It had taken only a couple of hundred years of industrial activity for humans to destroy the planet. As it would turn out, their consumption of Earth’s resources had proven as foolhardy as thinking that you could sail off the edge of the Earth or that the Earth is the centre of the universe. Theories that are easily debunked when you have the tools and knowledge to disprove them. Hilarious when viewed with the benefit of hindsight. So it would be with man’s industrial phase on Earth. In centuries to come, scholars would laugh at how men once thought that they could endlessly plunder the Earth’s resources with impunity. ‘How could they ever have thought that?’ they would cry in astonishment.
There was only one solution to rescue this dying planet, and The Consortium knew that it would have to be done.
It was a matter of survival now, the planet had maybe ten years left before the critical point was reached. It couldn’t be done without their help, they’d have to accept the only real prospect that was still available.
The Earth was going to have to be saved using very drastic measures. It would require environmental alteration. Carbon dioxide would be removed from the atmosphere. It would be seeded with algae to convert nitrogen, carbon dioxide and water into organic compounds.
Microbial life would be introduced, geophysical and geochemical processes would be implemented. The Earth’s geology and planetary biosphere would require complete recalibration.
These processes had once upon a time been proposed for Mars and Venus. Now they were urgently needed on our own planet.
If Earth was to survive this impending catastrophe, it would require something radical and unique. The entire planet was about to be terraformed.
Amy was momentarily stunned. Only moments ago, she’d left her companion standing by the door. Now she was on her own. She allowed herself an expletive. Normally, she was very controlled in front of the children, but she was an adult and this situation required a swear word. Her emotions were running furiously, she’d had a lot to take in in a very short amount of time. And she needed to know what had happened to her family – she was desperate to find out if they were okay. Amy made for the door and had her previous lack of success with opening it. First she pressed – as was instinctive – then she pushed, then she remembered how it had opened the first time. She placed her hand on the pad – it opened.
She stepped outside in the corridor, scanned for any other bunker staff in the area, and when the coast was clear, she tried her hand on the door pad again. It wouldn’t open. Okay, so you needed special access to get inside rooms, but once inside, you could easily get out again. She’d need to be careful to follow other people into rooms, try to avoid getting caught without access. There was a long list of people that she needed to locate. And she hadn’t even worked out yet if there was a problem with her being in the bunker.
She knew enough about military life to understand that it was very unlikely that there would be freedom of movement for civilians, so stealth mode seemed to be the best bet for now. She would need to summon the nerve to walk confidently through the corridors. Any hint of looking furtive or suspicious and they’d be on to her.
Amy walked along the corridor, aware of the surveillance cameras overhead and trying to get a sense of what this place had become since she last walked along here. It was very obvious that some amazing changes had taken place, and whatever was going on outside, the people in this bunker were connected with it all in some way. Everything here had the feel of military efficiency, but this was not the military that she’d known. Here there was no expense spared, the quality, newness and technology used in everything that she saw was beyond her own experience.
She decided to try to pick up a main flow of movement through the bunker and to follow that to the centre. Wherever she ended up, it would probably enable her to glean a little more information at least – and get a feel for what was going on here.
As she moved along the corridor, she became suddenly aware of a person walking quickly behind and gaining on her. They were walking with purpose, at some pace. She wanted to hurry, to run – and even to look back – but she knew she had to stay calm and continue walking at a steady pace. The person caught up with her and grabbed her arm. ‘Come with me!’
So Doctor Pierce is connected with all of this in some way. I’d never known his first name – he’d always been ‘Doctor Pierce’ when I’d encountered him at school – but this has to be the same person, it’s just too much of a coincidence. And in the video message from Dad, he’d been with Doctor Pierce at the time. Dad had told me to find Level 3. Well, here I am and this is Doctor Pierce’s desk … but no sign of Doctor Pierce himself. I’m supposed to find out what’s going on here. I lay my mobile phone on the desk, might as well get rid of this somewhere safe, it’s no use to me right now.
I scan the screens at the workstation, but everything seems to be set on that graphic of the Earth. The darkness appears to be at 98 percent now. Looking at the time, I’m guessing that we get the mission statement at 8.00 p.m., when it reaches 100 percent. That would make sense, but I’m only guessing here. Maybe putting two plus two together and ending up with five. There’s nothing more to be done here as far as I can see.
I scan the work area once again: there’s no sign of Doctor Pierce, nothing on any of the screens that gives me a clue and no sign even that anybody has been here recently. A dead end. I decide to move back towards the lift to check out Level 4. I have a nasty feeling that I’m not going to be able to gain any ground here, I think I’ll have to wait until the briefing at eight o’clock to get some clarity.
As I head towards the lift, I can hear movement beyond the doors. The lift is moving. If I’m not mistaken, that was heading upwards from Level 4. That means somebody else has access to these levels – it could be Doctor Pierce. I call the lift and it arrives at Level 3 swiftly. As I press the button to Level 4, I notice that one of the two buttons that are unusually marked is illuminated. The same as it was when I had tried these mystery buttons earlier. That means somebody else with my access rights has to have been in this lift only moments previously – and they were heading to Level 4. I press the Level 4 button and the lift descends. The doors open. Once again I am confronted with the black corridor with the thick red stripes all along it.
It has an ominous feel about it. I make my way along the corridor and hear a door slide open up ahead. Everything here is Black Zone, the same as Doctor Pierce’s work area in the level above. I ignore the other doors that I pass and make directly for the one which I believe has just been used by somebody else.
It’s about where the sound of the closing door came from. When I reach it, I can see that it has just been opened, because the light on the entry pad is still illuminated. Whoever it is doesn’t seem to be aware that I’m following them. Either that or they’re trying to shake me off. I step into the room, this is unlike anything that I’ve seen so far. It’s the usual hi-tech, but it seems to be some kind of transportation area.
There are platforms on which boxed equipment is placed. But this area doesn’t seem to be just for transporting equipment, it appears to be used for transporting humans too. At the far end of the room, somebody is standing on one the smaller platforms. They are surrounded by a pulsating orange light, as if some process has already begun. They have their back to me. I can’t see if it is Doctor Pierce. I run towards the area, shouting to get this person’s attention. I can see that whatever this device is, it is operated in the same way that everything else is here – by a hand pad. The hand pad is activated, whoever is standing in front of me has just started this process. The orange, shimmering light surrounds the person inside and their image is diffused.
I can’t tell what this machine – this contraption – is doing, but it seems to be harmless. The person inside it wanted to do this, they are not in pain or anxious about this in any way. They appear to have done this before. I can see that they’re about to turn around – they must have heard me now, even though this thing makes an electronic sound, which seems to be getting more shrill as the process continues. I slam my hand on the panel in the hope that it will stop whatever is happening and I will be able to talk to whoever is in there. In the instant that I touch the panel the person inside turns around. Whatever I just did, it failed to stop the process. In fact, it seemed to complete it. The orange shimmering lights disappear along with the person inside them. But not so soon that I don’t get a definite glimpse of who was inside. I suspected it from the minute I had walked into that room. My sense of connection has been fully restored.
For the first time in three years, I feel ‘locked-in’ again; the signal that I’ve been searching for all this time has finally been re-established. There is absolutely no doubt about it now. Even through the illuminated orange shield, at the moment that they turned to face me, I knew exactly who that person was. They were older, taller and their hair was different. The person who’s just used this device is my twin, Nat. It’s the sister who I’d seen dying in front of my own eyes three years earlier.