Anchors No More #24: Twenty Meters and a DreamJun 30, 2014
They parked two miles away, creeping through the thin forest, moving quickly and quietly towards the ARLIS compound.
Holly made sure she stayed close to Steven, moving when he did, crouching down and holding still when he prompted her to do so. Steven had been charged with escorting Holly and Gary and he kept himself between them, always reaching out and touching one or the other, keeping them calm, down and moving.
In front of Holly, Restrepo took the lead, followed closely by Daniel, James, Pierre and Carla. Behind her were Steven, Gary, Elizabeth, Brandon and Mike. Kate was guarding the rear, her eyes peeled for anything, ordinary or otherwise. Together the group moved more efficiently then they could have imagined. They reached ARCC forty minutes later, kneeling as a unit twenty meters deep into the woods and catching their breath.
Ahead of them was the barbed wire-topped chain link fence separating them from their destination. Just beyond the fence stood the massive brick, steel, glass and stone behemoth formally named the ARLIS Corporate Compound. Restrepo checked through his night-vision binoculars, scanned the area for any warning signs. Everything seemed normal: no guards, no motion, no unusual lighting. Satisfied, he handed the binoculars to Daniel, motioned for him to look there, at the security camera on the tree twelve meters to their left discretely pointing back at the perimeter of the woods.
He pointed out the other five security cameras, two on the fence itself and three positioned strategically along the wall. Lastly, he pointed to the door set into the brick wall. The door was thick and metal, secured with heavy bolts held in place by an electronic lock, the security keyboard embedded in the bricks beside the doorframe. On the other side of that door, if anything anywhere was going right, should be Lawrence Queen and their chance into the ARCC’s interior.
Behind Restrepo, Holly glanced at Gary squatting in the dark. He was breathing hard and looking around nervously, appearing every bit the anxious wreck that she imagined him to be. She gently nudged him with her knee, he startled and shot her an annoyed expression. She stuck her tongue out. Gary understood: relax buddy, don’t get crazy. He appreciated the sentiment but could not bother with a smile, feeling no space left in his head for niceties.
He was frightened; it was hitting him hard. He wiped sweaty palms on black pants, letting out a calming breath. For the past twenty-four hours, he had remained numbly upbeat, quiet but held together. It was more like a dream than anything else, vague visions of them sneaking through the lab, maybe gunshots behind closed doors, the hatch sealing tight behind him, the hum and buzz of the device powering to life. He would touch the button, the bright flash and… no way to know what then. It could not be a concern, all of it over before he could finish his breath, mid-heart beat, annihilated, wiped from existence. There would be no pain, that was a comforting thought, but there would be nothing and that was something he could not imagine.
Over the past couple days his mind simply dipped itself into a hazy fugue as he went about his business: eating, training, soothing Holly when her panic attacks hit. Right then, however, kneeling before the fence, faced with hard physical reality, all he had buried rose to the surface. A cold shot ripped up his spine and he almost tipped over. Elizabeth steadied him with a hand on his shoulder. The two doctors met eyes and Gary settled himself.
Gracefully, Restrepo slung the backpack from his shoulder, opened it and pulled out a compact set of wire cutters and a small, complex interface. He handed Daniel a flash drive from his pocket and the interface. Daniel’s job was to install these devices on the security camera directly facing the door, currently inescapably broadcasting all door-related actions directly to the control room. Their hope was to bypass the feed and send prerecorded footage from a previous dark and quiet night. It was a rudimentary plan to be sure, but it was viable and their options were few.
Restrepo looked back at Steven, “Hold it here,” he whispered, “Eyes everywhere.” Steven nodded: yes, he knew the plan. Only Restrepo, Daniel, and Pierre would move forward. They would open a hole in the fence, creep inside and hook up the camera interface. Once that was complete, Restrepo would get inside the door with the code Queen had given him the day before. He would meet Queen, the rest of the group would join them in the laundry room and away they would go. The plan was simple but Steven knew things don’t stay simple for long. He gave Holly a quick glance: she met his eyes but could not hold them.
Restrepo gave the signal and he, Daniel and Pierre crawled forward on their hands and stomachs, trying to keep themselves lifted off the crunching leaves as much as possible. At the fence, Restrepo closed his wire cutters around a steel link seven inches from the ground and snipped through it with a small strained grunt. He moved on to the next link and then the next while Pierre was digging into the earth under the hole Restrepo was creating.
Minutes later, they were clearing the dirt away from the opening. Restrepo went first, followed by Daniel and last Pierre who handed through their gear. When the three were all through the fence and had gathered themselves, Restrepo gave Daniel a nod. You’re up.
Daniel knew the most dangerous part of his mission was the timing of the dash from shadowed woodsy fence to well-lit tarmacked parking lot. The hook-up would be hard, he knew, splicing the feed without error or glitch would be a miracle in itself, but that didn’t seem as foolhardy as this first part of the plan. Exposed beneath panoptical camera lenses, the glaring bright of the overhead parking lot security lights, feeling eyes of every sort upon him.
They calculated that the roof top cameras slowly rotated in one hundred and eighty-degree arcs, providing complete coverage of the area. Gaps existed, however, little moments when slices and spots were out of camera view for a few moments. There was a small break in the coverage near the door about halfway through the cameras’ motion-cycle. One camera would not be facing the door at all and two would be facing towards it at awkward angles. It was all about waiting for it, that congruence of visual geometry, all about just patiently reading the motions of the three lenses, trusting in the algorithms they worked out.
Daniel knew it was coming, once the left camera turns towards there like that and the middle camera scans upwards like that… he didn’t look back, he moved swiftly, hoping his hands would be steady by the time he reached the brick wall underneath the camera.
© David Edward Wagner 2014. All Rights Reserved.