Chapter Three: A Shift in Priority

Right after the dinosaurs appeared in the facility, all hell broke loose. Those who didn't die in the overflow of the experiment were certainly no match for the creatures. Power to the facility had been cut due to the experiment, and so he tried to get as much of the power back on as he could, including the large size cargo elevator that could take anyone to the B-levels. He succeeded—barely. On his way back from the elevator power room, he was caught by surprise by a new menace—Pteranodon, two of them on the passageway between the power room and control room. One of them had knocked him down, and the other flew in and plunged its talons into his shoulders, causing him to scream in tremendous pain as he felt his skin and muscles being pierced. It lifted him high into the air, and then dropped him to the ground in an attempt to break his bones. His body hit the tarmac with a sickening thud, followed by the dull crack of a bone, one of his ribs breaking. The force of impact rendered him immobile, the wind knocked out of him completely reducing him to nothing. Only a couple seconds later, another, maybe the same one, clamped down on him again, the brief impact pressing him into the ground. This time, it didn't get a good enough grip, grabbing his left arm instead of his shoulder blade. Regardless, as he began to regain awareness despite the tearing pain ripping his body, he felt himself being hoisted into the air once again. This time, it was on the move, flying over the passageway. Dangling by one arm, he looked down, still a little groggy; he noticed that it was flying toward a huge exhaust fan, its massive blades spinning rapidly. Was it going to drop him in there?

Oh, fuck…

Instinct starting to take over, combined with the knowledge that he could be bird feed in about five seconds, he managed to reach down with his free arm and grab his handgun. As he raised his arm to fire, he could feel the muscle ripping, but it was better than being chum. Just as it was about to fly over the fan, he fired two shots into the creature's abdomen. The winged beast let out a piercing shriek, letting go of its prey instantly. Surprisingly, he landed on his feet, but collapsed to the ground, the impact too great. Another wave of excruciating pain shot through his torn body, causing him to scream in agony. He didn't see the flying creature plunge into the fan, decapitating it into a thousand tiny pieces, sending blood splattering all around the surrounding area.

With his strength rapidly failing, he somehow managed to get inside the elevator's control room. He didn't care about the trail of blood he was leaving on the tiled floor, just knew that he needed to hold out just a little longer, and pray that someone caught his signal for help.

Damn…fucking…flying monsters!

The ailing agent fell to his knees as he turned the corner, searing, unbearable pain shooting up his back. Blood was coming out of his shoulders in torrents, and he was starting to feel very dizzy.

At least…I got…the elevator working…Rick…Regina…Gail…Cooper…

Knowing that tonight would be the night of the experiment, which meant the S.O.R.T. team's reconnaissance as well, he had tried to get everything prepared for the Doctor's capture without blowing his cover—collecting all the information on the Third Energy as he possibly could, in the event that something did happen to him, or he found the S.O.R.T group, he could give them all the research and experiment data. Also, he had figured out a method to rewrite ID cards, giving him access to unauthorized places. Using his own, he did just that. Alas, things had become horribly wrong—the experiment went out of control…or did it?

He had crawled towards a corner of a set of controls, feeling the urge to pass out coming on stronger.

God damn you, Kirk…you fooled everyone. These secret experiments, this facility…all a front!

He couldn't take the pain anymore. His knees gave out, and he slumped to the floor, barely conscious. With some of his remaining energy, he managed to hit a button on his communication device, signaling a distress call. Now, all he could do was pray.

"What are you talking about?" Rick said incredulously, rising from his chair. "He's asking for our help! We don't leave one of our own behind!"

"And what if it's a trap?" Gail shot back, his expression becoming one of annoyance. "Would you want us to come and rescue you?"

Rick turned around coldly and sat back down in his chair. "Don't bother. I'm willing to take that risk."

Gail took a step toward Rick. "Remember our mission. We're not here to baby-sit."

Rick turned around and glared at Gail, not caring that he was the commander. "That's your way of operating. Not mine."

Regina took a step back to watch the proceedings, watching how this battle of testosterone would turn out.

After a few seconds of Rick typing away, he slammed his fist next to the panel, then rose to his feet, grabbing his machine gun from the chair next to him. "There. You have your precious access to the underground, Gail, so get moving." Turning his back to the leader, he began to head for the exit. "You handle your things your way; I'll handle my things my way." With that, he was out of the room.

Gail walked over to Regina, a scowl on his face. "That punk is really starting to get on my nerves. Regina, I'm heading out to investigate the underground. Do what you like." Just like that, he too, was gone, leaving her by herself.

She let out a sigh of relief, the tense moment passed.

Ah, men. What do I do now? Gail gave me the green light to do whatever, so I think I'll back Rick up. Gail did bring up a valid point—it could be a trap, but on the flip side, it might not, and it could be a valid distress signal from Tom, Cooper, or any one else who got a hold of a communications device…could even be the Doc, although I'd like to shoot him. Gail can handle his sweep by himself—he's a big boy.

Before leaving, she checked her shotgun to make sure it was fully loaded. After, she checked to see how much total ammo she had left; two clips of handgun bullets and about eight or so shells left, so she'd need to find more or conserve whenever necessary. Ready, she radioed Rick.

"Rick, I'm tagging along. What's your position?"

"I'm outside the facility, right at the spot we came in from. I'll wait for you there. Oh, an FYI: take the vent shaft from the hall—the one we first used getting to the Control Room. I didn't, met up with some more of these dinosaurs. I shot them down, but they may just be recovering. One burst through one of the big glass windows in the entrance hallway, I gunned it down. You should be fine if you go through the shaft—I'll wait here. Hurry, though."

"On my way," she replied.

She definitely noticed a drop in the nighttime temperature, definitely cooler than it was when she started. As it stood, the night sky was more or less the same—mostly cloudy, moonlight peeking in here and there.

Man, this mission should be over by now…we would've gotten the Doc and be on our way home…

She could see Rick standing beyond the gated entry, waiting for her. "I'm here, I'm here."

"Good," he replied. "Let's go."

After walking through a passageway, the two of them came to a clearing—a rather large clearing. Regina looked at her wristcom again to check where the distress signal came from and noticed that they were close, perhaps only a couple hundred yards away. The two walked quickly across the area, noticing a large platform in the dead center of the open area. On a corner of this platform was a control panel—lit up was a flashing green button next to a monitor. This was probably a cargo elevator to the underground levels, supplying the facility with whatever materials were flown in or what have you. To their left was another elevator—a regular elevator for personnel—and to their right, a door.

"Regina, where's that signal?" Rick asked.

"It's coming to the right of where we're standing—through that door on your right. We're almost there—I'm sure whoever it is, it's in that room."

Rick went ahead, machine gun ready. She stood right behind him, her handgun also loaded and ready.

"Go!" he yelled, and burst into the empty room.

Nothing. Silence. It was a control room, probably for the large cargo elevator. Next to them was a long row of control panels that formed a 90-degree angle with the room. At the other end was another door. No indication of anyone in distress.

Then a moan of pain broke the silence.

Rick ran toward the sound, Regina following right behind, turning the corner--

--until they saw a researcher, sitting upright on the ground, his head bowed. A deep gash ran down the length of his left side, starting from the shoulder to his chest, the once-white lab coat now nearly crimson colored. His face was ashen, sweaty, scratched, his hair tussled and in disarray. His other shoulder also looked wounded, but nowhere near as bad as the other. Whatever did this, he was mortally wounded, and staying here only would diminish any possible chance of survival.

"Tom!" Regina called out, rushing over and kneeling down by his side, Rick following suit.

The fallen agent lifted his head, tried to force an acknowledgement, a grin, something.

"You came," he said, his voice hoarse.

"As soon as we got the signal," Rick said, searching for any meds on him.

"They came out of nowhere…" Tom began, trying to give them as much info as he could before he couldn't do anything else. He tried to shift his position, but the pain prevented him from doing so. "…didn't have a chance."

"Save your strength, Tom, we've got you. Damn, Regina, this looks pretty bad. We need to get him to safety quickly," Rick instructed, taking out a bandage.

"Tom, can you tell us what's going on here?" Regina asked, taking the bandage from Rick and applying it to the more-wounded shoulder.

"Kirk's insane…!" Tom shot out, angrily. "His experiments…have nothing to do with energy development. Here—before we go anywhere, there's a few things in my lab coat pockets that I managed to get for you."

While Regina continued to apply the first aid, Rick searched the pockets thoroughly and fished out a few objects: an ID card with Tom's mug shot on it, and a couple of disks.

"The ID card will be useful in getting to the underground floors using the regular personnel elevators," Tom said, followed by a cough. "The two disks you hold in your hand—one of them contains all of the free info I gathered on the Third Energy before all this mess happened. It's not complete, though." After a few seconds to pause and catch his breath, he continued. "Much of it is still encrypted and classified—and only Kirk has all of the data. Find him. The second disk contains all of the keys and codes to get through the system of Digital Disk Key-locked doors that you may or may not come across. While I couldn't find the actual answers themselves, I did download what the 'puzzles' are—you'll still have to play Jumble to figure them out."

"Here, Regina, take these," Rick said, passing them on. "Where's the closest first aid station or medical room from here, Tom?"

Tom began to slump, his eyes starting to glaze over as if he was going to pass into unconsciousness. "Down on the B1 floor," he began, his voice reducing to a whisper. "Take the cargo elevator down…I'll guide you…just get me there."

"You got it," he replied. "Help me lift him."

Carefully, the two of them slowly lifted the wounded agent, propping his arms around each of them for support. He could feel himself drifting in and out of consciousness. However, if they could get him to the medical room, he might stand a better chance of survival.

Slowly, they walked out of the elevator control room, back out into the cool night. They walked onto the elevator, where Regina hit the green power button. The grinding of gears and the sounds of machinery kicking on was music to her ears—something was on and running, for once. In seconds, the elevator hummed to life and began making its descent into the underground, and for a few tense moments, all was silent, save for the elevator.

"So, you saw it, then?" Rick asked, attempting conversation.

She turned to him, looked at him quizzically. "Saw what?"
"That huge T-Rex."

"Yeah. Didn't I tell you? It's real. Or, real in the sense that it was trying to kill me, anyway."

He shook his head. "This is just like that movie," he said softly, referring to Jurassic Park.

Before he could continue with that line of thought, the lift jerked suddenly and began to slow down, its journey completed. Rising from the floor ahead of them was a huge metal door, the size of a movie theater screen. In big white letters, B-1 was marked. As soon as the lift stopped, the door began to open slowly, giving way to a massive receiving warehouse. Huge crates of freight were arranged neatly along the walls, double stacked throughout this huge enclosure, leaving a narrow walkway to the other side. To their immediate left, a ladder ran up the wall, leading up to a platform with a booth—inside, a control panel. The ceiling was very high, and attached to a pulley system was a crane hook, most likely used for lifting the freight from one place to another.

"Quickly, Regina. I need your help again. Hold Tom while I go to the other side, make sure it's safe. I'll call for you when we're clear." Tom let out another moan, and Regina propped him up while Rick went ahead.

"Take it easy. Are we close?" she asked softly. He nodded, trying to save his remaining energy. While she waited for the all clear, she reached into a pocket for Tom's ID card—and felt nothing. Not even the discs.

Shit!

"Damn it!" she swore at herself. She'd have to go back up to the elevator control room to nab the items lying on one of the panels.

Stupid, stupid idiot…I'll have to go back up, leave Tom with Rick.

A green light flashed on her wristcom some seconds later, signifying that everything was OK. Taking one of Tom's arms around her shoulder, she gently, slowly walked with him along the passageway, being careful not to further injure the ailing soldier. On the other side of the warehouse, she saw Rick kneeling down next to a bloodied corpse lying against the wall, a chunk of its right side chewed off. A puddle of blood pooled all around him, coagulating around the spilled internal organs, glistening in the florescent light. A trail of smeared blood lined the wall, beginning from a single door on the left, to where the body laid to die. Further down stood a set of double doors. Whoever he was, he was certainly beyond any help.

"There you are," Rick said, finally noticing the two. "Which door, Tom?"

"To the right…" he said weakly. "Go through the…double doors…and go to the end of the hall…nearly…there."

Rick nodded.

"Rick," Regina cut in. "I need to back up to where we found Tom—I left the ID card and the discs he gave us up there. Will you be ok with Tom, or do you need me to stay with you?"

"No, I'll take care of Tom. We're close, so I shouldn't have a problem. Go get those things—they're important. Then meet me in the medical room."

"Got it. Take care of him—he's not gonna last much longer if we don't."

Rick nodded. "Will do. Oh, and by the way—if you happen to see Gail up there and he gives you any more of his bull, be sure to beat him down for me, ok?

She chuckled. "Sure. Just for you. Meet you soon." With that, she turned around and was gone.

He ran a hand through his white hair and let out an obvious moan of frustration.

You're running out of places to hide, Doc…

His search for the Doc was coming up empty—he scanned the medical room hall, and all he found was a dead dinosaur lying in a corner, gutted. Dark blood was pooled around it, but there was a flurry of activity surrounding the carcass—a gathering of Compsognathus, or Compy for short, were busy scavenging and eating the dead dino. Compys were tiny things, a couple of feet tall at the most, with as much energy as a puppy—very easily excited. Compys tended to be scavengers, and right now all their attention was focused on this creature before them, so much so that they didn't even notice Gail as he ran right past them toward the door at the end.

His semi-auto ready, he went through the door, leading him into another hallway. Stopping for just a sec, he heard footsteps moving away from his position—his ears never failed him.

Looks like I'm not alone…

Stealthily, he pressed his body against the hall and took silent, slow movements toward the sound. Up ahead, he could make out a metal gate, and he could make out the shape of a silhouette at the gate, male, his back to Gail, pressing buttons on a control panel. The soldier inched closer for a better look. Whoever he was, he was alive. And possibly something better—Kirk himself. A few seconds later, the sounds of gears began to grind as the gate lifted into the ceiling. The researcher turned, allowing Gail a better look.

The men had long, straight blond hair, covering his neck, but not quite shoulder length. He wore a long, white lab coat, with some blood speckled along one side. Dangling from one pocket was a badge. His face was round, had no facial hair. The front of his hair was in disarray, and sweat ran down the young scientist's face. Gail was positive that he had his man. The scientist looked in Gail's direction, saw him immediately, and his face lit up in surprise.

"Doctor Kirk?" Gail called out to the surprised researcher. Useless. Kirk ran through the passageway, and Gail immediately broke into a run, trying not to lose the Doctor.

"Hey, wait!"

Gears and machinery hummed on again, and Gail realized that the gate was closing fast—and he heard an door opening.

Damn, he's getting away!

The gate would close in a couple of seconds, Kirk gone, leaving Gail stranded, his objective incomplete.

Not gonna make it!

He'd have to go for broke. With a burst of speed, he dove and rolled under the gate, clearing the threshold barely as the gate slammed close, nearly catching the soldier's foot. Wasting no time, he got up just in time to see a set of double doors wide open, and with it, Kirk escaping. Again.

"Doctor, hold it!" Gail commanded, but to no avail. Getting up as fast as he could, he broke into a run again. By the time he cleared the double doors, he found himself in a long hallway—alone. Kirk had slipped away, but Gail now had confirmed one thing—the Doctor was alive, and very nearby. With no time to lose, he tore down the hallway.

I'm gonna get you, you son of a bitch.

A foul, rife odor invaded their senses as they turned a corner of the hall, a pungent smell of burned rubber and singed flesh.

"Goddamn," Rick cried out, waving a hand in front of his face. "What died in here?"

Tom coughed weakly, his body too damaged to even care.

Hang in there, Tom…we're almost there.

As they proceeded further down the wide hall, Rick could hear the sounds of popping and crackling electricity some distance away, but fairly close. Taking his time with the wounded soldier, the sounds got louder as they got closer to the source. Looking ahead, Rick made out a piece of broken fencing on the ground, accompanied by sparks jumping out from the wall with some light smoke filtering upwards. A few feet ahead of that was the door leading into further unknown territory, but closer to their immediate destination.

Hmm?

As they got closer, Rick noticed that there was a hole in the wall where the fencing used to be, the remaining fencing gnarled and twisted. Looking inside the opening gave Rick the answer he was looking for—it was not pleasant, by any stretch of the imagination. Lying on its side was a blackened dinosaur, another of the raptors, its mouth wide open, agape, drool leaking out its massive mouth. Its eyes were wide open, frozen in time, frozen in the moment that ended its life. Some blood was leaking out of the creature's orifices, a dark, slick fluid.

Curiosity killed the lizard, it would seem…it didn't read the High Voltage sign, I'd imagine.

Before Rick could study the creature anymore, Tom gagged, his body finally realizing that yes, there was a nasty smell in the air.

"All right, Tom, take it easy, we're going," Rick said, patting Tom on the back.

Once into the next hall, he and Tom paused for a few seconds to breathe in some cleaner air. He took a quick look at the tired agent, and was looking worse and worse with each minute. His face was devoid of any color, and was covered in sweat. He could noticeably see Tom struggling to keep his eyes open, to keep conscious, fighting as long as he could.

"Where to, pal?"

Tom coughed again, then turned to Rick, speaking slowly: "Keep going to the end of the hall...next hall has the medical room." His head slumped forward again, but he remained conscious. He was still walking under his own power, but how long that would last; Rick didn't want to find out.

Ah, there you are. Just where I left you.

Breathing a sigh of relief, she took the discs and pocketed them. As she turned to leave the control room, her wristcom beeped twice, a green light flashing indicating an incoming call.

"Regina, you there?" came the voice of Gail.

"Yeah, I'm here," she replied. "What's up?"

"I just got a positive ID on the Doctor," he answered. "I lost him, but he's definitely on the B1 floor. Drop whatever you're doing and get to the B1 floor now. Rick can do whatever he's doing—I need you on the B1 floor now. That's an order. Gail out."

"Yes, sir," she acquiesced. The room was silent once again.

Well, I was going back down to the B1 level anyway…

The Compys were too engrossed in their meal to notice the two soldiers walking slowly past. Finally, they reached their destination, a sign next to a door to their left confirming so. Rick let out a sigh of relief, the journey seeming to take longer than it should've.

The door automatically opened, and the two of them walked slowly into the silent room. It was brightly lit and white, as a medical room normally would be. On the right was a long series of cabinets with files and books on top. A glass window divided the room into two. Looking in, Rick could see a tall cabinet and part of a bed, the view obstructed by other storage c On the wall ahead was a desk with a computer terminal it—next to that was a tall cabinet containing various medicines. In the rear was another entryway to the side of the medical room, where Rick was going to take Tom. As they turned the corner, they heard the sound of an animal hiss.

Fuck, no—

Before Rick could fully assess the situation, they suddenly found themselves face to face with a sleeping raptor—which was now awake and on its feet. As Rick was drawing his semi-automatic, he unexpectedly felt a hard shove from his partner, catching him off guard and sending him into the wall. The raptor crouched back, letting out a shriek. With a surge of adrenaline, Tom reached for his modified, more powerful handgun.

"Chew on this!" he yelled, firing at point-blank range.

Time seemed to pass in stop motion. Each shot hit its mark, but that seemed to do little. The raptor made a lunge toward the wounded agent, its jaws wide open. Tom had nowhere he could run, his back to the wall. He fired again as the jaws clamped around his torso, the lunge slamming Tom into the wall. Tom screamed in horrible agony as the teeth pierced his body with ease, blood squirting out of his already open wounds.

"Toooooooooooooooooooom!"

On the ground, Rick yelled in anger and opened a wave of gunfire, unleashing rapid-fire bullets into the raptor's side. The creature loosened its hold on the mortally wounded agent as the hot bullets ripped into its thick skin, sending pieces flying. Tom fell to the floor like a rag doll, the gun falling out of his hand.

Rick never let go of the trigger, just kept firing until the magazine emptied, yelling. Loaded with ammo, the raptor finally fell, its body thoroughly pocked with holes from the gunfire. Wasting no time, he rushed over to Tom's body, but there was nothing more he could do—the creature had punctured clean through his lungs, his heart. His eyes were wide open, his face forever fixed in a twisted expression of final pain. Tom had committed the ultimate sacrifice so that Rick could go on, finish what was started.

A tear ran down the side of Rick's face.

END chapter. As always, reviews welcome!