I’m stunned by what Kate has just told me. I’m a kid, how can I have a guest pass to this place?
‘What about the others?’ I ask. ‘Dad, Harriet and David, did they pass the biometrics thingy?’
Okay, I know that isn’t the most eloquent way to express myself, but I’m dealing with a lot of new information here.
‘Unfortunately not,’ replies Kate.
There are just two words in that short sentence, and I get an uneasy feeling that there might be a bit more information concealed behind that brief reply .
‘Where is Dad?’ I ask. I can hardly believe myself, such an obvious question, but if they are safe, why haven’t I been reunited with my family yet?
‘Well, that’s where I do have a slightly less positive update for you, Dan,’ Kate replies.
I can see that she is gearing up to something. She’s figuring out the best words to use to deliver bad news.
‘Your dad, brother and sister are not on the biometrics database. We can’t explain that. So they do not have authorization to be here.’
Did I say ‘bad news?’ I mean, terrible news.
‘Strictly speaking, Dan, they were supposed to be outside when the sirens sounded. They got trapped in here when the bunker doors closed; they’re really not meant to be in the bunker.’
This is getting worse. I have a feeling that so far, from her point of view, this is the easy bit that she is delivering.
‘Dan, your family have to stay contained during active operations as they do not have clearance to be here. You are not subject to those same restrictions, but we can’t explain yet why you’re classed as ‘mission critical’, it may well be an error.
‘In the meantime, although you have the freedom of the bunker, you are not yet permitted under bunker protocols to see the other members of your family.’
A Simple Mission
He knew that what he did was top secret work, he understood that. He knew that he couldn’t ask any questions and that orders had to be followed without question. That’s how these things work. If you can’t live with that, get a job at the local council offices. But this mission had troubled him. He was only supposed to have driven past those kids to get a really close video image of them. For face mapping or something similar, he wasn’t involved in what happened after the initial job was done.
It was simple enough, for goodness' sake. The black car that came with the job was military grade. It looked like a regular car, could even generate a random number plate to keep it off police records if need be. If you wanted to, you could even show no number plate if you needed to be completely anonymous, and this thing was amazing to drive. In fact, it drove itself if you had to take your hands off the wheel. A feature often required in really delicate operations. Like this one.
Three dimensional, biometrics imaging. Whatever that means. He was a ‘hired hand’ not a scientist. He just gathered the data. And kept his mouth shut. And they gave him some great kit to do his job.
So why had the car swerved itself at the last minute, killing that kid?
She approached the person sitting in the car, the faint, blue pulsing light beneath her skin flickering furiously. Whatever its function, it was working overtime. Suppressing something very strong – an emotion, a thought, a connection. As she went to open the car door, a siren started to sound. She dismissed it at first, thinking it was part of the ‘tourist experience’ at the bunker.
It’s odd, even though that siren wail has been used since the Second World War, then adapted for the Cold War, there is still nothing that can get anywhere close to it when it comes to the sound of grim portent. You couldn’t replace it with a digital version, for instance – there’s nothing that could assume anywhere near to its gravity and sense of impending crisis.
So when the siren continued to sound, the woman knew intuitively that something was up. It may have been prompted by that implant, but it fused her real thoughts, feelings and actions so seamlessly with those devised by her invisible puppeteer, that no observer would have been able to tell which part came from her real self and which part was artificially created.
‘Come with me!’ she demanded of the figure in the car, holding out her hand in a manner that showed that this was not up for discussion. It didn’t matter what this person was doing in her car, why they had her laptop open and how they even got in there in the first place. She knew with all the certainty that she’d ever had in her life that taking shelter in the bunker was the best – the only – thing to do.
The device was able to suppress and hide her most powerful maternal emotions, yet seemed to miss the thing that landed them in so much jeopardy. ‘Dan’s phone!’ she exclaimed, halfway across the car park.
Ridiculous that she would risk losing time to retrieve a mobile phone. Like the animal owner who leaps into the river to save their dog, only to perish while the dog swims happily to the river bank. Crazy actions at crazy times.
If it wasn’t for the seconds that she’d lost retrieving Dan’s phone, they’d have made it to the blast doors. If it wasn’t for those lost, precious moments, she might have had time to glance to her right where a distinctive, black car was parked. Unusually, it had no number plate.