They saw two tents a low smoldering fire the

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Congo, apparently a view from a tripod-mounted video camera. They saw two tents, a low smoldering fire, the lingering wisps of a foggy dawn. There was no sign of activity, no people. One of the technicians laughed. “We caught them still sleeping. Guess they do need you there.” Ross was known for her insistence on formalities. “Lock your remote,” she said. The technician punched in the remote override. The field camera, ten thousand miles away, came under their control in Houston. “Pan scan,” she said. At the console, the technician used a joystick. They watched as the video images shifted to the left, and they saw more of the camp. The camp was destroyed: tents crushed and torn, supply tarp pulled away, equipment scattered in the mud. One tent burned brightly, sending up clouds of black smoke. They saw several dead bodies. “Jesus,” one technician said. “Back scan,” Ross said. “Spot resolve to six-six.” On the screens, the camera panned back across the camp. They looked at the jungle. They still saw no sign of life. “Down pan. Reverse sweep.”
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12 Onscreen, the camera panned down to show the silver dish of the portable antenna, and the black box of the transmitter. Nearby was another body, one of the geologists, lying on his back. “Jesus, that’s Roger “Zoom and T-lock,” Ross said. On the tape, her voice sounds cool, almost detached. The camera zoomed in on the face. What they saw was grotesque, the head crushed and leaking blood from eyes and nose, mouth gaping toward the sky. “What did that?” At that moment, a shadow fell across the dead face onscreen. Ross jumped forward, grabbing the joystick and hitting the zoom control. The image widened swiftly; they could see the outline of the shadow now. It was a man. And he was moving. “Somebody’s there! Somebody’s still alive!” “He’s limping. Looks wounded.” Ross stared at the shadow. It did not look to her like a limping man; something was wrong, she couldn’t put her finger on what it was. “He’s going to walk in front of the lens,” she said. It was almost too much to hope for. “What’s that audio static?” They were hearing an odd sound, like a hissing or a sighing. “It’s not static, it’s in the transmission.” “Resolve it,” Ross said. The technicians punched buttons, altering the audio frequencies, but the sound remained peculiar and indistinct. And then the shadow moved, and the man stepped in front of the lens. “Diopter,” Ross said, but it was too late. The face had already appeared, very near the lens. It was too close to focus without a diopter. They saw a blurred, dark shape, nothing more. Before they could click in the diopter, it was gone. “A native?” “This region of the Congo is uninhabited,” Ross said. “Something inhabits it.” “Pan scan,” Ross said. “See if you can get him onscreen again.”
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13 The camera continued to pan. She could imagine it sitting on its tripod in the jungle, motor whirring as the lens head swung around. Then suddenly the image tilted and fell sideways.
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