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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7. London to York

Steven left the MI6 building and walked across Vauxhall Bridge Road towards the nearest underground station. A sharp breeze blew off the Thames, stinging his cheeks, but he welcomed the fresh air after spending an hour inside the windowless box of a room with the other men.

During that one meeting his belief in alien life forms had been renewed. Even though the bacteria from inside the meteorite was only the most basic of life forms, it was still alien to this planet.

He entered Pimlico underground station and jumped on the first train towards Kings Cross. Whilst the tube train rattled along the track in bouts of acceleration and deceleration, Steven pulled out the train ticket to Parsley Bottom he had been issued with before leaving the meeting. After a few minutes he arrived at Kings Cross Station and began picking his way through the crowd of people whilst looking at the departures board for his train, making a mental note of the platform number. Once inside the train he found a seat with a table and looked out of the window at his fellow passengers dragging luggage trolleys or children quickly up the platform, to avoid missing the train’s departure.

Other passengers entered the carriage. Some sat down whilst others moved through into the next carriage. Steven was grateful that no one came and sat at the table; he preferred a bit of privacy. As the whistle blew and the train started to pull its way out of the station, Steven looked around the carriage. Every one else was settled in their seats ready for the 2 hour journey to York. He had been instructed that he would be met at York station ready for the drive towards Harrogate and Parsley Bottom. He sat back in his seat and relaxed, but his mind kept wandering back to the meeting inside the MI6 building.

The fact that the bacteria was changing so rapidly was incredible, but what was even scarier was its ability to eat flesh.

‘What would bacteria usually eat?’, Steven had asked Seward when he was in the enclosed room.

‘Bacteria are decomposers; they eat things like algae and fungi as well as dead skin cells and hair. Instead of using a mouth they produce enzymes that break down the food into smaller parts, just like the acid inside your stomach would. Some bacteria will only eat one type of food, whilst others are able to eat several different types.’

The deep voice of Coldred interrupted his colleague. ‘But they can adapt to their environment. Bacteria that can’t break down one type of food will live next to other bacteria that can.’

‘So why was this alien bacteria found inside the body of a cow? Shouldn’t it have been living on decomposing animals or leaves or something?’

‘Most bacteria would, but don’t forget this is new to this planet. It acts in different ways to Earth bacteria,’ replied Seward. ‘There are several possibilities as to how it could have got into the cow. It could have drunk from the river, consuming the bacteria, then it started to eat the flesh after the cow had died. The second possibility is the cleanliness at the abattoir could be below standard and the bacteria may have been introduced on the blade of the knife, then started to multiply and divide on the flesh.’

‘But how could the bacteria be on the blade in the first place? You're avoiding the most likely explanation,' said Coldred who didn’t appear to be convinced and seemed to be frustrated by Seward's explanations. He didn’t wait for an answer before continuing with his own opinion. ‘The other possibility is that it was already eating the cow from the inside before it died.’ They all turned towards Coldred. Except for his deep voice echoing in their heads, the room was silent.

Seward and Sir Adam looked uncomfortably at each other; Steven thought that maybe Coldred had said too much.

'Are you saying that the bacteria was eating it alive?', Steven asked in amazement.

‘We don’t know that for sure,’ Seward quickly spoke, preventing Coldred answering. ‘This bacteria just acts differently to ones we have on this planet,’ he continued, providing this as an explanation for Steven.

There was tension in the room. Steven wanted to move the subject on and pretend that he hadn’t noticed the importance of what Coldred had said. Sometimes he found that it was better to act stupid to avoid any complications that understanding could cause. However, inside his mind he was thinking that if the bacteria had got in the cow and was eating it, it would probably mean that the bacteria had killed the cow by attacking it from the inside. It didn’t just eat dead cells and fungus, but could attack an animal and silently pick the living flesh from the bones from the inside without the animal knowing. This was a complicated and much more deadly bacteria to any that had been found on Earth.

‘What happened to the cow?’, Steven asked casually, trying to act normal.

Coldred looked at Seward, almost waiting to receive the go ahead to answer the question. He was obviously aware of his disapproval over his last outburst. Seward nodded to Coldred who then answered. ‘I have it at my laboratory. Some of my staff are observing the process of the bacteria eating the flesh as we speak.’ Coldred then turned to Seward, ‘a full report should be ready shortly,’ he said as if he was trying to gain back some approval from Seward.

After talking briefly about the importance of secrecy, he had been instructed by Sir Adam to go to Parsley Bottom and look for evidence of any other meteorites that may have fallen, as well as talk to Mr McRae, the man that had found the original meteorite. Although they had provided some enlightening information, Steven felt that there was a lot more that he wasn’t being told. He remembered what Sir Adam had said on the walk to the meeting, 'do not trust everything and everyone you are about to meet. What you are about to see is only half the story. There are things they won’t tell you.' Steven definitely hadn’t liked Coldred, there was something strange about him, his eyes seemed to stare icily into your head, reading what your brain was thinking.

'But why me?', Steven had asked.

'We don’t want panic,' answered Sir Adam, 'just a polite and innocent investigation. Out of all the members of the UFA team you are the one I choose. You are the one I can trust. We don’t want the army ploughing in causing chaos and panic. For now we need to determine how far the bacteria has spread. Find as many meteorite samples as you can and try to establish an area that may have become effected by the bacteria.'

'Because the bacteria doesn’t seem to react well to sunlight, we don’t think it will be able to survive for long in the open. Look for dead or sick animals, talk to the farmers and take water samples. Overall, this is an unofficial investigation and that’s the way I want it to remain,' Seward had instructed him.

The train continued on its journey to York. The rocking motion of the carriage together with the constant hum of the metal wheels against the track, made Steven want to close his eyes. Despite trying to resist it, the heavy eyelids slid over his eyes and his body leant back against the seat and he relaxed into sleep. Steven wasn’t the only person in the carriage who had dropped off; a university student used her overly large back-pack as a pillow against the cold window pane, whilst two children played on handheld computers, their parents completing a crossword together. At the back of the carriage, a grey-haired man in a suit was reading today’s newspaper; the open pages were large enough to shield his face from everyone else, but occasionally he would drop the paper slightly so that his eyes could see over the top. He would then scan the rest of the occupants in the carriage, but his eyes always seemed to linger on Steven for longer than anyone else. After all, that was what he was being paid to do.

‘The next station is York,’ announced the recorded voice from inside the carriage.

Steven looked at his watch; he had been asleep for nearly two hours. As he blinked himself awake, he stood slowly, arched his stiff back and reached up into the air. The rest of the carriage was now nearly empty except for several people that had collected by the door and were waiting for it to open at the station.

The train slowed and Steven stepped out onto the concrete platform. There was a cold breeze blowing along the tracks towards him and he thought he could feel the odd spit of rain against his cheeks. Pulling the collar of his jacket up around his neck, he found a vending machine and selected a chocolate bar to eat as he hadn’t had much since breakfast.

‘Mr Knight?’ came a soft voice from beside him. There was a slight Spanish lisp in the voice which betrayed its origins.

Steven turned to see a slim and beautiful lady in a chocolate brown suit offering a slender hand for him to shake. Her skin had an olive colour to it, even in the grey northern climate. Her full lips gave a cautious smile as she hoped that she had approached the right man.

‘Yes,’ he blustered, ‘I’m Steven Knight.’ He took her warm hand gently in his and shook it. He noticed that she was slightly taller than himself, but that could have something to do with height of the shoes she wore.

‘My name’s Georgia Brown, I’m an MI6 operative assistant. I’m here to take you to Parsley Bottom. A case of clothes has already been arranged for you and is waiting at your accommodation. If you would follow me?’

Before Steven could reply, Georgia had already started walking towards the car park, expecting him to follow. Her golden brown hair bounced gently against her shoulders as she walked gracefully towards a black car. But Steven wasn’t the only person watching Georgia. At the other end of the car park the grey-haired man from the train already had the engine of his car running, waiting to discreetly follow Steven.

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