Chapter 11

Conrad waited impatiently outside the doors to the testing area. He realized that something went wrong the minute the doors clapped shut. Of course, Tom insisted on sticking around. Yet another complication in this whole process. Chuck was supposed to handle this quickly and quietly. It was supposed to be a small accident. This drew way too much attention.

A security team finally arrived at the doors, wearing full hazmat suits. Conrad made sure to identify himself with them and take charge of the situation. He had to have some degree of control before he found out just how badly things had fallen apart.

One of the men in the hazmat suits turned to Conrad, awaiting orders. “Sir,” he spoke authoritatively, “How do we proceed?”

“I don’t want to tell you how to do your job, but the technology in there is highly experimental and access to it has to be extremely limited. I would prefer no outside teams until we have a chance to sweep the area for trade secrets.”

“Once we get the all-clear signal, we’ll override the doors and take a small party in to explore.”

“No, no small party. Just you and I.”

Tom spoke up. “And me. I need to go in there. Neil could be seriously injured and I’m the only one familiar with the equipment and safety protocols. Neither of you would know what’s safe to handle and what could kill you.”

Conrad gritted his teeth. Tom was right. Still, he wasn’t concerned about Neil being injured. He hoped he was dead, If Chuck handled things right, at least. Injured was his worse-case scenario injured people can talk.

“Yes, we need to assess the status of our two men in there, ASAP. Also, the hazmat suit is entirely useless. There were no dangerous chemicals or radioactive substances. There might be live electricity though. You better suit up for that instead.”

While they were making the preparations, some of the board started arriving at the blast doors. “Great”, thought Conrad. “Just what I needed.” Thinking quickly, he made an announcement.

“We’ve had a setback during our testing. Two men are trapped inside and we’re working on getting access to the lab. I am confident that we can resolve this. So confident, I will be personally leading the triage efforts. That said, we will have to cancel the test for today until we get to the root cause of this. Please return to your offices and keep out of the way of our emergency personnel.” This was turning into a giant mess. This had already spiraled way too much out of control. Too many witnesses, too much money involved. This could spell career disaster.

“Sir, we have an update. The room is all clear. All fuses were blown, so there’s no live electricity. We’ll be bringing in a generator and some portable lights for triage. We have some minor structural damage. Security has made a perimeter outside, but on your orders, nobody has entered the area yet. Shall we?”

Conrad nodded. The doors had to be pried open, probably due to the electrical failure. To Conrad’s shock, debris had actually managed to wind its way down the long hallway. Though he suspected they wouldn’t let him use one anyway, this only confirmed that the golf carts would be useless. “Time for a bit of a walk,” he thought to himself, dryly. “How quaint.” Given how much debris there was in the way, his mind raced with thoughts of how bad things had gotten in there. “Was there a struggle?” The uncertainty during the walk was driving him mad. Worse yet, Tom started jogging down the hallway, which meant that he’d need to keep up in case there was anything Tom shouldn’t see. This was just getting worse by the second.

“Sir,” spoke the security guard, “you both need to slow down so I can assess hazards. Also, I have news that they’ve managed to fire up the generator outside the perimeter. They’re telling me it’s providing ample lighting.”

Conrad was grateful for the guard’s warning. He shouted ahead. “Tom, did you hear that. We need to slow down.”

Tom stopped, allowing Conrad and the security guard to catch up. Conrad grabbed Tom’s shoulder and held on to it, allowing the guard to get a bit ahead of them. “Listen, Tom. I know we’ve not been seeing eye to eye for a while, but I suggest we put that aside. Chuck is an old friend and he is as dear to me as Neil is to you. We should let security get there first and sweep. We may not be psychologically ready to see what’s waiting for us in there.”

Tom nodded. Conrad was sufficiently convinced that Tom bought it. They took a slower pace. Conrad worried about the guard for a few seconds and whether he’d discover anything that would cause more issues. Conrad reasoned that since Chuck and Neil were not personal acquaintances to the guard that ultimately unless it was something serious, he could probably buy his way out of it. Satisfied, he kept walking.

When they arrived at the threshold, Conrad stopped. Looking over at Tom, he noticed the two of them both stopped dead, jaws agape. There was a giant hole in the wall. He now understood how they were able to light it up from the perimeter. The lighting was ample, alright. It was enough light to show him that everything had been destroyed. The glorious cannon was in pieces, parts flung around the large room. Shrapnel everywhere. Conrad’s heart sunk. There was nothing left. This was going to require some extreme maneuvering with the board, that is, if they will even bother to listen. This was an unmitigated disaster.

The security guard met them at the threshold with a status report. “Sir, I’ve done a quick sweep.” Visually disturbed, he added “We have one casualty, burned beyond recognition and that’s about all I can see. Could either of you come see if you can ID the casualty?”

Conrad nodded. His mind started racing, evaluating the scenarios. He walked towards the charred body. There was nothing recognizable about the body. “Wow, it could be either of them,” he thought as he shrugged it off.

“I can’t tell who that is. It could be either of them. Completely unrecognizable. Did you review the tapes? Is there any video?”

“I’m afraid not sir. It looks like the equipment in here fried the circuits. It wiped everything out. I’m told that all the servers and backups inside the lab have been toasted as well. We’ve got a data recovery specialist on the way, as per protocol.”

Conrad’s head was reeling. Without any kind of video confirmation, he had no idea how to go forward. There’s only one person here. Could the other person have been vaporized? Are they stuck under one of those gigantic barrels? Some video would be nice, at least he could work with it to figure out what happened or assign some blame. Best case is that Neil was vaporized before the equipment failed.

Tom called out. “I found Neil’s cane!”

Conrad had no idea how to feel about that. On one hand, the presence of the cane might suggest he didn’t get vaporized. On the other, Neil could hardly walk with that damn cane, so he wouldn’t make it far without it if he survived. He could deal with that. It had only been about 15 minutes, so at best he would still be on the site. He turned to the guard. “Hey, please bolster the perimeter. We’re short a man here and if he turns up alive he’ll be disoriented. I want him found – he’ll need medical treatment.”

Oh the other hand, if Chuck survived and took off for some reason, he would need to get on top of that as well. Either way, this was a gigantic fucking mess. On top of that, Tom was frantic. He really didn’t need that drama right now.

Conrad turned to Tom. “Insurance requires me to send you to the hospital to be checked out. You’re not helping out here. You should go. Now. Security will call you an ambulance.” He turned back to the guard and continued. “Please take care of him. Also, unfortunately there’s nothing left in here to salvage or to be considered trade secrets anymore. Have your team do their thing and bring in whatever emergency services are needed to get this place going again. You’re authorized to order any necessary repairs as well. See what you can do about getting me some pictures or video. I need to write a report about what occurred tonight. Lastly, I hate to sound so grim, but please see if you can track down that other body. There may not be a lot of remains, due to the nature of the testing in here, so be very thorough.”

Conrad knew that he would need to plan out his next few steps very carefully. He decided to head back to his office and start figuring out how to proceed.

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I am Sinewave: Spark

Written by Richard Belzile

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I am not a professional author, this is my novice attempt at creating a novel in an episodic fashion. Comments, critiques and compliments accepted.

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