The trip took just over an hour. Even with the headphones, any conversation was more than challenging thanks to the noise of the helicopter, so they both opted for silence.
As they closed in on Oklahoma City, it got eerie. Except for a building here and there, the city was black. Most of the suburbs around the city still had power, making it look even more unusual like someone had carved out the center of the city, leaving nothing behind.
While Taylor was looking down contemplating how weird the city seemed, Deakins came over the headset.
“Agent, air-traffic control has passed us to the FBI building’s flight ops, and they are trying to wave us off. It’s time to do your thing. I’m patching them to your headset now.”
She waited a moment, and then a voice started to come over her headset, “ ... lo 1439-Lima, divert from your course. You are not cleared to land.”
“This is Agent Whitaker, serial number 28401742-54. I’m part of the task force and need to meet with Agent Rollins.”
After a pause, the voice returned, “Helo 1439-Lima, you have clearance to land on pad 1.”
The person then started giving a string of information that made no sense to Whitaker, but Deakins started making adjustments and repeated them back to the person on the other end, so she assumed it was what he needed.
“That’s weird,” Taylor said, looking out the window as they neared the building and lowered enough to get a general idea of what was happening on the street.
“What,” she said, leaning to look out the same window.
“I would have expected more activity around the building if they were in the middle of evacuating. Unless they were able to clear the entire building in the last hour.”
“Not possible. With everything that’s happening, they’d have all hands on deck, including most of the civilian support staff. They’d also have to clear the buildings around it. Hell, I don’t even see locals around the building, cordoning it off.”
“Why would Rollins not clear out the building?”
“I don’t know.”
The roof of the building started coming up to them quickly as Deakins circled it once and placed them in the center of the pad.
“Here ya go. I’ll hold at the airport for a little while after fueling before I head back to Dallas. Hit me up if you guys need a ride back,” he said, handing Taylor a card with his number on it.
“Thank Albert. I owe that man, big, so when he asks for me to give someone a ride...” he said with a shrug.
“Still, thanks,” Taylor said, shaking his hand.
Whitaker was already at the roof door, and Taylor jogged to catch up. The lights in the building were low, probably because it was still running off of generators. As they entered the roof access, past the small booth that served as the building’s control room for helicopters, they saw Rollins coming towards them with another man in tow.
“What are you two doing here?” he asked, seeming confused. “And what’s with the helicopter?”
“What? We called, talked to an Agent Dillon. He said he’d pass the message along.”
“There isn’t an Agent Dillon in this office,” the unidentified man with Rollins said.
“This is Special Agent in Charge Porter. He runs this office,” Rollins said by way of introduction.
“What?” Whitaker said, “We called the direct number and talked to the man.”
“But what are you doing here?” Rollins repeated.
“We think this building is the actual target,” Taylor said.
Taylor laid out their reasoning. He explained how the attacks all around the city and the blackout in the city itself were designed to isolate the FBI offices and stretch their resources thin. He also laid out the connection with the upcoming anniversary.
“But you aren’t certain,” Rollins said when he finished.
“Certain? No. But it’s the only thing that fits. Nothing they’re doing makes sense with anything else we could come up with,” Taylor said.
“Sir, I know they’re here,” Whitaker added.
“Hell,” Rollins said, rubbing his face and turning to Agent Porter. “Ok, let’s evacuate all non-essential personnel, and call the locals to block off surrounding streets. It would have been tough for them to get into secure areas, so have what personnel we have left start a floor by floor search.”
“We don’t have many people left.”
“I know. Let’s call OCPD and see if they can spare anyone to help. It probably won’t be much, since they are dealing with the blackout, but let them know it’s important.”
Porter gave a curt nod and walked away, headed for the stairwell.
“If they’re here, they’ve caught us with our pants down,” Rollins said, watching the man walk away.
“I think that was the point,” Taylor said.
“Yeah. Probably. Ok, you two have had the best track record predicting these people so far. Where are they?”
“I have no idea. My first thought is to check the entrance points and go from there.”
“We’ll probably start there with the other teams Porter is putting together, but you two go do what you do. Stop by the command post we set up on the fourth floor and grab a radio.”
Taylor and Whitaker headed off at a jog down the stairs to the fourth floor, the elevators being unavailable while the building was on backup power. The ‘command post’ was two guys sitting by a police radio in an empty conference room, with cell phones, flashlights, and radios plugged in along one wall.
Grabbing a pair of flashlights and a radio, checking to make sure they were on the right channel, Whitaker and Taylor headed back to the stairwell before Whitaker stopped them.
“So, where are we going,” she asked.
“Something’s bothering me. How did our message go so wrong when we called. A guy identified himself as an FBI agent and even told us Rollins wasn’t available. Yet there is no one named Dillon assigned here, and they had no idea we were coming.”
“I’ve been thinking on that, too. It just occurred to me, the guy didn’t mention Rollins until we asked about him, and then used gender neutral terms until I said ‘he.’ I don’t think they knew who Rollins was. If I had to take a wild guess, I’d say that was one of the ALP guys, faking it.”
“Doing what, intercepting calls? How is that even possible? These guys haven’t struck me as the ‘hacker’ type so far. More of the ‘I’ll point a gun at stuff I hate and shoot it’ type.”
“Hacking in remotely to an FBI phone system and capturing the calls before they could get where they’re going is pretty damn hard, and I agree these aren’t the guys to do it. But, old school methods are a lot simpler and definitely in their wheelhouse.”
“Tapping into the lines where they come in. If they managed to break into the building unnoticed in all the chaos around here, say like when the power first went off, it’s possible.”
“Where would they do it from?”
“Somewhere in the basement, I think.”
“Ok, let’s check it out,” Taylor said.
They headed into the stairwell and started their trek down to the basement levels of the building. Neither of them knew much about the layout of a modern building and less about how phone lines would come into it. They radioed up to the command post, and the guys there had no idea either but said they’d try to find out.
For almost ten minutes they wandered around the labyrinthine corridors of the building’s sub-levels, with little luck. About the time Taylor started thinking they may have had it wrong, he heard something. At first, it was muffled, unclear.
Taylor pulled his weapon and Whitaker followed suit. They both eased slowly down the section they were in, hugging the wall, headed towards the sounds. As they got closer, the noise became more and more distinct, until it became apparent the sounds were voices, punctuated by the occasional clang or thump.
Coming to a corner, Taylor peeked around it. A hundred feet down the corridor he saw an open metal door, and a man standing in the doorway of the room, apparently talking to someone inside the room. The thumping sound was coming from inside that room. Taylor leaned back and indicated he saw someone, moving back so Whitaker could look.
“What do you think?” she asked in a whisper when she moved back from the edge.
“I think that’s a whole lot of distance before we’re on top of him, and we have no idea who or what is in that room. If we shoot him from here, they will have a long time to do what they need to do before we get to them.”
“We could call for backup?”
“Yeah, but they are doing something in there. I’m not crazy about waiting. Who knows how long they’ve been setting up for whatever they’re planning.”
“So if we do this, we watch for a moment when the guy at the door isn’t paying attention, and then we go hard and fast. Hug the wall, stay clear of each other.”
“Works for me,” Whitaker said, quietly checking to make sure she had a round chambered.
“I’ll call it.”
Whitaker hesitated and then said, “Sure, ok.”
“Don’t fire until you have to. We want to keep the element of surprise as long as possible, to get us as close to the room as we can before they’re tipped off.”
Taylor checked his weapon as well, and then moved to the corner, watching for the man in the doorway. They didn’t have to wait long. After less than a minute the man stepped forward, into the room. Not all the way, but enough to take the hallway out of his peripheral vision. Taylor thought that was probably as good as they were going to get.
He stepped out into the hallway and stayed up against the left wall, his pistol raised and pointed in the direction of the sentry as he ran, hoping Whitaker was with him but not taking his eyes off the target. They made it about half way before the sounds of their footfalls caused the guy in the door to take a step back and see what the noise was.
As soon as he saw them, his eyes got big, and his hand, along with the gun in it, started to rise as he began shouting out a warning. Taylor didn’t waste a moment. As soon as the man’s arms started rising, Taylor pulled the trigger on his pistol.
The bullet impacted just above the man’s sternum, sending him bouncing into the open door and collapsing to the floor.
Taylor may have stopped the shout of warning, but the gunshot rang out down the corridor, echoing and bouncing off its concrete walls. As he neared the door, he could hear shouts and movements inside. Taylor didn’t stop but crossed past the door, gun raised.
Taylor switched from running straight forward to a side step with his body angled towards the door.
The people inside were still working out what happened to their man and were not expecting a guy in a t-shirt and jeans to side step past the doorway. Taylor, however, was ready. As soon as he crossed the door frame, he could see five men inside a largish room that he readily identified as a boiler room of some type. Large pipes were running up from the floor to the ceiling and others into large metal containers that, if Taylor had to guess, were water heaters.
There were two guys by one of the pipes, and Taylor could see they already had C4 wrapped around one of the pipes. It was the three people holding assault rifles that Taylor focused on first. By the time he had almost crossed the doorway for cover on the other side he had assessed the situation and fired twice, dropping the closest man cradling an assault rifle.
That, unfortunately, was the last free pass he would have. Almost as soon as he had returned to cover, the men had reacted, raising their rifles and firing into the open doorway. Also unfortunate was that these men had fire discipline, firing their weapons in short bursts.
Looking at Whitaker, he held up four fingers, to indicate how many men were still standing. When the fire subsided, he leaned through the door and fired three times more. He only leaned out of cover for the time it took to pull the trigger, causing his fire to be unaimed, missing both shooters.
Whitaker had followed suit. Thanks to taking a little more time, she was able to hit one of the gunmen. It didn’t look to be a killing shot, but the man dropped to the ground, letting go of the rifle to hold his gut, blood seeping between the fingers.