In effect, Nathan, nor Doctor Hart, had exactly expected that the residue would react so violently to the chemicals found in a field testing kit. Neither did they really expect that it would cause a sudden shift in reality, displacing everyone in the van approximately sixteen feet to their immediate left. This left them rolling and careening, at forty miles per hour, across the grassy side of the road, just off the edge of the asphalt. A few of the instruments they had been holding were dropped alongside the road as well, and the van swerved and slowed, driving just off the side of East Lake road. It came to a stop in the median between the two sides of the road, with its crew across the way from it, staring back at it. Doctor Hart was one of the first to pipe up about it.
"Well, we're lucky that it only sent us sideways, not down."
Nathan's head was still swimming after the sudden impact, but everyone else was rising. Most of them had experienced worse in their time in the Mobile Task Force designated Green Thumbs, and, most hadn't been leaning over the foldable stand in the center of the van's seating area, which would have caused a near headfirst impact as Atkinson had experienced. There was a hand offered to him, but he didn't realize it for another few seconds, gripping it shakily.
"What… was that? What are we even dealing with here? It's…"
"—been one Hell of a day," Hart stepped in, nodding at one of the task force members. They made their way back across the road to collect the van. "And I think that's all we're going to need from you for now, Mr. Atkinson." Nathan stood and nodded, trying to get a bearing on where he was again. Reaching into his pocket, he checked his phone for the time. 5:00 PM. "Well, does that mean you'll drive me back around to the building, then?" Nathan asked. The van pulled onto their side of the road, and they piled in while Hart answered in the affirmative.
"So, we amnesticize him?"
"No, no," Hart murmured as he and Jacob trailed behind Nathan as he approached his place of work. "Not yet. We may need him yet."
"Why not just copy his resources, and go? Isn't that usually the protocol?"
Hart rubbed his temples and stopped, motioning for Jacob to look at him. He slid his hands into his pockets. "Do you remember the last researcher who joined us?"
Jacob nodded. "Diario, yeah. I remember the guy. He's gone now though, yeah? Didn't even find his body?"
Hart hummed and shrugged. "No, we never found it. I can't operate this alone, though, and… the task force as it is lacks in some of the knowledge we need to run properly here, without Diario. And I can't go running out with the rest of you anymore. I'm growing older, Jacob."
"So, what? You act like you can just shake his hand and tell him 'Welcome aboard'."
"We shoved him into a van and already showed him the shit we do on a daily basis. What else would I do now? Look at him. He's been more fascinated than scared shitless. Do you remember when you were first recruited, Jacob? From the force?"
Jacob began to meander towards the building. Nathan was long inside by now, and Hart followed. "Yes. Yes, I do, but that was different."
"Was it? You couldn't even handle it at first. We almost passed you by."
Jacob stopped at the front door. "Doc, I'm heading back to the van. Don't be long."
Hart gripped the handle on the door, pulling it open, leaving the other with no promise of being quick.
Nathan looked up from his desk, almost having finished packing. "Yes? I'm nearly gone, just have a few last things. I assume that I shouldn't be telling anyone about what's going on, yeah? Private investigation or something?"
Hart leaned on the edge of Atkinson's desk, his arms crossed abreast. "Not exactly. But, no, don't tell anyone. We will have enough work suppressing these events as it is. We already had another five incidents with those deer reported this evening. Another team from Gainesville slid down to take care of it. We're a tad sparse on staff in this region." Hart flinched internally. He was, again, spilling too much. He couldn't figure exactly why he was doing so much for Nathan. He had broken protocol already in straight up dumping him in the van and bringing him out, even more so to expose information to him, even if vague. What was it?
"I get you, yeah. Not normal. Why is this happening?"
"We're working on it. We sent back samples to headquarters, we're trying to figure out what it is. We might have seen it before, in Mich—" Hart stopped. That was too much for the uninitiated. "Doctor Atkinson, are you satisfied with your current position in the world?"
"I'm hardly a doctor, and that's a mighty strange question to ask. Are you asking if I'm happy with my compensation? It's not like I have many mouths to feed, so—"
"No. Are you happy, now that you know that there's more out there?"
Nathan stopped. He folded his hands and sat at his desk, leaning back into the chair. He let off a sigh. "I've seen too much for one day. It's still processing for me. It's entirely surreal."
Hart gave the other a pat on the shoulder. "Don't worry, it's much the same how I reacted when I—" He stopped again. That was it. That was why.
"How interested are you in this case?" Hart began again. Nathan shuffled a few more papers as he listened, trying to finish the last of his preparations to leave. "Interested?" he inquired, standing. "Very. I also understand, though, that it's dangerous. I'm not sure how close I want to get to that."
"It gets worse before it gets better," Hart intoned.
Nathan shook his head. "I don't know. What of my current job? My coworkers? Are you asking me if I care to join you? For what, even? You never answered my question. Who are you?"
Hart tapped his foot, turning to leave. "I can't tell you that. Not quite yet."
"Are you implying that I'll agree to help you?"
Hart was already halfway out the office. "Maybe. Maybe."
As he left, leaving Nathan in the building, he chuckled. The van was already running, and the horn honked twice as he made his approach. "Just like me, damnit. Just like me," he muttered, albeit not unhappily, as he seated himself in the back.