7.0 Green and Grays

by Matt P.

The final phone call of the day had been, unexpectedly, from Ashland. Walter hadn’t actually given her his phone number, so that was definitely a surprise—it had come in as a private number which he had ignored, followed by a text message telling him to stop stealing oxygen from the people around him and pick up his phone, which was followed by a phone call he had actually answered.

“We found the lab.” Ashland had never much been one for salutations or other pleasantries, and Walter was perversely relieved to find that hadn’t changed. “We’re going in tonight so we can look around before some fumble fingered keystone cops break something. Get the puppy, I’m texting you the address.”

“So we’re going in to the woods of Border, to a presumably abandoned government facility, to look in to a super drug, almost at night?” Walter asked, reaching up to scratch his chin idly.

Ashland snorted. “Why do you do that?”

The grin was apparent in Walter’s voice as he responded. “I find a full accounting of the stupid things we’re about to do is helpful for the after action report.” He glanced down at the cell phone when he it dinged, and pulled up the map as he spoke. “Looks like I’ll be there about…forty minutes after I get Ryan. How are we going in?”

Ashland paused for a moment, considering. “Less than Prague, more than Sao Paolo,” she decided, before hanging up. Walter considered, then decided he knew what that meant.

Fifty-five minutes later he was driving through a dilapidated gate that looked like it had once been secure. The facility was deep in the woods south of border, with a dirt road that was decent if not particularly well maintained. All around them the forest shimmered with the dark greens of old growth, and the long and deep shadows of heavy woods as the sun got lower in the sky. It was beautiful, the rich browns of dirt and tree versus the variegated greens of moss and leaf, but it was also strongly indicative of a place humans didn’t go. This was the domain of the woods, and Walter felt like an intruder.

The facility that came up ahead of them seemed even more like an intruder, albeit one the forest was doing its best to reclaim. The gray stone was unnatural against even the other grays of the rocks, and the vines that had overtaken most of it didn’t do much to make it seem less so. There was a heavily rusted doorway at the front, but even as they approached Taito Hernandez was getting it open through what appeared to be a combination of lock picks and strong kicking.

“You’re late,” Ashland commented as Walter and Ryan got out of a Border PD SUV. Walter went around to the back and grabbed his active shooter duffel, opening it up to pull a rifle out. “Did you bring enough for the class to share, Mr. Richards?” She asked, in her best prim school teacher voice.

“Nope,” Walter offered cheekily. “This one is all mine.” What was all his was an FN-SCAR 16S, a matte-black semi-automatic rifle with a scope on the top. “If I’m not going to be able to afford college for my children because of my paranoiac gun collecting, I at least get to enjoy the fruits of it.” He grabbed some other gear, and pulled his way in to a bullet-proof vest from the department, before extending the telescoping stock on the rifle and pulling the strap over his shoulder.

Ryan snorted, as he pulled his personal M4 carbine out of the back of the SUV. “Like you didn’t get a law enforcement discount to start, and probably a personal discount. Don’t you know a guy?” He asked. Walter grinned.

“I always know a guy.” Wiggling his eyebrow, he went through the familiar ritual of carefully checking the rifle to make sure it was in good shape. Following that he loaded a magazine, and chambered a round. “You said more than Sao Paolo, less than Prague. So I didn’t see if I could find any grenades.” Ashland shrugged at that, and motioned to the facility.

“Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind. But it does make it look a little bit less like you’re a cop, and more like you still want to be a soldier,” she pointed out sweetly. Walter snorted, and followed her as she walked toward the facility. She pulled out her Makarov and a flashlight, and Hernandez had what Walter recognized was an FN Five SeveN.

“Nah,” Ryan said with a sigh, as Walter and he turned on the lights mounted to their own rifles. “We just look like we’ve been to Border before.” Walter shared a knowing look with him as they walked toward the building. There was a sign on the door that read ‘Van Harlo Research Center’, and offered absolutely no information further tan that. “So…Aliens? Little green men with inexplicable fetishes for our anuses?”

Ashland snorted, pushing open the door. “You were always fun on the radios, Ryan, but maybe let’s treat this seriously.” She stepped in to the building, and began carefully scanning with her flashlight. “Besides, they’re gray,” she offered helpfully as she walked further in to the building. The entrance hall stretched out before them as the building burrowed itself in to the side of the hill.

“You know,” Walter offered off-hand, “It wouldn’t be the craziest thing I think we’ve ever seen.”