Part Three: Sabotage
At least I now know where I stand with Kate. It’s hard to condemn somebody who’s being so pleasant and reasonable all of the time, but I can see that she is happy to deceive me – to lie to me. She may not be motivated by any ill will on her part, but I know that I can’t trust what she says from now on. I decide that the best strategy is to keep up the pretence that she started. I really wish that I’d paid more attention in drama lessons when I was at school, but I do my best to channel my most convincing acting skills.
‘Thanks for showing me this, Kate,’ I begin, ‘and you’re sure that she’s okay?’
‘Absolutely certain, Dan,’ she replies. ‘Although we haven’t been fully briefed yet on the nature of the events outside, we do know that it is benign and that anybody outside this bunker is – very much like your family – in a state of stasis.’
I decide to probe a little further, and put on my ‘wide-eyed and inquisitive’ look. The face I use with Mum when I want something, but I need to look cute to stand any chance of getting it. She needs to see me as a harmless kid and not a threat. ‘How far does this darkness reach, Kate?’
‘We believe it to be global, Dan. Certainly that’s what our initial briefings in training suggested, but we get the full rundown at 20.00 hours.’
The next sentence seems to be difficult for her to say.
‘Of course, you have full authorization to attend that briefing, Dan, and it will be held here, in the Control Room and on other screens throughout the bunker.’
‘I suppose we’ll all find out more then,’ I reply, and I hesitate about whether I should mention the faint, glowing lights that I’ve spotted pulsating in the necks of the bunker staff. It’s on the tip of my tongue, but I stop myself asking the question.
Kate just lied to me about my mum. I know she doesn’t want me here, but at the moment, she’s powerless to stop me. For whatever crazy reason, I have authorization to be here. When 20.00 hours comes – or eight o’ clock as I prefer to call it – everything may change. It’s irrelevant who that person is that I’ve just been shown on the screen. I suspect that the guy I saw at the bunker entrance may be the quickest way to reunite with Mum. I decide to bypass Kate and try and find out what he was up to at the bunker entrance.
I’m sure he was about to let someone in from outside, and I’m even more certain about that now I know that he and Mum were friends at one time. I’m positive that I’ve never seen him before, or that photograph, but I wouldn’t claim to have tabs on everybody my parents know. We’re not big on old photos in our house, I don’t think there are even any baby pictures around, most of what we have are recent images on laptop screensavers.
Most importantly, I really want to find out why nobody in the Control Room seems to be aware of what he’s doing.
‘Kate, I really appreciate the update on Mum and thanks for reassuring me,’ I say. I’m getting quite good at this deception technique, even if I do say so myself. ‘I know that you can track me on the cameras, is it okay if I go off and do a bit more exploring? There doesn’t seem much more that we can do before the briefing.’
Kate is obviously relieved. She thinks that she’s fooled me. She’s almost grateful that I want to go off on my own and not pry any further.
‘I’m pleased that’s put your mind at rest, Dan,’ she says. ‘Feel free to explore any Green Zone areas and don’t forget to pop into the canteen if you need any food or drink.’ Emphasis on the ‘Green Zone’.
‘No problem,’ I reply. ‘See you later, Kate!’ I’m spoiled for choice as to where I’m heading next.
I just know that I need to be taking a good look around Levels 3 and 4. I think that I may get a much better idea of what’s going on if I can get down there. But my first stop has to be the long corridor that leads to the bunker entrance. I have a feeling that’s where I may begin to find some answers without having to wait for this eight o’clock briefing. I’m about to head out of the Control Room when the entire room explodes into life and frantic activity. Red lights flash everywhere and there’s a loud, penetrating alarm going off.
It’s a full alert. The bunker doors have been breached.
The world was waiting, as if it knew that this was only the beginning. Not a creature moved across the entire surface of the Earth. All was still, and even within the darkness, there was no wind, the seas were calm, and nature was at rest. It must have been similar to this at the beginning of time, when there was no life at all. Only the creatures that now inhabited this planet were sleeping – in biological stasis – living, breathing, sleeping and completely silent.
It was the same for the birds, the insects, the fish – even the ants had ceased work and succumbed to the unstoppable power of this darkness.
Its blackness might suggest that it was a force of evil, something that had been created to annihilate life on this planet. But it was there because Man made it so. It was there because without it, this would become humanity’s grave. Its purpose was to breathe new life into this planet, to help it to live again.
James carried out the protocols at the bunker doorway as if he had done it many times before, but in reality, this was the first time that he had carried out this operation. A combination of detail-specific and immersive training simulations, and the data that was currently streaming via the blue, pulsating object in his neck, meant that he could carry out a procedure, which he had never done before, with all the proficiency of an expert. Had he not been under the cerebral control of the blue device, he would have felt more emotion at this stage. Certainly, he would have been amazed at the beauty of the shield that he’d just activated at the bunker doors – the only thing that stopped the darkness beyond the doors breaching the entrance to the bunker. He might have even stopped for a moment to wonder who – or what – might have created this incredible technology.
However, he was receiving his directions remotely, and although he was completely aware of what he was doing, it felt to him much like it does when you ride a bicycle: an automatic process and something that happens without you having to think too much about it. All he could think of was to bring back the two people that he’d spotted on his monitor in the Control Room. He knew that he must retrieve them as they would be mission critical. Critical to the mission that he was involved in. Had the device not been controlling his emotional responses, James would have been shocked at what happened next.
It was necessary for the blue device in his neck to inhibit his body’s reaction to his current activities. After all, what he was doing at the moment would have created a massive adrenalin rush under normal circumstances. Even though he’d spent much of his life in the military, the nerves and the heightened state of awareness never went away. The person controlling James’s actions needed him to quickly and efficiently carry out this operation and powerful emotional responses would not be required. It was a simple task that needed to be completed without detection and, because of the people involved, preferably without full awareness at this stage.
He was expecting two people to step into the corridor, because that’s what he’d seen on his monitor screen earlier. He didn’t question that the second figure to enter the bunker from beyond the doors was not what he’d actually seen on his screens, he was just intent on recovering two people. As the woman and the child entered the bunker, the blackness beyond the illuminated shield was so dense and complete that they appeared to be materializing out of nowhere, as if stepping out of nothingness.
There was a reason that neither of them had succumbed to the powerful black force beyond these blast doors, but they would not understand why until much later. The woman and the child were relieved to be in the light again, and their eyes had difficulty adjusting. There was just too much to take in, in that instant.
James moved towards the control panel that he’d operated earlier, to begin the process of closing the bunker doors. He was not expecting a third person to step out of the darkness, so he was not even aware of what was going on just beyond the illuminated shield. A third figure stepped out from the blackness beyond the bunker doors. The woman and her young companion were completely disorientated and still did not have full vision, but this third person had an advantage, his eyes were already accustomed to the light. He had been wearing a device that had enabled him to have full vision during his time beyond the bunker entrance.
This man was used to making quick and ruthless decisions. As he stepped into the light he had a weapon drawn. He would have had time to think this through, he was very familiar with the processes of strategy and planning. He glided quietly behind the man at the control panel and past the woman and her companion, who could still see virtually nothing as their eyes adjusted to so many hours in complete blackness. Undetected, he made his way at speed along the long corridor, as James moved to assist the bunker’s two new inhabitants.
As he turned the corner at the end of the corridor, the man pressed a large, red alarm button – one of many that were placed at regular intervals throughout the structure – and immediately the bunker sprung to alert, lights flashed and deafening alarm sirens sounded everywhere. He needed this distraction; it would buy him some time to find a uniform and integrate himself in this place without being noticed. He knew that the three people who he’d just left at the entrance would be safe for now, even though there might be some difficult questions to answer and possibly even a heightened state of security to deal with in the aftermath. But if he’d played this correctly, nobody would even know that he was in the bunker. And that would leave him a free agent to get to the bottom of what was really going on here. Because if the child was still alive, this was much bigger than anybody in this bunker could possibly imagine, himself included.
27 November 1983
It’s difficult to determine from the historical articles exactly when governments throughout the world began to publicly acknowledge the universal threats to the environment. Publicly, many countries rejected the claims of the scientists, others didn’t even reveal them to their citizens and some were seen to be taking action, although it was never deemed to be enough.
The public did their bit, turning off lights, reducing aerosol use, buying the correct type of fridge and leaving their multicoloured wheelie bins at the end of their drives. But the damage had been done a long time before that. It was never globally acknowledged, of course it wasn’t, there would have been mass hysteria, riots and anarchy. And the planet would have died anyway.
We’d taken the steps that were killing our planet a long time ago, many of them we couldn’t have even detected with the technology that we had available to us. We were so blissfully ignorant of the extreme damage that we had done.
So on 27 November 1983, a global consortium representing all territories across the Earth’s surface signed an agreement that put us on a path to renewal and regeneration. The world continued to function as it does – wars were fought, pacts signed, treaties forged, and everything else that makes up the daily news headlines. But completely unknown to the population on Earth, steps were in place to secure the survival of the planet, an operation that was taking place only at the highest global level of security. It would take more than thirty years to put in place, but when regeneration began, it would start with darkness.
Even though she’d left the military not long after that terrible event, she’d still kept in touch with Roachie. Nothing that could be traced of course. After the mission debriefing, they’d been warned – threatened to be more accurate – never to discuss the events that had taken place that day. Naturally, they weren’t direct threats. But it was made very clear that this really was top secret stuff. She hadn’t even been allowed to visit Roachie. They’d given her regular updates about his progress, made sure that she knew he was okay. But they were forbidden from ever discussing that exercise together.
They were monitored for a while – phones, emails and meetings – but she’d shown every sign of being relieved that she was away from military operations. She knew in her heart that she was well clear of it all. Not long afterwards she’d met a man called Mike in her civilian life and they’d married very soon after that. They stopped monitoring her after the wedding. They’d wrongly assumed that she’d put it all behind her.
But she knew how to play the waiting game, and when the time was right, six years later, she reached out to Roachie via a disposable mobile phone and a bit of online research. DIY espionage kits now available using your home PC. He was delighted that she’d contacted him again and they met up when he was on leave: on a train, where they would never even think to monitor.
It was a snatched conversation. It started with a hug. She was so sorry for what she’d done to him, but so utterly relieved that he was okay. A hug from him too. And congratulations about the twins. He didn’t know about the lasting damage that he’d done to her, but he too was relieved to see her standing there, alive. They’d never really known what had happened that day. They’d thought they were on a routine mission together. They’d even taken a photo of themselves together just before they’d been deployed. It was the one on Roachie’s desk in the bunker, though she’d never got a copy as it had been on his camera. Probably best that Mike and the kids never knew. They understood that the mission was a little unusual.
But what had really happened that day? How did they get out? Their gamble had certainly paid off as far as they were concerned, but when they had come round, they’d both been led to believe that they’d been ‘extracted’. Rescued in other words. There really wasn’t a lot that they could agree on about that day. Only that there were a lot of worried faces around at that time. Somebody had got into serious trouble over their injuries. And it was very clear to her that they couldn’t get rid of her quick enough when the redundancy notice came through. It had the air of a cover up, as if somebody would have to do some serious smoothing over.
They were both agreed on one thing though. Whatever the source of that voice that had demanded a response from them, it was like nothing they’d ever heard before. The voice that had compelled them in such a desperate situation to make an impossible choice. It was at once commanding, threatening, urgent … and definitely not of this world.