The discovery was so world-shattering that not even the tabloids could stand to overstate it. In fact, it was one of those mediocre newspapers which summed it up perfectly:
Too Big To Lie About.
The archaeologist who found it was immediately sequestered away so that the details of the discovery remained as secretive as possible, however, the authorities weren't quick enough and most of the information made it to the public.
To summarise: There was something in the middle of the desert. Something large and topped with a thick pane of glass which was covered in a film of dirt and grease on the inside. Scanning machines had been used and even though they didn't give the best quality images, what they did see was something moving underneath the glass.
Even though the desert was in a hugely contested area of the desert, politics didn't really enter into how the glass enclosure was dealt with. Everyone agreed, more or less straight away, that it should be uncovered, if only to see what was moving inside.
The real debate (or argument) was about who built the thing and why. Some claimed it was an old war-time fort that had been used for experiments and the inhabitant was a member of the research team who had managed to eke out a life alone. Others claimed that it was some other sort of creature who had wandered into an ancient city and been trapped by something or other.
There was no question in anyone's mind that the enclosure would be breached at some point, but it was decided that before that happened, the entire structure would be uncovered, if only to give the researchers and authorities a clear idea of how big the area was. That work took almost eight years, and led to the creation of an artificial desert further south.
Eventually the structure stood uncovered for the first time in no-one-knew-how-long. It spanned more than 1000sq feet, which surprised everyone, and stood a dozen stories tall. There was no obvious point of entry or exit and that led to wild speculation that it was a prison, or some other means of capture. The idea was so pervasive that a lot of people were concerned about what would happen to anyone who went inside.
Lieutenant Colonel George Ayers was the man in charge of the military group brought in to act as a first entry contingent. He was obviously nervous about the operation, but he had handpicked his team and had the fullest of trust in his field leader, Sergeant Adrian Keyes, a 20 year veteran who had seen more action than he cared to admit. Ayers knew that if anything were to go pear-shaped inside the glass structure that Keyes would be able to handle it, and his team, appropriately.
“Sir,” Keyes said, saluting as the lieutenant colonel entered his tent.
“I've told you, Adrian, when its just us, you can call me George.”
“Not my style to break life-long habits, Sir,” he said, but relaxed nonetheless. “What’s the word?”
“Nothing yet. Someone higher than me is still sitting on the order. They say it’s the engagement rules that's holding everything up.”
“Unfortunately, we’re all bound by them. Can’t have accidental deaths now,” the lieutenant colonel rolled his eyes.
“My father is rolling in his grave.”
“He would have gone in there alone, if he were here.”
“Hell, he would have bagged and tagged whatever it is in there and already be back at D’Kha at the whorehouse on his third.”
“That too,” they both laughed at the memory of the man they both knew so well in different aspects of his life. “Can you at least tell me what the plan will be once whoever it is has signed off on it?”
“Off the record, you and your men are to enter the structure, which will be sealed behind you, and you are to catalog everything you see and hear – which is why the civvies are there – if you encounter whatever it is inside, you are not to act in any way unless there are lives in danger.”
“What if it’s human?”
“Regardless of what it is, the scientists believe this place has been buried for over 1500 years, meaning it’s been at least that long since whatever it is has had any contact with anything outside. Odds are that it won’t want anything to do with you, and officially, you don't want anything to do with it.”
“Audio and visual documentation, along with any characteristics that you deem valuable information.”
“How long do we have inside?”
“Your gear is loaded with a weeks rations, but your pack has a cutter so you can leave anytime you need to.”
“Provided we find an exterior wall.”
“Another team will be keeping pace with you around the outside on the off-chance you need back up, Staff Sergeant Julian Benk is heading that.” Keyes raised an eyebrow but said nothing.
It was another week before Keyes and his group were kitted up and standing behind a sophisticated glass cutting machine. “The glass here is only a foot thick,” the operator said, “Compared to three or four in other places. Ideally you would come back here once you're done inside, but we can set up in other places.”
“Right,” Keyes said. “How long does this take to cut through?”
“Maybe half an hour, once it reaches full speed.”
Keyes did some ballpark maths in his head; the cutter he had was maybe a fifth the size of this one, he frowned at the implication. “No other thin spots?”
“The ceiling is also thin, maybe a foot and a half or so, but there's nothing within 20 or so feet of it anywhere.”
“You won’t be getting out via the roof.”
Keyes and his team stood on the inside of the glass and waited until the machine had resealed the hole behind them.
It was dark, dry and decidedly quiet in here. They heard the machines noise cut off and set up the lights. It was now or never.