A tense pause.
“…I said angle grinder – wake up, Ong!”
“Sorry, Professor Harris.”
The edged howl of tortured metal filling the small space.
“Tch. What is this thing made of? You – Lieutenant Watkins, was it? Find me a diamond blade.”
“Oh for God’s sake, Lieutenant. They told me this base was well-equipped. Use some goddamn initiative!”
“Tch. Military buffoons. All right, while we’re waiting, let’s have another try at getting this helmet off.”
“Professor, are you sure…?”
“Listen, Ong – when a metal… person falls out of the sky and you’re told to figure out where the hell it came from, then you get to ask the questions. Until then, quit staring at this thing like it’s the goddamn second coming and pass me that goddamn drill!”
A high-pitched whine, pressing like a bony finger into the skull just behind the eye.
“Damn clever manufacturing, whoever did this. Russian or Chinese, I’ll bet. Can’t wait to get under the hood, but the casing alone’ll keep the boys in metalurgy busy for weeks.”
“Um, Professor Harris…?”
“Oh, what now, Ong? Don’t tell me you’re with the nutjobs who think it’s goddamn aliens? I don’t have time for-”
The screech of hinges under sudden pressure; the heavy thud of the door thrown open.
“Harris! What the hell are you doing?!”
“I beg your pardon, general? Our instructions were-”
“Forget our orders! Didn’t you get the scan results?
“The scan-? The report said the casing was impervious to all frequencies…”
“And you never even looked at the images?”
“I never-? Ong…”
“Um, I tried to show you, Professor.”
“Oh, for- give them here. Take a good long look, Harris.”
A soft, plastic fluttering.
“Pray that He is, Harris. Pray that He is.”
About the author: E. H. Mann lives and writes in Melbourne, Australia. Their first professionally-published story appeared in the 2018 anthology Mother of Invention, and another of her stories will be released soon in the 2018 Fabled Journey audio anthology. By day he works in customer service, volunteers as an asexuality advocate, and struggles with the concept of gender. You can find them online at ehmannwrites.com – Facebook @E.H.Mann.writes – Twitter @ehmannwrites
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