Anchors No More #29: Maybe Show and Probably TellAug 4, 2014
In the few minutes that passed between taking her position at the table and Steven and Cassie entering the room, Holly had time to think. She was positive that this was not a good thing.
She periodically glanced up from the clipboard she feigned reading and each time saw at least one set of eyes upon her. They may not know who she was but they certainly knew she didn’t belong there. She saw Brandon pretending to work at a table across from her. He gave her a thin smile and she felt her heart rise. He’s in position, we’re okay, just come on, she thought, come on you guys, please, please…
Finally the door to the lab opened and Steven and Carla entered, guns clutched to their chests. They walked straight to the back of the room towards Holly and the basement door. They strode with such certainty that even Holly had the brief illusion that they belonged there and were simply following another set of unexplained military procedures. Every scientist in the place stopped what they were doing and watched the pair walk through the lab, though none left their station to inquire into their purpose.
When they reached the basement door they inspected it, whispering something to one another before Steven turned to the roomful of lab rats, “Can I have your attention please, we are to lockdown this area in accordance with security protocol 9-5-72X. I am required to inform you that you are all to be detained and your security badges relinquished. Please do not attempt to leave the premises.”
The scientists silently stared at one another, afraid to move or react. They were not pleased by this news but they certainly could believe it. Ever since Doctors Marshall and Neff reappeared from the ether, things had been getting strange in the compound, the security and paranoia increasing with every passing day.
One by one they set down their pens, modules, and motherboards and waked morosely towards the corner they were being directed to by the barrels of Steven and Carla’s rifles. Once they were all there and sitting on the floor, Steven looked them over, “Which one of you has a pass for this lock?” he asked, gesturing towards the basement door. Holly and two others slowly raised their hands and Steven motioned to Holly, “You,” he said, “Stand up.”
Holly did as she was told, standing and walking through the seated scientists to join Steven who was holding out his hand. Holly gave him the pass “Don’t move,” Steven commanded, nodding to Carla to make sure she kept an eye on Holly and the other scientists.
He slid the badge through the card reader and the light on the console flashed from red to green. A smile tried to slip past his lips but he caught it, turning to his prisoners saying, “Everyone downstairs.”
Within a few minutes they were all in the basement, Steven and Carla herding the scientists into a huddle in the back of the broad dark room. Holly stood slightly apart from the group and Steven looked at her, “You,” he said gruffly, “over here.” Holly looked nervously at her fellow scientists and hesitantly walked over to join the guards.
Steven placed his hand on her shoulder and pulled her near him, “Okay,” he whispered, “it’s your call. What do you think?”
She licked her lips, thinking, knowing their goal would be gained or squandered with this single choice. She slowed her mind, trying to get past the general sense of doom and just analyze the objective facts.
None of the scientists questioned the orders they were given, a truth that meant either deep-seated fear of the military or the utmost loyalty to their cause. With no good way to logically distil the probability of either reason in the short time she had been given, she concluded with a default fifty-fifty potentiality: we’re either screwed or we’re not. This concession to indecision left her with only her gut to go by but again she could find no compelling answer using this methodology, no single intuitive notion that swayed her opinion one way or the other. Her question remained the same: was the danger involved with the risk worth the possible payoff?
After a dizzying minute of consideration, she looked up at Steven and whispered, “We do it.”
He stared into her eyes, making sure she was serious and certain. When he was sure she was both, he asked, “You or me?” She gave the question half a thought and tentatively smiled, turning slowly to the huddled group of captors.
“Hi,” she said, her voice shaking, “Our guards asked me to ask you something and please know that they want you to be candid and that this is off the record. They have a…” she paused, looked to Steven and Carla, guns shifting in their sweaty grips. She turned back to the scientists, “… a personal interest in your answers. Anything you say will not leave this room, they promise.”
The prisoners were silent, afraid to say anything, exchanging silent glances. When no one spoke, Holly continued, “How many of you know about the recent appearance of Doctors Holly Marshall and Gary Neff and their escape from the ARLIS facilities?” It took a few moments but hands slowly raised, all of them were aware of the situation. Holly nodded, surveying their eyes and demeanors. “Okay,” she said, “now, how many of you have heard of the plans the military had for both the doctors and the machine they built?” Again, a full garden of hands in bloom.
Holly cleared her throat, wishing she had a glass of water, “Who agrees with their plans?” This time not one hand went up. Holly looked around, unsure if their lack of response was due to fundamental disagreement or to simple fear of exposure. She waited but nothing happened. Slowly, she ventured further, “Do any of you recognize me?” she asked, gazing over the scientists, making sure each of them had a chance to look into her eyes.
Timidly, from the front of the group, Brandon said, “You’re Holly Marshall. I recognized you when you came into the lab but I wasn’t sure until now, until you started talking to us.”
The whispers began to rise. Holly felt Steven move behind her, stepping towards the scientists. She glanced over and saw him raise his rifle. Carla did the same, flanking Holly and pointing her gun towards their captives. Holly looked back at Brandon, “And how do you feel about this?” she asked.
He did not answer right away, measuring the rising tide of uncertainty, but when he did answer, saying, “I want to help you with whatever you’re trying to do,” the murmurs turned to grumbles, the captive scientists became restless, a few of them stood, their voices growing.
Steven pointed his rifle at them, commanding them to sit and settle down. When they did neither, Holly feared they had overplayed their hand. She could only stare at Brandon and he at her, neither of them quite sure what to do.
© David Edward Wagner 2014. All Rights Reserved.