Anchors No More #28: In Consideration of Recent EventsJul 29, 2014
It was only a seven second pause but it felt like a million years to Holly, standing in the elevator car, leaning back slightly to keep her face hidden behind Steven and Carla. She forgot to breathe, caught herself and took a quick gulp of air. Vanderhoff was facing forward but still had his head cocked to the side, half looking at Steven as he waited for an answer to his question.
Steven knew his awkward stutter of “Yes, Sir,” was not an adequate reply to the Lieutenant’s inquiry into the purpose of their journey to Level B5. Thinking fast, Steven barely let the pause linger, “The two of us are preparing for shift change, Sir, we were asked to double up on lower levels.” He hoped this resembled something like a possibility, basing his logic on several half-conversations he overheard and the gradual increase of security personal as they neared the elevators. Vanderhoff kept his head angled towards Steven another few moments before looking ahead.
The elevator was silent the rest of the way, a scant twelve seconds. When it stopped the doors opened and Vanderhoff stepped off, the businessman at his side. Before the doors could close, Vanderhoff halted and turned around, blocking Steven’s exit. Holly almost panicked, she tried to hide without trying to hide, Carla shifted her grip on her rifle and kept her eyes forward. Steven tried to avoid eye contact with Vanderhoff but it did not work, the two men locked eyes. “Tell me,” said Vanderhoff, “what’s your position?”
Steven didn’t have an answer, he had no knowledge of the section names within the area. All he knew were the directions they were going to take and the number of the room they were headed to. With only that one name as an option he said, “Outside of Lab Fourteen,” and hoped for the best.
Vanderhoff considered this a moment before giving the businessman a glance. Lieutenant Vanderhoff turned back to Steven, “I wasn’t aware of an order to place a unit outside of that room.”
Steven stayed calm, looking ahead at the wall, “Just following orders, Sir, my S.O. said it was a smart call to cover the room considering recent events.”
Vanderhoff may have been annoyed at the guard’s lack of eye contact but he did not show it. He released the elevator door, turning and walking away with the businessman at his side, “I’ll join you there in twenty minutes,” he barked over his shoulder as he went, “I want your supervisor’s name.”
The doors slid shut and Steven stopped them at the last second, causing them to slide open again. Without a word he stepped out of the elevator followed by Carla and Holly. They watched Vanderhoff and his companion move further down the hall, finally disappearing around a corner. When they were out of sight, Holly and her group began walking slowly in the opposite direction. “What the fuck was that?” asked Carla quietly as they walked.
“I don’t know, but it’s bad,” Steven answered, his palms sweating as they clutched the rifle, their footsteps clacking on the tile floor, “That man with Vanderhoff, do you know him?” Both women answered negatively so Steven told them, “That’s Samuel Rutherford.”
Holly and Carla knew that name. They understood it meant trouble. “They know I’m here,” said Holly with a wilting quiver, “They know we’re all here.”
“They don’t know,” whispered Steven, keeping his head forward, pretending to not notice or be concerned with the scientist behind him, “If they knew we’d already be dead or in jail.” They continued walking, taking another corner. One more turn and they would reach the pot at the conclusion of their hostile rainbow: the hallway holding Labs Twelve through Fifteen.
Steven slowed his pace a little, realizing he had nervously sped up, “Just keep your eyes out, everything is fine, they don’t know,” he rambled, quite sure his attempt to soothe his comrades was a failure, “Do you remember the procedure? Any last questions?”
Holly knew the procedure, she knew exactly where she was supposed to go and what she was supposed to do, that was not her problem. The problem was that there was no way to believe everything was all right. Vanderhoff had to have seen her; he’s too smart, too observant to have missed the tiny body behind the guards, the slender frame that tried to keep itself obscured by the two soldiers.
She knew without a doubt that their efforts had failed. Vanderhoff was not off on some other important duty, he was there to join the platoon of military police that he would personally escort to Lab 14 within minutes of their entering it. He may ask a few questions first but then Steven and Carla would be dead and she would be imprisoned with only God knowing what they would do with Gary, Daniel, and James when they were caught. Her heart sank when she thought of Sebastian Restrepo’s fate, unsure if she could imagine a darker and danker hole than the one he would be forced into.
With her heart wrapped tight in terror, she just said, “No questions,” and continued moving. In one minute they were there, standing at Lab Fourteen in a crowded hall. Holly kept her head down as she pulled the security badge from her lab coat packet, Steven and Carla standing on either side of the door looking like proper guards, though Steven stood a bit in front of Holly, shielding her somewhat from the security camera positioned on the wall across from them.
Holly gave the computer card a last look, gave her lungs a last deep breath of good luck-infused air, and placed the black strip of the ID into the slot. With an internal prayer, she swiped the card down, a few heartbeats passing before the light on the console turned from red to green and the beautiful sound of the door lock sliding back clicked in their ears.
Holly stuffed the card into her pocket and opened the door. Leaving Steven and Carla outside she entered the room, trying to stay unnoticed and blend into the crowd working within. Holly felt the eyes on her, understood she was being stared at. She glanced up quickly, meeting a few pairs of eyes, then turned back to her clipboard and walked around the outside of the research tables and rows of lab equipment. Stopping in the back at a long stainless steel table where no one else was working, she placed her clipboard on the silver table and began to leaf through her notes, acting like she was doing calculations, pretending to not be interested in the door behind her and to her left: the door that led to the basement where her machine had been built.
She fiddled with her pencil on the paper, ended up scrawling a sad frowny face with a single tear dripping from the pencil point of its eye She wrote messily above it, ‘haunted by the past’ and then scribbled it all out and flipped the page.
© David Edward Wagner 2014. All Rights Reserved.