|APAGear II Archives||Volume 1, Number 5||May, 1999|
[Author's note: this is the second part of a multi-part story arc that began with "S-U-R-V-I-V-A-L".]
I woke up groggy. My mouth felt like a wad of cotton, so I reached for the glass of water next to my bed. Miscalculating the angle between the glass and myself, I clumsily knocked it over. The water sloshed onto my blanket, my nightstand and the floor.
I decided I'd clean it up in a minute. It had been one day since I got out of the jungle, and I'd spent it all in bed. My mind was cloudy, and it was several minutes before I remembered what I needed to do.
I sat straight up and reached for my palmtop. It was sitting in a puddle on my nightstand, so I wiped it off on my shirt. I reached underneath my mattress, and pulled out a little plastic box I had placed the disc in.
I took the disc out and slid it into the palmtop's drive. It automatically powered up, and began to load the data contained on the disc. It was a single large video file.
I tapped 'Play' with my fingernail.
Someone in white overalls appeared.
That's right, this was supposed to be for Chairman Lefleur's eyes only. Oh well.
"My name is Dern Volstad, I'm a senior technician here at McKannon Research Station."
McKannon is where I just flew, or attempted to fly, from. It's way out in the jungle, not far from the Humanist Alliance border.
"Lately we've received some highly disturbing reports from another station, Hatfield Station. It's 60km north and to the east from here. For several weeks, the technician in charge over there, his name is Sean Segui, reported some strange events. Some of their research went missing, and some workers became very ill. Two technicians disappeared for a day only to reappear without any memory of what happened. He said he couldn't request help until he had an idea of what the situation was, and that he was afraid of sounding crazy.
And then we received this."
The video changed to a lower resolution, showing another technician. The man looked hysterical.
"Oh god, oh no... They're coming for us! Listen, whoever gets this message, get out of here. Get out of this jungle, they won't spare you! Th-they released something into the air around here, it's slowly driving us mad. Jennings and Phillips tore each other apart in the cafeteria. I locked myself inside this office, and I don't seem to be... quite as affected. We've spotted something outside, maybe a Gear. There are men, too. They're coming inside. Sarah, get back inside! Oh no..."
At this point an explosion was audible. Screams followed it.
"That must have been the breaching charge! They're inside the building! Oh, no, no... Paul, destroy the files! Burn them now, we can't let them get the files! I've got a rifle, I'll hold them off as long as I can!"
The man pulled a rifle out from under his desk and faced the door. Another man was setting fire to a stack of papers, and smashing computer drives with a hammer. The door started to creak, and finally broke down. Gas filled the room, and dark-suited figures flooded in.
The screen went blank.
Volstad's image returned.
"That was the last we heard of them. We haven't dared go over there, but I don't think anyone's still alive. We have not contacted authorities, because I'm not confident of our security. Some files have gone missing here, too, so only a trusted few of my colleagues know what went on at Hatfield. I fear it may only be a matter of time until it happens here too. Encoded on this disc is a way to contact me privately, without arousing suspicion. Please do as soon as possible. Out."
I felt like I'd just been hit in the stomach with a lead pipe.
What the hell was going on? Who the hell would attack one of our science stations? And Volstad was right, their security was compromised. Somebody didn't want this disc to get out of the jungle. And sabotaged my plane to do it.
I felt sick. I had to show this to somebody. I decided I'd start with its intended recipient, Chairman Lefleur.
I climbed out of bed, and started to walk to the bathroom. I yelped in pain. My ankle. I'd forgotten how sore it was. I took a couple of aspirins to numb the pain, dressed, left my apartment and drove to the building where Chairman Lefleur's office was. I realized I'd have to explain to him how I'd watched the disc already.
As I drove, I kept running the past two days events back in my mind. Let's see, one of our research stations was attacked with some kind of insanity-causing chemical, it's occupants probably murdered by a squad of commandos, and my plane was sabotaged to prevent this information from escaping. Meanwhile, another station seems to have been infiltrated.
My head hurt. I wondered why Hatfield Station never radioed Port Oasis or a military garrison for help. Perhaps it was a side effect of the chemical. I tried to concentrate on the traffic, which was fortunately light. It was a sunny day, the first in a while, and a lot of people probably were blowing off work to enjoy the day. It had rained a lot lately, more than usual. I found that unlike some people, the rain didn't really bother me. But I always felt better when I woke up with sun coming through the blinds.
I reached the large office building, and pulled into the underground parking lot. It was mostly empty, definitely due to the weather. I went up a flight of stairs and swiped my keycard to enter the building. My palmtop beeped in my pocket, indicating it had begun downloading email from my terminal. I didn't look at the number of messages I had received, and I considered deleting them all and blaming the system.
After another flight of stairs and an elevator, I reached Mr. Lefleur's office. I told his receptionist, who seemed to be extremely busy with her fingernails, that I needed to see him right away. She looked up, and said "Oh, go right in Mr. Jarvis."
Without an appointment, even. I proceeded into his office, which is a large room with a 180-degree window panel overlooking the city. The view of Port Oasis' skyscrapers, sun glinting off their windows, was breathtaking. Chairman Davis Lefleur was sitting behind his desk. He is about fifty, in good shape with slightly graying brown hair.
"Mr. Jarvis, it's good to see you. I'm terribly sorry about your ordeal." He motioned toward a chair, and I sat down.
"Thank you Mr. Chairman. It's definitely not something I want to do again. I'm going to be frank, Mr. Chairman. Something very strange is going on out there in the jungle."
He didn't look very surprised. Odd.
"What is it, Kenneth?"
I retrieved the disc from my pocket and handed it to him. "Here. Watch this. A technician at McKannon gave it to me, and said it was for you. I have reason to believe that my aircraft was sabotaged to prevent me from giving it to you. I must admit to giving in to curiosity and viewing it already."
He simply nodded, inserted the disc into a desktop terminal, and sat in silence while it played. His face was almost expressionless, except for a strong hint of fear. I wasn't surprised. It had scared the hell out of me, too.
When the video playback finished, he took the disc out and put it in a drawer. He shut his eyes and rubbed them with his fingers.
"Mr. Jarvis, you are correct. Something strange is going on. I am going to do something unusual, since you are a very valuable but low-ranking employee, and that is give you full disclosure on what we're doing at those research stations. You must never tell anyone else what I'm telling you now, or you and others will be in serious danger."
I blinked at that one. I thought all we were doing was mining the jungle, so to speak, for consumer drugs. He continued.
"Have you ever heard of the Hades Complex?" I shook my head no. "Ah. I'm not surprised. Not many people alive today have. It is the Southern Republic's primary bio-weapons complex. It is dedicated to the research and production of some the most lethal, contagious, and downright nasty viruses, chemicals, and other poisons on the planet. Almost no one has any knowledge of Hades Complex, and that's a good thing. Some of the things they work on cause nightmares.
Anyway, I hate to admit it, but we are helping the Hades Complex on a project called Twin Falcon. It's an extremely lethal contagion, and each variant is deadlier than the last. All the research going on in those stations is to help develop the next generation of biological weapons. This entire project has been a stain on my conscience, but I really didn't have a choice."
It was sickening to learn that rather then nobly trying to find a cure for the common cold, my corporation was trying to find better and better ways to kill people. And I wasn't buying the line that he didn't want to do this. There's probably good money in biological warfare.
"Unfortunately, the Humanist Alliance has been a threat to the program all along. In fact a squad of HIRA commandos raided the complex. Do you remember the Terranovan flu outbreak in Bethany?"
"Yes, I remember that." I said.
"It wasn't the flu. During the attack on the Hades Complex the Humanist forces released the Dove variant of Twin Falcon. I believe that the Humanists are trying to capture our research, and use it for their own bio-weapons development program. The attack shown on the video is concurrent with HIRA operations. Chemical weapons, specifically psychoactive agents, are a trademark of some HIRA squads."
"Then why wasn't the military notified? There were Gears and helicopters all over the jungle! We've got to tell them before the Humanists get McKannon, too!"
Something caught his attention. He stared at his desk, and spoke. "That is odd. Unfortunately, only certain areas of the military are cleared for knowledge of Twin Falcon. They can't just send in whatever forces are in the area. I'll speak with my contacts in the military immediately, they will send a special team in. I'm afraid it may be too late though."
I couldn't believe this. The damn army was all over the jungle while people were slaughtered in research stations?
"Listen, Kenneth. I'm going to keep you apprised of this situation. Why don't you take a few days off from work, you deserve it. But be careful. Remember how I said you would be in danger if you told anyone what I told you?"
"Yes." I said.
"I lied. You already are."
I drove home in a trance. I had already walked into my apartment when I realized the door wasn't locked. I thought that maybe I had forgotten it, until I found my bedroom turned upside down. My desktop computer had been smashed, and the contents of my drawers emptied onto the floor. I was just about to start swearing in anger when I realized I wasn't necessarily alone. My heart stuck in my throat. I stood there, perfectly still for about thirty seconds. I didn't hear anything.
I kept a sword given to me by a Mekongese hunter under my bed, so I reached underneath the bed. I was expecting the sword to be gone, but surprisingly it wasn't. I pulled it out, and searched the house with a penlight I had in my coat. I found nothing except a mess. The intruder had made a special point to remove every book from my bookshelves, and it looked like he or she opened most of them. Like they were looking for something, and indeed I hadn't noticed anything missing. They were definitely looking for something.
Like a disc. I slept with a chair against the door and the sword next to my bed.
To Be Continued...
|APAGear II Archives||Volume 1, Number 5||May, 1999|
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