To hide her tracks, she had kept her flight along the edge of the occupied sections of the laboratory, a dangerous path. She’d come close to being discovered twice, but the facility was a huge warren of hiding places. She had passed one corridor that must have run the length of the facility. Its end dwindled down to a dark point, lit only in a few sections.
Within the first few minutes, she knew she must be underground.
No windows anywhere.
I need to find a way back to the surface.
If she could escape, go for help—then she could offer Kat real support. By herself, any rescue attempt was futile. Her ankle continued to throb, shooting pain up her leg with every step.
And it wasn’t just Kat’s life in danger.
The baby slept in the crook of her arm, quiet as a lamb, belly full of milk, likely still bodily exhausted from the near-death collapse of his systems. She prayed the child remained quiet.
She had come to this bathroom only as a temporary reprieve, to collect her thoughts. Her initial flight had been that of a panicked rabbit, just trying to stay ahead of the hunting pack. For the moment, she had lost her pursuers, arriving at a region of the facility with yellow walls. The whole facility seemed to be color-mapped. She’d fled from white through orange to yellow.
She pictured Kat’s cell.
It had red walls.
She had discovered an evacuation map outside the bathroom. It was that discovery that changed her course from a maddened flight to the beginnings of a plan. She ducked inside here to think, to consider the best route to take.
From the evacuation plan, she recognized that she was on the middle level of three, somewhere in the northwest quadrant. The map laid out the shortest route up to the surface—but she dared not take that path. They would be expecting that; likely guards were already posted.
When she reached the next stairwell, they would expect her to go up. So, instead, she would go down. She noted that the red zone on the map did not extend to the third level. She saw a corridor that transected the facility, passing under the red zone. She could use that passageway to cross to the far side of the facility, where fewer eyes, if any, would be watching. There was a remote exit in a sliver of the lab that poked out from the bulk.
That was her goal.
She shifted a cramping leg toward the floor, wanting to check that map one more time, then begin her painful run for the exit. As her toe lowered toward the linoleum, the door to the bathroom creaked open. The light flicked on, blinding after her flight through the dim corridors and dark rooms.
A casual whistling accompanied the intruder.
Not likely a guard.
From the timbre of the whistling and heavy-footed gait, it was a man. She prayed he crossed to the urinal, but his whistling approached the bay of stalls. She clutched her knife more tightly, willing him away.
Not this one. Pick another.
Her prayer was answered as he entered the neighboring stall, the one closest to the door. She had purposefully avoided that one for that very reason. She would wait until he finished, give it another minute, then continue.
It was at that moment, perhaps stirred by his whistling, that the boy in her arms began to rouse, stretching a pudgy, wrinkled fist, yawning silently. But she knew that wouldn’t last.
She had to get out of here before he made a noise and alerted her neighbor. She didn’t know how long the man would be here. Her ears picked out the clatter of an unbuckling belt, the rip of a zipper, and the soft whisper of pants falling—followed by a long sigh of relief.
It sounded like he would be here awhile.
The whistling began again.
Lisa couldn’t take the risk of being trapped inside here if the baby began to cry. She carefully lowered her good foot to the ground, pivoted to her bad leg, careful of her ankle. She mouthed the blade between her lips and balanced the baby under the crook of one arm. Luckily, she had spent many nights babysitting Kat’s children.
She had never locked her stall. What would be the use? So she used the coat hook on the inside of the door to slowly swing it open, allowing her to slip outside.
I can do this.
Then the baby let out a small wail of complaint.
Lisa froze as the whistling stopped. The stall lock snapped open.
Her mind immediately flashed to her new mantra.
What would Kat do?
Lisa kicked the door as it started to swing open, catching the man in the face as he reached forward. He fell back—Lisa followed, her knife already in hand. As he looked up, she slashed hard at his exposed throat. The razor-sharp amputation blade, made to cut through hard cartilage and stiff tendons, performed as designed. The deep cut severed skin, muscle, and trachea, drowning any scream. The severed carotid spurted high, splashing. The man gurgled and slid off of the commode. His hands clutched at his neck, his eyes shining with shock, already dead but not knowing it.
That’s what Kat would do.
Lisa swung away, careful of the blood pooling, so as not to leave tracks. She pulled the stall shut, crossed to the bathroom door, and turned off the lights. His absence would likely be missed. She had to be far away before that happened.
She peeked out and found the hall clear. But as she stepped out, her name was called, loudly, echoing throughout the facility.
But it was only the loudspeaker system. The voice was male, not the digitally masked speaker from earlier. It didn’t sound like Robert Gant’s Southern slant or Edward Blake’s British accent.
“DR. LISA CUMMINGS! THIS IS YOUR ONE AND ONLY WARNING! YOU WILL TURN YOURSELF AND THE CHILD OVER TO THE NEAREST PERSONNEL, OR YOU WILL SEND YOUR FRIEND INTO DEADLY PERIL.”
A monitor bloomed to light down the hall, others blinked elsewhere. Clearly he was making a general broadcast to the entire compound.
She shifted down the hall enough to see a stranger on the screen. He wore white laboratory coveralls with a hood pulled back and a surgical mask on top of his head. In the background, she spotted Dr. Blake. The view suddenly switched, revealing Kat standing at gunpoint beside a sealed metal door. It looked like she carried a length of pipe and a small shield of some sort.
“AS PUNISHMENT AND TO RECOGNIZE THE THREAT SHE FACES, WE WILL PERFORM A SMALL DEMONSTRATION SO YOU FULLY UNDERSTAND.”
The door swung open, sunlight blazed, blinding the camera. The view switched to the outside, looking down upon a grassy meadow, a line of oaks in the distant background. Kat was shoved outside, stumbling into view, shading her eyes with her small shield against the summer glare.
“TURN YOURSELF IN NOW, OR HER FATE WILL WORSEN OVER TIME. THIS IS YOUR ONLY WARNING.”