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Co-Writer Paul Robison*
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Paul Robison
Jan 14, 2018
12 Mins Read
No Plagiarism!xg1zKASftZglq1T0YM4mposted on PENANA

Powers was sound asleep next to Lori when the walkie-talkie on the table next to the bed squawked.  He came awake fully and instantly----a habit left over from combat days that he had never lost---sat up as he swung his legs out of bed.  Landon Sparks's voice came from the walkie-talkie. "Patrick!"21Please respect copyright.PENANA3J5BBtygCn
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Powers snatched it up, thumbed the button on the side, and said, "I'm here, Landon.  What's up?"copyright protection17PENANA3nb4WVFOb8

"Somebody's opened the hatch at the top of the freight elevator.  I'm on duty in the security office and got the alarm.  I'm heading for the Command Center.  Can you check out the elevator?"copyright protection17PENANANrtetmfr8j

"On my way," Powers said.  He bit back a curse.  He had warned Luckett that the elevator might be a vulnerable point.  Luckett had told Tod McKee to double the guard, but Powers wasn't sure that was enough.  Luckett was a technophile; he relied on all the built-in security measures.  He might not be as aware as he should have been, though, that sometimes the best defense was a wall of well-armed soldiers.copyright protection17PENANANigsYP2weS

Of course, most of the members of the police force weren't soldiers at all, but they were the closest thing available down here, Powers thought as he shoved his feet into the work boots next to the bed. He slept in socks, sweatpants, and T-shirt, so putting the boots on was all he needed to do in order to be dressed and ready to move.copyright protection17PENANArhfCmcy11K

"Eddy, I heard that," Lori said from where she had sat up on the other side of the bed. "What's wrong?"copyright protection17PENANA9ObC3FZi68

"Don't know, but that elevator hatch shouldn't be opening."  He stood up and reached for the best with the holstered 1911 attached to it.copyright protection17PENANACUqSnpHpWW

"This is going to compromise the sealed environment down here."copyright protection17PENANAhoex1AJzBK

"Maybe. If the elevator doors stay closed, it might not."copyright protection17PENANAjLzvnCbmVh

"The hatch wouldn't open unless somebody was trying to use the elevator."copyright protection17PENANAuxcVpzl7Zh

The same thought had occurred immediately to Powers, followed by a question.copyright protection17PENANA4hGiOHSygu

"Was somebody trying to get in---or out?"copyright protection17PENANAiAfS6Duh0p

"Keep your pistol close until we find out what's going on," he told his wife as he buckled on the gunbelt. "I'll be back"copyright protection17PENANAzvXLrmlMul

"Eddy, be careful," she called after him as he hurried out.copyright protection17PENANA4yCKRrrKZI

He would have told her he always was, if they hadn't both known that wasn't strictly true.copyright protection17PENANAeijuap8FH8

Powers hurried out of the apartment and into Corridor 1.  The short hallway leading to the freight elevator opened from Corridor 2, so he had to run halfway to the other end of the project to reach the hall forming the crossbar in the giant letter "H."  He pounded along it toward Corridor 2, not knowing what he was going to find but feeling deep in his gut that it wasn't going to be good.copyright protection17PENANA5gE225poST

He came out, swung to his right, and saw that people were milling around, obviously upset by something.  Powers paused and asked a man in pajamas, "What's going on?"copyright protection17PENANAJWsmHjO93O

"Somebody said they heard gunshots," the man replied.copyright protection17PENANASi6bNhBVXi

That made Powers's heart beat even harder.  The next second, a woman screamed, kicking his adrenaline even higher.  He bulled his way through the crowd and came to the hallway leading to the freight elevator.  People were sobbing and cussing now.  Powers waved them back.  His jaw clenched as he looked along the hall.  Twenty feet away lay the bodies of the two men who'd been posted here on guard duty.  Pools of blood around their heads told him they'd been shot.copyright protection17PENANA32zH5BNuZF

The elevator doors were sealed, but Powers didn't believe for one second that they had been that way all along.  The only reason to kill the guards was because someone wanted to use the elevator.  Carlyn Trogdon's name sprang into Powers's mind.  He couldn't know for sure that was the case, true, but it was a strong hunch.  Would Trogdon do something as crazy as going up to the surface to find her husband?  Powers didn't doubt it for one second!copyright protection17PENANAoJBQ5jaTse

"Shouldn't  you get help for those men?" someone in the crowd asked.copyright protection17PENANAHkxOwk57f2

Powers knew from the way the guards were sprawled and the amount of blood that had welled from their head wounds that nothing was going to help them now, but he didn't want to say that in front of these people.  Instead he pulled the walkie-talkie from his pocket, keyed the microphone, and said, "Medical personnel to the freight elevator, ASAP!"copyright protection17PENANAqj5Z1aBOFB

Then he stiffened a she heard something.  He thrust out his left arm in a peremptory gesture and rested his right hand on the Colt at his hip.copyright protection17PENANAt3k5Upo4iR

"Shut up! Everybody be quiet!"copyright protection17PENANAj0cQOJaURq

"What is it?" a man asked.copyright protection17PENANAWhJ2hKcTzR

The faint rumble Powers heard could mean only one thing.copyright protection17PENANAu3VO8PexUx

He waved the left arm at the crowd and shouted, "Get out of here! Clear out! Everybody move!"copyright protection17PENANApdxB3lkefb

The elevator was coming back down from the surface!copyright protection17PENANAEctnfL8sEH

Inside the Command Center, alarms klaxoned.  Spooked by the loud, raucous noise, Zack Caron grabbed Mike Hung, jerked him around, and ground the barrel of his gun against the horrified tech's cheek.copyright protection17PENANAk9LfXT4brY

"What the fuck!" Caron said.copyright protection17PENANAIQcgsfBNtR

"I warned you about those alarms!" Hung practically wailed. copyright protection17PENANAZ84tvjfELT

"I didn't know it would be like that! Can't you turn them off?"copyright protection17PENANAm527l01qcs

"No, I'm sorry, I...."copyright protection17PENANApUjBaMRMAl

Hung didn't get any further before the other male technician gathered up his courage now that Caron wasn't pointing the gun at him and the woman anymore.  The man leaped out of his chair and charged.copyright protection17PENANAEAtI3Z2iDO

Caron heard the slap of shoe leather on the floor and wheeled around.  He pulled the trigger and the boomed, flame lancing from its barrel.  The slug tore through the other tech's shoulder, but the man's momentum carried him forward so that he crashed into Caron and knocked him back into Hung.  All three of them sprawled against the console where Hung had been working earlier.copyright protection17PENANAc0Uf7ff9Fr

Hung screamed and frantically grabbed Caron's wrist so he could point the gun away from him.  Caron's trigger finger jerked spasmodically.  The weapon blasted twice more.  Both bullets smashed into the gauges and controls in the console.  Sparks flew with an electrical crackling.copyright protection17PENANAC4mWGxIxkj

Caron rammed a fist under Hung's chin and jerked his head back.  Hung went limp and slithered to the floor.  Caron shoved the other man away, which gave him enough room to swing the pistol and slam it against the man's head.  The wounded technician went down, too.copyright protection17PENANASYTlHXkKgY

Caron turned to look for the woman.  She was gone now.  The door was open. He cursed as he realized she had made a run for it while he was tangled up with the two guys.copyright protection17PENANAysZsI7IXgo

But it didn't matter.  Carlyn would be on her way to the surface by now, and nobody was going to stop her.  He guessed there were overrides on the elevator, but he wasn't sure they'd work anymore, considering the damage his shots had done to the controls.copyright protection17PENANApStMO9kxGF

Carlyn hadn't known what she was going to find when she got up there, but her plan was to locate her husband and bring him and some of the others back down here. She'd have to do it quickly, though, otherwise Luckett would have to freeze the elevator at the surface.  Caron's hunch was that most of the survivors would be close to the project's entrances, hoping for some miracle that would let them come down to safety.copyright protection17PENANAQyEJUlGf6W

At worst, Carlyn would be with her husband again, and since that was what she wanted more than anything else, Caron was willing to go along with it.  Sure, he'd miss her once she was gone, but there were plenty of other single women---legitimately single women---down here. Well, maybe not plenty, and some of them weren't really that good-looking, he amended, but there were some.copyright protection17PENANAdEpc77jQ5A

A chance was all he'd ever asked for in life.copyright protection17PENANAevsHhhQCOx

"Hey!"copyright protection17PENANAhE6Vo0h5fn

The shout snapped Caron out of the momentary reverie.  He looked up, saw the stocky figure of a guy he recognized as Landon Sparks.  The policeman had a gun in his hand, so Caron didn't stop to think about it.  He just fired his own gun and saw Sparks rock back a step as the bullet punched into him.copyright protection17PENANA2t2sGazZ0F

Then flamed blossomed from the muzzle of Sparks's gun and Caron felt the hammerblow of a bullet.  It knocked him back.  He tripped over the unconscious Mike Hung and fell to the floor.  A wet heat flooded through his body.  He couldn't seem to get his breath, and his muscles just flopped uselessly when he ordered them to get up.copyright protection17PENANAzfa2WsjN58

He was able to lift his gun, though.  He pointed it at the dark figure coming toward him, knowing it had to be Sparks.  Caron was trying to pull the trigger again when the world split apart in orange flame.copyright protection17PENANAlmNricsAhI

That was the last thing he knew.copyright protection17PENANAXkb0MRamRb

Except for a fleeting image of Carlyn's face.copyright protection17PENANA2rqcunFObK

It was like something out of a horror movie.  Twisted, grotesque faces leering at her.  Skeletal hands clawing at her clothes and face.  Gaunt bodies slamming against her, driving her against the back wall of the elevator. copyright protection17PENANAWw7JYpWqZd

No wonder terrified screams ripped Carlyn's throat raw!copyright protection17PENANA8XykYlb9H3

She flailed at the attackers flooding into the elevator.  Panic gave her strength.  She knocked several of them away from her.  Sickness twisted her stomach as she felt her fists slide off faces that were little more than oozing sores.copyright protection17PENANAkJvLWZ9BNk

The relatively close quarters of the elevator worked in her favor.  With her back pressed to the wall, the maddened survivors couldn't surround her. As soon as she had enough breathing room, she reached behind her and closed her around the gun.  There were several rounds left in the magazine.  She hoped that would be enough to drive these lunatics away.copyright protection17PENANAmJQttPTpfT

Before she could fire, another gun went off somewhere nearby.  The dull boom sounded like a shotgun.  The attackers flinched from the sound and then began to shrink away from her as a man shouted, "Get out of there!  Get back, dammit!"copyright protection17PENANADoRbIPxUZe

Instantly, Carlyn knew those tones.  She had expected never to hear them again.  She cried, "Matt!"  copyright protection17PENANAXkYs5Vsewf

Her husband waded into the knot of people still blocking the elevator's entrance and flung them aside with one hand while his other held the shotgun he had just fired. Carlyn saw him and felt her heart practically leap up her throat.  Still holding the shotgun, he threw his arms around her and pulled her against him.copyright protection17PENANAzTZqnsfgSu

"I thought I'd never see you again," he rasped.copyright protection17PENANAawS1IBRfvQ

Carlyn just cried, unable to find words anymore.copyright protection17PENANAttasWgnovU

Another man shouted, "Back off!" The rest of the survivors cleared the elevator.  The newcomer stood in the doorway, brawny and broad-shouldered, with a white beard and white hair pulled into a short ponytail.  Like Matt Trogdon, he held a pump shotgun.copyright protection17PENANAD4NCva5KrX

After one moment, Matt turned toward the other man, put his arm around Carlyn's shoulders, and said in a voice rich in emotion, "Adam, this is my wife."copyright protection17PENANAeBu7DcIure

The man called Adam gave her a curt nod. "Ma'am." He looked at Matt and went on, "Looks like your hunch paid off.  You said the lady would get to you one way or another, if it was possible at all."copyright protection17PENANAlVHvnDMK1i

"And now we've got a way down there!"copyright protection17PENANAFFnsiSDnC5

A frown crossed Adam's forehead. He said, "I'm still not sure that's a good idea."copyright protection17PENANAlRHPZk1IPt

"None of our people are going to survive up here.  You know that."copyright protection17PENANAWaoEGLhtwj

"Maybe, maybe not.  Some of 'em are still in pretty good shape.  Could be it's time to move on, like those folks down there suggested."copyright protection17PENANALbZ8Eh0iFD

Carylon could tell that this argument between the two men was nothing new.  She looked around, saw that they were below ground level in what appeared to be the basement of a collapsed building.  Rubble from that structure had fallen around them.  This had been a warehouse at one time, she realized, probably for the supplies Luckett had taken down into the project.  The flames she'd seen were from a large campfire about fifty yards away. The ragged, emaciated, diseased survivors had retreated toward it.  Carlyn saw men, women, children, all in bad shape.  Many of them looked like pictures she'd seen of prisoners from Nazi concentration camps, only worse if that was possible.copyright protection17PENANAn0u5QupScf

She looked up at her husband and said, "You've been waiting for me?"copyright protection17PENANAl9pJN6v4z1

"Sure have," Matt said. "I knew you'd come if you could.  And I knew that you'd save us all."copyright protection17PENANAokdntSEuaj

Adam just shook his head and stepped away, as if declaring that he wasn't going to have anything to do with this.  Carlyn supposed that he was Matt's friend, but right now she didn't care.  All that mattered was that the two of them were together again.copyright protection17PENANA7ykCDa633j

"How much time do we have before they turn off the elevator?" Matt asked.copyright protection17PENANAjpsJ8fPEko

"I don't know.  I've got a friend holding the Command Center.  He'll give us as much time as he can."copyright protection17PENANAGIJU6dMKHW

"A friend?" Matt asked the question, then gave an abrupt shake of his head as if realizing that it didn't matter right now.  He lifted a hand, put a couple of fingers in his mouth, and gave an old-fashioned piercing whistle the carried through the dark night.copyright protection17PENANA4Ovpr9zydD

Carlyn's eyes widened as more ragged figures began to drop down into the ruined basement.  The dancing firelight threw shadows back and forth over them as they swarmed toward the elevator.  Although gaunt and obviously sick, they seemed to be in better shape than the hapless unarmed creatures who'd rushed the elevator.copyright protection17PENANASw2kfbA4PU

All of these people carried weapons.  Most held firearms.  Carlyn saw a variety of pistols, shotguns, and rifles.  A few brandished axes or pitchforks.  The firelight glittered on knife blades, too.copyright protection17PENANAtwDdqJqcu7

Even though the survivors had listened to Matt and followed his orders earlier, the sight of this small but lethal army made Carlyn step back as fear welled up inside her.copyright protection17PENANA9zWFYoOxW1

"Don't worry," Matt told her.  "They're your friends now.  They know you came to save them."copyright protection17PENANAbPxd9NpJSf

Carlyn wasn't sure what those diseased-ravaged brains knew. As more and more of the survivors crowded into the big elevator, she and Matt were forced back into a corner.  The stench of corrupted flesh filled the air and made her want to gag.  She forced down the reaction.copyright protection17PENANAElLizc1Zow

"I---I thought you might want to leave here and go somewhere else," she said. "Just us two."21Please respect copyright.PENANAL7taM64zDS
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Matt shook his head and said, "We wouldn't make it. We need what's down there, Carlyn."21Please respect copyright.PENANAVeSvFGH2wa
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"But these people-----" She suddenly felt queasy about what she had done and the possibilities she had opened up.  Keeping her voice at a whisper only her husband could hear, she went on, "Most of them aren't going to live."21Please respect copyright.PENANAsAUxcv0KMC
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"Maybe not, but they'll have more of a chance.  And there's something that's more important, anyway."21Please respect copyright.PENANA8yKCIwJN6m
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"What's that?" Carlyn asked as someone at the front of the car pressed the button that closed the doors.  Howls of outrage came from those left outside, but the doors cut off the sound.21Please respect copyright.PENANAF2ByxheejL
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"Revenge," Matt replied. "Revenge on Chase Lucket on everyone else who turned their backs on us and left us up here in this hell."21Please respect copyright.PENANApMljkxPkiC
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"You mean..."21Please respect copyright.PENANAXraI3TfMGl
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"We're going down there to kill as many of the bastards as we can.  If we manage it, we'll kill 'em all."21Please respect copyright.PENANA9mnKVU199l
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With a lurch, the overloaded elevator began to descend. 21Please respect copyright.PENANAVz8gSsNIN6
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