the stray bullet earlier. I turned myself so that the guy’s face was directly in the steam. There was a howl, and his grip around my neck loosened enough that I could twist my way out. Following the momentum of my turn, I lifted one foot and kicked him in the windpipe. The man collapsed as the rest of the fight died down.
There was one last crack and groan before the hallway fell silent.
“You guys ok in there?” Dennis asked.
“I think we’re good,” Laura said.
The perfume cloud slowly settled down, and I could finally see the walls and floor. There were eight men lying on the floor, bruised and unconscious, but alive.
Laura surveyed the casualties and nodded. “Good job, guys.” She knelt down to the man closest to her and swiftly undid his holster with a pistol in it. She looped it through her belt and rested her hand on the handle to make sure it was at a comfortable reaching position.
“What should we do with these guys?” Wolfgang asked.
“Just leave them be,” Laura said. “There’ll be a cleanup crew coming by, they’ll take care of them.”
Dennis walked over to us, and she made a quick assessment of him before turning back to the rest of us.
“Alright, looks like we can get a move on.”
As we walked down, the hallway started shifting in looks. The walls and ceilings started to close in a bit more, turning the space tighter. A few more doors started to pop up, evenly spaced by a few meters or so. All of the rooms were unlabeled, other than small metal plaques that read series of letters and numbers. N24R. Q56K. P07T. So on and so on.
There was a scuffling sound in one of the rooms to our right, and we all froze. Laura motioned with her hands to follow her. She crept towards the door, and with a resounding kick, busted it open. We quickly filed into the room.
It was a large boardroom of sorts, similar to the one in the submarine. The lighting in here was bright, illuminating a long table with a lone man sitting at the far end. His slicked back hair gleamed faintly in the light, and I recognized the grin on his face.
Laura lifted her gun, but the man lifted his hands slowly in a surrendering position.
“No need to fuss,” he said, “I know when I’m overpowered.”
Laura assessed him quietly, then lowered the gun slightly. “Wolfgang, Theo, go confine him, would you?” She reached into one of her pockets and pulled out a thing of cord. She tossed it at me, and I caught it before
As I walked down the table, the man followed me with his stare, studying me. I didn’t meet his gaze, but the feeling of his eyes was just as chilling as the room. Wolfgang was already kneeling there, holding the man’s wrists together behind his back.
I started unwinding the cord, and I could feel the man’s gaze shift to my hands. I looked back at him briefly, and he immediately made eye contact with him. The pit of my stomach flipped a little bit as the blue of his eyes seeped down my spine.
The bundle fumbled out of my hand, and I leaned down to pick it up.
“You don’t need to be so timid of me,” the man grinned. “I may be called the Shark, but I’m not biting any time soon.”
I ignored him, instead I went over to where Wolfgang was and started wrapping the cord around the Shark’s wrist. After several rounds, I tied it into as many knots as I could. The Shark flexed his hands, testing the restraints.
“Rudimentary, but effective,” he sighed.
I grabbed one of his arms as Wolfgang held onto the other, and we hauled him up off the chair. He walked between us with no resistance. In fact, it seemed like he was tugging us forward a little bit, as if he was eager to leave.
Tightening my grip on his arm, we brought him towards Laura, who nodded once.
“You aren’t using your silver-tongue to get out of this one,” Laura said as she put her gun back in her holster.
“Oh, I wouldn’t imagine it be happening here,” the Shark replied. He smiled, and the group fell into an uneasy silence.
We marched out of there, Laura taking the lead and the rest of us sandwiching the Shark in. He seemed peaceful enough, and fairly reasonable. Yet something about him unsettled me, and my skin was crawling just touching him. Looking over at Wolfgang, it seemed like I wasn’t alone in the thought.
It was oddly silent for a few minutes as we wove our way through the building. There were no sounds of fighting. It felt like we were moving away from the action as we got closer to the centre.
There was an abrupt waft of blood coming from around the corner. Laura’s eyebrow lifted, and she slowed her pace down. We stopped in our tracks as we came across the site.
Several corpses lay on the floor, thrown like ragdolls down the hallway. It was difficult to distinguish which ones were the terrorist’s and which ones belonged to our forces, as they were dressed the same. Some of their injuries disfigured their faces, many with deep knife cuts and gouges.
The only corpse that looked very different was of a young woman dressed in black formal clothes. Two sharp, pin-like blades lay in her hand, shining under the drying coat of blood. She lay on her back, one glassy eye staring up at the ceiling. Heathcliff had inched forward to take a better look, and instantly cringed. When the rest of us approached her, we saw that one eye had been shot out, along with the entire right side of her face. Her face was set in a stiff smile, rigor mortis warping it.
The Shark clicked his tongue. “A pity,” he said. “Scorpion was such a good business partner too.”
I was taken aback. Here was someone close to my age who was part of the terrorist group, and she had been killed brutally. I felt a twinge somewhere in my chest.
We walked past the bloody scene, and continued our way down the hallway.
Suddenly, there was the sound of feet pounding against the pavement around the corner. Laura immediately grabbed her gun from the holster, and Dennis reached for the few remaining perfume bombs on his belt.
The steps got closer, and closer, and closer…