Ahead of me was a large white building with a smaller one next to it and a gap between. I picked up the pace. One thing I was sure about and that was not getting shot. If there’d been a bullet with my name on it, it was still in Afghanistan and those days were done with.
I looked back. The two guards were gaining on me, but their fitness was lacking. I entered the short alleyway between the two buildings. All of a sudden alternating red and blue lights illuminated the path I was taking. A security van had turned up. I was cornered.
As I backed away from the men who had leapt from the van, I wondered whether this would be it, the end of this strange quest, the tunnels below remaining just out of reach.
I could see in my head where I needed to get to but very soon I would be in custody. I took another step back and my heel caught the edge of a raised manhole cover, unbalancing me.
I turned as I fell and put my hands out to break the fall. Both palms hit the concrete path simultaneously, but they didn’t stop there. The concrete bowed then rippled like I’d just put my hands in a large bowl of thick porridge.
Something clicked in my mind and I re-focused once again on the tunnels below that housed the LHC.
Soon I was up to my elbows in concrete porridge. I took a deep breath and pushed further. The ground absorbed my entire body.
I controlled my panic, knowing not to do so would mean certain death in a concrete overcoat. The pressure on my hands gave way and then I was falling.
I landed heavily on the smooth pavement below. Before I moved, I listened carefully – there was only the hum of the electrical circuits that covered the walls around me.
I stood up and made sure that nothing had broken. It seemed I was Ok. I looked at the ceiling of the tunnel I was now standing in; nothing – not a single mark or sign that anything had come through it.
Though I had thought that the currency thing had been a bit weird, this was freaky. However, I was beginning to understand what was going on.
Then my whole body jerked as I recognised what I was standing next to; it was part of the LHC, a huge tube that led off into the distance around a barely noticeable curve.
I’d been told I needed to touch it in four places. I put my hand on its surface. A splash of purple rippled out from my hand’s outline across the tube, like ripples across the surface of a pond I’d just slapped.
As the colour dissipated so did the ripples and then nothing.
I heard the distant clang of a heavy metal door as it swung shut somewhere behind me. I didn’t believe security had any inkling as to where I’d gone but I started running in the opposite direction anyway.
All I had to do now was to touch the LHC three further times and I was done. I thought it best that I spaced out these touches as far apart as I could. I don’t know why but this tactic felt the appropriate approach.
With the penultimate purple rinse of the tube complete I headed onward only to be confronted by a heavy, orange-coloured metal door. I pulled it open and entered a huge chamber, then stared. Rising to the ceiling of this chamber was a massive red painted octagonal cylinder. This had to be my last target. Large letters on its side declared: ALICE.
I walked towards it and raised my hand ready for the final touch, after which I had no idea what I was going to do, but my mission would be complete.
I was so awestruck by the view of this enormous device, I missed the sound the security guard must have made as he crept up on me. The first I knew about it was the neck lock he put me in.
The second thing I thought about was the time on his watch; 9:30pm – at worst I had only five minutes left, at best ten. I guessed.
I snapped myself forward, grasping the arm that was locked around my neck – the guard flew over the top of my head and landed hard on the solid floor in front of me. The impact and angle forced him to let go.
I dived for the red cylinder and touched it. There were no purple ripples this time.
“Shit,” I hissed under my breath. My time was done. I’d failed and war was imminent.