“Can you see anything?” Carey asked worriedly.
“Not yet,” came Mark’s reply, “are we sure this is the place?”
“This is the place,” Alex confirmed, eyes darting across his double screen, “you’re heading the right way.”
“How can you tell?” Mark paused with a frown.
“I’m tracking your headset.”
Mark rolled his eyes, hearing Carey smirk.
“You really are prepared,” Carey appreciated, pulling cutlery from the kitchen drawer as he one-handedly set the table.
“I have to be,” Alex replied absently.
“So if this is the place, why don’t I see any guards?” Mark squinted over the dark compound in front of him.
“There aren’t many on staff,” Alex replied.
“Remember, it’s not a jail,” Carey pointed out, fetching plates now, “it’s a lab. You don’t need that many guards for biology based research. It’s the disease centers they need to watch.”
“How many guards are we talking?” Mark sighed.
“According to employment records there should be two on staff tonight, and their shift change is coming up in an hour,” Alex informed, “you won’t have much time once it starts.”
“Do we know for sure if he’s even being guarded?” Mark shrugged to himself.
“I’d say he’s one of their most important assets right now,” Carey put in, “but considering the project, they might not even know who or what he is. Speculation only but I don’t think you’ll have a problem once you get in there.”
“I should be able to verify that,” Alex murmured, fingertips darting across the keyboard, “okay I’m in. I have surveillance on the main areas but none of the labs themselves. Not unexpected.”
“Do you know where he is?” Carey was worried.
“I knew where he was the day we left,” Alex mused, “don’t worry, I got this.”
“You better ‘got this’,” Mark muttered, “tell me where to go.”
“Head down the right side of the building, there should be a drain at the back,” Alex instructed, “that’s your way in.”
“And when I get there?”
“It doesn’t look hard to open but I’m seeing it through a substandard CCTV lens,” Alex shrugged, “just head down, and if we lose contact just look for the ventilation system. It should lead into the building.”
“Be careful,” Carey insisted, heading back to the stove.
“What do I do once I’m there?” Mark’s eyes locked onto a vehicle approaching the main gate.
“Once you’re in the building we should have signal back. I’ll guide you,” Alex promised.
“Here goes nothing.”
Mark waited until the vehicle was out of sight before slipping out from behind the trees. He sat in order to skid himself down the sandy embankment, before approaching the wire fence and pulling bolt cutters from his belt. He made a hole only large enough to squeeze through before dropping the cutters to the ground and cautiously heading for the building.
He easily spotted the drain and headed straight for it. Worried for a moment there’d be a padlock he was glad to find the dirt around it only hid a clasp. He lifted it before pulling a small flashlight from his pocket and switching it on before putting it in his mouth.
“Everything okay?” Carey’s voice came through his ear piece.
Mark rolled his eyes again not bothering to reply. He climbed down onto the ladder and pulled the grate closed over his head before looking down in order to light his way. He couldn’t see anything but straight down to begin with, but once he’d gone down about ten steps he could see a shadow that looked to be a landing.
Careful to not slip on the wet rungs, he managed to twist himself into the smaller tunnel head first. He couldn’t quite crawl on hands and knees and opted to army crawl instead.
“You still there?” he pulled the light from his mouth to ask.
“We’re here,” Alex confirmed, “there should be an upward vent about three yards ahead.”
Mark paused to shine the light further down, spotting another shadow up ahead.
“Can you see it?”
“Yeah I see it,” Mark grumbled, returning the light to his mouth and crawling forward again.
Carey jumped as the timer on his oven went off and continued trying to prepare dinner. It was hard to concentrate knowing what his brother was doing.
Mark found the shaft and managed to contort himself so he was standing and could climb upward again. Realising there weren’t any steps however, he paused to work out how.
“How far up?” he asked, voice quieter now he knew he was getting close.
“About half as far as you came down,” Alex replied.
Mark clenched the light in his teeth once again before spreading his hands against the metal shaft and testing the weight it could hold. It felt secure and didn’t make a noise, so he lifted himself and managed to climb with the pressure from his hands and feet. He climbed a little past the landing so he could twist himself inside again.
“Are you there?” Alex’s voice came through apprehensively.
“Yeah,” Mark caught his breath.
“You shouldn’t have to climb anymore. Head on forward and I’ll tell you when to turn. You’ll have to pass some guards so try and stay quiet.”
“Done,” Mark turned the light off and slipped it into his back pocket, able to see with the light coming from scattered air vents in all directions.
He began forward, careful to keep his weight evenly distributed. He could hear voices up ahead but they were some distance away yet.
Carey looked up as he heard the apartment door open and he nearly dropped the dish he was holding. He quickly set it on the stove top before leaving the kitchen.
“Hey,” his fiancé smiled when she saw him.
“Hey,” he replied softly, quickly giving her a kiss on the cheek.
Her face fell when she realised he was on the phone.
“Dinner’s nearly ready,” he kept his voice low so as not to distract Mark.
She nodded before setting her things down and making for the bedroom to get herself ready.
“Okay six feet and turn left,” Alex instructed, “you should have eyes on the room soon.”
Mark didn’t reply, opting to keep quiet just in case.
Carey nestled the phone between his ear and shoulder as he returned to preparing dinner, blowing on it to cool it before taking it to the table. His fiancé reappeared as he was fetching their drinks and before either Mark or Alex had made another sound.
“Who’s on the phone?” she asked, taking a seat.
“Mark,” he replied straight.
“Is he doing something stupid again?” she sounded tired.
“Of course he is,” Carey muttered, also taking a seat.
“You know he’s not your problem, right?” she leant forward a little, “you shouldn’t have to clean up after him all the time.”
“This time it’s my problem,” Carey insisted.
“And what time won’t be?” she frowned.
“Are you gonna eat or not?” Carey grabbed his glass and took a sip, already less than half focused on her.
“Are you going to get a job?” she hit back, “don’t forget mine is paying for this little adventure you two are currently on.”
“It’s not an adventure,” his eyes narrowed, “you can’t tell me you wouldn’t be doing the same thing if it were you.”
“You haven’t even told me what you two are doing,” she scowled.
“Because you wouldn’t want to know,” he set the glass down again, “and you not knowing gives you plausible deniability in case something goes wrong.”
“Oh great,” she rolled her eyes, “so it’s something illegal.”
Carey shrugged, not willing to say either way.
“Look I’m sorry that you feel put out right now,” he insisted, talking with his free hand, “but this is really important and I swear I wouldn’t be on the phone at dinnertime unless it was. We can honestly have this out afterward but I really need to concentrate.”
Emma pouted a little before rolling her eyes and starting to eat. Carey grit his teeth knowing that wasn’t a good sign.
“Trouble in paradise?” Alex’s amused voice came through.
“No,” Carey insisted, “is he still moving?”
Emma raised a brow at that.
“He is. It’s not too much further.”
Carey looked down at his food, suddenly unsure if he could stomach it. He was getting a feeling of dread in his gut and hoped fervently that Mark didn’t feel the same.
Mark had found the turn and from Alex’s instruction was about to make another. He paused when he realised someone was walking beneath him.
“Everything okay?” Alex asked with concern.
Mark cursed in his head. Of course he wasn’t going to answer with the guards so close by. He closed his eyes to listen to their conversation as they stopped nearby, not willing to move until they did. It wasn’t even anything interesting – they were talking about football.
Gritting his teeth knowing that his deadline was looming, he sighed internally when they finally moved on.
“Guards,” he whispered, waiting a little longer to be sure.
“They must be heading out,” Alex checked his watch, “they’re early.”
“What does that mean?”
“Hopefully nothing for us, it just might make your getaway interesting.”
“That’s not a word I want to hear,” Carey frowned.
“Worse comes I’ll create a distraction,” Alex shrugged to himself, “I can set off the sprinklers or something and make it look like their fault.”
“You have entirely too much power at hand,” Carey insisted, making Alex smirk.
Mark continued to crawl forward, being more careful now that he knew the guards were definitely around. When he made it to the designated air vent he tried to look through, but the gradient of the vent made it hard to see if anyone was in the room.
“I can’t see anything, but it doesn’t sound like anyone’s home,” he whispered.
“He has to be there,” Alex frowned, “there’s nowhere else, and this room was designated as C-3 on the intranet map.”
“I don’t know what that means but I don’t hear anything and all the lights are on. Maybe he’s back in a cage like we were to start with?”
“No, they moved him. Just trust me,” Alex insisted, “he’s there.”
“He must have heard you by now,” Carey reasoned, “just get it over with. The sooner you can grab him and get out, the better.”
Mark inspected the vent, already worried that it was too small to get himself through. But it came apart easily with the tools he’d brought along and he awkwardly set it aside before taking another look inside the room.
“He’s here,” he realised aloud before pulling himself from the vent and stretching his back for the first time since he’d started.
“Yes!” Carey exalted under his breath.
“I hope he appreciates all this,” Alex said absently, keeping his eye on the CCTV screens.
“Probably not,” Carey shrugged, “you don’t know him like we do. He’s not exactly the grateful ‘type’.”
Mark kept his eye on the door as he made his way to the bed. It looked like a hospital gurney that had been haphazardly wheeled into the room.
He couldn’t help but stare. Colin lay on the gurney with his wrists, torso and ankles strapped in medical grade restraints. He had a breathing tube in his nose and a heartrate monitor attached to his finger. It appeared obvious that he’d been unconscious for a long time.
The monitors beside the bed showed a steady rate but Mark had no idea what anything else even was. Some kind of clear solution was in a bag connected to an IV line but none of the scientific names on the packaging even looked real to him.
“Mark?” Alex’s voice came through, not having seen him move for a while.
“What are you doing?” Carey frowned, “you both need to get out! Don’t waste time!”
“Yeah…” Mark was still looking Colin over, “…that’s going to be a problem.”