We set out for the lab early that morning, not afternoon as previously stated, in order to retain an element of surprise. The sun was just rising and hadn’t cleared the mountains yet, meaning the only difference between day and night was no stars. While doing a final check of my pack in case I’d missed something, I tossed the spare stick of insect repellent to Black and told him to use it if he went out, or he’d be eaten alive. Then it was off to Adam’s hotel to be once more greeted by a gun to the face.
I drove us to the point on the road closest to the lab, which was an hour and a half drive. Then it was a full three hours trudging uphill. Adam questioned the choice of wearing a T shirt and shorts in the mountains, but I told him I had a history of overheating on walks like this, to the point where I once went over the Hubert Pass in my underwear and there were warmer clothes in the pack for if the weather went south. At one point when he wasn’t looking I snapped this shot of him. The guy seems to have ‘posing dramatically’ as a hobby.
The lab slowly came into view. It looked exactly like the sort of thing a passing lost tramper wouldn’t care to notice which I suppose was the point; abandoned, locked looking hut buildings situated in what had once been a clearing but had overgrown inwards. The largest one even had ‘PADDOCK HUT’ carved into a lintel with peeling white paint. For a second I wondered if this was the right place, but of course it was; I’d looked at a list of huts built in this mountain range, and none of them had this name.
I hung back behind the trees. Adam went straight for the front door while I circled behind from the opposite direction and lost sight of him. I waited until the shouts, screams and shooting stopped, and then waited a good thirty minutes more before hefting a nearby rock and tossing it through a window. I cleared the remaining shards from the sill with the side of my taser and then climbed in, leaving the unwieldy hiking bag outside.
The room was filled with about three dead Proxies. Obviously Adam had been here on his swathe of destruction. In comparison to the outside, the inside was surprisingly well kept, albeit filled with the mess that tends to accumulate when people live together for any length of time. I searched the bodies for anything useful, but they had nothing. One last look around what was clearly a dorm, and I went on the hunt for some labs proper.
They were downstairs; I found an open trapdoor which lead to a series of interconnected basements, each white and sterile apart from the blood and quite obviously used. This was more like it; I made a beeline straight for the computer and booted it up. Guessing the password was stupidly easy, since someone with a poor memory had written it underneath the monitor where they thought nobody would look. I set the machine to transferring files while I looked at the emails. Thank god for Firefox and its memory.
These in particular caught my attention:
Helsingborg’s been compromised and the next destination is here. You need to start getting things ready for transport immediately.
You’ve also failed to give the requested genealogical data. I know you have it.
You may have talked in a few of the right ears to get your position but as far as I’m concerned you’re a jumped up kid too big for his boots. Yes, I have the data. Here you fucking go. [There was a document attached to the email. Unfortunately all hell broke loose before I could read it.] Much good will it do you; I know what you’re after.
As for Sweden… well, that’s what security is for. Hunting accidents happen all time in the mountains.
Then I leave the matter in your no doubt capable hands. You won’t hear from me again.
Neither of these codenames were familiar, on or offline, but you bet I’ll be on the lookout for any mention of them now.
I went to click on the attached file at the exact same moment a bullet decided to embed itself in the monitor. This didn’t do anything to the data itself, but did cause me to swear as glass shards embedded themselves in my face. I had to fight the urge to bring my hands up to it.
“Hands up!” someone yelled. Their tone brooked no argument, and I complied. A man pointing a pistol straight at me stood in the doorway; in his late forties by the looks of it, with mottled burn scars on his face, neck and hands. There was something oddly familiar about him that I couldn’t put my finger on. He nodded towards the computer. “The USB stick, take it out.”
I slowly took it out. I could see what was coming next.
“Toss it to me. No funny ideas.”
I tossed it in front of him. Keeping the gun trained on me, he stomped on it with spiked boots, crushing it to bits. I couldn’t help wincing.
“Now…” he said, and that’s when he was shot twice from behind, falling forward onto his face, revealing Adam in the doorway. I just stared at the man with two gaping holes all so suddenly in his chest.
“I told you it would be dangerous,” Adam said, lowering his gun.
“Thanks,” I said, watching the blood spread out on the floor and fighting the urge to do something. I asked him if he’d found any useful paperwork. He’d been busy, but the only paperwork he’d seen had dealt with the economics of the place. It looked like the only information on what they’d been doing here was on the computers. He expressed disappointment about the flash drive. I grinned, removed the floppy disk and CD and waved them in his face. Nobody expects those anymore.
The lights flickered, and suddenly you know who was right there in the room with us, and he was not happy. Where I was and what was happening conspired and suddenly I was eight and terrified again. I froze, but Adam didn’t. After shooting a couple of times, to no effect other than an even more pissed off Slender Man, he grabbed my upper arm and ran, pulling me along behind him like a flag. In the hallway between two buildings I managed to shake my head clear and start running under my own power. We performed what was quite possibly the quickest ladder climbing of all time and raced through the bush towards the car. Forget the hiking bag; everything in it could be replaced. Smoke started rising up through the trees, and I bet you anything that if we happened to go back there, anything even remotely of use would be gone.
Going downhill with less weight was significantly quicker than uphill with huge packs, but it was still an hour of scanning the treeline before I spotted the road and realized I’d left the headlights on. I practically collapsed onto the bonnet, panting for air. I can move very fast when I want to, but I don’t have the right sort of muscle to do so for extended lengths of time. My legs hated me.
Adam fiddled with the doorhandle and I tossed him the keys before going back to being draped over the car like a wet noodle. He revved the engine, and I reluctantly flowed into the passenger seat. He started driving for Christchurch, until I told him that we couldn’t very well leave Black stranded and he performed a U turn.
Black wasn’t in the hotel when I arrived, which did not do anything to help my already frayed nerves. After a moment of panic I remembered the tracker and located him by GPS. I packed up everything in the hotel, sorted things out at the front desk and found him at the lake front, staring out at the water. He was covered in bites.
With Black, Adam and everything else in tow, I drove to Christchurch without stopping. If anything happened on the way, I was too focused on the road in front of me to notice. So once again, I have a detective sleeping on my couch. I’ve tossed a tube of insect bite cream to Black, since I can tell telling him not to scratch them is going to be an exercise in futility, and now I’m going to bed.