Anchors No More #14: Meanwhile, Back at the Immaculately Funded, Heavily Guarded Ranch…Apr 21, 2014
Tobias Vanderhoff was in a foul mood. He had already called his wife and told her he would not be coming home that night, probably not for the next several nights. She was pissed, as he guessed she would be, and this only added to his already soured disposition.
Entering the lab after that phone call home, he felt eyes turning from him, none of the scientists in the expansive room would dare draw themselves towards his field of attention. Only one man braved the inevitable storm, walking stiffly up to the Lieutenant and handing him a clipboard. Vanderhoff examined it, the scowl on his face only growing more defined, “What is this?” he asked.
“We’re making progress,” the man said, “but without the notebooks we can’t finish the…”
“Doctor Queen,” Vanderhoff interrupted, “I know you can’t finish the work without the notebooks, I’ve heard you telling me that for three years now. What I want from you is something new. Tell me something new, Doctor.”
Lawrence Queen stared at Vanderhoff, unsure what to say, “Lieutenant, I…” he searched for words, a difficult process when he suddenly felt it was more than just his job on the line. He had never seen Vanderhoff so angry before, so deeply vexed, and knowing the Lieutenant, thoughts concerning imprisonments or perhaps executions had at least crossed his mind over the past few hours. Queen knew he was the name heading the list for chopping block participants and while he didn’t necessarily agree it was fair, he did concede that it was logical. After all, he was in charge.
It was his department and therefore his responsibility to have secured the notebooks after they had been placed in his charge. But how could he? He had received the phone call telling him the books had been found and they were in transit to his office. Queen had considered sending a guard from the lab to meet the courier halfway but had decided against it, better to concentrate on preparing the crew and facilities for a busy night of long awaited work.
The notebooks never arrived, so how could he be blamed when it was his old poker buddy, Restrepo, who took them before he had a chance to even touch them? Queen knew the answer to this: the blame had to go somewhere, it needed a practical and convenient target to appease the legal mechanisms until the true culprits were apprehended and Doctor Lawrence Queen held a uniquely dead-centered position in its crosshairs.
Queen continued stammering as the disgruntled Lieutenant towered over him, managing only to say, “I don’t know what to tell you… Sir.”
Vanderhoff licked his lips, hungry to take a bite out of the cowering scientist. He handed Queen the clipboard, “What exactly do you know?”
Queen glanced over the clipboard, trying to think, not handling the pressure well, “Well, the membranes,” he offered, pointing to the top page, “the sacs they emerged in, we analyzed them. The liquid inside was an oxygenated amniotic saline, I’ve never seen anything like it. We’re still waiting for the rest of the data, but wow…” he stopped himself, he could hear the impatient growl under Vanderhoff’s breath, “Well, the sacs themselves are some type of modified glycerophospholipidic membrane, but that’s all we can say for sure at this point. The compositions of these sacs and the fluid are…” he searched for the right word, “…primordial, like nothing we’ve seen before, nothing we have any record of. It’s…” he trailed off, not sure what it was.
Vanderhoff could barely restrain his venom, “You better come up with an end to that sentence real quick, Doctor, or else you’re gonna look mighty expendable to this project.”
Queen fumbled for a thought, “It’s… it’s an amazing find,” he said, “and it is going to be of unspeakable help in the work we’re doing. As soon as we get the next round of data back we’re going to start plugging in the numbers and…”
“You’ve got four hours, Doctor Queen,” Vanderhoff said walking away, “I’ll be back with a few men and we’ll get this straightened out.” He left the room without another word, leaving Queen standing slack-jawed, the roomful of scientists and physicists around him unable to do more than pretend not to have seen, each of them silently hoping they were not noticed. Vanderhoff enjoyed making people feel that way, he liked the power of a strong reputation and the results it achieved.
Vanderhoff glared as he walked down the hall and people moved out of his way because they all knew him. He was that Hard-Ass Vanderhoff, Officer Get‘er Done and his repute had always preceded him; its staunch dependability carved the way for his steady advancement up the ranks. They knew him because he knew himself, he thought, walking dangerously down the corridor, and he knew exactly what he was. He was a warrior, he played rough and he got results. Opening the door to the conference room he saw the next prey on his list.
“What do you have for me?” he asked Private Howard, sitting nervously in his chair surrounded by a trio of MP’s. One MP handed Vanderhoff the report Howard had given earlier. He looked it over while Howard stammered.
“Lieutenant, I… I’m Private Howard, Sir,” he said with effort, “I was on the gate, South Gate. Sargent Restrepo passed through our gate at exactly twenty-four hundred hours.”
Vanderhoff felt the need to dole out punishment: to slam his hand on a table and pronounce some type of judgment would go a long way towards relieving some of his tension. He leaned forward and said, “You let him through?”
“Yes Sir, he told us he was on his way to get dinner for his unit and we let him through.”
“And you noticed two people in the jeep,” Vanderhoff asked, reading his answer off of the report.
“Yes Sir, two people, one male and one female. We did not recognize them.”
Vanderhoff looked up made sure he crushed Howard with his eyes, “And you didn’t check their passes?” Howard was frightened, shaking his head no, afraid to answer. The Lieutenant considered this, taking a few steps and rubbing is chin.
He liked where it was going: that made four confirmed reports that they left going south. South is the direction they had been looking for months now, all of their latest evidence pointed that way. Somewhere near Pratt hid the fugitives, the treasonous rebel scientists and their contraband laboratory. That’s where Restrepo went. It’s the only place he could go.
It’s only a matter of time, he thought, you gave yourself away.
Turning suddenly and slamming his hands on the table, Vanderhoff said, “That’s enough,” there was gravel in his voice, “take him down to Cellblock Nine, I want him held for further questioning.” As Howard protested, dragged away by the guards, Vanderhoff smiled, “Don’t worry,” he said, relishing the moment, “You’ll be comfortable enough in the meantime.”
© David Edward Wagner 2014. All Rights Reserved.