We crept through the suspiciously quiet hallways. Or I should say, my special ops escorts crept through the hallways. I’m sure if we were trying to sneak up on someone it wouldn't work. They would hear my scuffing a mile away. Whatever. If they weren't going to tell me what was going on why should I do anything differently than I normally would.
Ox had been on point and would peer around each corner and through each threshold before he would let the rest of us follow him through. We methodically searched each office, common space and area as we made our way to the Dungeon. There was nothing to see. Nothing at all. Not a single co-worker was to be found. Three floors, more than 150 people, more than fifty offices and we hadn't seen a soul. It was a long and disconcerting trip.
We have finally made it to the entrance to the Dungeon and everyone is looking at me expectantly.
“So . . . you just want me to open it?” I ask.
Dragon nods. The others part and make way for me to step up to the door. It’s unassuming; it looks like any number of the doors sealing rooms we had checked on the way down. It is solid and painted to match the bland, grey walls of this floor. The only thing that indicates that there might be something of interest behind the door, and not just another bathroom or coffee mess, is the badge reader, cipher lock, and fingerprint scanner.
I fumble for my badge and drop it to the floor as I slide it out of the clear sleeve that hangs on a lanyard around my neck. I feel my ears grow hot as I stoop to retrieve it. These guys do not look like they have ever had a case of butterfingers. I’m sure they are thrilled; of all the civilian escorts they could have gotten and they are stuck with me.
I swipe the badge through the reader and a little green light on the device begins to blink green. I enter my sixteen digit PIN on the cipher. The little green light continues to blink green, indicating that I had gotten my password correct. I breathe a sigh of relief; I don’t come to the Dungeon a whole lot and when I do it usually takes me a couple of tries, sometimes even a trip back to my office to check my password list under my keyboard or else I buzz through with a co-worker. That does not appear to be a viable option today.
I flatten my thumb on the little black screen. There is a slight hum and then the light settles on solid green and there is an audible click as the door unlocks. I reach for the nickel plated handle but instead find myself flat up against the wall struggling to breathe. Squirrel’s speed has caught me completely off-guard and her strength and force was impressive as she knocked the wind out of me and held me to the wall with her rifle across my chest.
“ . . . the fuck?” I cough, trying to figure out the right balance of intimidation and irritation. Here I am behaving like a good little do-bee and I am still getting man handled.
Ox sweeps by me and disappears through the bulkhead.
“You know we aren’t in yet, right?” I ask after a moment of silence. Squirrel ignores me; she stares straight ahead into the middle of my forehead. No, that’s not right. She stares straight through me. It makes me shiver.
I hear Ox’s deep guttural “clear” echoing from beyond the bulkhead and Squirrel’s eyes refocus and soften. She steps back and releases me from the wall. “Sorry about that,” she says, “we don’t need anyone getting hurt.”
“All you had to do was say ‘Hey Fish, unlock the door but don’t open it.’” The intimidation was lifted when the pressure was removed, leaving only irritation.
“Sorry,” she reaffirms with clinical precision.
I catch Dragon’s eye and I imagine a toothy grin beneath his balaclava. I’m not sure why. There was nothing to indicate that any of these people even knew how to smile. Maybe it’s just my brain trying to make me feel more comfortable in a lousy situation. And then, in an instant, the thought is gone; Dragon turns away and disappears through the bulkhead.