Alice could hear a crash over the comm-link. She scrunched her nose, placing the sound with the likelihood it had been Map’s foot bursting a door open.
“I’m in,” she heard Map inform her.
Alice rolled her eyes. “Graceful. Find a place to rest, the boffins are still working on your next move.”
“Can I make a suggestion?”
A smirk crawled onto her lips as she heard his question. “You can make it, but you know what that’s worth.” Alice lowered her voice, a serious tone overcoming it. “Stay sharp. Their signals are doing something.”
She was already looking over the reading, a frown developing on her face. Alice tapped at the arm of her rig, her eyes fixated on the displays. Something wasn’t adding up, and it was bothering her. Well, more than something. The counts were off.
“Hold on.” Alice cut Map off, slight irritation rising in her voice. “This doesn’t look right.”
“Hang on. I’ll be right back.” She turned off her mic and flicked the switch to release her from the rig and station. The familiar pressurized noise filled the room, and she tilted back in the chair to look at Henry. He and the rest of the team were in a heated discussion with the specialists. Alice knew something was off – the specialists wouldn’t have flooded the Hangar otherwise.
“Henry!” Alice yelled, craning her neck backwards, towards him. “Henry, take a look at this!”
“I’m a little busy,” he replied, gesturing at the specialists.
Alice scowled, intent on him seeing the malfunctioning display, whether she had to drag him over to the station or not. “Just take a look, something’s wrong.”
She finally had his attention, and Henry hurried over to her. “With Map?”
The Liaison shook her head. “No, he’s holding up, but look at the signals.” She gestured towards the displays, pointing out dots, as well as something else.
“What is it?” Henry looked confused, as he thought he saw everything clearly. The asset was marked on the display, as well as the creatures.
Alice continued to point at the screens, “The display isn’t picking up all the targets. There are only seven on the screen, still gathered together.”
“We are still working on figuring out why they are behaving so uncharacteristically. You’ll have to be patient.” Henry tried to move away, but Alice stopped him.
“That’s not what I’m saying.” Alice replied in frustration. “There were nine, two of them blinked out. They had been heading to the landing site, then they started heading towards the neighbourhood where Map is, and now they’re gone.” Her grip lessened, and she dropped her hand.
Alice swiftly cut him off. “He’s by the fire, lying low like he was ordered. He only took the one out at the landing site.” She gestured towards the area on her display, refusing to let the issue go. Alice could feel something was very wrong, and she’d fight whomever she had to in order to get Map the help he needed.
As the pair assessed the screens, two lights blinked in and headed towards Map’s direction. Alice was quick to turn her mic back on, “Map. You may have incoming.”
“May? How many?”
There was a slight pause before Alice spoke up. Her worry transmitted over the frequency as she responded, “I can’t say for sure, but it looks like two groups of two.”
“What’s going on over there?”
Alice was on all fours on the ground, tools scattered around her. As she pulled open the access panel, she responded to Map.
“Technical difficulties,” a muffled sound followed as the mic picked up the sounds of wires brushing together while she was deep within the terminal’s inner workings. “All I have is four of them moving to your location, then not showing up on our screen. I’m running a diagnostic but everything seems fine on this end.” Alice couldn’t find any loose connections. All of the wires were linked properly, and nothing was missing or shorted out.
“What’s the ETA?”
“That’s a great question. Could be as soon as five, but they shouldn’t be able to pinpoint you with that fire so close,” Alice replied, hoping that would indeed be the case.
“I’m taking up a defensive position.”
Alice had already replaced the access panel and slid back into the rig, connecting herself to the chair in time to spot a heat signature that was moving towards the houses. The fire was traveling, and headed towards Map.
“Do you see it?” Alice asked Map quickly, making sure he knew the flames were drawing near.
“Yeah – I’m on the move.”
The sensors did pick up the heat signature from the flames, and yet it was still glitching when it came to locating each creature. “Still no sign of your targets. Stay sharp.”
Map didn’t respond. Her discomfort grew as more time passed. Reports of shots fired scrolled over the screen. Alice leaned forward, anxiously awaiting a reply from Map. Finally, one came in.
She already knew what he was going to say. Alice was frustrated and confused. The sensors should be picking up the creatures, and yet they weren’t. How was it possible? “I’ve got nothing Map, just you.”
“That’s not comforting. I’ve got one down and one – mad.”
Her fingers flew over the controls on the arms of the rig. Alice’s mind was focused on the screens as she brought up the diagnostic reports to try and troubleshoot the issue with the sensors. “You better take care of it and get moving. The other two won’t be far behind.” Her eyes strayed from the sensor reports to Map’s vital signs. Both his heart rate and respiratory rate were fairly high. “And your vitals are still tachy, try to calm down.”
Alice tracked Map’s movement within the structure while the team scrambled to figure out why the sensors weren’t picking up the creatures near the operative. Shots were fired once more, and Alice found herself sucking in some air, tensely waiting on hearing something from Map. Even though she couldn’t pick up the creatures, she knew by the weapon discharge (and his vital signs) that her operative was in combat and they were close at hand.
The sensors picked up more shots fired, and damage taken to Map’s forearm. Alice held her breath, intensely watching the display as the fight continued. She was simultaneously checking back and forth with the team, over the displays, to try and determine the glitch that was keeping the creatures from being detected.
“Damn it Map, get out of there,” Alice muttered to herself as she saw the heat signature from the fire move around the home.
Two large energy signatures erupted, one shortly after the other.
“Grenades. Good thinking, Map. Hopefully it will be enough to finish them off.” Alice seemed to continue the muttering dialogue, though Map wasn’t responding. It was unclear to everyone else in the Hangar whether she was transmitting, or just mumbling to herself as she did often. The Liaison was one to get caught up in her work.
It didn’t seem to be enough. The displays read out Map’s vitals, which were off the charts.
“Tachycardia…tachypnea…” Alice muttered again. Map had gone tachy once more, and this time she could piece it together to pain.
Finally, a voice was heard. “Alice.”
“I’m here,” she tried her best to sound reassuring.
“Do you have eyes on the rest of them?”
“Yeah, for now.” The comment was a slightly biting, her frustrations leaking through again about the malfunctions.
“I’ve got to do something about my arm. Let me know if there is any change.”
“I always do.”