They descended the network cable swiftly, but even as they slid down, Caitlin could see they were going to have trouble. The SUV had been left atop a file cabinet near the opposite side of the room, and there seemed to be no easy way to make such an ascent. They could have tried lowering themselves from the drop ceiling with the thread rope she still carried in a coil over her shoulder, but there would have been no way to remove it once they reached their destination. A dangling thread near the car would have been a dead giveaway.
Once on the floor they hurried over to the cabinet, but found no way to scale it. It was set far enough away from the wall that they couldn't ascend by pushing off against the wall and inching their way up, even if they worked in pairs, and there were no convenient cords dangling behind it to provide easy access.
They looked up at the metal tower in front of them, trying to figure out a way up. There were handles on the three file drawers, but they were a foot apart, and the smooth metal surface was too slick to climb. Caitlin studied it, fingering the rope around her shoulder and wishing they'd found something to use as a grappling hook. Then she glanced over at Tania, who was still carrying the bent staple, wielding it as though it were a spear. The solution occurred to her at once.
Grabbing the staple, she showed Tania what she wanted to do, and together they bent a hook in one end of it. Then, working together with Randi, they folded the other end over itself to make an eyelet, and to this they tied one end of the rope. They had their grappling hook after all!
It took Tania four tosses to catch the crude hook on the second handle above them. With it set in place, they each climbed up one after the other, afraid their combined weight might bend the hook out of shape.
Once all three were safely sitting on the handle, Tania lobbed the hook up to the next level, catching it the very first toss. Then they repeated the process, and found themselves perched about three and a half feet above the ground. Tania threw the hook up over the top of the cabinet several times, but was unable to catch it on anything. The top was just too smooth, and the SUV itself had been left too far away.
"I don't think we can make it by boosting up, so we'll have to do this the hard way," Caitlin told them. "Tania, I'm going to climb up on your shoulders. I should be able to reach the top of the drawer and steady myself. Randi, you're going to have to use us as stairs to get up there."
"All right," she said unsteadily, but she did not attempt to argue or complain.
Tania braced herself as Caitlin climbed up on her shoulders. By pressing her feet back against the outer edge of the handle, Tania was able to create a very stable platform, and Caitlin succeeded easily. She was just barely able to grab hold of the drawer edge, still a couple of inches below the top of the cabinet. She almost thought she could jump the rest of the way, but if she missed her grip, she doubted Randi could catch her before she plunged to the floor.
Now it was Randi's turn to climb. Three days ago she might have been too scared to make the attempt, but now she was a different person. Gritting her teeth, she pulled herself up on Tania's back, then wrapped her arms around Caitlin and drew herself upwards. Once her feet were safely lodged between Caitlin's boots and Tania's extended arms, she grabbed Caitlin's neck and literally walked up her back, ending by putting her knees on the blonde's shoulders.
Now it was just a matter of getting to her feet and jumping up to the top of the file cabinet, which she did easily. Caitlin then climbed back down, and Tania tossed the rope up to Randi, who took it over to the SUV and hooked it around one of the wheels. Caitlin and Tania scrambled up the thread in a moment, and they all exchanged high-fives, congratulating themselves on the difficult accomplishment.
They did not have much time, however. As they celebrated, Caitlin heard voices coming down the hall. She quickly pulled the hook out from under the SUV while the other two climbed into the back. Then she jumped inside, pulling the rest of the rope in behind her and shutting the door.
"It's a good thing the doors weren't locked," said Tania with a grim smile.
"Yeah," agreed Caitlin. "I hope he doesn't look too closely through the windows, either."
They hunkered down as best they could. The rear of the SUV was filled with unrecognizable machinery, and smelled positively awful. Several long bars protruded into the back seat, forcing them to duck down beneath them. It was also fortunate, Caitlin thought, that the Expedition's windows were of tinted glass. It did not seem likely that anyone outside could possibly notice them without looking carefully through the windows from very close range.
The two men came back in the room. The girls could not see them, but their voices were plain, even through the walls of the SUV. They were laughing, and Tom's muffled voice seemed less distraught. "Oh, it'll work," he was saying. "I'm sure of it. I think I can get the designs done tonight, even, and we can get started tomorrow. The rest of the gang won't be too happy about working the weekend, but I think I know just how to motivate them."
"Good for you," said John. "Now get out of here, will you? I have some reports to write, and some things I have to investigate."
"What's that?" Tom asked jokingly. "Some new secret I don't need to know about?"
"Not really. I just need to check some things out. You worry about your designs. Now go, before I kick you out!"
Tom was laughing as he picked up the SUV. The three girls held on for dear life as he swung it around haphazardly and left the room. He didn't seem to be treating the vehicle very carefully for something he had been working on so hard, Caitlin thought as she peeled herself off the window.
The man walked along for a minute or two and then halted at a large door. Caitlin could just see outside enough to see him slide a card through a slot and press his eye to a glowing spot on the wall. There was a click, and he opened up the door and passed through. Beyond that, an armed guard looked him over doubtfully, checked another ID, and waved him on.
Good thing they didn't try to sneak through this door, Caitlin thought.
Tom made a couple of turns, then entered another chamber. Caitlin could see that its strangely curved walls were coated with some kind of silvery, glittering material, but that was all.
"I think this is it," Caitlin said with mounting excitement. "Brace yourselves, girls, I think our days of being three inches tall are over!"
Back to Main Story Page