And Sometimes Beginning

Written by: Joseph D. Stirling

The small boat sped across the rolling ocean. It was dark, the only light coming from the small navigation screen. The four men wore non-reflective suits and masks, night-vision goggles snugged on their faces. In the distance was a glow of lights. It was the island where the Research Facility was hidden.

“Just remember the plan. Stick to it and we all get out,” said Painter.

“Rendezvous at the boat if there’s trouble,” said Writer.

*     *     *     *     *

Builder hugged the wall, crouched beneath the window in the empty building. Searchlights filled the streets outside. He and the three men with him had been separated in the commotion, God only knows what happened to them.

Builder pressed a hand to his lower back and looked, blood dripped from his fingers.

“Fuck,” he whispered.

A crash pulled his attention to the back of the room as a shadow fell through the empty window. He pulled his 9mm and thrust it forward with a shaky hand. The shadowed figure threw his hands up.

“Don’t shoot! It’s me, it’s Painter!” The urgent whisper was strained and hoarse.

“Christ man! I almost fucking shot you!”

Builder dropped back against the wall with a ragged sigh as Painter crouched beneath the window next to him.

“What the fuck is going on?”

Builder never looked up, “I don’t know. This is bullshit. One of those things clawed the shit out of my back, and Writer is dead. He got torn apart by one of those crocodile motherfuckers.”

Painter shook his head with a moan, “Did you see that lab? They’re testing on humans! The animals are in charge. Fucking animals! And they speak English for fuck’s sake! How is that possible?”

“You see Sculptor?” Builder was beginning to sweat, his skin growing pale.

“No, not after the explosion,” Painter peeked through the window. “Damn lights are everywhere, fucking bird people searching for us.” Then turning, “Fuck man, you don’t look so good.”

“I’m bleeding out,” said Builder. “Get to the boat if you can. I’ll distract them.”

*     *     *     *     *

The five men sat in the corner booth at Denny’s. The place was empty at four in the morning so it was coffee all around. At the center of the booth was a man called the Muse. The cold eyes beneath balding grey hair looked at each man in turn. Writer: shaved head and scar down the right cheek. Painter: sandy blonde mullet and thick sideburns. Sculptor: clean cut in a rumpled black suit. And Builder: scruffy, dirty and smelled like Pachouli.

“You’ve each been given a code name for discretion. I know each of you, I picked you for the client. Make your introductions and I’ll fill you in on the details of the job.” Muse cleared his throat and sipped the bad coffee.

“Writer’s the name they gave me. I’ll handle the locks, digital and physical. I’m a safe cracker.”

“I’m called Painter. I like long walks on the beach-”

Muse slapped the table, “For fuck’s sake, this is a job not comedy hour.”

“Painter, demolitions.”

“Sculptor. They said I was Sculptor. Communications and optics, we’ll see and hear them before they see or hear us, that’s a promise.”

“Builder, don’t worry ‘bout what I do. What’s the job Muse?”

Muse cleared his throat, “An un-named Animal Rights group wants you to bust up a Research Lab on an island in the Pacific. There’s some top-level bad shit animal testing being done and this group wants something big enough to attract attention from the media. Don’t get fucking killed, and don’t get caught.”

Muse slid four packets across the table. They took them and flipped through. Builder tucked his under his leg and sipped his coffee.

“I need to piss, so let an old man the fuck out. I got a prostate the size of a grapefruit, any chance to piss is a Godsend,” said Muse sliding out.

Writer and Painter climbed from the booth to let him out. Muse stopped at the front of the table.

“We’re done here. I’ll cover the check and see you seven days,” he said.

*     *     *     *     *

The boat had been left hidden back on the beach. They had split up and gone different ways to complete the job. Painter and Sculptor crouched in the bushes looking into the facility. It was a series of buildings spread out like a small town. Street lights lit every lane and cameras perched on the corner of every building. Sculptor typed quickly on his tablet, a cord running to a unit with micro-antennas.

“Okay, we’re set. I’ve hacked their camera feed and set it to loop. They’ll be watching re-runs all night. Let’s go.”

Painter nodded and set a small charge next to the equipment. He readied another charge as they ran across to a side door in the main building. The small charge popped the lock and they were inside.

They moved fast and quiet through the corridors, following the schematics on Sculptors tablet. They thought it lucky the place was empty as they stopped before the doors to the lab. With a nod from Painter, Sculptor pushed the door open and they slipped in.

Cages lined the walls, each one with a naked human wearing the same look of desperation and submission. Tables filled the floor in between. People strapped down. Surgical equipment glinting on trays. Machines buzzing and beeping. The figures in lab coats turned to regard them with a look of expectation, as if the Scientists had been waiting for them.

The Scientists. One was clearly a crocodile, his long snout covered with a strange fitted surgical mask and his tail swaying gently. The other looked like a jackal, fur covered and long pointed ears. They wore normal clothes as if they were men, but these were not men at all. A hawkish looking man in a suit stepped into the light.

“Welcome gentlemen, we’ll be with you shortly,” it said.

Sculptor found himself thinking they looked like Egyptian Gods.

“Sculptor, run!”

Painter dropped his bag, a timer ticking away in red LED light. But Sculptor just stood watching, he couldn’t move. From far down the hallway behind him he could hear Painter yelling.

END

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