Somewhere above the firmament, the ghost of Marty Feldman was laughing. It started to rain again.
The rock directly under his chest had once again managed to find his bruised rib. Chris tried to ignore it as he focused his binoculars on the complex below. In some respects, Chris was happy that the rain and mist hung around a few extra days. He wouldn't have to worry about tell-tale flashes of light giving him away. But in spite of the cover it gave him, he could still feel the damp seeping into his raingear.
The object of Chris' continuing scrutiny lay in the valley below. It was a sprawling complex known only as The Facility. Chris had wanted to know what the official name of the place was. These things were inevitably designated with some larger, more grandiose moniker, something, allowing some semi-nameless bureaucrat the ability to plaster his name into the history books. Amazingly, if such a designation existed, it wasn't mentioned anywhere. In every document he was able to locate, official and less than official, it had always been known as just "The Facility".
Patrick McGoohan would be proud. Come to think of it, so would Dante.
Chris compared the various buildings with the map he kept in a ziplock bag next to him. He had done this daily, making sure to memorize each building's location, learning the paths and cycles. In stunning simplicity, the complex was laid out in rough rings. It was at least five miles across.
From the south, a two lane road lead up to the "visitor's center" located at the bottom of the Administrative ring. The outermost ring was a group of bland buildings that bore the obvious design of being designed in the late 60's. They were blocky with colored steel and glass exteriors scattered along at unusual intervals.
Near the edge of today's view lay the massive cafeteria and food services building. It stretched across the outer three levels. Chris knew that building was a deceptive target. Access to each level was strictly controlled and well guarded. It was the most obvious point of access and great pains were made during the design to ensure that was not a point of failure.
Of course, with such careful design, no one had obviously considered entropy.
From Chris' advantage he watched the access road that lead from the Low Security ring, across a section of Administrative to the farmlands. "Access Road" was a generous name, since the dirt path had never been paved. Currently it was a rutted quagmire that a few residents managed to slog down, waving hello to each other.
The middle ring contained the medium security. This ring had a stark look to it. The buildings were free of the warming touches of painted steel and instead consisted of uniform gray blocks. The perimeter between the rings was a single barbed wire fence. There were no guard stations along the fence, which was easy to understand. There were three official entrances to the Medium security ring. The "Front Gate" which was more of a processing entry building, the tightly controlled end of the Cafeteria, and large, blurry, denim-blue object that suddenly filled his field of vision.
"Chris!" Becky Sue bellowed from the front stairs. "Y'all up here?"
'You know your feet wouldn't hurt so bad if you'd switch to something other than those roach killers.' JB complained.
"JB, Lay off mah boots 'r else I'm stuffin' a roach up yer backside."
'You know, we have these new things from Dr. Scholl's called 'inserts' that...'
"CHRIS!? Can I kill yer brother for ya? PLEASE?!"
The loft was empty of any other human inhabitants...
...and apparently inhuman ones as well.
"Well, that explains why nobody answered the phone calls." Becky Sue slung her rain jacket over the corner of the futon and walked over to the back windows. The maxima wasn't in the driveway. She turned on her toe and walked back to the futon. She slid her sore feet out of her boots, propped them on the table and slung her head back. "I sure could use a foot-rub right about now."
'Sorry Beautiful, but the most I can do is help you imagine having your feet scrubbed by kittens.'
Becky Sue raised her head with an appropriately confused look.
'They work amazingly cheap if you don't mind the raspy tongues and occasional hairball between your toes.'
"Bleaaaahhhh!" Becky Sue swung her head to help convey the level of utter disgust she had for that idea. She stopped when something caught her eye. It was Chris' hat and coat.
That's odd, Chris never leaves the loft without those.
Curiosity got the better of both Becky Sue and JB. She jumped up and jogged to the items. They were carefully hung on a hook rather than over the back of his chair, which meant that if he was captured, he was apparently captured by butlers.
"Butlers? You mean like a herd o' renegade Mr. French?"
'You've been watching Nick at Night, haven't you?'
"I would if you didn't keep barkin' whenever Sandy talked 'bout the Family Ties show like it were pure evil or something."
'You have no idea. Are you sure you should be doing that?'
Becky Sue continued to peek into the pockets. "A girl's got a right to be curious."
'Sure, so long as you're willing to explain why your clothes were eaten away by some spray you accidentally triggered. Ooh, on second thought, keep poking.'
"Punkin? I used to work with horses in a rodeo. Tain't nothing out there I ain't seen much larger and in more livin' color. It's not like I'm going to get all squeamish if I pull out..." She stopped talking when she pulled out a small, velour box. JB said nothing.
She slowly opened it, then snapped it shut once they saw what was inside. Her eyes went wide. She stuffed the box deep into one of the pockets and ran back to the futon, neatly clearing it and landing with her feet back on the coffee table. She sat staring blankly before grabbing the remote and randomly mashing buttons to get the television to just turn on. Eventually it did.
She sat back pretending to watch.
JB didn't say a word when Alex announced his latest get rich scheme.
"Ok, two coffees and two slices of cherry pie." The waitress slid the orders at the less than cheery customers who continued to stare at each other. "You boys with the FBI?" she asked.
"What? No... no we're not.", Chris answered, not taking his eyes off of Bob. "We're just out..."
"...sightseeing." Bob finished the sentence.
"Well, more bird watching than sightseeing", Chris added, "Why do you ask?"
"No reason." The waitress replied giving no hint as to whether she even cared why the two were in town. "Just that I used to work up in Washington State a few years back and there was a guy... aw, long story, nevermind. Give me a holler if you need anything else." And with that, she wandered back behind the counter.
Bob and Chris continued to stare at each other with equal levels of suspicion. Chris was the first to taste the coffee, and break the staring contest. "This is, excuse me, a DAMN fine cup of coffee."
Bob tasted the pastry. "This must be where pies go when they die."
"You sure you two don't work for the FBI?" the waitress called out again. Chris and Bob stared at her for a few seconds silently before all three returned to their affairs.
"Why am I here?" Chris asked himself rhetorically.
"I was just about to ask the same thing." Bob replied.
"No, not really. I was going to ask why you scream like a girl, but I figured that would be rude."
It was yet another less than proud moment for Chris, but he had recovered quickly and suggested that they meet here before they were spotted. Bob had reluctantly agreed. "Sorry, I wasn't expecting to run into my arch nemesis while I was casing the joint. "
Bob's eyes flicked toward the waitress and back, then he raised an eyebrow. He caught the subtle lack of proper names. "Very apropos", he smiled.
Chris barely lifted the corner of his mouth at the compliment. "Thank you. I presume that you were doing the same?"
"In a manner of speaking." Bob ate another forkful of pie and frowned. "So why are we sitting eating pie instead of battling it out?"
Chris sat back. "Easy. I'm not on the clock right now. Consider it 'vacation time'."
"That may be so, Mr. Reid, but we hardly have a cordial relationship regardless. I understand that you were most upset about me after your brother's... incident."
"Yep, sure was." Chris replied with a sigh. "But a... friend of mine helped me get the story straight."
"Ah, so you talked with one of the witnesses?" Bob replied.
"All of them, actually." Chris replied. So Bob saw the Furlong and probably pieced together who they were. "Including my brother."
If Chris had blinked, he would have missed Bob's reaction. It was a good thing that he didn't because the reaction wasn't what Chris had expected. He had thought Bob would have looked annoyed, but instead a flicker of relief crossed Bob's face.
Chris was also relieved. It had been a long shot, but he was glad he took it. Chris quietly slid the tazer back under his jacket pocket. The "annoyed" response would have won Bob a couple of thousand volts where he'd never want it. He pulled out his notebook and started leafing through the pages.
"I suppose we both owe Mark an apology. It would seem that he was right about us."
"You really know how to hurt a guy." Bob mocked as he leaned forward to try to read the notes, there were a lot of them. "Mind if I borrow some of your homework?"
Chris closed the notebook, "What? Did your dog eat yours?"
"In a manner of speaking, yes. Margie has a huge amount of storage."
Chris looked uncomfortable. "Look... uhm... about that. I'm sorry, it's just that uh. Margie? surprised me..."
Bob said nothing and continued to show his poker face.
Chris continued, "...anyway I want to know what you're after."
Bob held a full hour's debate in the spans of just three deep breaths, "Destruction of the Facility and all it stands for" he stated coldly.
Chris smiled brightly, flipped open the notebook and spun it around for Bob to see. "Coolies. Then we agree."
Chris recognized the utter confusion that settled across Bob like a well-worn woolen fiberglass blanket."
Uhm, h-hi Sandy.
Hey Becky Sue! Any problems finding the place?
Oh, no, none at all really, it's very nice but...
Thanks, I just figured I owed it to you after dumping on you a week ago.
You don't need to...
No, I do. Look, I'll admit that I've been feeling really alone lately, and you've been really nice to me. I hope you don't mind, but I've grown to think of you as a real friend.
Well, that's just sweet cause I feel...
I know, I know it's nice to have someone you can identify with, really talk to, go shopping, you know total girl stuff.
Yeah, and thank you for...
No, no, thank you! I can't begin to say how much talking to you helped the other night. I mean you got me out of a serious funk after visiting my sisters then realizing what a dope I had been.
You know I've been meaning to...
God, I'm still giggling about some of the things we called him. Man-o-man, I'm definitely staying on your good side.
Heh, we were a little tipsy...
Tipsy? Are you kidding? We were flat out man-hatin' sloppy drunks! I'm amazed we didn't wind up in jail or on the evening news. Hee-hee...
Well, yeah, but we didn't...
And the stuff you told me about Chris was priceless! Damn, you're better than having his ex!
Uh, well, I may have overdone...
All I can say is that I'm glad I never had to deal with his broccoli problems. I can't imagine what that's gotta be like. Actually, I'm amazed that his place still has windows. 'It's so bad you could use skunks as air fresheners', Ha!
Like I said I may have...
Man I can't believe I was really starting to fall for that creep. What the heck was I thinking? I must have been right out of my mind to think that he was anything other than some clod in his underwear looking out for nobody other than number one.
Yeah, but if you really get to...
Oh, here come the drinks. I hope you don't mind if we go light tonight. I've got another session with Mark tomorrow and I'll need to have steady hands. There you go, two glasses of chilled Chardonnay, with ice.
Uhm, thank you, but y'all shouldn't...
Ah-ah-ah! First a quick toast. To my new, oldest friend! *snrk* Sorry, I couldn't help myself. But age aside, it really it seems like I've known you forever. I guess I've just been too wrapped up in my sisters to really meet other folks, and thankfully you were there. Still, we have an old family saying, 'You go drinking with friends, you wake up in the gutter next to your good friends, but your best friend is someone who holds your hair back.' That's supposed to come from some band of pirates we knew, or something. Anyway, To my best friend! Cheers!
I guess that makes both of us best friends. Cheers! *clink* But as I was trying to say...
Oh God, you're right! I'm so sorry, I've just been rambling on and on. I guess I was just excited to realize that maybe things weren't so bad. I'm sorry, I'll behave. So, find out anything new about Chris?
Through the mists and across an open field, just past halfway between where they should be and where they were going anyway, two figures struggled their way through the soggy fields.
"Explain to me again why we're pushing a laundry cart through the mud?" Bob asked.
Chris adjusted his false moustache for the third time, "I told you. It's all part of the plan."
Chris hated being called by a formal title, but didn't want to tell Bob. He needed not to worry, Bob had excelled at Ways to Annoy 302, "Mr. Reid, we're dressed like residents, we've been slogging through the mud for what seems like an eternity and I've yet to see how this is going to help us defeat the facility."
"Well, that's easy, it's because we're not going to do that." Chris said glibly
Bob stopped pushing. "We're what?"
"You know, for an evil genius, you really have a problem thinking things through.", Chris said in a tone between mocking and annoyance, "Look, we've both spent however long digging up dirt on this joint right?"
"How accurate do you think it is?" Chris asked pointedly.
Bob straightened up. "Very. My information comes from highly trusted and well-researched sources." It had, mostly former residents from the low and middle security areas.
Chris didn't refute, "And my data pretty much comes from the source. Let's face it, they trust me a heck of a lot more than they'd trust you. Still, look at this place." He threw an arm toward the distant grey buildings. "It's huge."
Bob figured it was merely part of the plan to place any and all of the unwanted in it. "Yes, and?"
"It's far bigger than it needs to be. There are what, a thousand prisoners, excuse me, "residents" here, and they need something that's close to five miles across? There are whole cities of thousands that fit into two square miles. For that matter, everything I've got is at least ten years old. There are buildings here that aren't on the map I've got. Plus there's not even enough staff to come close to supporting all of the prisoner facilities if they were filled."
Chris had a point. Most of the interior buildings were empty. Plus, the portion of data he had shared with Bob clearly outlined that filling The Facility was never an intent, or even feasible. There simply wasn't enough infrastructure in place to handle that many people. From what Bob had managed to guess, most of the buildings were "set dressing".
Chris' brow furrowed. "Plus, there's something else that's been bugging me."
"Oh?", Bob had a few concerns of his own, but he decided to let the off-duty hero be more vocal.
"Well, yeah. I'll admit that this place is wrong because it's far too easy to just throw folks into it. It's like someone's private recycling bin. "
"Garbage Can is more appropriate."
Chris nodded, "No argument there, but let's face it, there are some folks that do need to be isolated. The serious nut-jobs that would kill you were you stood. The ones that think they're God and have the power to back it up. "
"Are you implying that everyone needs to fit your morals?"
Chris shook his head in a casual, earnest way. "No, I'm saying that I don't want random folks being turned into pastrami because someone happened to be bored that day. Look, even you have to admit that there's a difference between being evil and being EVIL. You get off on chaos and disorder, and yeah, I can see your point about how instability drives creativity and all..."
Bob was pleasantly surprised once again. "You've studied about DeVry?"
"Yes and no." Chris shrugged, "I read the on-line pamphlet. I also watched a lot of Babylon 5."
Bob smiled and nodded, "Yes, he was a good student. I wish he finished his degree though... still I mean I see your point, and, you're right. There are some that are simply too dangerous and do need extra considerations. Still I don't believe that this... place... is the answer.", Bob spat with contempt.
Chris continued to look bothered for a second, then shrugged it off and began pushing the cart once again, "I know, but that's what's been bugging me."
After a few more steps hindered by pulling the cart out of various half submerged gopher holes Bob once again complained, "So tell me again, why are we pushing this stupid cart?"
Chris slipped into his best imitation of The Detective, "In order to do investigation, we need to investigate. These uniforms will let us move about freely with the other inmates."
Bob still couldn't believe he let himself get talked into this scheme, "Won't they be suspicious when our "badges" don't work? All you did was cut up a couple of bumper stickers and stuck them on a chunk of cardboard."
Chris lifted a badge to admire his handiwork, "Yeah, but the colors are right. Besides, we won't use them, we'll just tailgate."
Bob was not convinced, "And if we happen to get caught?"
"Then we wind up doing even more investigation.", Chris said in a disturbingly chipper tone.
"You're not exactly building up my confidence level."
"Fear is good it keeps you on your toes."
"So does having a lonely cell mate named Peaches "
Chris waved his hand dismissing Bob's comments, "Look, it'll be fine. We'll go in, look around, see what's up to date and what's not, breach the medium security area, and go. They'll never even know we were there."
"Breach the what?" Bob asked with growing concern
Chris remained chipper, "Easiest thing in the world since this place is a quagmire of bureaucracy. Everything is focused around the really obvious, there's practically no security anywhere else. It'll be a piece of cake to just look, around pick up a few things, learn the strengths and weaknesses..."
"Pick up a few... Mr. Reid? What exactly do you have in mind?"
"Right now? Running." Chris said, his chipper tone lost.
"Running?" Bob asked.
Chris merely pointed back to where they had come from. Emerging out of the treeline were a number of figures.
Large armored figures.
Large armored figures with glowing green eyes wearing disturbingly pink chrome helmets.
Who were just now starting to charge toward The Facility.
And Chris and Bob.
Who decided that standing around arguing was not in their best interest at that moment.
What does Chris have in mind?
Who the heck is attacking
Can I have those shirts
back by next Thursday?
Tune in next time for:
Lamb on the Run
Take Out for Two
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