Classified government research facility. An undisclosed location
“This is bullshit, man.” Jerry’s voice reverberated through the airtight chamber, bouncing wildly off the bank of computer monitors in the far end of the room.
Charlie Goodman was only vaguely aware of the words his colleague was speaking. He scribbled a few notes on the clipboard on the table in front of him, then continued with his report.
“Come on, dude.” Jerry said. “We’ve been stuck in this fucking bunker for days now. I want to go clubbing.”
Charlie let out a deep sigh. “You know you’re not allowed to speak to me unless there’s an emergency alert on one of the monitors.” He said. “It’s the rule.”
“That’s a bullshit rule, bro. Let’s blow this joint and get wasted.”
“No.” Charlie said. “We’re not allowed to leave unless we get clearance from Major Arnold a month ahead of time. That’s the rule.”
Jerry made a noise akin to that of a dying whale. “I need to get drunk, though, man.”
Charlie sighed. “For the life of me, I’ll never understand how you got this job.”
Jerry shrugged. “It’s grunt work. Anybody can do it.”
“Excuse me.” Charlie shouted indignantly. “I am a physicist. I graduated from Princeton Summa Cum Laude.”
“And I was flipping burgers six weeks ago.” Jerry said. “Here we are.”
“Why did the last guy have to have a nervous breakdown?” Charlie wailed. “I much preferred him to you.”
“Much less talkative.”
“Sounds like a bore.”
“Hey! He was the best friend I’ve ever had.”
“Oh, really?” There was a mischievous gleam in Jerry’s eyes that made the hair on the back of Charlie’s neck stand up. “What was his name?”
Charlie thought for a moment, then let out a resigned sigh. “I don’t know.”
“Exactly. You gotta live a little.”
“I have to finish the weekly report.” Charlie grumbled. “You were supposed to do it, but whatever.”
“Dude, that’s bullshit.”
“Are those the only words in your vocabulary?”
“Jesus Christ. How big is the stick up your ass, dude?”
“Stop saying dude!” Charlie pounded his open palm down hard on the metal desk in front of him. Then he winced as pain lanced through his hand. “It’s really annoying.’
“Just take a chill pill, man.”
“What does that even mean? Why can’t you just speak properly?”
“What are you, Shakespeare?”
“Who are you?” Charlie corrected instinctively.
“What?” The wicked twinkle had been replaced by a blank, vapid stare.
Just then, a light at the far end of the room began to blink rapidly. This was soon followed by the blaring of a klaxon.
“Holy shit?” Jerry screamed, struggling to be heard over the din. “What the hell was that, dude?”
“Just stay calm,” Charlie said as he rose from his chair and crossed the room briskly. “They trained us for this.”
“I must’ve been sick that day.” Jerry said, wiping copious amounts of sweat from his brow.
Charlie sat down at one of the computer monitors. His fingers began to dance nimbly across the keyboard. “The day they went over your entire job description? You missed that day?”
“That was rhetorical,” Charlie interrupted. “Now shut up so I can figure out what’s going on.”
“Rhetorical?” Jerry asked. “There’s no need to get vulgar all of the sudden.”
Charlie sighed and keyed in a few commands. The monitor above his head flickered to life. The cell on the other end of the security camera was made entirely of metal, and could only be open with a code that nobody knew. Not even the president.
It was also empty.
“Holy shit,” Charlie breathed.
“What’s wrong?” Jerry asked.
“The subject has escaped.”
“What?” Jerry asked, chuckling obnoxiously. “That’s impossible.”
“I thought so, too.”
Jerry walked over to the monitor, noticed that the cell was empty, and then saw the look on Charlie’s face. “So what do we do now? Is it time to panic yet?”
Charlie looked at his colleague, his expression grim. “Initiate lockdown procedure. Inform Major Arnold. Deploy the cover story.”