I set the implant to take an image of each page and flipped one after another until they were all in the implant’s memory, not even bothering to read them. I’d have time for that later. What we needed to do now was to get the information and get out.
“Oh, man,” Vaughn had opened one of the folders he’d pulled out of the filing cabinet and stood looking at the pages inside. Then he reached into the folder and pulled out a small object. “Remember this?”
In his right hand, he held up a thumb drive. It looked like the one I’d seen Ryan holding in the recording between him and Russell Hardwick.
Vaughn added, “From what I’m seeing here, it looks they printed out transcriptions of what’s on the thumb drive. I’m thinking we just take the drive.”
“Makes sense to me.” I didn’t even look up from the papers I was scanning.
Stephanie picked up the folder Vaughn grabbed from the filing cabinet and began to flip through the pages. Vaughn put the thumb drive in one of the pouches on his belt and asked, “What have you got?”
“Not the faintest fucking clue.” Stephanie flipped another page in the folder. “It’s all printouts of spreadsheets and financial stuff. I’m assuming that it’s important because the other stuff was important. Do either of you know what it means?”
“No idea,” Vaughn said, putting the folder he’d grabbed back into the drawer.
“Me neither,” I told her and kept on scanning pages. “Do you want me to scan them?”
“Already in process,” she said and tapped the side of the goggles she wore.
“It’d be funny if in the end all of that was more important than what you and I grabbed.” Vaughn looked up from opening another drawer to glance in my direction.
“I’ve heard some pretty crazy business stories,” he added, “so it wouldn’t be surprising. I can’t imagine they’d keep the second set of books on paper, but maybe it’s a set of supplemental information? I’m surprised that they’d keep them here though.”
I shrugged. “They’d want to look at them here, I’d think.”
Frowning, Stephanie flipped another page. “If I had any idea I’d be doing this, I’d have taken a few courses in accounting.”
I mentally flipped through the different cameras I’d placed throughout the labs and the offices. The offices were clear—which was good, but the labs weren’t. As I watched, I noticed Art and Zola slip out of a door I’d never seen opened on one side of the labs—the area that I’d seen lights from the last time I’d looked.
Art and Zola stepped out of the door, both of them wearing black unitards and “monstered out” as I sometimes called Haley’s transformation. That meant pointier teeth and extended claws, but otherwise, they looked like themselves. If they were like Haley though, they were stronger, more agile, and worse, had better hearing and sense of smell.
As I’d already seen, their ability to interpret those smells didn’t match hers, but that wasn’t going to be any comfort if they found us anyway.
Bearing in mind Zola’s expressed mixed feelings about her new abilities, it struck me as a bad sign that the two of them were now walking around transformed to patrol. On the other hand, they were only walking around the lab. They weren’t coming over to the office.
I decided to pass it on—speaking not only to Vaughn and Stephanie but also on the mission’s communicator channel. “Hey, everyone… Art and Zola are patrolling the lab. They don’t show any signs of heading over here yet, but I don’t know that they won’t.”
Stephanie looked up from the papers to say, “I’ll hurry, but I think we need this.”
Over the communicator, Marcus asked, “Are those the people they transformed into Ascendancy soldiers?”
“Yes. Haven’t you been paying attention?” I felt like I could hear Sydney scowling.
Marcus didn’t reply—at least not over the communicator. Tara started talking and I thought I might have heard a few words by Marcus and Sydney in the background.
Tara talked over them. “I think you need to assume that they’ll check the offices. Maybe it won’t be this time, but definitely next time.”
Stephanie flipped another page. “I’m almost done and I’ve got a plan to handle them. Just give me a few minutes.”
“I think you’ll get your time,” Tara said. “But I think you might have to fight. From what I’ve seen, they’re more similar to Travis and Haley than the standard Ascendancy trooper we fought. It’ll be risky, but I know you can win. Do you need help?”
I thought about it. “I think we’re okay. My sonics nearly take Haley down. They should work against anyone with better than normal hearing. Plus, Vaughn’s got lightning if we need it.”
I made another check on the labs. Art and Zola had walked past the door without even looking at it.
We had a chance.