Kick the Bucket

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Chapter Seven

Doctor Mary Kelly MD PhD: I’ll see what I can do. No guarantees.

Natasha Semenov: Thank you, Doctor Kelly. You have given us much to think about.

Able Hartman: It’s getting late, Colonel Forrest, I’d like to end this meeting.

Colonel James P. Forrest: Fine by me.

Able Hartman: Thank you. How about we call it a night and start up fresh tomorrow morning ... say nine o’clock? It will take at least that long for Colonel Forrest’s staff to compile and encrypt the technical files your government requested. Any questions you might have after our next meeting will be answered in a similar manner, and delivered to your Washington, DC embassy by military courier within forty-eight hours as agreed. We look forward to a reciprocating exchange of information within the same time-frame as needed.

As I explained when this meeting started, there will be ... no ... electronic exchange of information related to this matter between either of our governments for the foreseeable future. Questioning this arrangement, divulging to a third party the nature of this arrangement, leaking the nature of the work conducted at Building Three, or requesting updates without prior face-to-face meetings between our governments, will be considered grounds to terminate future cooperation. And, most importantly ---

Counter Admiral Sergey Vasiliev: I want to see one move. That one!

Colonel James P. Forrest: Huh? Why?

Counter Admiral Sergey Vasiliev: I failed my country. I failed my troops. I delayed my return to Alakurtti for the most trivial of personal reasons. I should have been there ... with them!

Colonel James P. Forrest: Please forgive my bluntness, Admiral, but you couldn’t have known what was going to happen. And there was nothing you could have done but die with them if you did. That’s just the truth.

Counter Admiral Sergey Vasiliev: I DON’T CARE!! I need to honor my countrymen. I need to see the monster they saw before their deaths with my own eyes! I will almost certainly be ... retired ... when I return home in disgrace. This will be my last chance. Colonel! As a fellow officer, do this for me!

Colonel James P. Forrest: SERGEANT FRANCO!!*

*Transcriber’s Note: At 1831 hours, Sergeant Antonia P. Franco enters conference room two in response to Colonel Forrest’s call and closes the door behind her.

Sergeant Antonia P. Franco: Sir?

Colonel James P. Forrest: Who’s in charge of secondary ops right now?

Sergeant Antonia P. Franco: Lieutenant Donnell, Sir.

Colonel James P. Forrest: I’ll be back in a couple minutes. Prep the observation console. I want vault four ready for a shake n’ bake by the time I get back. Everyone else, there’s fresh coffee, donuts, and far more comfortable chairs in the break room across the hall.

Sergeant Antonia P. Franco: Is there anything else, Sir?

Colonel James P. Forrest: After I’m done tearing Lieutenant Donnell away from his latest computer game, I’m going to my office to make a few outside calls. Please answer any questions our ... guests ... might have while I’m gone. Before you ask, they have been cleared for full access.

Sergeant Antonia P. Franco: Understood, sir. I’m on it.*

*Transcriber’s Note: At 1835 hours Colonel James P. Forrest exits V4 ops and the main server records the entry of Sergeant Franco’s security ID code. The data console beneath the observation window powers up and a synthetic computer-generated voice emanating from a speaker atop the console commands:

<Computer: Repeat your name three times in a clear and precise manner.>

Sergeant Antonia P. Franco: Antonia Franco Antonia Franco Antonia Franco

<Computer: Identity confirmed ... Bio metrics parameters confirmed ... Initiating Dead Man protocols ... Dead Man protocols active ... Console ready for input.>

Yugoslav Belinky: Hi! I’m Yugoslav Belinky. Are you going to open...?

Sergeant Antonia P. Franco: Get your hand off the console!

Yugoslav Belinky: Sorry ... sorry!

Sergeant Antonia P. Franco: Please back away from me and the console. If you confuse the computer, it will initiate an automatic shut-down and start something you are not going to ...

< Console Mounted Electronic Speaker Activates >

<Central Control: Sergeant Franco! Status report! >

Sergeant Antonia P. Franco: Aw ... CRAP!! False alarm, Control!

<Central Control: Enter secondary password. Five seconds delay ... one, two, three ... password accepted. Please state nature of false alarm for the record.>

Sergeant Antonia P. Franco: Unintentional contact by unauthorized personnel.

<Central Control: Acknowledged. Just so you know, Patterson was halfway through the door with his BFG by the third beep. I’d keep away from him until tomorrow if I were you.>

Sergeant Antonia P. Franco: Understood. Out.

<Central Control: Central Control out.>

< Console Mounted Electronic Speaker Deactivates >

Yugoslav Belinky: Did I ... cause all that?

Sergeant Antonia P. Franco: That you did, Mr. Belinky. Anything to do with these ... things ... involves layers of security measures and Dead Man systems. Touching this console almost got us killed. If Patterson lugged his BFG in here and decided something wasn’t hunky dory, it’d be all over except for moping us off the floor ... the walls ... the ceiling ... etcetera, etcetera and etcetera!

Yugoslav Belinky: What’s a BFG?

Sergeant Antonia P. Franco: If you played Doom all day with Lieutenant Donnell, you’d know it stands for ... Big Fucking Gun. Pardon my French. It’s a fully automatic belt-loaded custom-made Geneva Convention prohibited twenty-one pound riot gun. It fires rocket-propelled shells the size of a soup can designed to shred anyone, or anything, it’s even remotely aimed at. Master Sergeant Patterson has been itching to use it in combat ever since he was assigned here after serving in the Operation Desert Storm.

Yugoslav Belinky: He would really do that?

Sergeant Antonia P. Franco: Patterson? HA! HA! HA! Absolutely! He’s a member of our internal security team, and leader of Building Three’s last ditch defense squad. Stopping him before he runs out of ammo would be the hard part. He’s also the calmest of the bunch. Think happy thoughts when any of his buddies are nearby ... if you get my drift.

Yugoslav Belinky: But what about all this equipment? Wouldn’t it be destroyed, too?

Sergeant Antonia P. Franco: Natch! We’ve got backups piled atop each other, including us. And ... it’s done!

Yugoslav Belinky: What’s done?

Sergeant Antonia P. Franco: This board is hot and linked to main control system. Everything is ready for whoever takes over and starts working on that ... thing.

Yugoslav Belinky: Doctor Kelly already informed us about that ... thing ... joke, Sergeant.

Sergeant Antonia P. Franco: Oh ... poo! She’s no fun at all!

Yugoslav Belinky: This Lieutenant Donnell, is playing games all he does?

Sergeant Antonia P. Franco: When he’s inside Building Three. Otherwise, he’s over at Building Two suffering video-game withdraw symptoms.

Yugoslav Belinky: Lieutenant Donnell is a military scientist who plays video games all day?

Sergeant Antonia P. Franco: Him? Nah! He runs our public information office.

Yugoslav Belinky: You’re joking. You have a public information office? Isn’t this place supposed to be a secret?

Sergeant Antonia P. Franco: That’s his job ... keeping us a secret, that is. On those rare occasions it’s needed, he calls, writes, or emails overly-curious politicians and news organizations from his office over there. He invites them to witness in-person the destruction of city-destroying nerve gas containing munitions, or the high-tech procedures and equipment being used to remedy a minor spill of civilization-ending recombinant Black Death bacteria. They never call back. I don’t know why.

Yugoslav Belinky: Hmm ... no, I have no idea either.

Sergeant Antonia P. Franco: I like you. You’re more fun than Doctor Kelly!

Yugoslav Belinky: And that it? There’s nothing else?

Sergeant Antonia P. Franco: Well ... whenever he’s not mowing down hordes of Martian video-game demons with a sawed-off shotgun, he’s also our resident troll on social media.

Yugoslav Belinky: I’m afraid to even ... ask ... what that means, miss.

Sergeant Antonia P. Franco: It’s very simple, using hundreds of false identities he provides us cover by creating conspiracy theories, and thrashing those of others getting to close to the truth. Basically, he goes online and claims that we, and tons of other private and government research sites, are responsible anything his imagination can conjure up.

He’s specifically blames Building Three for harboring giant reptilian aliens, breeding human-animal hybrids as sex slaves for Washington Big Wigs, and, my personal fav, that there’s a working time machine that President Grover Cleveland confiscated from H.G. Wells in eighteen ninety five bricked up behind a wall in our basement.

That last one isn’t even close to being true ... I think.

Yugoslav Belinky: And Colonel Forrest just allows him to do anything he wants?

Sergeant Antonia P. Franco: Well, he did draw the line around Christmas last year. Lieutenant Donnell started selling cheap Chinese sweaters on eBay with an outline of Building Three on the front, and the words ... The Truth Is In Here ... just above it.

He unloaded three or four dozen before the Colonel dropped the hammer. Kinda squashed Donnell’s dream flat to buy a vintage Ms. Pac-man arcade game for the rec room for no reason. It’s not like he was endangering our security.

Yugoslav Belinky: Really? No reason whatsoever?

Sergeant Antonia P. Franco: None. Over the length of almost forty years, do you really think that not one person working in Building Three ever got drunk and spilled the beans? If you wanna see what will happen, find a news camera-crew and start yelling there’s alien people-eating Play-Doh stored in freezers inside here.

That’ll put you in the same category as the nutcases claiming to be Napoleon, or having an air-tight plan to balance the US budget. Be prepared to spend some time in a drunk-tank, or you’re sent home wearing a straight jacket...

< Console Mounted Electronic Speaker Activates >

Unknown male voice: Control! Team one on-station outside vault four!

Sergeant Antonia P. Franco: Where’s team two?

<Voice identified as Corporal Terry Johnson>*

*Transcriber’s note

Corporal Terry Johnson: On their way, Control. ETA three minutes.

Sergeant Antonia P. Franco: What’s the delay, Johnson?

Corporal Terry Johnson: Corporal Bruno was engaged in an orientation exercise on level two, Control. He kinda ran into a snag with the newbie.

Sergeant Antonia P. Franco: They got locked inside the training vault again?

Corporal Terry Johnson: Affirmative. The new guy, Yancy, he froze the escape button when he missed the simulated DE target and frosted Bruno. That makes twice this week. And three times total since he was posted here.

Sergeant Antonia P. Franco: Why didn’t someone let them out?

Corporal Terry Johnson: We were too busy watching Bruno beat him up, Control.

Sergeant Antonia P. Franco: Grow the fuck up guys! Control out!

Several unidentified sources: Loud laughter and shouts of OOHRAH!!

< Console Mounted Electronic Speaker Deactivates >

Yugoslav Belinky: Anything wrong?

Sergeant Antonia P. Franco: They’re just blowing off steam. Considering what they gotta deal with, a little harmless male bonding never hurt anyone ... well, maybe except for Private Yancy and a few other ...

Unknown male voice: I’m here! What’s up, Toni?*

*Transcriber’s note: Voice identified as Lieutenant Oscar Lopez

Sergeant Antonia P. Franco: Heck if I know, Lieutenant. I was ordered to prep the panel for a quick shake n’ bake and bring our guests up to speed ... full clearance. Are you ready for hand-off?

Lieutenant Oscar Lopez: Go for it.

< Console Mounted Electronic Speaker Activates >

Command transfer protocol initiated ... please input operator password ... password accepted ... ten second countdown ... new operator must input password in ... ten, nine, eight ... password accepted. Bio-metric signature is within acceptable range. Repeat your name three times in a clear and precise manner.

Lieutenant Oscar Lopez: Oscar Lopez Oscar Lopez Oscar Lopez

< Console Mounted Electronic Speaker Deactivates >

Lieutenant Oscar Lopez: I got it. You’re officially relieved, Sergeant Franco.

Sergeant Antonia P. Franco: And I’m out of here! I’m headed back to the mess hall. I never got to finish my dinner. It was nice meeting you, Mr. Belinky. Just try to keep your hands off anything with switches and dials, okay? I’d hate to hear one of those ... things ... ate you. Ciao!

Yugoslav Belinky: Don’t worry; I’ll keep an eye out for those ... things. Good bye.

Lieutenant Oscar Lopez: Is there anything you need before I get too busy to talk?

Yugoslav Belinky: Yes, please. What can you tell me about the vaults?

Lieutenant Oscar Lopez: I’ve only been posted here three years, so I don’t know much about the old ones, but the new vaults are state of the art. They’re essentially room-size triple-walled thermos bottles able to keep a DE frozen for months in the event of total system failure, and supported by over-lapping independent layers of redundant automatic and manual backup cooling systems.

Yugoslav Belinky: Can they contain a Chaotic?

Lieutenant Oscar Lopez: Structurally? No way. An unfrozen Chaotic would likely tear its way out in under a minute. An unprovoked non-Chaotic would eventually do the same, but that might take an hour or two. In either case, that’s what the emergency quick-freeze systems are designed to prevent. They provide a safety margin against a full-blown chaotic breakout that once required a far more dangerous hands-on...

< Console Mounted Electronic Speaker Activates >

Corporal Terry Johnson: Control! Teams one and two on-station outside vault four!

Lieutenant Oscar Lopez: Acknowledged. Standby!

Corporal Terry Johnson: Understood.

Lieutenant Oscar Lopez: Control out.

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