The night is as dark as motor oil with just a hint of sheen as the slight light reflects off of it illumated only by the moon, stars and the far off street lamps and motion detector lights that prove to be futile by one as skillful as he. It is 3:00 AM, dead time to some, and he works almost playfully going about his task on board the docked freighter of this sleepy little coastal city of Wilmington, NC. Funny, this would be last place anyone would guess this confrontation would take place. This is the beginning...
"Rrrriiiiiinggggg!" screams the brushed silver alarm clock on the bedside nightstand.
"Shut up!" grunts Elizabeth Catalano as she insinctually reaches over and just as if her hand contained a homing device for the shut-off switch it makes contact with it instantaneously to stop the ingratiating noise. She forces herself out of the cocoon of her warm slumber wrapped in the softness of her chocolate brown comforter and sleepwalks her way down the corridor to gulp down the magic potion of coffee with lots of french vanilla creamer.
As the cobwebs and delirium slowly begin to disappear from her brain she notices the sound of far-off sirens, lots of them. She walks over to the floor to ceiling windows and peers out of the sheer white panels. Nothing. It's too far away.
She walks over to the tv and turns on the local channel and there's a live broadcast on from down at the commercial docks. Explosion. Toxic smoke. Possible evacuations.
'Great,' she thinks. 'Toxic and smoke are my favorite things to hear first thing in the morning. And I know we'll be involved some how.'
She chugs down the last drop of coffee and goes to immerse herself in the powers of the shower that finishes her transformation from walking zombie to a human being.
Elizabeth finishes dressing and her cell phone rings. It's John Stephenson, her marine biology professor at UNCW. John must have been a hippy in his younger years because he is just way too laid back.
"Hello, John." She notices alarms and sirens, screaming and chaos and can hardly hear him.
"Elizabeth, meet me down at the docks." Pause. "You've got your ID badge, don't you? You'll need it to get past the barricades."
'Shit! He knows me too well,' Elizabeth thinks.
"Yeah, yeah, of course I've got it. I'm just walking out of the door, I'll be right there."
'Where the hell did I put it!' as she's frantically searching her brain back to the last time she used it.
Elizabeth's driving with the windows rolled down. It's a beautiful 70 degrees with just a hint of the days humidity in the air. She turns on to 3rd Street, and there it is. Mayhem. Traffic backed up for blocks, detours and officers directing traffic and just 2 blocks towards the direction of the docks is this massive black/grey mushroom cloud that makes it look like the Atomic went off. She looks at the drivers faces in the cars around her. They all look horrified and in a state of shock. She's making slow progress as she searches under her seat for her badge.
'There it is, thank God!' and she pulls it out just as she's coming up to the first barricade to ask for access.
As she passes through it's as if she's entered into a burning building. She's engulfed in hot, thick, black, choking smoke and she begins to gasp. She reaches up and pulls the blue bandana down from her rear-view mirror to cover her mouth and nose. She fights back a feeling of hysteria welling up inside of her threatening to take over her self-control.