The Moon Stealers and the Quest for the Silver Bough

The Yorkshire town of Parsley Bottom has a problem…

Peter Crisp, a boy with an unusual gift of being able to see things that others cannot, goes missing after spending the night in a graveyard. Two of Peter's school friends, join forces with a Knight of King Arthur to attempt to find him but come across some mysterious engravings which propel them on an adventure beyond their imagination.

Meanwhile MI6 operative Steven Knight is sent from London to investigate a meteor landing site, but Steven is advised by his own boss not to trust the puppeteers that hold the strings to his investigation. Within the core of the meteor is an alien bacteria that evolves at an alarming rate that not only puts Steven's life at risk, but the entire human race.

By unravelling ancient codes and riddles the children journey within the bowels of Edinburgh Castle as they attempt to find the key to Peter’s disappearance. The children not only need to save Peter, they need to save the world while they’re at

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23. Bacteria on the Move

Against the wishes of Sergeant Allen, Steven had taken the decision to send the unknown thing that Mr McRae had delivered to the pub that morning down to London. The policeman had argued that it should be taken back to the police station for testing as it could be relevant to the investigation into the night watchman’s death or Peter Crisp’s disappearance. Once again, Steven’s MI6 authority had over-ridden the policeman and Georgia had taken the animal to London herself, together with the water samples. Hopefully Coldred and his technicians would be able to give them some idea of what it actually was.

For the rest of the day Steven had decided to return to the woodland and try to follow the map that Georgia had marked on the day before. As he scanned the woodland looking for more meteorites, he had peace and quiet to think. No walkers were allowed in the area because of the police restrictions around the crime scene, so he had the place all to himself. Even the birds seemed to have left the area; it was like he was walking around in an airless vacuum; all he could hear was the sharp intake of his own breath filling his lungs with oxygen.

In his head he was trying to make some sense out of what he knew so far, breaking the facts up into simple chunks of information. He now knew that the meteorite he had seen inside MI6 was not the only one to fall to Earth during the meteor shower and there was every possibility that some of the others also contained the same alien bacteria if they came from the same shower. In Steven’s mind he knew it was likely that the alien bacteria was in the muscles of the dead night watchman and was probably responsible for killing him. Then this unidentified creature arrives. It had to be linked to the alien bacteria. The thought of a living alien scared him whilst at the same time made him feel excited. He had been working in MI6 for two years now and not found a trace of anything that could be classed as vaguely like an unexplainable foreign object. This, though, was more than he could ever have hoped to find in his lifetime, an alien creature that could survive on Earth.

The metal detector gave off a loud high pitched squeal as it passed over something metallic. Getting his spade he didn’t have to dig very far before he hit a discarded and rusty crushed drinks can. As he leant on the handle of the spade he looked down towards the riverbank where yesterday he had been sitting with Georgia.

Everything was centred around the river. As the previous samples of the water showed traces of the bacteria, it must be the river that was spreading the bacteria to other locations. The infection had already found its way inside a cow from Richard Baxley’s land which was just beyond the woodland he was currently standing in. Thinking logically, the bacteria could easily have transferred some distance along the river as it divided into streams or joined up to other rivers. There was no way of knowing where the bacteria could end up. Wherever the water went, so could the bacteria as long as it could survive in the water. He remembered what Coldred had said inside MI6 that the bacteria only seemed to survive in damp conditions, but he also said it couldn’t survive in sunlight, so would be confined to the darker areas of the rivers, such as underneath the muddy banks or in the darkness at the bottom of deeper water.

By lunchtime Steven had finished the area he was working on and decided to walk back to the pub stopping off at the local bookstore to buy an Atlas of Britain, as well as a limp ham and lettuce sandwich from the supermarket.

‘Have there been any messages for me?’, he asked the landlord as he picked up his room keys, but there hadn’t been. Georgia had still not returned from London.

Steven’s shoes echoed on the narrow staircase as he trod heavily on the faded red patterned carpet that covered the steps at the back of the pub, then he walked along the cream woodchip papered corridor to his room. He opened the door, propped the metal detector up against the wall in a corner and lay down heavily onto the bed. As his head sank into the soft pillow, he caught the faint smell of Georgia’s perfume that she had left on the pillow from the night before. He realised that he missed her company and hoped that he would hear her gentle knock on the door to his room soon.

He picked himself up from the bed and went over to the desk, taking a bite of the limp sandwich as he went.

He placed the atlas in front of him and opened it out so that he could clearly see the double pages that showed Parsley Bottom and its river. He traced it backwards into the higher land of the Yorkshire Dales where the river must naturally start as rain-water collected before filtering down to lower ground. He then got a sheet of paper out of the desk drawer and started drawing the path of the river from Parsley Bottom, which was represented by a thin blue line and appeared to continue on through the small villages of Newton Rise and Beckwith Green as well as others which didn’t appear to be named. It then filtered into Thornback Reservoir followed by the larger Gouston and Swinesly Reservoirs from which the water drained into many other rivers and streams and on to Harrogate where it joined the Rivers Tidd and Ousse to York and Hull then into the North Sea.

Steven looked at the thickening blue line as it continued eastward towards the sea, branching into many other small rivers and streams destined for more small villages. Before it joined the North Sea, the River Humber divided off into the River Trent which penetrated deep into the heart of England. If alien bacteria landed in Parsley Bottom during the meteor shower, it could already have reached densely populated areas like Nottingham and Birmingham. Maybe it had already spread further across England than he could possibly imagine.

Steven picked up the phone and dialled the number for Sergeant Allen’s police station.

‘It’s Steven Knight,’ he spoke into the mouthpiece, ‘I need your help. I want to access the police database. I’m looking for any other reported deaths that might show similar marks to those we saw on the arm from the river. And I want to look in specific places including Nottingham and Birmingham. Yes, I know that will take time. Sergeant, remember that this is a matter of national security and you should not repeat anything you have seen or heard.’ He hung up and leant back in the chair thinking once again.

If the bacteria was dangerous to humans, many thousands or even millions of people could be at risk if they came into contact with it and could all suffer a similar fate to that of the nightwatchman or the cow that had been sent to the abattoir.

The possibility of the bacteria being spread was huge. If the water systems of towns and cities near to airports became infected then it could already be being carried around the world on aeroplanes.

The other worrying form of transport was inside food. Coldred had mentioned that bacteria had already been discovered in a cow, but some may already have got into the food chain unnoticed. Steven stood up and threw the remains of his sandwich into the waste bin, walked over to his suitcase and pulled out his notepad. He flicked through the pages until he found the notes he had made on the train about the infected cow. It had been sent to Newton Rise Abattoir together with the rest of the herd by the farmer Richard Baxley two weeks earlier. The butcher who had noticed the strange colour in the meat was called Gilbert Rackham. Steven decided to make the most of his time and get the local bus to Newton Rise and talk to Mr Rackham as well as examine the paperwork so that he could trace the rest of the cows Mr Baxley had sent, but he was suddenly interrupted by a knock on his room door.

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