Under the Mountain: A POST APOCALYPTIC NOVEL (Into the Outside Book 3), page 20
“They will issue you weapons; handguns, rifles, and stun guns, along with ammo. Line up and get your weapons from them. If you’ve never used a handgun, take a rifle. They are easier to aim. Everyone gets a stun gun. We have enough to go around. They are non-lethal and your first option, at all times. Remember, we are outgunned five, maybe ten to one. We are amateurs fighting professional soldiers.”
A lone voice from the crowd, high pitched and squeaky in its youth shouted, “We can do it!”
Buoyed by the confident, if young, voice, Mathias continued. “We can! We need to use stealth and intelligence here people! We are sneaking in to free the prisoners, not to kill soldiers. A lot of them are on our side, like Corporal Noble. She will lead today’s mission.”
Isabella appreciated that he called it a mission. It was indeed that, in more ways than one.
Daphne climbed on the table next to Mathias and shook his hand firmly, as if he were transferring command of the revolution to her. In a way, he was.
She cleared her throat and began issuing orders. “Sergeant Miller and Corporal Reynolds will lead the HSPC crew. They will go ahead to secure as many Specs as they can, get their doors open for the prisoners, and wait. Maddox Sheffield, and Kirsten and Quade Reese will go with them. As we free the prisoners, they will be ready to drive the Specs out of Mt. Weather and get them to safety Outside. No matter what happens, at least some mutants will be free.”
Kirsten said loudly, “I worked on the computer systems of those machines and have a good working knowledge of their controls. I can act as backup driver if needed.”
Daphne nodded and said, “Good. Go.”
The HSPC crew checked their weapons and took off for the elevators. The remaining three soldiers continued to issue weapons to the civilians, giving quick instructions on their use as they did.
Daphne broke up the rest of the would-be freedom fighters into two teams and gave them their assignments. She and Private Bellows would lead 20 people while Tallerman and Latham would lead the other 20. Weapons checked and ready, they burst through the door of the school toward the lifts.
The revolution had begun.
* * *
The prisoners on level ten knew a jailbreak was coming and they knew what to do, but waiting was hard for all of them, especially the younger prisoners. They were just children, and the prospect of freedom made them eager… and antsy.
A clicking noise drew Malcolm’s attention to the hallway outside the cell’s door. He looked through the bars and saw a tall and slim figure about ten paces down the hall. That was the limit of his view from the door. The straight-line arrangement of the cells meant that you could not see other doors on your side, only those on the other side, and only the closest ones.
Quiet murmurs that he could not distinguish followed the clicking sounds.
Moment later, Reema Sura peered through the bars of his door. She leaned her face close to his. “I’m unlocking a few doors, but only those I trust to follow my orders. You must NOT push it open yet. Wait until the rescue team arrives. If you open the door before it is time, you will ruin the rescue. You could all die. Got it?”
Malcolm nodded and Reema’s face disappeared. He heard a soft click.
Clay stood beside him and his voice had a nervous edge to it. “It’s starting, isn’t it?”
Mathias shared the classified lift code they needed to access level ten and they split into four groups. The elevators were crowded and Isabella could smell the energy, the testosterone, and perhaps even some fear.
Two levels below the elementary school, 44 revolutionaries emerged from four elevator doors almost simultaneously.
Isabella swallowed against the panic that thickened in her throat. This was it. They were going to free everyone. Her family’s fate rested in their hands.
Mathias keyed the outer door to the mutant holding center at the entrance to the prison, and they lunged forward, weapons ready.
Three guards turned their way and recognition slowly dawned on their faces. A small army stood in the room. Their open-mouthed stares indicated that they had not been expecting an armed rebellion.
“Stand down!” ordered one of the guards. Rifles pointed at them. They were long and fierce and though there were only three of them, they could mow down the entire rebellion in three short sweeps.
Daphne stood apart from the rest and yelled back, “We just want the prisoners released. No one needs to get hurt.”
But the guards would have none of that. They advanced on the rebels and Isabella had the horrifying sensation that they would start firing on them.
Time to play out their sham.
Daphne lowered her weapon, and so did Isabella. “Okay,” they said in unison.
The guard in the center was not satisfied and shouted another order. “Everyone, drop your weapons.”
The rebels did as commanded, and when the guards came forward to disarm them, Isabella, Teagan, and Luke pulled hidden stunners from the backs of their waistbands and stunned all three simultaneously.
“Perfect!” Daphne exclaimed.
“What? You didn’t think that would work?” asked Luke, but Isabella knew her brother was no more sure of their plan than she had been, even if it had been his idea.
She slammed the stunner onto the sticky patch holster on her leg where it belonged.
The three guards were disarmed, tied up, gagged, and left behind. The rebels reclaimed their weapons and took off down the main hall toward the cells, with all the armed civilians behind them.
Level ten was a dungeon in every sense of the word and consisted of dozens of cells, housing hundreds of prisoners in small, steel barred, concrete rooms. There would be more guards along the way.
They were far from in the clear.
At a crossroads, Daphne addressed the group. She ordered one team to go left, and the other group to the right. “Don’t be a hero. Use the code. Unlock as many cells as you can. Get the new humans out. Keep your heads down. Get back to the lifts and get them to the HSPCs. Get inside the vehicles and secure the airlocks.”
Luke, Teagan, Noeni, and Nuala ran ahead of her and headed toward the cells on the left side of the prison, with a dozen and a half people following behind, armed with weapons they only had a vague idea of how to use. They would unlock the cells on that side, while she and Mathias, Roan, and Vaughn rushed to release the prisoners from cells down the right hallway. The civilians went ahead, ready for a fight and prepared to do whatever it took. More armed protestors-turned-rebels followed at their rear.
Isabella ran, trying to keep up with Daphne’s long-legged strides. She pulled her stun gun off the patch where it had been secured and held it in front of her. She did not know how to fire a real gun, but wanted protection, especially at close quarters where her small stature would not aid her in hand-to-hand combat. The rifle swung at her side. They turned a corner and she heard gunshots echoing down the hall from behind them, and then a much louder blast. Someone shot a breaker box and the overhead lights, bare fluorescent bulbs behind mesh screens, flickered as the power surged, but then re-lit as fast as they had gone out.
The other team – her brother’s team! – was under fire. The blood in her veins turned to ice. Damn it! Nothing I can do about it now. They are on their own, she thought.
As she raced down the wide hall, she kept peering through doors as they unlocked them, hoping to see Malcolm. She had known which cell he was in when they were brought here originally, but after their failed escape during the cleaning mission they could be in any cell.
Prisoners emerged from sprung doors.
“Move, move!” Rebels yelled at the prisoners. “Get to the elevators.”
Some of civilian rescuers began guiding the escapees to the lifts. Not everyone wanted to fight. Some were happy to act as guides and punch in lift codes. They would get the escapees to the waiting Specs at the Portal entrance.
Adults and children ran together.
Suddenly a squad of soldiers rounded the corner and skidded to a halt. Isabella tried to scream but her tongue disregarded her. Her heart sank. They could not fight off that many!
Matching Daphne’s pace, they took off toward the soldiers. Desperate fear pounded through her. Instinct told her to run away from the shots, not toward them.
Mathias and Roan ran beside her, with Vaughn and the others right behind. They did not stop, but when the bullets started flying, they dropped to the ground and rolled toward the walls.
Behind her, a woman cursed and fell to the floor. Blood poured from a wound in her arm. She rolled and slammed the side of the hallway with a grunt.
Daphne rose to her feet and started firing at the oncoming soldiers. A violent bang cracked into the air and Isabella tried to get up but was frozen to the floor in fear. Bullets were flying around her and she could not make herself move.
At that moment, escaping prisoners came charging down the hall from ahead. The rescuers had not gotten that far down yet, so Reema must have succeeded in opening some of the doors. New human men and boys came toward them. She thought she saw Malcolm in the group, taller and darker than the others. He was free, but he was far from safe.
Through a frozen fog, she heard Daphne calling out orders. “Fire! Take them out!”
Isabella slammed the stunner back onto her leg, got up on her knees, and raised her rifle. She may have been dressed like a soldier, but she did not feel like one. She held the weapon with two hands and aimed it at one of the soldiers. As she raised the courage to pull the trigger, the soldier swept his rifle across the approaching prisoners. He was going to fire on them! Isabella screamed. “No!”
A tall reptilian new human was knocked to the ground by a bullet to his thigh. Blood poured from the wound, and the soldier who shot him now hovered above him, ready to finish the job. Isabella saw his eyes, the eyes of a man who was about to die and knew it. But then he raised his fist and gut punched the soldier above him. Isabella dropped the rifle and ran at full speed, trying to get to the soldier and use her stun gun before he could recover from the punch. Her small figure ran at full speed and reached the injured man, just as the soldier fired his rifle directly into the man’s chest while he was still doubled over in pain.
“No!” shrieked Isabella, as the man’s blood splattered the hallway wall of level ten. He collapsed in a heap. Isabella tore the stunner from the sticky patch on the thigh of her borrowed military uniform, jammed it into his killer, and pulled the trigger. She didn’t let go either. As the soldier writhed in agony, she finally released the trigger and grabbed his rifle. He puked great gobs of fluid on the floor. She felt like kicking him in the same place the dying prisoner had punched him but at that moment saw Malcolm. He saw her, saw the man on the floor, and screamed, “Jarrick!”
Malcolm began toward her but a soldier, taller and wider than him by far, tackled him from behind. The soldier slammed a fist into Malcolm’s face and Malcolm fought back, punching at the man with his large, six-finger right hand. Suddenly, the soldier swept Malcolm’s legs out from under him and he went sprawling to the floor, but Malcolm scrambled right back to his knees. People were screaming everywhere. Soldiers were running. Prisoners were fleeing. Isabella did not know what to do, but ran toward Malcolm. If she could do anything, she would help her husband.
She saw soldiers coming from behind Malcolm and the struggling soldier on the floor. Malcolm had finally pinned him down. There were at least 20 of them and they were coming fast. They were an army of amateurs, outnumbered. They had no chance.
That was when she heard the group behind her and turned her head to take a quick look. It was Daphne and five soldiers Isabella did not recognize.
Daphne fired her gun at the men advancing on them. Her first shot found a soldier’s thigh, and running became falling. As he fell, he fired at their group but his shots went wide, ricocheting harmlessly off the hallway walls. Then a voice behind him boomed. “Hold your fire!”
The men stopped short at his sudden command. Isabella could see gleaming stars on the older soldier’s uniform shoulder. That many pieces of brass could only mean he was in command.
However, the soldier with all the brass was not in charge anymore, because the troops behind him were pointing their guns at him instead of the rebels.
It appeared they were surrendering, whether the officer liked it or not.
One by one, the soldiers with Daphne aimed their weapons at the commanding officer. The man with the metal on his uniform handed his weapon to Daphne and a dozen of his troops walked past him and lined up behind the rebels.
The military had just joined the revolution.
* * *
He took his wife in his arms and held her, his heart feeling as if it would burst. Tears flowed down his ebony cheeks as he bent his head down to her, but this time Malcolm did nothing to stop them. “I thought I would never see you again, Belle.” Then words failed him as he stroked her hair, matted with blood that was not hers.
Finally, he pulled himself away from Isabella and asked, “Have you seen the girls? Are they safe?” He scanned the faces but did not see them. Clay stood beside him, uninjured from the ordeal, and just as eager to find them. He took Isabella by the hand and ran to the cell that was near his own, where Shia, Andra, and Kalla had been held, but the concrete room was empty.
“Malcolm, we’ve released everyone. They’ve probably been taken up to the Portal where we came in. We have people there that have the Specs ready to take them to safety.”
“I need to get to them!” He had not seen his daughter, adopted child, or Kalla since the failed rescue mission and while he wanted to look strong to Isabella, it was increasingly hard to maintain his composure. Just as he was about to run for the elevators, the machine on his wife’s belt crackled to life. Luke’s voice came out of it.
She grabbed it and said, “Wait one second, Malcolm. We’ll go get the girls, but I’m sure they are safe. We had a team sent ahead specifically to retrieve them. Let me answer Luke on the radio and then we’ll head to the HSPCs and get them.”
Radio. That’s what the black box was. He should have guessed. Isabella was dressed like a soldier; it made sense that she had soldier machines too.
She spoke into the box. “Luke, what’s going on there?”
“All good. We are bloodied and bruised, but everyone is alive. The soldiers just suddenly stopped. Someone gave up, over in your area, I think.”
Isabella replied into the radio. “Yes. Their leader was forced to surrender by his own troops. Luke, most of the soldiers are on our side! I think we’ve won.” She was smiling broadly.
“Not yet,” replied Luke. “Not while Harrison still rules. And his generals. Here, at Picatinny, West Point. Cheyenne. It’s not over yet, Izzy.”
Isabella nodded her affirmation, then must have realized that her brother could not see that through the radio. “Yeah, Luke, you are right. But it is for me. I’m no soldier. All I want is to get Malcolm and the prisoners out of here. I’ve got to go. Stay safe.”
“You too,” came the boy’s voice from the radio, and Isabella clipped the radio back on her belt. Then abruptly, she pulled it off again, turned a dial, and said into it, “Miller. Reynolds. Are you there? It’s Isabella.”
The radio crackled again, this time with a man’s voice. “Miller here. Girl, you need to learn proper military radio etiquette.” Then he laughed and said, “Over.”
Isabella rolled her eyes and keyed the radio again. “Fat chance, Miller. What’s your status? Are the Specs loaded?”
“We have two HSPCs filled with rescued prisoners, but Corporal Noble ordered us to stand by. We have not been authorized to leave the city.”
“Things are falling into place here, with most of the troops turning on their leaders and joining us. Like Daphne has suspected these last few days, there have been a lot more soldiers who didn’t
Malcolm had felt that the girl soldier, Daphne, was a good person, that day in the Spec when they were brought to Mt. Weather as captives.
Miller replied. “I have 55 people in my vehicle, plus Quade and Kirsten in the cab with me. Your friend Hayden is with Reynolds in the other Spec. They are also over capacity with two children in the cab and 52 in the back. Total 109 rescued.”
Malcolm wanted to shout into the radio to ask about his girls, but waited patiently even while the empty feeling in the pit of his stomach grew. One hundred and nine people was almost everybody. They had to be there!
Miller continued. “Your daughters are with me, as is your friend Kalla and the other girls from their cell.”
The hole in his stomach vaporized and he relaxed. The girls were safe, and so were Jarrick’s mate Gendi and their daughter Ezbeth. He needed to tell them that Jarrick was dead, but not over this radio thing. He would wait.
Isabella thanked Miller and put the radio back on her belt. Malcolm took Isabella’s hand again and started walking back to where Jarrick had fallen.
Someone had closed his eyes, but no one had moved his body. Malcolm squatted down next to the man who had shared his cell and his life story. A new friend, gone too soon. He arranged Jarrick’s arms and legs straight, then heaved himself up with a sigh. Someone with a medical bag was treating rebels who had gotten hurt and Malcolm realized for the first time that most of the injured were not dressed as soldiers; nor were they mutants. These were regular humans – mostly young, for shelter folk, and all injured because they fought for him and his people. A far cry from Isabella’s grandfather who hated mutants so much that he chased them off the land above his underground shelter. Anthony Bellardini had lost his favorite granddaughter rather than allow Malcolm’s tribe to stay on his property – Outside property that his own family was not even using.
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