Simms had completed repairs to the ignition control system, and he and Delaney were now fitting the panel back into the black bug vehicle.
The vehicle reminded Simms of a cockroach on wheels, slippery and ugly, and very very black.
Inside, there was enough room to comfortably seat six people, although it was difficult to tell what actually constituted a seat. Basically, there was one large cabin area with a discernible driver’s position, and several bench type seats bounding the remainder of the cabin.
Everything inside was constructed of the same black plastic material, formed and molded into smooth, seamless shapes. The bench seats themselves appeared to be part of the side panels, blending smoothly up from the floor to where they met at the roof. The windows were solid black and couldn’t be seen through from the outside or the inside.
Even the steering mechanism was a singular piece of plastic jutting up from the floor in front of the driver. A column with two motorbike handlegrips attached to it.
Simms crawled in through the single entry door at the side of the vehicle. As he slid it open, the door disappeared into the car’s frame.
Once he was inside, Delaney handed him the ignition panel, the only piece of the jigsaw that appeared to be removable.
Simms inserted the panel, carefully lining up the small digital lugs that protruded from one face of it into their corresponding couplets on the floor.
As he tapped it into place a bank of lights lit up underneath the front window, which suddenly became completely transparent. Then the bottom third of the window itself became a glowing green digital display, showing a myriad of meaningless symbols and numbers.
There was a faint hum, and the steering mechanism shunted into position in front of the driver’s seat.
Delaney climbed into the vehicle and slid straight past Simms into the driver’s position.
“Looks like we’re in action Private.”
Lena noticed the bug’s lights and she ran across to join the men.
She clambered onto one of the bench seats and slid the door shut.
Delaney pulled back hard on the steering column. The vehicle jolted backwards, and he instinctively let go of the controls.
“Okay, let’s try that again,” he said, looking around at the others slightly embarrassed.
Lena furrowed her brow and breathed deeply.
This time, Delaney inched the column back toward his chest and the large machine slowly and smoothly reversed toward the wall. Delaney allowed the steering column to return to the neutral position, then pushed it slightly forward. As he did, he turned the handles to the left.
The bug made an arc across the hangar floor in a tight semicircle, then moved slowly out through the large door.
“Okay, let’s find out once and for all what’s down this tunnel,” Delaney said as he pushed the steering column forward.
Lena took one last long look out the back window of the vehicle as it passed through the door. She noticed something… something different about the hangar.
On the far wall, one of the large gearwheels that had earlier been still was now moving. It had begun rotating.
“Guys, whatever it is we’re going to do, we’d better do it soon...” Lena said quietly. “I think our time is starting to run out…”