The last class of the day was classical Russian. As one of the students stood up and recited a passage from an ancient Bylyna epic, Aleksei ran over his plans for the evening. He reminded himself to call his sister immediately after school so she would know where he was going. However, his thoughts were interrupted by a deafening buzzer. Most of the students grumbled that it was another fire drill, though a few were elated to have a chance to escape the confines of class for an extra fifteen minutes. Aleksei’s class casually rose from their seats, took two quick seconds to grab their bags and books, and made, in orderly fashion, for the door. When panicked screams suddenly drowned out the buzzer from elsewhere in the school, the stomachs of every student in the class did a somersault. This was not a drill.
Gn. Bakunin reminded his class to remain calm, even after he opened the door, and smoke rolled into the room. Nervously, the students walked double file down the hall. Smoke was beginning to fill the area and it was becoming harder to see. The only thing that could be sighted was the glowing exit sign.
Aleksei found himself next to Yegor, and up ahead, he spotted Radik’s dark hair. He and Yegor exchanged reassuring glances, then returned their gaze to the hopeful exit sign.
It was then that a hand grabbed Aleksei from behind. He was too surprised to call for help, and he saw Yegor disappear into the swirling smoke in front of him. He was spun around, his wrist pinned to his back. He looked up to see the harsh, dark eyes of the janitor stare back at him through the clear visor of a gas-mask. He tried to wiggle free but the janitor twisted his arm further, causing him to cry out.
“Don‘t resist!” the janitor ordered, as he dragged the boy down an abandoned corridor. Soon they were at the end of the hall. The lockers were right in front of them.
“Nyet!” Aleksei declared, as he ran up the lockers using the man’s gripping arm as a support, flipping head over heels, untwisting his arm and in turn wrenching the janitor’s arm nearly out of its socket. The janitor lunged, trying to punch Aleksei with his left fist, but Aleksei dropped to the ground, spun on one foot, and lashed out with his other, hitting the back of the janitor’s knee joint. The man tumbled to the ground and Aleksei scrambled to his feet and dashed down the hall, vanishing into the smoke.
The smoke burned Aleksei’s eyes. He had run far enough into the murk that he was disoriented and could not figure out where the exit was. Worse yet, he lost track of the wall. He felt his hand dampen with condensation. It was then that he remembered from his online research the previous night that smoke was mostly water vapour with combustion impurities. He might be able to move it. Placing his hands together he tensed a moment and then spun, flinging his arms out. The smoke rushed away from him in a small gale. He saw that he was at the intersection of four halls. The hall to the left had the exit sign at the end of the corridor, pointing left towards the stairs.
Eagerly he ran that direction, breathing much easier since he had moved the smoke away, but trying to keep his breaths light, as poisonous fumes were likely still in the air around him. Before he reached the end of the hall, the janitor rushed in front of the exit sign and raised his gun. Aleksei ducked to the left, through the door to the gym shower and locker room, as he heard two shots sound behind him.
The locker room had not filled with smoke yet, and he searched desperately for some-place to hide. Behind him, Aleksei heard heavy footsteps and without looking back, he ran into the room. Stopping at the end of one row of lockers, he sat down, leaning his back against the cold metal. Glancing around the corner of the lockers behind him, he saw the man cautiously enter the room, pointing his gun down each row. Aleksei ducked his head behind the corner and struggled to keep his breathing calm. Because of his intake of smoke, he bit into his lip to stop himself from coughing.
“Aleksei!” the man called, his voice muffled through the gasmask. “I don’t want to hurt you, but if you persist with this childishness, well, I may have to.”
Aleksei glanced around furiously. He was too scared to dash to a better hiding place. He needed a distraction. Four meters to his right there was a pile of wet towels, in front of him was a puddle, and about seven meters beyond that were the showers. A scenario played through his head.
'Well, better than nothing...'
The man started walking down the row Aleksei was hiding behind. Aleksei counted the thumps of his steps. He needed to time his next move perfectly. Guessing the janitor was halfway down the row, he raised his hand and evaporated the water from the towels causing it to form a column of steam. The janitor ran down the row in hopes of apprehending his target. As he ran, Aleksei quickly vaporized the puddle in front of him, compressing it between his hands. The janitor came to the end of the row, putting his back to Aleksei, and pointing his gun towards the towels.
Not seeing his target, the man turned around. Just as the boy came into his sights, Aleksei released the vapour and it hissed loudly before hitting the man hard in the jaw, knocking off the mask, just as if he had been punched. He staggered for a moment, giving enough time for Aleksei to run to the showers.
Turning right as he entered the shower room, Aleksei put the tiled wall between himself and his assailant. He ran along the wall, twisting all the nozzles full blast and scalding water rushed into the room. Aleksei threw his hands up, vaporizing the water as it came out of the nozzles, causing the room to disappear in a cloud.
The janitor stared blankly at the entrance to the showers. All that he could see was a white wall of steam.