I know straight away that the alarms are connected to whatever I just left going on in the bunker entrance. I wonder what Kate will say if Mum is waiting there – in a different set of clothes to the image that she has just shown me on her screen. Now that would take some explaining! Kate moves instantly. I hadn’t considered it before, but she seems to be pretty well in charge of this place. She isn’t shouting orders or anything like that, and in fact I’ve found it pretty hard to detect any hierarchy here so far. But it’s fair to say that she knows exactly what’s going on, and, as she leaves the Control Room, she is joined – as if it has been rehearsed beforehand – by four armed guards.
Nobody has placed her in charge, but let’s put it this way: they’re following her. I run along behind, anxious to see what’s going on here.
The bunker doors were securely shut and the wonderful colours of the protective shield, no longer required, disappeared as fast as they had started. James rushed towards the two figures, who were blinking madly and rubbing their eyes, desperately trying to acclimatize to the light levels inside the bunker.
‘Come with me!’ said James, his tone suggesting that this was not up for discussion. He grabbed the arm of the woman and as he did so something dropped from her pocket. There was no time to investigate, the alarms were ringing, he must have made a mistake. The bunker staff knew that somebody was here, at the bunker’s blast doors, but they did not know who. If they could make it to the end of this corridor, they may have been able to go undetected. At that moment, the blue lights in the necks of the woman and the man stopped pulsating. They were at rest. This part of the mission was completed; they were safely in the bunker.
Whoever was controlling these devices knew that this man and this woman could now avoid detection better on their own, without the assistance of the devices. Their thoughts and memories of what had been taking place in the past half-hour were restored. As the pulsing stopped, recognition dawned on them both at once. ‘Roachie!’ she exclaimed. ‘Amy,’ he replied.
This was not unlike a scenario that they’d found themselves in many years previously. A sudden crisis situation. Limited data from which to make fast decisions. Whoever was controlling those blue devices knew that these two were best when they worked together, under conditions of extreme stress, and without interference from the devices in their necks. A unique 0.01 percent of a test sample. They were being left to get on with it on their own. And it didn’t matter now that they recognized each other. In fact, that’s exactly how it needed to be. For this part of their mission, they would need to rely on their innate skills and judgement. She was slightly ahead of him, just as it had been all those years ago. As partners, they were perfectly in tune in situations such as this. There were few options.
The alarms were sounding. The alert had been raised. This was not necessarily a hostile situation. Very soon, they would be met by security guards of some sort. Hostile or not, it would result in questions and probably, some form of detention. You didn’t have alarms unless something serious was going on. Whatever was going on outside, it had something to do with this place. And there was this additional information that only she could digest and he had no knowledge of. Most people would display huge extremities of emotion when confronted with the sight of this child in front of her. The blue device had suppressed that recognition so far, but now there was no doubt about it. But this pair were one of only 0.01 percent; they didn’t do what other people would do.
There had been a lot of trouble over what they’d done all those years previously. But that was why they needed to be here. Together, in this bunker, at this time. James had been scheduled to be here already. Amy would have been lured here at the last moment, when events had taken a sudden turn. Over thirty years in the planning, and nobody could have foreseen this. In an instant the decision was made. All those years ago, it was about buying more time, creating a different option, an alternative outcome when it seemed that none were possible.
James knew in that instant that if Amy was here it had to be connected with those events years earlier. This crazy darkness outside, the secrecy, the planning, the military overtones of the entire affair.
Amy realized the same: it must all be connected, but with the child here too, inexplicably, they must have been at the centre of this somehow. Most people would have waited, like rabbits frozen in the headlamps, so much in panic that they couldn’t even see what options were available to them. They knew that they had to buy more time for explanation, to figure out what was going on here.
‘Sorry Roachie,’ Amy said as she took her laptop out of her bag and smacked James firmly on the head.
She didn’t notice the phone that had fallen to the ground to her side. She grabbed the child’s hand, and they ran for their lives as Roachie slumped bloodied to the ground.
He thought that he was going to be taken off the project after the near-fatal injuries, but by the skin of his teeth he had managed to salvage his role. After all, with so much energy and expertise invested already, and with time running out for the planet, this was really no time for an impromptu change of personnel. He was uniquely qualified for this job, above everybody else on the planet, so a bit of collateral damage was easily explained.
The military were furious, calling him incompetent for allowing live rounds of ammunition during the simulations, wanting his head on a plate because their two soldiers had been exposed to so much real danger. They’d been assured that the worst case scenario was a bad headache and temporary unconsciousness from the lasers, which would be set to stun. But with both Zero-97/4 and Zero-98/4 sustaining life-threatening injuries, this was becoming uncomfortable. It didn’t take too long for the posturing and temper tantrums to die down and the assertions of rank to cease. Once it had been passed up and down the command chain a few times, it was agreed that the situation should just be ‘contained’.
She was to be exited from her military role, with immediate effect. They’d call it redundancy, move her on without a fuss. He would be given the best care and support possible, then allowed to continue his long and exemplary career. For him, that was the course of least resistance; he was a military man, easier to keep him where he was most comfortable, but no more special missions for him. They would be forbidden to communicate and this would be monitored to ensure full compliance. Besides, he had a strong interest in how they’d both performed that day. Results like those could come in useful, he wanted them out of everybody else’s sight. But he wanted them where he could see them. He had known about the meeting on the train, he knew that there was a lifelong connection there. Honestly, a disposable mobile phone? It was easily traced back to her. Nobody else knew about their meeting and he certainly had not shared that information.
The research and tests continued, the furore settled down, and he continued at the forefront of the project, working from his base in the UK. A role sanctioned by The Global Consortium. But ultimately controlled by a much higher power.