It took them every bit of ninety minutes to make the journey from the Naval Air Station to the entrance into the ship canal. The ride had been brutal as Stag pushed the RIB to the limit of its capabilities in the rough weather. Between the rain and the drenching they received every time a wave crashed over the bow the men were soaked to the skin, cold and miserable.
The SEALs endured it with stoicism but Dr. Kanger had nearly freaked out when they exited the harbor. He had begun screaming, looking around in a wild eyed panic and trying to break free from the bonds on his wrists and the harness securing him to his seat. When it was obvious he wasn’t going to calm down the SEAL sitting next to him withdrew a morphine syrette from his med kit and jammed it into the Doctor’s thigh. Within moments Kanger calmed as the opiate took effect.
The ship canal was well sheltered and where the open seas of Puget Sound had been violent, the protected channel was almost calm. Stag cut their speed as they approached the locks, steering to the side so the SEALs could disembark. They were out of the boat in a flash, running through the rain towards a large building that housed the equipment that controlled all of the functions of the lock system.
Reversing the engines, Stag backed a hundred yards from the gate and shifted into neutral. A few minutes later the giant steel plates, angled slightly into the lock, began to open. There were two sections, meeting in the middle, and as they parted water began sluicing between the two halves.
The calm surface of the canal roiled and a wave rushed towards the RIB, passing under the hull just moments after the gates opened. The boat bobbed up and down but Stag knew all the energy of the released water was below the surface and wouldn’t create any problems for him.
The water level inside the lock equalized quickly with the salt-water side of the canal and he didn’t wait for the gates to open any farther. Putting the boat in gear he fed in throttle and steered between them, going back into neutral as he was approaching the entrance and letting momentum carry him the rest of the way in.
The RIB drifted to a stop at the midpoint of the one hundred and fifty foot space. Turning his head he watched as the gate slowly closed, knowing the SEALs were cranking like hell to get it to move that fast. It shut with a quiet thud and he looked up when Lieutenant Sam stepped to the edge on his right.
“The lake’s a lot higher than we expected,” he said. “Maybe the storm, but you’d better take a look.”
He kicked a rope ladder over the edge as Stag maneuvered the boat close enough to reach it. Sparing a glance at his passenger, who was still drugged to his eyeballs, he made a line fast to a rung of the ladder and climbed easily up to ground level. Sam had already moved to the lakeside gate and was staring to the east, waiting for him.
Looking around he saw two of the SEALs on the roof of the control building, keeping watch. The third was nowhere to be seen and was probably the one assigned to operate the gate mechanisms. Striding forward he came to a stop next to the young officer and cursed.
The lake was a lot higher than when he’d made his scouting run. It had been raining like hell for several days and he guessed there was a lot of runoff adding to the volume. Checking the markers painted on the walls of the lock he wasn’t happy to see the water level difference was well over three feet. A quick bit of math in his head and he cursed again. There was going to be over a million pounds of water that would come surging in to the closed lock when the gate opened.
“Can the boat take it?” Sam asked.
Before Stag could answer there was the sound of several suppressed rifle shots and they both snapped their heads around. One of the SEALs on the roof had shot three females that had charged out of the trees less than fifty yards from where they were standing.
“We’re going to try,” Stag said. “Get our passenger out of the RIB in case things go bad. I’m going to go see what can be done about opening that gate a few inches at a time to let the water in slowly.”
Sam nodded, no longer worried about who was the officer and who wasn’t. He was just focused on the mission.
Stag jogged to the building, stepping through the door and heading to where the SEAL that had injected Kanger with morphine was standing. He was between two very large iron wheels. They were mounted horizontally on top of massive iron rods and labeled as “salt” and “fresh” to indicate which gate they controlled.
“What’s up?” The SEAL asked as Stag approached.
“Lake’s higher than expected. Too much water going to come in. You just opened the salt side. Did it feel like you could have gone slow and only opened the gate a few inches at a time?”
“No way. I didn’t even have to turn the wheel except to close it. The weight of the water forced it open as soon as I released the brake.” He pointed down at where the iron rod connected to the wheel disappeared into the concrete floor. The bottom six inches of each rod was a giant gear with thick teeth and a heavy piece of spring-loaded iron blocked it from moving. “No way anyone is controlling that by hand. The wheel is spinning so fast it would take your arm off if you tried.”
“Well, fuck me. That ain’t good,” Stag said, looking out the window when he heard a scream and the faint sound of more suppressed rifle fire. “Hang on.”
He went over to the door and looked out just as Lieutenant Sam emerged from the lock, climbing the rope ladder with Kanger hanging on his back.
“Open the fresh side,” he said. There was no point in thinking about it any more. Either the boat would survive and they’d all motor across the lake or it wouldn’t and they had a long, wet walk ahead of them.
There was a loud clang as the SEAL released the brake and the gate began opening quickly under the pressure of the lake. The wheel spun crazily, a high-pitched groan starting up from deep in the concrete floor.
Blue lake water rushed into the lock and Stag ran outside to stand next to the Lieutenant and watch the show. The water spilling through the swiftly opening gate struck the calm surface in the lock hard enough to send a cloud of mist into the rain-saturated air. A swell instantly appeared just inside the gate and raced down the lock. The top of the wave was higher than the bow of the RIB, breaking over it and washing the length of the small boat.
The RIB, basically unsinkable, bobbed like a cork and shed the water but it was shoved hard enough to snap the line secured to the rope ladder. Free to move, it was carried back and slammed into the salt water gate hard enough for Stag to feel the impact in his feet.
He could tell from where he stood that the hull had broken. The boat would still float because of the inflated tubes that ran along either side, but it was no longer seaworthy.
“Guess we’re finding a new ride,” he said to Sam.
They had set off in a diamond formation, the four SEALs creating a bubble around Stag and Kanger. The Doctor was still drugged and unsteady on his feet so Stag had to put his shoulders under one of Kanger’s arms and support him as they moved.
The area was open, with good sight lines, and the SEALs were regularly engaging females that charged at them. Some of them screamed but most sprinted silently. Fortunately they didn’t have to go far before reaching a small marina. A few boats were still tied up to the weathered dock and it didn’t take Stag long to get one started.
It was half the size of the RIB but they squeezed in and sailed out into the open lake, the boat’s asthmatic motor wheezing as it battled the wind and small waves. Their destination, The Allen Institute for Cell Science, was on the southern shore and they arrived in fifteen minutes.
Lieutenant Sam had called ahead to the rest of his team who was securing the facility and four of them met the boat at a small dock. Dead infected, both male and female, were scattered across the sloping lawn that led down from a modern looking four-story building. They had carried Kanger up the slope and dumped him on the couch in a well-appointed office to sleep off the morphine.
“What do you need, Lieutenant?” Kanger’s voice came over the intercom speaker mounted above the sealed glass window.
“There’s a Colonel Crawford that want’s to speak with you,” he answered.
“He’s here?” Kanger said, surprised.
“No, sir. Radio relay from Pearl Harbor. I don’t know where he is.”
“What does he need? It will take me ten minutes to decontaminate and get out of here.” Kanger still hadn’t forgiven the team for what he termed “kidnapping” him, then tasering him to get him on the boat and drugging him to keep him on it. The irritation in his voice was clear.
“He says he has a man who might be immune,” Sam said after speaking on the phone that was relayed through the satellite link on the roof of the building.