Anchors No More # 25 : And Then Came the Moment of TruthJul 7, 2014
Restrepo kept his rifle raised and pointed at Queen’s chest. This was it, both men knew it: the moment of truth.
Scanning the dim room, Restrepo saw nothing noteworthy and turned his attention back to Queen again. They silently watched one another a moment before Queen raised his hands and stepped forward, “It’s just me, it’s safe, I swear,” he said, “but we have to hurry.”
Restrepo hesitated then lowered his rifle, “It’s good to see you, Lawrence,” he said turning back to the door and motioning to Daniel and Pierre. Pierre glanced back at the Ankura group in the woods and waved them in. Daniel entered the laundry room and walked over to Queen with Restrepo. The three men shook hands. “Thank you,” said Daniel.
“My pleasure,” responded Queen, handing Daniel a lab coat, “I’m honored.”
While Restrepo continued his analysis of the surroundings, the rest of the group began filtering in. Daniel waved Holly and Gary over, Pierre shut the door as the last team member entered and joined the others gathered around Restrepo, Daniel and Queen.
Daniel’s grin was awkward, “Lawrence Queen, meet Holly Marshal and Gary Neff.” They shook hands, Gary and Holly nervous and gracious, Queen stiffly humble. Daniel turned to the Ankura scientists, “All right everyone,” he said, “We need to listen to Doctor Queen, get our things and get moving. The clock’s ticking.”
They were silent: Queen had their attention. “Hi everyone, so…” he searched for words, unable to find thoughts, all that would come to mind was an image of Rutherford’s cold mechanistic glare. Queen’s eyes drifted from Daniel to Restrepo, the twitch of a smile came to his lips when he saw Kate Shaw among the group. He always liked Kate. He had a million questions. “Doctor…” he stuttered, his eyes moving between Kate and Holly and Gary and Carla and…
Holly calmly said, “Doctor, please…”
The clarity in her eyes as Queen stared into them was a bucket of ice water to his brain. “Everything’s okay inside,” he said, handing the Ankura scientists their clothing and equipment, “they don’t know anything’s going on but they are on alert, there’s extra guards everywhere ever since it happened, when you guys…” he paused, meeting Holly’s eyes again as he handed her a lab coat and identification badge, “They’re everywhere,” he continued, “so watch your step.”
He handed Pierre, Carla, Steven and Kate security flack jackets and helmets, Elizabeth and James lab coats. “You need to know this,” Queen said to Daniel, “They have teams combing the countryside and I’m pretty sure they found your lab.”
Daniel tried to answer but couldn’t, his innards instantly compacted.
Queen saw the quiver seep into Daniel’s eyes, he wanted to say he was sorry but knew he had no time for apologies, “I overheard some talk from the higher-ups and they got their claws into something juicy. Outside Pratt, right?”
Daniel didn’t answer, he gazed at Queen for a few seconds before giving slow looks to James and Restrepo. When his eyes returned to Queen, there was a hint of suspicion in them, a question concerning the motivation behind the stranger’s open-ended inquiry.
Queen realized what Daniel’s expression meant and quickly said, “Whatever, it doesn’t matter where it is. What matters is that if they did find it, the walls are most likely going to be crashing down around this little party any minute now.”
The group shared blank looks and Restrepo could feel the mood shift, the energetic bottom drop out, he knew he was in danger of loosing them to their fears. He stepped into the middle of the scientists and gave a stern look, “If it happened, it happened, there’s nothing we can do now. We have a plan and we stick to it.” They didn’t believe him but they knew it didn’t matter, he was right either way. There was no turning back or second-guessing. The steel crept back into their resolve and they continued putting on stolen clothing and gathering their equipment. Restrepo gave Queen a nod and shouldered his rifle.
Queen looked back to Daniel, “I can take you as far as Hall F, then you’re on your own. You split your group at Hall C, about a hundred meters after you switch from East to West Wing.”
Daniel thanked Queen and turned to his group, nodding his head at Gary who was busy trying to hide a pistol in his waistband. Last he gazed at Holly and she met his stare with wide eyes, tapping her fingers on the clipboard she held. He smiled and took a few steps towards the door, “Let’s go, keep your head down and act normal, small talk among ourselves, break into a few groups. Pierre, you’re alone, get ahead of everyone by five meters or so, keep yourself ready.” Pierre nodded, slipped the visor on his helmet down and readied his rifle.
Daniel looked back at Gary and Holly, “You two keep calm and stay as close as possible to Sebastian and Kate. Get behind them, let them shield you a little, and for God’s sake, don’t ever look up, there’s going to be cameras all along the way.”
They both nodded, taking small steps towards Kate and Sebastian.
Daniel slapped the clipboard in his hands and said, “We know what we’re doing, so let’s do it. We split at Hall C, we have our assignments and priorities, if anything goes haywire we run, don’t wait for anybody, just get to the rendezvous and lay low. Whoever gets there gets there.”
They agreed and shared a brief exchange of unspoken goodbyes.
“One more thing,” Queen said, “Vanderhoff’s running around a lot, between his office and the labs, so just keep your eyes open. He’s not in a good mood.”
Great, thought Holly glancing over at Gary. His lips were dry. He licked them and tried to swallow James looked at Queen and sneered, “You have a talent for undersell,” he said, glancing at Daniel, “Not in a good mood.”
Daniel said nothing, no extra space in his head right then for James’ quips. Pierre held his gun to his shoulder when Daniel gave him the nod. Queen looked respectfully into Daniel Hobbes’ eyes, “Good luck to you all,” he said, “I wish I…” He wished so many things he couldn’t narrow it down enough to form any coherent conclusion to his statement.
Daniel’s only reply was putting a hand on Queen’s shoulder and giving it a gracious squeeze. He turned to Pierre, “Okay, you first, second group of three follows ten seconds later.” He placed his hand on the doorknob, “All right,” he said, slowly turning the knob and cracking the door.
© David Edward Wagner 2014. All Rights Reserved.