As he swung the metal cover, Graham stumbled on some unknown mass at his feet. The cover flew out of his hands and caromed loudly against the front of the server rack. He fell forward, catching a glimpse of Peggy Lee standing in the corner of the room. She looked distraught. He heard her yell “watch out” (but he was not sure who she was addressing), just as he felt himself flying through the air toward a nearby wall.
Graham quickly realized what had happened. Ian had heard him bump into the server rack, crouched next to the corner, and then, with his massive strength, had thrown Graham. And now, Ian was advancing on him, fury burning in his eyes. The end is near, Graham thought to himself, the end is upon me.
“You just cannot get enough, eh?” Ian spat as he approached.
“Leave him be,” Peggy Lee screamed.
Graham looked side to side. There was nowhere to escape. He looked at the air shaft to his left, hoping to see Charley popping out to save the day. No luck. He could try to slip past Ian, but that seemed almost impossible. Other than that, he could retreat into the maintenance corridor behind the server racks, but then he would be truly cornered. Maybe, just maybe, he thought, he could fend off Ian with his feet until help arrived. Then, at the last second, he remembered something important about the last server rack in the row. Unlike the others, which were firmly affixed to the floor, it was on wheels, for maintenance purposes. He had a plan – perhaps not a great plan, but it was better than nothing.
Just as Ian was about to grab him, Graham dove from his spot against the wall and disappeared back into the maintenance corridor behind the servers. He ran into the darkness of the corridor, past the air vent. He turned and then started slowly backing up towards the end of the long and narrow corridor.
“Come out of there, Graham,” Ian coaxed. “It will be a lot easier on you than if I come in there. Don’t you remember what happened a little while ago? You know, back in the room? Come on, let’s not make this any more painful for you than it needs to be. You did your duty, you tried to save the facilities, but you could not quite pull it off. Don’t worry, they won’t blame you. Come on out. I’ll just tie you up with your other little soldier friends and maybe, if you are lucky, you’ll make it out of this alive.”
“Back in the room, you and Peggy Lee caught me by surprise,” Graham said, as he continued to back away. “She tricked me. I admit it. I was duped. And then you beat me and kicked me even though I was bound and gagged. Things are different now. I am going to stop you. So why don’t you and Peggy Lee just give up.”
Ian snickered. “Graham, you’ve got to be kidding me. I have you cornered like a mouse in the kitchen. I will crush you with the heel of my boot unless you come out now and just give it up.” Ian wiped his mouth with his shirt sleeve and leaned up against the wall. He knew the bully part well, Graham thought to himself. That casualness in the midst of violence, that ugly confidence in the heat of battle – only true brutes who had been in dozens of fights, victorious and otherwise, had that swagger and that intimidating smile of a cold-blooded, psychopathic street fighter.
“This whole hero thing you have going is preposterous,” Ian continued. “No one is going to get in through those doors. You and I both know it. We’ve had all of your security systems in our files for years now. And you haven’t updated a single thing. So it’s just you and me, and, honestly, you can’t believe that you can win against me. We have already been down this road.”
“Shut up, Ian. I hate guys like you, always have. This is your last chance,” Graham threatened. “Give it up now.”
“All right, you dip-shit,” Ian sneered. “I’m coming in there, and I’m gonna drag you out unconscious. I didn’t want to do it to you again, but you’ve asked for it.”
Ian spat on his hands and entered the narrow hallway between the servers and the wall. Graham back-peddled quickly until he ran into the end of the corridor.
“Where you runnin’, boy,” Ian called out as he sped his approach.
Graham prayed that his plan would work. He had to time it perfectly. If he was wrong, or even off by a millisecond, he was dead. Ian would crush him, and then they would blow up the Brain Room. The brute was now half-way down the narrow corridor, walking quickly with his fists clenched at his sides. Graham could see that Ian’s jaw muscles were clenched tight and that a heavy sweat had broken across his brow. He was getting too close. Graham could almost smell him. It was time to make a move.
Graham pushed hard on the server rack that stood next to him. Back when he was a soldier they used that end server as a backup for the Battery Station computer. They had installed wheels on the server so that it could be moved easily between the two stations. He hoped that the wheels were still in place.
The weighty rack began to move. Graham pushed harder, putting one foot against the wall behind him for leverage. The server began to roll out of the line and into the room.
“Hey, where do you think you are going?” Ian screamed, as he broke quickly into a run. “There is no escaping me.”
Graham gave it all he had. A small gap appeared between the back of server rack and the rest of the line as Graham shoved the heavy load farther out into the room. Ian skidded to a stop behind Graham and turned to grab him. Graham slid his skinny body through the gap. Ian reached for him, but just missed, scraping Graham’s forearm with his fingernails.
Graham grabbed the corner of the server rack and yanked it back as hard as he could. The rack slid part of the way back into place, pinching Ian’s extended arm in between the fixed servers and the free one. Graham heard a bone-crushing crack. All he could see was Ian’s bicep caught in between the server racks and his arm flailing in pain. Ian cried out, “You motherfucker!”
Graham pulled himself around to the front of the server and pushed it hard again. He felt it lurch forward as it ripped farther into Ian’s arm and squeezed his shoulder in between Graham’s giant bludgeon and the edge of the other rack.
Graham heard a roar from Ian and then felt the rack jump back at him. Ian shoved hard. Graham redoubled his efforts. His shoes were slipping on the floor. He could feel Ian quickly overpowering him. In seconds the rack would be free and Ian would be on him –wounded and furious. Graham glanced over in Peggy Lee’s direction. She remained frozen in the corner of the room. “God damn you! Get over here and help me push or he’s going to kill me!” he yelled at her.