Mark Gordon had been working at Ordnance Survey for almost twenty five years, initially as a surveyor but in recent years he’d been given a head office role in the field of geospatial software development.
With thinning grey hair, twenty year old spectacles and a pallid complexion he looked very much like a worn out school teacher. He was dressed as usual in faded green cargo pants, hiking trainers, a grubby polo shirt and a rather tired old fleece proudly bearing the Ordnance Survey logo on the left breast.
His department had recently released a free Internet service where developers could utilise a limited supply of Ordnance Survey map data for use in their own website projects. A chunk of code was allocated to each registered user, and once incorporated into their own a mapping pane would be displayed offering up to ten zoom levels of mapping data. The developer could also add useful additional features such as routes and map markers, to which information boxes for text, links and images could be attached.
As part of Mark’s daily routine he would monitor the domains registered by users to check that the mapping data wasn’t being used for anything unsavoury or illegal. On Monday morning he sat at his desk with a huge mug of tea, and started the process of checking each domain. The weekend was usually a time when the largest number of new users registered, and it would have been a laborious task to go into each of their websites manually. He’d created an automated software script to open each one which would remain visible for forty five seconds, before closing it and moving on to the next.
A few minutes into the script he spotted a newly registered domain, but its home page had yet to be completed. It displayed a large map centred on West Dorset, and Mark paused the automated play back of the script to look at a map marker located on an area of woodland a few miles west of Poole.
It wasn’t a map marker icon commonly used, but a symbol in the style of an Egyptian hieroglyphic; a short horizontal bar with a long vertical one hanging down at the extreme left, and a shorter one on the far right almost like a door chime. Mark clicked it with his mouse and an information box opened to reveal a number; 259221323258TX.
He zoomed in again on the map and took a screen shot of it, and a second with the information box open displaying the mysterious number and printed them out before saving the files to a USB stick.
When his boss, Charlie Sparks arrived for work at just before ten, it was an animated Mark Gordon who rushed over to his desk waving the prints.
‘I’ve found this strange domain, Charles,’ he said enthusiastically, ‘I’m not sure what it’s been designed for but it may be worth you taking a look.’
Sparks slumped down at his desk; his usual hang dog expression was sinking even lower as he looked up at Gordon, the bags under his eyes sagging more heavily than usual.
‘Give me chance to plug my laptop in,’ Sparks said wearily, ‘I haven’t even checked my e-mails yet, and I’ve got a strategy meeting in five minutes. I’ll have to catch up with you later.’
Gordon failed to hide his disappointment and backed away from Sparks’s desk and returned to his own. He put the print outs to one side and tossed two tea bags into his mug before carrying it to the hot water point.
It was after two o’clock before he had the opportunity to talk to Sparks again, and the response was equally as dismissive as before.
‘I haven’t got time for this now, Mark, I’m late for another meeting,’ he said, ‘if you think you’ve found a dodgy website, just disable the account.’
‘But what if it’s something illegal, Charles?’
‘Do what you’ve done before, Mark, take it to the police,’ he replied sounding annoyed, ‘just don’t bother me with it, I don’t have the time.’
Gordon shook his head and walked away. He shut his PC down, picked up his rucksack and walked out of the building into the car park.