Written by Jesse Noland
Table of Contents
The author would like to state that any references in this novel to people or companies currently in existence are merely references, and are not meant to insult or offend anyone. This novel also contains mature tones, swearing, and various acts of violence, ultra and otherwise. If you feel that you might get offended reading this book, I hear The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady by Elizabeth Stucky-French is a very good read. But, who am I to judge? I am just a book.
Copyright @ Jesse Noland 2014.
Distributed by a joint effort of CreateSpace Publishing and Mad Otter Publishing.
All rights reserved.
“Men ought not to play God before they learn to be men, and after they learn to be men they will not play God”
Dedicated to my family and friends who put up with me and my insane ideas on a daily basis, and to the anonymous strangers I have met and conversed with over the years. Also, thanks to Snickerdoodles Coffee and Bakery, my home away from home.
A night like all others, the streets of Baltimore are active as its citizens enjoy the vibrant nightlife. The sounds of street performers and loud music and traffic fills the air of the Inner Harbor. People from all backgrounds flood the harbor for entertainment and thrills with no worry or concern about the world around them.
A lone man walks along the illuminated walkway, uncaring of the world around him. While others frolic and lose themselves to their environment, he is meticulously thinking about his next assignment. Lost in his thoughts, he walks to his destination without interruption. The inviting light of the Inner Harbor growing darker with each passing step, the only light guiding his way are the few streetlights along the path. After a half hour of travel, he soon approaches his destination; Cherub Pharmaceutical.
He soon pulls out a cellphone from his pocket. Beaten and worn, it has been abused and thrown around. He didn’t give it much thought, he was going to throw it away after the assignment was over with anyway. Dialing the only number listed, he waits to receive an answer. On the other end, he hears a familiar voice.
“What is it Aiden?” The voice on the other end sounds anxious, yet annoyed. Aiden responds to the voice’s query. “Jason. I am at the target location, preparing for entry.”
In a parked car a few blocks away, a young man is diligently working on his laptop. “I know, I can see you through the security camera. Look above and to your right.” Aiden looks up and sees the mentioned camera, its lens shining in the streetlight’s light. He soon walks around the length of the building, approaching an alleyway as Jason continues to talk. “Do not worry about the cameras, I have them running off of loop footage of an hour ago. Looks like it is going to be another routine job ahead of us. Hey, how did the date with Kendra go?” Aiden approaches a lone door, reaching into his pocket as he humors Jason.
“I don’t think she is the right woman for me. She is too… family oriented.” He told him. Truthfully, it was not that she was too family oriented, he just felt that she did not stimulate him intellectually.
“Aiden. I hate to break it to you, but a lot of women are ‘family oriented.’ One of these days, you are going to want to settle down with someone and start a family. We can’t do this kind of work forever. Our kind has a shelf life.” Aiden knows that this was the kind of career that can only last for so long, but he didn’t care. The money was good, it provided excitement to a boring life, and gave him an excuse to avoid the family get-togethers he dreaded. He soon finds what he is looking for, the cracked keycard. Sliding it through the lock, a light flashes green allowing him access. “We will talk about this later. I am going in.”
He slinks through the door, scanning the room for potential problems. It was a storage room, connected to the loading bay. Filled with boxes and crates, he makes his way through. Through his Bluetooth, he hears Jason’s voice. “There are three guards in the main lobby. One of them is walking around the lobby and the other one on foot just stepped into the men’s room. The third one is at the security cubicle, watching the Lakers game. Is it so much to ask for decent security nowadays?”
“How much are these guys getting paid?” Aiden asks, creeping through the doorway to reach a flower box for cover. The lilacs would block part of his view, but he could work with it. He enters the main lobby, its size is only matched by its modern elegance. In the center of the lobby, a staircase draws Aiden’s attention for a moment. However, it was only good for reaching the first three stories.
He watches the guards, looking for an opportunity. On the other end of his Bluetooth, he hears the sounds of a keyboard clicking and soon hears Jason’s voice. “See the guy watching the Lakers game? Name is Larry Kelbitz, he is currently being paid twenty-seven dollars and fifty cents an hour and he isn’t even the head of security.”
Using the flower boxes and standing advertisements around him, Aiden creeps to lone guard as he walks his patrol. Reaching his arms around him, he puts the guard in a chokehold. Letting off a faint gurgling sound, the guard struggles trying to get free. After a moment’s notice, the guard falls unconscious. Dragging him out sight, he focuses on the next guard. Creeping past the security cubicle, he overhears the guard. “You call that defense? C’mon!” Aiden shakes his head as he moves to the restroom. Moving through the doorway, he slinks into one of the empty stalls and waits. After a brief moment, he hears a flushing sound. The guard walks out and begins to walk to the door. Aiden walks behind him, and lets out a remark. “You forgot to wash your hands.” The guard turns around to see a fist moving in his direction. The force of the impact sends him back against the wooden door, the guard slumping down to the bathroom tile. Aiden drags him to the bathroom stall and closes the door behind him. From his earpiece, he hears Jason laughing.
“You forgot to wash your hands? I didn’t take you for someone to use one liners Aiden.”
“I had to get his attention somehow.”
“Easy Bruce Campbell, there is still one more guard in the security cubicle.”
He moves onto the final guard, an easy target for him. Moving closer to the cubicle, it is clear to see that the guard is involved with the game on screen. Approaching the doorway, he reaches for the knob only to hear it begin to turn. Ducking behind the corner, Aiden waits for Larry to come out of the cubicle. Looking around, Frankie mutters something to himself. “I can’t believe that Nick Young did not make that shot…Where did the other guys go?” At that moment, Aiden grapples Larry in a chokehold similar to the one he used on the first guard. Larry is resisting more to Aiden’s technique, digging his fingernails into Aiden’s arms. But the guard’s attempts are to no avail. He falls unconscious in Aiden’s arms, his legs gone limp. Aiden drags him into the security cubicle and stashes the guard under the desk.
Closing the cubicle door behind him, Aiden contacts Jason again. “There is no way these guys are worth the money they are being paid.”
“So what is the score of the game so far? I can’t see from this angle” Jason jokes as he continues his work.
“The Bulls are ahead by twenty points.” Aiden remarks as he progresses towards the stairways.
“Son of a bitch...”
“So I can assume that you have money riding on this game?” Aiden remarks, looking for the staircase.
“Yeah, I made a twenty dollar bet with Miguel that the Lakers would win. Anyway, you need to get to the twenty-fourth story to Petridis’ office. We need the data from his computer, then it is an easy seven million in each of our pockets.”
As Jason scours the building through the camera’s view, he finds the remaining guards and notices something peculiar. “From the looks of it, there are five guards left scattered throughout the building and they are packing what seems to be standard Sig Sauer P220s.”
“Doesn’t it seem that they are paying us a little much for infiltrating a corporate headquarters? We usually do these kinds of jobs for only three to four million and we’re usually hacking server rooms, not private terminals.” The staircase is abandoned, it does not look like that many people use it. He preferred it that way, there was less of a chance of running into a guard. Making his way up the stairs, Aiden’s footprints echo with each step.
“Do you care enough to ask? If someone is willing to pay us several million dollars to steal a corporate head’s private emails, I am not complaining.” Jason answers, focusing on his laptop. Searching through thousands of lines of code, he looks for security flaws with precision only stopping to take a sip of his drink.
Story after story, he makes his way upward to the twenty-fourth story. Going through the doorway, he scans the area for potential threats. The room is bare; on one end is the secretary’s desk, while on the other is Petridis’ office. A relatively large office, the walls are see-through glass allowing Petridis to keep an eye on his secretary. Walking through the doorway, a mahogany desk sits against the wall with several bookcases lining the room. Looking out the window, Aiden gazes upon the greater expanse of Baltimore. The city is illuminated as far as he can see. He has seen this kind of sight before, but he finds comfort in it. The view is interrupted by Jason’s voice.
“I know the view is great Aiden, but we have a job to do.”
Aiden sighs as he walks to Petridis’ desk, wondering if he would have this kind of view if he stuck to a traditional career path. Probably not.
Moving around to the other side of the desk, Aiden begins his work. Inserting an usb drive into the system unit, he lets Jason’s programs get to work. A series of programs that utilized multiple viruses, it was their main tool of their trade. It always took a minimum of four minutes for Jason to hack into a system, giving Aiden sometime to search for anything useful. There was always something additional that they could use; contact information, passwords, account information. It did not make a difference. If it could prove useful, they would take it.
Looking through Petridis’ desk, there seems to be nothing useful. Last quarter’s earnings reports, a novel or two from the top selling list, and a bottle of expensive scotch. It’s a shame he preferred vodka, a drink would have been nice while he waited. Feeling through the lowest drawer, he finds something peculiar. The bottom of the drawer wobbles slightly as he runs his hand towards the back. Pushing on the back of the drawer, he reveals a hidden compartment protected by an electronic keypad. He calls Jason.
“Jason, do you know how to crack a Sentius keypad?” He asked him, lifting the small safe out of the drawer and sitting it on the desk.
“Yeah. The Sentius keypads often have an override sequence that will reset them. Press and hold both the enter and cancel button, then enter the sequence ‘two-three-seven-seven-zero-one-four’.”
Aiden follows Jason’s instructions and begins to reset the keypad. It soon lets of a faint chirping sound and the lock opens. Compelled with curiosity, Aiden removes the snug panel to reveal a folder, bound tight by a red string. On the cover, the only words on it are ‘Classified’. As he begins to open it, Jason phones in.
“The data extraction is almost finished. Did you find anything interesting?
“Petridis had managed to hide away some documents in a hidden compartment in his desk. They are all about an ‘Experiment 26’. Does any of the data suggest anything about what it might be?”
Jason performs a search for the mysterious Experiment 26, looking through thousands of files. However, the search would bear zero results. He cocks his eyebrow in intrigue before giving Aiden a response. It has always excited him, when he or Aiden uncovers something that is not catalogued on a database or a server. It usually meant that it was an ‘off the books’ project and could potentially net the two an additional million dollars.
“Nothing. What you have uncovered is completely off the records. Chances are it is an illegal project. What does it say?”
Laying out the papers on the desk, Aiden skims through the documents looking for what experiment 26 could be. It appears to be financial paperwork, and maintenance reports. Analyzing the financial paperwork first, Aiden is aghast. “Apparently, Cherub has spent over about twenty billion dollars for this project under the guise of several different projects over the past ten years.”
Jason chokes on his drink, nearly spilling some on his laptop. “Twenty billion dollars?!? What in the hell are they developing, a cure for cancer?”
“I don’t know, maybe the expenditures can give us an idea...” Aiden begins to look diligently through the financial reports, searching for anything that could give them a clue of what Cherub was working on. Skimming through the list, most of the items are blacked out. What few expenditures remain are mostly employee wages, however one stands out; an expenditure for elevator repair costing twenty-five thousand. There is a lone report attached to financial documents, detailing technical errors in the northern elevator.
“Jason, there is a report mentioning maintenance on the northern elevator.” As he said this, he begins to put the documents back into its once bound folder and hides them in his jacket.
Immediately, Jason pulls up a detailed floor plan of Cherub and looks for the mentioned elevator. “From what I can tell, there is one single elevator on the northern side of the building. You can access it on the twenty-third story. Fair warning, there is a guard walking around that area.”
“How far are you on the data extraction?” Aiden asks, taking one last view out of the window.
“It’s is finished. Grab the usb drive and make your way down to the twenty-third story. Whatever this ‘Experiment 26’ is, it has peaked my curiosity.”
Grabbing the usb drive and placing the safe back in the drawer, Aiden makes his way down to the twenty-third story, his mind racing with what could be so valuable. Moving from cubicle to cubicle, he soon sees the lone guard. From the looks of it, this one is the only guard that takes his job seriously. Physically lean, he patrols the room diligently. A grapple would probably not work as well on him like the other guards. Sneaking up on the guard, Aiden plans his assault. He soon plants his foot on the back of the guard’s knee, sending him to the ground. The guard struggles, trying to reach for his radio to call for help. Aiden strikes the guard across his right temple, ending the struggle. Looking at the unconscious guard, he glances down at his waist to see the guard’s handgun. Unlatching it from the holster, he slides the handgun into his jacket.
Watching Aiden through the cameras, Jason felt compelled to ask. “You are taking the guard’s handgun?”
“Better safe than sorry. Besides, we don’t know what to expect from this. Does the floor plans say anything about any sublevels?”
Jason looks through the floor plans for anything that could be of use. “There is one sublevel below the ground floor, but is a generator room. You can access it through the elevator or the staircase.”
“I just used the staircase, there is no door or downward stairway leading to a generator room.”
“They must have sealed it off. That makes all of this even more suspicious.”
Walking into the elevator, Aiden makes a remark. “Elevator it is then.” Searching the panel, there is no button to reach the generator room. He puts his hand to his head in frustration, leaning against the panel. He soon notices that the panel is loose. Running his hand along the panel, he finds a small latch, hidden on the right side. Picking the latch, he opens the panel to find a lone button. Aiden presses it, beginning his decent to the unknown.
As he travels downward, Aiden makes contact with Jason. “Jason, I am heading down to the sublevel. Keep an eye out for any potential access point that could help me out down here.”
“I am going through Cherub’s system and there is nothing about any sublevel. It might be on a completely different set-up. I hate to say, you are going in blind.”
“Shit… I will keep you posted.” Aiden ends his call, contemplating what awaits on the sublevel. The elevator comes to a slow halt, reaching its destination. The doorway opens revealing the generator room. On each side, several generators are humming in unison. At the far end of the room, two large steel doors await.
Walking to the doorway, Jason phones in. “What do you see down there?”
Panning the room, he counts the generators. “It looks like they have four generators running. What could they be running off of four generators?”
“Those can’t all be dedicated to the floors above you. What on earth could they be running down here?”
“I have no idea. There is a doorway ahead of me, the answer to that could be behind it.” The doorway has a keycard system, preventing entry. Reaching into his back pocket, Aiden pulls out a toolkit. He begins to work on disassembling the keypad, whistling a tune as he proceeds. It is more advanced than what he is use to, but he continues to work on it. After five minutes, he opens the lock gaining entry to the doorway.
He opens the steel doors, as the bright light blinds him. After adjusting his eyes, he gazes upon the sight before him. An elongated hallway with extensive laboratories on each side, it makes him wonder what Cherub was developing. Several photos depicting what he believes is human physiology is covering the back walls. Walking through the empty hall, Aiden’s footsteps echo with each step.
“What did you find?” Jason asks inquisitively.
“Jason, you are not going to believe this. There are laboratories down here…” Looking around, Aiden spots a door at the end of the hall marked ‘Warning. Bio hazardous Materials Ahead.’.
“What could they be working on? Biological Weapons for the government?”
“I don’t know.” He sighs, approaching the marked doorway. “Aiden, this is becoming dangerous for us. We got what we need, now get out of there.”
“We have come too far now. Besides, didn’t you say that this peaked your curiosity?”
Jason rubs his tired eyes before responding. He hated it when Aiden used his own words against him. “Yes, I did say that. But that was before we stumbled onto a bioweapons lab!”
“We don’t know that it is biological weapons.” Aiden states, his hand resting on the door’s handle. Jason reacts to his statement. “What else could Cherub spend twenty billion dollars on?!?”
“There is only one way to find out.” Aiden states, opening the marked door. Anything could have lied behind those doors, but he didn’t care. His mind was overwhelmed with curiosity as he walks through the doorway. Before him, laid a large circular room with equipment around the rim. Apart from the sounds of some of the machines, the room is silent. In the center of the room was something Aiden could not even conceive. He stands before it in shock, unsure of what he has found.
Aiden is at a loss of words. “Holy shit…”
“Aiden, what is it? Aiden, come in! Damn it, what is Cherub working on?!?”
He pauses before answering Jason. “They have a child in a stasis chamber.”