Fybertech: The De Novo Project, Part 10
By: FyberOptic
Saturday, February 25th, 2006

"Did he see me?" Jenny asked, panic overwhelming her hushed voice as the two of them gaped through the incorporeal stone barrier which she had so nearly stomped out of in her tirade.

Fyber started shaking his head, waiting a moment before responding. "I don't think so. But I don't think it matters, because he sees your tire tracks." He pointed at an easily discernable trail leading away from where her car sat, out of the cave, and along the snowy bank, curving down the serpentine path of the knoll. As dumb as they might have hoped the approaching individual to be, he had still obviously managed to identify the tracks, and was following them cautiously.

Jenny's heart sank, realizing that the reason the man heading towards them was doing so was because her own car left him a road map. Not that there was any way to avoid it, she realized, since that's just what snow does when you drive over it, but she couldn't help but feel disgusted. And of course, terror-stricken. She shifted her weight back and forth nervously, watching the dark figure trace his way right to them. The faintest of footsteps now came into earshot.

"So now you pull out the laser guns, right?" she asked, throwing him hopeful glances between the frightened ones she directed outside. "Tell me you have, like, phasers in there." she continued, thumbing back towards the lab entrance before nervously crossing her arms again to hold her long coat together.

Fyber rolled his eyes. "This isn't Star Trek" he huffed, and rushed over towards the metal door, crouching to the nearby panel in the wall which concealed the reconstructed H.E.A.T., and attempted to pull it away. A thin bead of ice had formed around its edges, more or less sealing the metal plate in place.

"Help me here" he grunted, digging his fingernails into its frigid borders for what good it would do.

Jenny rushed over without question and sunk her fingers along its stubborn rim, digging her much more capable nails into the icey seal. The metal was painfully cold, like needles on their fingertips, but adrenaline has a funny way of being useful in such circumstances, allowing them to focus more on the task at hand than the numbing discomfort slowly building along their fingers. The faintest crackle of splitting ice was audible as Jenny peeled the edges free inch by inch, working her hands slowly across the upper rim, at which Fyber quickly moved to her other side, gripping along behind her hands to prevent it from resealing. Eventually, with a reluctant pang, the entire panel released its grip, nearly crashing noisily to the floor, the both of them clambering to grapple it securely.

A familiar acid green glow spilled out onto them once the panel was away. Underneath sat the throbbing heart supplying life to the curtain of rocky guise. The light appeared to mostly be emanating from a thick metal-bound cable run into the nook through a small opening in the stone behind it, which attached to the rear of alien device which perched securely in its mounting bracket.

"So this is where it comes from.." thought Jenny aloud. Fyber barely had time to nod before her questions continued, a sense of excitement filling her voice. "So you're going to make more.. holograms, to scare them away? Or maybe hide us better? Or-"

Fyber cut her off abruptly. "It's already unstable enough; if I go monkeying with it now, we're likely to lose what cover we do have."

Jenny's excitement disappeared with the slumping of her shoulders. "Then what's the plan?" she asked.

Fyber took the panel from her and moved back towards the entrance, peering out into the night to find the approaching trespasser, spotting him almost immediately from the sound of ever closer footsteps in the snowy gravel-laden path leading directly to them.

"Well, I'm going to hit him in the face with this" he said, rather calmly, gesturing for the shiny metal plate in his hands.

"And then??" she insisted, obviously not as comforted by this method of action over her own more inventive ideas.

"And then he'll fall down?" he quipped, pausing for a moment, then continuing with an almost indistinctly sheepish grin. "I hope."

Jenny flared her eyes in contempt. But they wouldn't have to wait much longer to test the plan, for the individual had easily found his way up to their position in the knoll, and was now plainly visible in front of them on the other side of the barrier. Despite his veiled face, shielded by a black ski mask, they could see the expression of bewilderment that came across him as he followed the tire tracks leading straight into a wall of stone. It was the oddest sensation, even to Fyber, to see a man standing so close to them yet be completely unaware of their presence.

It was much easier to discern his appearance now, from the thick black pocketed vest zipped over his chest, to the charcoal military-esque bodysuit underneath covering his arms and legs, the latter of which overlaid with black padded leggings, possibly the same material as the vest. There was a belt around his waist with a number of small compartments evenly arranged on it. A thin wire ran up from his belt through a corrugated path in the vest, stopping at the equivalent of a police radio attached to his shoulder, though they were both quite sure this wasn't for talking to any law enforcement. His hands were covered in leathery black gloves, one of which keeping a readied grip on the firearm he clutched, which hung securely by its black strap around his neck. A sturdy black pair of boots kept him anchored to the ground as he deduced the meaning of what stood before him.

The plan, of course, was to wait for him to attempt to walk through the hologram, at which point Fyber would knock him out cold before he could even see the other side, and they'd hide his lumbering body out of sight. It sounded easy enough, especially with their foe apparently having no idea they were even standing a scant three feet away. They could see his steaming breath, even the whites of his eyes, obscured only slightly through the shimmering barrier. All he had to do was take a few steps forward, and this tense moment could be over.

But he didn't. And in total contradiction to Fyber's plan, the man was suddenly reaching up to his shoulder. "The radio" he cursed to himself, not taking into account that the guy would probably report anything he found that seemed out of the ordinary. Apparently this realization came to Jenny at that same moment, and they each tossed the most desperate of glances at one another. Then, as if already discussed beforehand, a series of motions were immediately executed by the both of them.

Fyber recoiled the metal panel, Jenny swaying back out of the way at the same moment, and with a surge of pure adrenaline, he swung it like a baseball bat desperately seeking a home-run. For the briefest of moments, they could see an expression of total horror in the man's eyes as the object exited the fake stone, and collided with his face in a sharp clang of vibrating aluminum. To their instant dismay the man stammered backwards a step in retreat, but Jenny had already darted forwards, grabbing their stunned prey by the vest collar and reeling him inwards. He tumbled forwards, unable to control his own direction in his momentary stupor, and careened forcefully into the back of Jenny's car, dropping somewhat as he crumpled over the curve of the trunk, which swayed from his sudden weight.

He was inside the barrier now, which was good, but he was still quite conscious, which definately wasn't part of the plan. He rolled around on the trunk onto his back, with a hand gripped threatingly around his weapon, to which Fyber had already responded with another swung of the plate, ringing out louder than before as metal crashed upon metal. The man howled in pain, the blow possibly breaking his fingers as the gun flew from his grip, it swinging around behind him on the strap and skidding onto the trunk lid with a deep clank. But his training proved formidable, for he had already retained his composure, and a knee had entered Fyber's gut before he had recovered from the motion of his last swing. With a breathless groan, he was lifted from his feet by the blow, with the man clutching Fyber's shoulders in that same moment, who flung him effortlessly out of the way in one consistant motion. Fyber crashed to the ground rather hard; the normal instinct to brace for a fall was overpowered by the strong urge to simply double over and gasp for breath.

The soldier sprung himself away from the car and stomped forwards, lifting a boot-clad foot aimed at Fyber's face, when at that moment, Jenny grabbed the strap of the rifle as it flailed about behind him, sinching it tightly in her grip and thrusting her weight downwards. The man emmitted a sudden gasp for breath from his unexpected garroting as he staggered back, losing his balance. He too fell to the cavern floor with a thud, hissing through his teeth as Jenny tugged ever harder, as if to choke the life out of him completely.

Fyber began to recover his breath as the dull ache in his gut subsided, rolling over to see the black figure flailing his arms around blindly in attempt to grab his attacker. And before Fyber could assist, the man's fist made contact with Jenny's clenched jaw. Her grip immediately loosened and she dropped limply to the floor, the man skillfully rolling away from her, gasping heavily, and eyeing the hologram in desperation. A chill of dread replaced the pain in Fyber's chest as he realized the man was thinking of escape instead of retaliation. They couldn't let him back outside now, no matter what. And against all better judgement, Fyber charged his much more capable opponent.

The tackle worked much better than Fyber had expected, catching the man directly across his middle and flinging him further inwards, the both of them crashing to the ground yet again in a pair of painful thuds; the sound of the rifle screeched out shrilly as well as it scraped the stone beneath the man. A flash in his wild eyes alerted Fyber that he too had distinguished this sound, sending him rolling over onto his other side across the cave floor to fish the strap back around himself. Fyber spun around in a perpendicular position on the ground and thrust his foot into the man's chest, sending him tumbling over himself and losing his grip on the gun again. Fyber clambered to his hands and knees and skittered over the cold hard ground like a rabbit, slamming himself on top of the other man to prevent him from getting up, trying to bear his weight towards the man's padded shoulders.

For the first time, Fyber suddenly realized the raw strength of his opponent. The brute easily pushed himself upwards against Fyber's weight, his fit abdominals like a hydrolic lift, and snapped a firm grip up onto Fyber's throat. The next thing Fyber knew, it was himself that was on his back, gasping for air, with a pair of cold eyes burning down at him with utmost hatred. Fyber instinctively pulled at the suffocating clamp, but it was useless. The man was poised like an angry bear, his weight too great to shake off.

Fyber felt his own grip begin to loosen gradually over the next several seconds, adrenaline alone no longer enough to give him strength. Jenny would be there any moment to help, he thought assuringly. He just had to wait. More seconds passed. Maybe now? He strained his eyes to look back towards where she had fallen, but still she laid there, unmoving. His heart sank, his fingers barely wrapped around the man's wrist now, eyelids deciding they didn't need to be open any longer as they drooped, his dark surroundings getting darker. They don't need to be open if you're dead, after all.

He snapped them back open at this dark thought, his mind still clouded nonetheless, remembering all the things he had done in his short life, and how he didn't particularly prefer dying on his back on a cold cavern floor. What would his family think? What would his friends think? Oh, who was he kidding. Pretty much all of his friends at the moment were missing or unconscious. He had the feeling that nobody would even find him out here, outside of his own technological tomb. But soon that searing pressure yearning to explode out of his chest would be over. That would be nice he thought, dreamily, as his muscles were giving up any further attempt to struggle.

A sudden weight fell over him, and the grip on his throat seemed to lessen. He faintly heard the remnants of a sound; it seemed distant, like a church bell, perhaps. Finally, it was over, the pr-

He gasped, inhaling chest full after chest full of precious oxygen. His eyes tore open at the same moment, and harsh reality poured back into them as he stared up wildly at the ceiling of the dim cavern. It seemed he was alive after all. Yet a strange pressure still weighed him down. It only took a moment to realize that the individual who was so prone to murder him just a moment ago was now collapsed on top of him. It felt rather awkward, in fact. But just a moment later, the body was pushed away, rolling aside into a heap on the floor beside him. And there, staring down at him, was Jenny, the metal plate which had set all of the previous events into motion dangling from her shaky hand, which still had a faint vibration ringing from it. Church bells, indeed.

He felt a smile creep its way across his exhausted expression as he closed his eyes for a moment, catching his breath to make up for all of those he had been deprived of. "No time for sleeping." said the voice from above, the hand of which gripping his collar and dragging him to his feet. His smile disappeared, replaced by a reluctant frown very similar to one he might make upon waking up too early.

Fyber opened his eyes again lazily, taking a step or two back and leaning against the side of Jenny's car, his breathing finally returning to normal now as he surveyed the area. Sure enough, the attacker laid limp on the floor, with Jenny already fishing the rifle from around his bent neck. He watched as she fidgeted to detach the strap from its metal barrel, after which she passed the weapon off to himself, and continued her work by kicking the man's body over onto his stomach, drawing his hands behind him and sinching them together in the strap, which she tied in multiple knots. Under any other circumstances he would possibly be impressed by such actions; not that he'd ever tell her so, of course, since he felt that her head was probably big enough as it is. But impressed nonetheless.

"See, no problem." he said eventually, grinning at her.

Jenny flashed her eyebrows at him and cocked her head dubiously, though a faint grin still managed to appear on her face. Fyber also noticed a welt reddening on her jaw though, and a trickle of blood at the corner of her puffy lip. It took him a moment to recall the events and the particular moment that this must have happened. It all seemed like such a blur now.

But then the full scope of the situation took hold again, and he pulled himself up from the car with a groan and moved back to the hologram, gazing out through it for anyone else who might decide to pay a visit. Jenny looked up expectantly, curious of the same, to which Fyber responded with a simple shake of his head. She sighed a bit in relief, double-checked her knots with a sharp tug, and got back to her feet.

"At least we've got an advantage now." she commented, nodding to the weapon clutched in Fyber's hands.

He looked down at it, almost forgetting it was there already. It looked strange in his pale sweaty hands. He had never even held such a thing before. Nor did he think he cared much for holding it, either, the longer he stared at it. In fact, he gave it back to Jenny with an unsettled expression, who gave him a puzzled one in return. He ignored it and approached the unconscious body on the floor nearby.

"They're going to know that he's missing" Fyber informed her, peeling one of the leather gloves off of the man's limp hands, struggling to pull it free of Jenny's bindings. "So we have to give them one of equal or lesser value" he continued, sliding the glove onto his own hand to check the fit. It felt loose, but wasn't considerably larger.

"Oh come on" Jenny replied emphatically. "There's no way you can pull that off. And even if you could, what would be the point?"

"The point" Fyber began, pulling off the other glove, "is to draw them away from here, and give you enough time to get help. And maybe I'll find where Boris and Jake are, to boot."

Jenny huffed disdainfully and rolled her eyes. "You definately are insane."

"You were right all along, then!" he replied wittily, and continued tugging at various pieces of clothing to loosen them up. They all seemed to be carefully tailored to fit the man, which added to the difficulty. He felt across what seemed like some kind of cuff guard on the man's bound left arm, the bulk of which making it hard to pull his sleeve away. After several more moments of tugging, he freed what was underneath.

A sudden silence in the cave drew Jenny's attention, and she turned to look at him again. "What?" she whispered heavily, squinting at the dark bunching of cloth near the man's elbow, then up at Fyber's wide set of eyes. He was staring at the device which sat strapped across the man's forearm, on which he had distinctly recognized the engraving of H.E.A.T. upon, with a single round red light illuminating near the wrist. "Jesus Christ" he murmered finally, for it definately wasn't just a cuff guard.

Of all things which didn't make sense about the situation as of late, the discovery of alien technology, with which he was personally familiar with, seemed to be both utterly confusing yet make perfect sense at the same time. It made sense if someone knew of his past, and it seemed to correlate with the peculiar damage to Boris' vehicle, yet made no sense at all as to how it got here and why this seemingly normal human being would be wearing it. And possibly even more confusing was why wasn't this fellow using it? Someone powered up in the hard-light holographic body armor could have certainly made quick work of both himself and Jenny without breaking a sweat, due to the increased strength and agility granted its user. It was, after all, a military-grade device. At least of the Zentaxian military.

He wasted no time in removing it from the man's arm, since he was quite positive it didn't belong there. But it felt different somehow. The weight was off. The displays seemed arranged irregularly. Even the casing didn't feel of the proper smoothness. Not to mention, the straps were.. velcro?

"Thirteen, what's your status?" asked a crackly voice suddenly, startling both Jenny and Fyber. The man's radio was hissing and crackling with activity now, the light on top of which now glowing red. Fyber looked down on the man's thick protective vest to discover that, sure enough, there was a 13 embroidered there in the corner in a soot-colored thread. He nodded its location to Jenny, who seemed to be unaware at first to his intentions, but finally recognized the almost indistinguishable numbering.

"Thirteen?" repeated the voice, bringing paniced looks to their faces again.

"Now what?" hissed Jenny, before turning to look outside again worriedly. She adjusted her grip on the snubby rifle out of anxiety, which still didn't quite seem to be the proper way to hold one, but Fyber chose not to say anything, since he didn't know much more about it than she did.

He shrugged in response to her query and started tracing the wire from the shoulder-mount radio back down the man's vest to find its base, when it fizzled with life once more, sounding a bit perturbed at this lack of response so far. "Base three, run a location check on thirteen."

Fyber's eyes widened first, having contemplated what this meant, thinking only for a brief moment before he sprang towards the keypad to the lab, having already unlocked it as the realization then struck Jenny as well, who was now dashing over to help with whatever the apparent plan was.

"Help me get him inside." he huffed, grabbing the man's vest collar and heaving his unconscious chassis across the cavern floor towards the threshold of the lab entrance.

Even between the two of them, it took several perilous seconds to heave the man's bulk down the entrance hallway and into the control room. Fyber dropped him the few inches back to the floor uncaringly and dashed over to the panel which Jenny had previously surmised was like the innards of a power plant. She found herself a bit surprised that he knew how to operate it so well, despite the fact that she also knew he must have been the one who built it in the first place. His hands darted between the myriad of controls, eyeing various indicators, sometimes pausing long enough to witness their reactions before continuing.

The lights flickered to a dim, followed by several fading hums from unknown locations as other things seemed to power down. But the glowing cylinder in the center of the room still glowed its eery green, appearing even brighter than before in the lack of light. It was then that she noticed that the timing between pulses, which she had been so mesmerized by before, were flashing by faster than normal. In fact, the delay between them continued to decrease; the entire length of it was throbbed more and more intensely now with bright green jets of light whipping towards the ceiling, and the hum of raw power with each pass now sounding equally profound.

The radio on the man's limp shoulder had gradually started hissing with crackles of static and high-pitched whines, the small red light on top of which now flickering intermittently. The strangeness of this to Jenny was overshadowed by another control panel farther away, which began flashing with red indicators and beeping impatiently for attention. Jenny advanced closer to it, examining the screen, recognizing it as the one with the sphere in the center and small objects orbiting around it. But no longer were there lines animating between any of the objects and the sphere. And the info box to the side no longer listed its confusing chart of numbers, but a series of question marks. A red bar flashed across the bottom of the screen in sync with each beep, indicating "Signal Loss". She finally started to piece together what that one had been for, her previously confused face now expressing enlightenment.

"These are satellites, aren't they?" she asked to confirm, spiraling her finger around the screen to signify the smaller objects, to which Fyber nodded.

"Yeah, but they won't do much good at the moment. I flooded the area with interference." He flashed a sly grin and eyed towards the green glowing artery.

She nodded, having come to such a conclusion based on her observations. "But why does that affect the lights?" she asked curiously, turning her head again to watch the cascade of illumination he was gesturing towards.

"Oh, well, it doesn't, exactly." he started, seeming careful to choose his words to best explain it to her. "But to generate a large enough field of interference, I needed to waste a lot of power. And I can't run that much power through all this," he continued, motioning at the computers surrounding them, "so I dropped their connection and put the power core into a test cycle, and turned off the safeguards which normally prevent such strong interference. What little that's left running in here is coming off of battery power at the moment."

She nodded slowly with understanding, realizing the full scope of his action. "So.. not only will that prevent them from finding their buddy here, but it'll interfere with all their other communications as well?"

Fyber grinned that sly grin again, glancing down at the confused radio still crying on the man's shoulder. "They'll be like stray ants. Utter confusion. With any luck, they'll leave soon."

Jenny's expression turned somewhat to that of dismay, also looking down to the dark figure sprawled in the floor, which slowly rose and shrank again with each silent breath. "But what about him?"

Fyber's own expression changed to match hers. "I reckon Vito will know what to do with him." The then confused look on her face incited his continuation. "The detective I told you about, you know." Her eyebrows flashed and she nodded in comprehension.

He then recalled the H.E.A.T. the man had been wearing, and in the hustle to get inside to avoid any of the fellow's comrades from tracking their position, he had apparently left it in the garage area. "Be right back" he told Jenny, and headed back out to find it.

Fyber spent more time than anticipated out in the cavernous mouth to his lab. After locating what he had come for in the first place, he had started to replace the metal panel over the projector's nook, but realized it was putting out excessive heat now from the increased energy flow. This was the only device which actually hooked directly into the core, but it was able to handle such variations of current appropriately. But just in case, he decided it was probably best to leave the cover off; the circulation of chilled night air surely helped to regulate its temperature. Not to mention, the panel was warped with a head-shaped dent in it anyway, and Fyber had a feeling it might not even mount back in place.

It was relatively quiet now, free of fists hitting him and the like. He stood at the edge of the projection, watching shadowy individuals darting around confusedly, apparently relaying messages to one another by word of mouth. A wintry breeze had kicked up in the last several minutes, hurtling thick snowflakes at them fiercely, leaving the men clearly struggling against the elements now. Shortly after, they relented, and all returned to their vehicles and prepared to leave, the interference having proved as effective as he had hoped. And in their confusion, they apparently hadn't even seemed to realize they had a man missing.

Fyber admired the newly found H.E.A.T. in his hands, still curious of its somewhat different design, but knowing it was surely an advantage nonetheless, and was very anxious to study it. And as he watched the shimmering black trucks relucantly skulk their way off of his land, he couldn't resist the broad grin of triumph that overtook him. This time, he was the victor. And to the victor go the spoils.

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