Reminding myself that the Stapledon Program’s secrecy wasn’t really my problem, I decided to concentrate on what was my problem—Blue Sky Lab’s current projects.
Isaac Lim had asked me to find out what they were, and intentionally or not, Dr. Griffin hadn’t answered my question about that. I hadn’t asked as directly as I might. I could change that.
As I was about to ask, Jenny’s voice sounded inside my helmet. “Brooke’s sending the prisoners to their cells. Stand back.”
I turned my head toward where Izzy, Jaclyn, and Cassie stood over the prisoners. Jenny stood a short distance away, acting as Brooke’s eyes no doubt. I didn’t know what they planned to do about the prisoners’ powered armor, but that wasn’t my problem.
All the same, working armor would make it way too easy to escape, but no armor meant that communicable diseases could be passed along.
One by one, darkened ovals appeared under each prisoner in turn. When the grass disappeared, each prisoner fell out of sight, and the grass became visible again.
Dr Griffin stared. “Do you have a teleporter?”
Vaughn grinned. “You could say that, but she’s a person, not a device.”
“Dr. Griffin,” I said, “could you show me the labs? I need to know what we’re protecting here.”
She blinked, turning away from Vaughn to look at me, and saying, “Of course. I think we might have lost the lights in a couple rooms when we were hit, but those were only offices.”
Maybe I shouldn’t have interrupted like that, but she seemed okay with it.
Vaughn and I followed her toward the front door, and she stopped next to her husband. He stood near the front of the staff members, still talking with the boy. The girl was a few steps away and was animatedly discussing something with one of the other girls in the group.
Talking quickly and quietly, she said, “They want to see the lab. You’ll have to watch the kids a little longer.”
The Rocket suit made the audio a little louder and clearer than it would have been on its own.
I hadn’t paid much attention to her husband before that moment. He appeared to be in his early forties, with a square face, and red hair. He’d been on one knee as he talked to the children, and rose carefully. I couldn’t tell much about him from his clothes. He wore a red winter coat, and jeans. It didn’t stand out much from the rest of them.
In a low voice, he said, “Are you sure? The contracts we signed don’t allow us to show much of anything to anybody.”
She glanced back at us, and said, “Do you think we could keep them out?”
He didn’t say anything. That wasn’t true of everybody. A twenty-something guy wearing a brown, corduroy suit coat under an open trench coat said, “Dr. Griffin, they could take away all the best artifacts and destroy—“
At her look, he stopped talking, and put his hands in his pockets.
I didn’t see a telltale bulge in either pocket, and decided he just wanted to keep his fingers warm. Still, it might be worth watching him. I wondered why he was more formally dressed than the rest of them. On the one hand, layered clothing like his could conceal gadgets or weapons. On the other hand, he might just as easily have been planning to attend an evening church service.
The thought that he might have a gun reminded me of something else. “Captain Commando, we’re going inside, and we might need your help.”
Cassie opened up a private channel to me, and asked, “Why?”
“In case the artifacts are talkative?”
She snorted and said. “Great. That’s what I need—more Abominator tech in my head.”
All the same, she turned away from Jaclyn and Izzy, and joined us.
Jaclyn held her comm to her mouth and opened up a connection on our group channel, “Rocket, you’re forgetting something.”
I said, “Uh, what?”
“Since the fighting’s over, the prisoners are gone, and you’re about to tour a lab, you should tell the rest of us whether we’re available to help other groups, or what we should be doing here.”
“Oh.” I thought about that. This was another example of why Jaclyn should be in charge, and not me. I’d never even thought about what everyone else should be doing. I was only thinking about the lab.
“Okay then, you guys—“
“Guys?” Jenny said.
Right. Vaughn and I were the only guys here. I kept on going.
“—should stay and make sure the people are safe, but if Lim really needs someone, go. Oh, and make sure Bloodmaiden doesn’t bleed to death before Paladin gets here.”
Cassie laughed as I said the last part. Bloodmaiden didn’t look as bad as she had. The spots where her armor had been punctured still glowed, but she stood next to Jenny, spear in hand. She wasn’t using it to hold herself up either.
Bloodmaiden gave me the finger, but smiled a little as she did.
With that Cassie, Vaughn, and I followed Dr. Griffin into the building. It looked like almost any office building anywhere—florescent lights, off-white walls, dark carpet and a complete absence of any personality.
Dr. Griffin led us down the hallway. “I missed what you were all laughing about.”
“Nothing much,” Vaughn said. “Just stupid stuff.”
Opening a comm connection to Cassie, I told her, “Tell me if you sense anything,” as quietly as I could.
Cassie only said, “Duh.”
We passed the doors of several offices. Dr. Griffin didn’t stop for any of them, and Cassie didn’t say anything. From that I guessed that if the researchers did keep alien artifacts in their offices at least they weren’t charged.
We came to the end of the hall, and the passage turned right, ending in two, windowless metal doors.
Dr. Griffin ran a card across a black pad on the wall, typed in a code, and waited. Something inside the door clicked, and she pulled a door open.
We followed her in. We were on the far end of a large room. By large, I mean it was as wide as the building if only half as deep. Granted, the building wasn’t huge, but the room used up half of it.
I didn’t recognize half the equipment. The computers and microscopes were obvious. I thought I recognized some machines used in metallurgical research.
Scattered among the desks and equipment, the counters and a few refrigerators, were safes, some of them taller than I was. I supposed that that would make it easier to put away an object you were studying.
That wasn’t all of it though. In the middle of the room stood a piece of equipment that I almost recognized. When we’d rescued Cassie from Rook’s hideout, we’d destroyed a series of tanks that had been artificial wombs. Rook had probably intended to clone Cassie, and create a clone army able to operate Abominator devices. That or isolate whatever DNA made that work for her, and insert it into lifeforms of his own choosing.
This artificial womb held twenty roughly human sized tubes, each made from some kind of transparent substance. I didn’t think it was glass. The canisters stood in a base made of a grayish-blue substance that glinted like metal in the light.
I didn’t recognize it, or the language of the writing on it either.
I did have a guess as to what I was looking at though. It looked a lot like the object the League had destroyed when it found Cassie, and prevented Dr. Mind from creating an army.
The Nine appeared to have found an Abominator birthing and genetic modification suite.