“It won’t matter, sir,” said Puller. “I’m sure what they plan to do will happen regardless.”
“But if the Ebola virus has been placed in water, maybe it’s been diluted,” said Rinehart.
Knox said, “Johnson also said that one drop of liquid laced with Ebola getting into the body is all it takes to kill you.”
“Where’s the water shutoff?” asked Puller.
“Over there,” said Pritchard.
They rushed to the corner. Knox saw it first.
“They sabotaged it,” she said. “They broke off the lever.”
“We can call the water company and see if they can turn it off at their end,” said Pritchard.
“Good luck with customer service,” said Puller. “We’ll all be dead from Ebola and you’ll still be on hold listening to a Bee Gees song.”
“We have to do something,” barked Rinehart. “We’ve only got minutes left.”
Puller kept looking around the space. “The virus can’t infect people so long as the sprinkler system doesn’t come on.”
“But they must have arranged a way for it to come on,” snapped Rinehart. “Otherwise all of this is pointless.”
Puller turned to him. “I understand that, sir. But if we find out how they plan to turn on the system and neutralize it, then we can deal with the canisters safely later.” He looked at Pritchard.
“Can they activate it remotely, via a computer?”
“No. That would be a bad design if someone could do it remotely when a fire hasn’t been detected. It would cause a lot of water damage.”
Rinehart had a sudden thought. “But can you disable the sprinkler system remotely? I mean by using the computer controls?”
Pritchard shook his head. “Negative, sir. Again, that’s a safety feature. We wouldn’t want someone hacking in and disabling the system. Then if a fire did start there would be nothing to combat it with.”
Puller kept looking around. “The best way to engage the sprinkler system is to start a fire. Flames and smoke will set off the alarm and the sprinklers.”
Knox said, “That’s obvious enough. But where? Like Pritchard said, this is a really big place.”
“Well, it would have to be somewhere that people didn’t frequent. Otherwise, someone might discover it and report it.”
Pritchard said, “What if the folks are in the building right now? And they’re going to engage it directly?’
“I doubt they would want to be here if they’re going to unleash Ebola-contaminated water,” said Puller.
“Right. They’d want to be as far away as possible,” said Rinehart.
“Just like I would,” muttered Knox.
Puller looked at Pritchard. “If the sprinklers do come on, will it be all over the Pentagon? Even if the source of the fire is small or contained in a particular area?”
“The sprinkler system is on zones,” replied Pritchard. “For example, because this room houses the water main for the sprinkler system, a fire here will trigger a very large deployment of water, the theory being if the fire knocked out the water supply for the sprinkler system you want to wet down as much of the place as possible before that happens.” He pointed upward. “And right above us is the E Ring. Lots of senior people up there. They’d definitely get hit with the water.”
Puller kept looking around. “They took a risk bringing this shit in here. But getting to one place is easier than getting to a second place. You risk getting stopped and your whole plan unravels. But this room is the key. A fire here triggers a ton of water like Pritchard said.”
“Here?” said Rinehart.
“Yes. If they could go to one room to do everything they needed to do, they would probably opt for that.”
As Puller walked around the room his gaze drifted upward.
“There,” he called out. He was pointing to the ceiling in a darkened corner about forty feet from the water pipe. “Best place to set the igniter is right here where the canisters and water supply intake are.”
“We’ve got two minutes, Puller,” warned Rinehart.
“Looks to be a large burn pack,” said Puller as Knox joined him. “They probably figured that would be all they needed. It won’t reach the water pipe and disrupt the sprinkler system. But it’ll have a hot flash point, lots of smoke and fire. And the fire will eventually burn this room up enough that it’ll take a long time for them to find those extra tanks. By then nearly everybody and everything in this place could be contaminated.”
“Well, rip it down and let’s get it out of here,” barked Rinehart.
“Sir, when it detonates we’re still going to be in this building no matter how fast we push the golf carts. And the blast will still set off the sprinklers wherever we are. We have to disable it here. Now.”
He slid a pocketknife from his pocket and handed it to Knox. “Get on my shoulders.”
He spun her around, gripped her hips, bent down, and hoisted her over his head, settling her seated on his shoulders with her legs on either side of his head facing the same way he was.
“Tell me what you see,” said Puller.
“A black box with an LED timer.”
“What’s the timer at?”
“Twenty seconds and counting.”
Pritchard said, “Just pull out the detonator from the pack.”
Puller barked, “They’re not stupid. That’ll just accelerate the detonation.”
“He’s right,” said Rinehart, his voice strained. “Shit, we’re nearly out of time.”
“How many wires?” asked Puller.
“Two. One red, one black.”
“Are they both single-strand?”
“The red is a double.”
“The dummy, probably. You cut that it accelerates the time to zero, and boom.”
“Probably!” snapped Rinehart. “You don’t know for sure? We don’t have time for probably, Puller.”
Puller barked, “Cut the red one, Knox.”
“But you just said that was the dummy.”
“Cut the red one. Now!”
“Puller,” yelled Rinehart. “We’re out of—”
“Now, Knox,” shouted Puller. “Do it!”
She cut the red one and closed her eyes.
There was a pop, a fizzle, and everyone held their collective breath.
Knox finally opened her eyes and was staring at a burn pack that had failed to burn. She exhaled and gasped, “Thank you, sweet Jesus.”
“Right,” said Puller, after he let out his breath too.
She looked down at him from her high perch. “We did it. Mission accomplished.”
Puller shook his head. “No. Not so long as Susan Reynolds and Anton Bok walk the earth.”
The next moment the fire alarm went off. Thankfully, the sprinklers did not.