Undercover Alien

The Hat, The Agency, and the Quantum War

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Preview #1

Fortune smiles; within mere minutes, the corner office bustles with activity. Director emerges, mug in hand, and sallies past his open cubicle en route to the break room. He thinks Director catches his eye. Is this an invitation? Or his imagination? He can't decide, yet either way, it appears, opportunity raps its seductive tap upon his door.

     Caffeine. Yes! He has squelched a growing hunger for an Arabian Mocha-Java since breakfast. Desire turned into lust the moment he inhaled Sprocket's aromatic waft. Now, any excuse to visit the break room on his mind, the hunger gnaws. Securing workstation, waiting a brief moment lest he might appear to be following too closely, his empty mug hugged tightly against his body, sauntering along the hallway — he imagines he seems nonchalant. Intrigue pushes aside, for the moment, the vestiges of a busy night.

     As he enters the caffeine-cubicle, his eye lands on Director, back toward the door, wrestling the Kafe-Krescendo. He admires the cut of her crisp double-breasted business dress — Brooks Brothers, of course—always sharp and professional. She cycles through a collection of near-identical dresses, each distinguished by subtle variations in wear and cut, suggesting individual purchases over many years.

     He notes the slightly askew top button, as though the worn thread is near to breaking. She is wearing number six today, he decides. He imagines a crouching puma beneath the heavy, deep black Italian wool. No matter how button-down, clothing cannot mute her innate animal magnetism.

     Another is present as well, back also facing the entrance, though lacking Director's trim cut. He does not notice the other's wardrobe; indeed, he would scant notice had the other appeared stark naked.

     The more substantive form impedes the view — a faint grimace of annoyance flits across his face too quickly for the others to see.

     There is gentle laughter as the pair argues with friendly geniality. Each expounds on the relative merits of a preferred tweak to the formula. The rotund one alleges one cocoa packet as satisfactory; Director insists on two. Boss turns and greets him with a slight wave and a toothy grin as he drifts closer.

     "You see the news this morning? Meteor smashed some cyber joint; wiped out half the bar and grill. Fortunately, no one was there; it didn't hurt anyone. Isn't that your hangout?"

     At the mention of the morning news, he puts on his best blank face; slightly shaking his head, he addresses the second question.

     "Nah," he responds with a shrug. "Eh yeah, long time before I got my Hat."

     "Don't I recall you won a couple of championships?"

     "Yeah, but a White Hat plays a bigger game," he answers with a shrug. "Haven't played there in years."

     This is not — quite — a lie. He visits The Hashtag for cyber hut anonymity and Wi-Fi, not competition. He is too busy to play.

There has never been a superhero like The Hat.

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