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Stories from the Verse
Chapter 54: Brown 122
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As he stepped off the elevator onto the twenty-eighth floor, Derek was still berating himself for his mistake. It wasn’t fatal, but only because Jim had recognized the truth. It looked very like the other situation, when the terrorists had used hostages as human shields. What Jim saw, though--what Derek should have seen--was that in this case the “hostage” was wearing a vest under his shirt. Jim killed both of them.
After that, they had agreed to use the elevators, but not to go directly to the thirtieth floor. Jim had suggested going above it and walking down, but Pete had noted that there was no guarantee the elevator wouldn’t stop on the thirtieth floor, either because the terrorists called it or because of Derek’s program. They also agreed that the twenty-ninth floor was more likely to be watched than the twenty-eighth, and so settled for climbing two flights. Getting his bearings, he headed for the nearest stairway.
They had probably used ten of their fifteen minutes by now; Derek hadn’t checked the time, but somehow doubted that the terrorist leader had, either. However, rescuing hostages was not the objective, he reminded himself. They still had to find the bomb.
Up a flight to a landing, up another to a door, the twenty-ninth floor. He turned to climb the next flight, and stopped. There was sound above, someone entering from the next floor. He signaled the others to go through the door, and followed them. Once the door closed he said, “We’d better move, at least far enough that they won’t see us through the glass.” Jim nodded, and Derek led down a side hallway. “The next stairway shouldn’t be far,” he said, looking around at the other doors.
They reached it soon enough, but it was at the end of a corridor and had a sticker on it. Not a problem, Derek thought; we can backtrack. Then Jim said, “I think they’re coming this way. We might have a fight on our hands.”
Derek looked at the sticker. He had an idea. “Pete, peel that sticker off that door.” While Pete worked on that, Derek picked the lock on the office door across the way. Once it was open, he pulled out his sticker pack and put a sticker on the doorknob. “O.K., everyone in here, slam the door, and let’s hope it sounds enough like the stair door to fool our pursuit.”
They passed inside, and Derek slammed the door behind them. “Stand back--we don’t know how much kick these bombs actually have from this side--but be ready to attack if there are survivors.”
The office was dark and quiet. Derek could hear their breathing, his own pulse in his ears. Then the sound of their pursuers closed in on them. Derek was not certain what language they were speaking, and could not make out the sounds clearly through the door, but they had gathered there and were apparently arguing about what to do next.
Abruptly one of them opened the door--not his door, the stair door. The blast threw someone hard enough that he impacted against the office door, but the door held. Confusion reigned in the hall; Derek yanked open the door and said, “Go.” Jim started firing and led the way, Derek covered his flank with the laser, and in a moment it was over. Five terrorist bodies lay on the ground, at least one from the blast, bullets and burns on the others.
Jim looked at Derek, and said, “You really do know what you’re doing, don’t you?”
Derek nodded. Let’s hope so, he thought. We’re not through this yet.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with twenty other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #235: Versers Infiltrate. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: