I wake in a cold sweat; muscles tense and a feeling of terror slowly ebbing. I scrub my face as the nightmare slowly fades away, leaving me exhausted yet unable to sleep. I glance at the clock: 3:00 AM. Great, less than four hours sleep. Again.
With a frustrated sigh I climb out of bed. I know I won’t be getting any more sleep tonight, just like every other night, so I don’t even bother trying. Might as well find some distraction until my alarm goes off in a few hours. I quickly pull some shorts on over my boxers and leave the room, avoiding looking at the other side of the bed where Jessica used to sleep.
I quickly pull my thoughts back, tonight wasn’t going to be one of those nights. After grabbing a cold beer I settle on the couch and turn on the TV to find something to watch. After an hour of mindless shows my phone goes off, blaring and vibrating beside me. Who the fuck?
Snatching it up I see its Mitch, and its 4:00 AM. I swipe to answer and before I can speak Mitch is already going.
“Alex, thank God you’re up. We have a major problem. You need to get here, NOW.” Mitch’s tension filled voice lodges a ball of dread in my stomach. Fuck.
“Calm down man and tell me what the issue is.”
“Capsule 7B has been breached.”
A chill ripples through me. Not good, so not good.
“Did you run the protocols? Is lockdown in place?”
“You know I ran them! It doesn’t matter, 7B made it out of the compound.”
Shit. Shit. Shit!
“How the fuck?” I pause and shake my head, I can’t worry about the how right now. “Never mind, what is Retrievals status?”
“They are sweeping the Ortega’s now, no signs yet.”
“We have an hour, MAYBE two, before traffic hits the Ortega Highway. I want you to put more men out there, I don’t care about their training. 7B CANNOT come in contact with civis, you understand me?”
“Yes, but Retrieval is the only one equipped to handle this scenario.”
“Fuck equipped! Get everyone who can use a gun on this. If they find 7B they are authorized to kill on sight.”
“Don’t argue, Mitch. We both know what will happen if this isn’t contained. Take 7B down if you have to, just clean this shit up. I’m on my way, and when I get there someone better tell me what the fuck happened.”
I hang up and stare for a moment unmoving. My nightmares are nothing compared to what may be about to occur.
Peyton Industries Site 1; Ortega Mountains
45 minutes later
I arrived in record time, and somehow managed to do so without getting pulled over. Small miracles do happen. Mitch is waiting by the building’s main entrance as I park my car. I could tell the news wasn’t much better by the way he wasn’t meeting my eyes.
“What’s the status?” I demand as I slam the car door behind me and approach the building entrance where Mitch is standing. Mitch clears his throat awkwardly and fidgets with his hands for a moment before replying.
“We’ve found 7B, he’s contained.”
His answer gives me pause. His body language screams bad news is coming, yet that should be good news. Fuck.
“On Central Avenue, north east of the 15, in Lake Elsinore.”
“Did you initiate Alpha Protocol?”
“Yes, they are locking the town down now, but we don’t know if anyone came in contact with 7B that may be outside the quarantine zone. It’s crossed a major freeway and highway.”
“Get a team on reviewing camera feeds and any satellite shots of the area.”
“I already have one on it.”
“Good, now tell me how in the hell did this fucking happen?”
Mitch’s eyes dart around, landing everywhere but on me. I can tell he’s on the verge of panic. Shit can’t get much worse, so I’m at a loss on this reaction from him. I cross my arms and frown. I have zero caffeine and next to no sleep in me. I definitely have no patience for this shit.
“Well?” I demand, barely stopping my foot from tapping impatiently.
“It was Adams.” Mitch blurts out the words, but he’s still not making eye contact. Right.
“Try again, Mitch.” My foot starts tapping and I drop my hands to my sides. I may have to punch something, or someone, real soon.
“Fuck, fine. Okay. It was my fault.”
This is like prying out teeth, and already getting old.
“Details are good, Mitch.”
“It was an accident, okay? I was with Andrea. She was supposed to be working on the power grid but I stopped by to check on her, and she was looking so hot I couldn’t resist.”
“Are you telling me that 7B is loose because you couldn’t keep your hands off your wife for a few short hours? Seriously, Mitch! Your shift is over in less than an hour. What the hell, man?” I can barely contain my rage at the absurdity of this. Mitch, ever steadfast and smart. How could he foul up so much in one move?
“I know, I messed up bad. I KNOW! Andrea already read me the riot act. It was only a few seconds, I don’t know how 7B got out so fast. I literally only had enough time to pull her away, hold her against me and kiss her neck. She just giggled and pushed me away, said we’d continue when we got home and suddenly the alarms were going off and 7B was out. Andrea checked, saw the grid was down in Containment. She says she doesn’t remember running that command, and it’s too complicated to do by accident. But how the hell else did it go down?”
“Wait, there’s literally no way you caused this. Containment has a secondary power system that runs in conjunction with the main grid, and only two people have access codes to shut it down; Me and Dr. Blackburn. Even if Andrea somehow reset the grid there, Containment would still have power and no breach should have occurred. Has anyone checked the camera feed or been down to Containment since the breach?”
“No, we’ve been focused on retrieving 7B.” Mitch said, shoulders easing slightly. Obviously the news that he didn’t cause this was a relief for him, even though we were all still potentially screwed.
“Right, first step is to get someone to review the camera feeds. I’ll take a guard detail and head down to containment. Did any other capsules breach?” I said as I walked past Mitch and entered the building.
“No, just 7B.” Mitch said as he trailed behind me.
“Naturally…so, how did 7B breach the compound and walls? I didn’t see any damage to the gates.” We were moving deeper into the facility as we talked, scanning our wrist implants to open the doors at each checkpoint. We were about to enter the elevator that would take us down to B6 where the security center, and my office, was located, when Mitch finally answered.
“Honestly, we have no idea. I pinged the locators within minutes of the alarms going off, 7B was already outside the compound. His locator wasn’t moving, but when Retrieval got to the location it was obvious why. The bastard ripped it out!” The elevator dinged on our floor and we scanned through the final checkpoint between us and my office.
“What?! It was implanted in his brain, how the hell did he do that?”
“You got me, man. I wasn’t there when he did it.” Mitch said as we entered the security center.
People were rushing around and shouting back and forth. The din was nearly painful after the silence of the elevator and floors above. I could see several day shift staff had been called in. Protocol usually meant everyone was called in, but some might still be en-route. The tension in the room was thick, it was almost like you could smell it in the air. I didn’t enjoy the feeling that built in the pit of my stomach when the tension around me was high.
“Alex, Mitch! Thank God, you’re here.” Andrea rushed over. “Alex, I’m so sorry. Did Mitch explain what happened?”
“Yes, and I’m certain neither of you did anything to cause this.”
“Are you sure? I was running diagnostics on the power grid, stepped away for a few seconds, and Containment’s grid went down. I brought it back up quick, maybe five minutes, but 7B was already out.”
“Yes, but you are forgetting the secondary grid.”
I watched as Andrea’s eyes widened when my statement clicked in her mind. Then her eyes narrowed and she frowned at me.
“Blackburn.” The name came out sound more like a curse than the identifier of a person. Yes, she still hated the Director of Research.
“Maybe. Until someone gets me the camera feeds and I head down and investigate, we really have no clue. I want you to grab a couple of the day crew that are here and have them start running through the feeds. Start at least 60 minutes before the alarms went off and go until I arrived. I want to know everyone’s location and movement in that window. Mitch, get me any guard detail that isn’t offsite and tell them to meet me on B12 by the main elevator.”
“Understood.” Mitch replied then hesitantly glanced between Andrea and I. “Alex, what about the families and rest of the crew? Can we call them all in? Especially the families. You know people are going to start bailing if the worst has happened.”
Shit. I should have realized this coming in, but the thought never crossed my mind. Our facility was more than adequate to house all staff and their immediate families for years, if need be. Mitch and I had discussed this back when I started up this research facility. At the time we were thinking more along the lines of a massive earthquake, not a government science project gone wrong.
I thought for a minute as I looked between Mitch and Andrea. I knew they had kids down in Lake Elsinore, and if they didn’t get them on the road here soon they might not make it before 74 was shut down. I nodded, my decision made.
“Call them all in. Tell all staff to get here ASAP and try to get their families here too, but make sure they tell their families some story about how our advanced sensor equipment detected activity that could indicate an large earthquake, and so we are taking precautions and bringing them all in to keep them safe while we wait it out.”
Andrea noticeably relaxed and smiled in thanks before she darted off with her cell in her hands, already dialing. Mitch nodded to me and started off to fulfill my earlier request.
With that out of the way, I just needed to get my gear from my office. I felt naked without my guns, and I had no idea what I’d find in Containment. I was never a fan of Monday’s before, but this one sure as shit topped the list of worst Monday in my 31 years of life.
Lake Elsinore, CA
The loud blaring song of my cell phone ringer wakes me from a pleasant dream. I stared blankly at it, my mind still fogged with sleep and barely conscious enough to wonder what was going on when the ringing stopped. I scrubbed at my eyes and looked around the room slowly. Not a hint of light peeked around the curtains. I considered going back to sleep and started to close my eyes when my phone started ringing again.
Annoyed, I angrily snatched it off the nightstand and sat up on the edge of the bed. I was ready to lay into them and give the caller a piece of my mind, but felt my blood chill when I saw the name on my screen. My sister Andrea was calling me, and I felt a jolt of panic run through me as I quickly answered the call.
“Drea, what’s wrong?”
“Des, thank God you woke up! You sleep like the dead and I was so worried you’d not answer.”
“Haha, I do not. Seriously though, the sun’s not up yet and you’re calling me. What’s wrong?”
“Yes, look, I need you to get the kids and bring them to my work. Grab a bunch of clothes for everyone, and in my closet there’s a suitcase I need you to bring. Umm…Don’t forget Ally’s bear and Sammy’s blanket, since getting them to sleep without them is impossible. Oh, and their tablets. Maybe some movies, I don’t know how long we’re going to be here…”
“Drea, wait. What’s going on? Pack stuff? Please, tell me what’s happening!” I felt panic coursing through me as my sister rattled off her list. I knew where she worked was like Fort Knox and I knew something awful was happening, or about to happen, if she was having me wake up two six-year-olds and a three-year-old and pack them into the car this time of night. I took a calming breath and waited for her to answer me.
“Look Des, it may be nothing and I could be way overreacting, but if it’s not…if it’s something…I…something terrible may be about to go down, like something out of a horror movie kind of terrible. I can’t go into specifics right now, but I promise when you guys get here I’ll tell you everything.”
“Okay, but Chris and I don’t have any clothes or stuff here. Just what we bring when we stay over.”
“Shit, okay. Sammy and Chris are the same size, right? Just grab some extra clothes from his dresser and some shoes. Some of my stuff will have to do for you. I know you’re taller than me, so maybe grab some of my capris, shorts, stuff like that? Just be fast, okay? Pack it up before you get the kids up.”
“I’m not an idiot, Drea. I know it’d be a bad idea to wake them up. Do you have suitcases or duffels somewhere I can grab easy?”
“Yes, in the hall closet there should be a couple duffels on the top shelf. Look, I have to go. Just…just hurry, and be safe, okay?”
I could hear the fear in her voice and it almost sent me over the edge, but I sucked in a deep breath and thought of the kids. I felt a fierce protective surge run through me and I knew I’d do whatever it took to keep them safe.
“I promise, I’ll be fast and safe. We’ll be there soon.” I heard the strength in my voice and Andrea’s sigh of relief made me feel more confident.
“Great, thank you. They know you’re coming at the gate. You’ll have to show your ID to get in or you’ll have to wait at the gate until I can get there and clear you.”
“Got it, sis. See you soon.”
“Yeah, see you soon, sis.”
I hung up and paused for only a moment before rushing into action. I had too much to do and almost no time to do it in, but I’d be damned if I wasn’t on the road in less than 20.
© 2018 Alice Lunsford
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