The sun was just adorning the Central Clock Tower when the deep chimes rang out. People poured from doorways of stone and earth, flowed against each other in waves, softly pushing paths to their vehicles. Slowly they trickled into the narrow alleyways, in clumps, in pairs, alone. The sky put on its orange coat to keep away the dusky chill.
Len sped along on his QT module. The wake rippled the sea of shrubs hiding in deep pools of shadow by the clay towers. Len himself would keep to the shadows tonight.
Gray and hazy on the gray haze of the city, Len zipped through the side streets on a zigzag course that would have any observer confused beyond comprehension.
Len, however, had spent countless hours scanning the streets, memorizing the roads and the locals’ patterns along them. He had come to know every landmark there was to know, every flower and every door. Len knew these roads like a PF man knew his own uniform.
Unfortunately, Len was also becoming rather familiar with PF attire lately.
He kept a sharp eye out as his QT dodged the other vehicles in the afternoon commute. The din of transports that enveloped the module’s hum was no fortunate accident; Len and FF Commander Owen had very carefully planned the time Len’s mission was to be executed.
And the time was nearing.
Len made another complicated series of turns and burst out of the sudden edge of the metropolis. He didn’t look back as he soared along.
He traveled along a crude air path leading into a forest almost as dense as the city. Just a second before he would have entered the forest, Len swerved violently to the left, straining the QT. The electronic buzz became a high-pitched shriek.
In a heartbeat, Len turned back towards the city in a wide arc that would land him near another edge of town. He cut to the right before he entered the jungle, stabilizing the QT and decelerating. He hummed along in this relaxed manner for a few minutes.
The buildings began to spread apart; in the shifting twilight, the structures were wary of their neighbors. It was quieter here, and as Len sped on the buildings became smaller and shorter until they were only about three stories high - living areas for the workers of the clay city.
Still Len urged the QT forward.
By now, there were mostly fields, with a farming community here and there, dilapidated but still standing. Len passed several of these as the little sun ran shyly to the horizon.
A gleaming triplicate of glass and steel buildings rose ahead, shining leviathans out of a calm sea of tall yellow grass. They huddled in a triangle, hoarsely whispering to one another. They stood as equals forty stories tall, and were connected every four floors by sleek, round service tunnels.
Upon seeing this visage, Len wrinkled his nose. 'Disgusting.' He glanced upwards. It was still too light.
With the gleaming buildings looming before him, Len decelerated further. The QT wasn’t built for such low velocities, and the motor threatened to short out. Len looked down at his controls and flipped a switch, then accelerated and leaned at a dangerous angle to the left. As soon as the grasses were tall enough to reach his neck, he slowed to a gentle hover, put the engines on stand-by, and dismounted.
He crouched in the grass. The sun was still sinking, fast; he didn’t have long to wait.
Enveloped in the purple skirts of late evening, Len sprinted through the grass toward the closest of the three glass towers. Any traps set outside would depend on his setting weight upon one or slowing down near another. The best way to escape detection – and, less importantly, injury – was to trust his eyes and equipment that the ground would be level, and to cover it as quickly as possible.
While he ran, Len reached into the left breast pocket of his jumpsuit. When the glass of the first story windows demanded that he halt, Len instead brought out his left hand and raised it, squeezing the trigger on a grappling device and jumping, trusting that the face of the building couldn’t be perfectly smooth, that the hook would catch on something.
He was right.
Len retracted the hook, pulling himself up; he tried to keep to window braces, where he would be more concealed. When he reached the hook, he was perched on a brace extending about three inches from the wall. Len reached into his right pocket and pressed a button. Promptly he felt a gentle magnetic tug between the soles of his shoes and the brace. He paused, facing the wall, listening intently for any sirens or signals that would indicate an intruder. None came. No one had seen him under the cloak of twilight. Len nodded to himself with satisfaction.
As he hugged the wall, he extracted from his left pocket another electronic device, with a small digital screen and colorful lights. He pressed an orange light and leaned back, away from the wall a few inches, presuming that the magnets in his shoes wouldn’t deactivate. Len pressed the orange light again, and it began blinking. He let a red beam of light quickly scan the support in front of him before he hauled himself back to the safety of the wall. Darkness was a hood being pulled over the sky; the lights on the gadget seemed brighter, and Len didn’t want to be exposed by the very technology meant to keep him from being discovered.
Two soft, quick beeps indicated that the room inside was secure. Len pressed a blue light on the other side of the device, which shot a wide, hot ray of energy that began to melt the support. Len let the beam melt only a one-inch square before he deactivated the ray and checked the room again with the red scanner. Then he melted away the window support again. It was a slow going process, but would guarantee secrecy. Back and forth between the two functions he went, until he could stick his upper body inside and allow the device to read the building plans.
When he thrust his torso through, Len found that he had picked a spot blocked from the room by a thick metal sheet.
Still, he knew that what he was looking for was here. It was pure, blind trust in hunches, but he knew he was right. Nonetheless, he activated the scanner to confirm that he was on the correct level and to let it direct him to the right room. Len looked over his right shoulder to solid metal. He awkwardly maneuvered the colorful light display to project a green grid on the inside of the beam.
It flickered four times and clunked quickly and faintly, then projected an approximate map of the room. Len was indeed in the right room, behind a very large filing cabinet. He could burn through...No. Too dangerous. Instead, Len pointed the electronic console up and began the tedious pattern of red and blue, intruder check and melting, while the sky grew ever darker.