Episode Three: Stasis

By Kittsbud

Part One

 

The warm Arizona breeze ruffled through the carefully sculptured bushes, invoking a gentle rustling, as if someone or something has brushed past them. It was nighttime, and not one single cloud stained the heavens above the institute. Silence filled the desert, just like the unholy silence from within the recently constructed building.

Its walls were stark gray, the perfectly tended greenery in its grounds contrasting totally with the structure’s outer image. This was a place that gave away little as to what carried on behind its thick, concrete walls.

To a passer-by on the highway it could easily be mistaken for some big-shot corporation’s office building, but it was more- much more.

A name plaque, carefully placed among the greenery may have given some clue as to what the institute really strived for, but few people ever visited or got close enough to read it.

This place was rarely visited, and those who were brought here, never left.


* * * *

Phil Garrett munched on a packet of his favorite chips and opened up his newspaper. He was on the night shift, and it was truly like being in a graveyard. Nothing ever happened here, not ever. He sometimes joked to his wife that he got paid for nothing, but in truth it was no joke. All he had to do to pick up his wages every week was sit in a small office and watch a few gauges.

Sure, he was supposed to walk the grounds a few times and check on his ‘people,’ but he rarely did. It wasn’t like they were going anywhere.

Phil opened up his paper, ignoring the main headline to focus on more local gossip. He shook his head, 'no' as he read an article about some superstitious hocus pocus in the neighbouring town of Sedona. The headline clearly stated 'LOCALS TERRIFIED BY UNKNOWN ANIMAL.' “What is this world coming to?” He grumbled, munching on another chip with a chuckle.

He turned over the page, looking for something a little more down to earth, but today’s issue didn’t even have any good sports news. Annoyed, Phil screwed up the local and tossed it in the nearby waste bin. He was tempted to go ask for his money back, but instead he finally noticed a gauge flashing out of the corner of his eye.

Phil glanced at his watch and realized his mistake. He should have checked everything at least a half an hour ago and now he was going to get chewed out if this was a real emergency.

The light blinked at him, taunting him for his misjudgment. Then, another, and another began to flash in unison. Finally, an alarm klaxon began to blurt out, filling the whole structure and the surrounding desert with an eerie wail.

“Shit!” Phil clambered from his seat and double-checked every gauge. He tugged out a soiled keyboard, bringing up more detailed information, but it all clarified the same thing- there was a nitrogen leak and the emergency system had yet to kick in. Temperatures within the institute’s containment system were rising.

Phil tapped at the keys, trying desperately to bring the emergency system back up, but it refused his every command. Breathing heavily, he took another look at the time before picking up a red phone on the desk. The wall clock read 12:05a.m.


* * * *

Jerry Devin slipped off his jacket and loosened his tie. It had been a hard day at the office, and now he just wanted to relax. He flicked the light switch, making the wall lamps dim to just the right ambience, and then placed more wood on the fire.

Flames danced and small embers rose from the blaze, lighting up the room just a little more.

Jerry nodded, satisfied, and moved to a small bar he kept fully stocked. It was time for a quick Scotch while he checked over some work files on his laptop. The Glenmorangie ebbed into his tumbler, and he sipped, savoring the single malt to its fullest.

Jerry was only twenty-six, but he was already at the top of the league in his field. Being the best meant he could afford many luxuries like this- the apartment, the lifestyle.

He sighed, clicking on his hi-tech music center to add a little more mood to the scene. In his teenage years he’d preferred rock, but now, just like everything else, his musical tastes had matured. Ravel ebbed from the multitude of well-placed speakers in the apartment, and Jerry finally took a seat on his leather sofa, opening his laptop and booting it up.

After a short pause the correct folder appeared, and he reached out a thumb to click on the touch pad. Without warning, a spike of cold shot down his spine as if a frozen finger had traced its way down his back.

Jerry shuddered, finding himself compelled to take another sip of Scotch just for the warmth it imbued. The drink, however, did little to restore heat to his body. In fact, he felt even colder, as if he’d been dunked in a bath full of ice.

He shivered again, this time finding it hard to prevent his cooling muscles from quivering. “What the?” Jerry quickly got to his feet, grabbing the nearby poker and prodded the flames to instill more warmth to the room.

Nothing. Instead of rising, the flames seemed to be getting smaller, like something was having a dampening effect on them. Worse still, the temperature in the room was continuing to drop.

Jerry reached to grab his jacket back, but before his hand could touch the expensive garment, a soft rapping noise signaled someone was at the door.

Jerry paused, unsure what to think. He wasn’t expecting any visitors, and he was sure the room was getting unnaturally cool. A thought struck him, and he voiced it aloud. “Maybe the apartment block’s climate control isn’t working? Maybe they sent out an engineer.” It was a silly assumption for someone with his intellect but easier to accept than the other possibility that something paranormal was going on.

Jerry swallowed hard and only then noticed that Ravel had somehow been replaced with another song- even though he hadn’t touched the music system.

‘You’re as cold as ice….someday you'll pay the price…’

Jerry instantly recognized the song as a Foreigner track, but it was impossible that it could be playing right now. He didn’t own one single Foreigner CD. Annoyed, he ignored the knocking at the door and picked up the remote for his system.

He clicked, forcing the CD player to skip to the next track.

‘Cold as ice, you know that you are
Cold, cold, as, as, ice, as cold as ice to me’

Jerry felt the cold tentacle weave down his spine again, and this time it scared him. Suddenly, he wanted to speak to the person at the door. He wanted contact with someone, anyone, because he was terrified.

As he crossed the room, he kept his gaze firmly fixed on the entrance to his home, afraid to look around for what he might see. Should he have turned, he would have noted a thin white sheen of ice forming on every window and glass surface in the apartment.

The ice grew thicker, until finally a layer formed on the CD player’s lens and the music stopped.

“Thank God,” Jerry mumbled as he fumbled to unlatch the door. The music had spooked him, and now that it had ceased he could deal with the engineer outside in a little more coherent manner.

He flicked the handle down and yanked back the wooden frame just a little too quickly. What awaited was not an engineer.

Jerry screamed, but his pitiful cry was somehow stifled by the thing that now enveloped his body like a blanket. He stumbled backwards, arms flailing, but there was no escape from the cold that now held him.

Seconds later, Jerry’s stiff corpse fell to the plush carpet in his room, his eyes staring wildly, frozen solid. On the wall, a gold embellished clock stopped ticking at exactly his time of death- 12:05a.m.


* * * *


Dean Winchester twiddled his thumbs atop the Impala’s steering wheel as he raced along the I-40 out of Arizona. He was heading the Chevy to California for a second break in as many months- mainly because Sam still thought they weren't ready for the real deal after the accident in Missouri.

Right...Dean scoffed to himself as he thought about what they had just fought.

The brothers had just finished a gig just south of Sedona, and to say it hadn’t exactly gone to plan was pretty much an understatement.

The case had meant to have been their first real gig after Dean's recovery from some pretty horrific injuries, and according to Sam it should have been an easy one. Black Shuck he had said. Just a dog spirit he had said.

Dean rolled his eyes as he thought about the demon-eyed monster they had just sent back to hell, wondering how it could ever be considered any kind of dog. Still, it had given him the chance to prove he was back on form and back to his old self. The scars on his chest still ached, and sometimes if he caught a blow the wrong way he was easily winded, but Dean was still back in action. Back to killin' spook ass every chance he got.

Sam on the other hand, well, Sam was a different matter. Since leaving Bobby's, he'd done nothing but worry about his big brother getting back on track too soon and fret over their old friend Zack Murzak. They still hadn't heard from the cantankerous demon expert, and after about a hundred calls Sam was convinced Murzak was no longer in the land of the living.

In fact, Sam hadn’t said much on the drive through the Mohave Valley as Dean poured on the gas, and to Dean that meant his brother was moping big time.

“Sammy, are you ever gonna stop playing with that phone and talk to me?” Dean shot his brother a look and then put his eyes back on the road. “Geez, I even turned off the rock and you still sulk.”

Sam frowned. “I’m not sulking. I’m reading.” He held up the cell phone that seconded as a PDA. “I’ve been getting e-mails…”

Dean wiggled his eyebrows suggestively and then grinned. “Right. Here’s me thinking you’re on a downer, and you’re actually chatting with some hot chick, huh?”

“Nope,” Sam countered, "Sarah is the only 'hot chick' I talk to after Meg, remember?" He gestured with his thumb to the roadside. “Pull over, this is weird.”

Dean checked his mirror. There wasn’t another vehicle in sight, so he pulled the Chevy over to the edge of the desert highway. Killing the ignition, he waited expectantly to hear what had gotten his brother so interested. When Sam continued to scroll through what was on the phone, he coughed. “Ahem, care to share your revelation, Geek boy?”

“The e-mails are from a random web mail address. Basically, they could be from anyone.” Sam reached for the back seat of the Impala and quickly plucked their laptop from a hold all. He clicked a button, transferring the e-mails over so Dean could see all the files they’d received more easily on a larger screen. “Our anonymous friend wants us to check out three deaths in Barstow, California.”

“Our kinda deaths? You think Dad sent it?” Dean shook his head. “Sam, we’ve been through this before. The man can’t manage an e-mail!”

“Right, you said that about a text message and…” He let the sentence trail a moment to get his point across. “Anyway, the gist of this is, the deaths are baffling the local cops. Take a look.” He swiveled the laptop over so the screen was visible to Dean. “All three victims were found dead in their homes- frozen to death. It says here that the bodies looked like they’d been in a meat locker all night, although the coroner won’t confirm anything yet.”

Dean continued reading where his brother left off. He’d gone from mildly annoyed to interested in less than two seconds. People didn’t just freeze to death in desert territory. “Look at this. It says the last victim even had a fire blazing in his hearth! The dude must have been whacked out in this heat…”

Sam shook his head. “People with his kind of money have open fires just for effect. They let the climate control do its job. The fire is to impress.”

Dean’s eyes widened slightly and he smiled. “Ah, I get it. Chicks dig an open fire…” He shook himself and continued reading. “According to this there were no signs of foul play, and the only lead the cops have is of a woman on CCTV footage outside the victim’s door, shortly before his death.”

“You thinking spirit?” Sam asked, reading the final report a third time.

Dean scowled. “Honestly, I don’t know. I mean the freezing thing, I’ve never seen anything like it before, not even in Dad’s journal. One thing we can be sure of is this is our kinda gig.” He waited, hoping his brother would finaly stop playing mother hen and let them get back into the game.

Sam didn't disappoint. “We need to find the girl. If she’s the only lead she could be part of this.”

Dean inhaled. “From the looks of these reports, finding her isn’t going to be that easy. The cops aren’t releasing the video footage of her until the local crime lab has finished analyzing it. That could take days.”

“We could ignore the mails, but if they’re from Dad…” Sam knew Dean wouldn't normally be able to resist an order from their father, but after the recent strain on their relationship it would be interesting to see his next move.

“Or,” Dean offered, “we could get the video footage by other means.” A smile grew on his face from ear to ear, and he restarted the Impala without explaining further. He didn’t have to. They were headed for Barstow and the local crime lab.


* * * *

San Bernardino Crime Lab 11:54p.m.

Dean pulled the Impala up to the curb a good distance from the building and cut the engine. He’d chosen a spot in the shadows where the car’s dark color hid it to all except the keen-eyed observer. It was better this way, because just walking into the crime lab and masquerading as a C.S.I. or technician wasn’t really viable. Neither he nor Sam had the relevant knowledge should they get questioned by other staff members.

“You sure this is going to work?” Sam didn’t sound convinced as he watched his brother pull a satchel over from the rear seat. “I mean, breaking in is a little radical…” I should go with him. He's not ready after the accident...

Dean sighed. He knew damn well Sam was fretting again but he really couldn’t see another option to get the video footage. And besides, he had no intention of being baby-minded by his little brother for the rest of his life. He’d managed to find out from one of his police ‘girls’ that the tape was in senior investigator Jack Worrell’s office being worked on, and getting in there as an outside contractor just wasn’t going to be possible. Nope, Dean was going in solo. He'd made his mind up about it and Sammy wasn't going to convince him otherwise.

Worrell apparently had a reputation that made TV’s Gil Grissom look like a pussycat. The man was meticulous to the point of insanity- even about security in his labs. That little fact made it even more of a challenge for Dean to prove himself.

“Trust me, I can do this,” Dean offered with more confidence than he actually felt. “There’s a fire exit I can get in through with just a little help.” He wafted a few tools from inside the satchel. “I got the camera layout from dad’s friend Mel while you were snoozing on the ride over,” he explained. “There’s only one camera in that corridor. It should be a breeze…”

Sam wasn’t buying it. “Then why am I staying outside again?” He raised a brow when Dean didn’t answer. “Oh right, so I can come play out the cavalry rescue when you get your butt busted in there.”

Dean grinned. “Twenty bucks says I make it out with the tape.” He pushed open the door and hopped out, taking the bag of tools with him.

“Yeah, you mean the twenty bucks you still owe me from last week, jerk!” Sam mouthed after his brother as Dean melted into the darkness. Then, just as a precaution he turned on the police scanner that was carefully mounted out of sight under the dash. It was better to be safe than sorry, and if he did need to play rescue, he’d at least know the cops were coming.

* * * *

Dean jogged across the crime lab’s parking lot, dodging from shadow to shadow to keep out of sight. The lot had surveillance, just like inside the building, but he knew where the cameras where placed and kept well away from them. Mel had expert knowledge in all kinds of security systems and had informed him that any place had weak spots if you knew where to look.

“You better be right, Mel, or I’m gonna be paying Sammy boy his twenty back.” Dean whispered to himself as he scooted down a side alley and came to the infamous fire exit. Now it was time to go to work with the tools. Like any lock, Dean had it cracked in under a couple of minutes.

He looked from left to right and then pulled back carefully with the hook he had placed through the hole he’d drilled. The exit gave way smoothly and he glanced inside. Worrell’s office was just a few yards down the corridor he’d gained access to but then so was the camera.

“One wrong move and I get to be star for a day at the local police department,” he quipped, waiting for the camera to swivel in the opposite direction.

It seemed painfully slow to turn, but once it had panned away, Dean took a dive for Worrell’s office door, lock picking tools in one hand and a flashlight in the other.

He began to pant as exertion and adrenalin kicked in, and for a second he wondered if he really was fit enough. This was almost as exhilarating as a ‘hunt,’ and he was already breathless from running across the lot- not something that would have happened before the demon-inflicted injuries.

Two more seconds and he was shutting the office door behind him and flicking on his light. He kept the beam well away from the door, hoping it would help avoid detection from any passerby.

“Okay, Grissom wannabe, where do you keep the projects you’re working on?” Dean noted a set up in the corner that was obviously for watching and editing video footage. It looked pretty technical, digital stuff.

Glancing over his shoulder, he headed for it and began to search around. There was apparently no place to insert a security video, but the bank did have several disc drives. Atop one sat several labeled jewel cases.

Dean quickly sifted through them until he found what he was looking for. “Right, Grissom wouldn’t keep the master copy here. It’s probably locked away somewhere tight, but this will do just as good.” He flipped the disc into his top pocket. “Twenty bucks coming my way, Sammy boy!”

“Sammy boy may have to wait to pay that debt.” The lights suddenly flickered on, and Dean found he was looking straight down the barrel of a police issue revolver. “Do you realize the penalty for breaking in here and trying to steal evidence?” As he spoke, the man moved to a nearby desk and picked up the phone on it, calling for security.

“Hey, I wasn’t stealing it. I was just borrowing, honest.” Dean thought about bolting for the door, but he could tell the man he was dealing with was no pushover. In fact, he suspected it was Worrell.

“You won’t be so quick to joke when you’re locked up in the state pen, young man.” The investigator scrutinized his captive as if he was a specimen to be dissected. “What were you after, the Grissetti footage?” As he spoke, a security guard entered. Worrell nodded to him. “Search this piece of trash. I caught him red handed in here.”

The guard didn’t speak but quickly began to frisk Dean as he’d been ordered.

“Hey, keep your hands off the merchandise!” Dean gave in and offered up the disc with a frown. “Like I said, I was just borrowing it. Daytime TV sucks, so I thought I’d try something a little more action packed, ya know?” The quip earned him a dirty look from both the guard and Worrell, but he shrugged it off.

Worrell took the disc back, checking to see what files it held. He was surprised to see it was the Devin case and not Grissetti. “You broke in here for this? Are you nuts?”

Dean shrugged again, his eyes twinkling with mirth. “According to some of my friends that’s debatable, but I’m a nice kinda nuts, honest.”

Worrell sighed. He hated wise-asses, and he was obviously dealing with one. “I’ll let the police deal with you from here. An officer has already been dispatched to take you downtown, so you might want to think about telling us what you’re really here for. Why not start with your name?”

Another grin. “Houdini…that’s with an H…”

“Actually, your real name is Winchester. Dean Winchester to be precise. What’s more, you’re a wanted felon…”

Dean whirled to face the voice. As if things weren’t bad enough being caught, his past was now catching up with him too.

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