Like little army commandoes Professor Goodwin’s team stealthily approached the office of Mr. John Backhaus. As expected, the city was much alive, and as always its mechanism continued like clockwork. Oliver’s eyes swept over the glowing skyline in search of a vantage point over Backhaus’ office, and, finding a satisfactory spot, he lead the team to a scaffold that clung to one of the neighbouring buildings. Through a pair of binoculars he observed the men who surrounded the building. “As I expected,” he said, “Mr. John Backhaus has a few friends looking after his possessions. Wait… never mind, there are only two security guards that I can see. One outside and one inside.” He smiled. “Well this is going good so far. As I recall my last heist had seventeen.” The next ten minutes were the quietest ten minutes of Elsie’s life. No one said a word, they simply stared down at the office and waited for Oliver as he peered through the binocular. “Yes,” he breathed. “There is a very small window of time when the front door is unguarded. You see…” he handed the binoculars to Elsie. “Roughly every two minutes the inside guard approaches the door and then turns around. Meanwhile, the outside guard has been doing loops, and he passes the front door every forty seconds. I’m afraid I’ll need more time to pick the lock to the front door, which means someone should go around to the back of the building and incapacitate that guard. Once he’s down, come around and meet me by the door, and the second guard turns away, I’ll pick the lock and you can take him out too. If you encounter any extra guards stay hidden and return to this spot. I’d rather plan a second approach than have to improvise.”
A few seconds passed and then Oliver gave the signal. Jack and Mr. Adams climbed swiftly down from their nest and rushed across to the left side of the building. A few moments later they emerged on the other side and Jack gave the thumbs up that indicated Tanner was clear to move down. He did this quickly, and hiding behind the door he waited for the second guard to make another round before picking the lock – a task that he made look extraordinarily easy. He nudged the door open and sent Jack and Mr. Adams inside, and in another moment the second guard was unconscious on the ground. “You know, for a legendary heist this has gone pretty swell so far,” Tanner said. “Keep an eye out for traps, or something of the sort. What I can tell from the lack of security is that Mr. Backhaus places a lot of faith in his brass vault.”
Jack then led the way. “Come on,” he said. “The vault is upstairs.” They breeched the office – which was exactly the same as when Elsie had last visited – and there they stood before the vault – which was hardly inconspicuous.
Oliver laid out all of his tools on Mr. Backhaus’ massive desk, and then he looked over the schematic once again. “Well, you might as well get comfortable. This is probably going to take a while.” That being said, he didn’t waste any time, and went straight to work on that safe like a scavenger to a pile of meat.
In the meantime, Elsie took to raiding the rest of Backhaus’ office, starting with his bookshelves. She was sorely disappointed but not particularly surprised to learn that he had nothing of taste in his collection, and there were no works of fiction that Elsie had previously enjoyed – in fact, there was hardly any fiction at all. In Backhaus’ desk was a ledger of some kind, some other papers of no particular interest, and a collection of fine pens, but little else. She then turned to Jack who was scourging through a filing cabinet in the corner of the room. “Find anything noteworthy in there?” she asked.
All he did was shrug. “I think anything that we’re interested in is already locked away in the vault.”
Elsie checked the other draws and with a little fortune stumbled upon a letter written in the elegant hand of Charles Vandenberg. It read:
Dear Mr. John Backhaus,
I am afraid that the situation has become critical. With Robert Goodwin and his little band in constant pursuit of my beloved specimen I do not dare remain in the same place for long. For the time being I shall reside in Delta Base, should you wish to find me, and you can assume I am here until I provide you with further notice. Please notify me when you receive word from the bounty hunter that Goodwin has been dealt with. I did not wish this to happen, however he refused to see reason, and therefore I had no choice. I have sacrificed so much, and the weight of my endeavours are finally beginning to bear down on me… If there is a god, I pray that he’ll forgive me…
Delta Base. Elsie turned to Jack and the professor. “Guys, I think Vandenberg is hiding out at the Delta Base facility.” She showed them the letter, and for Professor Goodwin it seemed like a sad triumph had come over him.
“If he is indeed in the facility then he won’t remain there for long. We must take whatever is in that vault and then return across the sea immediately…”
Suddenly there came a very loud clack and Oliver Tanner raised his arms and jumped with excitement as the door of the brass vault shifted open. “Yes!” he cried. “I am officially the best thief in Pearl Isle… oh, sorry.”
Unfortunately Professor Goodwin didn’t share his excitement. “Let’s just hope that whatever is in there is worth it.”
The inside of the vault turned out to just be a heavily reinforced square room about five meters wide and five meters long. Inside was a shelf containing a wealth of money and a small pile of gold and other precious items. In a box in the corner was a collection of files containing information on all the biggest business owners in Pearl Isle, as well as other significant figures, and some of the files contained various forms of blackmail. Jack selected another very important-looking box with the words CONFIDENTIAL written in red ink on the side. “This look valuable,” he said as he sifted through the papers. And then he paused. “Oh no… Guys, I think I’ve found something here and you are really not going to like it.”
Elsie felt a cold tinge on the back of her neck. “This can’t be good. What is it?”
Jack continued to shuffle through the papers as he spoke. “Well, according to this Backhaus has finally acquired Vandenberg’s technology, but it looks like he’s had his own people make a few changes. Look at this here…” he handed a small ledger to Professor Goodwin. “Backhaus plans on selling the technology to organisations all over the world! Rapture, the Red Sword, Violet Jackal, Golden Fox…”
“What kind of names are they?” Elsie asked.
“I recognise some of them,” explained Mr. Adams. “They’re private military organisations; mercenary groups.”
Jack’s eyes widened. “Good lord! He’ll be selling super soldiers!”
Goodwin then spoke in a grim voice. “Jack is right. With Vandenberg’s technology, these soldiers will have advanced bio-technology, regeneration, more stamina and endurance, enhanced strength. All those lives Vandenberg wanted to save will be wasted if this gets out. Backhaus has spat on my old friend’s entire life’s work… but I tried to warn him.”
“You don’t think Vandenberg had a part in this, professor?” Elsie asked.
“Oh, I know that he didn’t. It is like I said before; Vandenberg is a broken soul, but I believe his ideals remain the same. All he ever wanted was to save lives, and he sacrificed his very being in the process. Vandenberg must know that we have this. If he learns about what Backhaus has been doing with his technology he will surely sever their partnership entirely. Perhaps this is what I needed all along to convince Vandenberg of the error of his ways.”
Jack – while searching for more information – moved the box aside and found a small metal chest. “This looks important,” he said, as he opened it up. “Hopefully it isn’t more bad news.” But what he found inside was not bad news at all. He held in his hand a small metal device that shined like copper as the light glimpsed over it.
“What is that?” Elsie asked.
Jack handed the device to Professor Goodwin and he observed it. “It looks like a detonator. How peculiar.”
“Indeed,” said Jack, “but a detonator for what?” He retrieved another letter written in Charles Vandenberg’s elegant hand. The letter read:
Dear Mr. John Backhaus,
It pains me to have to resort to such measures, however I fear that as the days go by I am losing control over my beloved Specimen Zero. If this matter is not dealt with shortly I fear that there is a great possibility I will not be able to direct her movements at all, in which case I will have an obligation to prevent any further lives from being destroyed – there is already far too much blood on my hands. The device I have sent to you is a kill-switch that will detonate the explosive I placed in Specimen Zero’s brain. Unfortunately it only has a two-hundred meter range, meaning you will need to get dangerously close to her, however I thought that Mr. Bowler would be appropriate for the task – although I pray it will not even be required. I am entrusting this to you because there is no one else for me to turn to. Furthermore, I dare not take her life myself. She did not ask to be created, and therefore I have no right end her life…
“Professor!” Jack exclaimed. “This is it. This is how we are going to put an end to all of it. We just have to find the monster and get close enough for the detonator to work.”
The professor ran his hand through his beard. “It is sad, in a way. I will not deny that Specimen Zero is a monster, but Vandenberg’s love for all of his scientific creations gave a life to that creature like no other in this world. We must find Vandenberg first. I do think that perhaps he will now agree to end his work, knowing that John Backhaus has defiled it.” He turned towards the door. “Then our purpose here is served. Take what evidence against Backhaus you can carry and leave the rest.”
Elsie noticed Oliver sneak a few pieces of gold into his pockets, and she smiled. She was about to leave thinking that breaking into Mr. John Backhaus’ office was a task that was easier done than said, however she thought too soon, as two voices emerged from down stairs, with one of them unmistakably belonging to Backhaus. “I will not stand for this!” he was saying. “Where on earth is my security? How hard is it to stand around one building for a few hours? What am I paying them for? In fact, what am I paying you for?”
Backhaus walked up the stairs and into his office, and he stumbled as if he had strolled into a pane of glass. The entirety of Professor Goodwin’s team surrounded him and his assistant, and in a most intimidating way Mr. Adams shut the door behind them.
“Hello Mr. Backhaus,” said Jack. “I’m afraid you’ve come at a most inappropriate time. Would you mind coming back later?”
Backhaus’ face began to glow red, and he glared at them like some stylish bearded lobster. “What is the meaning of this!” he bellowed. “You think you can just walk into my office and raid my vault!” His assistant – a small man with a pencil moustache and big round glasses – quivered and took two steps away; he knew it was best to take no chances when Mr. Backhaus was angry. Backhaus pointed a bony finger at Goodwin. “You will never make it out of this city, and even if you do, mark my words, sir, one way or another, on my very life, I will destroy you!”
Goodwin inclined his head. “Not if we destroy you first. I can see you have put a lot of effort into building your little empire. But as the saying goes, the bigger you are, the harder you will fall…”
Suddenly the door was once again bashed open by a ghost. Elsie must have been dreaming, otherwise she had stumbled upon yet another unnatural phenomenon. Mr. Rex Bowler certainly looked as though he had seen better days, but there he was standing in the doorway. Elsie had never believed in wraiths before, however now she didn’t quite know what to believe. “We watched you get sucked into the sea!” she blurted.
He scowled at her. “I survived.”
Mr. Backhaus scurried behind Rex like a frightened rat. “Good,” he exclaimed. “But where on earth have you been? Never mind that,” he pointed at everyone in the room collected, “just kill these nuisances.”
But Rex made not a single move, until an ugly smile touched his lips. “It’s funny, that. Mr. Backhaus I hereby resign my contract. Send whoever the hell you like after me, I will not hurt these people.”
Backhaus – upon hearing this news – went from red to pale, and he staggered across to his assistant, and well away from Rex. “You insolent swine! How dare you refuse me!”
Rex then turned to Goodwin and the others. “You guys had better get out of here quick.” He cracked his knuckles. “Don’t worry, I have some unfinished business with the snake.”
Elsie left Backhaus Industries thinking that was a remarkably unexpected turn of events. She constantly wondered by what strange miracle Rex had survived. But what she did understand – or assumed to understand – was that upon facing the inevitability of death and yet having survived, Rex must have had some kind of change of heart. Either way, in the end she was glad that he was okay.
Having returned to the VS Rosanne 7 promptly after escaping from Backhaus Industries – and evading the local police – they were well underway before the break of dawn, making full speed towards the Delta Base Facility.ns 188.8.131.52da2