Anchors No More #4: The Downside of BewildermentFeb 10, 2014
“Where are you taking us?”
It seemed a reasonable question under the circumstances. However, those same circumstances precluded a response. And none came. The guards remained silent as they marched Gary and Holly up the stairs and through the room that had minutes ago been their lab but now stood as empty, cold, and dusty as the basement. They exited the lab and entered a well-lit hallway, went down it, turned left and went out a second door.
Finally, something seemed normal. The halls outside that second door were peopled with a combination of soldiers and scientists busily making their way from here to there, clipboards and rifles held in hands as they brushed by on their way to where they had to be. No one spared a look at Holly, Gary or the two guards as they weaved through the corridors. Gary tried in vain to catch an eye as he passed a group of three grey-haired men in lab coats, but none of them would look at him, keeping their focus on each other and their papers. He turned to Holly and they shared a nervous glance. It doesn’t seem good, he conveyed and she mutely replied yes, I know. Out a door, up some stairs, down another hall and they halted in front of a pair of elevators marked “Military Personal Only.” The doors dinged open and the guards prompted them inside with the barrels of their rifles.
Once in, the guard who earlier had lifted his visor pressed the ‘12’ button and the elevator began to rise towards the twelfth floor. A handful of uncomfortable seconds passed before Gary could not contain himself any longer. “Where are you taking us?” he asked again. “We have a right to know.”
“You waived those rights the moment you stepped foot in a restricted space,” the guard said. “Please don’t speak.”
Back in the basement, Gary remembered that the guard who appeared in charge, the one who had lifted his visor, had his surname sewn onto his uniform. Gary looked at Holly for support but she shook her head, mouthed the word ‘no.’ He refused her council, anxiety morphing into frustration, deciding to try another approach, “Please, Officer Restrepo,” he said, “we didn’t step anywhere. We were in our lab, working for our employer, ARLIS Research and Development. We belong here, we’re not intruders or thieves or spies or whatever you think we are. My name is Gary Neff and this is Holly Marshal, we are employees of ARLIS and we demand…”
“We know who you are, Doctor Neff, and that is precisely why you have waived any and all rights you think you may have, and that is why I must ask you again to remain silent.” The guard turned his shoulders towards Gary, pointed the rifle at his chest, “Or perhaps you would like to be shot for resistance?”
That worked. Gary’s eyes widened and his mouth clamped shut. He gave another glance to Holly who met his eyes with stern reprobation. The rest of the ride up to twelve was quiet and tense.
When they reached their desired floor the guards brought the scientists through a large set of swinging metal doors and into a large open room with bland wallpaper and no windows. Bright fluorescent lights illuminated a single reception desk in front of them and six doors in the wall across the way from where they had entered. In the midst of the doors, splitting them into two groups of three, a hallway led back to an unknown destination. A uniformed and armed receptionist sat at a desk, turning his focus from his paperwork to the small group as they walked into the room and approached him. Restrepo stepped ahead of the rest and stopped them beside the desk. “Is Lieutenant Vanderhoff in his office? I need to speak with him immediately concerning the situation in the RD lab.”
The man at the desk studied the guards and their prisoners for a moment. Gary tried to meet his stare with a smile but failed, Holly simply avoided any attempt at eye contact. The receptionist gave Restrepo one last look and picked up the phone, punched in a few numbers and waited a beat. “They’re here,” he said into the receiver. He listened a second and set it down, “The Lieutenant will meet you in the medical facility,” he said, “immediately.” Restrepo nodded and motioned his prisoners to follow him down the hall.
They arrived at a locked door at the end of the hall, a black plastic plaque on the wall with white letters – “Medical Facilities: Restricted Access.” He went to the keypad under the plaque, entered a five-digit code, and the door slid back into its metal frame. “This way,” Restrepo commanded, leading them past an examination room exposed by a large picture window and to a closed door marked “Research, Private.” He knocked and a voice inside yelled, “Come in.” So they did.
They entered a brightly lit medical area, examination tables and myriad machines filled the space. Cabinets and shelves stocked with sterile looking packages and implements occupied the walls, giving the room a used, active feel. Sitting in a chair at a small desk in the back corner was a man, short cropped salt and pepper hair sat atop his large skull that held blue eyes carved of stone. The man stood up, revealing his hulking frame, his sharply pressed uniform underneath his starched white lab coat. The man stepped forward glaring intently at the two scientists who could only timidly return his stare. “So,” he said, something like a smile behind his granite predatory expression, “you’re Doctors Marshal and Neff?” He sized them up, their wet suits, their confused demeanors, the two backpacks slung across the shoulders of the silent guards. The man took his time, sitting on the edge of one of the beds. Clearing his throat, he finally told them, “We’ve been expecting you.”
© David Edward Wagner 2014. All Rights Reserved.