The Directors issued the extermination order the day before Christmas.
So, on the morning of December 24, a black sedan parked next to the C-building of Restricted Federal Compound Area 56. Two men got out of the car and put on blue hazmat suits. They crossed the parking lot with steel canisters marked C-RED 1 and walked down the stone steps that led to the C-line access tunnel.
“Did you see the size of that coyote back on the highway? Looked like it was tearing into something big,” the lead man asked. “Made me sick,” the man in back said.
They paused at the entrance of the tunnel when they heard the distant drum of a passing freight train.
“How is your mother holding up?” the man in back asked.
“Not good. She screams at the overhead lights to shut up. It’s just fucking sad.”
They inserted their key cards at the same time and the heavy steel door swung open. They moved at a steady pace, eyes straight ahead. A sudden swell of men and women in white lab coats filled the corridor at the intersection. The mob ignored the two men as they pushed past them and entered the platform. The men watched a train disappear down the tunnel.
“She lives in her own garbage now. It’s a gut punch,” the lead man added.
“You did everything you could. She’s in a good place, better than most.”
“True. I know she’s gone, but I can’t stop remembering who she used to be.”
The lead man checked his watch and glanced at a train timetable pasted to the near wall. Then they located two ventilation grates and walked up to them.
“Did you hear from Texas?” The lead man asked.
“Should we be worried?”
“No. We should just do our job.”
The man in back checked his watch and raised two fingers to the lead with a back-hand mechanical gesture. They put down their canisters next to the grates.
At the same time a 19-year-old janitor named Avery Black entered the platform listening to the Jesus and Mary Chain’s My Little Underground on his I-pod. He pushed a black rolling garbage can that he painted ith the words Killing Joke. He had a nervous bounce in his walk. When he saw the platform was empty and the train was gone, he picked up the garbage can and slammed it down.
“Fuck me, I hate this job! Fuck this fucking job!”
He wheeled the can around to leave and saw the two men in hazmat suits at the far north corner of the platform. They stared at each other until one of the men walked toward him and showed him a Department of Defense Special Operations badge.
“Sorry,” Avery said as he panicked, turned, and ran.
The two men waved, watched him disappear and then looked at each other.
“Should we?” The lead man asked.
“It’s not going to matter.”
They heard the electric hum of an approaching train coming from the south tunnel.
“If we don’t hear from Texas, do we go on to Seattle?” The lead man asked.
“We just do our jobs.”
When the light of the train appeared, the man to the left of the vent loosened the valve on his canister. The lead man on the right did the same with his canister. A black mist swirled in the air before it was sucked into the grates. As the train full of employees slowed to a stop, some of them were confused by the sight of the rolling black mist as it swirled around the two men in hazmat suits. One of the passengers, a young information specialist, turned to the woman seated next to him and asked if there was a scheduled emergency drill?