The Security System Scare

When exploring anyplace that is not totally and completely abandoned for the first time, we are very, very alert for magnetic door alarms, motion sensors, security cameras, and other devices that could lead to our incarceration. Our first trip into the telephone tunnel system was also our first trip into the Labyrinth, so we were really on guard.

The initial crew consisted of Dag, Muse, and myself. As we neared the major tunnel intersection beneath Wabasha and 5th Street for the first time, we went back on alert, faced with the glowing exit signs, double stairwells, and snarl of cables. One of the this is where the two largest tunnels of the system cross; the southern Wabasha branch to the south leads straight to the phone company's general offices. This means that ALL the lines for the entire underground telephone line network run down that stretch of tunnel, which is unsurprisingly the largest in the system.

It seemed like a likely point for some sort of security, and we moved slowly, probing for trouble amidst the cables, splices, railings, and the like with the beams from our headlamps. Then, I saw it; a plastic box with a cord running from it, draped over some transformer boxes.

"Don't move!" I whispered harshly, pointing at the suspect device.

It looked like the kind of half-assed installation familiar from the University steam tunnels: not attached to anything, the bright new cord looped over equipment that predated the installation of the rudimentary security system.

While it did not look like any motion sensor I'd seen before, it was roughly similar. In the middle of the box, facing across the tunnel, was a sensor eye of some sort.

What to do? We sure did not want to get busted, but at the same time, there was no way I was going to just walk away from the rest of the system without a fight.

After some deliberation, we settled on a plan of action. While the rest of the crew waiting back in the tunnel a little ways, preparing to sprint, I would run up to the motion sensor, grab it, stick it behind the metal box it hung next to, and then we'd all run like hell.

By the time anyone came to check things out, we'd be long, long gone. Three things could come of this: either no one would come check it out, or someone would come and move the sensor back to where it could monitor the tunnel, or someone would come but fail to return the sensor to its position. When we returned the next time, we'd check the sensor. If it was behind the metal box, we'd be able to explore beyond that point without setting it off again, and know that security was pretty lax. If it was back out on the wall, or, worse, mounted more professionally, we'd know what we were up against.

I prepared myself to deliberately set off a possibly piercing alarm. I decided as I moved forward that I'd run ahead a little after moving the sensor to make sure that the system didn't just end or something ridiculous just out of sight.

I moved along the wall, trying to get as close as possible without triggering the alarm. My headlamp's power was low; the yellowish light gleamed dully off the sensor's eye as I drew nearer, my heart picking up the pace admirably in anticipation of flight.

Seven steps to go.




Wait a fucking minute.

Wait just one fucking minute here.

That's not a sensor eye. It's a goddamned screw head.

Three-two-one grab that stupid hollow plastic box (hearing Dag and Muse shifting as they move into position to start sprinting) turn it around … and see, on the other side, the jack for a telephone to plug into. Not a security sensor; an unused phone line outlet.

Relief and embarrassment fought for dominance, and I had a hell of a time explaining myself to the others through my laughter.