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Chapter 104: Chased

The guard spun around and started to shoot, but Shane moved faster. Barely registering the guard going down, all he heard was the thunderous sound of his rifle.  Shane rushed forward.  No point trying to stay hidden now.  He stopped only briefly to eject the magazine from the dead guard's rifle and stow it with his other extra cartridge.

Reaching the double doors in the main entryway, he shoved against one and it opened.  For the first time in more than a year, he felt the warmth of the sun, but the light blinded him and he had to raise a hand to shield his eyes from the brightness.  Then he registered the sounds of men yelling and boots running across concrete.

Again, instinct took over, and he dove back into the palace, back into the artificial light.  He barely managed to drag the heavy door closed behind him before the outside guards opened fire.  Wood splintered over his head.

Shane scanned the entryway.  He could try going back or finding another way out, or he could try to fight through the men outside.  He slid back, away from the doors and spotted the two guards from earlier round the corner into the main hallway.  From the ground, he fired on them before thinking.  He did not have to check their bodies to know they were dead when they collapsed to the ground.

He wanted to do the same.  His heart was pounding so hard, he felt like it would break through his chest.  Adrenaline was all that was fueling him now.

Maybe it would be better to rush the guards outside, he thought.  Dying in the light of day seemed preferable to running around like a rat in a maze.  No.  He would not do it that way.  He did not fear dying, but not like this.  If he died, it would be trying to make a serious attempt at escaping, not in some Butch-and-Sundance suicide charge.

He pulled himself to his feet, his breath coming in shallow gasps, and staggered down the corridor in the direction opposite the way he had come.  His memories of the floorplan came back.  He must have passed the guard headquarters; that was where the men were talking with Stefano.  Now he was moving toward the kitchen and support areas.

Behind him he heard shouts, most likely guards from the headquarters on the opposite side of the building.  He rounded the corner from the main corridor as they opened fire.  Bullets ricocheted off the walls behind him, and he heard the sound of tearing cloth as one cut through his trailing shirttails.

Ahead, he heard noises.  A whirring sound that took him awhile to recognize as a blender; it had been so long since he had heard one.  The kitchens were at the end of the corridor, and from there was an exit to the delivery area.  He raced forward, struggling to keep his feet beneath him and pushed through a set of swinging doors int into a room filled with large steel counters, kitchen appliances, and white-coated cooks.  For a moment, they stared at him, open-mouthed.  Then they began shouting.

Ignoring them, Shane tried to get his bearings.  There were several doors leading out of the room.  Not the metal ones; those were probably cold storage.  The others -- damn, he had no idea.  He ran toward a wooden door at the opposite side of the kitchen, guessing it was the most likely to lead outside.  He shoved aside a man in a white apron, and dodged a steel trolley filled with food.  He reached the door and managed to slip through it, pulling it closed behind him, just as the original door opened and the guards opened fire, obviously with no concern for the lives of the kitchen staff.  Their screams carried through the now-closed door behind Shane.

He looked around and his heart sank.  He had picked wrong.  The door did not lead to an exit.  He was in a darkened pantry, a large closet with several rows of heavy metal shelves.  Each was loaded with cans and dry goods.  He could see no door on the other side, just the one he had passed through -- the one now surrounded by Vasquez's guards.  From the opposite side, he could hear voices and heavy boots approaching his position.

He was trapped.

The guards would be through the door in an instant, and he had no idea how many of them were out there.  Shane could not hold the door shut against them.  Even if he had been at full strength, the guards easily could force the door open.

Doing another scan of the room, he studied the shelf immediately opposite the door.  Maybe, he thought, just maybe.  He grasped the shelf and it wobbled a bit.  Looking down, he saw that the shelf was not bolted to the ground.  If he could tip it over, it would fall against the door, bracing it closed.  It looked like it would hit about midway, forming a bit of a buttress.  The only question was whether he had the strength.  Doubtful, but he had to try.  It was his best -- no, his only chance at holding them off for just a few more minutes.

With all of the strength he could muster, Shane pushed against the shelf.  He could hear the soldiers on the other side of the door preparing an assault.  They were being careful too, unsure of what he might have planned for them if they broke through.  Shane had killed enough of their numbers for them to act with caution.

The shelf remained still, but Shane kept pushing.  His arms and shoulders strained against the metal, and he began to feel it shift.  His legs were weak, but he forced them to give just a little more power.

Finally, the shelf gave way.  It and its contents toppling forward with a loud crash against the door.  As it did, Shane's legs gave out, and he fell gracelessly to the ground.

He had only a moment to lie there, because the soldiers, reacting as soldiers often do, opened fire at the door.  Bullets tore through the wood, forcing Shane to press himself as close to the floor as possible.  Over his head, he heard the pinging sound of bullets ricocheting off the metal cans and shelving.  He crawled away from the door, sliding around some more shelves, before coming to a rest.  From his position, he had a good vantage point to see anyone coming through the doorway, and the shelf and its contents gave him some cover.  This was as good a spot as he was going to find.

After taking a few deep breaths and letting his heart rate slow a little, Shane decided to take stock of his situation.  He glanced first at the rifle.  Its magazine was about half-full and he had two spare magazines, banana clips that probably held about 50 bullets each.  At full auto mode, he would exhaust the ammo in only a few minutes if the soldiers made a full-scale assault.  After that, he would only have the handguns.  He pulled one of the pistols out and examined it, recognizing it as a semiautomatic Beretta.  Seventeen rounds in the standard clip.  He turned the gun over in his hand, studying it closely, and made a decision.

He would never use all those rounds.  When the ammo in the rifle ran out, if he was not already dead, he would use one of the pistols.  He would need only one bullet.  Just one to the soft palette; that was all it would take.  He looked down the barrel, at the blackness, and raised it to his lips.  Shane took a deep breath and held it, steeling himself.  He even reminded himself that he had trained for this possibility.  He had always known there might come a time when he would have to take his own life rather than face capture.

Shane let out the breath.  Not yet.  He set the pistol on the shelf just to his side and then put the second pistol beside it.  They would be within arm's reach when the time came.  For now, he would give his survival instinct one last chance.