Anchors No More #12: Never Mind The DogApr 7, 2014
Restrepo pulled the car into Franklin Automotive, a grungy looking auto repair garage on the outskirts of Pratt. He drove around to the back and parked, sitting in the car with Gary and Holly for a moment before saying, “We’re here,” and opening the car door, “Take your bags and let’s get inside.” Holly gabbed their backpacks, handed Gary his, and they joined Restrepo in the short walk around to the front of the shop.
The building itself consisted of a small office attached to a large garage workspace painted a fading red, the same color of its logo: large capital letters, FA, above a friendly looking cartoon tow truck. The building looked empty, all doors were closed, all lights were off. Restrepo jiggled the knob, locked, and then pressed the doorbell, broken. Gary gave him a nervous look, “Are you sure this is the place?” Restrepo did not respond, waiting patiently at the door. Holly looked around anxiously, adjusted the backpack on her shoulder, read the sign taped to the front door: Never Mind the Dog, Beware of the Owner.
Her feelings of security were rapidly descending into an uncertain paranoia. What were they going to do now that Plan A had obviously fail… The door opened. An older man wearing a greasy mechanic’s shirt and stained overalls stood there giving the three fugitives distrusting looks. He looked past them, out to the road, and glanced around the parking lot before returning his attention to Restrepo, “Sebastian,” he said, shaking his hand, “You’re alone?” he asked.
Restrepo nodded, “Three of us as promised.” The mechanic examined Restrepo’s face for a moment before finally giving him an approving nod. He turned and let them in, saying nothing else, just walking away and assuming they would follow. Gary closed the door behind them and joined his companions as they accompanied the stranger through the dark garage. They came to a greasy paint-chipped wooden door set into the concrete wall and the mechanic placed his hand on the doorknob, hesitating a moment while staring at Gary and Holly. “We’re glad you could make it,” he finally said, and before they could answer or do more than wonder, he opened the door. Behind the rickety grease-stained door was a second door, metal and thick, a small computer keypad set into its surface.
The man entered a seven-digit code and waited for a few seconds while the locking bolts slid back into the frame. When it finished unlocking with a pneumatic hiss and a green light flashing on the keypad, the man once again turned to the scientists, this time a smile discretely edging onto his lips, “Welcome to the revolution,” he said, casting Restrepo a glance, making sure he caught the ironic jolt in his statement. Restrepo just breathed in deeply, his lips pursed in anticipation.
The mechanic pushed open the door and though it was indeterminate whose eyes opened wider or faster, it was easily observable what Gary and Holly’s general state of emotional content consisted of: astonishment, shock, and disbelief. The lab was well lit and busy, though this fact would never be known to anyone standing just outside the locked and sealed vault door. They had not heard a sound or experienced the slightest inclination that anything of this sort existed within this desolate looking auto repair shop. Coaxing them into the room quickly, the mechanic shut the doors behind them, punching a code into the keypad and watching its light turn from green to red, a chunking sound as the locking cylinders slid back into place.
Apart from the mechanic, there were nine people at work in the lab and every one of them stopped what they were doing and looked at Gary, Holly and Restrepo. The old man in greasy mechanic’s clothes motioned dramatically with his arm, saying, “This is Ankura Labs, the world’s only and foremost semi-independent collective of highly-illegal temporal research and analysis,” the man paused at this, his grim theatricality tempered by his obvious respect for the group and for the man who approached them, middle-aged and bearded with shaggy dark hair, confidently walking up with an excited smile on his face. The pause did not last long however as the mechanic smiled at his own gallows humor and stepped forward into the lab, saying, “Strictly not for profit, of course.”
The bearded man extended his hand as he came up to Gary, “Hello, Doctor Neff, it is a real pleasure to meet you,” he said, shaking Gary’s hand. The man turned to Holly and shook her hand, his eyes beaming with relieved joy, “And you, Doctor Marshal, I can’t…” the man looked back and forth at the two of them, then looked at Restrepo, the mechanic, and then back to the scientists, “I just can’t believe you are here, and I can’t begin to tell you how honored we are to be here for you, to help you out with…” he looked quickly at Restrepo, his voice growing softer, “… with whatever it is the Big Boys had planned for you. I’m just happy you made it and if there’s anything you need, just let us know, we’re all here to do what we can.”
Gary looked at Holly, trying to grip their situation. Gary turned to the bearded man, “Thank you,” he said slowly, unsure if this was all real, “I’m…” he looked at Restrepo who gave him a slight nod without a smile, Gary looked around, “Just thank you, sorry, we’re a little overwhelmed by all this right now.”
The bearded man smiled, patted Gary on the shoulder, “Of course you are, I’m sorry, please come in.” He began leading the group into the lab, towards the rows of long tables under bright fluorescent lights, past the gathered scientists in street clothes working in pairs or trios, a few at a whiteboard covered in equations and formulas, a few sitting in front of notebooks and blueprints at the tables, and a few standing in the back of the room next to a single rounded metal chamber that was more than familiar. Holly touched Gary on the arm, making sure he saw the machine, making sure he recognized it. He did: it was their time device.
Looking around the room at the curious smiling faces watching them walk through their lab, the bearded man gestured towards an office on the side of the room, “My name is Daniel Hobbes, come on in and put your stuff down, sit, eat, take a nap, whatever you need. We can fill you in once you get grounded out a little.” The man’s smile broadened, “We’ve got a lot of work to do.”
© David Edward Wagner 2014. All Rights Reserved.