“What’s that you’ve got there, Dr. Näher?” a student asked.

Näher looked at the circuit board, dotted with lights and switches, under his arm. “Oh, just a piece of a little science project I am tinkering with in my spare time.”

The student smiled. “Like the Tesla coil you showed us in class?”

“Something like that, yes,” Näher said, tapping his nose.

Inside the campus superconductor center, Stanley the security guard called out a friendly greeting. “Dr. Näher! More bits and bobs for your hobby project?”

“Yes indeed, Stanley,” said Näher. He flipped the guard a candy bar from the vending machine downstairs. “No need to tell Dr. Kuntz about my hobby work, as usual.”

“If you say so, Doc. Ask me, worst he’d do is tell you to take it home.”

Outside Näher’s lab, one of the custodians was buffing the floor. “Any chance of getting in there to clean, Dr. Näher?” she asked.

“I’m afraid not, Emily. The danger of static contamination, you see. I’m sure you understand.”

“All right, but you know I’m going to keep asking until you at least let me go over it with a lint brush.”

Näher shifted his circuit board to his other hand as he fished for his keys. “I have no doubt, Emily,” he said with a smile. “I have no doubt.”

Once inside, he strode deep into the bowels of the device that had consumed nearly every waking moment of the last ten years. The circuit board slid easily into the last open space in the master control panel; the lights and switches glowed to life as power coursed through them.

“And now, at last,” Näher laughed. “To unleash it.”

He flipped open the clear cover on the master button. It was bright red, glowing, and had a simple label: DOOM!