“Both your physical and paranormal security is first rate.” Zak didn’t mean it as a compliment, it was merely a fact. “A cockroach couldn’t get into this building without being detected or setting off some kind of an alarm. You think it was an inside job?”

“Inside job?” Vennhim laughed. “Normally I would, but who? The metal heads make up ninety-five percent of the work force inside this building, including the entire security staff with the exception of myself. The other five percent are a mixture of Aragne and Dwarves, all with high level background checks and low level security clearances that wouldn’t take them anywhere near this area.”

“It had to be magic.” The security guard, Jonas, had been silently following them around as Zak checked out the various areas of the building. He now spoke up, excitement in his voice at the chance to participate. “It is the only logical explanation for the lack of evidence.”

“We’ve already been through this,” Vennhim said. He turned toward Zak, addressing his words to him rather than the SHIAM. “We’ve found no trace of magic when we checked and you found nothing just now.”

Zak switched on the small RAAID unit he held in his hand and began moving around the room once again as he considered the possibilities. The scientific name for the device he held was Residual Atmospheric Atomic Ionization Detector, RAAID for short. It did exactly what the name implied; it detected residual ionized atomic particles in the atmosphere.

Magic was about altering the perceived reality, either by creating illusion or by actually changing the physical world in some way. Regardless which method was used, it involved the reorganization of subatomic particles. The energy generated during this process inevitably caused the ionization of the atoms in the surrounding atmosphere.

“You would expect to find at least some trace of ionization,” Vennhim continued. “I mean, think about the level of magic it would have taken to blow past our security without setting off a single alarm.”

“A deionization device could have been used in order to cover it up,” Jonas suggested.

“Those gadgets are restricted and they are mega expensive, not to mention difficult to use.” Vennhim stood in the middle of the room, pivoting with Zak’s movement as he scanned the room.

Zak couldn’t decide who was more annoying, Vennhim or the SHIAM. “You don’t think this theft was pulled off by a major player?”

“I didn’t say that,” Vennhim said. “But we’re most likely talking either a foreign government agency or organized crime if they are toting that kind of equipment.”

“You’re forgetting about the Corporations. There are plenty of organizations out there that would just love to have some of that SHIAM technology.”

Vennhim ignored the comment. “How many wizards are there who have the level of skill it would have taken to do this?”

“Well, I still can’t say for sure magic was used. I’m not getting any readings.”

“You are an Elf, Mr. Harris,” Jonas said as he followed Zak around the room for the second time. “Do you, yourself, detect any traces of magic?”

“Half-Elf!” Zak said, snapping off the RAAID unit in frustration. His natural ability to detect magic had failed to pick up anything concrete as well. Except he had picked up something...intangible...that he could almost, but not quite sense. Or was it simply his logic drawing unsubstantiated conclusions? Magic had almost certainly been used. Otherwise, how could the thieves possibly have pulled this off?

They were now standing back in the kitchen area. Out of curiosity, Zak walked over to the food processor sitting on the counter and brought up the menu. Everything for a well-rounded diet was there on the list, which included a variety of meats, vegetables and fruit. There was even a separate menu for deserts and snacks. Opening the refrigerator next to the counter, he found milk, eggs and mayo among the contents. Shaking his head in amazement, he stopped taking inventory. The fridge was better stocked than his own.

“So, this thing eats regular food and it cooks as well?” He still found it difficult to believe. It made him feel violated as a sentient being somehow. “If it can consume garbage, why cook the food? Why not just eat it raw?”