This is part of a work in progress, to read previous and future chapters and chaptorettes see other postings of ‘The White Lady’ in this category
~ 4.4 ~
The hardest thing for an operative in the field to learn is to control his hyper-vigilance, his adrenaline surges and fight-or-fight reflexes. Sometimes there are occasions when one or all three are vital to survival, but each comes with its own drawbacks. Hyper-vigilance wears you down, frazzles your nerves, and causes tunnel vision. Adrenaline surges drain away fast, taking your strength and power with it. Fight-or-flight disables your fine motor skills and prevents logical thought.
You experience all three when clearing stairs.
We had put the first floor behind us with one enemy down; I was still in the hyper-vigilant stage—Briscoe had gotten to the adrenaline stage with his kill behind us. We were both breathing in a controlled and measured fashion, as our training dictated. At first, I was surprised there hadn’t been a rush of defenders, but as I began stepping gingerly up the second flight of stairs, I remembered that CCS was decimated. If I were Mireille, I would have pulled 90% of my personnel in to defend the most important thing in the building—Mireille.
Everyone would be waiting for us on the 10th floor—killers and defenders.
Now, that’ll be fight-or-flight time.
“Briscoe,” I said, breaking the no-noise protocol. Startled, Briscoe stopped moving, but didn’t take his eyes away from our rear.
“What?” he said.
“We need to double time it up these puppies and get to the party fast.”
“Yeah, I figured. Got a strategy?”
I did. I told him. He nodded as if he had a choice.
“On three.” I said, and counted down.
When I reached the magic number, we bolted up the flights of stairs together, only slowing at the landings to sweep both forward and rear directions, before hightailing it up the next flight. Our boot steps crashed, our gear clanked and rattled, our gas masks Darth-Vadered; every sound echoing like thunder in my ears.
My mask fogged up, my shoulder blades dripped sweat and my leg muscles screamed. In addition, I was still fighting the pain in my ribs from my earlier skirmish. By the time we reached the ninth floor, I was panting heavily and could barely see out of the goggles.
I’ve been out of the field wa-a-y too long.
With a parting shot of “Pussy!” Briscoe—hardly winded—headed through the exit doors to find the elevator, while I carried on alone up the last flight. I wasn’t looking forward to facing the fatal funnel by myself, but that was my only strategy.
Imagine you are a killer inside a room, waiting for your target to arrive. Guess where you are going to be focusing your attention … and weapons. Of course, you know this—the doorway.
The fatal funnel.
That door for me led into the 10th floor offices. I reached it. Paused … timing out the probable movements and arrival of Briscoe. I imagined him getting to the elevators. Calling the car. Popping the roof panel. Climbing up to the top of the car while the elevator ascended. And when the doors opened into the 10th floor office, lobbing a …
My signal to enter: a flash-bang, distracting Mireille’s guards.
I burst through the doors and hit the floor, rolling away from the fatal funnel at a forty-five degree angle. The shots came so furiously it sounded like one long drawn out burst of gunfire. I didn’t know which gunshots were Briscoe’s, the guards or mine. I remembered these offices all had concrete support pillars twenty feet away from the exits on either side and rolled for the one in my line of sight. Fired around it at whatever man-shaped shadows I could see through my mask, aiming away from Briscoe’s entry point as best I could.
I was yelling, I could hear Briscoe shouting and other men screaming. Shadow bodies fell and fell and fell. In seconds, the gunfire lessened and finally fizzled out into the occasional budda-budda of semi-automatic bursts.
Men still screamed long after the shots stopped.
I made my way through the smoke, bodies and debris to where Briscoe was standing at the door of an inner office, his gas mask askew off his face and dangling around his neck. He pointed his rifle deliberately at a familiar white-smocked figure sitting in a black fabric office chair. Bullets had mangled one of the chair’s metal legs and it was tilting dangerously on the remaining three, threatening to buck Dr. Mireille off his perch.
“Why do you k-kill your own people?” Mireille stuttered. Gone was the sardonic French sneer. He wore no gas mask. I took mine off and clipped it to my duty belt.
“What the fuck do you mean …our own people?” Briscoe snarled.
Mireille waved his hand at the bodies. “These are all CCS—the White Lady’s people. I had been told that someone was destroying CCS man by man, but until now I did not think it would be you!” He looked to Briscoe and then to me, helpless terror squeezing tears from his eyes. “Traitors. You will kill me now?”
Briscoe took a step towards Mireille and stuck the rifle barrel into his cheek. “It’s not a bad idea, weasel,” he said. “’Cuz I don’t see how this place could have been breached—or GEM or any of the facilities—without it being an inside job. Meaning you!” Mireille trembled like a goat tied to a stake.
“Briscoe.” I said as calmly as I could while trying to regain my breath. He glanced sideways at me and raised an eyebrow. I could almost hear his thought.
“It’s not Mireille,” I continued. “I’m reasonably sure our traitor is Bruno De Zwart.” Bruno was the sole missing person from GEM, and someone who might have a grudge against the White Lady … and me for that matter.
Briscoe didn’t remove his gun from where it was burning a round mark into Mireille’s face. “I don’t know who that is,” he said. “All I know is, things started going to shit just after we left this guy’s …” he emphasized the words by poking the barrel deeper into poor Mireille’s pasty skin. “ … office. I know <poke> this guy <poke>, Smith. I know what a pervert he is, don’t forget.”
At that, Mireille managed to look indignant for a flash—in between pokes. I smiled at him.
“I haven’t forgotten, Briscoe. However, I also haven’t forgotten that if all these men we just killed are—were—the good guys, then that means … ”. I let the sentence drift off, waiting until comprehension dawned on Briscoe’s face. He yanked his rifle back, shouldered it and grabbed Mireille by the lapels of his white lab coat, his nose only millimeters from Mireille’s.
“ Quickest way out, Doc.” He shook Mireille slightly when he didn’t answer immediately. “C’mon … CCS usually has some secret escape route for you soft types.”
“I’ll show you, but I must be going with you also.” Mireille’s English worsened the more scared he became. I would have thought the rifle barrel at his nose would inflict more fear than Briscoe’s facial proximity, but apparently not.
“I hate to interrupt your reunion sex, but where’s my stuff, Mireille?” I had not forgotten why I was there in the first place. My palms immediately started itching again at the thought of carrying around the bioweapons.
Mireille’s eyes pleaded. Briscoe released him. Mireille let out a hard breath and turned to me. “It is all ready for you, as you desired. La.” He pointed behind him into the inner office. I walked around him and into the room. There was an oaken desk bearing a large nameplate that read: ‘Herve Mireille, MD, PhD, MMSc, Virologist’. On the desk sat a Kevlar-coated black plastic suitcase.
“That’s it? It looks too small to carry everything I asked for!”
Mireille shrugged. “Germs are small, vials are small, needles are small—I deal in small things. Everything is there, Mr. Smith.”
No time to check. I grabbed the suitcase and nodded at Briscoe, who seized Mireille’s shoulder and propelled him forward.
“Lead on Doc,” Briscoe commanded.
I admit I smirked a bit, as Briscoe looked anything but commanding, with his gas mask still hanging around his neck, its bulging goggles peering up like a second head on his shoulder.
“I am having no choice, “ the virologist muttered, as he quick-stepped to a central cement block wall that could have been an elevator shaft but showed no sign of doors or other egress. Mireille removed a key fob from his lab coat and pressed a green button.
A portion of the concrete wall slid to one side to reveal … an elevator shaft.
“Imagine that.” I snorted.
“It goes straight to the lowest parking lot, “ the doctor explained. “We have a vehicle there.”
All three of us piled in to the elevator car. The door slid shut, but just before it closed, I saw a tiny movement at the doorway I had come through mere minutes before.
“Go, go, go!” I yelled at Mireille, who frantically slammed his hand on a large red button. As the elevator shot down, a concussion rocked the car, knocking Mireille off his feet. Briscoe and I assumed the same wide-stance crouch; as if the position would alleviate any damage from an elevator car slamming into the bottom of a shaft.
Fully expecting my knees to impale my head at any moment, I waited in silence while the car plummeted. Then relaxed slightly once I realized the drop was controlled. The blast hadn’t damaged the cables or brakes. CCS had built this elevator to go down at breakneck speed for a reason.
We’re going to get out of this!
The elevator eased—surprisingly—to a stop. We were at the lowest parkade. I reached out to punch the open-door button.
Mireille said casually, “Smith, your watch is flashing red. A timer, maybe?”
I stopped reaching. Briscoe and I stared at the blinking object on my wrist.
It was the digital contaminant testing metre. Flashing red meant: watch the fuck out, there’s kill shit in the air!
And Briscoe and I had the only gas masks.