Hollowed Memories, chapter 3, part 6

July 27, 2014

His attachment suit kept Yarec’s body pressed firmly in position, but he was jolted and jarred as the truck stopped and restarted, drove over potholes and vibrating steel bridges.  They were supposed to cross seven bridges before reaching the destination, including the fortified span controlled by the factory guards.  Yarec tried to keep track of how many they had crossed.  However, the last few bridges were smooth and paved with soft asphalt, and he found he could not distinguish them by the feel of the ride alone.  He could have peeked out to get a view of his environs, but Yarec decided that would be an unnecessary risk.  He was best off just waiting.

Meanwhile, he knew, Mrissa should be speeding back to retrieve her motorcycle—a quicker and more agile vehicle than the car.  While Yarec sneaked into the factory, she was supposed to position herself on a nearby promontory.  From there, she could keep watch on the factory exterior, and if Yarec needed assistance, she might be able to provide some.  She had a cache of long-range weapons and a two-person speedboat hidden by the water’s edge, but there was relatively little she could do while her partner was inside.

Eventually, Yarec recognized that he had reached the final bridge.  The truck stopped, and Yarec heard voices.  The storm was growing, and the crash of the raindrops made it difficult to interpret the words.  However, the guards did not seem overly concerned about security arrangements.  The weather situation may have been a more serious consideration for them; they knew that the strongest storm of the year was blowing in.

A detector for radio frequency radiation whistled in his ear.  Something nearby was being scanned.  This was probably the moment when his risk of discovery was the greatest.  Yarec tensed, ready to spring away from the undercarriage the moment he was exposed.  However, seconds passed, and then the detector alarm cut off.  The truck started moving again, toward the bridge’s second checkpoint, and the knots in Yarec’s arms began to loosen.

The truck passed through the final security stop.  Then the huge metal doors opened wide, and the vehicle rolled inside.  The driver brought it around slowly, finally coming to a stop next to building two.  Yarec heard the driver’s door slam down behind him; then the only sound was the tinny rumble of the storm against the high arched roof.  No one was going to unload the cargo that day; they had other business, fortifying against the torrent.

He peeked out, but it was too early to move.  Yarec wanted to strike when the full brunt of the storm was almost upon them.  I’ll slip out, cause some mayhem, and then disappear under the curtains of rain, Yarec thought.  But now I need to wait.  And I hate waiting.

People passed nearby, attending to duties around the entrance.  Another box truck arrived and parked itself next to Yarec’s.  It provided a bit more cover, so Yarec loosened his enclosure enough to temporarily detach an arm and cram a protein bar into his mouth.  His trunk was not ideally positioned for digestion, but it felt good to have something substantial in his belly.

Yarec let most of the afternoon roll past, reading a novella off his eyelid.  He knew his time had arrived when the thunderclaps outside were coming seemingly without pause.  Before one peal was done rumbling the outer walls, the next one sounded and set everything rattling afresh.  Workers were still scurrying around, elevating objects off the floor, in case a surge of seawater flooded through the place.

Yarec gave his left leg a gentle twist, rotating the sticky surface away from the metal.  His foil tent retracted, and Yarec swung his foot down onto the concrete floor.  His foot tingled a little as he put weight on it, so he stamped quietly and flexed his toes.  Securely braced, Yarec twisted his other leg free, then his torso and arms.  Unfastening a few snaps, he slipped out of the attachment suit, and after making sure there was no one in the immediate vicinity, he emerged from underneath the truck wearing the scavenged blue uniform.

The general bustle concealed his presence, as he walked purposefully toward building seven—the closest structure where he knew high-level bacteriological weapons work was going on.  The crates beside the building had been straightened up since he last saw them.  They had been raised off the floor and restacked in even rows.  Yarec stopped to double check the positioning, watching out of the corner of his eye for the building doors to crack open.

After a couple minutes’ wait, he noticed the doors moving.  With swift strides, Yarec reached the threshold in time to shoulder past the woman just coming out.  “Oops.  Sorry,” he said with a half-sideways glance.  His tone conveyed no real feeling of apology; it was just a formal gesture from someone on an important errand.  She might have said something indignant in reply, but the words were lost in the din of another fortuitously timed thunderclap.  Yarec hurried down the main hall, not risking a look back until he was around a corner and out of sight of the entrance.

He knew nothing about the internal layout of the building, and he surveyed his surroundings carefully as he walked.  The walls, floor, and ceiling were a hard white.  There were biochemical safety noticed posted along the walls, but they were mostly of a general nature.  The really deadly stuff was further in.

Yarec avoided the elevators.  He did not want to pack into a small box with people who might notice he did not belong.  The black bands on his sleeves were numerous enough that he could plausibly be permitted here inside building seven; however, Yarec knew nothing about the security protocols within the building.  It was also easier to ascend to a restricted area using a staircase than an elevator.  The elevator had electromechanical controls, which could seal out anyone without the right digital access code.

The staircase, in contrast, could have a heavy door—something that could be defeated simply by force.  Yarec located a stairwell that was unlocked on the first floor.  It was empty, but each landing was being monitored by a ceiling camera.  They were going to get plenty of images of his face, but Yarec hoped to be out of the whole factory before a concerted manhunt got underway.  He stomped swiftly up the steps, trying to look busy but not unduly perturbed.  The walls and ceilings were as white as in the hallways, although the steps were covered with easy-to-see blue-green traction coatings.  Yarec ascended to the third floor.  The stairs continued up one more story to the roof, but Yarec ignored that way for now.  He was busy instead with the third floor access door—a heavy black mass of steel, with multiple deadbolts and its own security camera.

Yarec located one of the gray lozenges of material that Mrissa had packaged into his underwear.  He broke it in half very gingerly, then wedged the pieces into the cracks around the door.  The material’s explosive matrix was full of microscopic capsules.  When opened, they would trigger a powerful explosion.  By deforming the block, Yarec had initiated a slow chemical reaction in the walls of the capsules.  It would give him enough time to take cover before the detonator compound was released.

With the charges in place, Yarec retreated to a landing between the first and second floors.  He only knew roughly how long it would be before the blast, but he started counting off the expected number of heartbeats.  The explosion came just a little early.  It shook the whole structure, as if a lightning bolt had smashed down right on top of them.  Rubble and shrapnel tumbled through the air, and the lights at the top of the stairs were obliterated.  The rumble of the falling debris was immediately drowned out by the crazy shriek of a high-pitched alarm.  It sounded incredibly loud, even in the midst of the thunderstorm.  The sound came in quick pulses, like the screams of millions of furious rodents.

Yarec gritted his teeth and ran back up the stairs.  There were only a few hunks of concrete to get around, then at the top, the massive door still hanging awkwardly from its upper hinge.  Although the stairwell was dark, the LED lighting was still functional on the other side.  With a warped metal plate, Yarec pried the bent door open enough to squirm past it.

The wide hallway beyond was in confusion.  There were people dressed in white coveralls.  Some were nursing minor injuries, and nearly all were yelling.  They were trying to be heard over the keening of the alarm, trying to find out what was going on.  There were many doors along the hall, and more men and women were rushing out of them, desperate to know whether they were in danger.

“Get out!”  Yarec shouted, and some of the people heard him.  Many were already heading toward the exits.  “Evacuate!  Evacuate!” he called.  He jogged down the hallway, avoiding the pieces of idle equipment that were being stored there.  Through the windows on many of the doors, he saw chemical tanks, incubators, and cryogenics.  In one room, they were apparently growing pathogens on human arms and feet, sealed up inside thick glass boxes.  In another, Yarec thought he recognized the equipment for dragging individual bacteria around their tanks using lasers.  He even saw what might have been whole human cadavers, although whatever germs they had been exposed must have totally demolished their skin and hair.  They were just humanoid gray masses lying in cylindrical bottles, surrounded by ultraviolet monitoring equipment.

He banged on the walls, and squished more pats of explosive in place.  Then he got out into an undamaged stairwell.  While most of the people were going down, Yared headed straight to the roof.  The door at the head of the stairs was unlocked from this side; he pushed it open and ran outside.  Three floors off the ground, he was much closer now to the outer roof, and he could see the corrugated metal vibrating under the storm’s onslaught.

He dashed to the edge, following one of the massive pipes that grew up out of the rooftop.  Grabbing the tube, he then lowered himself over the brink and rode the piping down to the floor.  The alarm was blaring out here too, although not as loudly as inside the building.  People were fleeing toward the main factory entrance, and Yarec moved to join them.  However, he had only gone a few steps when the first of his explosions went off.  The sounds of the blasts, coming one close after another, echoed off the factory walls.  He hazarded a look back and saw plumes of dust and debris rising from the roof of building seven.  His charges must have pierced some of the pressurized containers he had seen, and they were now spewing their contents out into the air.  Everyone nearby was getting splattered with condensation (and who-knows-what else, Yarec thought grimly).

He turned back toward the exit and sprinted.  Someone had got the door open, and the workers swarmed out into the gray-lit afternoon.  Yarec was among them.  The rain was coming down so hard that it was difficult to make out details only five or ten meters away, but he thought he could see heavily armed guards blocking the bridge.  They were trying to enforce some order and prevent any possible saboteurs from leaving the island.

However, Yarec had planned a different way off the eyot.  As he emerged from the factory, he transmitted a signal to Mrissa.  A moment later, he saw a bright streak moving near the horizon.  The rocket’s fiery trail carried it forward toward the island.  Then it crashed against the line of composite mesh fencing that ringed the place.  It blasted a five-meter hole in the barrier, and Yarec ran for the gap.  He was not alone; other people were also trying to get out that way.  Behind them, there were flames inside the factory, but the hard rain had kept the rocket from igniting any fires outdoors.  Yarec dashed through the hole in the fence, then across the cracked asphalt to the murky water’s edge.  He splashed straight in, put his head under, and began to swim, with the muffled cracks of the thunder still resonating in his ears.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: