Clark took the General's word that the doors would be sealed. He moved towards the North side of the research wing. He once again pied around the corner of the wing. The ground dropped down to a leveled field. The drop was steep, but a walk way lined the way, snaking around close the building. There was a gated compound that filled the leveled ground. Chain-linked fencing with C-wire along the top.
The far edge Clark spied two soldiers patrolling the area. They did so at the low ready, something had them spooked. They must be on alert from the firefight with the Jackal.
Clark started down the path towards what he assumed to be a power plant of some sort.
"Captain," his radio clicked, he keyed back that he was listening but kept moving as the General spoke, "that gated area is one of the external power and heating stations. It doesn't provide direct power for equipment within, but is dedicated to climate control. We see two patrols in the area. Proceed with caution. Hound out."
Clark kept his eyes on where he saw the two man patrol going, they had been going the other way when he was coming down the incline but now being level, he could not see where they were. He reached the fence, stopping where the fence met the building. Multiple electrical conduits ran along the walls back and forth from the building into the power installation.
From his kit he removed his wire cutters once again. He began to quickly snip the wire links of the fence, knowing full well he had no one covering him as he worked.
Clark peeled back the link enough to squeeze himself and his bulky gear though. He didn't sink too much effort into pushing them together to hide his presence.
He turned. There were six generators, they all stood far over his head. The two towers closer to the facility were larger, having conduit pieces larger going into what he assumed was the heating units themselves.
Clark thought to try and gain access by entering through the heating conduits, but not wanting to keep his back fully exposed to where he came from he went to move around the opposite side.
Clark began to pie around the corner again of the first tower. He snatched himself back. Two more were within the gated heating installation.
He didn't have many options and he was running out of them.
He flexed his muscles to stun his own caution and darted out to the next tower.
They had missed him. He let out a long breath. He could hear their steps growing closer as they were approaching. He waited. He edged closer to the opposite edge. The soldiers came around the corner. Clark was not there to be discovered. They continued their route, turning along the wall where Clark has once stood.
Clark had gone around the corner and was now on the other side of the wall. He took careful steps, too loud of movement would give him away. He was thankful the concrete was heated, his tracks would have betrayed him. He went to the other side of the tower, now in the center of the rows, he strained his hearing. He could hear them moving, they made little noise. Somewhere deep in him, he was amazed at how professional the soldiers were all the time. Even the most elite he had worked with couldn't be 'on' all the time as they say in the business. Everyone is still human.
Hearing the soldiers were moving away along the long side of the fence, he pressed away from the wall. He went back for conduit, now on the opposite side. He wouldn't have much time, the soldiers only had a small area to patrol.
Clark began to cut along the underside of the conduit. The material resist, and he pressed harder. A heavy blast of hot air hit him causing him to teeter back on his heels. He could feel his face become wet from the snow and ice melting on his beard. He came back and cut a larger slit he could fit through.
Looking at the confined space he already was feeling encumbered. He quickly deducted there was only one way to do it properly. He loosened his harness and took his kit off. With that, his one sleeved jacket was off. He folded it haphazardly and jammed it under the conduit. It would be discovered if they looked too closely but he needed to move. With his kit back on, he slid his head into the slid of the conduit.
There was less room inside than it appeared from the outside. The material was thick, and there was heavy insulation. Clark was forced into a prone low crawl the second he had only half his body inside. His gear, kit, and rifle caught on everything, he cursed his holster which made it even more difficult to squeeze through the slit he had cut.
His back and legs burned. He went instantly from freezing cold to sweating with the heat blasting at his back. The air was thick, stuffy, he was pulling it in instead of breathing. He crawled forward, his rifle under him against his chest, the barrel probing in front of him. He was in such a rush he hadn't thought to pull his small elbow joint flashlight up. It was complete darkness before him and behind him.
He'd been in a similar tunnel before, years ago, when he went to selection for the Green Berets. It was about a hundred meters, with one elbow turn, and it ended in a small cubical made of brick which you had to climb out of. They did it at night, it was a team building obstacle course, and there were several other obstacles that came before and after it. Despite the entire struggle, the mud pit, the rope climbing, the exhaustion and sleep deprivation, this tunnel had become a greater challenge.
There wasn't the reassuring sound of someone behind or ahead of you. There wasn't the confidence of all the success, in fact, the entire mission had been a colossal failure for him so far. And the goddamn heat.
Every little scoot he made he felt as if the conduit was getting smaller. He couldn't tell by feel, or the roaring air behind him. He just felt it, and the squeezing in his chest trying to pull in air.
His rifle barrel hit something solid. Shit. The last thing he needed was to find out this was a grate to stop debris or a filter. He couldn't go back in danger of being caught, and he couldn't rustle around trying to cut through whatever it was in the dark with no space to work.
He slid over his rifle and with his hand touched the unseen obstruction. He felt up and up and up, oh thank God. It was the joint leading up. From how it looked on the outside, it would go up at ninety degrees about a four foot distance, then another ninety degree turn into the facility.
Clark had to contort his body and twist his way so he could press himself into a squat. He stood up slowly, stopping when he felt his head tap the corner. Standing at a low hunch hurt, and he scrambled to get his rifle out up in front of him.
Before lifting himself up into another crawl he was sure to unclasp his small flashlight from his kit and turn it on. A read beam sliced through the darkness. It didn't help much, the walls of the conduit were black. As he slid up, the conduit sagged between the area where met the wall. Clark found himself disorient as he slid forward. His light swinging back and forth. The blackness before him blended so well with the walls. Gaining his bearings he moved forward again. He was thankful that it seemed comparatively he had always seemed to see better in the dark than his colleagues. Maybe that was just in his mind.
Clark's progress felt like inches. He dared not think of time. His uniform was becoming wet not from melting frost now but from sweat. He needed to get out of the conduit. And an answer to his desperation came before his eyes. The success born from visceral aspects bred in warriors with determination. It came as an illusion, white light seeped in from some place ahead of him. The conduit widened, he felt a slight slide as its girth widened. He felt wires running along the sides and overhead.
The conduit shifted to a shaft, and Clark came closer to the source of the light. Against the wall on the left there was a fuse box, and to the right was an aluminum vent. Clark peered between the slits, it seemed to let out into a stairwell.
Clark turned his light to the edge of the vent. He could make out where the latch went from the door and secured the vent to the wall. He forced his knife up from the awkward position and then the blade into the small space between the latch and wall. He wedged, bending the vent some until it caught the latch. He forced the latch up and the vent swung oven. He snapped his wrist out and caught the vent, not wanting to risk it being loose and falling, but a sent of hinges allowed it to swing.
Clamoring down, Clark found his feet firmly on artificial ground of a floor. He picked up a copper scent and ignored it. His senses were out of whack from the vent. His eyes even strained under the odd hospital type lighting.
Now to his left he had a flight of stairs going up, to his right a door way, directly in front of him was a flight of stairs that started a spiral down.
"Hound 6, I'm in." He knew from his constant communications the General was monitoring his communications.
"Captain, you're on the first floor. The scientist you seek worked on the third floor. Be advised you may need to figure a way out to access his laboratory."
Right never could be easy. Clark scanned both stair wells with the barrel of his rifle. The copper smell persisted. He began his first step up, he turned and moved up backwards, his rifle trained above scanning the area he'd be moving. He paused.
The next flight up, along the wall. And indentation, it looked like a pock mark from a rifle's bullet. He moved up further to the next landing and saw the entire second floor landing was riddled with the indentations. Moving towards the next flight of stairs he caught the first glimpse of something slouched on the next landing. A dark dome, a white puff, he had no misconceptions of what it was.
Clark rounded up to the next landing in a similar fashion, but he divided his attention both on the stairwell leading up, and on the slouched figure. As he was half way up the steps he could confirm it was one of the soldiers from the installation. His white uniformed blossomed with entry wounds. The The masked and goggled face remained motionless. Still, Clark moved on the soldier with caution, his rifle trained on him. As he neared enough, he kicked the rifle out of reach from the body.
The body didn't move, there was no twitching or spasms. Clark knelt down to the body. Touching the arm he didn't feel a pulse. He began to stand until the wounds caught his eye as unusual. It was red, but had an unusual bluish hue to it. Like the blood was turning a bruised purple.
He pushed up and pushed the thought off as a combination with the unusual lighting of the interior. He passed by the locked door on the landing and looked up at the next stair way leading up, several more of the soldiers lay dead on steps and landing of the 3rd floor. The walls were riddled with more and more intense markings.
Clark moved up to the third floor, he moved with caution along each body, unsure of their status until he passed each covered face.
Clark's boot stepped on something small, hard, round. He lifted his boot. A single shell casing, brass from a weapon. He remembered what the General said about the soldiers here, and it was true, all of their rifles were the unusual boxy looking weapons he had passed. He knelt down and picked up the spherical tube. Looking at the back next to the shot primer he saw 5.7x28 FN.
He pocketed the oddity. His gears turned. The mushy computer he called a brain came back with no results. He had never heard of the round, nothing in any NATO or Soviet bloc country took such a round.
He tucked the thought away. He moved to the third floor landing. It looked as if the soldiers had fired in all directions, creating a bubble 360 of rounds in the air. But Clark noticed a lack of enemy bodies. Either the dead didn't hit anything, or their target were able to extract their dead and wounded.
The third floor's door stayed ajar. Blood smear down along the door stopped at another dead soldier, the door unable to close with his leg keeping the door from sealing shut. Clark pushed the blood covered door open and it stayed in the fully open position within the wall. Stepping over the dead he moved in along a long modular corridor. The following main room took up the entire floor length of the building. Clark entered with the only option, speed and surprise. He swept across the room, with his muzzle, nothing, nothing, nothing. The corners were clear. Center of the room. Man!
Clark stopped, his sights settling on a massive vat with a man inside. A large, square, transparent vat was the centerpiece. A blue tint came from whatever the man was suspended in, tubes and machines swam in and over took parts of him.
There came a click from his radio, Clark lowered his weapon as he gave the vat of the naked hairless man a wide birth, similar to how he would treat a dangerous leashed dog.
There was another body off to his right. He took note, it wasn't a soldier. The dome was cracked, blood poured from the nose. A smear of blood ran along the wall with bits of bone and brain matter. He hoped it wasn't the good doctor.
"Dog 6, this is Hound 6."
"Be advised, my operators here have been able to patch me into the security system for the Pat Facility, we can monitor your moves from the cameras in various parts of the facility."
"Shit." Clark swore to himself before responded. "Are they able to see me as well?"
"Negative, only we are able to see you, we cut off the SoA from using the system." He let out a sigh of relief. He hadn't considered the internal security systems.
"General, there was a firefight in this wing. Several of the soldiers are dead, it couldn't have been a divide among their own, I found shell casings I don't recognize."
"The researchers were taken hostage from there. It is possible they tried to resist." Clark chewed that and spat it out immediately.
"General, this is a casing I've never seen before. A 5.7x28 marked FN." There was a long delay.
"You're right." That goddamn monotone. "That is an experimental round under evaluation right now for a new weapon system. Captain, there may be more going on there, report any further findings. Hound 6 out."
Clark would have thrown his radio set if it wasn't a headset he was wearing.
A ruffling caught his attention. His sights snapped up. Far corner, near a computer system. There was a locker set up in the corner. Clark moved closer. Something had moved. He knew it. He paused, held his breath. He could hear panicked heavy breath trying to calm itself. Clark moved closer. The something was in the locker.
Clark closed the distance between him and the locker. There remained about fifteen feet. He stopped.
"Come out!" Clark barked. He heard a startled rattle. Someone was hiding inside.
"I-I ugh... I..."
"I said, get out!"
"I-I can't!" Came the mousy voice. Clark was about to make the demand again, and then, humorously, realized, the person was literally trapped in the locker. There wasn't a way for him to open the locker from inside.
Clark stepped forward. His finger on the small latch to the locker. He pulled it up and back pedaled. His arms braced. A thin, tall thrashed figure was revealed. A goddamn zombie?! Clark sudden felt foolish.
The scarred face shivered at him. The smell of urine was present, and a dampness still clung to the man's pants.
"D-don't shoot." The man raised his feeble hands up showing to Clark.
"Who are you?"
"D-Doctor J-Joseph." Clark couldn't tell if the man just had a speech impediment or if he was still scared shit-less, probably both.
"I'm Captain Duncan, United States Army, Hound Unit." Clark lowered his weapon.
"I was sent for you, you know how to disable weapon systems assigned to this facility?"
"Y-yes. Jesus, y-you look like him...." He trailed off and before Clark could ask. "Where's your team?"
Clark's honest stayed back. "I'm all there is."
Gregory Joseph lowered his hands. He looked looked around the floor as if he was tracking a small bug running in a zigzag. One hand moved up to his scarred side and fluttered there.
"Ugh, yes?" His hand shot down. A look of shame washed over him which he sudden hid. "Ugh, y-yes, yes. I know how to."
"I'm going to need some information. What happened here?"
"W-we were working on our research for the unit here. I suppose they went rouge, I-I don't know." Clark could see the doctor settle down. His speech was getting clearer, there was no overt speech impediment. "The, things, they just came in and took my research team hostage. Killed poor Christian when he resisted." Gregory couldn't bring himself to look at the blood smear, let alone the body. "I h-hid in t-the lock-locker. There was s-so much shooting. I d-don't k-know about that."
"The things? You mean the soldiers?" Gregory Joseph looked at Clark. He could see the complex inner workings computing the odd question.
"You don't know? T-these, these men, t-these soldiers, well they a-aren't just soldiers." Gregory swallowed hard. "The unit here is called the Wolves, it's based around the i-idea of the n-next generation special forces. Gene manipulation on each one, t-they a-are enhanced."
"Fuckin' seriously?" Clark rolled his head in disbelief. "This place just get better by the second." Clark looked at the doctor, who had hung his head. "Alright Doc, I need to know more about this place. There's a rail-gun here, right? Your friends, your little super soldiers, are using it to ransom the United States."
"W-well the rail-gun was one of our e-early projects. I-I wouldn't w-worry so much on t-them using the gun immediately, the fail safe will p-prevent that."
"What's the fail safe?"
"Pate Installation is a-actually a m-massive computer. It-it's made to protect a super server which does the target acquisition. T-this server receives all information f-from a satellite for guidance."
"Alright, so how do I need to stop them from taking control?"
"D-Destroy the server. W-we have a-a program to put in-into the server in the event we were overrun."
"I can't physically destroy the server?"
"N-no, not sh-short of destroying t-the facility."
"Where is this program? How do I use it?"
"W-we keep i-it in a CD in the weapons d-development level. T-the server access is-is next to the rail-gun in t-the B2 level."
"Alright, I don't have access to any of the floors here. Is there a way to get around the security system?" Gregory looked down, his scars glistening with his thoughts.
"M-my card will get you a-access to t-the B2 elevator, b-but I d-don't have access to the weapons d-development floor on B-B1 anymore. I-I may-maybe able to give my-myself access using the sec-security room on the fourth f-floor."
"Alright, let's start there."
"Y-you know. Y-you look a lot like Zane Lumbard."
"Major Zane Lumbard?"
"Y-yes!" There was a sudden hesitation. "D-do you k-know him?"
"Of him. He's suspected to be the leader of the separation that happened here. I suppose our beards make us look similar. Gregory nodded hesitantly, or absently, Clark couldn't tell. "So before we leave, what's with the floating naked guy?"
"It's ugh, um, ugh the next level for the Wolf Unit here. It's-it's ugh..."
"Classified, got it, don't care. Let's move."
Clark took the point. He moved forward, stepping over the dead baggage keeping the door open. The heavy copper smell still lingered in the air like some diabolical stew. The flight of stairs leading to the next floor was empty.
"God..." Gregory announced as he saw all the bodies.
"I need you to keep quiet Doc." Clark started up the stairs, slowly, scanning back and forth. The next landing was clear. He heard his radio click again.
"Captain, you made contact with Doctor Joseph I see." There must be a camera some where Clark thought.
"Roger that Hound 6, we are moving to secure assets for the mission."
"Good, did he tell you anything about the situation at the facility."
"Negative, he had been hiding during the take over." There was another odd pause before Clark heard the next transmission.
"Understood, report any further discoveries. Hound 6 out."
"W-who was that?" Clark looked back at Gregory.
"Commanding officer for this operation." Clark stated flatly as he moved to the door on the landing.
Gregory moved to use his card on the door. Clark motioned for him to stop for a moment. He wanted to be in the right position to fight if there was anything on the other side. He gave the go ahead with a simple thumbs up after moving to an angle on the door.
The door slid open. There was a short hall, then a long room lined with multiple doors. Clark moved in swiftly. Nothing in the long room. four doors lined the room. The one to his immediate left was open, it was a narrow stairwell leading up. Most likely the roof access. The next two doors on the left were sealed shut. The final door was on the right, it too was open.
From the far room on the right Clark heard movement. He backed up. Quickly he yanked Gregory by the collar with him. He yelped. Clark shushed him. They slid back into the stair well. Clark edged up to the door leading into the long room. He breathed deep, preparing for a firefight in the small room, and listened.
"Report." Came a small static voice from the open room across the way. A beep sounded.
"The security room in the research wing is empty. The communication equipment has been sabotaged. No sign of the intruded who did it." A covered husky voice called back.
"Understood. Return to B2." A beep sounded again.
So they still have communications too. Clark considered the implications, wondering if it was possible they could pick up his communications.
He heard two pairs of boots moving. He braced, but they turned, heading down the other stairwell that with the dead along the landings. Clark peered around the corner. He saw no one.
"Alright Doc, where to?"
"T-there." He indicated to the room where the soldiers had been investigating.
Clark approached the door in a low move with his weapon ready. It was a short room. Vacant. Inside, along the left wall was a series of radios. He could see the base station had been smashed, he didn't check, but he was sure if the radios had been sabotaged that the security keys had been 'Z'ed out, basically wiped. There was a weapon's rack, several M16 rifles were still in the rack, locked with a padlock by a metal bar. There was a series of controls, and monitors on the left wall. Interestingly enough to Clark, there was also a rack next to the rifle locker of radios, but specially the very type of experimental radio he carried with him.
"Alright Doc, do what you got to do."
Gregory moved to one of the consoles, there sat a small boxy device. He took his ID card and slid it into a receiver. A small panel allowed him to see his own security certificates. Pulling the card out he looked at Clark.
"I-I'm a-all set."
"Give me the card." Gregory handed the card over.
"Am-am I n-not going?"
"I can't have you stumbling around with me. You'll get killed."
"I c-c-can handle m-my own." Clark looked down at the doctor's still damp pants.
"I'm sure you can Doc, but I can't risk it." Gregory's face contorted, the car tissue pulling back, stiffer than his untouched flesh. Suddenly it loosened. He looked at Clark's hip, causing Clark to look down in alarm but he saw nothing out of the ordinary.
"I-I know!" Gregory moved, with awkward swiftness to the rack. "I-I c-c-can't t-talk on your secure line. B-but if I use this radio, I c-can talk to you. If you n-need me." Gregory took one of the radios from the rack. He began fumbling with the keypad.
"Doc, I wanted to ask. With that radio on the wall over there damaged, how am I still able to talk to my command?" Gregory looked up at him. His jaw slack and open in surprise, not knowing what to say. One of his hands went up to his scarred side and began twitching along the ridge where the flesh met the scar. "I was told they could only hear me because of the relays set up here." Gregory yanked his hand away and back on his own radio.
"Ugh, um, the r-relays are s-separate." Clark was about to probe but as Gregory worked he continued to talk. "A-anyways, t-there are other b-base stations." Clark nodded to himself.
"There, if you n-need me, my c-channel is 141.012" Clark pulled his radio up and set another channel to the frequency so he could switch between multiple places at once. "I-it w-won't be secure, but w-we can talk."
"Will you be safe here?"
"Y-yes. W-when you leave I c-c-can seal the door and I c-can monitor t-the consoles." Clark moved over the console. There were six monitors he saw as Gregory took a seat behind the console. Two of the monitors were down.
"Where are these cameras?"
"O-one on each level. T-this f-floor and B-B2 are down. I-I can work to f-find other systems t-to check t-though." Gregory used a control and flipped one of the feeds labeled B1 over. "T-There, that room h-has the CD in a safe." He saw another room, more the door than the room, but two of the soldiers were standing outside the door. It looked like another security room similar to the one they were in.
"How do we know they haven't taken the CD and destroyed it?"
"O-only s-select few k-know of it. Myself a-and a m-man n-not here."
"Zane doesn't know?"
"N-no. Zane shouldn't k-know much about the s-server a-at all."
"Alright, and how do I get into the safe?"
"T-the code is 09221991. I-if you forget, r-radio me."
"I got it. Do you know who would have sabotaged the radios?"
"N-no." Gregory turned away from the monitor to Clark. "I, I considered it as well." There was clarity in Gregory's voice, as if thought drove away the nervous stutter. "I, assumed your team...."
"Doc, I'm the only one."
"I don't know, maybe one of the staff." Clark stared intently at Gregory. The disappearance of the stutter gave question, but he halted his own thoughts and perceptions.
"What is on B1?"
"I-it's our w-weapons development site."
"For the rail-gun?"
"N-no, biomechanical machines."
"Machines t-that rely on organic s-sytems to operate." There it went again, suddenly he spoke clearly. "It's all what we call the 2045 Program. Its focus is on creating stronger more adaptive genetic person using machines. But at the same time, using a machine to rely on organic attributes. I took over the projects and have led the research. We created an artificial jellyfish using silicone and rat DNA. Applying that to large vehicles, you could have a walking tank, that could regrow limbs instead relying on armor and tracks to keep fighting. For the normal grunt, we could use this line of thinking to regrow limbs, strengthen normal assets, change the metabolic rate to require less food. More so, we can stop neurological synapses that hinder combat effectiveness. Combat stress, and shell-shock would be blocked. a cybernetic organism."
"Jesus Christ Doc, is that what I'm facing out there?"
"W-well n-no." The stutter was back. "M-maybe t-the first attempt, but n-no where near the p-perfection of w-what I said." Clark clenched his jaw. Despite his advanced training, and education, and vast experience, he was just a grunt. Ethics wasn't his battle, and he still had a mission.
"Alright Doc, seal the door behind me."
Stepping back out into the stairway with the door sealed shut behind him, he switched over to contact the General.
"Hound 6 this is Dog 6."
"Dog 6, report."
"Asset is secure, moving on to primary objective."
"Understood, is there any further information."
"Affirmative, there appears to be another saboteur loose. The enemy is searching for him, and a base station was destroyed."
"Understood, be advised there are no other friendly forces in the area that we know of. If there is, they are internal." That was possible, but Clark didn't see that from what he'd seen.
"General, this unit I'm up against, Doctor Joseph informed me about them. I'm, I'm against some unusual odds." There was the long pause again. Clark wanted to key up to force a response.
"Captain, the doctor likely told you too much. The Wolf Unit, the unit that is rogue, is the opposite from you and your unit in every way. From the method to their biological make up. The Wolf Unit is also an experiment itself. Each soldier has gone through hours of gene therapy enhancing their natural ability. They had proven extremely effective up to this date in covert operations around the globe. I don't see why you need to know any more, Captain." Clark bit his tongue.
"Understood, continuing mission."
"Hound 6 out."
- Writer, soldier, thinker, and science fiction lover. I just can't seem to find a way to divide my adventurous self of constant outdoor activity and exercise from my nerdy self playing games and going to conventions. So why not just be both?
I am a young professional living out of Tallahassee, Florida for the past five years. I have been on a deployment with the United States Army and continue to work outside of my other occupations to better myself mentally and physically. My passion for writing is driven by my passion for everything I find entertaining in life, and of course by my friends and family.