He thought it over, and nodded. “All right,” he said. “Harm, you take one vehicle, assign drivers to the other two. We’re going to sit tight for twenty minutes, then bug out.”
“You should give it more time,” Riley said. “Drones have plenty of fuel capacity. They could circle it a long time.”
“They could,” he agreed. “But they won’t.”
He grinned. It was intimidating. “Because we’ve already worked back channels, and the drone ops is off book. Chains of command are being informed, and trust me, in twenty minutes it’ll be shut down, recalled to the barn, and the operators won’t even remember they ever flew their toys over Kansas. Those who do remember will be seeing Leavenworth real close. There are some rogue commanders out there that Jane’s paying, but none of them want to get court-martialed over it. Knowledge is on our side, not theirs. So far, anyway.”
“Don’t get cocky,” Joe said. “But if we’ve got the chance, we need to take it. No room for hesitation in this game.”
“Agreed,” Riley said. “Let’s do it, people. Narrow window, if the drone’s off the table for them as an option. They’ll be fielding a team, but we can get out before they arrive if we hustle.”
“Take go-bags,” Brick said, and nodded at Harm, who jogged off to the nearest SUV and came back with four camo backpacks. “We kicked in some Glocks and extra clips. Sorry I can’t give you anything with more firepower, but we’re running a little short, and we like to keep it street legal for anybody who isn’t on the payroll.”
“It’s good,” Bryn said. She took the Glock out of her backpack, loaded it, and clipped the holster to her waistband at an easy draw angle. “Ready?”
Joe Fideli threw the backpack over his shoulder. He was still carrying a shotgun, liberated from Brick’s stores most likely, and Riley, like Bryn, had taken out a handgun.
They set off toward the clearly marked tunnel that said HARDHAT AREA. There was a map in a lighted case next to the entrance, and Bryn checked it quickly. The tunnel they were entering led straight and true through to an area shaded in light green—the public area. There was some sort of train, though that didn’t seem like a great idea to use for the three of them, and also something labeled CARTS.
“Outstanding,” she said. “This way.”
Jogging felt good. Her body liked movement, and her muscles were grateful for the chance to stretch. Ri-
ley easily paced her, and Joe ran behind—not nanite-enhanced, but pretty fit nonetheless. His endurance wouldn’t be equal to theirs, of course, but they didn’t have that far to travel. It was about a half mile down the tunnel, and then there was a steel door—locked, but between the two of them, Riley and Bryn’s enhanced strength shattered the mechanism enough to let them swing open the bent door.
The problem was that the lights on the other side were on a different circuit, and it was like stepping into space.
Joe already had an LED flashlight out, and as the door swung shut behind them he lit up the walls of the vast chamber. The same salt made up the entire surface, and the floor was smooth and gritty with it. He swept the light around, spotted another junction box, and went over to open it and flip the switches.
The overheads—more finished-looking than those in the parking area where they’d started out—marched on in ranks, illuminating a huge open space with a low ceiling, ten feet or so, enough to feel oppressive. The air was fresh, at least. This area seemed to be part of the tourist experience, and there were ranks of electric trams plugged in and ready to go. Bryn headed for one and disconnected it from the plug, and Riley and Bryn boarded behind her as she started it up. There was an old early-twentieth-century train that was clearly only for historical display—boxcars and wooden boxes labeled DYNAMITE that hadn’t seen real explosives in a hundred years. Bryn pressed the accelerator, and with a hum, the cart rolled forward. She floored it—after all, they didn’t need to worry about visitors—and sped past offshoot tunnels, dark and blocked off. It’d be easy to get lost in here, if you wandered off the public paths.
There were signs posted—new restrooms, apparently, plus an event area . . . and film storage. She supposed this would be a perfect environment for rare films—dry, cool, unlikely to burn.
Too bad they didn’t have time to sightsee. She kind of loved history.
But survival had to come first.
The ride was smooth and flat, and she followed signs down the wide arched tunnels, with their sparkling, striated gray walls and ceilings, until it opened into a huge domed area. A sign called it the Great Room, and she had to agree. Pretty great.
“Elevator,” Riley said, and pointed to a large industry cage at the far end. Bryn headed for it, and braked just a few feet away. She bailed out and reached to press the CALL button. . . .
But before she touched it, a rattle from above sounded.
Bryn backed off and cast Riley and Joe a glance. “That wasn’t me,” she said. “Someone’s coming down.”
“Shit,” Joe said. “How long?”
“This depth? About ninety seconds,” Riley said. “We need cover.”
Their advantage, Bryn thought, was that whoever was on the way down would be pinned inside the elevator. Sitting ducks. And it wasn’t a closed steel structure; it had open grating, which wouldn’t be much, if any, protection.
She felt a little sick at the idea of what was going to happen, but she also knew better than to regret it. If it was Jane, or Jane’s people, there would be no hesitation, and no mercy asked or given. “Scatter,” Bryn said. She broke for a large, square block of salt, one of the tactile exhibits, and as good as a steel barrier for bullets. Riley went for a support column, and Joe went for a free-standing informational board.
It was a long ninety seconds, listening to the clattering lurch of the descending elevator. And Bryn double-checked her Glock, wiped her palm, and braced herself against the salt block, aim sure and steady as she glimpsed the first signs of movement. The cage had come down in darkness, so she had no visual on who was within it, or how many, and she took a deep breath as the metal door slid aside.
With a cold start, she took her finger off the trigger. Security guards. Two of them, uniformed—one young and fit, one overweight and graying. They had pistols—revolvers—but they didn’t look particularly dangerous. Just nervous. Of course the place would have security. . . . She remembered that there was film storage, probably rare material. There was always a market for rarity. They’d probably have silent alarms to protect that stuff, at the very least.
That was the problem with having to make snap decisions and no time to research. You missed the obvious.
The two men stepped out and did a quick visual check, but missed Bryn, who was pretty much in plain view. It didn’t say a lot for their abilities.
“Probably nothing,” the younger one said. “I’m telling you, we get those motion detector alarms all the time. Usually it’s just some kind of animal. They don’t hang around. Nothing in here for ’em.”
“Did a stray cat turn on the lights, too?” So, the brains of the operation was the older man. He also was the first to really focus on Bryn, and the weapon she had aimed at them. His flinch was visible, but he didn’t dive for cover, he just shifted his aim back at her. “Drop it, miss! Drop it now!”
“Can’t do that,” she said. “Sir, you’re covered from two other angles. Please drop your weapons and lie down flat on the ground.”
“You’re bluffing,” the younger man said, and grinned as he brought his own weapon to bear on her. “We caught a thief, Bud.”
Bud didn’t seem so convinced of that. Her confidence had caught him off balance. That was good. She definitely did not want to hurt these men.
“She’s not bluffing,” Riley called from her cover, and edged around to point her weapon at the two men.
“Shotgun trumps revolver,” Joe said, stepping out from behind the information board. “It’s like rock-paper-scissors, but with more pellets.”
That did it. The older man made an instant, smart decision to drop his weapon to the ground, while the younger one was still staring wide-eyed at the newcomers. Four seconds later, with his partner (or boss) already spread facedown on the ground, the kid realized that he was about to get himself shot, and threw the gun away in a panic, thrusting his hands straight up in the air. More like he was planning a high dive than surrender.
“Down, son,” Joe said, and gestured with the barrel of the shotgun. “Just like your friend there.” The young man dropped to his knees, arms still up, then looked confused about what to do next. Joe sighed. “You can use your hands to lower yourself.”
“Thanks,” he mumbled, and stretched out.
Riley, who had the most experience in this kind of thing, given that she was FBI, took charge with calm efficiency, zip-tying their wrists and confiscating the weapons, which she added to her backpack. “Right,” she said, and patted Bud on the shoulder. “The alarms. Did they go straight to the police, too?”
“Yes,” he said. “They’ll be here in about two minutes. So you’d better clear out, fast.” He sounded confident, and Bryn would have bought it, except she—like Riley—was watching the younger man. He seemed confused.
“Yeah, nice try,” Riley said. “Bryn, the alarms are local only. We’re fine for now. Tell you what, we’re going to call it in for you on the way out, so you don’t have to worry about being stuck here like this for long.” She rose to her feet, and walked into the elevator, and Joe and Bryn joined her. Bryn slid the gate closed, and the second she did, the elevator began to rise.
“Did you press the button?” she asked Riley, who was next to the control panel. The elevator rose past the ceiling level, and the light from the cavern cut out, leaving them in pitch darkness in the popping, groaning metal of the elevator. A dark ride, for sure. It felt claustrophobic and rickety, and Bryn had to take in slow, deep breaths to stop herself from feeling so trapped.