Sometimes it didn’t pay to get out of bed. That was the thought that continued to bounce around Colonel Lincoln Marshall’s head as he walked around the examination room. Not only did they lose the specimen-which didn’t bother him after seeing what happened-and both the General and the security forces sent to stop the cyborg, but the woman disappeared into the ductwork.
And to make things worse, the President had been watching it all from the situation room and both the late General Thomas and himself looked like complete putzs. Now everyone went into Damage Control mode to try and bail their rears out of the fire that would be coming. The Command in Chief didn’t tolerate failure and Marshall screwed up on such a royal scale he’d be lucky to be able to keep his pension when everything settled down.
The one thing that prevented them from being able to put on a full-on search was the fact that the woman was in the ductwork. Oh, he could put the base on close circuit air, but she could do massive damage to the system being in her position, so it leaving it open didn’t make much of a difference at this point.
One thing that bothered the Colonel was the impulsiveness General Thomas displayed prior to his death. The man built an entire career on rationality and making the right decisions but it seems like he threw it all down the drain over these two specimens. Now Thomas was dead, throwing the facility into a leadership vacuum that Marshall struggled to fill.
“Colonel,” a soldier said. “The woman hasn’t been found yet.”
“Of course not,” he said. “She’s smart. Look at how quick she thought to get in that duct.”
“Do you want us to continue our search?”
“No. Station men around the exits and outside where the vent is. She isn’t going to make an appearance anywhere inside her. You can take that to the bank.”
Now came the moment he’d been dreading since the cyborg woke up and attacked the research staff. The White House would be wanting a situation report and that would be where he’d get reamed. No doubt both the Defense Secretary and the President were preparing their knives for it.
A pair of soldiers escorted Marshall as started the long trip to central command. Normally he’d’ve dismissed them and made the walk alone but given what happened-and the woman being on the loose-the colonel felt it safer to keep an escort. Although after what he saw, the soldier seriously doubted the two riflemen could do much to keep him alive if push came to shove.
Normally a ride in the elevator proved to be relaxing because the colonel could drop the stiff, officer’s image and just be himself for a minute without anyone seeing it. However, he didn’t dare relax now b/c no one knew where the woman was and how would exit the building.
I’m betting she’s already long gone, he thought. As smart as the warrior is, she’s going to find a way to reach her fighter.
“Colonel,” one of the guards said before handing him a radio. “It’s the base in Richmond.”
“Colonel, this is Doctor Jamisen. What would you like us to do with the other specimen?”
“In no way are you to go near it or try to download anything from it. Understand?”
“Good, we’ll discuss this later. Right now I have to brief the President on what’s happened here.” He killed the connection and then tossed the radio to the soldier. “Let’s get moving.”
Talia knelt down on the roof of the elevator car and took a second to catch her breath. Sweat poured down her face despite the cold temperatures inside the facility, soaking her shirt, causing it to cling to her pert breasts like a second skin.
Getting through the air ducts didn’t take her as far as she thought it would. There’d been a crossroads and she’d turned left and ended up sliding downwards to burst through a vent into a small room built into the elevator shaft wall for technicians. Once there it’d taken several minutes to figure out where she was and then end up on top of an elevator car that rested one floor below.
Maybe landing in the shaft would turn out to be a fortuitous break in all honesty. No doubt the humans had people guarding every external vent exit throughout the facility, which would’ve meant either knocking out or killing someone to escape-and that didn’t rank highly in her book. With any luck they won’t think to check to exits from the shaft to the surface and she could get out without being detected.
Yes, it was a long-shot and the warrior held no self-delusions that the odds were in her favor. Twenty thousand years in combat taught Talia long ago that wishing did nothing but get her in spots that she could’ve kept herself out of had she not let herself forget the reality of the situation.
The only wild card and the one that really kept her from being able to consider the odds in her favor, was the humans and how they’d behave. Never in her long life did Talia encounter a race that was as unpredictable as mankind, which left her wondering just how they would arrange security in the effort to keep her from escaping.
Sweat dripped from her hair and then landed on the dirty roof as she listened to a small group of soldiers enter the car below. Judging from the sound of the footsteps, there were at least two, maybe three of them, and without a doubt they’d be armed. After what happened to the General and the people who tried to stop the Dragus, it would in her opinion be foolhardy to walk around unarmed. The only problem was that they’d consider a threat and potentially shoot her without even thinking about it.
“Colonel,” one of the soldiers said. “It’s the base in Richmond.”
A moment went by before the man spoke again. “In no way are you to go near it or try to download anything from it. Understand? Good, we’ll discuss this later. Right now I have to brief the President on what’s happened here. Let’s get moving.”
There were times in Talia’s life when she was tempted to kill someone out of spite-and this was one of them. The utter stupidity of the human race amazed the warrior on one hand and disgusted her on the other. How could one group of people be willing to risk their lives on something they didn’t even know what it was? It’d already cost several lives and if that drone in Richmond-where ever that was-activated, then millions, no billions, of lives were at risk.