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The Detector

A woman of about 20 looked blankly up at the scaffolding and metal that towered over her in the hangar she was in. It was a large radar array, still in operation since before the end of the cold war.

She was wearing a plain, knee-length dress and her hair hung lifelessly around her shoulders. Her feet were bare on the concrete floor. She stood staring for another moment when a siren sounded in the distance. She turned slowly and walked to a small door in the corner of the large building.

Outside, the siren echoed into the night. An army jeep with three men in camo uniforms and hats sped past, but she gave no sign of noticing it. Adjacent was a small office building where another jeep parked and men scrambled out. She slowly walked over to them and followed them inside.

There was a commotion inside the control building. Rows of men at monitors were trying to confirm what they had just picked up. The major general stood at the back of the room, looking distinguished and concerned.

“Any report from the other stations?” asked the general.

“Nothing yet, sir,” the comms officer replied.

The girl walked past them down the last row of desks.

“I want a full diagnostic on the primary and secondary radar. See if you can bring the third array online. Everyone at full alert. No one’s going back to bed until I know what happened.”

She left.

At the national laboratory scientists were just arriving for the morning. Men and women in lab coats were grabbing coffee and sitting down at desks to check email.

The girl with bare feet was there in the hallway. She walked past a line of offices and came upon a stairwell. She descended it into the basement.

The basement was where a large and expensive experiment to measure gravity was being performed. Coils for enormous electromagnets were in the center of the room, and cooling equipment lined one wall. A few lab technicians milled about and poked laptops.

She stood in front of the apparatus. Suddenly one of the lab techs became excited.

“Guys, look at this!”

The others gathered around. “Whoa, it’s off the charts!”

“Get Dr. Martin!”

Dr. Martin arrived quickly, holding a coffee with half of it on his shirt. The techs stepped back from the laptop and he started reviewing the data.

“There must be some sort of error.”

The girl disappeared.

In an otherwise empty undergrad physics lab, a man of about 20 was working alone. He was doing some simple experiments with an antenna and an oscilloscope.

The young woman appeared behind him. She walked up to the antenna and looked at it.

It had been two years since he had gotten a scholarship and she had gone to a local school. She had made new friends and a few boys from her classes had even taken interest in her, but that wasn’t what she cared about. She had lost faith in a lot of things since then: school, other people, physics. It seemed like nothing was real anymore.

The wave readout on the oscilloscope became frantic. The young man glanced up from the lab notebook where he had been scribbling a calculation, confused.

He tried tuning the oscilloscope, and then stood up to adjust the antenna. The woman stood next to him as he tilted it left and right.

When that didn’t help, he sat back down again and studied the scope’s digital display. He scratched his head and looked around. He hesitantly called out, “Lindsey?”

“Hey.” She became visible and solid.