7.1 Dark and Governmental

by Matt P.

The interior was darker than it seemed like it should be from the outside. The hallway was only mildly decorated, as if someone said that it should be decorated for guests but then realized that there weren’t going to be any at the secret government research facility hidden in the woods. So it had been kind of half-assed, was the impression Walter got from it. It was done in a sterile green, and there was a little sofa in front of a receptionist desk.

“Got a lot of visitors,” Ryan commented. Ashland and Hernandez took the front, with Walter and Ryan coming up behind them with the rifles. In the event of being attacked, the front two would drop or get to the side to clear up the firing line for the rifles. The four of them moved easily, with long practice. “Where’s the new boy, by the way?”

Ashland didn’t look up at the heavens to pray for operational silence, but she looked from behind like she wanted to; Walter sympathized—Ryan was always slightly easier to handle when you could actually order him around then when you couldn’t. “Working with your Ms. Silverman; she seems to be quite the agent. Should I recruit her?”

Walter grunted. “Like hell. Even if you were the actual FBI I wouldn’t want to lose her, and there’s no way I’ll be OK with you taking her to Langley,” Walter said with finality, referring to the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. “She’s a grown ass woman so she can do what she wants, but if you convince her to be a spook I’ll key every car you ever own forever.”

Ashland laughed, but let it go at that. At the end of the hallway there was a door that looked like it had once been secure, but now it hung listlessly on its hinges like it had been thoroughly wrecked. The keycard reader next to it was deactivated and sad, like a little electronic face waiting in the dark. They walked through it carefully, wary of any residual traps, but found nothing. Beyond that door there was a wide meeting or production area—there were some cubicles along the walls and some long meeting tables running down the center of the room between them. There were papers left haphazard on the tables and in the cubicles, as if they had been evacuated in a hurry but not in absolute chaos.

“Alright, let’s start fanning out; it looks like the complex branches out from this room,” Ashland commented, gesturing with the flashlight to two doors at the other end of the room. They did seem to lead to different sections, and the four of them naturally broke in to two groups of two—Walter and Ryan, Ashland and Hernandez. It may have made more sense to split the weapon groupings up, but they team choices were long habit. They moved slowly through the room, carefully looking at the papers as they went. Most of them seemed to be administrative memos, none of them particularly catching their eyes as being important. It seemed like the room might have been some kind of administration section with an early prototype of an open floor-plan office environment. Walter did notice that some of the memos were addressed to sub-units of very Federal departments.

“Do we know if there’s a back entrance?” Walter asked as they made it up to the second set of doors. “If not, then if you find one turn around and meet up with the others.” All three nodded the affirmative, and they tried the doors. Hernandez and Ashland found theirs opened, while the lock on the door in front of Walter and Ryan apparently still worked.

“You got it?” Ashland asked, and Walter snorted. He pulled a set of lock-picks out of his pocket, and knelt down. “Alright, if you don’t have it in thirty seconds you have to let Ryan do it instead.” Hernandez gave a little bit of a salute, and the other two made their way down their branch.

“So what do we think is going on here?” Walter asked softly as he worked the picks. All of them knew how to pick a lock, and it was a good way to pass time and make bets when they were bored. Walter actually wasn’t the fastest at this particular game—Ryan was damn good at it, as was Hernandez—but he didn’t think he was going to lose the speed trial here on a lock this old and rusted out.

“Well, there’s good odds that the vial had something to do with salvation. I mean it could be something else,” Ryan allowed with a shrug, “Because this is Border and weird shit happens ll the time, but I shudder to think we have that many random boutique narcotics floating around.”

Walter nodded, getting the lock picked and pushing the door open. Ryan moved through quickly with his rifle, while Walter brought his up to fall in behind him. “Yeah, it seems like we’re going to find something here, but I just don’t know what it is yet,” he agreed. The hallway beyond looked more like a jail then one in a science laboratory; two other hallways branched off, one straight ahead without much more security, and one off to the left with another security desk and a locked door with a bullet-proof window in it. Ryan moved over to the secure door, glancing through it and wincing. “That’s…unwholesome. Looks like cells back there.” Walter winced, but motioned.

“Looks like a lab through here, and…” Walter reached down to try the handle, “And the door is open,” he confirmed. “Also way less depressing, and more science-y.” He shrugged, and Ryan returned the shrug and moved over to join him.

The next room had a wide array of cabinets and what appeared to be scientific equipment, the kind used to mix chemicals or determine what was in them. Walter was pretty sure he recognized a very old gas chromatograph, with some chemical formulas written on a white-board above it. On the other side of the room was another exit, the door completely gone, leading further in to the compound. He shrugged, and pulled out his cell phone to take some quick pictures of it and the other white boards around the room. Ryan did the same, both men letting their rifles rest on the slings around their shoulders as they made their way around until they were standing near the unexplored but open doorway. “Grab some of the files?” Walter suggested.

“We should have brought Silverman,” Ryan commented wryly. “We’re like bulls in a china shop here,” he said, while nonetheless stepping very carefully around.

“Bulls in a china shop with basic skills at avoiding contaminating crime scenes, I hope,” Walter offered in amusement before he blinked. “Did you—” he began, thinking he had heard something in the distance. Then he heard a crash coming from the direction they had come, and he and Ryan shared a look. They had just started to reach for their rifles when two large men pushed through the door. Each had a shotgun and a mean look, and they glared when they saw Walter and Ryan.

Walter and Ryan reacted by both throwing themselves through the door to the hallway with a curse as a shotgun blast impacted the wall.

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