Tobias: Chapter 7
We leave for Chicago at 9:00.
I sit in the back seat of the cargo van with Christina as we pass over and into the city limits. Lights from buildings illuminate the surrounding areas, just making it visible to see the towering gate. It still appears the same, but the sight of it makes my stomach tighten and I glance away, making sure not to look at anything I might recognize as we approach the downtown districts.
I rub my hands together, trying to focus. It's hard though, since I didn't really contemplate what I was getting into until it was too late. The plan itself might not be enough. Parts might have been too hurriedly strategized, making room for a slip up. There are many factors we haven't even taken into account, such as the fact of what kind of people we are dealing with. Nor do we even have the slightest idea the identities of the very people we cannot afford to cross paths with. I could have slapped Caleb for not mentioning that part earlier, but I would probably have agreed to come anyway, so it's pointless, really.
I can't shake the unsteadiness I feel, though, the closer we get to the Erudite complex. Everything in me is wired so tightly, I feel like I'm about to snap.
"This'll be fun," Christina says, casting a glance over at me. Her black pants and dark shirt sends deja vu thrumming through me and it's almost hard to look at her. Once, it used to be the sight that was meant to mean strength and bravery. The clothing that meant Dauntless. Now, it just surfaces bad memories I don't wish to unbury.
"Yeah," I say, though my tone lacks enthusiasm. "Fun."
I hear the dirt from beneath us change from rock to tar, just as Caleb makes a few turns, pointing to some place in the distance. "There it is," he says.
A few minutes later, we park the cargo van in an isolated area we don't plan to return to, five blocks away from the headquarters. After-if- we make it back out, there's another car stationed just outside the gate, towards an area we'll be able to slip through.
I inhale deeply. 10:20 a.m.
We stay in the car for another fifteen minutes instructed by Caleb, just to insure a sighting of a white cargo van has not been reported. He's the first to get out since he will be breaking into the ventilation system that will branch off and, if his blueprint was accurate, will lead him to a duct in a wall that opens into a small, storage unit. From there, the information will be transferred to his computer by Matthew, that will enter by the front entrance one minute after the alarm is shut down.
Cara will remain as lookout and warn us of any incomings and reports.
I get out last, slamming the door gently behind. Next to me, Christina retrieves her gun and puts on her silencer.
"All right," she says, "let's go steal stuff."
I stand exactly a block away from the Headquarters, Christina and I watching as Matthew walks the rest of the way. It's possible he's been given the hardest task, since his face is the likeliest to be seen, but he walks slowly, determined. Half way there, he retrieves his earpiece and we do the same.
"No guards present," he says and I see his head swivel around, but staying low so as not to be noticed by cameras if they're present. "They're not worried about the outside," Caleb's voice appears in my ear. "They'll be at every entrance and barred unit. Erudite is technically the head of the place right now, so someone walking in isn't going to appear too suspicious. So long as you stay on that floor."
"Okay," Matthew replies.
"Don't forget, you're asking the intercom for a background check on Rimorsa Decombre about possible revolutionary acts. She's been deceased for six months, but it should still be enough to allow you in. Confirmation takes seven seconds. That's your cue, Four to enter and take down the two."
I know, I want to say, but remain quiet, motioning to Christina to start moving. She secures her gun and scurries across the road, lithe and swift. I come up behind her, just as Matthew enters the first door. "Yes," his voice picks up in my head, just a few seconds later.
Christina and I pull up on the far side wall, easing our way closer to the back door. When the front is opened, it will trigger this one as well.
"I'd like to report a possible rebellious operation of an Erudite." Clothed in blue himself, Matthew's words almost seem believable. Smart of him to make it of their own faction, I think. It would be seen as something doubly threatening to them.
"Rimorsa Decombre, approximately seventeen years. Erudite transfer."
I hold my breath. Count to seven in my head. Just before I've reached nine, I hear a click followed by a buzz and then Matthew is in. I can't think. Everything in me just suddenly moves, and I'm darting towards the back entrance, slipping through just as the buzzer dies away. Instantly, a man clothed in army black appears before me, gun halfway to my face. Almost on instinct, I catch his wrist between my hand and twist, making him drop the gun before he can shoot and alert the entire place of us. I bring my knee up into his chest Once, twice, a third time. He doubles over for a second before sending a reactive punch to my stomach, stopping my breath.
I dive away and come at him from behind, wrapping my arm around his throat, my other twining behind his arms and holding him back. I keep him there, hearing Christina take on her attacker next to me. I see him send a fist across her face once and my vision instantly turns red, but she comes back in full force and hits him over the head with the hilt of her gun. The guard I have pinned loses consciousness and then we're moving again.
"Guards down," I hiss.
"Good. Dump them," Caleb says.
I hurriedly strip the man of his jacket and throw off my own, moving quickly. Christina does the same and when we're suited up into other people's gear, I drag the men back through the exit, Chris keeping the door open.
"Matthew, the next guard round is in four minutes. Four, stay stationed by the door until then. Escort him to the second interval."
I wait, trying to slow my breathing. Trying to look like a guard. My heart is beating fast, but I attempt to appear neutral; unfeeling.
"Now," Caleb says, and just like that, we're thrown back into action, turning on my heel to where Matthew is. He stands just down the corridor, stationed beside another officer. I grab him by the shoulder and give you a firm push in a general direction. "Come with me," I say, "for your complaint to be documented."
"Excuse me," the other officer says, freezing my blood. Before he say anything else, I say, "simply following orders, Sir," and continue down as sure-footedly as I can manage.
"Act like you know where you're going," says Caleb. "Elevator is on your right side. There, turn there!" I do and when the door opens, three other guards greet us. We load in, Matthew's face looking whiter, Christina stoic on the other side of him. I don't look at the other guards. My heart is racing so fast, I wonder if they can hear it. I'm expecting them to stop me any second; place their hand on my shoulder and demand to see some type of credentials, but then the door swings open and they get off. I let out a breath and press the glowing 2nd button.
There are noticeably more guards on the next floor as there had been on the second and my nerves are suddenly kicking it into overdrive, everything in me becoming hypersensitive as I walk with Christina and Matthew down the hall.
"Take a left," Caleb says. "Take your position by the front door and sneak him into the vestibule farthest from the right."
I comply, glancing down each hallway before escorting Matthew farther down. The place is all white, like really white. Each door I see is composed of glass, air-sealed and barred. I pass people on computers, all clothed in blue. Some look up to stare at me, others don't seem to even notice.
I lead Matthew down the rest of the hallway and turn left, walking to the vestibule occupied by a Thomas Marks.
"You've got fifteen minutes, Matthew."
He sits down at the desk and pulls up a file. "Yeah, fifteen minutes," he mumbles. "Fifteen minutes to break into an all-security database and then transfer the data to a laptop. I might need more time than that."
"You have none," Caleb says. "Hurry."
Matthew gets started, his hands flying across the keyboard. The people around us set my teeth on edge, everywhere full of activity that could potentially get us caught.
I count the seconds off in my head, the numbers making my fingers twitch.
"In his account," Matthew murmurs, eyes studying the computer screen intently. "Now to try bypass any other security measures. The likelihood of having more than one is probab-"
"Stop narrating," I hiss quietly, keeping my eyes straight ahead, standing in the same position I've seen the other guards; feet apart, chin high, hand resting on the butt of my rifle. My hands are slick, the sweat of anxiety and the heavy leather beading down my arms and the nape of my neck. In my head, I'm running over every scenario that could turn this into a game of cat and mouse.
"Eleven minutes, Matthew," Caleb says.
"Shut up." I can sense the fear in his voice.
"How we doing, Cara?"
She picks up after Caleb. "Clear," she says. "No sign of anyone."
My eyes drift around the room, slowly, instinctively, hoping I find no one staring at two armed guards standing in front of a cubicle.
"Patrol the perimeter," Caleb snaps. "Walk around and come back, in case you think people are getting suspicious." I nudge Christina's arm and she steps forward, me directly by her side. I take special note to avoid the guards standing in front of the barred areas and silently pray that's not where the serum samples are located.
We walk slowly, calculative, glancing out the single window we pass, ignoring those that glance up at out approach. They don't seem to see anything out of the ordinary. My blood feels electrified and I try to breathe in slowly, moving around the cubicles. I think of alarms suddenly blaring. I expect to see flashing lights any second.
"Six minutes, wrap it up, Matthew," Caleb presses.
"I'm going as fast as I can," he says. The flurry of keys in the background are audible even through the earpiece. "I'm not breaking the code."
"Focus," I whisper, so low I can barely hear my own words exit my mouth. "Take your time."
"You got this, Matt," Cara joins in on the encouragement.
"Okay, okay, okay," Matthew mutters, "I'm...in!" he says. "Transferring...right...now." I hear a click. Caleb lets out a breath. "Head back to him," he tells us.
But as we reach the cuticle once more, one set of eyes turn to us, and it's like I can feel the question burning in his expression.
What are you doing?
I try to act impassive, but I know he's still looking at me as we stand guard.
"Transfer done?" Christina breathes.
"Almost," Matthew says. "Thirty percent."
"Four minutes before Thomas boy returns. "
I don't look at the guard, but I can still sense he's going to come over. He's going to come over.
I hear a curse. "Fourty five percent."
I know the guard's questioning is like a rippling affect. His staring brings on the curiousity of another set of eyes. A chain reaction. "Caleb, we've got to hurry," I say.
"Fifty two percent."
"Start walking," Caleb says. "Go down the next hall. There's a second elevator there. Go now."
"What about Matthew?" Asks Christina, her voice tight.
"In exactly two and a half minutes, Matthew, follow after them, but do it slow. Like, stand up and crack your back. Something that suggests intellectual exhaustion."
I purse my lips, feeling the adrenaline course through me, like fire in my veins. Any second now, our cover will be blown. I take a stiff step forward and start walking in the direction Caleb said to. The gun under my hand offers surpringly little comfort. Matthew's voice is shallow as he says, "seventy-five percent."
We reach the end of the hallway, staring awkwardly in front of the elevator. I'm about to reach out and press the button when I notice a coding system right above it, barring off the next floor. "Caleb," I say, the breath leaving my body. "We need a code."
"Matthew, go. We're at ninety percent."
I hear him stand in the back and a few seconds later, I glimpse him approaching us from behind. He stands next to us, his face bone white. I'm biting my lip so hard, I feel the taste of copper fill my mouth.
"Caleb, you have to hurry."
"Okay," he says. "It's transferred. I'm just pulling up the coding files, give me a minute."
"We don't have a minute!" I hiss under my voice, glancing behind me just as the same guard appears, his eyes narrowing in our direction. Caleb's breathing hard in my head. Or maybe it's me, I can't tell.
"I'm looking...It's...nine, five, six, six, pound, three, two." I jam in the code and miraculously, the elevator door slides open. I step inside and glance back once more, hoping the suspicion of the guard has lessened. But when I meet his fixed look, I know something is off. And just as the elevator door empties us out onto the third floor, the alarms come on, exploding in my ears.