“Damn it!” Alice hit the rig with her fists, frustration still coursing through her.
A few of the technicians in the Hangar ducked their heads and avoided looking directly at Alice. They had been chewed out too many times to count. She still couldn’t figure out why the satellites weren’t picking up all of the creatures.
The Hangar was quickly becoming a mess; piles of wires and open panels littered the floor. Alice was waist deep in them, her head ducking into the terminal and popping back out to keep an eye on the displays.
Her com-link crackled to life. “Any updates?” Map inquired.
“Nothing yet,” Alice replied. “The remaining five are still in the same spot.”
Alice squinted up, twisting her body so she could eye the displays better. “North of your current position and west of your drop point, in the old city center.”
“Any word on what they’re doing?”
“No,” Alice sighed. “Satellites are blind over the spot and any drones sent in have been destroyed.”
“That’s not a concern to anyone?”
Alice grumbled before replying. “We’ve been trying to fix what we can from here. You’re the only one who can get a visual.”
“I’ve got my objective then?”
“Your objective never changed.”
“I’m off,” replied Map.
Alice slid up to the rig, settling in long enough to type in some commands. “Sending coordinates.”
She crawled back into the terminal’s open port, clicking her tongue and grumbling as she manually checked each of the connections. Nothing seemed wrong, and that was the issue. If there was a problem on this end, she could fix it, control it. But, there wasn’t anything wrong with each of the connections or stations in the Hangar.
Henry kept reading from the schematics, “…and you should see terminal connection 450-Z34.”
Alice spit the flashlight she was holding in her mouth out. “This is ridiculous!” Her voice echoed from inside of the terminal. “Everything checks out.”
Henry lowered the tablet where the schematics were displayed on, eyeing Alice. “There has to be something. All our readings are affected.”
“And what does the Administrator have to say about it?”
Henry leaned against part of the terminal, “Nothing I know of. Last I heard he was in a conference with the Board.”
Alice popped out from the terminal, sighing and pushing herself up to a sitting position. She wiped grease off her hands. “Well, the problem’s not here. Satellites?”
“Work fine everywhere but over the targets,” Henry replied.
Alice looked thoughtful, pausing from collecting her tools. “So – it’s got to be something they are doing.”
“They have never been able to do anything like that before,” sneered Henry. He placed the tablet down and crossed his arms.
Alice shrugged, “There have never been sixteen of them before, either.” She resumed gathering her tools, tucking them away. “I’ll clean this up. Go see what you can find out.”
Henry nodded, handing Alice the tablet. “No promises, but I’ll try.” He walked out of the Hangar in search of information.
Alice had meticulously put away the tools and replaced all of the panels of the terminal. Henry had returned in a shorter amount of time than expected.
“Well?” Alice asked, looking over Henry.
He shook his head, “No good. I couldn’t find out anything else.”
Alice let out a sigh. “Really? Nothing at all?”
Annoyance was clear on her face, though she slid back into the rig in order to monitor Map closer. She waved at Henry to go elsewhere.
“Fine. Could you try and help the rest of them clean this place up? I have to get back to Map.”
Henry gave her a mock salute before moving towards the specialists and technicians. After almost tripping over some exposed wires, he inwardly conceded the Hangar needed some clearing.
“You stopped?” She asked Map as she noticed his location on the display had been stagnant.
“Just catching my breath. How’s the Hangar?”
“Still a mess.” She muttered. While her terminal had been taken care of, the rest of the stations had their wires and panels strewn about.
“And the targets?”
“Haven’t moved as far as I can tell.”
“I’m going to scope it out and report before I engage.”
“By the book. Sounds good. Be careful Map,” Alice half-whispered the last bit. It was hard for her to conceal her worry. She didn’t get a reply.
Alice sighed slightly, after cutting the com-link for a few minutes. Was it so strange for her to care? They had worked together for so long, and she was afraid this mission was just too much for either of them to handle. He may have been the best operative the program had ever seen, but he was still only one person. There were too many creatures this time, and she was afraid Map wouldn’t get out of this one alive.
Her com-link crackled to life, except there seemed to be interference.
“How’s it look?” She began checking over the relay signals, trying to clear up the interference.
“..ot sure. …four…out…open. From…ook…to be class ones, …upright, …taller…me. …building something. ….you make…it?”
Alice tried to piece together what he had said. “Four? My visuals are still a bit buggy, but I have five targets in the vicinity.”
Map replied slower this time, likely realizing there was interference. “What…about…object?”
Alice scanned over, and still she wasn’t getting anything. The static wasn’t clearing up much, either. With a huff of frustration, she replied, “Can’t read anything. I’m getting to the bottom of this – passing you to the secondary station.”
“Tripp,” Alice called out as she unplugged herself from the rig’s connections. “I need you to monitor Map for now. I’ll be back after I find out what the hell is going on here.”
The man nodded, sliding into the secondary terminal’s rig. He didn’t question Alice, and most of them knew better than to try.
Alice stormed out of the Hangar, heading towards the Administrator’s office. She flew past the security desk, not stopping as the clerk tried to intercept her.
“Miss! No, stop! You can’t–”
Alice wanted answers. While it was risky to leave Map to Tripp (or anyone other than herself), she had to get to the bottom of this. Her operative was injured and the chances of him succeeding and being recovered was becoming more and more slim. None of this was adding up, and she was tired of security clearances and restrictions. Map’s life was hanging in the balance, now more than any other previous mission.
The sound of footsteps quickly pounding on the hard floors was coming closer. The clerk was trying to intercept Alice before she reached her target. She quickened her pace again, moving into the outer room and barging straight towards the office of the Administrator. The secretary’s mouth was left hanging open as she watched Alice barrel past her.
“What’s going on?!” Alice demanded. Her fists were curled at her sides, and she stared at the Administrator defiantly. Inwardly, Alice had shocked herself with how audacious her actions were and tried to not lose her nerve. Don’t back down. Look him in the eye. Get some answers for Map.
Monitors covered the walls, in what appeared to be a conference in session. The Administrator exhaled, his ire rising. He had turned to face her, his hands folding calmly in his lap.
The clerk and secretary tried to silently push their way in, torn between interrupting him and trying to remove the disturbance that was Alice. They looked apologetically towards the Administrator. As the clerk tried to reach for Alice’s wrist, she took a step further towards the large desk the Administrator was behind to dodge his grasp.
He dismissed the other two with a wave, staring calmly at the Liaison. “Alice, as you can see, I am in the middle—”
She slammed her palms down on his desk, leaning towards him. “I don’t give a fuck.”
The Administrator’s lips drew tight, narrowing his eyes at Alice as she continued.
“Our systems are still not working and Map has reported that they are building something. Couple that with the size of the attack and the creatures playing hide and seek with our sensors and something bad is happening.” She pointed at him now, “I think you know more than you’re telling us. Map is injured and has five more to deal with. I need to know what you know.”
“That’s insubordination,” he replied, his voice calm as he quickly cut the live broadcast to the rest of the Board.
She pressed forward again, defiantly. “You going to fire me again?”
His eyes betrayed the calmness of his reply as they seethed in anger. “I could have you shot.”
“Fine, do that – after you tell me what I need to know to get my operative home safe.” She replied flippantly at his threat.
The Administrator smiled tightly, leaning back in his large seat as he watched her. “And what makes you think I care if he gets home safe?”
“I doubt that you do, but he is the only tool you currently have, and he’s standing between them and us.”
The Administrator pushed out of his chair in one smooth move, walking around his desk. His movement was slow, deliberate. It was clearly a well-practiced move, meant to intimidate his opponents. Nonchalantly, he looked to the cuffs of his tailored shirt, fixing the creases and dusting at their edges. As she watched him, Alice felt a little queasy. Still, she couldn’t lose her nerve, and she stood a little stiffer.
“I wish I could tell you more,” the Administrator continued in his calm, well-groomed demeanour, “but honestly anything dealing with these things is mostly guesswork. I can tell you that our intel suggests that the reason the attack is so large is because it’s their final push – a gamble to overwhelm us.”
Alice crossed her arms, still not satisfied with his answers. “And the structure they’re building?”
He shrugged his shoulders fluidly, surprising Alice with the casual response. “No idea. It clearly has something to do with our own systems acting up, but that’s an observation of my own.”
Alice nearly lost it. “There is nothing wrong with the systems, and you know it!” She accused, her hackles raised by his own subtle accusations. “What are we going to do?”
He wanted her out of his inner sanctum. The Administrator was excellent at reading people, as was part of his job. His reply sought to cut her to the core. “My suggestion is to do your job. If you want him to survive you should man your station.” His tight smile grew as he gestured towards the door.
Alice’s eyes widened. He had gotten through her defiant courage, as she was reminded where she should be. She broke out into a sprint towards the Hangar, flying through each passageway towards the area.
The Administrator simply watched her dash out. He smoothly slid into his seat, resuming the conference with the Board. As he turned to face the monitors, a well-controlled smile loomed over his face.