Saturday, 20 January 2007

Chapter 3: Mission Accomplished

Danny Johnson was a young research assistant, working away quietly in one of the many labs at Mantek. All the other labs were empty, which pleased Danny. He found it a lot easier to get work done with no one else around. All day long, other scientists and assistants were popping in and out, borrowing samples and equipment or asking for advice. This way, there were no interruptions.

His supervisor, Andrew Owen, had been eager to leave early that afternoon so Danny was more than happy to do some overtime. Doctor Owen’s boss, Doctor Forrest, hadn’t shown his face in the lab for a while. Danny had heard them talking about a breakthrough and it surprised him that he hadn’t seen more of them that week and that he was left in the lab to do all the hard work.

What the hell, may as well stay in the ice cool lab than brave the heat outside and get some extra cash at the same time.

Anyway, the quicker he did the work, the more overtime he could claim and profit from. A little white lie never hurt. He had only been left with simple instructions of what to do. Doctor Owen had not told Danny the relevance of what he was doing; only that he had to put some of the yellow liquid in the blood samples, look at it through the microscope and save the images to the lab computer.

Easy money.

For the last time that night, Danny put a drop of blood onto a thin glass slide and clipped it under the microscope. He looked into the microscope and saw the same thing he had seen all night: human blood with a high level of white blood cells but lacking in red blood cells and haemoglobin. He hit a button and heard an artificial camera click as the computer grabbed the magnified image and saved it to the hard drive.

Very carefully, he picked up the pipette from the flask of yellow liquid, dropped it onto the blood sample and looked back into the microscope. He had no explanation for the reaction he was watching but it had become more familiar to him as the night wore on.

Let the doc try and work out what’s going on, I’ve had enough for one night.

Danny hit the button again to capture the image of the reaction and rubbed his eyes as he looked up from the microscope. It was reaching ten o’clock and Danny decided to call it a night.

He was starting to pack the equipment away and put the blood samples back into the refrigerator when he saw a silhouette block the light from the small window in the laboratory door.

“Hey, Jeff, is that you?” shouted Danny.

Jeff was the security guard that did the rounds twice a night. He had a good relationship with all of the insomniac scientists. Like many pharmaceutical companies, Mantek had problems with animal rights protestors and they had to keep a watchful eye out for infiltrators. Just six months previously, a whole lab full of rhesus monkeys had been set free by an animal liberation group, most of which ended up under the wheels of trucks on the main road outside. The irony was not lost on the employees of Mantek but it didn’t stop the protestors trying again when the new batch of primates arrived just days later.

Danny didn’t receive an answer to his call.

The door handle slowly turned and the door opened just a fraction. White light from the corridor illuminated a hand that reached inside and flicked the light switch. Just before the lights went out, Danny saw something left behind on the light switch from the stranger’s finger: a drop of blood.

“Hey, what’s going on? Who are you?” he asked, raising his voice this time.

Still no answer.

The door opened wide. A tall, dark figure took a step inside the lab, set a black briefcase down on the floor and closed the door behind him. Before Danny could adjust his eyes to register what was happening, he was plunged back into darkness.

“What do you want?” Danny’s voice broke a little.

The dark stranger shot across the room and grabbed Danny’s head in his massive gloved hands. Danny punched the man’s sides with all his might but he didn’t flinch.

“Where is the doctor?” the stranger demanded in a deep, rasping voice.

“Doctor Owen? He went home.”

“Don’t lie to me. He’s not at home. Where is he now?”

“I don’t know. Probably in the city somewhere but he didn’t tell me where he was going. I really don’t know where he is.”

That was the last thing Danny said before the stranger squeezed his hand and bent the young lab assistant’s head into an unnatural position, quickly breaking his neck with a sickening crack. The stranger released his grip and Danny’s limp body slumped to the floor between the refrigerator and the filing cabinet.

The stranger picked up the black briefcase and carefully placed it on the workbench in the middle of the lab. He clicked the briefcase open and flicked a switch inside then quickly made his way out of the door and down the corridor. In exactly five minutes’ time, all traces of his visit and the doctor’s work would disappear in a ball of fire.

That wasn’t the end though. Doctor Owen was still out there somewhere in the city. For the sake of the cause, everything depended on him being found before they got to him.

The stranger walked through the reception area of Mantek, past the dead body of Jeff the security guard lying face down on his desk and out to the car. As he threw the Mantek surveillance tapes onto the back seat, his mind was on the third and final order. It was as simple as the first: get back without attracting attention. Once he had taken care of the security guard waiting in the booth at the front gate, there would be no evidence that he had visited Mantek.

Mission accomplished.

But this is only the beginning.

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