Blood & thunder, p.25
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       Blood & Thunder, p.25

         Part #2 of THIRDS series by Charlie Cochet
 
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  “Fire in the hole!”

  There was a loud boom, followed by the clanking and screeching of metal sliding across the roof floor. Sloane rushed out, checking they were clear before going in through the doorway. He led his teammates into the darkness, hoping he’d find his partner at the other end of it, alive and in one piece.

  Hang on for me, Dex. Please, hang on.

  HIS CHEST hurt.

  With a groan, Dex rolled forward. His throat was dry, his tongue felt gross and furry, and his whole body ached as if someone had gone at him with a baseball bat, though nothing hurt more than his chest. Breathing hurt. His arms hurt. Why did his arms hurt? He went to rub his face when he discovered the reason. His arms were tied behind his back. Opening his eyes, he blinked a few times to clear the fuzziness. He was nauseous, groggy, and felt like utter crap. Scanning his surroundings, he was stunned to find himself in a white room with nothing but a wide hospital bed. Where the hell was he? He wracked his brain. Last thing he remembered, he’d been with Sloane who’d been trapped under something next to him, telling him to run.

  “What the hell?” He sat upright with a hiss, his throat thick as his memory filled in the blanks. Shit, he’d been shot in the vest like three times. No wonder his chest was killing him. He recalled something else. Drugs. He’d been drugged. Someone shot his arm with some kind of tranquilizer.

  Isaac.

  That son of a bitch. He was behind this. Looking down at himself, he cursed the guy out some more. The bastard had taken his equipment. Everything from his utility belt, to his backup weapon, thigh rig, and his uniform shirt, leaving him in his tac pants and black undershirt. They’d taken his watch too. Tony had given him that watch. Assholes.

  Dex had no idea where he was. All he knew was that he couldn’t stay here, waiting for Isaac to come back for him. If he were going to move, he’d have to do it fast. There was no telling if he was being monitored. With his head slightly lowered, he discreetly took in the room, spotting his way out, considering the front door was likely not an option. He tested the restraint on his wrist and held back a smile. Zip tie. They’d used tape for his ankles. Fucking aces. Closing his eyes, he gave himself a pep talk. He could do this. It was going to hurt like hell, but it was do or die.

  Pushing himself to his feet, he bent over and thrust his arms down. It took him a few tries, but on the third, the tie snapped. He swiftly went about untying his ankles. As soon as he’d pulled all the tape off, he ran to the door. Locked. Okay, Plan B.

  He dashed over to the bed, wobbling for a minute when a wave of dizziness and nausea hit him. Breathing in deep, he straightened and pushed the bed against the wall. He gritted his teeth and lifted the bed, turning it so it stood on its large steel footboard. He hoped he didn’t end up breaking his neck. Sliding the bed against the wall until the legs hit, he reached up, grabbed two of the headboard’s steel bars, and pulled himself up.

  His muscles strained, a headache exploded inside his skull, and his face grew hot as he pulled his weight up. Once up, he carefully balanced on the headboard on his knees and reached up, removing the medium sized silver vent. It was a good thing none of his Therian teammates had been taken with him, because there was no way in hell they’d fit through there. It was going to be a tight squeeze for Dex as it was.

  Doing his best not to jar the bed too much, he rose to his feet, holding his arms out to keep his balance. The bed wobbled and Dex let out a steady breath. “Easy there.” Soon as it stilled, he reached up and stuck his head through. The ventilation shaft stretched down in two directions. It was hot, cramped, and dark, with the faintest hints of light far in the distance to his right. Dex grinned to himself. “And Sloane says I watch too many movies.” He pulled himself up into the shaft, his ass dangling below as he struggled to drag himself fully inside, his chest feeling as if it was in a vise as it pressed against the metal surface. He threw one hand out and pulled, muscles stretching and burning. Finally, after an excruciating amount of time, his whole body was inside. He was out of breath already, thanks to the remnants of whatever Isaac had given him.

  “Move your ass, Daley,” Dex growled, thinking of Sloane. He had to get to his partner. Whatever Isaac had planned, Dex was certain it would somehow involve Sloane. He crawled through the tight space, moving forward despite being unable to see anything. Up ahead there was a soft glow, and he picked up his pace, trying to keep himself from making too much noise. The glow was coming from a room below, and Dex cautiously slid his body up to the vent and peered down through the slats. It was a white room, but unlike the one he’d escaped, this one was filled with lab equipment. There were tables filled with electronic meters, filtration systems, centrifuges, glassware, incubators, microscopes, mixers, and a load of other stuff Dex didn’t recognize.

  Oh, shit. He was at the research facility. So much for it being secure. There was one thing he didn’t understand. If the facility was closed and no longer in use, why was all this equipment still here? It sure as hell didn’t look abandoned. Everything looked shiny and new. He listened for any signs that someone might be in the room, and when he heard none, he carefully pushed the vent down on one side, catching it before it could clatter to the floor. He gently placed it inside the shaft ahead of him and gingerly stuck his head out. The room was empty.

  Sliding over the vent, he went down feet first, dangling from his waist again, before lowering himself. Gripping the edge of the vent, he let go, hitting he floor hard and falling back on his ass. Quickly he got to his feet, ignoring the sick feeling in the pit of his stomach. The room was cold, and it sure as hell had been used recently. Did the THIRDS know it was in use? They had to. Someone was ordering this stuff.

  Dex went to one of the incubators and opened the glass door to find scores of tiny vials and glass bottles sporting names of chemicals and drugs he’d never heard of. What he did know was that they had a shelf life, and these liquids all had expiration dates for the following year. What disturbed him as much as the knowledge the lab was in use, was the mobile stretcher chair with straps parked on one side of the room. He needed to get out of here, and maybe find the First Gen files. They had to be somewhere close. As the thought crossed his mind, he spotted a tablet on one of the tables in the corner of the room. Dashing over, he found an external hard drive was connected to it. He tapped the screen and stifled a gasp.

  The sleek screen was littered with rows and rows of personnel files. One name jumped out at him. Sloane Brodie. It was the First Gen files. Inspecting the drive, he discovered it was empty, but the serial number, along with the information on the plate indicated it was property of the THIRDS. It looked like Isaac had transferred the files to his device. A small padded protective case sat beside the tablet, and Dex snatched it up. On the bottom several tabs were open, and he clicked them, his heart leaping in his throat. They were network connections and news sites. To his relief, there was a nice big, red “X.” Looked like Isaac was having trouble logging on, which meant he hadn’t transferred any files. Unhooking the hard drive, he powered off the tablet and stuck it in the protective case, before sliding it into the zip pocket in his tac pants made to hold a ballistic plate. Then he tucked the portable drive into another pocket. Now he really had to get the hell out. If the tablet was here, it meant Isaac couldn’t be far.

  Dex snuck over to the lab’s closed door and peeked through the window. His view of the brightly lit hall was restricted. He listened but couldn’t hear anything. Quietly, he turned the doorknob and slowly pushed the door open. When nothing happened, he slipped outside. He turned and was struck across the jaw, sending him reeling against the corridor wall. Shaking himself out of it, he pushed away from the wall and backed up, barely having enough time to block the punch looking to land against his ribs. He pulled his arms in, blocking the fist, digging deep to push away all the pain and sickness he was feeling as a result of the drugs, and he threw a punch at his attacker, a huge, musclebound asshole the size of Ash, and just as mean looking, t
hough admittedly far uglier.

  Dex landed a right hook against the guy’s jaw, but he shook it off like a pesky fly. With a growl, Dex moved in with a jab to the ribs when the beady-eyed bastard clamped an arm down, trapping Dex’s wrist. He snatched Dex’s other arm and head-butted him. It was like smacking into a concrete wall. Dex crumpled to the ground, the larger man on top of him, landing a hit to Dex’s nose and bloodying it. Dizzy and gasping for breath, Dex refused to go down without a fight, punching the guy square in the balls. The guy doubled over with a fierce whine, and Dex put all his strength behind his fist, knocking him across the jaw. The guy fell limp to his side, and Dex scrambled to his feet, his knees buckling and almost giving way under him. He stumbled, but righted himself, leaning against the wall to catch his breath. With a wince, he swiped the blood from his nose.

  “Dex, what on earth are you doing?”

  He stiffened, turning to find Isaac observing him in amusement, three larger men with him. Shit. Dex pushed himself away from the wall and held his fists up.

  “If you think I’m gonna go give in, you’re crazier than I thought you were.”

  Isaac shook his head with a “tsk.” “Dex, I don’t want to fight you. Believe it or not, seeing you get hurt doesn’t make me happy.”

  Dex let out a snort, cringed, and spit out a mouthful of blood. “You’ll have to forgive me if I don’t believe you. You know, what with shooting me, drugging me, and sending your Gollum here to beat the shit out of me.”

  “Gill was only doing his job,” Isaac replied with a shrug. “Gentlemen, if you’ll please restrain Agent Daley before he hurts himself any further.”

  Shit. Dex turned to run, but three more men blocked his path. He readied himself for a fight, wishing it were more like in the movies where the bad guys all stood back and came at the hero one at a time. No such luck. The six men rushed him at once, and for all of Dex’s training, he was no match for six large men, and the state he was in didn’t help matters. He struggled as they lifted him off his feet, carrying him back into the lab he’d come from.

  “What the hell are you doing?” Dex pulled at his limbs, trying his hardest to free himself, but it was futile. They thrust him down harshly onto the chair and started restraining him. “Get the fuck off me!” The straps pulled tight against his ankles and wrists. His head was forced back, a large padded strap stretched across his forehead. They finished and retreated. Dex tugged against the restraints, pulling, and jerking his arms. Nothing. His heart pounded fiercely, and he tamped down his panic. Isaac came to stand beside him.

  “What are you going to do with me?” Dex demanded.

  “I only want to talk.”

  Dex let out a derisive laugh. “Talk? Okay. Let’s talk. What would you like to talk about? The Knicks? The state of the economy? You losing your fucking mind?”

  Isaac pulled up a stool and perched beside Dex. “I’d like to talk about you.”

  “Me.”

  “Yes. I think it’s time you reconsidered joining me.”

  Dex gaped at the guy. Was he serious? Had he really lost his mind? “Why in the hell would you think I’d join you?”

  “Dex, despite what you may believe, I’m trying to save you.”

  “Save me?” The concern and gentleness in Isaac’s voice as he spoke to Dex confused him. Something had most certainly snapped in the guy’s head. And what was this obsession he had with saving Dex? He decided he needed some answers. “Save me from what?”

  “From those animals,” Isaac replied with a sneer. “I couldn’t save my brother, but I can save you.”

  That’s what this was about, what it had always been about. Gabe. “Do you think saving me is going to absolve you for what you did to him?”

  Isaac jumped from the stool so quickly, it clattered to the floor. His hazel eyes blazed with fury, saliva shooting from his mouth as he spat the words out. “I didn’t kill Gabe! Those animals did! Sloane Brodie killed my brother, and he’s going to burn in hell for it.”

  “You confessed. You killed Gabe. It might have been an accident, but you killed him, Isaac. You can’t blame Sloane for that. Your brother’s death is on your hands.”

  Isaac shook his head fervently as he started to pace. Dex continued to struggle against his restraints, hoping to loosen something. Did Isaac truly believe if he “saved” Dex, everything that had happened with Gabe would vanish? “What is it you’re expecting to happen, Isaac? That I’ll flip some switch in my head, and suddenly I’ll see things your way? That I’ll start hurting innocent Therians, planting bombs in youth centers?”

  “Not at first,” Isaac said calmly.

  Shit, the guy really had lost it. Dex watched as Isaac adjusted the straps on his bulletproof vest, put his stool on its feet, and resumed his seat as if nothing had happened.

  “You’ll be restricted to the Order’s main facility for a while. You understand how the mind works, Dex. Humans can be conditioned if exposed to certain environments long enough. With time, you’ll come around to our way of thinking.”

  “You mean like Stockholm Syndrome?”

  Isaac’s grin sent icy shivers up Dex’s spine. “See, you’re getting it already.”

  “You might as well kill me,” Dex replied through his teeth. He’d rather die than end up Isaac’s personal puppet.

  With a resigned sigh, Isaac stood to look down at Dex. “You remind me so much of Gabe. He was so spirited. Stubborn as hell too.” Isaac’s fingers touched Dex’s cheek, and Dex stiffened, his stomach reeling, and his skin crawling. “He was special, like you.” Fingers trailed down Dex’s jaw and over his lips. “Beautiful.”

  Dex’s eyes widened, and for the first time, he felt true fear. “Isaac….” Dex’s voice broke, and he closed his eyes for a moment. “Please.”

  “I’m sorry, Dex.” Isaac reached down and unzipped Dex’s pocket containing the tablet. “I believe you have something that belongs to me.” He removed the case and moved onto his other pocket to remove the drive. “One of my guys has been working on getting me network access and should come through any moment now. A slight setback, but that’s okay. I prepared for it.” He shook his head sadly. “I knew you would refuse. I’d hoped you wouldn’t, but I knew you would.” Isaac walked off, and Dex fought as hard as he could against the straps, letting out a frustrated cry when nothing happened. Oh God, what was Isaac doing? Dex could hear the man tinkering behind him.

  “What are you going to do?”

  “What I set out to do. Make your lover suffer and destroy the THIRDS. And you’re going to help me do it.”

  “I’ll never help you,” Dex spat out.

  Isaac approached the chair, a syringe containing a tiny amount of clear liquid in his hand. “Oh, but you will, Dex. You just won’t know it.”

  The needle plunged into Dex’s neck, and he arched his back, letting out a violent cry, both in anguish and from the physical pain. He didn’t know what Isaac was pumping him full of, but he was scared, scared of what he might do, of hurting Sloane. As his vision blurred and his body seized, the air rushed out of his lungs as his muscles went taut. The last thing he felt was a tear roll down his cheek. Then he felt nothing at all.

  Chapter 13

  “SLOANE, WE’VE got a problem.”

  Sloane tapped his earpiece, hearing a surge of gunfire and shouting in the background. “Cael? What’s going on?”

  “We’ve got company. As soon as our teams went in, Isaac’s followers started jumping ship, but when they fled the building, someone started shooting at them. It’s that Therian group from the news. I don’t know how they knew we were here, but they knew. It’s a mess. Lieutenant Sparks is sending backup.”

  “Shit.” Just what they needed. “Okay, keep me posted. It’s quiet up here, but I doubt it’ll stay that way.”

  “Copy that. And Sloane?”

  “Yeah?”

  “Get my brother out of there.”

  “Affirmative.” Sloane turned to his team. “We’re goin
g to have to split up. We’ve got unwanted visitors downstairs making a bigger mess of things. If anyone finds Dex, Shultzon, or Isaac, you call for backup immediately. I want you checking in every ten minutes. Go.” The team broke off, each heading in a different direction.

  Sloane wasn’t familiar with this part of the facility. He’d spent years here, undergoing all kinds of tests and treatments, a good deal of which he thankfully couldn’t remember. He and Ash had never been permitted to leave their floor. In between their sessions with doctors, psychologists, and scientists, they’d spent most of their time in the room they shared or in the classrooms. He turned a corner, walking cautiously through a set of double doors with high windows and froze. It was a long white corridor, the lights almost too bright, and at the end, a set of white double doors, exactly like in his nightmare.

  For the briefest moment, he thought he might be at home, or in Dex’s bed, having a bad dream, but he wasn’t. At least this time he had his weapon. He edged toward the doors when he heard a familiar voice.

  “Sloane, help me please.”

  This time it wasn’t Gabe, it was Dex.

 
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