Blood and thunder, p.24

Blood & Thunder, page 24

 part  #2 of  THIRDS Series

 

Blood & Thunder
 


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  “Take cover!” Sloane ordered, grabbing Dex and pulling him behind the van as shots rang out. Bullets sprayed the van, windows bursting, and tiny shards of glass raining down in all directions. Small chunks of brick from the building next to them flew off and crumbled to dust. Sloane hit the small communicator button on his vest’s radio. “Destructive Delta, come in.”

  Maddock’s gruff tone did little to mask the concern in his voice as it came on the line. “What’s your position?”

  “It’s a trap. They were waiting for us. I make over a dozen heavily armed men, but there could be more. We’re under heavy fire. Where the hell are you guys?”

  “Less than ten minutes away.”

  “Okay. We’ll try and hold them off.”

  “Copy that.”

  Sloane edged toward the front wheel of the van, peeking around the front fender. A bullet ricocheted right by his helmet and he jerked back. He prepared to fire when the garage door on their right just ahead rolled open. He aimed his rifle, Dex at his back, but no one came out. “That can’t be good.”

  “What’s our next move?”

  “If we stay out here, we’re dead. I’ll cover you. Ready?”

  “Ready.”

  “Now!” Sloane popped up from behind the van, firing at the gunmen, who took cover, but not before Sloane clipped two of them in the leg, sending them to the floor with cries of pain. Sloane took off after Dex, firing as he went until he was inside the garage, or at least that’s what he thought it was. It was actually a huge storage unit that stretched down the length of the building, sectioned off into smaller units, and supported by several concrete columns. There was everything from wooden pallets to metal racking, department store mannequins, holiday displays, old signage, and cleaning equipment.

  “Come on, we can take cover behind that racking.” Dex motioned ahead of them, and Sloane followed, shots ringing out behind them. They ran further into the storage unit, a set of red wires catching his attention. He came to a halt, his eyes widening at the C4 strapped to one of the concrete columns.

  “Run!”

  They raced back toward the entrance when the explosion knocked Sloane off his feet. He hit something solid and bounced off before hitting the ground hard, the wind knocked out of him from the impact. His ears rang, and his vision was blurry. He sucked in a sharp breath and winced. His lungs burned, his throat was raw, and breathing in deep resulted in a mouthful of dust. Coughing and sputtering, he turned his head, his blurry vision focusing on a dirt-smudged face.

  “Dex,” Sloane wheezed, trying to push himself up, but his body wasn’t cooperating. A look over his shoulder revealed the reason why. A large chunk of a concrete column had him pinned. A shot hit the dirt beside his head, and Sloane jerked out of the way as much as the slab of concrete would allow, a harsh voice echoing from somewhere in the distance.

  “Don’t shoot him you idiots! I want him alive. Grab the blond.”

  The blond? Oh God, they were going to take Dex. He had to do something. “Dex,” Sloane rasped, “wake up. Please. Dex. Wake up.”

  Dex groaned, his eyelids slowly opening. “Wh—what happened?”

  “Get up. You have to get up right now. Run.”

  Despite his confusion, Dex reacted to the urgency in Sloane’s voice, rolling onto his side and shakily pushing himself to his feet. Sloane opened his mouth when a series of shots rang out, two hitting Dex in the vest, throwing him off his feet. But it was the dart in Dex’s arm that frightened Sloane the most.

  “No!” Something in Sloane’s brain snapped, and his vision cleared. He pushed as hard as he could against the ground. “You son of a bitch!”

  Dex coughed and gasped, sucking in as much oxygen as he could after being winded, his face a deep red, his eyes bloodshot and teary from whatever was going through his system. Sloane could see his partner trying to push through the pain caused by the impact of the bullets hitting his vest, through whatever was making Dex writhe. “Sloane,” Dex breathed, shutting his eyes tight.

  “No, please. Dex!” Sloane reached out again, stretching his arm as far as his protesting muscles would allow. The back of his eyes stung as Dex’s head lolled toward him, and he attempted a reassuring smile. The bastard. How could he think about Sloane at a time like this? “Dex!”

  With whatever strength Dex seemed to have left, he dragged his arm up, and his fingers crawled to Sloane’s until they could touch. Sloane took Dex’s fingers in his. Seconds later two men arrived, grabbing Dex by his vest.

  “Don’t you dare hurt him! Dex!”

  Dex was out cold, lying limp as the two men carried him away. Teeth gritted, Sloane desperately tried to pull himself free. He was going to tear them apart. A boot pounded down against his back, forcing him against the concrete floor.

  “My, how the mighty have fallen.” Isaac chuckled. “And have still to fall.”

  “What do you want with Dex?” Sloane growled, trying to grab Isaac, only to have the man stomp on his arm. He let out a hoarse cry, his face growing hot and red as he seethed.

  “I want from him the same thing you do. His loyalty, his friendship, devotion, everything you don’t deserve. How do you do it? How do you take good, honest men like Dex, like my brother, and turn them into your filthy toys? Is it through loyalty? Do you lure them with the illusion of happiness? A happiness you can never give them?” He leaned in, his voice quiet, but his words shaking Sloane down to his core. “Do you honestly believe a man like Dex will want you when he finds out what you are? What you’ve done?”

  Sloane went still.

  “That’s right. I know everything. My brother was blinded by your lies, and I’ve watched as you’ve woven your web of deception around Dex, but I can still save him. When he finds out the truth, he’ll see you for the animal you are.”

  “Maybe, but he’ll never be loyal to you.”

  “Oh, he will. Believe me, he will, and then we’ll crush the THIRDS under our thumbs, and rule this city the way it was meant to be ruled. Without your filthy kind.”

  Isaac’s words sent dread through Sloane. “What have you done?”

  “You’ll just have to wait and see.”

  “Why don’t we get this over with, Isaac? You and me, without these games.”

  “And miss out on making your life miserable? I’ll be waiting for you, Sloane. Right where it all began for you and your feral friends.”

  Isaac disappeared, and Sloane pushed against the floor, desperate. He had to stop them.

  “Sloane? Dex? Where are you?”

  “Maddock! In the storage garage!” Sloane called out as loud as he could. Within seconds, his team was racing in, Ash and Calvin rushing to his side to lift the slab. “Dex! They have Dex!” Sloane thrust his finger in the direction Isaac had run off to, and Maddock darted off with Rosa, Letty, and Cael.

  His legs free, Sloane pulled himself out, and with Ash’s help, got to his feet. “Isaac took Dex,” Sloane ground out, trying to push away from Ash. To his horror, his team ran back, the pain in Maddock’s face telling him all he needed to know. “No.” Sloane shook his head. He refused. “I have to go.” Sloane tried to push against his friend, furious when Ash wouldn’t let him go. “Get the fuck off me! I need to get him back.”

  “Sloane, they’re gone,” Rosa said. “They had a plan. This whole thing was planned.”

  “I can’t….” Sloane shook his head. What did he want to say? He couldn’t lose Dex the way he lost Gabe. He couldn’t. “I have to save my partner.” His rough words sounded more like a plea, but he didn’t care.

  “And we will,” Maddock assured him. “What did Isaac say to you? Did he give any clue to where he might be taking Dex?”

  Isaac’s words echoed in his head, and then it all came crashing down.

  “I know where he is.”

  SLOANE STORMED into Lieutenant Sparks’s office, his fingers flexing at his sides. “Where is it?” he demanded.

  “I beg your pardon?”

 
Where the hell is the facility?”

  Lieutenant Sparks stared at him, her hand covering the receiver of her phone. “Agent Brodie, I have the Chief of Therian Defense on the line.”

  “Good.” Sloane marched over and snatched the phone from her. “This is Agent Sloane Brodie. I need to know where the First Gen Research Facility is.” He listened as the Chief of Defense huffed and spewed a bunch of bureaucratic bullshit and threats, none of which Sloane gave two flying fucks about. “Now you listen to me, you paper-pushing son of a bitch, Isaac Pearce has my partner. He has Dr. Shultzon, and most likely the First Gen files. If you want to suspend me, you do that, but after I save my partner, and your sorry ass from a media shit storm. Now where is the goddamn facility?”

  There was a long pause, and as Sloane was about to give the Therian a piece of his mind, he rattled off the address. Sloane thought maybe he’d heard wrong, but he knew he hadn’t. You’ve got to be kidding me.

  “That’s the secure location? In the middle of fucking Manhattan? No offense, sir, but you need to revisit the meaning of ‘secure,’ because that sure as hell isn’t it.” He thrust the phone at his lieutenant and stormed off, calling out over his shoulder. “I’ll sign my suspension papers when I get back!” He headed for the briefing room, rounding up his team, along with Beta Ambush and Beta Pride. Inside, he addressed the room, aware of Maddock hovering by the door, his expression grave.

  “All right, listen up. This is an extraction. Our priority is to preserve life. Get Agent Daley and Dr. Shultzon out of there alive. Destructive Delta, you know what you have to do. Everyone else, I don’t think I need to paint you a picture of the extreme danger this group poses to our city and our organization. Approach the facility with extreme caution. Whatever happens, Isaac Pearce does not leave that building unless it’s in cuffs or a body bag. Understood?”

  “Understood, sir!”

  “Then let’s move out.”

  Moments later, they were all sitting in brooding silence, strapped in their seats inside the BearCat as it drove through Manhattan. Sloane couldn’t stop himself from thinking the worst. What if they were too late? What if he lost Dex like he’d lost Gabe? Would he be able to handle it? What the hell did Isaac want with Dex? There was no way the guy believed Dex would join him. Sloane quickly pushed all those thoughts out of his head. Dex needed him. He needed to keep it together. As the BearCat sped through the city, Ash spoke up beside him.

  “I can’t believe the facility’s been there all this time.”

  Rose checked the magazine of her Remington rifle, before moving onto her next weapon. His team wasn’t leaving anything to chance, considering what was at stake. “You think they were trying to hide it in plain sight?”

  “I don’t know what they were thinking, probably that it was secure, and no one would be able to breach it,” Ash muttered. “Same shit they believe about every secure location until someone infiltrates it. Secure, my ass.”

  As soon as they’d boarded the BearCat, they’d received word from Lieutenant Sparks. The facility had been breached. From the inside. Which was why they hadn’t been alerted. The reason they knew anything about it now was because Isaac himself had sounded the alert. Sloane wasn’t surprised. If Isaac had managed to get Dr. Shultzon to cooperate using his family, Sloane had no doubts the guy had used similar tactics to infiltrate security. Themis had confirmed several guards with high levels of clearance at the facility had families, including young children. Isaac wasn’t the sort to go in guns blazing, hoping everything would sort itself out. He meticulously planned, went in under the radar, and exposed the weaknesses. Then he made himself known.

  The First Gen Therian Research Facility was located on East Seventy-First Street, past an antique shop, Sokol, and Cornell University Medical Center. It was a light gray building with dark gray accents, eight floors containing seven large mirrored windows per floor (except for the highest two floors, which had three windows), a parking garage, and a set of large glass doors. No numbers, no signs, or information. It was frightening knowing how in this innocent looking neighborhood, all manner of tests and experiments had been performed on young Therians. How countless lives had been altered, destroyed, and saved. Looking at it made him want to be sick. After years of trying to put this place behind him, there it was staring back at him, larger than life.

  “Hey, you okay?”

  Sloane heard Cael’s soft words, and was about to answer, believing his teammate had been addressing him, but when he turned, he found Cael had actually been talking to Ash. His friend had gone pale, his eyes on the building across from them.

  “Yeah, I uh….” Ash shook his head, his words trailing off into nothing. Shit, Sloane hadn’t thought of how being back might affect Ash. He gave Cael a reassuring smile and pulled his friend behind the truck, away from prying eyes.

  “Hey, look at me,” He took Ash’s face in his hands, turning his face so he could look his friend in the eye. “It’s okay. They can’t hurt us. Things are different now. We’re not those scared kids anymore.” Ash nodded, though Sloane could still see the uncertainty and fear in his friend’s eyes. “Ash, you can do this. I need you, buddy. I need you to help me get Dex back. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for you. Please.”

  Ash looked at him then, truly looked at him, his expression turning hard. He took a deep breath and nodded. “Let’s go get that partner of yours out of there.”

  With a grin, Sloane grabbed Ash’s head, and Ash did the same to Sloane. They pressed their heads together like they used to do when they were kids, pretending to be tough soldiers, brothers-in-arms. Now they were.

  “Let’s do this,” Ash declared, moving away. He jumped into the van, helping Cael up. “Show me the building’s layout.”

  Cael brought up a digital 3D rendering of the facility’s schematics. At least the Chief of Defense was finally cooperating.

  “Can you get into the security feed?” Ash asked, cursing under his breath when Cael shook his head.

  “This is military grade encryption and Isaac’s locked us out. It’d take far longer than we have time for in order to gain access. I brought up the facility network, and there’s a load of failed login attempts. At least Isaac hasn’t been able to connect so far. It might be the only thing keeping those files from going public.”

  “Okay.” Ash studied the floor plans. “We have no idea how many guys Isaac has in there. Our best bet is to have teams go in aggressive on the ground floor, disable and distract, while our team goes in through the roof. Ground floor teams use a shitload of nonlethals to confuse and incapacitate them: flash bangs, smoke bombs, grenade launcher. Have the other teams go in after and start taking the floors one at a time. Destructive Delta enters the building though here.” Ash pointed to the building next to the facility. “The ninth floor window of this building opens right onto the roof of the facility. There’s a door and a vent, leading inside. If we’re lucky, we can catch that bastard by surprise.”

  “Okay, team. Let’s move out.” Sloane tapped his earpiece. “Sarge?”

  “Heard you loud and clear. Beta Ambush and Beta Pride are getting into position to go in through the front. They’ll wait for your signal.”

  “Copy that.” Sloane grabbed his helmet and jumped from the truck, his team falling into formation behind him, except for Cael who remained to keep surveillance and provide technical backup. They went around the back to the BearCat, using the cars parked along the street to give them cover until they crossed to the building beside the facility. Inside, agents from a backup squad were evacuating the building.

  Taking the stairwell, Sloane rushed up with Ash, Rosa, Letty, and Calvin behind him. They had nine floors to climb. By the time they got to the ninth floor and out into the offices, Sloane’s breath was heavy in his ears. He tapped his earpiece. “Cael, we’re outside the emergency exit on the ninth floor. Which way?”

  “Make a right, straight down, last set of offices on the right. It’s the middle one, belongi
ng to a Mr. Trine.”

  “Copy that.” They rushed past rows and rows of cubicles until they reached the end of the floor and the many rows of closed doors. They found the one they needed and Sloane stepped aside. Ash slammed his shoulder into the door and it splintered open. The window was big, enough for all of them to get through. Lucky for them it opened and they didn’t have to blast it. It took mere seconds to get onto the roof and they headed straight for the door. Unsurprisingly, he found it locked.

  “Calvin. Get this open.”

  Sloane tapped his earpiece. “Sarge, we’re going in. Send in the teams.”

  “Copy that. All teams move in!”

  Leaving his sergeant and the rest of Unit Alpha’s teams to take care of business downstairs, Sloane gave Calvin the go ahead. He stood back as Calvin swiftly unclasped his backpack and removed two pieces of det cord before securing them to the door’s hinges. They all darted away, ducking behind the concrete wall, hearing Calvin’s warning.

 
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