Ignition Detection

The clock reads 4 AM, Pacific Time. The usually bustling headquarters of the National Security Agency is eerily quiet, save for a small team of dedicated analysts and technicians known as the Quantum Whisper group. Their eyes are fixated on their screens, reading an unusual blip in the power consumption data and an encrypted electronic signature emanating from the middle of the desert. The anomaly, they know, signals the activation of the Architect’s super collider.

Working swiftly, they compile their findings into a brief. This is no ordinary document; it’s destined for the desks of the top brass at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and a special individual at the White House.

As the East Coast wakes to the rising sun, the information is delivered to Chester “Chess” Hawkins, White House Special Counsel for Resolving Unanticipated Administrative Intricacies, a vague title that belies his true role: he’s the man tasked with managing the complex, often covert messes inherited from the Bush administration.

Chess is already up, seated behind his desk, poring over countless reports and briefings. He’s been up all night, the financial markets already in turmoil, bracing for the news of Lehman Brothers’ collapse. The impending financial meltdown is a storm on the horizon, and his attention is squarely on it.

A sealed envelope with a National Security Agency seal lands on his cluttered desk. He pauses his work, taking a moment to glance at the sender’s insignia before he tears it open. It’s not often he receives direct correspondence from the NSA, and as he quickly reads the first few lines, he realizes why this brief took such a direct route.

His eyes skim over the keywords — Architect, supercollider, activation. He absorbs the information, his mind already racing with potential consequences, questions, and options. But just as quickly as he absorbs the revelation, he sets the briefing aside. The severity of the message is not lost on him, but the gravity of the financial crisis, already unfurling like a storm on the Eastern seaboard, takes precedence. He sighs, a small frown creasing his forehead as he returns to his financial reports.

The irony of these twin collisions, both literal and metaphorical, happening simultaneously doesn’t escape him. But for now, he chooses to focus on the crisis at hand — the meltdown in the financial markets — the collision of an economic superpower with the realities of its reckless financial system.

And so, as dawn breaks, the report on the activation of the Architect’s super collider lies buried under a mountain of financial reports, its profound implications momentarily eclipsed by the unfolding financial crisis. The universe had shuddered, but the world was too busy trembling to notice.

Chess Hawkins is a man accustomed to the balancing act of the extraordinary and mundane, the vital and the necessary. As the financial markets spiral into chaos and the latest Halliburton contract debacle grows in scope, he finds a brief moment of respite. A quiet five minutes to return to the matter of the super collider.

His contact at DARPA is Dr. Lydia Monroe, a seasoned astrophysicist with a knack for translating complex theoretical concepts into simple language, a skill Chess has come to appreciate immensely. Their conversations have often been filled with talk of quarks, quantum states, and wormholes, each more baffling than the last. Today, however, their discussion is far more grounded, yet no less bewildering.

“Chess, the Architect has all but disappeared,” Lydia’s voice echoes from the speakerphone. “His facility has gone dark. Our only response has been a reference to the Mojave Accord.”

Chess leans back in his chair, pinching the bridge of his nose. He knows the Mojave Accord well, a legal and scientific treaty drawn up to protect the Architect’s research, allowing him free reign to keep his discoveries secret for a “reasonable period,” with a grace period of up to ten years.

“He’s invoked the clause?” Chess asks, rubbing his temples.

“Yes,” Lydia confirms, her voice heavy. “Which means we’re in the dark as much as you are.”

The conversation ends with little resolution, and Chess is left staring at the array of crises before him. The Architect’s collider is a distant, silent collision that he can do nothing about, at least for now.

With a sigh, he picks up the next report, his mind already shifting back to the more immediate problems at hand. Yet, in the back of his mind, the unheeded echo of a distant super collider looms like a forgotten specter, promising that its impact will be felt, sooner or later. A collision in time, set to reverberate when least expected.