Peyton Industries Site 1; Ortega Mountains
41 minutes later
I was still patting myself on the back at my record breaking packing skills as I pulled up to the gate. Everything bagged and in the car, kids buckled up, and speeding down the road within 15 minutes of my call with Andrea. I was 99% sure I had everything we’d need, and I’d even grabbed all the kids medicine and vitamins in the house, several bags full of canned goods and a cooler full of perishables from the kitchen. Yeah, I rock.
There were two cars ahead of me as I came to a stop, so I looked around and tried to relax while I waited. The sign to the right of the gate was dull in the early morning light. Peyton Industries wasn’t ‘popping’ yet, but the metal would probably be blinding when the sun was fully up and glinting off its surface. The landscape was pretty barren outside the wall, but that was typical for Southern Cali. Brown’s the norm! I was surprised at the height of the wall. It had to be at least two stories high, which seemed excessive to me for a research lab.
There was still no movement in front of me, so I glanced around at the kids in the back of my sisters Honda mini-van and smiled fondly. All three were out again and had been for the last 15 minutes of the drive, which was a blessing since Chris had been angry from the moment I woke him up. My little man definitely enjoyed his sleep.
I heard the faint sound of engines revving and looked back at the gate. The car in front was pulling through. Just one more and it was our turn. I was already growing impatient and I had only been waiting a few minutes but I knew once I got through those gates I’d finally find out what was going on. Andrea had been texting me for updates every couple of minutes, but was still tight lipped on why we needed to come in.
It only took a few minutes for me to reach the gates, but by then I was having a hard time keeping my patience and temper in check, which means I was probably over the top a bit when shoved my license out the window at the guard as I was coming to a stop. He looked at me in shock for a moment and I tried my best apologetic smile, which seemed to appease him.
“Thanks, ma’am. I’ll just check the list and be right back with you.” He said before turning and walking into the small building that sat just inside the wall.
Now that I was at the front I saw that the wall had a reinforced gate that was retracted into it and the wall was significantly thicker than one would expect. Definitely not looking like the wall for a research facility. My curiousity was piqued as I took it all in. The gate was definitely powered, and I could see the glint of steel reinforcement on the thick concrete. They had to have several motors worth of horsepower to pull that sucker open and closed. I couldn’t help but wonder how fast it moved.
I was still analyzing the gate when the guard came back and handed me my license.
“All set, Miss Williams. I’ll open the arm and then you’ll need to head straight in and take a left at the first intersection. You’ll see some cones and more guards will direct you on where to park. They’ll let you know where to go from there. Do you have any questions?” He asked as he pushed a button to toggle the gate arm open.
“Nope, I’m good. Thanks!” I smiled in relief. I’d have answers soon!
I had only shifted the mini-van out of park when suddenly an alarm started blaring. I gripped the steering wheel and looked around. I didn’t see anything amiss.
“Shit, ma’am move your vehicle NOW!” The guards panicked filled voice brought my gaze to him and my eyes widened in horror.
The large door was sliding shut, heading right towards us. My first thought was that it was moving a lot faster than I had expected it to with how large it was, but that thought was swallowed up and forgotten by a growing panic. Instinct took over and I slammed down on the gas, causing the mini-van’s wheels to squeal loudly as we jerked forward. As soon as I knew we were clear I hit the breaks, put it in park, and jumped out to look behind us.
The gate closed with a clang that echoed with finality as the guard slid to a stop in front of me.
“It’s good you moved when you did, ma’am. That door has enough weight and power behind it to pancake a solid steel beam and it just missed your bumper by inches! Are you guys okay?”
I glanced in the back of the mini-van and was amazed to find the kids were still sleeping, even with the high-pitched alarm and the jerky accelaration and stop we just had none of them had stirred.
“Yeah, looks like it. What’s going on?”
“Can’t really say, ma’am. I know as much as you do about the alarm.”
“Was anyone still outside when it closed?” I asked as I peered around him at the gate.
“Yes, there were two vehicles pulling up when you came in.”
“Oh…will you open the gate for them?”
“Maybe. I don’t know why the alarms going off, though. I’ll radio in. Only Mr. Peyton can authorize the gate to open now. Why don’t you head in and follow the cones? They probably have more info inside then I do here right now.”
I nodded slowly and with one last glance at the gate I climbed back in the mini-van and started off down the drive. So far, this was definitely turning into a shitty morning, but I did find some relief in the fact that we’d made it in before the gate closed.
Peyton Industries Site 1; Ortega Mountains
My left hand still rested on the alarm as I glanced back at the corpse in the chair behind me. We could definitely rule out Blackburn as a suspect. I wouldn’t know for sure until a medic confirmed, but I was pretty confident he’d been dead since well before the breach in 7B happened.
I turned back to the room to study it while gripping my gun in my right hand. Luckily there was a sanitation station located right outside Blackburn’s office, so it was easy to acquire some gloves. I may not be trained in crime scene investigations, but I had enough sense to not dirty up the area with my own prints and had slipped on a pair before setting off the alarm. The guard detail was out in the hall, so I got to work checking the room for anything out of the ordinary while they radioed in the incident.
I studied Blackburn’s body. He was tied tightly to the chair, and it looked like the bindings on his wrists had been cutting off circulation to his hands before he died. His face was a mass of dark bruises and welts, several of his fingers had been broken, and blood covered his body and pooled on the ground around him. He’d been tortured, possibly for several hours, before he died. I couldn’t really get more than that from the corpse, but it was enough to fill me with dread.
Nothing seemed to be disturbed except for the area around Blackburn, and that was mostly the ‘mess’ from his own body. That means they wanted something he knew, not something he possessed. After everything that had happened I could easily guess it was his codes. I had suspected as much when we first discovered his body. I could only conclude that whoever did this had gotten the codes and used them to shut down the grid, letting 7B out.
I heard a noise behind me near the door and turned, only barely stopping myself from pointing my gun at the person entering. Or rather people, as several people in scrubs pushing a stretcher and carrying bags that appeared to contain medical equipment came traipsing in.
“Mr. Peyton, sir. I hope you’ll understand, but we need you to leave the room so we can examine it and retrieve the body.” An older man that I vaguely remember hiring spoke as he stepped into the room.
His weathered face had an apologetic expression, but his tone did not allow for argument. My guess was he only feigned ‘sorry’ since he was talking to ‘the boss’. I decided not to argue and nodded as I walked back into the hall. I had to check the rest of containment and check on the crew that was diagnosing 7B’s ‘room’. We needed to make sure it was secure again before the helicopter arrived with him, which would be any minute.
I sighed as I headed towards 7B’s room with the guard detail trailing behind me. Might as well start there.
One of the crew was kneeling by the door with a device in their lap and wires running up to the panel to the right of the door. They were all wearing hazard suits, so it was hard to tell if I was looking at a man or a woman, but I guessed by size that it was probably a man. Five more were sweeping the room.
I stopped behind the ‘man’ and cleared my throat to gain their attention. When they looked up at me I was surprised to see feminine features and curly bangs covering their forehead. Ooops, woman it is then.
“Mr. Peyton!” She said as she stood quickly and tried to smooth down her hazard suit. Her awkward fidgeting would have been amusing any other time, but today I found it tiresome. I notice an ID badge clipped to her suit while she stares at me like a deer in headlights.
“What’s the status, Anna?” I ask after a few moments of her staring.
“Oh, yes…sorry. The room’s been cleared, they are just doing a final sterilization sweep. Diagnostics on the door locks and system security are complete. The thing is…sir…I found something on the interior feeds, but all surveillance outside the room was down until about 15 minutes ago when I brought it all back online.”
“Great…Okay, show me the interior feed.” I say, my voice strained from resisting the urge to start cussing like a sailor. It’s hard, but I manage it somehow.
“It would probably be best to review it on a computer. The screen I have is rather small, like old Nokia brick phone kind of small.” She replies with an embarrassed half-smile.
“Fine, when the diagnostic run is complete meet me in my office. I’m going to check the floor again before I head back up.”
Anna nods enthusiastically and I turn away to do a final check before clearing the floor. Sometimes I really hated owning a billion dollar company, and I was reminded of it every time someone acted like Anna around me.
© 2018 Alice Lunsford
All rights reserved.