Mikhael Andreyev had never really liked Jews, and he despised Americans, so when he received a report that a pair of American Jew spies for the KGB had found evidence of a merzost in the Southwestern desert, he was annoyed. Although any anomaly on American soil would have been enough for the report to be forwarded to the GRU Psychotronics Division, what made it a priority was that it had appeared from space in a craft that, per the report, bore the Soviet flag on it. Anything that could be used as a weapon against the Americans, especially something already marked as belonging to the USSR, had to be recovered or destroyed.
He briefly thought about setting a false trail for those fools at the Foundation to "accidentally" discover it and take care of it for him, but quickly decided that it was more important to find out where it came from and why Division "P" didn't seem to have any files that matched the description of the beast. Better to send some field agents to acquire the creature.
That evening, after closing his tailor's shop in Brooklyn, he stopped by the Western Union and sent a telegram to a distant cousin who lived in Las Vegas, inviting him and his family to come visit in November. He also stopped for a few minutes at a public phone booth and made a short call to a man with a thick Texas accent. After exchanging a few pleasantries, Andreyev placed an order for some specialty fabrics and then went home for the night.
Jonathon Walters had been best friends with Bud Jacobson ever since they were assigned as partners by Divison "P". The two men had covered their true allegiances so well that even their wives didn't know, nor did they suspect anything when the friends got a wild hair and went off camping and hunting for a weekend in the desert without warning. Just boys being boys, after all, and the men certainly knew better than to cheat on their wives, or if they did, not to bring anything home with them. The fact that their hunting gear was rather more professional than would be expected of casual hunters escaped their wives, who were just grateful to have a weekend to themselves.
After leaving home, Jon and Bud stopped at a nondescript house on the outskirts of Las Vegas and swapped cars, putting their Buick in the garage before driving off in an equally nondescript pickup truck that disguised a powerful engine and bullet-proof cabin.
They spent the next few hours chatting amiably about various local sports teams and the relative merits of their favorite and least favorite players. It wasn't until the final hour of the drive that Jon finally broached the subject of their mission.
"Group leader says that this dog, or whatever the critter is, is being held at that UIU facility outside Salt Lake that they think we don't know about. It's supposed to only be lightly fortified, so I'm thinking smash-and-grab?"
"Nah," Bud replied. "Maybe if we knew where exactly it was inside, but if we have to search for it, it'd be better to do it sneakier. Knockout gas in the vents?"
"That could work, but I bet they have windows open with this heat. One-on-one knockouts would be better, I think. I'm pretty sure the safe house in Salt Lake has some gas masks, so we can stop by there first. It'd be better to do this tonight, too, so there's fewer people to deal with."
"Sounds like a plan, bud."
"Hey, I'm Jon. You're Bud!" Jon laughed at the well-worn joke. "Now keep your eyes on the road while I go over the floorplans."
A grin on his face, Bud kept driving, the setting sun glowing red at their backs.
Special Agent Walsh was not having a good day. After the surprise inspection by Director Hoover, he and Fredericks had been assigned as the official dog-wranglers. It wasn't like Walsh disliked dogs, but he was leery about hanging around one that could cover you in radiation scars while licking your face. It didn't help that he kept having paperwork forwarded to him that had nothing to do with any of his cases, so that he spent at least an hour a day just returning stuff to the mailroom. At least he didn't have to deal with the snail man, though. Just the thought of what he did to people made Walsh's skin crawl.
Walsh had just finished transferring some dogshit to a lead-lined box and was typing out the internal transit slip when the lights flickered and died. He frowned in the sudden darkness and picked up the telephone receiver to call the switchboard for a line to the lobby, but the phone was dead. He retrieved his gun from the desk and groped his way over to the door leading to the hallway. He carefully cracked the door open and bent over to look through the crack at waist height. Wan moonlight was shining through a window at the end of the hall, but he couldn't see any suspicious movements. He didn't realize it was already so late, but it was easy to lose track when dealing with some of the things they had in custody.
Still, it wasn't storming, and the facility had a backup generator anyway, so it was highly unlikely that both the power and the internal phone lines going out was a random occurrence. Walsh quietly opened the door the rest of the way, went through, and closed it behind him. He didn't have the key to lock it, but hopefully that wouldn't be a problem. He crept down the hall as quietly as he could, but even so, the slight tap-tap-tap of his footsteps seemed to echo in his ears. He paused before turning the corner, listening for anything around the other side. Hearing only silence, he ducked around the corner and faced another empty hallway, lined with doors to other offices.
He went down the hallway slowly, glancing at each door to make sure none were suspiciously ajar. By the time he made it to the stairwell entrance at the end, his paranoia was oddly both heightened and lessened at the same time, precisely because he hadn't found anything to justify it yet. He opened the stairwell door as quietly as he could, but couldn't help but internally flinch at the slight squeak that was normally unnoticeable during the day but seemed as loud as a siren in the dark. The window across from the door gleamed with the same weak light as the hallway, barely illuminating the stairs.
He made his way down the concrete steps to the ground floor and the thankfully silent door to the lobby of the building. He carefully looked through the door's window and didn't see any abnormal movement, which in itself was worrisome, as he'd have expected the overnight security at the front desk to be there. He left the confines of the stairwell and made his way to the dark area behind the desk, where he found the security guard slumped in the footwell, unconscious. Walsh checked him quickly and professionally, but didn't find any blood or lumps on the head. It must've been chloroform or something like it, but how did the assailants get so close without the guard getting suspicious?
Walsh didn't even have to think about it; anyone invading the building at this time of night must be after one of the suspects in custody downstairs. Moving more rapidly now, he made a beeline for the depths of the ground floor, where the secure elevator to the custody cells was. Sure enough, the doors were pried open, held in place by an H-shaped metal bar at ankle height. A rope was tied to it, trailing down into the depths. He stuck his head into the shaft and saw the roof of the elevator 20 feet below, the emergency hatch open.
He briefly debated waiting for the invaders to come back this way, but there was too much danger that they would kill or damage the beings down below. Cursing under his breath, he climbed down the rope and then dropped himself down the hatch into the pitch black elevator. He felt for the doors and found them pried open too, another H-bar holding them open at the bottom. He saw light reflected off the wall at the end of the corridor in front of him, where another hallway crossed it. The shape of another slumped body was beside the doors of the elevator. Walsh regretted passing it by, but he didn't have time.
He drew his gun and crept down to the junction. He pressed against the wall right before the corner and listened carefully. There was silence, until he heard a sudden, distant angry barking.
Oh for Christ's sake, they're going after the darn dog?! Hope they brought their radiation gear. No, wait, I don't.
Without many options available, Walsh spun around the corner, gun pointed down the corridor. He spotted two men in dark clothes and gas masks about halfway down the long corridor, one halfway into the entry chamber for the dog's cell, one facing back towards Walsh.
With that, the man facing Walsh went to draw some complicated-looking gun at his side while his companion dove into the doorway, taking himself out of the line of fire. Walsh's training took over and he aimed and shot at the man down the hallway. A graze to the shoulder rather than a direct hit. Walsh took aim again and fired, a fraction of a second before the other man did. Walsh saw the other man's shoulder jerk back as the small canister struck him right in the sternum and gas broke free of it. The strike huffed the air out of Walsh's lungs and he involuntarily took a deep gasp to recover his breath, inhaling the strange gas.
Almost immediately he felt his head start swimming. As he fell and felt consciousness slipping away, he saw the man walk towards him, his silhouette menacing in the light of the flashlight dropped to the ground by the open door to the cell.
Bud looked down at the ass who'd shot him. Everything else had been going smoothly, probably more so that could be reasonably expected, but he did not appreciate getting his shoulder hit like that. He kicked the unconscious man in the ribs before bending down and picking up the gas bullet. He put it in his pocket and walked back over to where Jon was crouched in the doorway.
"He's down and gone. I think that shot broke my shoulder, though. Will you be able to get the dog up the elevator by yourself?"
"Yeah, should be able to. There's a carrier in here and I can tie the rope to it. Let's hurry before anyone else shows up."
Bud nodded and took a guard position in the doorway while Jon collected the dog. He may not be as good a shot with his left arm, but it was still better than nothing. And he wouldn't be able to wrangle an upset dog into a carrier with only one arm.
There was some low cursing behind him as Jon discovered that the dog carrier was significantly heavier than he expected. Given the limited info they'd been given about the target, he suspected that it was lead-lined, but he hadn't realized just how heavy that much lead would be. Nevertheless, he maneuvered the carrier over to a door leading into the next chamber. He'd seen some hanging full-body suits over on the wall, but didn't have time to get into one. He figured that if he got the dog into the carrier fast enough, he should be okay.
It was some kind of airlock door with a big wheel in the middle to unlock it, like in a submarine or something. The wheel itself was easy to open, but the door was heavy. He suspected that it was steel with a lead lining, like the dog carrier. His skin started to feel warm and tingly as he pulled the door open, but once it was open enough to slip in with the lead box, Jon did so. The dog was in a corner, alternating between growling and barking at him.
It took a few abortive grabs before he was able to grab the thing by the scruff of its neck and shove it into the box, but he finally did so after about five minutes. Once it was inside, he quickly slammed the door shut and flipped the latch so it wouldn't open unexpectedly. After that, it was a relatively simple job to half-carry, half-drag the box out to where Bud stood watch.
Bud's shirt was visibly wet with blood in the light from the flashlights, but he was still upright, so he was in good enough shape for them to get out and to the safe house in Salt Lake. Getting out took longer than either of them was comfortable with, but between Bud being one-handed and the damn dog moving around in the heavy box, they did the best they could. Really the hardest part was getting back up the rope to the main floor. After a half hour they were back in the truck, the dog carrier in the back, and on their way to the safe house.
Jon was starting to feel sick to his stomach, and his skin was itching something fierce, but he put it down to nerves about nabbing something as dangerous as that dog. He didn't even notice the weird sunburn-looking patches on his face and hands until they were back at the safe house and he'd finished vomiting into the toilet.
He was having trouble thinking straight, but he was fairly sure that he was in trouble.