Authors: Christopher Forrest
The Cube beneath Mount Elbert
“Good God!” Hawkeye cried. “There are Sents in some of the hexagons! They appear inactive.”
“This must be where they make them,” Tank suggested.
“And who is ‘they’?” asked Shooter.
“That’s the big question,” Caine said. “We lost you for a moment, Mr. Hawke, but have regained our COM status.”
“Excuse me,” said Aiko, “but has anybody noticed that the wall opposite the honeycomb is moving toward us?”
“Shit!” Hawkeye exclaimed. “We’ve got about thirty seconds, Ops. The only way to prevent being crushed is to climb into the hexagons that are empty.”
“Not recommended,” Quiz said. “If the honeycomb manufactures Sents, it could do irreversible damage to your bodies. Maybe even kill you.”
The wall was twenty feet from Titan Six, moving towards them with a low-pitched whirring sound.
“The center hexagon halfway up leads to another chamber,” Touchdown said. “It’s a passageway. It’s the tenth hexagon right above you. Shag it, T6!”
“That’s our only ticket,” Hawkeye said. “Let’s start climbing, people. We’re going to go farther down the rabbit hole to save our asses.”
The wall was ten feet away as Aiko, Shooter, Gator, and Tank squeezed into the hexagon.
The wall was five feet away and closing.
Hawkeye glanced back as he hauled his body up and scrambled into the hexagon. The wall made contact with the honeycomb, leaving Titan Six, crawling forwards in complete darkness.
The Cube beneath Mount Elbert
Titan Six fell ten feet to the floor of a brightly lit white room.
“I don’t mind falling hard,” Gator declared, “as long as I know I’m about to fall.”
“Once you’re in the air,” Aiko said, “you have to think ‘roll.’”
Gator rolled his eyes at Aiko’s latest metaphysical advice.
“Good point,” Hawkeye said, “but in the meantime, I want Gator to train his SAW on the hexagon we just emerged from. Let’s make sure we’re ready if any Sents come through.”
“What is this place?” asked Tank, walking about the room.
“Looks like a high-tech lab,” Ambergris interjected over the COM link.
The room had long chrome counters on which sat crystals of various shapes and colors, slim silver objects that resembled surgical instruments, and numerous round mirrors that pivoted in vertical stands.
Tank approached one of the mirrors. “Feels like regular glass,” he said. “Just like the mirror I use when shaving.”
Tank stepped back quickly, eyes wide. “You better take a look at this, big brother.”
The surface of the mirror grew milky and then displayed the picture of a modern glass building. The tall structure gleamed beneath a sunny blue sky. Hills and verdurous forests could be seen in the background.
Hawkeye touched two other mirrors. On the surface of the first was a video of a park surrounded by ultra-modern buildings made of glass, shiny metals, and polished stones. Glowing monorail cars shot past the park at incredible speed while humans walked about in loose-fitting white garments.
On the second mirror was a video of a more densely packed cityscape. Tall glass and chrome buildings rose into the sky to a height of hundreds of stories. They glowed different colors: purple, red, green, orange, and yellow.
“Are you receiving this, Ops?” asked Hawkeye.
“Receiving and recording,” Ambergris replied. “Touch more of the mirrors. This is absolutely fascinating!”
Hawkeye gently applied his forefinger to three more mirrors. The first showed glowing balls of light drifting in random patterns through the sky. The second showed people hovering in the air, their arms spread wide as if they were engaged in a religious ceremony. The third displayed a gleaming, smooth pyramid roughly the size of the Great Pyramid of Cheops on the Giza Plateau in Egypt.
“I think there’s another lab next to this one,” Hawkeye said, spying an oval portal on the right.
“Check it out,” said Caine. “All members of Titan Six. No one gets separated.”
Hawkeye and the team stepped into the adjoining room, but it was empty.
“Pulses of white light are moving through the walls,” Hawkeye said. “These walls don’t look like metal. They’re semi-transparent, and the lights are traveling along a branching network of lines inside the walls, which have that blue hazy look we saw while still outside. Downright creepy.”
Aiko ran her hand across several feet of one of the walls. “Feels smooth but elastic,” she said.
Without warning, the entire room began to drop at high speed, causing all Titan Six members to fall to the floor.
“Room’s descending . . . at high . . . speed!” Hawkeye said into his COM. “Almost like . . . freefall.”
“We can see it,” Touchdown said. “Your room is plummeting downward!”
The room came to an abrupt halt.
“Damn,” Shooter said. “As the old cliché goes, I think I left my stomach up there.”
“You fell almost a quarter mile,” DJ said.
The room began to vibrate.
“Uh oh,” Tank said. “I’ve got a bad feeling about what’s coming next.”
Titan Six, which had staggered slowly to its feet, again fell to the floor as the room shot off at high speed to the right.
“We’re moving again!” Hawkeye exclaimed.
“Tracking you,” Touchdown said.
“I must have triggered something when I touched the wall!” Aiko said.
Thirty seconds later, the room came to an abrupt halt, causing all team members to roll ten feet in the direction of the room’s sideways momentum. The room then began to slowly spin.
Gator crawled to the corner and vomited.
“I suggest touching other parts of the wall as well,” Ambergris suggested. “If Aiko activated it with a touch, maybe you can cancel its movement with a second touch.”
“Or then again, something far worse may happen,” Hawkeye noted.
Ambergris glanced at Caine, whose demeanor was stoic.
“Try it,” Caine said. “We don’t have a lot of options at this point.”
Hawkeye crawled to the nearest wall and touched his palm against its blue elastic surface. Lights within still traveled along a network of lines running in all directions. The point of contact grew bright orange. The color expanded in every direction until it filled the entire room.
The room ceased its rotation as Hawkeye stood and smiled. “It’s pure ecstasy,” he said, walking away from the others. A broad smile crossed his face, his gaze fixed on a corner of the room. “It’s good to see you, Dad.”
Hawkeye’s father smiled and patted his son on the shoulder. “You and Tank come on over to the picnic table and get some ham and potato salad. It’s nice and shady.”
Beneath Mount Whitney
“Titan Six, do you read?” said Touchdown.
There was no response.
“The COM is open,” Touchdown said. “They’re receiving, but they’re just not answering.”
“Did Hawkeye say something about his father and a picnic.”
“Affirmative,” said DJ, who was listening to a playback of the last transmission.
“Hallucinations?” asked Caine.
“Likely,” said Ambergris. “They may be unable to respond if they’re experiencing an altered state.”
Caine turned to Dr. Nguyen. “Grace, any word on the engineers aboard the Alamiranta?”
“Yes, but the news isn’t encouraging. Six of our personnel who excavated the rock near the cube are running high fevers. Their cell walls are literally breaking down. It’s as if their bodies are slowly deteriorating, but I can’t detect any virus or bacteria. My physicians seem to think that their very DNA structures have been rewritten.”
“How close is T4 from Station 872?” Caine asked.
“About an hour away,” Touchdown said.
“Let me know as soon as they arrive,” Caine said.
“I think I know what’s going on,” Ambergris announced. “I’ve been analyzing the cube and the images from the mirrors in the lab. I’ll need to confirm my hypotheses with the results from a field analysis of the liquid sample that Hawkeye took from the wounded Sent, but I believe I’m beginning to understand the dynamics of the cube.”
“So what have you come up with?” asked Caine.
“DNA,” Ambergris said. “It’s behind everything.”
The Moss Household
Gwen had sent an email to Catherine Caine, requesting that her former boss provide any information about the names she’d discovered in McManus’ Senex file. Gwen knew that Caine had an insatiable curiosity and that Titan Global kept tabs on covert military operations throughout the world. It was just a hunch, but Gwen felt that she’d stumbled onto something big.
After sending the email, she and Ben ate mac and cheese with the kids and then sent them off to bed. Ben was cleaning up as Gwen, sipping a martini on the patio, looked up at the star-filled sky. It was a beautiful night, and although Gwen was tired, she thought she and Ben might take a little time to fool around before bed.
A rustling sound came from the bushes at the edge of the two-acre property.
“Hello?” Gwen said. “Anybody there? Jackson, is that you?”
Jackson was the Doberman that belonged to her neighbors, the Carlsons. The dog sometimes wandered around the area when the Carlson’s electronic fence went down. He was big but harmless.
The noise grew louder.
“Ben, can you come out here?” Gwen said.
She got up from her lounge chair, wishing she had her Glock, which was locked away in the closet of the master bedroom. Gwen moved quietly, as she had so many times when she was a member of Titan Six. She saw a black shape crouching in the hedges and breathed a sigh of relief. She removed the cell phone from her jeans pocket in order to call the Carlsons and inform them that their lovely hulk of a dog was safe and sound.
A hand clamped down hard on Gwen’s mouth. Someone was restraining her from behind. The dark shape in the bushes moved forwards, but it wasn’t Jackson. A man, dressed entirely in black and wearing a dark ski mask, advanced holding a pistol. Gwen could see the silencer at the end of the gun’s blue steel barrel.
Another man emerged from a tall row of evergreen bushes ten yards away. He, too, was dressed in black. While the man behind her continued to apply pressure to her mouth, the two visible men cuffed her hands behind her back and led her through the hedge and the tall Virginia pines beyond. Her three abductors lifted her across a roadside ditch and hoisted her body into the back of a black SUV.
The vehicle sped into the night, its taillights quickly disappearing into the winding streets of the upper class neighborhood.
Meanwhile, Ben walked through the kitchen door, but didn’t see his wife. Spying a small blinking light at the edge of the property, he walked into the yard.
He paused. On the ground was Gwen’s cell phone.
SURP Rail System beneath Arizona
Titan Four sat on the maglev gliding at high speed towards SURP Station 872. Team Leader was Mike Hadley, a former Navy Seal. His nickname was Blade. Other members of the all-male team included Jet, Demon, Eagle Eye, and Tomahawk. Quiz sat behind them.
Jet was a short fireplug of a soldier who was second-in-command, solid and always ready for action. Demon was an African-American who had seen his share of combat as a Navy Seal. Eagle Eye, a slender and intelligent career soldier, was in charge of ordnance. Tomahawk, one-fourth Cherokee and a former Marine, was the team’s ace sharpshooter.
Blade, standing tall with rugged features and brown curly hair, gave his team a briefing on the cube and the current status of Titan Six.
“Are we going to merely rescue T6 or actually assume their mission?” asked Tomahawk.
“Maybe both,” Blade said. “They’re encountering technology that’s far more advanced than anything Grace and her team has ever cooked up in the Armory. We don’t enter the cube unless Ms. Caine deems it absolutely necessary.”
“Why not?” asked Demon. “Let’s go pull ‘em out and kick some ass in the process.”
“Too risky for T6,” answered Jet, second-in-command. “We might compromise their mission or end up needing somebody to pull us out of the fire as well. Small forces — that’s the name of the game when it comes to special ops.”
Blade looked at the package marked RESOLUTION on the seat behind him. All teams brought this package on rescue missions, although it was seldom used. Only a very few people in Titan Global, such as team members and Ops personnel, knew what the word referred to. It was one of the more lethal tools that the Armory had devised.
“When we get to 872,” Blade instructed, “we do a little recon of the station and then sit tight.”
“I have some equipment in my pack,” Quiz said. “I’ll run some tests.”
Blade nodded. “Glad you’re along, Quiz. I suspect we’ll need your insights.”
The members of T4 leaned over and touched each other’s fists in a display of unity.
The maglev streaked quickly through the darkness as Titan Four checked their weapons in silence.