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Chapter Thirty Three

“Screw it,” Colt muttered. In a rage, he balled up the map and threw it into a six-foot high stand of oleander bushes by the tunnel exit. He sat down on a low stone wall that ran along the sidewalk. His heart was still pounding. He couldn’t believe it. After all the frightening and demanding things he had done as a firefighter, how could he have a panic attack walking through a goddamned tunnel? Colt rubbed his eyes. His ears were ringing, he had a headache and it was time to go home.

A low rumbling sound broke the late night silence on the campus. Colt heard it above the other noise in his ears. As it seemed to come closer, he looked around and wondered if he was hallucinating, or whether his hearing had just taken a turn for the worse. Colt turned on his flashlight. A man wearing a white lab coat pushing a rectangular trash container emerged from the darkness. Colt shined his halogen beam at him and the man held out his hand to shield his eyes from the light. He had dark hair, dark eyes, and a dark, golden brown skin. Colt dropped the beam to the trash bin. It was a green container marked with a black skull and crossbones in a red circle. The words BIO HAZARD, TOXIC WASTE, DISPOSE PROPERLY appeared in large white letters.

“Hey,” Colt said, and turned off his flashlight.

“Good evening, sir.”

Colt wanted to ask why he was pushing a toxic waste container across the campus at midnight. He settled for, “Warm night, isn’t it?”

“Yes sir.” The man stopped and the deep-pitched rumble of the bin’s wheels on the rough cement ceased.

“What’s in the container? Radioactive waste?”

“No sir.”

“Dead body?”

“Dead body, sir?”

Colt laughed. Just kidding. “Are you a doctor?”

“A lab technician, sir. Yes, a lab technician…” He looked up at the dark sky. “…I work for Stericycle. We collect medical waste.”

“At midnight?”

“At midnight, sir. When everything is closed down. We bring the containers out to the trucks.”

“What do you do with all that stuff?”

“Incinerate it, sir.”

Colt wondered where the burning was done and what kind of crap was escaping into the air, but it was really none of his business. “Where you from?” he asked.

“India, sir.”

“India? I know some Indians, but they’re Cheyenne.”

“I’m not an American Indian.” He leaned against the container and began again to push it down the street. “Good night, sir.”

“Don’t spill anything,” Colt said and watched this member of the United Nations of California University push the green waste bin down the street. “Hey!” Colt shouted.

The lab technician stopped and turned. “Sir?”

“Where’s the Nano Center?”

“The Nano Research Center?”

“Yeah, the Research Center.”

The technician walked back toward Colt. “Why do you ask?”

“Just tell me where it is.”

The technician pointed in the direction from which he had just come. “It’s that way. See that?” He pointed.

Colt looked and saw a dark multistory building with a few lights glowing inside.

“It’s right behind that building,” the technician said.

“Great, thanks. And if I want to go via the tunnel, how would I do that?”

The lab technician came even closer to Colt and regarded him again. “It’s quite simple. You enter here.” He pointed at the spot where Colt had emerged moments before. “You walk about 25 meters. It’s the only direction you can go. When you come to an intersection in the tunnel, you turn right. You can’t miss it. The entrance to the Center is marked with a sign. Why don’t you just walk down the street?”

“I like the tunnels,” Colt replied. “Thanks for the directions.” Colt turned back toward the tunnel entrance.

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