Hundreds of miles from CERN, a voice crackled through a walkie‑talkie. “Okay, I’m in the hallway.”
The technician monitoring the video screens pressed the button on his transmitter. “You’re looking for camera #86. It’s supposed to be at the far end.”
There was a long silence on the radio. The waiting technician broke a light sweat. Finally his radio clicked.
“The camera isn’t here,” the voice said. “I can see where it was mounted, though. Somebody must have removed it.”
The technician exhaled heavily. “Thanks. Hold on a second, will you?”
Sighing, he redirected his attention to the bank of video screens in front of him. Huge portions of the complex were open to the public, and wireless cameras had gone missing before, usually stolen by visiting pranksters looking for souvenirs. But as soon as a camera left the facility and was out of range, the signal was lost, and the screen went blank. Perplexed, the technician gazed up at the monitor. A crystal clear image was still coming from camera #86.
If the camera was stolen, he wondered, why are we still getting a signal? He knew, of course, there was only one explanation. The camera was still inside the complex, and someone had simply moved it. But who? And why?
He studied the monitor a long moment. Finally he picked up his walkie‑talkie. “Are there any closets in that stairwell? Any cupboards or dark alcoves?”
The voice replying sounded confused. “No. Why?”
The technician frowned. “Never mind. Thanks for your help.” He turned off his walkie‑talkie and pursed his lips.
Considering the small size of the video camera and the fact that it was wireless, the technician knew that camera #86 could be transmitting from just about anywhere within the heavily guarded compound—a densely packed collection of thirty‑two separate buildings covering a half‑mile radius. The only clue was that the camera seemed to have been placed somewhere dark. Of course, that wasn’t much help. The complex contained endless dark locations—maintenance closets, heating ducts, gardening sheds, bedroom wardrobes, even a labyrinth of underground tunnels. Camera #86 could take weeks to locate.
But that’s the least of my problems, he thought.
Despite the dilemma posed by the camera’s relocation, there was another far more unsettling matter at hand. The technician gazed up at the image the lost camera was transmitting. It was a stationary object. A modern‑looking device like nothing the technician had ever seen. He studied the blinking electronic display at its base.
Although the guard had undergone rigorous training preparing him for tense situations, he still sensed his pulse rising. He told himself not to panic. There had to be an explanation. The object appeared too small to be of significant danger. Then again, its presence inside the complex was troubling. Very troubling, indeed.
Today of all days, he thought.
Security was always a top priority for his employer, but today, more than any other day in the past twelve years, security was of the utmost importance. The technician stared at the object for a long time and sensed the rumblings of a distant gathering storm.
Then, sweating, he dialed his superior.