Burying the Past
Chapter 16

Copyright© 2019 by Lumpy

Both Taylor and Whitaker were winded as they turned the corner and finished the run from Allied Mechanical Systems to the water processing station that held Allied’s high-pressure injection system. While four blocks weren’t that far to run normally, coming in at just under half a mile, they’d both ran flat out to get to their destination as quickly as possible, a goal made harder by the people and traffic they’d had to avoid.

The station itself was a small, square concrete structure surrounded by a fence, and set between two larger mid-century walk-ups. Taylor knew from previous experience that much of the cities services were housed underground due to the cramped nature of DC and how little open real estate it had. The building looked to be not much bigger than the entrance to a stairwell, which it probably was, with a small driveway that ended directly at the door. It was just enough for a city works department truck to pull in and close the gate behind the vehicle when someone was working at the site.

Taylor had been surprised to see a metro PD squad car sitting in that spot now, although with the gate still sitting open. He’d been expecting either park police or metro to be the first to respond to the call they’d asked Crawford to put out, since there were usually officers from either agency out in patrol vehicles, rather than someone from the Bureau where the agents would have to leave the Hoover building and fight through traffic to get to them.

Taylor could see the door leading into the processing station was partially opened but couldn’t see inside clearly because the white and blue metro SUV was blocking his view. Taylor slowed to a walk, grabbing Whitaker’s arm to force her to slow as well. She was about to protest when she saw Taylor put his hand on the grip of his pistol.

He didn’t pull his weapon yet, but he proceeded cautiously since there was a good chance they’d find bad guys inside the processing station, and the last thing Taylor wanted to do was go charging headfirst into armed hostiles.

As soon as he rounded the SUV, however, Taylor did pull his weapon. Lying sprawled in front of the open doorway lay the metro officer, his chest a bloody mess of what looked like several larger caliber rounds and his service revolver lying a few inches from an outstretched hand.

Taylor didn’t say anything as Whitaker bent down and put her fingers on the man’s neck, feeling for a pulse. The blank stare and motionless body were all you needed to see to know this man was no longer with them, but he understood Whitaker’s need to double-check. After few seconds she looked at Taylor and shook her head.

Taylor gave her a tight grimace in response but didn’t say anything. Instead, he moved to stand on one side of the doorway holding his weapon held up in a two-handed grip, so it was ready to use. Whitaker stood up from the fallen officer and followed his actions on the other side of the doorway. They made eye contact briefly and, with a single nod to let her know he was ready, he went through the door, turning to the right slightly to clear that side of the room. He felt her move past him as she turned in the opposite direction.

There wasn’t far for them to go and both trained their weapons on the stone steps leading down into the processing station proper. Taylor made a face as he looked down into the dark stairwell, poorly lit by a light on the level below he couldn’t see from his angle and light behind them from the ground level entryway. He’d had enough operational experience to realize how terrible this was, as a tactical situation. Even if they waited for backup, they’d still have to go blind into an area with at least one armed man with a rifle, based on the wounds on the officer outside. Waiting, however, wasn’t something either of them wanted to do considering what they’d seen in Amberville and the stakes if a similar attack was successfully brought off in a much denser metropolitan area like downtown DC.

Taylor kept his weapon pointed out level at the unknown area in front of them as he started to descend along the right side of the stairwell, hugging the wall. Whitaker followed a few steps behind him, pressed against the same wall, trying to not walk flush with the gap between the different levels of stairs.

Taylor turned around one more bend in the descending stairwell and saw the bottom of the stairs where they connected to the concrete floor through the guardrail. Besides the stairs, his brain had registered something else and he reacted without fully considering what he’d seen. The split-second reaction to half-seen danger, a skill drilled into him through relentless training and in the field experience saved his life, as he had just enough time to fall backward as the first bullet smashed into the wall he’d been standing next to seconds before.

Taylor knew he was lucky. The shooter had been ready for him and if Taylor had stopped for even a second to consider what he’d been looking at, he’d be dead now.

Whitaker followed suit and threw herself to the ground on the small landing where the stairs made their turn, covering her head from the chips of flying concrete that began pelting both of them as the shooter below continued to fire.

Taylor considered his options as he pushed himself closer to the edge where the wall and the stairs met. He had a very narrow area to work with since there was only a painted guardrail on the inside part of the stairs, which meant he had to stay close to the wall to avoid getting clipped. Taylor pulled himself into as small of a ball as he could manage and turned himself around so that his head was now facing down the stairs. He started slowly sliding down the steps with his weapon trained at the edge of the stairs, hoping to get a clear view of the bottom even from his prone position.

He tried to keep an eye on where the bullets were impacting as well, to make sure the shooter hadn’t adjusted his aim down towards the last landing. Whitaker must have noticed what he was doing because she stuck her gun over the edge of the stairwell, fired twice, and pulled her hand back before a stray bullet could hit her. It would have taken a small miracle for her to actually hit anything, but it seemed to work as bullets started impacting around the corner she had just been firing from, forcing her to scoot further back on the landing she had stopped at to avoid being hit.

Taylor continued to push himself along head first down the stairs until he was just about the last landing where the stairwell curved before it ended on the basement floor. He couldn’t see the entire shooter, who had his shoulder braced against the frame of the doorway that led from the stairwell to the station’s machinery. Thankfully the shooter wasn’t as careful as he should be as he stood in a firing stance, one leg and a hand holding the simulated wooden grip under the barrel, both of which stuck out of the doorway slightly. Had the shooter stayed somewhat inside the room he probably would have still had an angle on the last row of steps without exposing himself, but the way terrorists trained their fighters rarely focused on smaller details such as that.

Taylor aimed from his awkward position and fired a single round that hit the man high on the foot, just below the ankle. The shooter had a look that was part pain and part surprise as he toppled forward, his head and half his body appearing as his leg was no longer able to support himself. Taylor fired once more as the man fell, the first bullet catching him center mass, where Taylor was aiming and the second in the side of the man’s neck as he collapsed down into Taylor’s target zone.

The terrorist weekly put one hand to his neck as he tried to stop the bleeding even as blood bubbled from his lips as his lungs filled. Taylor was up and moving as soon as the man hit the ground, pausing at the same corner the gunman had previously used to take a quick look down the hallway.

Whitaker came up behind him, stopping briefly to look at the man on the floor as his movements became slower and less coordinated.

“Qasim probably knows we’re here, now,” Taylor said as he replaced the magazine. “He’ll try and get that crap in the water system before we can get to him, even if it means he has to throw more guys at us.”

The noise coming from the doorway was intense, so there was a chance Qasim hadn’t heard the gunfire, although even with the mechanical noise that seemed unlikely. Considering they’d also already shot a police officer and stationed a man to ambush the fallen officers backup, however, it seemed unlikely Qasim didn’t notice his man go down.

“Go,” she said, sparing one last look at the dying man and reloading as well. “I’m right behind you.”

Taylor stepped over the legs of the fallen terrorist and quickly poked his head through the doorway, pulling back once he’d seen the layout of the room. It was bigger than he’d expected with a series of wide machines that reached to the admittedly short ceiling across a room that was perhaps twenty yards wide and what looked to be ten yards deep.

The noise inside the room was significantly louder than it was in the doorway since it no longer filtered through a single opening with the concrete baffling a portion of the sound. Taylor frowned as he realized the only way he’d be able to identify targets or danger was to see it since he wouldn’t be able to hear them coming.

He hadn’t seen anyone on his first glimpse so Taylor rushed into the room at a half-crouch, putting his back against a tank of some kind that blocked enough of his legs that he didn’t have to worry about someone doing to him what he’d just done to the terrorist at the stairwell. Whitaker moved behind him, facing the other direction.

Whitaker made a series of gestures with her hand telling him to go the direction he was facing around the wall of machinery while she circled in the other direction. He moved forward, going in spurts from one spot that offered the most protection as a shower of concrete shards from the wall on his right spraying across him was the first sign that there was trouble.

He turned just in time to see the next muzzle flash as he moved behind another piece of equipment. Other than knowing he wasn’t hit, he had no idea where that bullet had gone. Taylor resisted the urge to fire blindly around the equipment since he had no way of knowing where Whitaker was. A look behind him told Taylor she’d already rounded the corner. The only good thing he had was there were enough pipes going across that even the ‘open’ areas still had a ton of obstacles to block a bullet.

It wasn’t the safest option, but he had to keep moving and get around this bank of machinery if he was going to back up Whitaker. He took a breath and sprinted to the last barrier that formed the corner of this row. Instead of leaning out at his normal height, since Qasim’s men had to know Taylor was coming around this way by now, Taylor knelt low and leaned out gun first, pointing down the narrow walkway between the wall and the equipment.

Sure enough, there was a man there waiting for him, rifle at the ready. Taylor had been expecting that and had his finger on the trigger as he came around the corridor. The extra second needed by the man with the rifle to realize his target was three feet lower than he’d been expecting was enough for Taylor to get off the shot, dropping him.

Pushing himself up, Taylor moved to the end of the equipment stacked in the middle of the room and glanced around the corner. A glance was all he could get as bullets began smashing into the wall and metal around him. Pain shot up his arm as he stepped back, causing his gun hand to drop a few degrees.

A quick check told him he hadn’t been shot, a ricochet only grazing him slightly. While the pain had been enough to surprise him, it didn’t make him unable to hold his weapon, which was lucky. Taylor was considering leaning out again and trying to get a few shots off when movement caught his attention. Turning he just managed to pull his gun up when he noticed Whitaker sliding around the corner behind him.

She had a pained expression, and he saw her shirt was soaked with blood and had a long tear across one side just above the waist. She saw his glance at her side. Whitaker gave him a look and shook her head slightly to let him know she was ok. After waving him off Whitaker stood up and put her gun around the corner, firing blindly a few times.

While their plan to flank Qasim had not worked out, her being next to him meant he didn’t have to worry about hitting her in crossfire. Following her lead he began blind firing as well. His Drill Sargent would have had his ass for just blazing away blindly, especially after Taylor had switched magazines and did it again, but Taylor was hoping to push them back. He hadn’t seen any spots on the side he’d entered from for chemicals to be added into the injection system like he’d seen them doing in Amberville, which means it had to be on the side the terrorists were holed up.

He repeated his action, sticking his weapon around the corner, squeezing off a few more rounds and pulling back. This time the fire stopped, on his side, at least. The bullet impacts near Whitaker had increased tempo forcing her back from the corner, no longer able to return fire.

Taylor took a chance with the lack of incoming fire on his side to come around the corner in a kneeling position, gun at the ready. His hope was the shooter, who had been blazing away at a sustained rate until a moment before, had stopped to reload. To Taylor’s surprise, when he came around the corner the man who was presumably the shooter was down, AK style rifle still clutched in his hands, unmoving. Taylor found it unlikely that he’d blindly fired a bullet and managed to hit anything other than floor or machinery, let alone the person he’d wanted to hit. That, however, appeared to be precisely what had happened.

The downed terrorist wasn’t the only one on this side of the machinery. There was a second man standing in front of the machinery working some control nobs and holding a large jug of a pale blue liquid that almost looked like window cleaner, except cloudier. As Taylor began to aim at the man, a new threat emerged when a second shooter moved into view from around the side. Taylor was adjusted quickly and took a wild shot, hoping to beat the man. He missed, his shot going high and to the left, striking an already leaking pipe and causing water to spray out over both the shooter and his friend.

Taylor ducked back as more bullets began pelting his direction, smashing into machinery. A pipe on the wall behind Taylor burst, spraying him and Whitaker with a mist of water. He slipped slightly on the now slick ground as the water mixed with the oil that was already leaking from the larger machinery that had already taken a fair number of rounds.

Taylor gripped the machine in front of him with his left hand to keep from sliding more and leaned out, firing at the new shooter again. He would have hit the man, who was continuing to fire, if his feet hadn’t gone out from under him and collapsed, arms flailing wild and bullets making an arc as they went from striking machinery to wall to ceiling.

One of the shooters wild burst of rounds as he fell struck the blue jug of liquid as he went down, the blue liquid pouring from a hole close to the bottom of the container and splashing onto the ground with the pooling oil and water.

Instantly a deep vapor that Taylor recognized began forming around the two men. Taylor didn’t wait, he turned, and half slid past Whitaker, grabbing her with his free hand as he went around the corner. The man who had been firing away at Whitaker was still at the end of the aisle, down towards the far end of the machinery.

Taylor fired once, hitting the man high in the chest, before he slid into the far wall, Whitaker being smashed into it right next to him as he dragged her along.

“What the hell,” she screamed as Taylor fired again into the dropping terrorist to make sure he was down.

“They spilled the crap into the water on the floor. The vapor will be here in a second. Move your ass.”

Her eyes got wide as she pushed herself away from the wall, and both took off towards the stairwell. The vapor was just starting to come through the pipes towards them as they went through the door to the stairwell, the ground finally drying up, giving both more traction.

Taylor kept his weapon out as he climbed. He could hear the crack of gunfire above him, slowly becoming louder as he put distance between himself and the machinery below. He hadn’t seen Qasim, which meant the man had either sent lackeys to do his work for him or, more likely, and gotten out while Taylor and Whitaker were pinned down.

Coming through the door at the top of the stairs, Taylor ducked as a bullet smashed into the wall next to him. In front of him were two terrorists with rifles firing at several uniformed police officers who were taking cover behind their patrol cars. Taylor didn’t pause and fired into both men’s backs, killing them instantly. Whitaker would probably chastise him later about giving the men a chance to surrender, but since they were actively trying to kill law enforcement officers and a wall of poison gas was on its way up towards him, Taylor found he didn’t care much.

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