Human Man
Chapter 40

Copyright© 2013 by Refusenik

A large clump of coyote brush hid him from view of the road, if he could have been seen at all. At night, with the gear the aliens had given him, he was for all practical purposes—invisible.

Scott wore a skintight microfiber suit of astonishing technology. He didn't put it on, so much as the suit wore him. The material covered his eyes and mouth, but he could breathe and see normally. To an observer, he could only be perceived as a slight blur or ripple in the air. The longer he was stationary, the more complete the suit's camouflage became.

His abilities, the microcellular computers masquerading as a virus in his brain, had been calibrated for the mission. His body was a perfectly tuned machine. His reflexes and movements honed to a razor's edge. Unlike Afghanistan, he could now handle the flow of information. A detailed map of the facility was available at a thought. Surveillance from the alien ship overhead, and a small gnat-like probe scouting ahead of him, provided continuous updates.

The suit mitigated any heat signature and masked his appearance. It could not negate his weight for the ground trembler detectors. Those he couldn't avoid, the gnat probe disabled a few, but any more and the alarms would sound. So far, they hadn't tripped any other devices. Only slow, methodical footwork had allowed him to approach so close to the facility undetected.

A hundred yards away was the first manned checkpoint.

'Vehicle approaching.' The warning appeared as text in his field of vision.

Scott selected a camera view and isolated the patrol vehicle. He'd been waiting for the driver to complete the circuit. The Toyota Land Cruiser drew close and Scott prepared to stand.

Either this works, or this whole insane scheme ends right here, he thought.

As the vehicle passed, he scrambled to the blacktop and began to chase it. Ahead, the patrol vehicle slowed for the checkpoint.

Cherry red brake lights lit the road as the vehicle squeaked to a stop.

Scott approached from the passenger side. He was in a hurry, but moving slowly.

The driver's window of the Toyota buzzed down.

"How's it hanging, Jones?" the driver asked the guard manning the gate.

"Three in the damn morning, how you think it's hanging?"

"You hear the latest from the union?" the driver asked.

"What?"

"The company wants to renegotiate pensions."

"The suits are going to screw us again. I heard the company's only hiring part-time workers this next quarter, what does that tell you?"

Scott ignored the bickering guards. He put a hand above the rear fender flare and instructed the suit to anchor his hand. The material could anchor or grip any material. They'd warned him to make sure the material he anchored to could support him. He crouched, careful not to add his body weight to the rear of the vehicle while it was motionless.

"I'll see you in another forty-five," the driver said.

The gate opened and the Toyota began to roll.

Scott made his move and clung to the side of the SUV like a frog, below the window line, but in full view of the side mirror.

The gnat probe flew alongside the vehicle. From its viewpoint, the suit was doing its job. He was masked.

A little hitchhiking was going to save him precious time because his destination, the hangar, was a good mile from the guard shack.

When the map showed he was going to make the closest approach to the hanger, he slipped from the side of the vehicle and landed in a crouch.

As a defense contractor, the company had to provide a certain level of security to meet Pentagon requirements. The contractor depended on technology and a moderate guard force. Scott had to defeat both.

A door at the side of the hangar had a digital keypad lock and a camera that activated every time the pad was accessed.

'We can give you twenty seconds, ' the aliens wrote.

He made one last check of the area. No guards were nearby. Scott walked to the door and grabbed the knob. The electromagnetic bolt released with a 'chunk' and he opened the door.

Half the lights in the hangar were off. He moved away from the door, along the wall and got his bearings. The massive hangar had a grid laid out on the floor in yellow tape. Against the far wall, were several flatbed trailers covered with large segments of misshapen debris.

Tables and shelving units were aligned in rows against the back wall. Bits of metal and composite material lined the tables.

Only a few pieces were laid out on the tape grid in the middle of the hangar.

'What was this thing?' Scott sent.

An image of a bat wing shape appeared to him. It looked like a B2 Stealth Bomber without a cockpit, and roughly the same size.

'Nothing new, what makes it so special?' he sent back.

Details on a system called 'Troika' scrolled past. A team of three stealth aircraft, drones, that operated in concert. Two were weapons carriers, the third packed with electronics to defeat enemy systems. The latter was what had crashed.

The gnat probe was flying a search pattern through the hangar, searching for the damaged alien technology.

'Not seeing any rocks, ' Scott sent. 'Why would they pick them up anyway?'

The aliens showed him the rock again, but this time to scale.

Shit, Scott thought, it was smaller than his hand.

The probe reported it had located the technology. The image was from one of the flatbeds. The rock was embedded in a deformed piece of composite material. He didn't know if he could pry it free.

'I'll have to move a big piece to get at it, ' he reported

'Cannot mask movement of other material, ' the aliens replied.

'Show me the security camera viewpoints for the hanger, ' he sent.

The worst view, from his perspective, was a panning camera mounted to an overhead stringer that had a perfect shot of the trailer. Things break, he thought.

The probe responded to his command and buzzed to the camera. Seconds later, the motor shorted out.

Scott began plotting how he wanted to approach the trailer. He chose a direct route, across the hangar floor. He moved slowly, step after step, aware that everything in the hangar was recorded.

A sign the probe flew past caught his eye and he sent a quick message to the aliens, 'Decontamination Protocols?'

'Materials in the vehicle's external coating and in its energy storage and cooling systems may be toxic if handled.'

'Great.'

'The suit will protect you, ' the aliens sent back. 'Warning, a guard is approaching your location.'

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