"Pop Quiz" - Part Nine

A minute and a half later, we pulled ourselves over the lip of the opening and onto the floor above.

I rolled to a crouch.

We were in a corner where two corridors met.

The two rottweilers standing in the middle of the corridor directly in front of us turned in our direction, ears perking. They snarled, teeth bared, eyes narrowed.

Then charged.

Crap.

Mouse and I fired. Three-round burst from her MP5. Two rounds each from the Twins.

The shots caught the dogs in the chest. They gave a startled yip and crumpled forward in mid-stride, skidding along the floor for a least a meter and a half before coming to a halt.

I turned to the right, the Twins still out, tracking, checking the other corridor.

A third rottweiler lunged, paws catching me in the chest, slamming me against the wall.

Wind wooshed out of my lungs. My head snapped back and white light flashed behind my eyes.

I dropped the Twins.

The dog shoved its snout at my face, growling, jaws snapping.

Hooked a forearm under the dog's neck, trying to keep it from tearing off my nose. Got my knee up between us, planted my foot in its belly, and shoved. Hard.

The dog yelped and fell back on its hind legs, righted itself, and lunged again.

Mouse's wakizashi caught it in mid-lunge, sliding through the side of its neck. It yelped and folded. Mouse danced back, blade at the ready.

I scrambled to one side, scooped up Bonnie, turned, and fired, blowing a hole in the dog's skull.

Then I sat down hard on my ass on the cold hallway floor, sucking in deep breaths.

"Holy fucking goddamn sonofabitch!" Mouse said. She was bent over, hands on her upper thighs, breathing heavily, her wakizashi on the floor next to her foot.

I rolled to my hands and knees, still holding Bonnie.

Something wasn't right. I got the distinct feeling we were being herded.

What was Sakura trying to do--?

And a thought struck.

I got to my feet. "Come on," I said to Mouse and headed back toward the elevator shaft.

"Where're you going?" said Mouse.

"Back downstairs."

"What?"

I stopped and looked back at her. "Trust me."

* * *

We were back in the short corridor behind the ceiling crusher room.

"Okay," said Mouse. "What are we doing back here?"

"Not getting killed," I said.

"Are you forgetting the explosives she set to bring this place down on top of us?"

I shook my head. "It's a bluff."

"You sure about that? Because I'm not too wild about getting crushed by a building."

"Playing a hunch."

"Again with the hunches."

"Worked for us before."

"We got lucky."

"We make our own luck."

Mouse gave me a lopsided grin. "We do, don't we."

I nodded.

"So what's the hunch?" said Mouse.

I said, "Remember what Murphy always said. 'Never let the enemy define the battle. Choose your own battlefield.' Now think about what Sakura's doing."

"She wants us to get past the..." She gave a start, as if she'd been slapped, and her eyes went wide. "Sonofabitch. She was herding us."

"Bingo," I said. "Our mistake. And I've got a feeling one of those traps is going to have our names on it. Time to do this our way."

"We visit mayhem and destruction on Sakura's ass?"

"Later," I said. "First, we go back to the room we started in."

I headed down the corridor to the door I'd seen earlier.

"And then what?" Mouse said, following.

"Sakura had to have bypassed all these traps to get us into that room," I said. "Which means there's a secondary entrance. Something hidden. Something we missed. And it'll be close to where we started."

I tried the lever handle on the door.

Unlocked.

Drew the Twins and stood to the right of door then nodded to Mouse.

She brought the MP5 to her shoulder, stood behind the door, and reached for the handle.

"And you're still totally sure the exploding collapsing complex is a trick?"

"Trust me," I said.

She looked at me for a long moment, then let out a loud exhale. "Might as well," she said. "And if they do turn out not to be a trick, somebody needs to save your sorry ass."

"You're all heart, Mouse," I said.

She stuck her tongue out at me.

Then yanked the door open and propped it with a foot.

I ducked through and hooked left.

(to be continued...)

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