Current day, 9:37 PM, Radii Weapons Systems laboratory, Thompsonville, Virginia.
Cole slowly eased the supply room door open, peering around its edge to verify he and Kevin were alone in the hallway. He lifted a hand behind him and gestured for his partner to follow. The two men crept silently down the hall, Cole sweeping the AK-47 side-to-side into each open doorway or empty hall.
“You see that?” Kevin whispered as the pair approached a corner room surrounded by thick glass windows. The sounds of talking and intermittent gradient rays of light and shadow shone through the panes, bouncing off the wall on the opposite side of the hallway.
Kevin’s reply came in the form of an open hand pressed against his face.
Cole released Kevin, returning his fingers to his weapon’s grip and trigger. With his back pressed firmly against the wall, the young man slid down the hall toward the room and quickly glanced into the security office. He relaxed with an exhale. “It’s only a T.V.” Cole laughed, lowering his weapon; the olive drab shoulder strap’s buckle clinking against the dark barrel. “Your boy, Pete...looks like he came through. Big boy’s friend even disabled the entire video surveillance system for us! Take a look.”
“You know better’n to doubt Pete,” Kevin retorted, his voice low. He walked around in front of the glass windows to inspect the wall of static filled monitors on the other side. “Dayum, he’s good!”
Cole sighed. “Until tonight, you didn’t even know the guy existed.” He lifted his eyes to a utilitarian black and white clock mounted on the wall to check the time.
“I’ve seen him around...”
“Stuff it, Kev. Let’s get what we came for and get the hell out of here!” Cole said in a whisper. “So, we take a left here and then down the elevator at the end to the bottom floor.”
“Okee dokee, boss.”
The two men jogged down the hall, their fear of observation completely gone.
“Don’t you think it’s odd that this joint don’t have no serious security?” Kevin asked between steps.
“Maybe it’s cutbacks? Hell, jobs are disappearing all over like ships in the Bermuda Triangle,” Cole retorted breathlessly as they arrived at the elevator.
“I suppose...oh, shit, Cole.” Kevin pointed over at a pulsing panel mounted on the wall next to the shiny metallic doors. It illuminated as the two men approached. “That’s some kinda serious security lock. Are you gonna be able to crack that one like the other?”
Cole knelt down, narrowing his eyes as he examined it. “Did you bring the baby powder?”
“Not feelin’ fresh, buddy?”
“Why do you got to be such a smartass? Just give it here!” Cole demanded, jutting an open hand out at Kevin.
The man laughed as he extracted a white bottle from inside his backpack. “You can dish it out...”
Cole rolled his eyes, and dumped some of the powder into his gloved hand.
“I’m ignoring you,” Cole replied and blew into his hand toward the panel on the wall. A white cloud erupted from his open palm and exploded onto the glowing electronic surface leaving an odd maze-like pattern in its wake.
“Don’t you need to cut off somebody’s hand or somethin’?”
“How in the world do you run that bar so successfully?” Cole asked, looking up at Kevin with a raised eyebrow.
“I don’t. I’m just smart enough to hire the right people to do it for me,” he said with a grin. “Still, what’s that got to do with this?”
“Nothin’...moron. Alright, so, this thing here has a backup access feature in case someone’s security badge stops working or something. It’s kind of like that security setting on people’s cellphones where they make a shape with their fingers to unlock it.”
Cole raised an eyebrow. “You do know what I’m talking about, don’t you?”
“Nope. I don’t like those smart phone thing-a-majiggers,” Kevin said flatly and removed his clamshell cellphone from his tactical vest to hold it in front of him. “The government uses them to spy on people when they’re takin’ a dump, but with this puppy right here, it ain’t happenin’.”
“Right, the NSA is spying on you in the crapper...,” Cole said with a sigh. “Okay, give me a second and let me see if I can figure out this pattern. With this system, I think I get four...no, three tries before I’m locked out for five minutes. I only have two shots at those and then an alarm will go off.”
“Don’t screw up.”
“Dipshit,” Cole said under his breath and lifted a shaky finger toward the panel. “Up, to the right, down. It looks like the numbers 1, 7, 5, 3 in a triangle. Here goes.”
The panel blinked red.
“That’s one,” Kevin said.
“Thanks Captain Obvious. Please don’t count out loud. I need to concentrate,” Cole shot back, shaking his right hand in the air. He pressed his finger onto the panel once more and exhaled. “Left, up, down to the right...1, 7, 5, 3.”
More red flashing.
“Dammit!” Cole exhaled sharply. “Third times the charm. Down to the right, left, up...5, 3, 1, 7.”
“Holy shit, dude, you did it!” Kevin exclaimed, watching the elevator doors slide open. He patted Cole on the back with excitement and then bounced into the elevator like a giddy school girl. “Goin’ down, sir?”
“I am not answering that because you are in full swing tonight, Kev,” Cole replied, stepping in the metal box next to Kevin.
“Nah, I was askin’ for real. By the way, it’s just ’cause I’m scared out of my mind.”
“Alright, it’s one of you bastard’s job to take care of the pets next time. I hate that stuff,” Leo Brunswick said walking into the Level Six personnel sleeping quarters. “Hey, have any of you guys heard back from the Doc or Vick?” His three teammates grunted at him from their round of cards. The graying man sat three bottles of beer down on the table in front of him, pulled out a chair from underneath the table, eased into the seat, and twisted the cap from his own bottle. “Anyone?” he asked and took a sip.
“Nope, I hadn’t heard a peep from nobody, old fart,” Luis Del Toro replied, throwing his cards on the table. “I’m out, skank!”
Cathy Dunham laughed. “Such a pussy, Del!”
Vance Tatum shook his head. “Nope, ain’t heard nothing, boss.”
“Hey Del Toro, I wanted to bring you a cervesa, but it looks like we’re out in the fridge. I know you guys don’t like plain ol’ gringo beer,” Brunswick said with nasty grin.
“Shut up, Brunswick. It’s the same stuff and you know it,” Luis said, furrowing his eyebrows. He snatched up one of the sweaty bottles from the table top revealing a wet ring where it once sat on the glossy white surface.
“There it is. That old, we lost the Alamo anger, again...” Leo said with a lop-sided grin. “When are you guys going get over that?”
“Piss off, you old asshole!” Del Toro said in annoyance.
“Just ignore him, Toro. He’s just trying to get under your skin,” Cathy said. “We all know he’s the spawn of Satan.”
Leo laughed aloud and took a swig from his beer bottle.
“Dammit, Dunham, you’re messing with me, I freaking know it,” Vance said, his eyes on Cathy in an apparent attempt to read her mind.
“Watcha’ got, Tatum? Spill it,” the woman commanded, running the fingers of her free hand through her short, blonde hair, several strands falling onto her pretty, but serious face.
Vance wiped a sweaty hand on his khaki ripstop fatigue pants. “Damn you, Dunham, I fold!”
“Hell yeah!” Cathy shouted, raking the assorted pile of paper money toward her. “Two hundred more from you hardleg losers! We stay down here a couple more days and I’ll be a millionaire!”
“Whatever, Dunham! If you wasn’t a lady, I’d...”
“What, Tatum? Kick my ass?” she asked and quickly extracted a Kabar knife from its holster on her thigh. She held the black blade vertically, pointed its tip at Vance, and then jammed it down into the table’s smooth surface. “Like over in Iraq? How’d that turn out the last time you and me squared off?”
Vance laughed, still eying the knife. “With you bent over my bunk takin’ one for the team! Vance! Vance, give it to me!”
“Screw you, that was a one-time deal and I was drunk and desperate! It won’t happen again!”
“You ain’t fooling anyone. It happens every...”
“Was that the elevator, you guys?” Del Toro asked, sitting up in his chair, now fully alert. “Hey, Brunswick, you know about anyone supposed to be heading down here?”
“Nuh uh,” Leo replied, a concerned look growing on his face. “Level One didn’t radio it down.”
The four security agents all glanced at each other and then quickly stood, scattering for their weapons.
“Alright, according to the blueprint I got from the Darknet about this facility...”
“They had a blueprint of this level online? Even Daniel didn’t have that info!” Kevin said, incredulously.
“It wasn’t exactly on Twitter, dipshit. But, someone did need plans to build the joint,” Cole said as the stainless doors slid open.
“Hey, did you see that?” Kevin whispered, raising his rifle. “I thought I saw a shadow down the hall.”
“Oh, shit! Move!” Cole grabbed Kevin by the arm and they rushed into what appeared to be a large dark warehouse to their right.
“Nobody’s in here!” Vance shouted, stepping into the empty elevator and sweeping his weapon around the metal cube. He lowered his H&K G-36 and turned, shrugging his shoulders at Brunswick.
“Whoever they are they might have ran out into the warehouse. Keep your eyes peeled until we can verify it’s all hunky dory,” Leo said calmly. “Go to throat mics and earpieces to keep the noise down.”
“Maybe it’s nothing. Let’s begin our sweeps and act like we mean it, ladies, just in case! If there is anyone in here, it’s a roach motel and they’re las cucarachas! Did I say that right, Del Toro?”
“You know you’re one racist mofo, don’t you, Brunswick?”
“I can’t be racist. You know I love you like my little brown hijo, Toro...’cause me and your mom go waaayyy back! Me gusto su madre,” the older man said sarcastically.
“Man, you’re a dick! C’mon, Brunswick, this is serious!” Luis spat.
“Alright, sorry, I’m done kidding around,” Leo said. “Let’s earn our pay, guys!”
“So, I can take it from all you losers,” Cathy whispered into her mic. “Hey, I think I see something toward the back. Tatum, you got my six?”
“Anytime I can get a view of that sweet round ass of yours I’ll take it,” Vance replied under his breath, switching on his H&K’s rail-mounted torch and shining it on Cathy’s fatigue-clad rear end.
“Eye’s ahead perv, playtime’s over!” Cathy buried the butt of her rifle into her shoulder, carefully advancing with her right eye staring straight down the barrel into the flashlight tempered darkness. “Take the left, Tatum” she said, nodding her head in that direction.
“I’m coming up on the right, don’t pop me,” Luis breathed.
“Yeah, don’t shoot me either, hijo,” Leo said with a chuckle. “Hey guys, I’m walking up from the northeast, across from Del Toro. Don’t let him murder his padre.”
“Go to hell, Brunswick! Wait a second, you just gave me an idea, why don’t you come over here and stand in the dark for a minute...”
“You wouldn’t shoot your dad, would...”
“Brunswick?” Cathy inquired. “Brunswick, do you copy?”
“I’m going to check it out,” Luis said in concern, swinging his G-36 toward Leo’s last location.
“Shit!” Kevin said under his breath, watching the lighting speed at which Cole took down the man in the tan fatigues. It was a completely silent maneuver that sent fear shooting straight down his spine. “I’ve never seen anyone move that fast before,” he thought to himself. He never knew he had been playing with fire this whole time when it came to Cole Hitchins. “Dude...”
“Sorry,” Kevin whispered...and for once in his life, meant it.
Cole glared at his friend in the low light, lifted a pair of fingers to his eyes, and then pointed them behind him.
Kevin turned to see another man wearing the same type of uniform approaching, sweeping an assault rifle around the dark room. The flashlight mounted to the rails on the weapon’s side illuminated everything it placed its bright gaze upon. He and Cole slid quietly into the dark just as the beam reached Cole’s victim.
“He’s over here!” said Del Toro, kneeling to feel Leo’s neck for a pulse. “He’s still alive!”
“So, that’s a confirmation? We’ve got visitors, Del Toro?” Vance asked.
“Roger!” Luis replied into his throat mic. “Whoever it is...they’re a damn pro.”
“We need to get some lights on!” Cathy said.
“On it,” Vance replied, peeling off to go find the power panel.
Cole felt around blindly in the dark. “...here we go,” he thought and lifted a bolt he found lying on the floor. He pulled his arm back and like a slingshot, flung it across the room into the darkness.
“They’re over there! I just heard them!” Vance shouted, stopping halfway to the light switch to spin and bathe a few crates in light. “The target has moved. Confirm? Anyone?”
Cole stood and slipped up behind the now distracted Del Toro, his arm coiling around the man’s neck like a python, his other hand over the man’s nose and mouth. The man fought violently against Cole’s steel grip, but the struggle quickly subsided.
Kevin snatched the rifle from the Luis’ hands as the security guard’s body began to fall limp.
“Del Toro? Hey, Luis, are you there?” Cole could hear the man’s earpiece squawking next to his face in high-pitched tones.
“Shit!” Cathy exclaimed. “Screw this! None of this is worth dying for, Vance! Let’s go...”
“What!?!!” he shouted across the warehouse. “What about...?”
“Nope! I didn’t do two tours in Iraq to come home and die in some hole in the ground for some messed up science experiment,” she yelled back. “I’m heading to the elevator, Vance. Are you coming or what?”
“Hey, you know me, I always go where you go,” he replied definitively, although Vance was completely confused at the woman’s actions. “I’ll meet you there.”
Kevin lifted a rifle to his shoulder as one of the guards passed a few meters in front of him.
Cole placed a hand on top of the barrel and forced it down. “No, they’re leaving. Let them go. I already told you, nobody is getting killed tonight. Nobody!” he said intently.
“That’s a mistake, bro. I’m just sayin’,” Kevin retorted.
“Well, let’s get to it,” Cole said as he heard the elevator doors close. “Find what we came here for and then get the hell out.”
The two men dragged the guards out into the light of the hallway. “We’ll tie them up and...”
“Damn, Cole, are you a glutton for punishment or somethin’? These guys wake up and when they see us, they’ll I.D. us for sure. Well, me for sure. Why don’t we just pop ’em here all quiet like in their sleep?”
“I ain’t a murderer. I said, no killin’!” Cole ran his hands over his face and groaned. “Look, Kev, I already got plenty blood on my hands. I ain’t doing it anymore.”
“What the hell happened to you in that prison, bro? How much blood are we talkin’ about here?” Kevin inquired in concern. “I saw what you did back there.”
“C’mon, let’s just do this, okay?” Cole asked in annoyance.
“Fine, but these fellas will kill you if’n they get the chance,” Kevin said casting a serious look toward Cole. “Mark my words.”
“Understood, but for now, no more talkin’. Let’s find something to get these guys tied up with, grab some pillowcases for their heads, and I’ll fetch a couple of chairs. We need to work fast and get out of here. We’ve wasted too much time already!” Cole said as he poked his head into what appeared to be the guard’s living quarters. “Found some chairs and pillowcases!”
“I found some rope,” Kevin shouted back.
“Since when have you been a scaredy cat, Dunham?”
“I’m not. We’re just falling back,” the woman replied watching the elevator floor indicator countdown in red L.E.D. numbers. “Strategy.”
“Oh, I gotcha. I forget how smart you are sometimes,” Vance said.
“That’s cause all you notice is my ass, you tool.”
The man raised an eyebrow. “Why don’t you just call it in?”
“And give some redneck the glory of owning these assholes? Nah, we need to do this for Del Toro and Brunswick.”
“You’re the boss,” Vance acknowledged.
“Just like that old fool said, there’s only one way in and one way out. “We’ll just wait right here and pop ’em like targets at a fair when they get off the elevator.”
“Damn, I hope I don’t miss. I suck at those things. Always have,” the man said with a grin.
“Then let me do the shooting you dumbass,” Cathy quipped, slipping the selector switch to kill ’em all mode with her thumb. “No one’s getting out of that hole in one piece.”
“What the hell is this place, Cole?”
“I have no idea, dude. Did you spray those cameras?”
“With the paint? Yeah? Still don’t think it matters. If security comes back and where down here...”
“Just stop, Kev. It’s going to be alright. Hey, listen, do you hear that?” Cole asked as the two of them walked down the hall away from the elevator.
“Is that a dog barking?” Kevin wondered aloud, looking at Cole with a curious expression.
“It sure sounds like it,” Cole replied as he pressed a black gloved hand to the round, metal panel on the wall. A thick, steel door slid open revealing a large, very sterile laboratory that suddenly sounded a lot like a kennel or an animal shelter.
As Kevin and Cole walked in they could clearly see where the noises were coming from. A stack of metal cages containing an assortment of varying sizes and breeds of dogs. There were five rows, three cages high and all of them contained a canine, with the exception of one cage, the door partially opened.
“Pekingese. Subject 42,” Kevin stammered. He gulped as he examined the picture and then looked over at Cole. “Hey, come here a sec.”
“Yeah?” Cole replied, tapping a finger to one of the cages. “Aw man, I think this puppy is dead,” he sighed. “Damn. What’s up?” he asked, walking over toward his partner.
Kevin said nothing and just stabbed at the picture.
Cole looked at the photograph and then at Kevin. “Oh shit. We gotta find out what’s going on down here! My family might be in trouble!”
Kevin backed away from the cage to give Cole room to examine the picture and noticed something marked on its side. “Might? Bro, look at this...” He was now pointing a shaky finger at the side of the box. “Frannie and your kids are definitely in deep, deep shit if this is who I think it is!”