Anchors No More #19: All In On The WildcardMay 26, 2014
James wasn’t sure of the idea and he gave Daniel an incredulous glance to make sure Daniel understood that fact. Daniel measured his partner a moment before asking, “What? Just say it.”
James was as uncertain about voicing his opinion and adding to their exhausted anxiety as he was about Restrepo’s actual suggestion. He stood up and looked around the group before finally answering, “Well, I’m just not sure if it’s the best idea to get more people involved. More people we don’t know.” He turned to Restrepo, “No offense.”
Restrepo offered James a half-smile, understanding his hesitation but knowing they had to get past it if they wanted to succeed, “None taken,” he said also standing, “Look, I get it, if I were you I would be second-guessing everything and I would definitely not trust the ARLIS security guard who showed up on my doorstep,” he glanced around humbly, “ so I guess first of all, thank you for trusting me as much as you have, but we’re past that point now. We have to trust each other and we have to take chances if we’re going to do this.” He gave James a long stare before looking at Daniel and Steven, then Holly and Gary, “I swear that calling him is our best bet of getting in. I know we can trust him.”
Daniel wanted to believe, but James’ doubt was infectious and wisely placed. He shook his head, feeling too many ticking clocks berating his mind to think clearly, “How do you know? I mean, this guy’s pretty embedded and how well do you really know him?”
Restrepo looked around the group impatiently before settling his eyes back on Daniel, “I know him well enough. He’s in a good position, buried deep in a lab, no one gives him a second look. We’ve been friends for a couple years and I can tell you, no matter how much he supports the temporal project itself, he has absolutely no personal love for ARLIS and even less love for the military. He just wants to do his research, not be some pet scientist at the whim of the fucking Army.”
Restrepo turned to Holly, “He respects your work too much to want to see it come to what it’s coming too, he told me that. Personally. He’s afraid of what Vanderhoff and his goons have planned for it and he was disgusted when I told him what they had planned for you two whenever you showed up.”
Then he turned to James, giving him a hard stare, “He will help us and in my opinion, if we are going to break into ARLIS and have any chance of completing this crazy ass plan, we have to let him help us.”
James refused to make eye contact with Restrepo, keeping his eyes on the map spread out on the table. Daniel looked around: each of the faces staring back at him was tight with tense expressions of indecision and expectation. All of Ankura’s fugitive researchers were there and all were equally on edge. Pierre almost spoke up, but couldn’t form his idea so he looked at Carla for support. She ran a hand through her curly black hair, her eyes telling him she didn’t want to talk. Steven glanced at Amber, Amber turned to Brandon who just shook his head. Mike whispered something to Kate and she nodded her head, an exchange that caught Daniel’s attention. “What,” he asked them impatiently, “We need cards on the table.”
Mike was slow to answer so Kate cut in, “We think we really don’t have an option,” she said, “We have three days to do this and we don’t have a way in. Point A to Z we have, easy,” she continued, sweeping her attention around the group, “but we can’t get from A to B.”
Daniel understood, they all did, if they couldn’t get in that first locked door there was no way to accomplish anything, but that didn’t change the fact that there had to be more than one logical option. “We know that,” he told her, told them all, “but that’s not the question really, is it? The question is ‘is Sebastian’s plan safe enough to put every damn one of our eggs in that basket?’ and we have to be sure, there’s no going back once we take that step.”
Kate looked at Holly, “We need in to do this?” Not really a question, but not really a statement either, ambiguous, letting Holly decide.
Holly nodded her head yes.
Kate turned to Daniel, “We don’t have a way in.”
Daniel nodded his head, looking from Kate to Holly and Gary to Restrepo, saving James for last, observing his glowering a moment before saying, “And?” James didn’t reply, keeping his frustrated stare on the map.
Finally, he looked away, scratched his head and let out a long tension-filled sigh, “Fuck this,” he grumbled, “call him.” He stormed towards the door, “We have work to do.”
With that one announcement, the atmosphere of the room shifted from a heavily depressed stalemate into tentatively excited productivity. They all had their jobs and they immediately broke up the meeting and began doing them.
James joined Holly, Gary, and Elizabeth over at the whiteboard, soon Brandon, Carla, Mike, and Amber came over and the small group poured over the details and the time schedule they would follow once they had gained access to the basement. Daniel and Steven sat across the room with Pierre and Kate, a brother and sister who were two of the first scientists to join the underground Ankura Lab. Together the four of them double-checked and debated their course of action once they made it inside ARLIS.
With each and every fugitive researcher accounted for and busy, Restrepo knew it was time for him to do his own work. He left the lab, his thoughts burden by the responsibility he had taken upon himself. He knew he was right, he knew he could trust his friend, but what if? What if Vanderhoff had gotten to Queen in the time Sebastian had been gone? What if he found out they had a personal relationship and Lawrence had been imprisoned, threatened, or was working daily with a gun to his head? What if he was just wrong and his friend’s abhorrence of the military was not enough to convince him to turn traitor and risk his life and everything he had ever worked for?
These were only portions of the concerns deluging his mind as he took the hour-long drive and bought a disposable cell phone. Standing in the parking lot outside of the store, he punched in Queen’s number, pausing a few minutes, staring at the numbers on the phone. Please, he thought, please, please, please, just fucking be there. He hit the button, the phone dialed and it rang. It rang and rang, finally connecting, a hesitant voice on the other end saying, “Hello?”
Restrepo took a deep breath, knowing that this was it: beginning or ending. His voice betrayed his uncertainty, “Hey, Lawrence, it’s Sebastian.”
There was no answer for half a minute, Restrepo felt nauseous, he wanted to throw up, to cry, to fall to his knees, to ask for forgiveness and just go home, but then, almost like a dream, Lawrence Queen replied, “Sebastian, I can’t believe… I don’t know what to say.”
“Don’t say anything,” Restrepo said, letting out a long trembling breath, “Please, just listen.”
© David Edward Wagner 2014. All Rights Reserved.