Author: 长洱 / Chang’er
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
Luck was both the most reliable and unreliable thing in the world. When it was good, it could make one feel omnipotent, but when it was bad, it could make one feel as if they were never going to get back on their feet.
So, if possible, people rarely took chances.
Lin Chen also thought that if they were lucky, the teenager was just playing a prank on the police, and they might encounter a crisis like a false alarm, maliciously causing car accidents, chemical leaks, or other such crises.
However, they now had a carload of children.
This was truly bad luck.
“Captain, two hours. It’s been two hours since the bus has been missing!” Wang Chao had seen many things and dealt with a lot of crises, but a bus carrying twenty-six children that had just gone missing still made him panic. “Within these two hours, if the bus was hijacked, it could be anywhere in the world!”
Xing Conglian finally managed to break free from all the continuous phone calls. When he hung up, his eyes were cold and his tone raw. “Talk properly. Think carefully before you tell me the exact radius,” he said to the technician.
Wang Chao sprang up in fright, snatched the white paper from Lin Chen’s hand, and continued to calculate.
“At an average speed of 80 kilometers an hour, the two-hour drive should be an area within a radius of about 160 kilometers,” Wang Chao said as he ran to the laptop and quickly typed up a piece of code. “Excluding the reed fields and traffic jam roads, the area they might reach is…”
The enter key was tapped softly. The center of the green topographic map was slowly covered by a red fan-shaped area.
“Take us to the surveillance center and line up all vehicles passing through the toll booths from within this radius.” Xing Conglian spoke to the chairman while turning the display screen towards him.
The chairman felt depressed. He had been in office for three years, but never had there been a large-scale incident. Suddenly, the police came to tell him he needed to shut down the highway for no precise reason. While he thought it was an exaggeration, with a school bus gone, could there really be such a coincidence in this world?
He still had some hope in his heart. “Captain Xing, no need to get excited. Every vehicle is equipped with GPS. You’ll know where the bus is if you just check it. How could it be lost…”
“GPS?” Xing Conglian looked at the chairman coldly. “Just now, my colleague told me that the GPS shows the bus should be in a reed field!”
“That’s impossible. The bus can’t drive into the reed field.”
Hearing this, Wang Chao stared wide-eyed and looked at Xing Conglian in disbelief. “Fuck, we were fooled by the GPS this morning. Captain, it’s not really that kid!”
“Even if the GPS fails, each bus is equipped with an autonomous call for help system. If something happens, our management center will automatically receive an alarm. There hasn’t been an alarm now. The bus should be fine. It may have broken down halfway and couldn’t be contacted. Maybe they’re in a blind spot where mobile signals can’t reach!”
Xing Conglian stared straight at the middle-aged man sitting on the sofa. He emphasized his tone as he spoke. “Take, me, to, the, surveillance, center.”
The Hongjing Highway surveillance center was on the first floor of the administration building. There were nearly a hundred staff stationed year-round there. As far as the eye could see, dense display screens stretched dizzyingly, and in the middle of the hall was a huge LED screen half the size of a basketball court, covering the entire area.
On the screen was a huge amount of information about traffic flow that it was impossible to search for one thing with the naked eye alone.
Assistant Liu Xing took out the keycard and opened the glass door.
The sound of an electronic beep was followed by the blowing of warm air.
The footsteps of six people were noisy and chaotic, smashing the quiet atmosphere of the space as if a rainstorm came hurling in. All the staff looked at them.
“Where is the main surveillance console?” Xing Conglian scanned the surroundings.
“There.” The chairman pointed to the location closest to the big screen.
Xing Conglian gave Wang Chao a wink. The technician pressed the brim of his hat down and ran towards the very front.
The chief technician sat in front of the main surveillance console. He suddenly felt a tap on his shoulder and looked up to see a very young boy.
“Excuse me, please.” Wang Chao grinned, bowed politely, and then squeezed past the chief technician.
After the middle-aged man was pushed away, he shouted unhappily. “Who are you?!”
“The police are here to handle a case. We’re from the police.” Wang Chao murmured to himself as he hit enter and said to Xing Conglian, “Captain, I’m in.”
“This is a staff-only area. Unrelated personnel aren’t allowed inside!” Watching the display screen quickly jump to another interface, the middle-aged man hurriedly rushed over to grab Wang Chao’s mouse.
At this moment, Xing Conglian stepped closer and said lightly, “Trust me, he’s more exposed to surveillance systems than you.”
“Rules are rules!” The middle-aged man said loudly when he saw the chairman walking up to them.
“What I am discussing with you now is the safety of twenty-six children, so shut it about rules!”
The captain of the police criminal division had a cold expression on his face. He stood still for a long time, exuding a compulsive aura.
The middle-aged man immediately fell silent, not daring to speak up again.
“Don’t worry. The core module for this system is the Infinova system. I used it when I hacked into Country X’s system. Don’t be nervous,” Wang Chao reassured.
“Exaggerating much?” Xing Conglian kicked Wang Chao’s chair. “Pull up records of toll stations around 8:30. Check the license plate.”
“Okay!” Wang Chao’s hands were flying while his mouth kept talking. “To check the license plate, you only need access to the toll station VLPR* system. Thanks to VLPR, we can automatically extract the detection video and grab the license plate number from the data it generates. In other words, the time to witness a miracle is coming. Five, four, three…”
*Vehicle License Plate Recognition. They have various names and acronyms, but it’s basically technology that automatically recognizes a car’s license plate and records them.
Before the countdown was over, Wang Chao’s hands stopped in the air. His entire body froze like a sculpture.
“What’s the matter?” Xing Conglian asked hurriedly.
“No…” He turned the screen to the side and pointed to the empty search results. “I set the time value after 8:30, but there’s no records showing the bus entering or leaving the toll station…” He subconsciously touched a pen and started to turn around. “This is impossible. The Hongjing Highway has a total length of 317 kilometers. It’s already 12:30. Almost 6 hours have passed. This is completely unscientific!”
As soon as the chairman heard this, he suddenly became energetic. “I told you that it could be that the bus had broken down and was probably parked on the side of the road. I’ll send a highway maintenance team to check on it.”
“Someone is already doing this.” Xing Conglian pondered for a moment. “We can think of the highway as a closed system. If the bus didn’t leave the highway, it means that it’s still somewhere on it. It can’t just disappear out of thin air. Except for temporary parking on the side of the road, the only possibility is a rest stop in the middle.
“From Meicun to Qiong Mountain, there are only two rest stops in the middle.” Wang Chao quickly checked the information. “There are a total of 270 parking spaces for large vehicles!”
“I’ll find a staff member to check on it right away,” the chairman said positively.
“Er! Can you wait a bit…”
While Wang Chao was talking, the surveillance video of the parking lot at the rest stop was brought up on screen. As the camera turned, the screen moved and switched rapidly, capturing various buses, vans, trucks, and a slew of other vehicles that quickly flashed by…
However, among all the various vehicles of all shapes, sizes, and colors, there was no figure of the bus with blue clouds on a white background.
“It seems that it is not at the Anting rest stop,” Wang Chao said, continuing to retrieve surveillance for the other rest stop.
The number of frames was flowing rapidly when suddenly Wang Chao stopped the camera.
“Here it is!”
He paused the video and pointed to the lower right corner of the screen.
On the edge of the parking lot, near the hidden corner of the trees, a white bus with blue clouds that were vaguely visible was parked.
“Notify the security guard at the rest stop to check on it. Be careful,” Xing Conglian said to the chairman, then he turned to look at Wang Chao again. “Zoom in.”
“Look!” Wang Chao expanded the image while he kept on chattering. “The surveillance system is relatively old, so the clarity isn’t that good. Don’t be too surprised if all you can see is mosaic people.”
“Stop!” Xing Conglian shouted.
Like Wang Chao said, the quality of the pixels on the surveillance camera at the highway rest station was too low. After zooming in a few times, the image became too blurred. Despite that, it could be seen from the image of the cloud pattern above the rear wheel that it was indeed the missing bus with twenty-six children.
The chairman breathed a sigh of relief while Lin Chen took a step forward and stood beside Xing Conglian. “There’s a problem. The curtains are drawn.”
Although the video was blurred, it could still be vaguely seen that the bus windows were completely blocked off by curtains, and everything inside the car wasn’t visible.
At this time, the notified security personnel had begun to rush into the parking lot.
“If it was you who tried to hijack a bus, would you make it this easy for others to find it?”
“Tell the security guards not to open the door!” As if realizing something, Xing Conglian shouted to the chairman, who had just hung up the phone.
“Why are you making such a fuss?!” The chairman muttered and unlocked his phone screen again. Before the call was connected, the security guards at the rest station had already reached the side of the bus.
The two security guards stood in front of the door, subconsciously reaching out to pull on the door handle.
The danger didn’t happen.
Everyone present seemed to breathe a sigh of relief.
“Connect to the security guard’s walkie-talkie and tell them to record everything with their phones,” Xing Conglian ordered while grabbing his phone.
The security guard in the camera seemed to feel something and picked up the walkie-talkie.
“Hello, hello.” The hissing static of the walkie-talkie came into the earpiece.
“Sir, I need you to enter the bus carefully, while leaving the door open, and walk to the front of the bus to see what’s going on inside. If you hear anything, please aim the camera at the southwest corner, make an M sign, and nod.” Xing Conglian instructed clearly, speaking each syllable carefully.
After a while, the security guard on camera nodded. They bypassed the front door and walked to the front of the vehicle.
On the surveillance, the two of them could no longer be seen.
The surveillance hall suddenly became quiet. There was only a slight rustle that came from the cellphone. If they listened carefully, they could hear a vague conversation between the two security guards.
“There’s only the driver.”
“What is that?”
“Why is it blinking?”
“Is that a bomb?”
The entire room was silent. A second later, a panicked and hesitant voice rang from the headset.
“Mr. Police… We seemed to have seen a time bomb…”
<<< || Table of Contents || >>>