For once, the weathermen had been dead on. Holt had been warned ahead of time that a major arctic cold front was due in around eight Monday morning. Which was why he had to fly into Dulles the day before to ensure he wouldn't miss the meeting.
Now the big question that had been bugging him ever since he got the phone call was What the hell is this meeting about? His boss had been tight-lipped. Only letting Holt know he had also gotten one of those mysterious phone calls. But in his boss's case, it was to let the man know Holt's presence was required "by the government". No further explanation was given. Rather than argue, Holt was granted extended leave.
When it came to something so hush-hush, no one fucked with the government.
The cab let him out at the address texted to his phone. It was a nondescript building located on a side street not far from Pennsylvania Avenue. Red brick and mortar. One plain white, uninteresting door. No windows.
Holt walked up to the door and knocked. To his surprise, the brass mailbox slid to the side, revealing a touch pad and screen.
"Please place your hand on the screen." The voice came from a tiny speaker next to the pad. Holt obeyed and watched as his palm and fingerprints were scanned.
The mailbox moved back into place as he turned the doorknob.
He found himself in a wide corridor that led straight back. Like a regular home, the walls were painted a dark red. The ceiling a typical white with recessed lighting. The floors were covered with brownish carpeting. But unlike a home, no rooms branched off from the hallway. At certain intervals he felt a series of prickly sensations dancing over his body, and he smiled. Of course a facility as secretive as this one would have monitors and top-secret scanning equipment to make sure no one snuck in an unwanted weapon.
Holt followed the corridor until he finally came to a door and another touch screen, and had to repeat the hand scan as requested. This time, however, the door snicked open to reveal a large room. A very large room.
Holt stepped through the door and had to stop himself from dropping his jaw in shock. The place looked like a large auditorium, except there was no stage. All of the seats circling a small centered dais were plush and the same red shade as the walls. The brown carpet was thicker, effectively dampening most of the sound.
There were a number of people present, none of whom he recognized. But his eyes locked onto one brunette in a simple black dress, and his blood pressure jumped in response. She was an Amazon, very tall but curvaceous, and definitely more than a handful. She barely gave him a second glance as she appeared to casually scan the room. From where he stood, he could see the outline of her body, with its full breasts and hips, and his skin flushed automatically. Normally he tended to drift toward the slender, petite type, but something about her was a major turn-on factor. Although he had no idea why, he knew he would love to find out the answer. Holt made a move to get closer to her when the overhead lights flickered. An older man in a dark gray three-piece suit walked over to a floor microphone standing next to the dais.
"Ladies and gentlemen, please take a seat."
Holt hurried to find a spot that would give him a decent view of the brunette, who took a seat on the front row. He found the perfect vantage point in the second row where he was simultaneously able to keep his eye on the man at the mic, as well as the woman who he was determined to meet one way or another.
A movement at the back of the room
caught his attention. Another man entered the room and sauntered
over to find a place to sit. A second door, a second entrance. Or
exit. Wonder how many ways there are into this place?
The man in gray scanned the area, his head bobbing slightly, and Holt realized he was counting the number of people in the room. He glanced over the small crowd, and that's when it struck him. There appeared to be an equal number of men and women, although he couldn't be sure unless he did a second head count. But before he could check, the man in gray spoke again.
"Thank you for coming."
Ha. Like we had a choice. Although he wasn't one hundred percent positive that the others in the room had also gotten the same phone call that he had, Holt would bet a year's pay they had.
"What you are about to hear today will shake the very foundations of every belief you've ever held. You will not be asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement. You will not be sworn in to pledge a vow of silence. Neither will you be threatened with loss of life if you choose to reveal what you're about to learn to anyone outside this room. You will keep everything we tell you in absolute secret because you will realize you have no choice."
I'll have no choice? Why?
The woman crossed her legs. Long, shapely legs that didn't show a hint of being sheathed in hose. Her attention was riveted on the man's face, but Holt began to wonder if she wasn't aware of him staring at her. He shifted slightly in his seat to help ease the pressure in his groin, when the man gave him a slightly scathing glance. Holt managed an apologetic smile.
"To begin, hundreds of years ago our planet passed through what scientists now believe was some sort of cosmic cloud. The residue within the cloud was not poisonous, or in any way dangerous to the population, but there were reports of strange creatures showing up. Many people swore these creatures stepped out of thin air." He paused. "Until this galactic event occurred, there had never been tales about dragons. Or centaurs. Or fairies. Or a hundred other similarly mythical creatures we consider to be stuff of fairy tales and legends." Taking a deep breath, he concluded. "They were not myths. They do exist...because they're Breachers."
Holt stared at the man. Surely the guy was pulling their legs. A Breacher? What the hell was a Breacher? A glance around the room confirmed what he suspected. Every other face looked as if the person was doubting the man's sanity as well.
The man went on. "When our world went through that cosmic barrier, an invisible wall between our world and a parallel universe we now know as Phadrea became infinitesimally thin. Thin, but still incredibly strong. So strong, that it would take incredible forces happening simultaneously between both Earth and Phadrea for that barrier to be broken. But when those forces occur, and the barrier is weakened, those creatures are dragged onto Earth."
A hand shot up from the back.
"Yes, Mr. Cole?"
"What kind of forces?"
"Anything that rips the fabric of time and space," the man replied. "Incredibly strong storms are the most likely. There's also the effects of war. Bombs, nuclear explosions."
Another hand went up, this time from behind Holt.
"Yes, Miss Allens?"
"You said these creatures were the stuff of myths and legends. So what you're telling us is these things actually do exist, or did? There really were fire-breathing dragons?"
The man smiled slightly. "That's exactly what I'm saying. There were dragons, and there still are. But there are other creatures who have entered our world. Now, rest assured, not all them intend to do us harm. Most of them fade into the background. They disappear among the populace. But others are not so docile. They wreak havoc. Some even kill innocent people and animals. And this is why you are here. This is why you were chosen."
Another question was raised by a man on the far end of the auditorium. "Do these beasts ever go back to Phadrea? To their home world?"
"No. Whatever force drags them here to our world prevents them from ever returning. That's why some of them go berserk. They can't cope. Can't adapt."
The man turned around until he had made direct eye contact with every individual in the room, including Holt. "Each of you were chosen because we consider you the best in your field. At some point in the near future you will be contacted again. It could be days from now, or years, or maybe never again. Depending on the Breacher who is creating havoc on our world, two of you will be paired to stop the creature. Stop, kill it, or permanently put it out of commission in any way possible. But under no condition should you let other people know what you're doing. Knowledge of Breachers must remain a mystery in order to avoid panicking the general public."
Holt raised his hand, earning a peeved look from the man.
"Yes, Mr. Holt?"
"I take it these things can be dangerous?"
"Breachers are a lot like us, Mr. Holt. In most cases, they are gentle creatures. But also like humans, there are those who are extremely dangerous and must be eliminated immediately. These are the ones you will be sent to find and destroy."
Holt shot his hand back up and continued without waiting first to be called upon. "So we'll get hazardous pay if we succeed?"
"I assure you, Mr. Holt, you will be generously rewarded. Do you have any further questions?" When Holt shook his head, the man directed his attention back to the others. "Anyone? Does anyone else have a question?"
A man in the back raised his hand. Holt recognized him as the guy who had come in late.
"Yes, Mr. Hawthorne?"
"You said we would be paired up. Why? Why not send us out on our own? Or in groups?"
The man smiled. "You will come to realize why when and if that time comes, Mr. Hawthorne. Are there any more questions? No? Then I thank you for coming."
He turned off the microphone and started to leave. Stunned, Holt jumped to his feet to protest.
"That's it? That's all you're going to say? You drag us all the way out here to tell us the Tooth Fairy really exists, and then send us back home without any further explanation?"The man gave him a look that reminded him of a father dealing with a recalcitrant child. "That is all I can give you, Mr. Holt. You'll have to wait until we call you back before we can explain further." And turning his back on the astonished crowd, the man vanished into thin air.