Magic Vs. Money: Part Six
Part 6: Infiltration
At twenty-three minutes past seven on the evening of October 12, a brown Mynci engineer came in through the front door of NeoCorp headquarters. He had a grey uniform and hat and a heavy-looking tool belt hung around his waist. The security cameras – made from auto-targeting telescope lasers with their weapons functions turned off – watched him walk up to the front desk, where the same security guard that had dealt with the swamp witch several days earlier was sitting with his nose in the same sports magazine. The Mynci showed a badge and, after apologizing for being late, said he’d been hired to do maintenance on the ventilation system. The Kougra barely looked at the badge, but told him to go ahead with his job, so the cameras dismissed him and went back to watching for suspicious activity.
The Mynci went into the building and made his way down the hall until he came to the entrance to the lower level where the research labs were built. The heavy iron door looked more like a bank vault than an entrance. The Mynci turned and went into the nearby restroom, examined the stalls and went into one that had a vent over it, locking the door behind him.
“Okay,” Danil said softly to himself. “So far, so good.”
The restroom door opened and he heard two people enter.
“Quiet night,” remarked one voice.
“It was quiet every night the week before Kass made his first attack,” a second, more gruff voice answered.
“Oh, don’t start that again,” said the first. “I’d like to go at least one night without hearing your war stories.”
“I’m just saying don’t let your guard down.”
“Who’s stupid enough to try and break in to this place?”
“You never know.”
Danil waited quietly for the two guards to leave before moving again. When they were gone, he took a wrench out of his tool belt, climbed up onto the toilet and, standing on his toes, he loosened the bolts on the vent, then opened the grate slowly to keep it from making noise. Pulling himself up into the vent, he closed the grate behind him and crawled into the darkness, feeling his way down the tunnels.
Danil had prided himself on his memory; it was a large part of what had made him such a good thief. After studying the building’s floor plans for an hour, he had the entire system committed to memory. He’d forget it again in a couple of days, but that was more than enough time. Following the tunnels from memory, he came to the long drop to the lower floors and made his way down the ladder. At the bottom, he crawled through the ducts to another restroom on the research floor.
Patiently, he waited, watching the scientists and occasional security guard go in and out. After half an hour, a yellow Mynci in a white lab coat that was roughly his size came in to wash his hands, muttering to himself about his day. Danil smiled as he came silently out of the vent, crawling toward the scientist to avoid being seen in the mirror. As the scientist finished wiping his hands, Danil leapt up and wrapped his arm around the scientist’s neck and pressed his palm into a soft spot on the side of the neck. After a few seconds of struggling, the scientist went out like a light and Danil dragged him back to a stall, where he tipped a small vial of sleeping potion into the unconscious scientist’s mouth and coaxed him to swallow it by massaging his throat. Stripping off the coat, he tied the scientist up, gagged him and stuffed him into the vent. He’d only be out for twenty minutes at most and anyone coming into the bathroom would probably hear him making noise after he woke up, but with a bit of luck, twenty minutes was all Danil needed.
Stuffing his tool belt and uniform further down the vent, he drank a yellow color potion and waited the few seconds it took for his fur to change before slipping the lab coat on, then hid two bottles of smoke motes in one of the inside pockets and a mechaberry bomb he’d found at the marketplace in the other. He looked at himself in the mirror. As long as nobody got too close a look at him and the security keycard on the coat – and he didn’t run into anybody the scientist was good friends with – he thought he should be able to get around the research labs without being questioned. Nodding to himself, he went out into the hallway.
As Danil had expected, security in the research labs wasn’t as tight as it had been above. There were more cameras, of course, probably connected to alarms, but the security guards were more relaxed. None of them expected someone to get this far in with all the security measures up top and since Danil now resembled the face on the card at a casual glance, the guards ignored him completely. Every few minutes, he stopped and used his keycard to get into one of the labs. The scientists looked up at him when he entered and when they didn’t recognize him, he shrugged and said he’d gone to the wrong lab.
“It’s okay,” said one of the scientists on his third try. “Everything’s screwed up since Mr. Mogul had lab A27 converted into a holding cell for the Winters family.”
“Yeah,” Danil said, smiling inwardly. “Talk about a bother.”
“I hear you,” the scientist agreed.
Nodding, Danil left the room and closed the door behind him. He’d guessed that the Winters family had been held in the lower level, since it would have been the hardest to escape from and it seemed that his guess had turned out correct. He quickly made his way down the halls to A27 and used his keycard to get in.
The security guard and the Winters family looked up at him as he entered, surprised to see someone else. Danil quickly glanced around the room with his eyes, not turning his head. The research equipment had been removed and the desks scooted up against the wall. A pair of mattresses had been laid out to sleep on and one shelf was stocked up with books to read. The Winters family was sitting on a set of cushioned chairs, holding each other; they didn’t look like either of them had been harmed in any way, but they seemed worried. Considering their daughter was outside somewhere, lost and alone for all they might have known, he understood that. A couple of impromptu security cameras stared down at him from two opposite corners of the room. The security guard, a blue Eyrie, looked bored for a moment, but quickly stood up when he saw Danil.
“Who are you?” the guard asked.
“I’m sorry, I worked in this lab,” Danil lied smoothly. “I think I left a clipboard in the desk drawer, do you mind if I check?”
The guard looked at Danil and noticed the security keycard hanging from his coat. “Yeah,” he said. “Go ahead.”
Danil glanced at the Winters family. Mr. Winters seemed confused that he didn’t recognize the new scientist, but didn’t want to say anything, while Mrs. Winters merely clung to her husband’s coat. He smiled at them and went over to where the desks had been piled up and made a show of trying to move them a couple of times, then looked back to the guard.
“Hey, could you help me out here?”
The guard sighed heavily and walked over to Danil and rolled up his sleeves. As he bent over to grab the desk, Danil took a quick step behind him, balled his fists together and, taking a second to gage the hit, struck the guard on the back of the neck at the base of the skull. The guard’s head came down hard, smacking on the desk. He collapsed in a semi-conscious heap on the floor under the desk. In a single fluid motion, he snatched the bottles of smoke motes from his pocket and hurled them at the cameras. They shattered, releasing the creatures inside, which immediately covered the cameras in thick, black clouds. Behind him, he heard Mrs. Winters gasp and noted the sound of both of them standing up suddenly, but he couldn’t pay attention yet; the guard was still conscious. He brought his foot up into the dazed guard’s face with enough force to bring his head up to smack against the bottom of the desk. With a groan, the guard fell, out cold. Grabbing the mechaberry bomb, Danil ran toward the door as an alarm began to sound.
“I’m here to get you out,” he said as he passed by the Winters family, who watched him, slightly horrified. “Go get that vent open.”
Mr. Winters hesitated for a second, then did as he was told. Without looking back at him, Danil switched the dial on the bomb to a proximity trigger and set it on the doorframe so that it would go off as soon as someone tried to open the door. Given its thickness, Danil figured that the door would absorb most of the explosion, but the concussion would stun anyone standing on the other side when it did. He ran back to the corner and helped Mr. Winters pry the vent grate open.
“Alright, both of you follow me,” he said. “Mr. Winters, hold on to my tail, Mrs. Winters hold his and that way you won’t get lost.”
“Who are you?” Mrs. Winters asked.
“No time,” Danil said sharply. “We’ve got to get you out of here before the guards show up. Come with me, I’ll get you to your daughter.”
That was enough for the two of them. Crawling into the vent, Danil led them through the dark tunnels while the alarm blared in the halls bellow them. Somewhere behind them, they heard the dull thud of an explosion.
“Blast,” Danil muttered. “I’d hoped we’d have more time. Hurry!”
He made a brief stop at the restroom, where the scientist was starting to stir. Danil divested himself of the lab coat, snatched up his clothes and tool belt and continued on, leading them up the ladder and feeling his way through to a vent over an office. Gesturing for the other two to be quiet, he took the third dust mote out of his bag and popped the cork, pouring the creature out onto the grate so that its smoke began to pour into the office. The worker inside saw the smoke and let out a panicked yelp before running from the room.
“When the guards hear about this,” Danil explained as he continued to lead them on, “they’ll come running here thinking we’re trying to get out. My guess is they’ll search the halls in this area for a little while, but we won’t have long.”
“How are we going to get out?” Mr. Winters asked.
“There’s a vent on the outside of the building.”
“What about Talya?” Mrs. Winters asked. “Where is she?”
“She’s safe,” Danil said. “She’s with a friend.”
“Why are you doing this?”
“Because I’m a stupid sentimentalist who still can’t resist a challenge after all these years.”
The two were quiet for a moment. Then Mr. Winters spoke.
“That doesn’t make any sense.”
“No, it doesn’t,” Danil admitted. “But most things in this world don’t.”
Danil led them on in silence to the outside vent, looking through it. The guards were nowhere in sight at the moment, still thinking he and the captives were still inside. Good. He took the box of invisibility powder out.
“Now, once we’re out, we run straight for the hotel,” he said. “I’m staying at room 117.”
Before they could ask any questions, Danil threw a handful of the powder over them and they vanished from sight in a shower of sparkles. Danil sprinkled himself next, then peeked out through the vent again. Still no one watching. Drawing a deep breath, he kicked out the grate and leapt out. Behind him, he heard two thumps as the Winters family followed.
“Remember, straight for the hotel, room 117,” he said and then took off running.
Behind them, NeoCorp Headquarters loomed silently, its soundproof doors keeping the world oblivious to the chaos inside. By the time the security guards came outside to search the area and discovered the opened vent, the captives and their rescuer were long gone.
To be continued...