Hope's Folly Chap. 2.A

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Following a terrifying call from his sister, Abandon and his friends decide they can't wait any longer before breaking into The Facility--to rescue Ban's parents!

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Hope's Folly Chap. 2.A

  1. 1. Previously: Abandon Hope, the founder, ran away from home upon learning his father was dying from a mysterious disease—a disease he contracted while working at a place known only as The Facility. Ban initially intended to confront the people in charge there, discover exactly what was wrong with his daddy and make them fix it! He was dismayed to find soldiers with guns patrolling the complex. He knew then that he would need to continue on to college, try to find people who could tell him something about the Olduvai Research Facility and figure out a cure for his father before it was too late. Eventually, he met two such people, Ida White (a co-ed he‟d developed quite a crush on) and Tom Barton (a snarky, pre-med student). Ida and Tom had interned at Olduvai and learned some of its secrets, one of which was that The Facility was illegally injecting unwitting civilians with a virus in an attempt to create a “super soldier.” Unfortunately, no one believed them. Ban convinced them to break into the installation in order to learn exactly what was happening and (he hoped) find a cure for his father. The trio agreed to this plan and returned to the dorm, where Ban received an alarming phone call.
  2. 2. “They took them, Banny! They took Mama and Daddy!” And now….
  3. 3. Ban shook his head trying to clear out his ears and parse what his little sister had just said. “What? Took—? Whoa, whoa, whoa, Linds, slow down! What do you mean „took‟?”
  4. 4. “I don‟t know, I don‟t know!. Mama took a real turn for the worse. She was bleeding from her nose and ears something awful. Then she started having these weird convulsions.
  5. 5. “So Daddy called Doc Hamblin to meet him at the hospital only they got into some kind of argument. I never seen Daddy so mad, Ban. He told the doctor to go fuck himself and slammed the phone down. Then he saw me and told me to get a bag ready, that he was gonna take Mama into town himself.
  6. 6. “Crap. Crap, crap, crap. Linds—Squirt—listen, it‟ll be alright, „kay? Don‟t you fret. I‟m coming down there directly and—”
  7. 7. “Dammit, Abandon! Listen for once in your life! I‟m trying to tell you. Before I could get downstairs with Mama‟s things, this big old black van pulls up and blocks Daddy right in and out hops Doc Hamblin and a couple of soldiers. Banny, they had guns and…and…they starts to arguing something fierce. Doc Hamblin grabbed Daddy‟s arm and Daddy shook him off. Then the one soldier took his other arm and he couldn‟t get loose. Daddy tried to fight them but he‟s been so sick and he was worried for Mama and— and—the one, she hit him in the head with her rifle. Then they picked up Mama and Daddy both and threw them in the back of the van like they was sacks of grain and hightailed it out of there. “I…didn‟t know what to do. I was too scared. I shoulda—”
  8. 8. “Stop that. Weren‟t nothing you could do against guns for crying out loud, and they might have grabbed you, too. You hear, Lindsay? Stop that crying. Remember when you was five and fell out of that big oak down to the river and busted your leg and I carried you all the way to home? You didn‟t make one sniffle, not a one. I never seen such a brave girl. You done the right thing. “Now, listen up. You get yourself to Stacie Lee‟s place. Don‟t let no one see you—I mean no one. And don‟t you even think about school. You just put yourself there. Her folks‟ll make sure nothing happens to you till I can get home and fetch you.”
  9. 9. “But first I‟m gonna find out where they took Mama and Daddy and get them back. Then we‟ll take Mama someplace where the doctors will help her. Don‟t you fret none, Little Bit. I‟ll take care of everything. S‟what big brothers are for. “You good? …That‟s my girl.”
  10. 10. “…And, Linds? I know I pick on you something awful, but you‟re still my little sister. I wouldn‟t never let something bad happen to you. I‟ll be there in two shakes. You be careful, hear? And…and I love you.” Ban gently cradled the receiver. He leaned his forehead against the cool stucco and tried to think, but his mind was jumping every which way at once. He needed to get a grip, dammit. He wouldn‟t do anyone a lick of good if he flew off half-cocked, no plan, no nothing. First find out a few things, talk to some folk— Shit. He‟d had enough jawing to last a lifetime. His folks were in a heap of trouble and talk never did solve nothing if you weren‟t willing to back it up with action. His best plans always had been made on the fly, anyways. He‟d hit a dead run by the time he‟d slammed out the dormitory door.
  11. 11. He heard Ida hollering his name but she‟d just have to wait. Time was a-wasting and every second he spent explaining things here was another second his family was in danger.
  12. 12. “Dammit, Abandon! I said stop.” Ida dodged in front of him and spread her arms. He skidded to a halt. It was either that or mow right over her. “Get out of my way, Ida. I don‟t want to hurt you none, but I will if you don‟t let me pass.” She shook her head and said, “Not happening, Farm Boy,” but whether she meant him ever hurting her or her letting him go he didn‟t know. He swiped his hair back and tried again. “They got my family, came with soldiers and took „em away. I gotta get home.”
  13. 13. “And do what, exactly? Storm the castle like the Goddamn Batman? Now that‟s a good way to get yourself disappeared. That‟s what happens to people who go up against Olduvai, Ban. Don‟t you get it? “Nothing‟s stopping me from getting my mama and daddy away from that place. You can talk till you‟re blue in the face. I‟m still going.” Ida crossed her arms. “Not alone, and that‟s final. Look, we already planned to break in. We just need to move things up a little. Right, Tom?” “Huh? Um, sure. The Facility definitely has stepped up its game. We‟ll need to, as well. It would still be best if we let Daryl in on the plan.” He turned away. “I‟ll give him a call.”
  14. 14. Ban glared at Ida, who glared right back. “Fine. Dandy. But I ain‟t waiting around for long. You got that?” She reached out to him, but seemed to decide against it. “I understand. Give us a chance. We can do this.” “An hour. I‟m leaving in an hour with or without you.” Ida heaved a sigh of frustration. “Be reasonable. It takes half an hour just to drive anywhere in this city.”
  15. 15. “Fine. Two hours. After that I‟m gone.” He hoped to hell she hadn‟t just talked him into waiting too long. Tom walked up. “I contacted Daryl on my cell. He said he‟ll gather up the girls and meet us at Woodson Park in twenty.” “Girls?” Ida rolled her eyes. “Dana and Amber, his housemates. He never goes anywhere or does anything without them. They‟re pretty smart, so I don‟t know why they hang around that jerk. I wonder….” She looked off into the distance. “How many gate guards did you say they had? That set-up is new since Tom and I worked there.” “Two. There might have been some in the tower, but not that I saw.” She smiled. “Then I think they‟ll be able to help us.”
  16. 16. “That him?” Ban asked Ida half an hour later. “He don‟t look like much.” He glanced at her out of the corner of his eye. She‟d really been into this guy? “Mostly hot air,” she told him. “He and Tom have this epic nerd bromance thing going. Honestly, they should just get a room.” “He‟s gay?” “He likes to call it pansexual,” Ida said in a tone that could evaporate water. “I‟m pretty sure Tom doesn‟t think about anything except viruses, computers and bugs. Usually, anyway. Oh, here are the girls.”
  17. 17. “Dana Miyumi.” The exotic looking co-ed shook his hand. “And this is Amber Griggs.” The blonde smiled shyly. “Nice to meet you.” “And you‟re Abandon,” Dana continued with a sly glance at Ida. “I‟ve heard so much about you.” If he hadn‟t been so het up over his folks, Ban might probably would have commented on Ida‟s sudden coughing fit. As it was, his thoughts were miles away. “Call me Ban,” he told the newcomers. Abandon was some fool joke of my…of my father‟s.” It hurt to swallow past the burning knot in his throat. He turned away so‟s to hide his emotion only to catch Ida watching him with concern. Dammit. He didn‟t need her pity; he needed to get his folks back. Nothing else. He set his hands on his hips and scowled. “Let‟s get this show on the road.”
  18. 18. The six of them settled on the grass to have a little powwow. Daryl already knew as much about Olduvai as did Tom and Ida. Dana and Amber had heard a little, so it didn‟t take long for Ban to bring them up to speed. “Abandon suggested we raid the Facility after hours and gather enough information to bring them down,” Tom said. “Not a bad idea as far as ideas go.” Ban waved him down. “That don‟t matter none now. My little sister just phoned to tell me those framming Olduvai bastards hauled my folks off in a van—kidnapped „em in broad daylight. I don‟t know what they got planned for them, but it can‟t be good. Mama‟s real sick, and Daddy‟s not much better. I gotta get them out of there.” He eyed the three newcomers. “Ida and Tom tell me you can help.”
  19. 19. “Possibly. Depends on what it‟s worth to you.“
  20. 20. Ida‟s hand on his knee was the only thing that kept Ban from launching himself at Daryl and pounding his smug face into the pavement. “He‟s being a dick,” she whispered. “He thinks it‟s funny.” She looked Daryl right in the eye. “Can the crap. We don‟t have the time. You know you‟d cut off your left nut to be part of this. You in or not?”
  21. 21. “Depends on what my ladies say.” “I don‟t know what we could do,” Amber said. “I mean, I‟d like to help out and all, but I‟m a drama major.” Dana played with a tuft of grass, considering. At last she looked up. “You should help him. You can use my car.”
  22. 22. “You‟re wrong, Amber.” Ida‟s smile took a wicked bent. “I have the perfect role for you and Dana.” The blonde perked up. “Really? What?” “Remember those costumes from Miss Saigon?” “Oh, god. I‟ve never been so embarrassed in my life!” “Well,” Ida began, looked at the three males and stood instead. “Come with me. You‟re going to love it.” The three women moved out of hearing range and began a fierce whispering. Ban shook his head. “Gotta admire her. That is one dangerous lady.” Daryl snorted. “Is that what you call it?”
  23. 23. “Stop right there. She‟s a friend and I won‟t hear nothing against a friend. She‟s stuck with me when she‟d have been smarter to bail. „Sides, it ain‟t gentleman-like to talk bad about a lady.” Daryl‟s eyebrows shot up into his hairline. He turned to Tom. “Is he for real?” Tom shrugged. “Sadly.” Daryl turned back to him. “I could tell you a thing or two—” Whatever he‟d been about to say was cut off by the return of the three women. Ban stood. “Looks like that‟s settled?” he asked Ida. She nodded, and he turned to Daryl. “I want to hit the road no later than seven. Can you manage that?” “Long drive.” “Don‟t matter none so long as we get there no later than midnight. See you soon.” With that, they took their leave.
  24. 24. They made their destination with fifteen minutes to spare. Dana arrived at Cheavers Hall driving her fancy sports car—a gift from her daddy, she said—along with Amber and Daryl. It was a tight squeeze, but they all managed to fit. Ban wouldn‟t lay money on it, but he was pert near certain Dana‟s lead foot got them all there quicker than he would have. She dropped them off in the hills behind Olduvai as planned, then she and Amber took off. That‟s when they hit the first snag.
  25. 25. “Terrific. How do you propose we get past this?”
  26. 26. “Don't go getting‟ your gussie up, Tom. It‟s just a little bit of razor wire.” “Simlish, Ban. Speak it.” “I am speaking it. Not my fault Tom‟s as bright as a hole in a bucket.” “Says the man who painted stripes on his face.”
  27. 27. “Don‟t look at me. Junkyard‟s not my style.”
  28. 28. Moonlight glinted off the razors and Tom gulped. “Oh, God, we‟re all going to die.” “I‟m fixing to take care of this right now. Daryl, you reckon your friends are in place?”
  29. 29. “If I know Dana, they‟re pulling up as we speak. She‟s OCD about punctuality.”
  30. 30. “What the hell? How‟d they get way out here?” “Must be lost.” “Should we get Sarge?” “Nah. They probably need directions. Let‟s go talk to them.”
  31. 31. “I don‟t know. We‟re supposed to get the sergeant if anything unusual happens.” “What‟s the matter, Weisnewski? Scared of a couple of itty bitty girls?”
  32. 32. “Smile,” hissed Dana. “You‟re supposed to be flirting.” Her fair-haired friend adjusted her lips to something that resembled a smile. “Ugh. How did I let Ida talk me into this?” “Something about doing your term papers for the rest of the year. Now be quiet and smile, smile, smile.”
  33. 33. “I said smile, not grimace.” “I can‟t help it,” Amber whispered. “I feel naked.” “Try wearing a black doily and then we‟ll talk,” Dana told her before turning to the two approaching soldiers. “Hi, boys!” both girls cooed.
  34. 34. “Ladies,” whistled one of the soldiers. “Looking fine. If you need help—and I mean any sort of help at all—I‟m your man.” “You‟re, um, a lifesaver,” Amber managed to say while carefully backing away from him. “I‟ll go get the sergeant,” said the redhead. “He can get you two back on the road in no time.” “You‟re so sweet,” purred Dana, stepping up close to him. “I‟m sure you have…everything…I need.” “Well, I am good with engines.” She ran a finger along his arm. “I bet you‟re good at a lot of things.” “Well….”
  35. 35. “Well, then, let‟s get this show on the road. We‟re burning daylight.” Ban chuckled and amended, “Moonlight, anyways. Y‟all give me a boost.”
  36. 36. It took four tries, but they finally managed to lift Ban high enough so he could get a good look at the wire. He loosened his knees and reminded himself to grab the wall, not the wire if they suddenly dropped him. “Oh, god,” fretted Tom. “What if there are dogs?” “There ain‟t any dogs. They‟d be on the other side barking their fool heads off if there were.” Ban had his back to Ida, but he could well imagine the eye roll she‟d just given Tom.
  37. 37. “Just a little more…a little more…. Got it!” He ducked to avoid the snapping wire. Ban finished clearing a hole large enough for them to crawl through. He should have brought a blanket to toss over the razors, but you couldn‟t think of everything. He waited for a moment in case they‟d missed any silent alarms. A soldier patrolled the main road between the building and the gate, but so far he‟d stayed away from the perimeter. Good. That was good. “I‟m going over.”
  38. 38. “Daryl, give Ida a boost,” he said as he swung over the edge.
  39. 39. “Right behind you, Farm Boy. I don‟t need a freaking lift. Geez.”
  40. 40. “No promises for White and Nerdy, though. You planning to take all day?”
  41. 41. “Some of us,” huffed Tom as his head poked over the top of the fence, “happen to have more brain than brawn. You‟ll be glad to have me soon.”
  42. 42. Ban ignored their bickering and reached up to help Ida down. “I got ya.”
  43. 43. “Those better not be your hands I feel on my butt, Farm Boy, or I‟m kicking your teeth in.” “Just a little slip there, Princess.” Probably a good thing she couldn‟t see his grin, Ban decided as he prudently moved his hands to Ida‟s hips.
  44. 44. Somehow they all managed to make it over the wall. They crept along the outbuildings, Ban leading the way, when he threw back a hand telling the others to halt. They froze and watched an oblivious guard pass by on his rounds.
  45. 45. Tom and Daryl started forward as soon as the guard passed by, but Ban and Ida both hauled them back. They waited as the guard slowly patrolled his route. Ban watched the second hand fly by on his watch until the guard passed them on his second circuit. He held up three fingers.
  46. 46. The instant the guard passed them, Ban signaled the group forward. They skulked along outbuildings and brush until they came to the main building.
  47. 47. Ban glanced at his watch again.“Two and a half minutes.” “You can‟t hurry art.” Tom analyzed the read-out on the smallest notebook Ban had ever seen and carefully punched in some numbers.
  48. 48. “Minute and fifteen seconds, guys.” “This would go considerably faster if everyone would stop calling time at me,” Tom groused.
  49. 49. “Guard‟s headed back this way, people. Get a move on.” “I don‟t mean to rush you none, but—” Ban began worriedly. “Got it!” Lights flashed along the buttons and then the door swooshed open. The foursome scurried inside and spread out.
  50. 50. A command center housing several computer screens took up the bulk of the room, and another high tech door barred their way further into the facility. Ban shook his head. “I feel like I‟m in a Star Trek episode.” He grinned at Ida. “You can be Uhura.” “And I suppose you think you‟re Captain Kirk?” “So long as I‟m not the chubby version with the goofy green shirt, why not? Kirk and me got lots in common: smart, daring, sexy—“ “Just see what you can do to get us through there.”
  51. 51. “Not so fast. I need to access the trojan I set up. Good thing I left a backdoor when I interned here. Okay…I‟m in and—” Tom‟s fingers flew over the keyboard. “I‟m done.” “This will run a loop through all the security cams for the next two and a half hours. If they‟ve kept to the same set-up, we won‟t run into any guards now that we‟re inside.”
  52. 52. “And if we do?” asked Ida. Ban grinned. “We run like hell.” He made one last inspection of the touchpad next to the door and slapped something that looked suspiciously like Silly Putty on top of it. Ida did a double take. “What is tha—?” “Don‟t you never mind. Duck!” Ban grabbed Ida‟s shoulders and half pushed, half shoved her into a dive.
  53. 53. It was a tiny explosion as explosions go, somewhere between the hiss of a striking match and the boom of a car backfiring. Daryl cast a jaundiced eye at the ceiling, but the sprinklers held.
  54. 54. “What the hell do you think you were doing?” growled Tom. He swallowed a lungful of the acrid smoke and launched into a coughing fit Beside him, Daryl busily counted his fingers. Ida glared. “Where did you get that stuff? Strike that. I don‟t want to know. Do you have any idea how many alarms you could have set off? Next time ask.” “No kidding,” grumbled Daryl as he pushed himself upright. “Leave the security systems to me or Tom.” Abandon put hands on hips and shook his head. “All y‟all are just jealous „cause you forgot your own fireworks. Don‟t be such infants. I ain‟t gonna kill none of us.” He held out a hand to help Ida to her feet. “Or screw up and bring the guards running.” She hesitated a moment before placing her hand in his. “Just don‟t do it again.” He gave her a tug.
  55. 55. So he might maybe have pulled a tad too hard. Could you blame him? “Am I going to need to taser you?” Ida asked, giving Ban a none too gentle shove. He spread his hands. “Hey, I can‟t help it if you‟re but a little bitty thing.” “You‟re not nearly so charming as you think, Farm Boy.” “Don‟t matter none. Only one lady I‟m interested in charming.” She rolled her eyes, but he‟d swear he saw a smile tugging at the corners of her mouth before she turned away.
  56. 56. “What? Another lock?” quipped Daryl as he followed Ban and Ida into the small corridor. “Paranoid much?” “You ain‟t kidding.” Ban folded his arms across his chest so he wouldn‟t fidget. “See? Hands off. Happy now?” “I‟ll let you know once I‟m certain you won‟t go charging off to do something else stupid,” Ida informed him. Ban allowed his most annoying smirk to play across his face, but said nothing. Maybe he had rushed things a might, but they didn‟t have much time, dammit. The others might view this sortie as an informational jaunt but not him. Underneath all his banter and bluster, he had only two goals: find his mother and father and get them the hell out of this place. If he had to hurry the others along some, well, so be it.
  57. 57. “Interesting. They‟d been discussing lasers when I interned here. It appears they finally made their decision.” “These people are seriously paranoid,” said Ida. “What do they think they‟re hiding?” Ban clenched his fists. The virus, he thought. They don‟t want anyone finding out what they‟ve been doing. “Can you get past it?” he asked Tom.
  58. 58. “Hmmm?” Tom realized his three companions all were staring at him. “Naturally. It‟s a simple magnetic swipe. I prepared a counterfeit card before we left. There‟s some sort of print scan, but I can create a false positive by accessing the system.” “You gonna jaw like this at every door?” Ban asked. “Don‟t need to know how. Just do it.” “Some systems require finesse rather than brute force…and explosions.” Ida tapped her watch. “Enough you two. You know we‟re running on a time limit.” The panel swooshed back only to reveal yet another set of double doors at the end of the corridor. “See?” Tom was saying. “A little finesse and—” Ban never heard the rest. He took one look at the sign at the end of the hall and took off running. Dammit. Dammit, dammit, dammit.
  59. 59. It was true. It was all freaking true. He should have done something, dammit. Instead— “Daddy….”
  60. 60. Footsteps pounded up behind him. A gentle hand touched his shoulder. “Ban?” “It‟s my fault. I knew something was wrong and instead of doing something I sat on my ass and waited „cause I didn‟t want to believe it. Now…fuck. “What if it‟s too late, Ida?” he‟d never admitted defeat before but something about that sign sapped all the fight out of him. He wanted to sink to the floor and bawl. “You aren‟t. I think you‟re on to something. They must have a vaccine—a cure—someplace around here. The bastards behind this might play God with other people‟s lives, but they won‟t want to risk their own.” She slipped a comforting arm around him. “We need you to hold it together, Abandon—all of us here and your folks.”
  61. 61. “You people need to seriously speed things up here. We don‟t have time for this crap. Wah wah wah, my Daddy‟s sick. We‟ll all feel sick if they catch us here.”
  62. 62. “You got something to say to me, Daryl, say it directly. I‟d hate to knock a fella‟s teeth out over a misunderstanding.” “Don‟t listen to him,” Ida whispered. “He‟s always been a jerk.” Daryl crossed his arms but didn‟t back down. “You heard me the first time, Hope. We don‟t need you. Go outside if you want to have a pity party.” Even Tom looked up at that. “Maybe you should be the one to leave, Daryl. Abandon‟s proven far more useful than you have.” The tension grew so heavy in the room that you could stick out a finger and poke it. Finally, Ban slowly unclenched his fist. “No. Daryl‟s right. We all need to stay focused.” He could always punch the bastard‟s lights out after they saved Mama and Daddy.
  63. 63. It was a subdued group that made its way into the bowels of the complex. The further they penetrated into the corridors, the more the place resembled something out of a sci fi movie and a lot less like a reputable business. “Reckon they don‟t tour the Girl Scouts through this part,” Ban murmured. “Alright, where to now? Who the hell puts four doors in an itty bitty hallway?” The other three looked around in confusion. “Got me,” Daryl said. “None of this looks familiar.” The other two shrugged. Ban rubbed the back of his neck and bit back a few choice words. It wasn‟t their fault, though you‟d think Tom could have magicked up a blueprint at some point.
  64. 64. “The elevator,” he decided. “Bad stuff‟s always hidden underground in books and movies.” “Wow. Employing the scientific method there?” “You got a better idea, Tom?” Tom didn‟t, so the four of them piled into the elevator. Ban pressed B5. The doors wished open and they tumbled into a blindingly white corridor. “Is anyone else getting weird vibes?” Ban asked. “Hey, I know! Let‟s all split up.” He tugged Ida‟s ponytail and received an elbow in the ribs for his efforts. “Don‟t count on me for the Bad Girl Sex. I‟d like to live through to the ending credits.”
  65. 65. Before long, they came to another sealed and locked door. Ban scowled. “I‟m getting mighty sick of these things.” Daryl nodded agreement. “You‟d think they were hiding gold instead of files.” Ban spared him a glance. “Reckon that damn virus is worth a helluva lot more than gold to the right bidder.” “He‟s right,” interjected Tom. He set to work on the lock. “And it‟s not just other countries that would want H7N1.” Ida nodded. “Lots of crazies out there.”
  66. 66. Daryl shrugged. “Can‟t a guy say he‟s sick of a place without receiving a PolySci lecture?” Ban allowed the chatter to flow over him. Made no never mind to him if everyone and their dog all wanted that damn virus. Hell, they could pack it up into purple polka dotted syringes and stab themselves with them for all he cared. He just wanted to find where they‟d stashed Mama and Daddy and get them the hell out of there. “There.” Tom‟s voice broke into his thoughts. Ban looked up just in time to see the door swish open. He was through it quicker than a duck on a June bug.
  67. 67. “Watch out!”
  68. 68. “Whoa!” Ban skidded back, sucking in his belly to avoid the searing lights. “Whoa,” he repeated for emphasis. He gaped at the laser display. Damn thing had pert near barbecued, fricasseed and deep fried him all at once! “Shit fire! Thought you disarmed that damn thing.”
  69. 69. “Only the door.” Tom smirked. “Looks like there‟s some truth to the old adage „look before you leap.‟” Ban narrowed his eyes. Maybe Tom hadn‟t planned to cook up some Chicken Fried Abandon, but he sure as shooting could have spoke up about those damn lasers aforehand.
  70. 70. Daryl elbowed past him. “Let the experts handle things you don‟t understand, dumbass.” Ban lurched forward, but Ida‟s gentle grip on his elbow stopped him. Fine, he wouldn‟t beat the snot out of the asshole, but that didn‟t stop him from glaring doom down on her. She rolled her eyes, clearly immune to his temper. He slowly unclenched his fists. Shit. She‟s right. He‟d like nothing better than to open a can of whoop ass on Daryl, but now wasn‟t the time for it. He could be patient. Didn‟t mean he had to like it none. “Disarmed.” Daryl gestured at the doorway and stepped back. Abandon wondered exactly how certain Daryl was that he really had disabled the lasers. He reckoned not much else the guy would‟ve gone through the doorway first himself. To hell with it. He stepped through.
  71. 71. “Holy shit. This is—”
  72. 72. “The lab,” finished Tom, voice oozing satisfaction. “I‟ve only heard about it, never seen it. What about you two?” “Not me,” said Ida. “I was stuck running specimens and entering data.” Daryl snorted. “Like they‟d give any of us the sort of clearance this place calls for.” Ban scratched his head. He didn‟t have the foggiest what half this stuff was, much less where to start. Banks of computers and other electronics lined the wall along with a couple of big ass machines. A short glance around showed the other three were equally stymied. “Reckon this is where we start,” he said at last. “Let‟s have a look-see and see what we can find.”
  73. 73. Daryl perused the readouts along the walls and ever-practical Ida began rifling through papers.
  74. 74. Ban was having a hard time keeping his temper leashed. The more worried he got, the shorter his fuse. He didn‟t want to haul off and hit someone, and he sure as hell didn‟t want to go off on Ida. He needed to be alone, or at least as alone as you could get when breaking and entering a top secret government facility. Problem was, none of this stuff looked like anything he knew. He scouted the room and eventually headed off to check something that looked a bit like an old fashioned safe. He had to pound on it some, but he finally got the door opened. Shee-it. Just a bunch of circuits and wires and not a clue in sight. His fingers twitched. Maybe if he played around some with it, he could get it to work and learn something.
  75. 75. “Try not to blow up anything,” Tom advised over his shoulder. “If you don‟t know what something does, kindly refrain from poking buttons.” Ban stood abruptly and folded his hands beneath his armpits. Ass.
  76. 76. “Jackpot. Here‟s a list of dates and names.” “And?” he prompted. And do you recognize any? Are my folks on there? Does it say who to blame?
  77. 77. Biting her lip, Ida glanced at Ban.
  78. 78. He felt his heart sink. “Daddy?” She nodded. He couldn‟t manage to fake a smile, but he sure as hell could act like he wasn‟t standing at the top of a cliff with the edge crumbling underneath his feet. He shrugged “Don‟t matter none. Not like I didn‟t already know.” Ida shook her head. “That‟s not—it‟s—dammit.” She couldn‟t look at him. “It‟s not just your father.”
  79. 79. Ban closed his eyes and told himself to remain calm. “Mama?” “Y…es. And your sister.” He stared at her. “Lindsay ain‟t sick!” “I know. Ban,” she began wretchedly. “There‟s something else.”
  80. 80. “You‟re listed here, too. As Patient Zero”
  81. 81. “No…that can‟t be right.” “It means you were the first—” “Don‟t you fucking talk down to me. I fucking know what it means! It means—it means I—”
  82. 82. “Fuck!” Ban whirled around, hands clenched into fists and chest heaving. This ain‟t happening. I never been sick in my life, not a once. I didn‟t—I couldn‟t—I—
  83. 83. I did not make Daddy sick!
  84. 84. This is some kind of damn fool joke. Right? The Facility fucking engineered the virus. Tom and Ida said so. This ain‟t happening. It can‟t fucking be happening. For god‟s sake, someone tell me they‟re yanking my chain. I couldn‟t have given the virus to Daddy. I didn‟t. I wouldn‟t—Please. Some way, somehow, it had all begun with him. My fault. My fault. My FAULT. Ban slammed his fists against the wall again and then a third time. Maybe if he beat the damn thing till his hands left bloody streaks on the metal all of this would go away.
  85. 85. He scowled. Look at „em, not a one that don‟t look like a goddamn deer caught in goddamn headlights. …except Ida. She looks like she‟s gonna burst into tears. Damn it all to hell.
  86. 86. “What the hell? All y‟all can stop staring at me like I‟m fucking „bout to sprout horns. If I really am catching, it‟s too fucking late for you mouth breathers. I found me a door. You fixing to sit on your asses till grass grows blue or we gonna finish what we started?”
  87. 87. “Uh, yeah. Yeah. I downloaded everything I need and, um, disabled the security systems on this level.” Tom may have sounded like he was ready, but he hadn‟t budged an inch since Ida‟s revelation, worthless little shit. That bastard Daryl didn‟t even pretend none. He went so far to take a step back when Ban turned around like he thought Ban could transfer the virus with the glare of his eyes or something. Fucking waste of skin.
  88. 88. Ida had managed to school her features into a more normal expression, but he could still see the strain around her mouth and eyes. If she was afraid, she was afraid for him and not of him, and that made all the difference. He spared her a ghost of a smile. “Ready to get this show on the road?” he asked. She nodded. “Let‟s do this.” “That‟s my girl.” She didn‟t protest the expression, which showed just how het up she was over this.
  89. 89. No sooner had they entered the tiny room on the other side of the sealed door than the door slammed shut, hydraulics rumbled, and something hissed overhead. Icy cold liquid that stank like a cross between chlorine bleach and Listerine pelted them from above.
  90. 90. “Fuck! What is this shit?” “Damn it all to hell!” “Crap, crap, crap!” Everybody tried to shield themselves from the dousing, but the lot of them wound up running around like chickens with their heads cut off instead. “Tom, dammit! You was supposed to fix this! Make it stop!” “Don‟t you think I‟m trying? It‟s not working!”
  91. 91. Ban shoved his way to the opposite door and grabbed the handle. It wouldn‟t budge. “Shit!” He planted his feet, sucked in a heap of air and put all the muscle he had into turning the damn wheel. He heard a whoosh and felt the lock give. He gave the door a shove.
  92. 92. The group stumbled out into another one of the endless white corridors. “What was that shit?” asked Ban in the middle of stripping off his shirt. If they‟d been sprayed with some fast-acting contact poison, he wanted to get it off of him soon as could be. Ida tugged her tee shirt away from her skin. Ban couldn‟t help but notice how the soaked cotton clung to her curves. “It‟s okay. I think it was a decon chamber.” Tom jerked his chin at the fancy airlocks and alarms. “At least they aren‟t taking any chances of this thing escaping.” Ban crooked an eyebrow at him and waited. It took a moment for the shoe to drop. “Oh.”
  93. 93. Dumb ass. “Damn straight, „oh.‟ From what those there papers Ida found tell us, they done let it—me—escape‟ since the beginning.” He stomped off down the long hallway. After a moment, the others followed. Seemed like they‟d been walking forever—leastaways long enough for Ban‟s shirt to dry enough for him to put it back on. Didn‟t seem to be an end in sight. They‟d made yet another turn into yet another corridor when Daryl sighed in exasperation. “Okay. Seriously? This place is creeping me out.”
  94. 94. “Good thing there aren‟t any branching corridors,” Ida said after they‟d walked awhile longer, “or we‟d be walking in circles.” “At least the walk dried us out,” Daryl pointed out. Tom frowned, probably because his sneakers still squelched. “We need to return upstairs and try one of those other doors. This is getting us nowhere.” Ban shook his head. “Nope. All the equipment was down here, including that fool decontamination chamber. We‟re getting close. I can feel it.”
  95. 95. After what felt like hours, the corridor ended in one last sealed door. “Reckon this is it.” Daryl examined the door. “No lock.” No one moved. Ban couldn‟t talk for the rest of them, but it felt like a passel of bullfrogs had taken up residence in his belly and commenced to having a jumping contest. Part of him didn‟t want to learn what waited for them on the other side. He‟d had all the bombshells he could handle for one day, and that „handle‟ was damn shaky as it was. Dammit. If it was just him…but his folks were locked up somewhere in this place, and he aimed to find them. “Reckon I‟ll do the honors,” he grumbled, elbowed Daryl aside and opened the door.
  96. 96. “What…what is this?” For the first time since they‟d met, Daryl sounded off kilter. A curious calm settled over Abandon. Slowly, he took in the large, rectangular room and all that it contained.
  97. 97. “This,” he rumbled, “is where I find my family.”

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