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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4. The Secret Meeting

There were three other people in the room apart from himself: Sir Adam, the tall scar faced man from the lift and another man, whose suit was so badly crumpled it looked like he had gone to sleep in it, although the dark bags under his eyes indicated that he rarely got enough sleep.

'Good morning, Mr Knight. Thank you for agreeing to meet with us,' said the crumpled man. Inwardly Steven laughed at the man’s comment; he hadn’t had much choice about going there, but he decided not to say anything. ‘My name is Seward,’ he continued. The name rang a bell inside Steven’s head, but he couldn’t quite put his finger on where he had heard it before. ‘What we are about to tell you is top secret and should be protected at all costs.' He paused, waiting to see if Steven understood the importance of what he had said whilst he turned a laptop round so everyone could see the presentation that he had started.

‘Meteorites,’ Seward said as a way of an introduction. ‘Unless they are very large, many meteorites land on the Earth’s surface unnoticed.’ Different slides of meteorites appeared on the screen of the laptop illustrating his story. ‘Stone meteorites are the most common type and can often be difficult to recognise from the rocky surface they land on. Stone meteorites are divided into Chondrites and Achondrites. It’s the Achondrites that interest us today, Mr Knight. You may not know that they are often pieces from mature planets or moons and travel the solar system for millions of years before landing on Earth.’ The slide show continued to show pictures of meteorites travelling through space.

‘Have you heard of the Antarctic Mars Meteorite, or ALH84001?’, interrupted Sir Adam. Steven nodded. He remembered reading about a meteorite that had been found in Antarctica in 1984. It was memorable because of the fossils inside it.

‘ALH8401 was thought to be about 4 billion years old. There were reports that it contained fossilised Martian microbes, microscopic life forms that sparked excitement about the existence of extra terrestrial life.’

‘You may recall the spectacular meteor shower we had over the skies of the UK several months ago. The meteors were from Tuttle’s Comet. Most meteorites are as small as grains of sand and disintegrate in the Earth's atmosphere. But this shower was different. The British Government has recently acquired a small rock no bigger than a large pebble that landed in a town called Parsley Bottom in Yorkshire. On its impact to Earth the outer layer fractured open and split into two parts.’ Seward took a charcoal black hemisphere rock out of his pocket and placed it on the table in front of them all. ‘This is one half of that rock.'

Steven picked it up. He could feel the smoothness of its surface with his fingertips, punctured by small holes like popped bubbles. On the flat edge was an uneven crystal surface with a honeycomb appearance at the centre; its colours radiated out in an ever darkening way to the charred surface.

'Meteorites land on our planet every month,' Sir Adam took over once again, 'but this one has caused great interest. The core of the meteorite contained traces of a substance that we are unable to identify.'

‘You mean it contained something we’ve never seen on this planet before?’, asked Steven.

‘Exactly.’

‘But, I thought that Meteorites became so hot as they entered the atmosphere that nothing could survive?’, interrupted Steven.

‘You’re correct,' Seward began again. 'A meteor is subjected to intense heat as it enters the Earth’s atmosphere and many harmlessly burn up. These high temperatures are enough to destroy any substance on the surface of the meteor. In fact the rock actually begins to melt at its surface.’ He lifted up the half of meteorite that was on the table, ‘during its long journey through cold space the inside of the meteorite would have become frozen. Although the crust would have become hot and melted in our atmosphere, the temperature of the core remains relatively low.'

'So what was inside the meteorite?’, Steven bravely asked.

‘Whatever it is, it hasn’t been seen on Earth, until now,' the scar faced man spoke with a deep American accent.

'This is Coldred,' Sir Adam indicated to the scar faced man. 'His speciality is Biochemical Engineering.'

'What did the analysis report say?', Steven asked.

'The meteorite crust is mainly made of rock with traces of iron and various minerals. More importantly, there was something inside the core. My research and development team have been working on the core of the other half. Inside, was what appeared to be a basic form of bacteria, but one that was different to any we've seen before. We found the bacteria deep inside the core away from the split. The original samples were lost as the bacteria seemed to dry and shrink when exposed to daylight, so we now only handle it in a strict environment: total darkness, 80% humidity with Night Vision goggles for our technicians. In a dark environment the bacteria changes at an alarming rate. Upon first being discovered it was given the code McRae01, named after the man who found it, but the bacteria has been changing, almost evolving, so much so that we have had to rename it several times, the differences are so great. The version we had growing in the laboratory when I left it this morning was coded McRae32-4.' There was silence in the room, as the relevance of Coldred’s last statement sank into Steven’s brain; the bacteria was changing rapidly.

'Why is it changing?'

'It’s adapting and feeding. I’ve never seen a bacteria change at such a rate. It almost appears to be evolving before our eyes every time the cells of the bacteria split and divide,' replied Coldred.

'A recent sample of the local river water also showed traces of a similar bacteria,' interrupted Seward.

'But how could it have got there? Have any other meteorites been discovered in the area?' Steven noticed how none of the men had any notes; obviously they wanted their meeting kept on a strictly unofficial basis.

'None yet. But it seems logical that there could be more,’ answered Seward. 'There have also been reports of small animals, rats and water voles, appearing dead along the banks of Parsley Bottom River. We can assume that they had been drinking the water from the river, which unknown to themselves slowly poisoned them, their bodies unable to cope with this new bacteria.'

Coldred added another shocking piece of information. 'In the last week we have also received another more worrying report. A local farmer sent some of his cows to the abattoir to be slaughtered for the meat market, but the butcher at the abattoir noticed that the meat inside one of the animals was an unusual colour, almost like it was decaying from the inside. I took some blood samples and the test results showed the same bacteria, but it had changed even more rapidly than the one in our laboratory. These samples also showed some similarities to another bacteria that we already have on Earth called Streptococcus Pyogenes. You may have seen it in the newspapers before; the tabloids call it the "flesh-eating bacteria.".

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