“Screensaver?” Adrian asked, “Like on a computer?”
“Kind of. It’s just an image we project on the door so no one can see into the building.”
The room beyond the door was a small, dimly lit antechamber made almost entirely out of metal. Behind him, Adrian saw only a huge steel door that locked securely once they entered the tiny room. A similar door loomed not two feet in front of them. He was amazed, despite Belle’s information, that the image on the outer door was like a poster, put in place in order to conceal this high security chamber from view. It had looked so real. Not for the first time, Adrian wondered what he was getting himself into.
In the corner of the room, Belle placed her hand on a scanner. Once it confirmed her identity, a keypad came out of the wall where she quickly punched in a code. Adrian whistled.
“This place has higher security than most of the FBI,” he commented.
“We have more secrets than most of the FBI,” she said.
The second door made a popping sound and swung open to reveal a massive room buzzing with activity. The walls were covered by random sheets of metal that varied widely in shape and size. They were bolted together in weird configurations and at odd angles, seemingly haphazardly. Bright silver, dull gray and even some shiny copper glistened all around him in the glare of the fluorescent lights. The floor was covered in black and white checkered tile that made Adrian feel as though he were standing at the end of a giant chessboard. Each wall contained no fewer than twenty doors of every shape, size and color Adrian could image and some he couldn’t. From large sets of double doors to regular sized wooden doors and some that appeared too small anyone to walk through. Several enormous sets of gates were propped open in the room, guarding the entrances of large hallways, the corridors of which seemed disappeared into the distance. Directly across from them, a long, low window in the wall revealed some kind of white room beyond but they were too far away for Adrian to see what was inside
People carrying stacks of paper or outlandish machines zoomed around, out one door and in another without so much as glancing at where they were going. It’s a wonder they don’t all run into each other, Adrian thought as he watched a man with a big nose and glasses nearly collide with an old man lugging a massive device that looked much too heavy for him. The bizarre room and the swarm of activity stunned Adrian but it wasn’t until he heard Belle laugh at wide-eyed expression that he was called back to reality.
“Come on,” she finally said, “It’s time for your orientation.”
“It’s like, three in the morning,” he replied, catching sight of a big metal clock on one of the walls, “How could it be time for anything at this hour?”
“Are you telling me that you could sleep without any kind of explanation for all this?” Belle gestured towards the room. He started to argue but realized she had a point. After everything he’d seen tonight, he wasn’t going to be able to sleep until he knew exactly what he was dealing with.
“It won’t take very long,” Belle promised, “Come on.”
She led the across the chessboard, weaving gracefully between the bustling workers. Adrian didn’t have half her luck, running into several people before he made it safely to the far side of the room. Up near the large window now, he could see that the floor of the white room was at least a ten feet below the window and completely white except for a black X in the center. The window was obviously to allow people to look down into the chamber but, as far as Adrian could tell, there was nothing to see.
“That’s the simulator room,” she explained, “We mainly use it for training scenarios. It’s an interactive program that-”
Just then, a small explosion rocked the building. A pair of swinging doors on the other side of the room blasted outward, one of them flying off its hinges and skidding across the floor. A thick black cloud of smoke billowed out of the entrance and up towards the ceiling. A few people wearing white lab coats, rubber gloves and goggles came stumbling out looking slightly singed and coughing heavily into their sleeves.
“Don’t worry,” one of them announced to the room that was momentarily devoid of movement, “Just a minor explosion. Everything is under control.”
“Now I know I’m in a government building,” Adrian murmured. Everything seemed far from under control in the room that had exploded. Through the smoke, he could just discern several small fires and a myriad of figures trying to put them all out.
“That’s the weapons research and development lab,” Belle told him.
“Does this happen often?” He kept his eyes on the chaotic scene. The white coats seemed to be winning the war against the flames.
“Only about once a week. My advice is to never go in there unless one of the techs goes with you. There are things in there that will explode if you just look at them the wrong way.”
“Dually noted,” Adrian said.
“Belle? Hey Belle! What’s up?” One of the techs jogged up to them. He removed his goggles revealed small dark eyes and a long nose. The close-cropped hair on his head was black but Adrian suspected this was due to the explosion rather than the actual color. He seemed to be covered in more soot than his colleagues.
“Hey Tango. What’s going on over there?” Belle asked, trying not to laugh at the look on his face, “You have raccoon eyes, by the way.” She gestured to his face where the goggles had left white circles around his eyes while the soot had caused the rest of his face to turn a gritty gray color.
“Yeah, I know. Someone thought it would be a good idea to leave a unicorn horn soaking in a solution of vampire blood for a few days. Sometimes, I swear I work with a bunch of idiots.” Tango told them.
“You’re telling me a unicorn horn dipped in vampire blood caused all this?” Belle asked skeptically.
“No. It was left to soak in it for days. That’s what caused this. Vampire blood has an extremely light sensitive incendiary quality, which is why they burst into flames in the sunlight. Unicorn horns possess many qualities, one of which being that they can intensify certain qualities of other things. The horn in the blood increased the incendiary quality to the point where it would cause a massive explosion when a shaft of light hit the solution.”
“Wow. How did that happen?” Belle asked after hearing the bizarre explanation.
“I don’t know,” Tango confessed, “But I would guess that it was just an accident. Unicorn horns have so many other useful qualities that people tend to forget that they have the power of intensification. I would bet that whoever did it was trying to use the healing properties to cure the vampire blood, not realizing that it might create a bomb. It’s a real shame too because the blast destroyed a lot of other projects,” he sighed in disappointment, “Who’s the fresh meat?” he asked, glancing at Adrian out of the corner of his eye.
“Oh,” Belle said, suddenly remembering him, “Tango, this is Adrian Nox. He’s our new recruit. Adrian, this is Javier Tango. He’s a weapons designer. We just call him Tango.”
The two exchanged a strong handshake. Tango sized Adrian up. Even though he was a short, skinny man, about a head shorter than Adrian, he was perfectly confident that Adrian was no threat to him.
“You should probably get that checked out,” Tango said, noticing the bloody scratches on Adrian’s bicep from his fight with the doppelganger.
“Yeah,” Belle said, “First stop is definitely the hospital wing.”
Adrian rolled up the sleeve of his shirt to get a better look. Four parallel cuts stretched down from his shoulder to his elbow, none of them were very deep and the pain was nothing but a light throb.
“I could probably take care of this myself,” Adrian said.
“Or we could just visit our highly trained medical staff just down the hall,” Belle replied.
“Right,” Tango said with a laugh, “Well, good luck with that. I should probably help put the lab back together. I’ll see you around.” Without another word, Tango jogged back towards the smoking doorway and disappeared within.