As this is a horror thriller, this is probably not one for the kiddies.
June 12, 2002
June 12, 2002
Tony drew the last drag on his cigarette and threw it to the ground where it sizzled in a thin puddle of rain. Crap, he thought, six hours left and four security rounds to go.
He stood at the gated entrance to Bright Futures, Incorporated, the chill from the rain penetrating the small, lighted booth where he sat doing gate duty. At two in the morning he appreciated the phrase, graveyard shift. The city streets lay empty. Tony hated being outside alone.
The fact there were two higher ranking security guards located in the large building complex behind him, didn't give him any warm feelings of safety. Three more months of night work at the gate and he'd be in the warmth sucking down coffee and watching old movies.
Well, watching television and dealing with the moody Doc Virkler. Virkler had a habit of working late and even tonight the Doc's car was still in its parking slot.
"Hey, Webby!" the intercom squawked. "You made a perimeter check yet?"
Tony cursed and hit the button. "Just leaving. I'll get back to you in fifteen minutes."
"Hey. Jones says not to get wet." In the background the other guard could be heard laughing like a moron. Tony shook a fist at the intercom and grabbed his flashlight.
The lights of a van slowly coming down the street illuminated Tony as he left the booth. He tensed as the van pulled up to the gate, but relaxed when an elderly woman rolled the driver's window down and yelled at him through the rain. The concern on her face was evident through the light drizzle.
"What?" Tony asked as he shrugged his shoulders for effect. The woman waved a road map and yelled something about a something, something Avenue.
Tony sighed and unlocked the gate. The rules were specific about going outside the perimeter, but he hated to think about an old woman riding around this part of the city at night. All sorts of maniacs ran the back streets of Harrisburg after sunset.
As Tony walked up to the van, he tried to blink the raindrops away. His vision finally cleared just in time to see the strange-looking gun the woman pointed at him. Before he could react, the gun gave a loud pop and two darts went right through his rain slicker and into his chest. Connected to the gun by thin wires, one hundred thousand volts of electricity slammed him to the ground.
The back of the van popped open and five people in camouflage jumped out. Two of them grabbed Tony as he twitched on the ground and dragged him through the gate and into the booth.
"He's gonna be okay?" asked a woman, her bright blue eyes in contrast to the black shoe polish she had streaked across her face.
Tony gurgled as if he was trying to answer for himself.
"Yeah, he's gonna be fine," answered a young man. "Judy, you and Connie tie him up. Bill, you and Heather go to that back door. We'll be with you in just a minute."
The leader ran out the gate and to the woman who was still in the driver's seat. "Mary, park the van at the curb and turn all the lights off. We'll be out in thirty minutes."
"You be careful, Charles," she said as she shifted the van in reverse. As he waved, she gave him the thumbs up sign.
In the guard's booth, Judy was trussing up the guard with his own cuffs while Connie worked a gag into his mouth. Tony's eyes looked like they were just starting to regain their ability to focus.
Charles pulled out a leaflet and slapped it on the small desk. "C'mon. We've got twenty-nine minutes."
The trio ran out into the rain. As Tony struggled with his bonds and listened to the footsteps fade in the distance, a small breeze blew the paper off the desk. It fluttered down to land in front of Tony's nose where he stared vacantly at the typewritten words.
Animal Oppressors of the World Be Warned!
We, the soldiers of the Animal Freedom League have declared Bright Futures to be an oppressor of our animal sisters and brothers. We find them guilty of using defenseless animals for unnecessary cosmetic research.
These animals have been liberated and are under professional care. Their torments will be documented and all information will be released to the media.
* * *
Charles, Judy and Connie joined the other two near a side door of the complex. There, sheltered from the rain by an overhang, they quickly huddled together in conference.
"The door's open, Charles," Heather whispered. "The secretary did it!"
"Thank God for greed and low salaries," Charles grinned. "Now listen. You remember the floor plans. Bill, you, Judy and Connie go for the monkeys. Heather and I will go for the rabbits." He smiled, relieved at how easy everything was going. "We only have twenty-seven minutes at this point, so keep moving. Stay away from the main lobby. If you see any guards, get them with the mace. Now let's roll."
Bill opened the door into the fire escape. Following him, they quickly made their way to the second floor. At the top of the stairs, Charles slowly opened the corridor door and peered into the dimly lit hallway. Quietly, they made their way down the corridor where the group split at an intersection.
Charles and Heather stopped in front of a door marked Research. They opened the door into an open laboratory stocked only with equipment. They looked at each other puzzled.
Quickly, they went back into the hallway, but all the rooms were offices, meeting rooms and other laboratories empty of animals. Where the bribed secretary had assured them were helpless rabbits held slave to the vanity of American women, there was nothing but rooms filled with desks, chairs and microscopes.
They made their way back to the fire escape where they found Judy waiting for them.
"Did you find the rabbits?" Judy whispered.
"No. Did you find anything?" Charles asked.
"We didn't recognize the hallways, but we found this big metal security door. C'mon."
They followed their fellow member who led them through the maze of hallways. At the end of a short hall was a large, metal door marked Authorized Personnel Only. A small panel with a silhouette of a palm print was the only other marking.
Charles tapped on the metal door. "I would love to know what's behind this," he muttered.
Suddenly, Heather grabbed his shoulder. "Shh. Listen," she whispered intently. Down the corridor behind them, came the sounds of footsteps.
Charles motioned the rest against the wall. He slipped the mace out of his pocket and flipped the lid.
Around the corner, intently reading a sheaf of papers, an elderly man in a laboratory coat made his way toward the door. Engrossed in his reading, he didn't know about the intruders until the mace hit him in the face from only ten feet away.
With a cry, he grabbed his eyes and dropped to his knees. Charles and Bill grabbed him and dragged him down the hallway.
"Shut up! Shut up!" Charles hissed at him. The three women simply stared at the men with guilty looks. Animal oppressors weren't supposed to look like their grandfather.
The old man coughed and sputtered. Charles stared at the scientist and then stared at the handprint on the door. With a triumphant grin, he and Bob manhandled the employee to the door and forced his hand on the template. In seconds, the panel glowed and, with a hissing sound, the door gave a click.
Bill quickly opened the door and they dragged the man into the adjoining hallway. Leaving him slumped against the wall, Charles brusquely motioned the women through the door.
"Keep an eye on him," Charles ordered the women. He started opening doors. "Bull's eye," he said. Inside the room were stacks of large, empty animal cages. "We're getting closer."
Charles grabbed the employee by the lapels and glanced at the name on his security badge. "Listen, Doctor Virkler," he said to the man who was still coughing and rubbing his eyes. "If I hear you yell, you're dead."
He motioned for Bill to help him and, again, they half-dragged, half-carried the doctor into the room where they tumbled him into a cage. Charles locked the cage and motioned for Bill to close the door.
"Charles," Heather said, her face twisted in contempt. "We're pacifists. You threatened that man!"
"Now's not the time to worry about it," Charles hissed back. "We're in the right section. Let's go."
Charles and Bill began throwing open doors, the women reluctantly following behind. Though there was still no sign of rabbits or monkeys, the laboratories were obviously designed to handle animals.
Around a hallway they found another door with a large wheel located in its middle. The unmarked door appeared to be solid steel.
"Jackpot?" Bill asked, smiling at Charles.
"Only one way to find out."
A few turns of the wheel and the door opened to show seven feet of hallway and another similar door. Bill and Charles looked at each other in puzzlement.
Heather put her hand on Charles' shoulder. "Listen," she said. "It's weird to have two doors like this. This looks like an airlock. How do we know there's not something poisonous or radioactive on the other side?"
Charles gave her a patronizing look. "In a cosmetics firm?" he asked. " Anyway," he said, motioning to the bare walls. "If there was anything bad on the other side, there would be some special symbol. It's required by law. If you're nervous, go outside and close the other door. Bill and I'll open the other. We'll knock when everything is okay."
Heather looked at the other two women who shook their heads in the negative. "No, Charles. We stand together. Open the door."
Charles spun the wheel until it could turn no further. With a tug, the heavy door easily swung open on its hinges.
* * *
The pain in Doctor Jonathan Virkler's eyes had finally begun to recede and he could take deep breaths without coughing when he heard the first screams. Oh, no, surely they didn't.
He kicked at the cage door, but the lock held. Knowing what was probably in the hallway by this time, maybe he was safer inside the pen. He heard people running and screaming.
In a moment the screams stopped.
Virkler discovered the silence was worse.
Not aware he was holding his breath, he watched the shadows form underneath the door. It shook as someone jostled it. Virkler's heart began beating so loud, he was certain what was outside could hear.
Silently, he prayed, remembering there were no atheists in fox holes. Or animal cages.
His heart surged with fear when he heard the sound of the door knob slowly turning. The door slowly opened to blazing hall light and the doorway filled with the silhouettes of his children.
All sixteen stealthily entered the room and surrounded his cage. Sixteen pairs of golden feral eyes glared at him through the thin bars of the cage.
Virkler curled himself into a fetal position and his mind made him go far, far away.
* * *
Tony was still groggy from the taser when creatures from a fever dream galloped past his guard station.
Running on all fours, they were much bigger than his Great Dane. One stopped at the open door of the station and stared in at him.
Stupidly staring back at it, Tony watched in a daze as the creature snuffled at him. It ran long-fingered, heavily calloused hands over his uniform. It puzzled at the handcuffs, sniffed at the gun and batted it away.
Tony was glad when the bad dream turned its back on him and run out the door. That's when he heard the screams and the sound of breaking glass.Tony started to cry and thought sad, befuddled thoughts about a lost, elderly woman in a van.