A sudden chill ran through me. The atmosphere felt as if all life had been sucked from it – the air was icy cold.
Around me were feeble, brittle brown twigs of what seemed to be a dead shrub. A few browning leaves remained attached but mostly they littered the ground.
I rubbed my arms; it was freezing; and dark for that matter. I looked around from behind the feeble trees and dense bushes that made up the spinney I was now crouched in. Some one hundred yards away an illuminated red strip was shining.
As my eyes adjusted to the new levels of light I made out the letters; E. S. S. O.
“Esso? Esso!” I mouthed the letters. It’s a bloody Esso garage, I thought to myself. Then beyond I saw the brown, almost basket-weaved, sixty foot high, representation of the end of a shuttlecock, and knew then where I was. I’d seen this shape before, during my past army-life, when I’d been moved between training camps in France and Switzerland. It was the ‘Palais de l’Équilibre’ encompassing the entrance to CERN and my target, the LHC.
There was a lot of traffic on the dual carriageway and I had to pick my emergence from the shrubbery with precision timing. The last thing I wanted was to be picked up by the police as some kind of technophile pervert, or worse, terrorist.
I wished I had a watch. I had no idea how long it had taken for me to get here, though it had seemed instantaneous.
I thought the best place to start would be in the Esso garage. Perhaps I could take a peek at the clock in there – there was usually one behind the counter.
I checked to make sure the road was relatively clear and scrambled out of the spinney.
Good! That was done; no one catching sight of me.
Just to be on the safe side I decided to take fifteen minutes from whatever the time was when I found a clock. I couldn’t imagine the journey from the Other Realm taking any more than that.
I walked into the garage shop and pretended to look around the shelves of stuff as I attempted to catch a glimpse of the clock behind the till.
“Can I help you, sir?” came an accented question through the air. Unfortunately I was the only customer in the premises so I couldn’t pretend it wasn’t me. I never could understand how these foreigners could tell an Englishman at thirty paces.
“Erm!” I didn’t think I could get away with the usual excuse that I was just browsing. I decided to go to the counter for some chocolate or something then “accidently” discover I hadn’t any Euros in my wallet and get a good look at the clock.
My stomach growled and I could see in my mind’s eye pulling a fifty Euro note from my wallet; I could do with a bar of chocolate.
I walked towards the man and checked the clock – 8:50pm – I pulled out my wallet and fanned through its contents. Not a single pound note in sight; all Euros.
“Sorry. I haven’t any Euros,” I explained to the man.
The man reached over and took a ten Euro note then waved it in front of me. “Oh! You English. Always joking. What do you have?”
I shook my head. “I’ll have a Snickers and a large latté, thank you.”
I left the shop confused but the food soon took my mind off the strange appearance of the currency. It felt like it’d been days since I’d eaten anything.
I walked along the pavement towards the peculiar upturned weaved basket. Somehow I needed to get in there and a little further beyond. The external fence was not too big a deal, being only waist height. I looked up and down the road, nothing was near, and I jumped over and darted towards the ‘Palais de l’Équilibre’
I guessed another five minutes had passed and that only left me with forty more minutes to find the LHC and do something to it. Time was running out.
So far no one had been around. I went over to the entrance and looked through the glass. I could see security sitting behind their desk, looking ominous. There was no way I’d be able to slip through the door, past the reception and into the lift that obviously went down into the bowels of the facility.
Then the worst possible thing that could happen, happened. One of the guards behind the desk looked up and spotted me peering in. He called his colleague and pointed me out.
They both started towards the entrance and I decided it was time to leave. Quickly I skirted the circular building and made my way as fast as I could towards the complex behind, putting as much distance as I could between the road and myself as I made my way deeper into the mass of CERN buildings.
I heard the footfalls of two people chasing after me and vague calls of, “Arrêtez-vous.”
This was all taking up time; time I couldn’t afford. I reckoned I now had only thirty five minutes before I was rendered a powerless puny human once more, with no prospect of stopping the Akh’Mori’s destruction of Earth.
A gunshot rang out and I ducked.