On we go.
[Bad username or unknown identity: Chapter 13]Chapter 13
Zane was relieved to finally be back in his lab, activating his equipment and starting his experiments up again. He was working on a new version of Fargo’s mental mouse—this time intended to control drones like Martha—when Fargo showed up in his lab.
He and Fargo didn’t always see eye to eye, but Zane knew enough to worry when Fargo was freaked out. “What’s wrong?”
“It’s Dr. Blake,” Fargo said in a rush. “She locked herself in her office yesterday afternoon to watch the holographic message Dr. Stark left her. She’s not there now, and she’s not answering her phone. And Tara Banks killed herself two days ago.”
Zane blinked, trying to figure out how Dr. Banks’ suicide related to the rest of it. “Okay, so you think Dr. Blake is a suicide risk?”
“I don’t know,” Fargo replied miserably. “It’s just—Dr. Blake has been acting really weird, and with everything else that’s been going on, I’m worried.”
Zane was a little concerned himself. “Let me lock things up, then I’ll check. Maybe she just doesn’t want to talk to you,” he added with a smirk, grinning as Fargo bristled.
“I’m her assistant! It doesn’t have anything to do with me.”
“So you say,” Zane replied agreeably, frowning as he noticed that the drawer with his prototypes was ajar. The first thing he’d done upon entering the lab was to check his computer, and there had been a few administrative matters that kept him busy for a good part of the morning. He hadn’t touched the prototypes.
Zane swore as he opened the small, padded box. One of the devices was missing, leaving only an empty space behind. “We’ve got a problem. Someone stole one of the new prototypes.”
Fargo frowned. “We don’t have time for that right now.”
“Are you kidding?” Zane demanded. “We’re talking about a multi-million dollar piece of equipment that controls killer drones! We have to find it, or we could end up with a war on our hands.”
Fargo shoved his glasses up on his nose. “We should talk to the sheriff, then.”
Zane considered it. “Sheriff Carter is on medical leave, and Jo would kill me if I didn’t talk to her first under the circumstances. I’ll call her, you try to find Dr. Blake.”
He dialed Jo’s number as Fargo jogged out of the lab, frowning when he received the message, “Your call cannot be completed as dialed. Please hang up and try again.”
Staring at his phone, Zane muttered, “What the hell is going on?”
Nathan had Jack drop him in town; Henry wasn’t at his shop, and Nathan didn’t see the point in sitting around waiting for him. Instead, he took the opportunity to wander Eureka and get a better idea of the layout of the town. Copernicus Park was beautiful, with bronze statues and a well-kept fountain.
Everything in this town was pristine, state of the art, and moments like this, Nathan wanted to pinch himself.
A cool breeze ruffled his hair, and Nathan tipped his head back to watch the puffy clouds scudding across the sky.
He turned to see Allison approaching him, and he had to force a smile to his lips. “Dr. Blake. How are you?”
“I’m well.” She came right up to him, invading his personal space, placing a hand on his forearm. “I thought we could get a cup of coffee.”
Nathan racked his brain for a way to gracefully decline, but couldn’t think of one. The best he could hope for was to have Jack show up at Café Diem while he was with her. “If you’d like.”
He didn’t have to come up with topics of conversation; Allison began filling him in on a variety of people Nathan had never heard of, who were working on projects that he was relatively certain were above his clearance level. By the time they reached Café Diem, Nathan realized that she was talking to him as though he was the other Stark.
The entire situation had him on a state of high alert; every instinct he had was telling him that something was very, very wrong.
When they entered the café, Nathan caught Vincent’s eye, hoping that his panic would come through loud and clear. Vincent frowned, but he bustled over to their table as soon as they’d seated themselves in a corner booth.
“What can I get you two?” he asked, sounding uncertain but determined to be polite.
“I’d like a cup of coffee, and a raspberry Danish,” Allison replied.
Allison’s warm gaze made Nathan hesitate to say anything, or to make an excuse for why he had to leave. “Just coffee. I’m supposed to be meeting Jack here for lunch shortly.”
“I’m sure he’s busy this afternoon,” Allison put in. “This will be a good opportunity for us to get to know each other better.”
“Of course,” Nathan said tightly, hoping that his polite smile didn’t slip. “I don’t mind waiting for him here.”
Allison appeared not to hear him, instead saying, “Thank you, Vincent,” in such a way as made it clear he should leave them alone.
Nathan shifted uneasily in his chair as Allison picked up from where she left off. “Kevin is doing really well.”
The way she said it suggested she wanted a reply, so Nathan nodded. “That’s great. How old is he?”
“Twelve,” Allison replied in a way that suggested she wasn’t pleased he didn’t know. “Maybe you could come over for dinner some night to say hello.”
Nathan frowned. “I don’t know if that’s a good idea. Wouldn’t that confuse him?”
“All he needs to know is that you’re back,” Allison said reproachfully.
Henry strolled up to the table, his expression set in a pleasant smile, but Nathan could see the tension in the way he held himself. “Nathan, could I have a word?”
He rose, hoping that his speed wasn’t too obvious. “Of course. Excuse me, Allison.”
Henry led him outside, and Nathan heaved a sigh of relief. “Thanks.”
“Vincent called me, but I wanted to talk to you anyway.”
“What is it?”
“I have reason to believe that the effects from the pulse haven’t disappeared entirely,” Henry said. “One of the scientists from Global killed herself yesterday.”
Nathan frowned, running a hand through his hair. “So I heard. I’m sorry, but I don’t see what this has to do with me.”
“Grief can change a person’s brain chemistry,” Henry explained quietly. “Dr. Banks lost her son not too long ago.”
Nathan frowned. “You’re worried about Allison.”
“And you.” Henry’s expression was sympathetic. “The Jack Carter you knew is dead, and that grief isn’t completely gone.”
Nathan hesitated before looking into Henry’s compassionate eyes. “I’ve been having nightmares, bad ones. Being with Jack helps, but you’re right. It isn’t the same.”
“You aren’t the only one who has lost someone in the past six months,” Henry reminded him.
For a moment, Nathan couldn’t quite figure out to whom Henry was referring, and then he remembered Allison, and her loss, and the slightly odd behavior she’d been exhibiting. “Dr. Blake.”
Henry nodded. “Try to keep her calm. If you need help, call me, or have Vincent do it.”
Nathan didn’t much like the sound of that, but he nodded reluctantly. “And when Jack shows up?”
“Was he supposed to meet you?”
“We were supposed to meet for lunch, and—” Nathan glanced at his watch. “He should have been here by now.”
Henry’s brow furrowed in concern. “I’ll check on him.”
“Thanks.” Nathan sighed. “I guess I’ll order lunch.”
Jack followed the deserted hallway, glancing at the numbers labeling the labs. He was in the bowels of Section 4 now, and there were a lot of empty rooms. In fact, he was beginning to wonder if he’d been mistaken about where Allison had asked to meet him.
The lab where Allison had asked him to meet her was dark, and he flipped on the lights, calling out her name. “Allison?” he called again, checking his watch to be sure he wasn’t either so early that she wouldn’t be there, or so late that she would have given up on him.
He was right on time for a change, but if she didn’t arrive soon, Jack was going to be late for his lunch with Nathan.
Walking further into the room, Jack shoved his hands in the pockets of his jeans. He was supposed to be off duty, and he’d dressed accordingly, but that sixth sense that every law enforcement officer developed was telling him that something was very wrong.
Jack pulled his phone out of his jacket pocket to call Allison, frowning when it chimed, the screen flashing the message: “Call failed.”
He tried calling Henry next, then SARAH, and finally Zoe, before giving up and shoving his phone back in his pocket. When he approached the door to the lab, it remained closed, and no matter what he tried, Jack couldn’t find a way to force it open. “Crap.”
That one word seemed to echo in the empty space, and Jack would have liked to believe that Allison would show up any minute and let him out, but he couldn’t. She had asked him to come, she’d told Jack where to meet her, and now he was locked in a room where his phone refused to work.
This did not bode well for him.
Telling himself not to panic, Jack began searching the lab for a way to contact someone—preferably Henry or SARAH. Henry would have some idea of what to do, and his house would find a way to contact either Henry or Fargo. He would probably have called Nathan if the other man had a cell phone. Jack made a mental note to set him up with one.
The intercom system to the right of the lab door was unresponsive, the door refused to budge so much as an inch, and his cell phone still wasn’t working. Jack was beginning to wonder if he’d be able to get out at all, or even let someone know he was stuck.
When he looked around, and the vent for the air duct caught his eye, Jack sighed, and he rubbed his sore ribs reflexively.
“Ah, hell,” Jack muttered. “This is not going to be fun.”
Jack gave thanks that he always carried a pocketknife with him, even if he’d gone unarmed. He took out the screws to the vent with the blade, tucked it back in his pocket, then boosted himself into the small space with a pained grunt.
He began dragging himself through the air ducts on his hands and knees, wincing at the strain it put on his ribs and collarbone, not to mention his knees.
It was official—this was going to suck.
On his way back to Global, Henry had left a message for Jack with SARAH, and had called Jo to alert her to Jack’s disappearance. There was nothing more he could do to find the missing sheriff, however, and so he had refocused on the autopsy data from Tara Banks.
Henry typed rapidly, trying to make sense of the data he’d gathered from Tara’s autopsy. He’d input everything he had before meeting with Nathan and giving the other man a heads up as to the potential problems.
Now, it appeared as though Tara’s amygdala was larger than it ought to be, and her blood work evidenced heightened levels of adrenalin and cortisol, suggesting that she had been under a great deal of stress when she died. Henry rubbed his jaw, considering the evidence before him.
What he had was evidence that the emotion centers had been damaged, completely altering her brain chemistry and thought processes.
Henry pulled out his phone and began to dial, getting halfway through Allison’s number when he realized that he didn’t have service. “That can’t be good,” he muttered.
He rose quickly, but before he could leave his lab, Zane and Fargo dashed inside. “We have a problem,” Fargo blurted out.
“Cell phones are down inside Global,” Henry said. “Have you two tried to call anyone?”
Zane nodded. “I tried to call Jo, but I couldn’t get through. And someone stole one of the prototypes for the new mental mouse.”
Henry winced. That was definitely not good, considering that Zane’s project focused controlling drones as both defensive and offensive weapons. “Do you know where Jack is?”
“I haven’t seen him today,” Fargo responded. “Why?”
“He told Nathan he was going to check in with Allison here at GD.” Henry rubbed his eyes, trying to pull his thoughts together. “And he hadn’t shown up at Café Diem to meet Nathan for lunch.”
Zane ran both hands through his hair. “Okay, so we’ve got a missing sheriff, no way to call out, and stolen technology that could leave Eureka a smoking hole in the ground if it ends up in the wrong hands. Great.”
“Fargo, get out of Global and find Jo,” Henry directed. “Tell her what’s been going on, and find Nathan.”
“What should I tell Dr. Stark?”
“Tell him that we need him up here,” Henry responded. “I’ll take care of the rest.”
Fargo nodded and jogged off, leaving Zane and Henry to stare at each other. “Do you have any way to track the individual devices?” Henry asked.
Zane hesitated. “I don’t know. Cell service has been disrupted, so any tracking signal would also be—Hang on.” In one of his lightning fast shifts, Zane turned on his heel and began jogging down the hallway, leaving Henry to follow in his wake.
The younger man found an empty lab and set up one of the local terminals. “The computer system controlling Global—the lights, the temperature controls, all of it—is behind a firewall. It might still be secure, and capable of tracking the missing device.”
“Good.” Henry watched as Zane typed away, waiting until he could see the results on the screen. “Is—”
“It’s on the move,” Zane confirmed. “It looks like it’s headed back this way.”
Henry nodded, unsurprised. “Let’s work on finding Jack and ensuring that the drones are secure.”
Zane shook his head. “I didn’t get a chance to tell you: it’s too late for that. We’ve got several drones missing from the storage bay."