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Summary: A response to Jinni's five song challenge- Asher is sent by the council to investigate reports of military activity near the Hellmouth

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Anita Blake > Willow-Centered > Pairing: AsherdulcineaFR1855165,32913100123,5072 May 043 Sep 06Yes

Under Pressure - 7

~Initiative Conference Room 1, Thursday, 7:58 a.m. ~

Graham took a sip of his coffee, watching the conference room fill up with the various unit captains. When the last captain had entered, Graham called the meeting to order. “Alright, gentlemen, I want your reports of yesterday’s activities as soon as I call your unit. Beta unit.”

“Sir, we were positioned at ground zero. Nothing unusual occurred besides three dogs following us back to base. The dogs dispersed as soon as we went inside.”

Graham found it a bit odd that multiple units would have problems with dogs last night, when dogs hadn’t bothered them since his unit had started patrolling almost a year ago, but he didn’t comment on it. “Gamma unit?”

“We were positioned on base. Walsh recalled us at roughly 2000 hours, and sent us to the residence of Dr. Angleman. We arrived at 2015 to find him dead on his porch. Shortly thereafter four H.S.T.s engaged in combat. Before we could stun them, three of them, including Hostile 17, forced a retreat of the fourth. We could not pursue. We presume Angleman’s cause of death is the H.S.T.s. We returned to base. No other incidents occurred during our shift.”

Graham had been given the autopsy report from one of the nurses just a few minutes before the meeting started, and so he was the only one in the room that knew that Angleman’s official cause of death was not H.S.T.-induced neck wounding, but rather a novel isolate of dengue virus. However, that just led to more questions. How did Angleman contract an odd form of a tropical disease in the middle of suburban California? And if the H.S.T.s had nothing to do with it, why were they found at the site? Unfortunately, roll call was not the time to ask those questions. “Delta unit?”

“Sir, what is left of Delta squad patrolled sector 12. We had no encounters.” Agent Brown looked at his fellow captains, trying to read their faces. He must have seen the support he was looking for because he continued his report with a sneer. “With all due respect sir,” which Graham guessed was not a whole lot, “if you’re going to expect Delta to perform sweeps any longer, you’re going to have to give me new men. I’ve got three on medical leave from the ground zero bust alone. I think I speak for all the captains, when I say that we’re going to need more men if we’re going to hold this ground for any length of time.”

“When I want your opinion I’ll ask for it, agent.” Graham snapped.

“Yes, sir.” Brown growled.

“Epsilon unit.”

“We covered perimeter last night. We found one security breach on the north border by the forest. I’ve filed the requisition orders to replace that section of fencing, but until then, I recommend we post two live guards at the back entrance.”

“I’d recommend you do that anyway.” The Iota captain cut in. “We’re losing visual feed from the cameras back there. There’s still some service, but it’s patchy at best.”

“And just where are we going to find the units to double post at all the possible entrances?” Agent Brown asked. “You can’t do that and patrol the town.”

Graham wondered how Riley ever managed to keep control of this group. Of course a lot of that had to do with Walsh, who was missing this meeting. “Look, Agent Brown. I get your point. We can’t put people on the streets and still maintain full staffing on base given recent events. However, if you speak out of turn one more time, I’ll dismiss you from this meeting, and assign Delta k.p. for the rest of the week.” Graham shot back. He then turned to the Iota captain. “And as for the rest of you, this is roll call, not an invitation to get on your soapbox. I will take your reports into advisement, but you are not here to discuss and vote. You are here to report. Eta unit?”

“Eta unit was off last night. No incidents to report.” Graham could tell there was something on Agent Wilson’s mind, but now was not the time to ask.

“Alright then, Theta unit.”

Agent Patel snapped to attention. “Theta had sector 2. There was no activity on the main campus. At around 1900 hours, a report on the campus police radio indicated unusual lights coming from the hospital in the wing close for renovations, but when we responded, we found no unusual lights and the ground floor entrances were all locked up.”

It was probably teenagers looking for a place to hang out. Still, Graham figured it would be worth sending a team this evening to investigate more thoroughly. It would also serve as a way to take some of the heat off of Riley’s current location.

“Iota unit.” Graham tried not to make a face when he saw the length of report from the IT unit.

“Sire, to put it nicely, this place is about to fall apart. I don’t know how better to put it. Our camera feeds are providing distorted images, when they’re working at all. I’ve had men out to check on the more remote cameras, in case it was a wild animal knocking it loose, but the cameras are fine externally. Temperature control sensors are picking up abnormal readings across the base. I’ve sent men to look into it, but we’ve found no abnormalities with the heating and air conditioning units. The thermostats have been recalibrated, but the readings are still outside normal operating parameters. Other units have reported structural abnormalities- doors creaking, and so on- but I’ve seen no reasonable explanation. The Lowell House front is experiencing excessive shifting. I recommend getting an extermination team to inspect for termites. However, that would not explain the problems on base where the structure is metal and plastic. In addition to the facilities report, I’m afraid there’s a problem with our computer system.”

“Has someone tried to hack into it?”

“Not as far as I can tell sir, but then I can’t tell. It appears that the mainframe’s memory is selectively deleting fragments of information, like passwords and override codes. I’ve had Agent Peters looking for a pattern, but so far, it looks like a random system failure. Peters has been trying to patch in some repairing code, but it doesn’t seem to be taking.”

“So what sort of problems should we be expecting until you resolve this? Are we dealing with a temporary email blockage, trouble accessing files?”

“Well, that’s a possibility, but not the one that’s scaring me. Sir, part of the memory includes the codes that allow our cards to access the door lock panels. If the system randomly deletes this, we could see agents getting locked inside rooms, or the H.S.T.s able to escape through an overridden door.”

“Lovely,” Graham muttered. “Would having more manpower help?”

“Honestly sir, most units aren’t trained in Iota business, but it would help to confirm all our security cameras with posted sentries.”

“Okay, I’ll see what we can do. Kappa unit? I’m guessing from your presence, things aren’t settled yet?”

Agent Tanner tried to blend into the background of the table. Walsh had insisted that everyone call each other ‘agent’ to increase esprit de corps, but the men all knew each other’s ranks, and Tanner was at the bottom of the pecking order here. “Sir, our captain is still in the infirmary, and will remain there until further notice. We were stationed at Revello Drive in Sector 4. We encountered one hostile apparently controlling a pack of dogs. We were attacked and had to fall back. We retreated back to base and were seen by the base infirmary.”

“Is that all?” Graham wondered if Tanner was going to spill the beans about Finn.

“Yes sir.” Agent Tanner blushed.

Graham continued with the roll call, taking notes as the captains reported. He didn’t think Riley had ever spent an hour in roll call, but Riley also never had to deal with so many problems after a single night of patrolling. He was just reaching Omega unit, when there was a knock on the door. One of the younger agents walked in and handed Graham a piece of paper.

“We have an emergency at the morgue. Please attend if possible,” was all the letter said.

Graham took one look at it and sighed. “I’m going to have to leave, before we can discuss any other changes to roster. Your standing orders are to stay on base unless ordered by myself or General McNamara. All orders from the science teams are strictly requests and should be cleared through my unit before being undertaken. I’m temporarily merging Delta and Kappa under Agent Brown’s command until Kappa’s captain is cleared for duty. Eta and Theta, you’re serving as surveillance until 1500 hours. You will be relieved by Phi and Chi. At 1700 hours I want all captains and off duty units reporting back here. There you will receive your orders for the remainder of the evening. If there are no other questions, you’re dismissed.”

Graham didn’t exactly wait around for any questions; he was paging Forrest before he even reached the door. “Gates, we’ve got a situation in the morgue. Meet me there a.s.a.p.” He didn’t slow down until he reached the elevator and hit the bottom button for the morgue level.

Graham opened the door to find absolutely nothing out of the ordinary as far as he was concerned. He picked up the phone by the autopsy table and called the medical unit. “This is Agent Miller. I was told there was an emergency in the morgue, but I don’t see anything out of the ordinary. Who reported this?”

“I did, sir. There’s a filled cabinet there that has no accompanying record. I was told to report any such anomalies to the Alpha Captain.” The nurse answered.

“Which cabinet?”

“Number twelve, sir.”

Graham wondered if this was just another case of the paperwork not following an H.S.T. all
the way through their lifecycle. The card on the outside of the cabinet said empty, but when he slid the drawer open he was faced with, shockingly enough, a human corpse. Most of him was in shock, but the small cynical part of his brain that was still functioning thought, “Damn, now I have to call the Pentagon; could this day get any worse?”

~Angel’s Mansion, Thursday, 9:30 a.m.~

“Hmm,” Willow mumbled, as she flipped through her stack of print-outs one more time.

“You know, that’s the fifteenth time you’ve said that. I don’t suppose you’d care to elaborate?” Xander smiled at his best friend.

“Well,” Willow started, glancing at the group assembled in the mansion’s living room. Riley and Buffy were sharing a loveseat, Anya was sitting on Xander’s lap, Giles was leaning against the fireplace looking thoughtful, and Clem was sitting on the couch next to her. “It’s like this, hrm…”

The group waited for Willow to finish her statement, but she just frowned at screen of her laptop. “Ah, I see. Thanks. That cleared things right up.” Xander finally commented.

Anya slapped Xander playfully. “What? What did I do?” Xander retorted.

“You dork, clearly Willow has no idea what the problem is and therefore has nothing to say. And the really dumb thing is that we’re all just sitting around here waiting for her to get a clue instead of running away. Hello, vampires are all asleep? Why aren’t we making a run for it?”

“Normally I’d agree with you. However, the Initiative is still active during the daylight hours, and looking for Buffy, Riley, and myself. There’s also the other master in town most likely with his own human spies looking for the slayer. I’m guessing that El Lobo would be least likely to look for Buffy at Asher’s lair. And, if we leave now, we won’t know what Asher’s plans are; whereas, if we stay, we have at least a small chance of knowing when everything will go down.” Giles reasoned. “I think the vampires here are probably the least of three evils.”

“Besides, it’s not like I have no idea what the problem is. I have an idea, a pretty good idea in fact. It just doesn’t make sense.”

“Why don’t you tell us what you think the problem is? Perhaps I’ll be able to help; I’ve had a lot more experience understanding Initiative files than any of you.” Riley offered.

“Okay.” Willow looked skeptical. “So, I’ve been trying to read up as much as possible on what kind of demons they’ve got in custody and how many people are currently on base, because if we’re going to kidnap the scientists, or borrow their equipment, or free the captives, or whatever it is I can’t believe we’re planning to do… well, it would be good to know who’s there.”

“Wait, Willow, kidnapping? That’s not something we do. That’s something the bad guys would do; that’s something Spike would do.” Buffy interrupted.

“That’s something Dr. Walsh would do.” Giles quietly interjected.

“Right.” Willow looked a bit guilty, but carried on. “Still, whatever our plan, we’d need to know what’s inside.”

“Wait, so what exactly is our mission objective? Are we trying to prevent the vampires from abducting the scientists while masquerading as allies?” Riley asked.

“Well, not exactly. That’s not really important right now.”

“I disagree. I think having a clear idea of what we plan to accomplish is important. If this were an Initiative mission, we’d have outlined our objectives before pursuing any sort of intelligence gathering.”

“And by intelligence gathering, you mean what? Beating up Willy?” Xander teased, annoyed that Buffy’s new boy would get on Willow’s case without hearing her out.

“We have many methods of obtaining intelligence on H.S.T. movement, including an extensive surveillance network. Not that it’s any of your business.”

“Actually, it is, and I’ll get to it later but first, I think we should discuss what they’re keeping in their basement.”

“Willow, just this once, I think Riley might have a point. Before we start discussing the logistics, I think we ought to come to some understanding of what we’re trying to accomplish.” Giles began pacing in front of the fireplace. “What is our primary mission?”

“To stop Walsh from dissecting people.” Buffy said.

“To prevent the vampires from reaching Walsh.” Riley answered.

“To rescue the poor demons.” Anya glared briefly at Riley.

“To not get anybody killed?” Xander offered hopefully.

“To not piss off Asher.”

Everyone turned to stare at Clem. “What? You don’t agree? He’s a very powerful vampire, and he’s speaking for the Council. If he wants to destroy everyone in the Initiative, then that’s what’s going to happen because if it doesn’t happen… well, I don’t think moving to L.A. would be far enough away to avoid the backlash.” Clem blushed, “Well, at least that’s my experience with this kind of thing, say, does anyone want donuts?”

“Wow.” Willow whispered. “He could do that?”

“Well, yeah, of course he could. What, you think the Council is just some snobby name for a bunch of old guys who sit back and do nothing?” Anya answered for Clem. “Well, okay, maybe the Watcher’s Council...” “Thanks so much, Anya,” “Anytime, Giles. But my point is the Vampire Council is much more hands on. If you get in their face, they’ll make you pay. There was this one time when I was answering this call from a servant girl in Lorraine…”

“That’s okay, An, we believe ya.” Xander rubbed his girlfriend’s shoulders, hoping to distract her from the story. “So I take it, our plan is not to piss off Asher?”

The group reluctantly agreed. “So what exactly does Asher want? I mean, could we get him what he wanted without anybody getting hurt?”

“I have it on good authority that Asher wants to raid the Initiative today.” Giles answered.

“Yeah, but for what? Does he just want Walsh, or does he want to show all the other vampires that he means business?” Xander replied.

“Probably a little bit of both, he strikes me as someone with multiple agendas.” Giles frowned.

“Right, so maybe we should sort of make some plans to help him raid without risking anybody. Maybe if we were to help him free some of the non-violent demons, it’ll make the rest of the demons think he’s trying to help, but at the same time no one gets hurt?”

“Okay, that’s a good idea. I could work with that idea.” Buffy nodded. “So, Mr. Clem, you’re a non-violent demon, do you think you could help us get into the place where they keep you guys to help let your friends out?”

“I don’t think I can help with that. I don’t really know where we were being kept. I just let Zoltan hop us away after he was feeling better.”

“They were probably being kept on level three. That’s where most of the preliminary holding facilities are.” Riley answered.

“Level three? Uh oh.” Willow muttered.

“What’s wrong with level three?”

“Well, if I’m reading this correctly, which I think I am, there was a fire on level three yesterday.”


“Yeah, nobody was hurt, but they’re doing a lot of electrical work there to try to fix it. That would make it a hard level to sneak onto.”

“Can I see that?” Willow handed Riley the Iota team’s daily log report. “This is insane. We’ve never had so many electrical problems before. Willow, in all your hacking are you sure you didn’t accidentally break something?”

“Yes, I’m sure.” Willow answered indignantly.

“Very sure? Because it looks like the computer system is having massive failures, and the only thing different from when I was there is that you’ve been hacking in.”

“That’s not true!”

“Sure looks like it to me.”

“Alright, first of all, buddy, I’ll have you know that I’ve been doing computer snooping since high school, and I’ve never made a mistake when it counts. Second, I was getting into the Initiative computers back when I was in L.A., which was while you were still on base and not noticing anything weird, so it’s totally not my fault. Third, even a good hacker wouldn’t be able to cause all the problems they’re reporting. I mean come on, all the thermostats going wonky? They run on a completely different network.”

“Okay, we’ll figure out the third floor problem later.” Buffy tried to head off the fight between her friend and her boy. “I think we need to have a plan to deal with Walsh too. The vampires will have to get to either her or Dr. Angleman.”

“Actually, Dr. Angleman is dead.” Giles interjected. “Zoltan killed him before he could remove Spike’s chip.”

“Oh god, that’s awful.” Riley muttered. “Sure he was an annoying little dweeb, but he didn’t deserve to die.”

“I suppose not, but it does mean that if Asher wants to get Spike’s chip out, then he will have to go after Walsh.”

“Oh. Well, I say we just let him have her.”


“What?” Buffy tried to look innocent. “I’m just saying, they deserve each other.”

“That’s so not true. Asher is a blood sucking fiend, and I still think he’s better than her.” Xander answered.

“And on that note, I don’t suppose it would be possible to break for donuts?” Giles asked hopefully.

~Initiative Morgue, Thursday, 9:45 a.m.~

“Damn, is that who I think it is?” Forrest looked down at the body stored in locker 12.

“If you’re thinking that’s General McNamara, then yes.” Graham answered.

“Damn. Do you know what that means? You really are in charge of the base now.”

“True, but my thoughts were more along the lines of, ‘damn, we have a murderer on base’. Of course, that’s just my crazy earth logic talking.”

“Crap, we need to find out who did this. Are you sure it wasn’t an H.S.T.? Maybe McNamara was visiting the holding cells and got a bit too close to one of those things with spikes?”

“What kind of H.S.T. would hide the body in the morgue?”

“Damn.” Forrest and Graham stared at the body for another minute, trying to gather their thoughts. “So, what do we do now, Commander?”

“Well, the base is on lockdown, so we know the killer is still on base.” Graham reasoned quietly, hoping his voice wasn’t being picked up on any hidden microphones. It would be too easy for someone to eavesdrop on their investigation. “I want you to request the security footage for this room and hallways leading up to it for the last 24 hours from Zeta. If they give you a hard time, tell them Iota is reporting camera problems and I’m making you guys check up on it. Then I want you to get Mike and John, and lock yourselves in the conference room and go over every minute of those tapes. For the moment we’re not trusting anyone outside of Alpha unit.”

“Yes, sir.” Forrest was no longer in a joking mood.

“I’ll join you as soon as I’ve finished calling the Pentagon and letting them know that a general was murdered on base.” Graham shuddered.

“I take back any thing I’ve ever said about envying your position.” Forrest shoved the gurney back into locker 12 and fastened the door hinge with a cable tie to prevent any curious nurses from exploring. “Should we close off the morgue until we’ve figured out who put him here?”

“We can’t do that. It would tip our hand to whoever put him there and make everyone else curious. I think we should just get Phi squad to shadow all of the scientists. Hopefully, if there are more soldiers in the lab area, it’ll prevent anyone from having enough access to the morgue to sneak another body in.”

“Unless someone on Phi was the culprit.” Forrest reasoned. “Not that I think anyone on that team would do this.”

“Right, so you contact John, Mike, and the Zeta captain. I’ll handle Phi and the Pentagon.” Graham strode out of the morgue, trying to exude more confidence then he really had. “Remind me never to wonder if my day could get worse.”

~ Angel’s Mansion, Thursday, 10:22 a.m.~

“So, Riley, feeling any better?” Buffy asked, licking some powder sugar from her fingers.

“Actually, yeah, a lot better.” Riley realized. “Thanks Willow.”

“Don’t mention it.” Willow waved it off. She was still feeling a bit woozy from her magic the night before, but she didn’t want Giles to see her still weak from the spell, so she waved it off.

“How much better are you feeling?” Buffy asked slyly.

“Oh you know, not as good as when I was on the hyped-up steroids, but I’m not bad.”

“Great. So, I was thinking it might be a good time for sparring practice.”

“Sparring practice? What like boxing? I didn’t know you boxed.”

“We could box if you like, but I was thinking more hand to hand. When you think about it, boxing is sort of silly. When in life will you have a chance to slip on those big gloves before the beastie has a chance to catch you and kill you?”

“Well, if you put it like that…”

“Come on, it’ll be fun.” Buffy pulled Riley up from the couch where he had been resting.

“Ahem, Buffy, don’t you think it’s rather early for that sort of thing. The boy is still recovering.” Giles tried to rein in his slayer.

“Duh, I kinda got that. Don’t worry, I’ll go easy on him. I just have some extra energy I need
to get out, and well, you and Willow seem to have the research-y thing under control.”

“Hey, if anyone should be going easy, it should be me. Even before the demon steroids, I had years of special ops experience. I’ve got skills you can’t even begin to imagine.”

“Oh yeah? Wanna put your money where you mouth is?”

“Really, Buffy, it’s not nice to egg him on.” Giles tsked.

“Chill, Giles, I totally have this under control. I promise I won’t hurt him too much.”

“And I’ll make sure Buffy stays in one piece, Mr. Giles.” Riley said, following Buffy out of the room to Angel’s courtyard.

“Kids these days.” Xander commented, watching the pair jokingly circle each other, neither willing to make the first move.

“You would think that all the demons referring to her as ‘slayer’ would clue him into the fact that Buffy is not as innocuous as she looks.” Giles watched out the window as Buffy easily dodged the punch Riley threw.

“I don’t know, I think it’s kinda cute.” Willow commented. “I mean, considering everything, they’re still willing to give love a chance.”

“What are you talking about, giving love a chance?” Xander stared at his friend. “They’re just sparring.” Anya gently swatted at her boyfriend. “What?”

“I’ve been out of the game for nearly a millennium and even I know they’re not really sparring. They’re clearly flirting.”

“No they’re not. Back me up here, guys.” Xander turned to his fellow males.

Giles watched as Buffy flipped over Riley’s head and swatted his back end before darting back in front of him playfully. “Well, I…” He took off his glasses to rub his eyes.

“If that isn’t flirting, I’d say the slayer has lost her edge.” Clem offered hesitantly.

“See, I told you so! They’re flirting.” Anya smirked as Xander made a whimpering noise. “I don’t know why you’re so worried about it. He seems like a nice guy.”

“Oh he is. Sure, there’s that whole working for a secret evil government agency, but other than that, he’s swell.” Willow watched the sparring pair wistfully.

“I suppose, given her track record, she could do much worse.” Giles finally commented. “He’s aware of demons so she won’t have to hide that, and he’s got a pulse. That makes him an improvement over the others.”

Willow blushed. “Hey, there was nothing wrong with Angel, except for that whole soul-missing period. But, he was not necessarily a bad boyfriend. Having a pulse does not make someone a good or bad boyfriend.” Both Giles and Xander shot Willow a withered glare.

“Are you sure you’re talking about Angel, or are you really defending Asher?” Anya asked.

“What? Why? How…?”

“Oh don’t look so confused. Everyone knows you’re interested in him, and he’s interested in you, and it will never work.”


“Come on, I can’t be the only one thinking it.”

“Okay, say there is an ‘it’; which I’m not claiming there is, but still, how do you know it will never work?”

“It’s Asher.” Anya answered with a shrug.

“What does that mean?”

“I think Anya means that Asher may say he’ll give up his sire for you, but everyone who knows Asher, knows that can’t be the case. He’s been at court for over a century, and besides his sire is Belle Morte. Now there’s a woman it’s hard to say no to.” Clem answered.

“Oh.” Willow frowned.

“Sure, he’d be a doting boyfriend for a good fifty, sixty years, but one day his sire will pull his strings, and there you have it. It’s not his fault.” Clem shrugged.

“Wait, fifty or sixty years?”

“Well, yeah, he’s not really known to date casually. Sort of more an all or nothing deal. It’s kinda funny if you think about it, being an incubus and all.”

“Oh.” Willow chewed on the food for thought. On one hand, it sounded like if Asher promised he’d stay true, he would. On the other hand, she didn’t think she could ever compete with the head of his vampiric lineage. Of course, she shouldn’t even be thinking about getting into a relationship with anyone. Oz had only left her… she couldn’t remember how many days ago. The past few days had been so crazy that she hadn’t even given a spare thought to her former boyfriend. Was it really that things were so crazy, or was she really getting over Oz?

“Hello, earth to the Willster?” Xander waved his hand in front of Willow’s face.

“Oh, sorry, I was just thinking.”

“About tall, blonde, and gorgeous?” Anya prodded.

“Actually, about Oz. Or rather about not Oz. Never mind. So how about a nice fun distraction? Clem, do you want to go through the prisoner lists with me, and see if you recognize anybody? If we’re really going to be raiding the Initiative tonight, it might be nice to know who else we might encounter.”

“Sure thing.” Clem nodded genially. For all the horror stories he heard at Willy’s, the slayer’s crowd were really quite a nice bunch.

~Initiative, Thursday, 10:35 a.m.~

“Yes, sir. I understand, but could you tell him it’s an emergency.” Graham waited patiently for the aide to patch him through to the general running the meeting General McNamara should have been attending that very moment.

“This better be important.” The general barked into the phone.

“Yes, sir. I understand General McNamara was supposed to be meeting with you in regards to
the Initiative program.”

“Where did you get that information? The Initiative project is classified.” The general sounded baffled. Clearly the aide didn’t have time to fill him in on just who was calling on a secured line.

“Yes, sir. I’m currently the highest ranking officer at the project. Sir, there’s no easy way to say this. General McNamara was found dead in the morgue this morning. I’ve started an investigation into his death, but sir, I’d really like some external help here.”

“You say General McNamara was found dead? And you’re quite sure it wasn’t from natural causes?”

“He was impaled through the chest, sir.”

“I see. I want you to keep the area secured- no one in, no one out. I’ll have a unit down there in 24 hours.” The general declared, and then hung up, not even waiting for Graham’s “yes, sir.”

Graham hung up the secured phone in the general’s office then headed down the hall to the conference room Alpha unit had commandeered. “How’d it go?” Forrest muttered.

“They’re sending a unit down.” Graham shrugged.

“So do you want to tell us why we’re watching the last 18 hours of morgue room footage?” Mike asked his commanding officer.

“You didn’t tell them?” Graham asked Forrest.

“Hey, you’re the one in charge. You get to say who has a need to know.”

“Thanks. You’re such a great right-hand man there.” Graham frowned. “Okay, here’s the situation. This morning at around 0900, a body was found in the morgue. He had been murdered. The last known sighting of the individual was at around 2100 hours last night. I’m hoping we can figure out who did this and contain them, just in case it’s not an isolated incident.”

“So, what you’re saying is that on top of every bizarre form of H.S.T. imaginable, there’s also a murderer on base. Great.” Mike muttered.

“The Pentagon is sending a team to investigate, but I’d rather figure this out before they get here, just in case they aren’t cleared for H.S.T. knowledge.”

“Besides, once the team gets here. You’re going to be their primary suspect.” Forrest cut in. “You were the last to see him alive and you were the first to find the body.”

“But I didn’t do it. You know I didn’t do it.”

“I know. I’m just saying, we better figure this out before they get here.”

“Hey guys?” John interrupted them. “I think I’ve got a visual.” He turned the television screen he was looking at towards the others. “It’s kinda hard to see, but this is drawer 12. You can see that someone is opening it and putting something inside.”

“That’s an awful picture.” Forrest muttered.

“I know, but I can’t clean it up any better. I wouldn’t have even guessed that was drawer 12 if it hadn’t had a better picture at the front of the tape.” John admitted.

“Go back.” Graham muttered, as whoever their culprit was, left the room. John rewound the tape, showing the person walking back into the room, backwards.

“Who is that?” Mike muttered.

“I can’t tell. The image is too blurry. I can’t believe Iota team gets away with such crappy footage.”

“It’s a new thing. They don’t know why their cameras are all getting blurry, but it’s happening across base.” Graham filled in the information he had gleaned from the morning reports.

“I hope they fix it soon. This is horrible.”

“I know, but we have to do what we can with what we’ve got. So what can we say about the person who hid the body?”

“I’m pretty sure they’re a scientist.” Mike offered.

“Why is that?”

“A soldier would come up as a dark blur from our B.D.U.s. The science staff would show up white and washed out like that from the lab coats.”

“So, we know that whoever left the body there was wearing a lab coat at the time.” Unfortuantely, thought Graham, that didn’t rule out anybody.

“We’ve got the time stamp. It wouldn’t be too hard to follow the person back with the hall footage now.”

“Great, radio me when you figure it out. I’ve got to make sure all the captains understand we’re on lock-down and let Dr. Walsh know so that she can put the science staff on alert.” Graham headed out of the conference room heading straight for command central. After his rounds, he wondered if he’d have time to stop by the infirmary for a few aspirins before the extra security staff arrived from Washington.
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