Authors: Anthony Decosmo
Copyright 2012 Anthony DeCosmo
All rights reserved.
For Colonel Kurt Haas, the end of yet another day behind his vintage battleship gray desk inside a dreary, windowless office offered only the opportunity to go through the routine again.
That routine started with watching the ancient wall clock tick-tock away the last second of his shift at 1900 hours. At that point, he straightened the papers on his desk, slid backwards in his chair with a squeal from one rusting wheel, and collected his cap from the brass coatrack.
None of these motions were taken with any vigor; they were routine, they were mundane, and he had repeated them day after day for nearly five years.
In the beginning, things were different. Five years ago, the colonel had been married with a wonderful five-year-old daughter when he had received a promotion to the nation’s most secret and secure facility.
Five years sounds to be a short time, but that time had eroded away much of his life. His hair thinned, his ex-wife took his daughter to warmer climates, and his mind grew numb from a life of living "under the outside," as the men called it.
He closed the office door and walked a quiet hallway with his thoughts only about leaving the complex.
The nearly featureless corridor included aging cream paint, frosted light panels overhead, and a few strips of black plastic trim, all constructed in the early 70s when the cold war simmered beneath the surface of détente. He could nearly see the ghosts of technicians pushing carts of scientific equipment between labs, but ghosts were all that remained. He passed vacant workrooms where dust-covered plastic chairs sat empty in sealed laboratories.
Haas approached the lobby of sublevel 1, where a desk stood unattended with a logbook spread open on its surface. A set of elevator doors waited beyond.
The colonel, as he had done yesterday and the day before and so on for five years, leaned over to log out his shift. He knew Lieutenant Colonel Lewis lurked somewhere on one of the lower levels. Lewis would know by the ticking clock that command of the facility had transferred to him.
Haas scratched his signature in the log-out column, then paused and cocked his head.
He heard a noise. No, not a noise but a voice.
Daddy…help me Daddy…
Kathleen Haas, his daughter.
Faint and distant but clear.
Haas glanced around. He absently let the ballpoint pen drop. It rolled off the desk and rattled across the floor.
Haas’s subconscious tried to activate the mental alarm bells that had been trained into him by PsyOps. Alas, routine, boredom, and the open bottle of whiskey in the lower-most desk drawer in his office had dulled those lessons.
Daddy … please help me … I can’t breathe in here!
The colonel felt his hand touch his sidearm. For some reason, he knew he would need it.
Please … they put me in here, Daddy!
Colonel Haas turned away from the logbook and the elevator. He walked back down the hall from which he had come, passed the office where he had performed his daily routine for the last time, and moved along yet another of the hollow corridors. His every footstep reverberated in a series of fast clicks but there was no one around to hear.
He moved with what would later—when viewed on the security camera tapes—be thought of as a forced march. That march took him to the bulky green doors of the second elevator on sublevel 1. This lift went in only one direction: down.
Hurry, Daddy … I’m so scared …
"I’m coming, Pumpkin," he mumbled as he pulled his key card/ID tag from a jacket pocket. His hand wavered as he reached to unlock the elevator, but another cry for help from his little girl washed away any hesitation.
The card went through quick, but the access light still glowed red. He fumbled with it and swiped again, this time more slowly. His hand trembled to the point that he nearly missed the slot, but the wires and cables of the elevator whirred to life.
He stood and waited. His balance shifted from one foot to another. Why did the elevator take so damn long?
I don’t have much time, Daddy…
"Please, honey," he said to something beyond the closed elevator doors, "just hang on a bit longer. I’ll be there soon."
At last, the gaping metal doors separated laterally and revealed a wide and dark freight elevator. Colonel Haas stumbled over the entryway as he stepped in, but quickly caught his balance.
Most of the lights in the elevator had long since stopped functioning, leaving only a single red bulb to illuminate the car, but that was more than enough light to guide his hand to the bottom-most button on the control panel: the button for sublevel 5. The metal doors could not close fast enough. His left hand twitched nervously as he waited for the car to move.
He finally heard the weights and pulleys start the descent. The white stencil of sublevel two flashed past the small window in the upper left corner of the elevator.The colonel squeezed his eyes shut. A vivid picture of his daughter sprung to mind. He saw her playing in the field behind the house, throwing a ball to their basset hound, Patton, who wobbled along in pursuit like the slow but faithful dog he had been.
The alarm bells inside the soldier tried to spring to life, but they were silenced easily as sublevel three flew by.
Daddy…please don’t leave me here…
I’m so afraid…help me…
"I’m coming," he sobbed, then fought to gain control of his emotions. He knew he must appear in control. After all, a good soldier is always in control and a good commander is always in charge.
The elevator bobbed to a stop and the number "-5" appeared in the side window. After a short mechanical hiss, the jaw-like doors split open to reveal the stale white walls of sublevel five.
Daddy…I can’t wait any—
"Shhh," he hushed the voice.
Haas paused long enough to ensure he maintained complete control of his gait. He could not afford to stumble or sway as he walked. Not now, not here. This level was nothing like the levels above. Here people cared what time it was, they cared about logbooks, they cared about strange noises and sounds, and they especially cared about people who did not look absolutely, positively, no doubt about it in control.
Colonel Haas’s shoes did not make the same echo they had made on the upper levels, because down here the halls were much tighter and shorter.
More important, down here he could hear other voices; voices coming from observation rooms and break rooms and supply wards and duty stations. Down here, several dozen soldiers stood sentry. Down here —somewhere—lurked Lieutenant Colonel Craig Lewis. Haas wanted to avoid Lewis.
He realized that he was carrying a pistol…with a round chambered and the safety off.
When did I do that?
A few soldiers dressed in green camouflage BDUs took notice of the colonel. They paused and stood straight as he passed but he did not; he did not intend to stop…until Lieutenant Colonel Lewis called to him from the open door of the break room. Haas halted.
Lieutenant Colonel Lewis sat on the near side of a large oval table. A young corporal named Sanchez sat at the far end of that table, near candy and soda vending machines.
"Hey, Kurt," Craig said with a tone of familiarity. "I thought you’d be gone by now."
Haas had planned to smile and invent some story of a last-minute security check, but he hesitated too long. Maybe it was a twitch, or the vacant look in his eyes. Or perhaps Haas came across as too stiff. Whatever the reason, Lewis glanced at Sanchez. The corporal’s return gaze finished a silent communication between the two.
Suddenly, painfully, Haas’s mind flooded with one clear, crisp image. The image of Lieutenant Colonel Craig Lewis on top of a naked Mrs. Haas, humping her harder and harder like some wild animal while her fingers clutched his black ass and she cried out in carnal ecstasy.
She’s been fucking him, Daddy … all the time when you weren’t home … she loved it, Daddy … they laughed at you.
Haas pulled his pistol. Both Lewis and Sanchez went for their sidearms as well but they reacted too slowly.
Kurt Haas’s first shot went straight through Lewis’s forehead with uncanny accuracy. A crimson shower of gore sprayed across the table at Sanchez. The corporal raised a hand in reflex while firing two rounds randomly across the room.
Haas fired a trio of shots into the wall above his target, suppressing the corporal behind the table.
Forget him, Daddy! Come save me! Hurry!
The colonel left the break room at a fast clip. After a moment, he came upon two sentries with M16s responding to the sound of shots fired.
Haas barked, "Corporal Sanchez has shot Lieutenant Colonel Lewis. He’s considered armed and dangerous. Shoot on sight. I’m heading to the vault to check on security. Let the others know."
Haas walked away before they could reply, knowing the story would not hold, but hoping it would add to the confusion. That confusion was all he had left. That and a few more bullets.
As he moved through the sterile, bright hallways, a series of alarms roared to life, as well as warning lights at intersections. The red flashes mixed with the pale walls to create a surreal feeling of walking through a high-tech nightmare.
He made several turns and passed through a set of double doors before coming upon the area known as "the vault." One guard stood in front of a lone steel door, glancing about nervously at the sirens, the lights, and his approaching CO. But, Haas thought with some vague pride, this soldier stood ready to do his job despite the fear conjured by those alarm bells.
"This post secure, son?"
"Sir, yes sir! Is this a drill?" He asked, sounding hopeful.
"No, son, I’m afraid it isn’t," Haas answered as he looked into the sentry's eyes, which were, truth be known, much more in control than his own. "Apparently Corporal Sanchez has gone haywire and shot Colonel Lewis. We’re trying to find him now, but this may be bigger than we think." He put a hand on the young man's shoulder: "I need you to do your job, soldier. I need you to stop anyone from going through this outer door. We don’t know how many people are in on this."
The guard nodded in the affirmative with a commendable level of confidence.
"Good. I’ll be right back."
Haas opened the steel door behind the sentry and walked down a short, wide hallway. At the end of the hall loomed yet another thick security door, this one with a reinforced viewing window. Colonel Haas pounded on the door. He knew two soldiers were stationed on the other side. The question was whether they had paid attention to all their special training.
A freckle-faced young soldier peeked out the window in the door. Haas punched the intercom button and ordered, "Open this door. We have an emergency."
The soldier hesitated. If Haas wanted to enter, he should have the appropriate key card. The problem was that Haas was not the officer in charge of sublevel five for that shift. That officer had been Lieutenant Colonel Craig Lewis, who was currently on his way to a different level altogether.
Haas realized that he should have thought to take the security card from Lewis’s body, but in his urgent flight to the vault he had let this important detail slip.
"Listen, soldier," Haas commanded in a deep tone that required all his effort. "Colonel Lewis has been shot dead by Corporal Sanchez, who is now in possession of the entry card. This is an a-fucking numero uno emergency. Open this door right now or you had better not ever come out of there."
The soldier did not hesitate this time. Haas heard the bolt slide. He also heard the protests of the other soldier on duty in the area known as the "vestibule." It had earned that designation because it stood as the last security point between the rest of the complex and the vault door leading to the quarantined sectors.
Inside the vestibule were two large consoles that viewed another room through thick windows. Between the two consoles and windows waited another steel-reinforced security door. The entire room filled dimensions slightly larger than the average bedroom.