One more chapter from the book, in this chapter, the team has a close call with a drone and the FBI agent Steve Jenkins continues to get suspicious about what is really going on with the fossil hunting team. Only one more week until you can read the rest of the story of the search for alien artifacts.
Chapter 16 Too Close to Call
"Drones!" Charlie yelled frantically as he waved his arms at the rest of the crew. Their arrangements for detecting the surveillance flyovers had worked very well many times up to this point. However, today the system experienced a glitch. "Hurry!" he called out as he scrambled from his position just inside the tunnel entrance. "According to these coordinates, we only have fifteen minutes!"
Suddenly there was a flurry of activity on the farm as they constructed the temporary building over the incriminating hole. As the drone approached, each of the four team members stood at a different corner of the shed. Bill and Tim manned the north side, while Ellen and Charlie – or “Radar,” like the character in M*A*S*H, as they had begun calling him – positioned themselves at the south end.
* * *
As Charlie pecked away at his computer, Ellen resisted the urge to join him in his room. He had written a program for detecting drones while they still flew at a good distance from the farm and it proved to be a life-saving piece of equipment for the team. Unlike this morning’s episode, they normally had a half-hour to erect the shed during periods of unwanted surveillance. They were usually at the kitchen table when the fly-overs occurred, but today since they were in the tunnel they had only fifteen minutes to prepare. Today had been the first time Charlie had used his equipment inside the tunnel and they had found out the hard way that it did not pick up the equipment as clearly as it did in the house. It was urgent that he fix the program to restore its earlier thirty-minute warning capability, so she figured she’d let him complete his work.
Ellen strolled to the operations room where Bill and Tim manned their usual spots at the TERMITE console – ostensibly to run further tests on it, but also using the time in pursuit of what had become their nightly hobby: watching the ladies. She doubted if they would be very good company, but she thought it was worth a shot anyway.
As usual, the display on the monitor – unbeknownst to some poor female victim – was another view up her skirt. "You guys disgust me sometimes," Ellen derided them.
Bill looked over his shoulder at their distraught female partner. "Don't watch if you don't like what you see,” he scolded. “Anyway, we're testing the TERMITE under different conditions, so we'll know what it'll do."
"Yeah, if we're going to use it, we need to know its capabilities and its limitations," Tim chimed in.
"Uh-huh, right,” Ellen responded sarcastically. “Are you going to see if it can crawl up that poor woman’s leg?"
"Not a bad idea, that," mused Bill.
"Just to show you that we are testing the thing,” Tim offered, “take a guess as to where it is at this very moment.”
"Could be anywhere," Ellen ventured. "All you can see on the screen is that woman's legs and butt. As far as I know, it’s right under my feet. Same color dress and underwear I have on." She caught herself too late – her unmentionables were none of their business.
"No, that couldn't be you," Bill informed her. "You have a mole on your right cheek. This woman doesn't."
"Yeah, sure," Ellen said with more than a hint of revulsion.
Bill leered at her. "No, it’s not in this room – it’s in the lobby at the movie theater in Cody. We actually dropped it off outside the building yesterday. We managed to get it through the closed door before the theater opened. There was just a small crack at the lower left-hand corner of the doorway and we just squeezed the thing in. Had a hell of a time doing it, too, so we’re getting some valuable practice manipulating this thing around."
Ellen left them to their devices. As she walked past the full-length mirror in the hall, she pulled her skirt up, bent over in front of the mirror and checked for the mole on her backside.
* * *
Charlie called out to Ellen as she walked past his room. She turned around and headed back. "How is the program change going?" she asked.
"I figured out that one of our problems is we are just too far into the tunnel to get the shed put up in time,” he answered as he turned to face her. “The program gave us plenty of warning. We just should have gotten started earlier. My solution is this: Since we’re so far in anyway, why don't we enlarge the tunnel right about where we are now and store our gear there? Then we can just leave the shed up most of the time."
"Sounds like a good plan to me,” she replied. “Especially since I found out that someone is interested in what we’re doing. Of course, we'll have to take it down at night. It just gets too wet on these chilly evenings and the cardboard would be ruined in no time. Why don't we run the idea by everyone? I think it'll fly."
"Okey–dokey," Charlie mused as he turned back to his equipment.
* * *
"I think this has gone on long enough!" Duke yelled. "You've been watching these people for months now and what have you got? I'll tell you what you've got – zip. That's what you've got – zip and more zip."
"What's it to you, anyway?" Jenkins replied calmly tone as he sat facing Duke. "There's no skin off your nose in this. I've been doing it alone with no help from you. I've a good mind to deny you any of the credit when this thing breaks."
Duke snorted and said, "When what thing breaks? There is nothing to break!"
"What's this then, smartass?” Jenkins asked as he moved a finger over one of the pictures. “Look at these shots from last Tuesday's surveillance.”
"I saw the pictures,” Duke responded defensively. “There's nothing there.”
"Take another look.” Jenkins pointed again at the picture at an area behind a house. “Tell me what you see.”
Duke looked reluctantly at the picture on the monitor, made a face at his partner and stared at the zoomed image from the drone. “I see all four of them standing by that storage shed they built last July. That's all. What is so sinister about this picture?”
"Ever see the way a deer looks when he’s crossing the road and gets caught in your headlights?” Jenkins inquired. “That's what I see on their faces. They are all staring right up at the drone, and I'll be damned if they don't have that same look."