At the Defense Department's Cypress Hill Research Center, scientists are monitored 24/7 by O.B.I.T.: the Outer Band Individuated Tele-tracer. An officer, James Harrison, records Dr. Anderson making derogatory remarks against his superior. Once he's done, the alarms go off and an alien creature appears on the O.B.I.T. monitor. Harrison checks his readings and brings the alien into focus. The officer's face appears on the monitor, and he stares as someone comes up behind him and strangles him.
Later, MPs secure the O.B.I.T. monitor room. Senator Orville arrives and meets with Byron Lomax, who confirms that all of the witnesses are assembled. Lomax wonders why DC is investigating a police matter, and Orville explains that they've received letters concerning the morale at Cypress Hills. It's a key center of the Defense Department and the public is concerned, and Orville plans to get to the bottom of it. Orville and the military liaison, Colonel Grover, go into the chamber to begin proceedings. Barbara Scott arrives and Lomax tells her that witnesses will be making insinuations about her and her husband. The woman believes that she owes it to set the record straight, and Lomax tells her that she owes him and asks her to trust him.
Lomax goes into the O.B.I.T. chamber and calls Clyde White to the stand. White does so and reports that he's an investigator with the CID. Harrison was murdered when he was operating the O.B.I.T. machine, and the cause of death was strangulation done by someone who was unusually strong. White reports that he's been there five days and isn't competent to report on morale.
Once Clyde leaves, Orville says that they have to determine why Harrison was murdered: if it was personal or something greater. He explains that the press have reported morale matters at Cypress and looks at Lomax as he says that he has to question otherwise unimpeachable individuals. Orville calls Dr. Philip Fletcher while Barbara watches nervously from where she is seated.
Orville asks Fletcher to identify a letter. Fletcher admits that he wrote it and sent it to Orville's office, but now regrets it. He works at Cypress Hill as an astrophysics consultant. The letter says that he was taken from his quarters by MP. Fletcher testifies that he was taken into custody for letters that he wrote but didn't send, and that "they" know everything that they speak and nobody laughs. He insists that his letters have nothing to do with Harrison's murder, and explains that he has a terminal illness. Fletcher wants someone close to him at his side, and he wrote the letters to his son in Philadelphia. Once the pain of his illness let up, Fletcher destroyed the letters.
Orville dismisses Fletcher and calls Dr. Clifford Scott. Lomax says that Clifford is unavailable even though he's the head of Cypress Hills. He explains that Clifford has had a breakdown and offers to testify as the fill-in head. Orville calls Lomax to the stand and has him testify that the morale is what they anticipated. Lomax dismisses Fletcher and the others as withdrawn and introspective, and Orville has the Defense Department's statistical report about the base's social functions. The various social activities have been mostly unattended, and alcoholism and divorce went up. There were three suicides, but Lomax says that the scientists are driven and live on a razor's edge.
When Orville asks how O.B.I.T. works, Lomax says that he's not under liberty to discuss it. Orville produces a letter from a woman saying that the center has a "peeping tom machine" that sees and hears everything. Lomax insists that the device is top secret and he can't discuss it, and Orville tells Grover to have the machine operating the next morning.
The next day Orville returns to the O.B.I.T. chambers to continue the hearings. Grover congratulates him on getting the War Department's cooperation, and Barbara sits down in the hallway. Inside, Lomax explains about O.B.I.T. and how it can see through any barrier. It picks up the brainwaves of any humans. He brings up an image of Ed Wilson, a draftsman. Lomax explains that he can find an individual via the location finder even if he doesn't have the subject's brainwaves. He tells Orville that they're limited to a 500-mile radius. Orville suggests that O.B.I.T. is responsible for the decreased morale, and Lomax points out that no one knew about it. Unimpressed, Orville points out that he wouldn't want it trained on him when he was cursing his wife or his fellow Senators. He asks who created it, and Lomax says that the Defense Department was responsible.
Orville calls Grover to the stand, and Grover says that the intelligence community authorizes secret devices. The head of G2 signed the papers, but he never saw the machine. They haven't been able to find the man who wrote the papers, and the company who built it has gone out of business. Orville demands all available records and dismisses Grover.
Barbara testifies next, describing the morale as "not good". She says that things became almost unbearable until the last, and she didn't know about O.B.I.T. until Lomax told her about it. Orville notes that she filed for separation from Clifford, and she claims that she eventually realized that he was ill. Barbara says that she doesn't know what rest home Clifford is at, and she and Lomax have hunted for him. She says that Clifford imagined things about her and called her a monster, and then spoke of seeing real monsters. One night he didn't come home and they told Barbara that he had a physical breakdown and they took him somewhere.
Orville asks Grover if he's found Clifford, and Grover says that he wants to speak to Orville off the record. The senator dismisses Barbara and talks to Grover during the recess. Grover says that it's not in the best interests of the government that Clifford appear, and can't explain why. He warns that Orville is facing a rough election and suggests that he might be charged for undermining the country's security. Despite that, Orville insists on seeing Clifford immediately.
The senator takes a plane to a distant city and goes to a rest home. Grover tells him that Clifford doesn't want to see anyone, and Orville asks if someone considered irrational can decide that. He insists on talking to Clifford to continue his investigation, and Grover takes him to Clifford. Clifford lets them in and Orville figures that he's there as a direct result of what is happening at Cypress Hills. The man says that when he told the others what he saw, they looked at him quietly. Clifford says that he didn't see what he thought he said, and he saw things from his nightmares. He explains that he saw a monster, and when Orville asks for a description Clifford notes that he's the first one who has asked for a description. Clifford confirms that he saw the monster on the O.B.I.T. screen, and Orville explains that he believes it because Clifford does. He says that he just wants to forget what he saw, and refuses to go back to Cypress Hill to testify. Clifford says that someone is willing to kill him rather than talk. He figures that as long as he's considered insane, he's safe.
In a hotel room, a man --Fred Severn--monitors an O.B.I.T. machine. He has hair on the back of his hands, similar to the hair that Lomax has on his hands. The man watches Barbara talking about why Lomax keeps questioning her about Clifford's location when she doesn't know. The alien then appears on the monitor and talks to Severn with Lomax's voice, and Severn says that a technician named Armand Younger saw someone leaving the O.B.I.T. chamber after Harrison's murder. Severn gives Lomax Younger's address.
Severn tunes in Younger. Orville arrives at his apartment, and when Younger opens the door he backs away in horror and wonders who he's facing.
The next day at the hearing, Orville calls Younger. Grover says that they don't know where he is and Orville calls him to the stand. Orville has Grover testify that they've found eighteen O.B.I.T. machines on military bases, and have also learned that the O.B.I.T. machines are being employed in civilian businesses all over the country. There's no record of the total number of machines installed, and Grover says that he feels responsible. He describes O.B.I.T. as a drug that he can't look away from, explains that it's an addiction, and walks out.
Orville tells the committee that Grover did a brave thing admitting to an addiction, and he's been threatened for investigating. He then calls Barbara and Clifford in and has Clifford take the stand. Clifford testifies that he's been in the rest home for a month but had no mental aberrations. Clifford says that he was opposed to the installation of O.B.I.T., but the Defense Department did nothing. Lomax told him that they weren't interested in Clifford's suspicions. He came to hate what Lomax stood for, and discontinued trying to have O.B.I.T. removed because Lomax brought up an O.B.I.T. image of Barbara and a young officer at the beach. Clifford has realized that she's naturally gregarious, but at the time was jealous. He made life miserable for her and watched her on O.B.I.T. without her knowing it and then threw it at her. Barbara was eventually driven to another man, and when Clifford tuned her in he couldn't pick up the man's image. Eventually he discovered that the man was outside the brainwave images of O.B.I.T. Clifford violated the machine's operating instructions, and swore Harrison to secrecy and lied that he had been ordered to keep certain people under observation.
Clifford says that Harrison was murdered because he saw the same thing that Clifford saw. He tunes in the O.B.I.T. machine onto Lomax... revealing that he's the alien. Lomax says that the machines are everywhere and they'll demoralize the population until they are easy to invade. He says that humans thrive on knowing the thoughts and actions of everyone but themselves. As a MP moves in to capture him, Lomax briefly reverts to his original alien form and then teleports away as everyone stares in horror and then quietly leaves.
Written by Gadfly on Mar 2, 2019