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Midge Milken prowled angrily into the conference room across from her office. In addition to the thirty‑two foot mahogany table with the NSA seal inlaid in black cherry and walnut, the conference room contained three Marion Pike watercolors, a Boston fern, a marble wet bar, and of course, the requisite Sparklett’s water cooler. Midge helped herself to a glass of water, hoping it might calm her nerves.

As she sipped at the liquid, she gazed across at the window. The moonlight was filtering through the open venetian blind and playing on the grain of the table. She’d always thought this would make a nicer director’s office than Fontaine’s current location on the front of the building. Rather than looking out over the NSA parking lot, the conference room looked out over an impressive array of NSA outbuildings‑including the Crypto dome, a high‑tech island floating separate from the main building on three wooded acres. Purposefully situated behind the natural cover of a grove of maples, Crypto was difficult to see from most windows in the NSA complex, but the view from the directorial suite was perfect. To Midge the conference room seemed the perfect vantage point for a king to survey his domain. She had suggested once that Fontaine move his office, but the director had simply replied, “Not on the rear.” Fontaine was not a man to be found on the back end of anything.

Midge pulled apart the blinds. She stared out at the hills. Sighing ruefully, she let her eyes fall toward the spot where Crypto stood. Midge had always felt comforted by the sight of the Crypto dome‑a glowing beacon regardless of the hour. But tonight, as she gazed out, there was no comfort. Instead she found herself staring into a void. As she pressed her face to the glass, she was gripped by a wild, girlish panic. Below her there was nothing but blackness. Crypto had disappeared!