The device that quietly and undetectably pulsated in her neck was made of extremely advanced technology. Only a very limited number of people knew its source. It worked very cleverly in the background; she was completely unaware of its effect upon her consciousness. Those who knew how to look for the devices would have immediately spotted that it was currently in ‘receive’ mode. Somebody was controlling her thoughts, but not in a robotic way. Her device emitted a faint blue light. The untrained eye might have mistaken it for a vein in her neck. The trained eye would have looked specifically at the colour, because that was the most crucial thing. Blue, red, yellow, purple, black or green – it made all the difference. She had full consciousness and complete knowledge of what was going on around her.
She was not aware that her recognition of the child in the car had been suppressed by the device, but it had been, working away undetected in the background, filtering out the elements that would create a strong emotional response. Things that might distract her right now. It was very subtle. So as she rushed past the black car with her new companion, there was no glimmer of recognition. Neither the child nor the car registered in her memory, even though she was aware of both. She knew that there were questions to be asked about why the child had been in the car in the first place, but it was as if her attention had been caught by something else.
She had a very strong and compelling sense that she must take shelter in the bunker. But she’d come for the laptop, juice and Dan’s phone, and she’d even returned to the car to get one of them. She knew too that there was urgency and that they would have to hurry.
The sky was now darkening quickly; this appeared to be much more than a storm. It was unworldly. She knew it must be freak weather conditions, maybe a solar effect or something similar, but she instinctively felt that the siren and the darkness were linked.
The two figures rushed towards the cottage, through the doors, and with massive urgency they tried to make up for those few lost seconds when she’d returned to the car. They approached the bunker doors just too late. If only they hadn’t returned for the tech. They would have made it if they’d not wasted those vital moments. They approached the run-up to the blast doors as the gap between them began to narrow to a close. There was just time to see Dan’s face and hear his calls to them as the heavy doors shut tightly with a deep and final rumble. They were all alone.
I’m stunned for a few moments as I look at the still forms of three members of my family in their glass pods. They are unharmed; I can see that no physical damage has been done to them. I can also figure out enough from the screens and dials surrounding them to see that they are alive.
I’m not totally sure what I’m looking at, but I’ve seen enough hospital dramas to know that these are monitoring life signs, and Dad, David and Harriet all have constantly pulsing heart rates and lively brain activity. In fact, David’s brain activity looks really lively on the screen. He must be thinking about his online game sites again. My instinct is not to panic, but I am suddenly pretty angry.
It’s okay Kate saying that they have to ‘stay contained’ because they don’t have clearance. I can accept that. After all, the alternative is to be trapped beyond the bunker doors. I’m happy that they’re okay. But I assumed that being ‘contained’ would mean being held in a comfortable room somewhere together. I didn’t think it would mean being frozen or put to sleep … or whatever it is that has been done to them.
The other thing that’s bothering me is that Kate has deceived me. She hasn’t actually told me any lies, but she hasn’t told me the whole truth either. For instance, my family are being held in a Red Zone area. I’m only supposed to have Green Zone access, so I’m not supposed to be seeing this. It makes me wonder what else is going on in the other Red Zone rooms.
And even more intriguing is why I can get access to these areas. It has to be some terrible computer error or glitch. Maybe they use the same dodgy operating system that I’m stuck with on my laptop.
At the moment, I need to stay focused. I’m the best hope for Dad, David and Harriet. If I end up in one of these pods too, we’ll be at the mercy of whoever is running this place. I don’t get the feeling that anything sinister is going on, but I’d still rather be conscious and moving than stuck in one of these glass coffins.
‘Don’t call them coffins,’ I think. But that’s what they remind me of. Bearing in mind what’s happened in the past day or two, I’m pretty impressed with how maturely I figure out what needs to come next. Dad would be proud of me – if he was awake. I need to be cool about this situation, because if I cause trouble, I’ll probably end up in the same place as all the other ‘civilians’ in this room.
If I end up here, I won’t be able to figure out what’s going on. Dad needs me to make sure that somebody is looking out for them. And there’s Mum too. I can’t bear ending up in here and not knowing what’s happened to her. So everybody needs me to play the game with Kate and just keep things ticking over. For some reason I’ve got clearance to roam freely. Who knows why? That might change when they have more time to acclimatize to their new surroundings, or when they get their mission instructions. The best bet is to stay cool, keep off the radar and maintain a low profile. Great strategy, Dan. Because at that very moment, Kate bursts into the room with two armed guards at her side.
The World Sleeps
The darkness crept across the surface of the Earth, obliterating all light, filling all spaces that it encountered. It began with the skies, but it moved across the Earth, permeating the seas, blocking the sun’s rays, extinguishing all flames.
Many things could be planned for in advance. Nuclear power stations closed down, one by one, under government instructions. Just a routine drill, a test for a ‘national emergency’. It didn’t matter what the excuse was, they were used to instructions like this ‘from above’. They just did what they were told, when they were told.
Most flights were grounded, but you can’t account for everything. In matters like these, you can’t save everybody. What else can you do if you need the whole world put to sleep for a while? Some lives are bound to be lost.
All in all, it was as well executed as you could hope for. So that when the freak global weather patterns turned from grey skies, to black, and then something much, much more sinister, most of the world had pretty well stopped itself.
When the final surge of blackness came, there was just enough time for the internet to go crazy with conspiracy theories, religious predictions and apocalyptic scenarios.
If only they had known before they slipped into that deep slumber, the biological stasis that the darkness brought with it. This was no Doomsday scenario. The darkness had been unleashed across the planet specifically to prevent the destruction of the Earth.
Loyalty can be a funny thing. It can change in the blink of an eye. He’d never before questioned the work that he was doing or the tasks that he was asked to do. He understood that governments have to act for the ‘common good’ and that sometimes people had to do things that might make the ‘ordinary’ man or woman uncomfortable. But being responsible for the death of a child? That can never be justified. So on the day that he drove away from that desperate scene, his loyalties changed. As the sight of a crowd gathering around a dying child at the roadside grew smaller in his rear-view mirror, his conscience kicked in. He knew that he could not question his orders or challenge what had just happened.
He couldn’t even explain it. Asking questions, making waves and prying into the mission outcomes would not get him any closer to the truth. He would need to maintain his cover, keep his poker face on. But he was not a child killer. And he was not going to let the loss of a child’s life go unchallenged.
Nor was he a fool. The machinations of the shadowy figures in his organization sometimes took years to play out. So it would be with the death of this child. He was a patient man; he knew the importance of the long game. So he would wait and watch. But the death of this child had not gone unnoticed. And he would make sure that the young life that he had just helped to end would not go unavenged.