Dark Winter: Book 2 – Chapter 24


Katie looked tired, or drugged, or both. James wasn’t sure, but she needed help. She didn’t deserve this prison, these tests, her… condition. My dad did this to her. He knew it and he did it. He’s a monster.

“My dad? My dad sent you? Who are you?” Katie said.

“My name is Jim and like I said, your dad sent me. Kind of,” he said, moving over to the bed and undoing the bonds that held her hands to the bed. There was an IV in her arm and he stared at it a moment before following the tube back to its bag, but the bag had no label. He had no idea if it was just a hydration IV or if it was something… else.

“Is my dad here? Is he with you?”

“No, well yes. I mean he’s here… but he’s not with me.”

“Where is he?”

In a shitty, dark cell, he thought but didn’t say it. Not yet. He wasn’t sure how he was going to get Chris out yet.

“He’s in the facility somewhere, but I can’t get to him right yet. We need to get you out of here, I don’t have a lot of time.”

Katie’s hand reached out and grabbed his wrist. Her grip was strong and James imagined that if she had that kind of strength in her state, she must have been something when she was healthy.

“Where is he? Where am I? What’s going on?”

“No time,” James said and slipped his arm from her grip, then moved down to undo the binding on her legs. Katie pulled the IV from her arm and bent down to remove the binding on her other leg, then swayed and vomited onto the floor. James forced himself to look, but he didn’t see any blood. That was a sign, he knew. Bloody vomit was a bad sign.

“Water…” Katie said, her voice hoarse.

“Soon,” James said and looked at the glass window. It showed only his own reflection. It was a two way mirror. Any number of people could be out there, watching him betray his father. They needed to go, now. He searched for an injection gun, grabbed it, and stuffed it into his pocket before returning to her.

“Hey,” she said as he grabbed her arm and guided her out of the bed and towards the door. She wore only a hospital slip and her bare feet made soft taps against the tile floor. He felt her skin prickle from the cold and she slumped against him, her knees buckling.

Turning, he scooped her up into his arms and carried out of the door. The hallway was clear but there was a general commotion further down, where Tricia had taken the medic. Soon enough they’d come looking for him. Someone would see.

What’s the plan here, Jimmy? The thought wasn’t a comfortable one. He didn’t have a plan. He didn’t think this one through. Being a pilot usually meant someone else thought it through, he just improvised when everything went to shit. Well, he was really improvising now.

“My dad,” Katie said, her voice a little stronger than before. “Where is he? Tell me? Is he okay?”

He considered lying, there was no time to talk. Stopping at the intersection, he glanced down the adjoining corridor. There was a nurse and an armed orderly chatting at the one end, where the metal doors leading to the infirmary and stairs were. The other direction was empty, for now, but it led further into the facility, back towards the cells where Chris Fox was.

“No,” he said. “He’s a prisoner, like you. He asked me to rescue you.”

I’m a regular Luke Skywalker, James thought. Saved the princess but I have no plan for getting the hell out of here. No garbage chute for us to…

“We have to get him out,” she said. “Let me down, I can stand.”

“You’re right,” James said, grinning, but he didn’t put her down yet. Instead, he watched the man and nurse talking, waited for them to turn around, or look another… there! He rushed them out of the hallway and further into the facility.

“I said—“

“Quiet,” James said, turning hallway after hallway, each time avoiding medical staff and scientists. It turned out to be easy. There were very few people allowed in this wing. For good reason I guess, James thought. Dad is going to have a lot to answer for some day.

When he reached the old storage area, now converted into cells, James paused and set her down. Katie stood up, keeping one hand on his arm but otherwise looking steady on her feet. James took a quick look and saw that the two guards were still there. They looked bored. Maybe this would be easier than he thought.

An alarm blared.

“Attention personnel, subject 127 is missing from the lab. Please be on the lookout for…” The voice quickly described Katie, who didn’t look at all pleased about the situation. The look she gave him made James wince.

“Subject 127?” she hissed.

“So, about that,” James said. “I’ll explain what I know… later.”

“Where is my dad,” she said, her voice a command, not a question.

“In there,” James said and indicated the direction of the cells. Katie leaned carefully out and quickly back into the corridor. “Are there only two?” she said.

“Probably. Maybe one inside?”

“Is this an army base?” she said, her voice low but dangerously calm.

“Uh, no, not really.”

“Good,” she said and left the corridor, stumbling towards the men at the door. James cursed and looked after her, his mind reeling for a plan, any kind of plan. They all ended with him being caught or shot.

“Hey!” Katie said, then a cough took her for several seconds.

“Holy shit, that’s her!” James heard one of the men say. “Hey, little girl, stop right there. It’s all right, we won’t hurt you—“

There was a sharp crack, like the splitting of bone, followed by a groan and the sound of someone slumping to the ground. James looked again and saw one of the men on the ground, his hands covering his face as blood seeped out everywhere from a broke nose. Katie’s face had blood on it, but he wasn’t sure if any of it was hers.

Holy shit, did she just headbutt that guy?

The other man reached for her and caught hold of both of her arms. James rushed him, hitting him in the side with his shoulder and slamming him into the wall. The man let out of a gasp of breath and dropped to his knees, the wind knocked from him. With a quick overhead chop with both hands, James knocked him to the ground. Whether he was unconscious or not was hard to tell, but James took his gun, then turned on the first man.

He’d stood up, one hand holding his nose while the other held a pistol, aimed at James. Katie threw her body against the outstretched arm of his assailant. The gun clattered down the hallway and James stepped in and struck him in the side of the head. The man dropped and didn’t move.

Katie picked up the man’s discarded pistol and held it  like she knew how to use it. This girl is either dangerous or really fucking handy to have around.

They went through the door, James leading while Katie brought up the rear. She was stumbling and wavering, but her grip on the gun was sure. He just hoped she didn’t accidentally shoot him.

Inside, there was only one man, and James subdued him quickly. He was glad he’d kept up his hand-to-hand, something they strongly urged pilots do. Staying trim and tough helped with G-Force tolerance and, in the event of an ejection, evasion of the enemy.

I never thought I’d be evading capture by my own people.

They locked and secured the door before stepping towards the cells. When they opened Chris Fox’s cell, he was on his feet already. His grizzled beard and long, disheveled hair gave him a frightful look but Katie was immediately in his arms. He held his daughter tightly and James could see tears in his eyes. James wondered what that felt like, to hold your own daughter, knowing she was dying of a virus you helped create? He hoped he’d never know.

“Oh Katie,” Chris said, stroking her hair. “I’m so sorry.”

“There’s nothing—“

“There’s a lot.”

“Sorry to cut this short, but we should really go,” James said, pointing a thumb behind him. Alarms went off again, a general alert. I guess someone found the guards. Immediately there was a loud banging on the door as they tried to beat their way in.

“I hope you have a secondary exit,” Chris said.

James nodded and waved them on. At the end of the cell area, behind a crudely erected set of metal shelves, was a large, metal flap. James, with Chris’s help, moved the shelving aside.

“I hope you guys like Star Wars, or you’ll never appreciate this,” James said and kicked the flap in. A smell wafted out that reminded James of rotting garbage and feces. Which was exactly what it was. The storage closet had a connection to an outside compost heap. James supposed the area was used to lower down supplies when this place was something else, but Black Dawn used it to create fertilizer. He never knew people were down at the other end. He felt bad for all those banana peels and chili dinners now.

If Chris understood the reference, he didn’t show it. Instead he was already half-way in and helping Katie after him. James took a last look around, then crawled in himself.

Above them, darkness burst into light as the hatch was pulled open. Standing there above them were two shapes.

“Jesus fucking Christ, Cubby. If you’d given me half a moment’s heads up, I’d have told you to use this damn thing in the first place.”

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