It was a slow awakening as the drugs seeped from Methos’s system. He felt his heart stagger back to life, as his lungs took its first, painful gulp of air, and his nerve endings burned with a familiar ache, as his circulatory system once more stuttered and started. He resisted the urge to move as his body came back to life.
It was official. Drugs were bad for you, even if you were an Immortal.
Grimacing, he disengaged the magnetic locks on his suit, and undid the clasps of his helmet. Removing it, he raised his head carefully. The harsh chromatic lights of the landing bay threw the area into stark relief. He heard the shuttle door open beneath him, and ducked his head, as he heard Inara’s voice waft through the bay.
“This is so kind of you, Frank,” she said. “I know this must be an inconvenience for you, but I’m sure you understand how I wanted to be certain before I…committed myself to helping with your research.”
“Just doing my job, ma’am,” the shuttle pilot muttered. “And the Commander said I was to help you in any way I could.”
“And how is dear Henry? It’s been too long since we've spent time together.”
“He’s well, ma’am.” A pause. “If you, and your servant, will come with me?”
He heard their footsteps echo across the deck, and he risked a glance. Inara and Amanda were crossing the cargo deck, along with the shuttle pilot, but the two security guards were nowhere to be seen, which probably meant they were in the shuttle below.
He tried to look on the bright side. They were security, which probably meant their passes were top grade. All he had to do was kill them before they raised an alarm, and the rest should be a cake walk.
But first he had to strip off the unwieldy space suit he was wearing, without alerting them to his presence. He bit back a sigh, and undid the seals that attacked his gloves to his suit. Uneasily, he sat up and released the seals and locks on his boots.
“Hey, did you hear that?”
Grimacing, Methos lay down, and fumbled with the seals in his suit as he heard boots clatter down the shuttle’s ramp. The clasps gave way, with a loud pop, and the footsteps beneath him stopped abruptly.
“Who’s there?” a voice called out
Methos resisted the urge to curse as he hastily felt inside the chest of his suit for the weapon Amanda had given him. At least a laser gun was silent, and unlikely to set off any sensor alarms.
His hand gripped gun’s handle and he lay deathly still, listening for their next move. He couldn’t hear them, but that didn’t mean they weren’t communicating. He waited for the telltale footfall; a moment passed, and then another.
There was the slide of a boot on a metal walkway, and Methos knew that if he didn’t make his move soon, he would lose his advantage. He sat up, bolt upright and fired. The laser ripped though the security guard's chest and he let out a low, surprised gasp.
“What the gorram heck!”
The voice came from directly behind him, and Methos twisted, finding himself face to face with the other security, his gun already raised. This one had obviously learned how to walk softly.
“How the hell did you fool our sensors!” he said, before his eyes widened as he looked past Methos’s shoulder and saw the body on the deck. His gun fired, hitting him square on the chest, and Methos heaved as the pain burned through him. He felt the edges of his consciousness white out, and fired; at point blank range, there was little chance of him missing. The laser gun cut a white hot line through the guard’s chest, and the stench of burning flesh filled his senses as he blacked out. Thrice dead in less than an hour; it really wasn’t his day.
River landed the shuttle neatly, less than a mile from the facility, and Zoe stood abruptly, strapping on a protective vest and throwing one to River. “Any signal yet?” she asked.
River silently shook her head, eyes down, as she pulled the vest over her head..
Zoe gave her a long look. “Are you okay, River?” she asked, carefully.
“Everything’s a circle,” she said, quietly. “I always knew I was coming back.”
Zoe took a long breath. River was only now approaching the age Zoe had been when she joined the military. She had been eighteen years old, and thought she could take on the world, but nothing could have prepared her for her first fire fight. The memory was still visceral in her mind. The pounding beat in her chest, the taste of copper and fear in her mouth. The first life she took. The shame and terror, and the sheer relief she felt when she realised she’d survived it.
“This ain’t my first fire fight,” River said, looking up and catching her eyes. “I’ve taken a life before, Zoe. They carved the killer into me.”
“I know that, River” Zoe said. “But that doesn’t mean you can’t be afraid.”
River shrugged, her eyes straying to the pilot controls. “We should be going now.” The shuttle doors began to rise, and River strapped on Amanda’s laser pistol to her leg, before putting her shotgun into its holster on her back. River was unarmed, but Zoe knew better than to think she was defenceless.
The fact that Inara or Methos hadn’t called in yet was niggling at her, however, and she looked at River. “Can you relay any incoming messages through the shuttle’s COM unit?” she asked.
River threw her a look that spoke volumes. “Already done,” she said, with a toss of her head, as she ran down the ramp. “I’m not an idiot, you know.”
“No, but I’m thinking I
may be,” Zoe muttered. What on earth had possessed her to let Amanda go, instead of her? Oh yes, her skills at thievery and opening locked doors. They’ll be hell to pay if she wasn’t as good as Methos said he was.
Sighing, Zoe picked up the Amanda’s pack - the one she’d said she’d need - and followed River down the ramp.~~~*~~*~~*~~~
Methos woke again with a spluttered gasp, and felt the weight of the security guard’s body draped across his legs. He rolled it off, ignoring the sound of its impact on the deck. He looked down at the remains of his space suit, and pulled it off hurriedly. The bullet hole showed distinctly in his shirt, underneath, and he didn’t have any shoes.
He crawled off the roof of the shuttle, glancing around before he rifled through the security guard’s clothes until he found his pass card. His eyes travelled down until they reached the dead man’s boots. He tried them on for size.
Methos looked around. No alarms were sounding, but that didn’t mean that there wasn’t a silent alert system. Just in case, however, he dragged the bodies into the shuttle, and crammed them into the storage compartment, grabbing the other corpse’s card as he did so. The plan was already falling apart, but anything that kept them guessing, and bought them a few more minutes, was a good thing.
He tried the pass card on the door, and it opened smoothly. This could mean either they hadn’t realised they had an intruder yet, or that the security system wasn’t wired into he facilities lockdown.
There was a third option, of course, the one that meant he was walking into a trap.
He crouched down, pulled out his gun, and cautiously ducked his head out; the corridor was deserted. If the map Simon had shown them was correct, Amanda and Inara would be a floor up.
The elevator was empty, but wouldn’t move without the pass card. Methos was beginning to see what Simon meant about the facility. Without the security protocols, it was almost impossible to move.
Another empty corridor greeted him as the elevator doors opened.. Where were all the guards? He had been expecting to find a well defended fortress, He was beginning to feel uneasy. As silently as he could, he moved down the corridor, and felt the first tendrils of Amanda’s presence. He stopped in front of a door that had a plaque that said, appropriately enough, Guest’s Lounge
. For a black ops medical facility, it was very
He slipped the card into the door, and it opened.
He saw Amanda’s eyes widen warningly, over the shoulder of a uniformed man in front of her, and ducked his head out of the room just in time.
“That’s strange,” the man rumbled, as he approached the door. “There nobody there.”
“Maybe it was a glitch in the system, Henry,” Inara smoothly interjected.
“Our system never glitches,” he said. “Maybe I should contact-oomph!” There was the sound of smashing glass and he heard a dead weight hit the floor. Methos ducked back into the room, and found Amanda going through the Commander’s pockets, carefully avoiding the remains of a broken glass vase strewn across the carpeting.
“Alive?” he asked.
Amanda nodded. “Ho won’t be up and about for a while, though. We still have time – and look what I found: a Commander’s pass, with his six digit key code conveniently scrawled on the back, just in case he forgot it. How considerate of him,” she drawled, waving the card.
Inara rose from the couch. “Zoe and River will be waiting for us to contact them,” she pointed out. “We need to hurry.”
“We need to get him out of his clothes," Amanda said. Methos arched an eyebrow at her, and she threw the pass card at him. "For you, you idiot, or did you think that bullet holed shirt was all the rage?"
Methos rolled his eyes, and bent down to help her. “We need to move fast. Someone is bound to suspect something is wrong soon.”
“Tell me something I don’t know,” Amanda muttered, as she grabbed the commander’s gun. “How many levels underground are we?”
Methos’s mind flitted back to the controls in the elevator. “There’s another three floors between us and the surface,” he said, as he pulled on the uniform’s tunic.
Amanda looked at him, up and down, and gave him a nod of approval. “You’ll do,” she said. “Now, all we have to do is tie him up.”
Silently, Inara handed her scarf, and Amanda got to work as Methos risked a look at the hallway. “Everything is still quiet,” he said.
“It won’t be for long,” Inara said, as she joined him at the door. “This level is mainly used for the low level stuff; processing staff and guests, and storage. It’s the same with the floors between here and the surface. The actual surface entrance is another thing, however, as are the floors beneath us.”
“Fun and games,” Methos said grimly. “We’d better get started.” ~~~*~~*~~*~~~
“Damn it, I knew it was going too easy,” Zoe muttered, as she eyed the security at the entrance, at the bottom of the hill. There were four guards, but that was the least of their problems. She noted the telltale protrusions on the walls that meant there was a laser defence system.
River crouched down beside her. “They’ll have the codes,” she said, with a confidence Zoe didn’t feel. She pulled her rifle out, and caught one of the guards within her sights. She figured she'd get two of them before they could alert anyone.
“Give me the laser gun,” River said softly.
Zoe gave her a wary look. “It’s okay, River, I can manage.”
River shook her head, her hair falling into her eyes. “I’ll be quick,” she told Zoe.
Zoe studied River’s face. She knew the girl was the better shot, but she remembered the blank look on River’s face the last time she killed. It hurt her, deep inside, somewhere where nobody else could reach.
“It’s alright, Zoe,” River said solemnly. “I know what has to be done.”
And that was when the doors opened, and all hell broke loose.~~~TBC~~~