There were no lights in the alley. A shrouded figure walked quietly, drawing no attention. Hooded but not hidden, he walked to the back of a building. There were no windows as he looked up the three stories to the roof. A fog was just starting to lower as the temperature rose after the rain. The cloak he wore was out of place, but nothing that any passerby would have taken notice of. He reached down and slipped off his tabi, a split-toe Japanese sock with a padded sole, and placed them in an inner pocket of his cloak. “This used to be easier when one could go around barefoot without notice,” he thought to himself.
Flexing his fingers, small webbed and inverted, needle-like claws sprung forward from his fingertips; making a hook for him to support his body while climbing. He placed his claws into the brick, and proceeded to produce the same protrusions on his toes. He then scaled the outer wall of the building as quickly as one could crawl on the ground. As he reached the top, he vaulted over the short wall and landed quietly; the claws now gone. Going to the air handler on the roof, he opened the slats of the outside air vent. His body slimmed, as would a mouse, and he squeezed, almost slithering, between the slats.
Once inside, the industrial fan nearly sucked him through. Somehow appearing shorter and wider, he produced a short, solid rod from inside his cloak. Placing his back to the wall in the direction the bottom of the fan was going, he jammed the rod into the fan blades. It stopped almost instantly, causing an indent in the handler wall where his back had been. Holding the blades at bay, he stepped through and removed the rod. The fan spun up again as if nothing had happened. The gust of air blowing back the cloak of his hood revealing a face with no features; blank except for eye slits and nostrils. There were no hair or ears, and his chin was non-descript. Putting up the hood, he continued.
Crawling through the ventilation was tricky, but his body always seemed to fit. Finding the room outside he wanted came with ease. Flexing his hands again, his fingers elongated and became thin enough to fit through the slats of the grate. Suddenly they got thicker and took on a rock-like look. Using both hands at the top and bottom of the grate, he crushed it like tin foil and pulled the grate into the air return. Removing his hood, his eyes had changed. Similar to a cat’s, they took in every bit of light. Ears had formed on the upper sides of his head. They appeared as a cross between a dog and a bat. They could rotate to some degree, taking in all sounds in all direction. Slowly sticking his head down through the opening, his skin changed to a scaly, reptilian-like texture with a dark coloring to it. Looking around, he noticed two cameras on constantly, rotating around the room in a pattern to cover the most area. The floor was pressure sensitive (being able to see the electronics through the floor) with infrared sensors beaming in a scattered pattern around the room (also able to see in the infrared spectrum).
The ceiling, however, was clear of any such detection devices. With his claws extended, he gripped the ceiling and crawled towards the heavy steel door at the end of the room. A swiping card reader and a retinal scan was the only security at the door. There were no sensors surrounding the door area. He dropped down slowly as to not trigger any motion sensors. The lizard-like skin put his body temperature equal to the room so as to foil any thermal detection. Slowly removing a blank card with a magnetic strip from another cloak pocket, he swiped the card through the reader. A voice said, “Prepare for retinal scan, General Hailey.” The man put his eye up to the scanner. A shift in the eye made just the one look human; brown with some black speckling. The scanner beeped and the voice said, “Thank you, General Hailey.”
The door clicked open and the man pushed it further with his elbow. Inside was an electronic bank vault. The keypad was on the right; no combination dial. He squinted and stared at the door. He could see the complex tumblers inside the door, but no way of determining how to unlock it. “Damn it!” he thought. There were ten heavy bars holding the door in place. The door was at least a foot thick since he couldn’t see all the way through the door. How was he expected to get inside? The door was supposed to have a mechanical dial with tumblers on it. When was it replaced? How old was the information he was given? Reforming his eyes, he looked at each key on the pad with a powerful magnification. The numbers 2, 4, 6, 9 and 0 had all been touched. The film of oil is thicker on 4 than any of the others, followed by 2 and 0 having equal amounts. “Odd,” he thought. 6 had even less with 9 having the least. He looked at 2 and 0 more closely and noticed a smidgen more wear on 2 than on 0. “It must be pressed twice,” he thought. “Now when was it pressed and how can I figure it out? Sherlock Holmes could do it…if he were real,” he surmised.
He figured he’d give it a try.
“What next, 9 or 2?” He thought to himself. He was glad that lizards did not sweat since for the first time in a very long while, he was a bit nervous.
He exhaled a little heavy and grabbed the wheel. Turning it, the door easily opened. Inside were several hundred locked doors, just like a room of safety deposit boxes. But none of them were numbered. All had a dual-key system. To the right, third row from the top, seventh column from the left was the box he was looking for. Flexing his hands once more, he made fists and extended his index fingers. His nails extended out into thin pieces, similar to key blanks. He inserted his nails into the keyholes and concentrated. His eyes were closed, his ears angled towards the box. He felt the nails find the tumblers and the cylinder loosen. Turning his hands, the box came loose. He pulled it out and set it on the small table in the room.
Lifting the box lid, the lights suddenly came on. An alarm sounded far away. “Damn!” he thought. Looking in the box, there was a wire and sensor trigger to send a remote signal were the box opened. A release button at the back of the box would have disabled the sensor. “Stupid!” he said as his face contorted, forming a mouth and human ears. Brown hair started to grow on the top of his head and under the extruding nose that was forming on his face. He grabbed the chip and mini-CD in the box, shoving them in a zipper pocket at his thigh. The safe door started to close. His legs reformed to the back legs of a large grasshopper. He crouched and sprung through the gap with time to spare. He dove and rolled while his torso expanded into a muscular and solid bulk. Jumping again, he aimed his shoulder at the already closed outer door and slammed through, bending the steel with some effort. He broke the path of the lasers as another alarm sounded. This one sounded in the room directly. The two cameras immediately trained on his odd form. The other door to this room, wooden in nature was already opening.
The two men entering were drawing their guns. Not quite out of their hip holsters, the guards paused as they recognized the face of the figure in front of them as General Hailey. That was just the pause he needed. Leaping again, he covered the length of the room in a split second. His arms and hands were changing during his spring to bear paws. He easily swiped the guards to the side, one right after the other. He could see the corner of a hallway and more guards and what looked like secret service rounding into view. The lead guard fired while running and pierced the man’s arm. He stepped back, slammed the door and leapt towards the vent opening, grabbing the rim with a now gorilla arm. The wounded arm lay limp by his side.
He wrenched himself through the hole, forgetting is bulk and enlarging the opening. Plaster fell to the floor as a gas started to enter the room. The plates from when he first jumped into the room must have triggered that. His legs changed again to that of a chimpanzee while his arms changed to that of a large badger. During the transformation, the bullet was pushed out and the wound healed. The now mostly animal burrowed his way through sheet metal, sheet rock, wood and even cement. Fortunately, there were no hallways on his way up, only offices. Being in the basement, he clawed his way up four stories, zigging and zagging so as to not leave a straight line of sight for his pursuers.
Reaching the roof and bursting through, the thing removed the hooded cape and rolled it up under one arm. He bent over while doing so as leathery wings protruded and grew out slits in the back of his top. His legs were human again as were his arms. He ran to the edge, used the ledge and jumped of the building, spreading his wings to catch the updraft. Floating up a bit, he flapped and soared away before any of the building security could reach the roof. “Spotted again. I hate technology,” he thought as he flew away.