She’d been alarmed by the words ‘Come with me!’, but in the instant that she heard them, she also recognized the voice that had delivered them. It was James. He guided her into a Green Zone room that had the appearance of a meeting room. There were no cameras in here; they could speak privately and undetected. They hugged as old friends do, but hung on a little tighter, because they’d been through such terrible events together in their past.
‘What’s going on, James?’ Amy asked. She had so many questions that she needed to ask.
‘I signed up for this mission because I need the work; I was made redundant last year,’ James began. ‘It’s not like anything I’ve done since you and I last served together, but I didn’t think anything of it – until you arrived. Amy, I can’t explain what happened, but I don’t really recall going to the bunker entrance to let you in. I just suddenly became aware that you were there. I knew it was you all the time. I saw your face, but I didn’t make the connection.’
Amy recognized this. ‘James, I’ve just seen my daughter, Nat. I can’t explain it, it had to be her … but she died, three years ago.’ She paused, the pain of those events surging back like a bullying emotion, which refused to stop picking on her.
‘I lost her, though; we barely had time to speak, but it was the same for me: I discovered her in the car when I went back to get the phone and the laptop. I saw her, but I didn’t make that emotional connection. It just didn’t register, but the moment my eyes began to focus again after you’d let us into the bunker, I recognized her immediately. She’s older and taller, of course. But you don’t forget your own daughter.’
These words hung in the air. Neither of them could offer an explanation. As yet, they were unaware of the blue pulsating lights lying dormant beneath their skin. Resting for now, but ready to be activated again if required. ‘And my family are in here somewhere – Dan, Mike, Harriet and David, I need to find them,’ she continued after a long silence.
‘Amy, your family is safe, but you won’t be able to see them, I’m afraid.’ At least James was able to offer this reassurance. ‘All civilians who were caught inside the base have been placed in stasis, for security and safety reasons. They’re safe, but they’re asleep, the same as everybody outside the bunker. I don’t know who’s in there, but we can find out pretty easily. I’ll bet that’s where your family is.’
Amy was relieved to hear this, but still anxious. ‘I’m concerned about Dan,’ she continued. ‘He’d got separated from Mike when the bunker doors closed. He was calling out to me when we got shut outside.’
‘What does he look like?’ James asked.
‘Same height as Nat, jeans, T-shirt, dark hair …’ Amy began.
‘I think I’ve seen him,’ James interrupted. ‘There was a kid in the corridor earlier, suits that description perfectly. Not sure why he was not in stasis like everybody else though.’
Another question that hung in the air. At that moment Amy’s eye was attracted by a faint pulse in James’s neck.
‘You okay, James?’ she asked. ‘I’m worried I might have hit you too hard with my laptop. Sorry about that. By the way, I take it you knew what I was doing?’
‘Yeah, my head does!’ he replied. ‘I’m fine; why do you ask?’
‘You’ve got a weird vein in your neck, looks like you’re under extreme pressure!’ She looked more closely. ‘That’s no vein,’ she continued. ‘See if you can see it in the glass, it’s a dim light under your skin.’
James couldn’t see it in his reflection in the glass, but by pressing on the skin in that area, he could definitely feel something below the surface.
‘You too!’ he replied.
If she hadn’t mentioned it first, he would never have noticed. But there was a definite blue colouring beneath the skin on Amy’s neck. She could feel it too. Sometimes the mind can make massive, sudden leaps, piecing together random strands of information and cleverly fusing them together.
Amy remembered her earlier uneasiness about apparently having given blood. When she couldn’t even remember giving blood in recent years. And the absence of a mark on her arm. She had a strong feeling that these matters were connected in some way, but no idea why. Their conversation was interrupted. The announcement system throughout the bunker was summoning all personnel to the Control Room.
The Second Genesis
It was 20.00 hours. An alert sounded throughout the bunker. All personnel were to gather in the Control Room or the canteen, depending on their role in these events. In each meeting area, there was a large screen displaying a fixed image and a logo derived from a design of Earth. The same logo that was displayed on the uniforms of every person in this bunker. It had the words ‘The Global Consortium’ beneath it.
The bunker staff gathered in the designated areas, an air of expectation crackling like an electric current through the building. What happened next would define the mission in precise detail. The holding image faded out, and a man appeared on the screen. It was Doctor Pierce. The chatter in the room died to a hush. The same logo and wording was displayed on the plain background behind Doctor Pierce. He drew breath and began to speak.
‘My name is Doctor Harold Pierce. I have met all of you already, but due to the highly confidential nature of this mission, none of you will remember those meetings,’ he began.
‘Firstly, let me start by reassuring you that your loved ones are all completely safe and secure.’
Nobody uttered a word, but you could feel the collective sigh of relief across the room.
These people were voluntary participants in this mission, but their contracts stipulated that they could designate family and friends for dedicated support. Basically, The Global Consortium had made sure that they were all in a safe and secure place at the time the darkness had begun to fall. A letter here, a phone call there, the occasional email, and it was easily orchestrated. Doctor Pierce continued to speak.
‘The terraforming process that is occurring outside is completely benign to living creatures, though to enable it to operate effectively, it is necessary to place everything into a state of stasis. This will last in total for a period of fourteen days. During this time, oxygen, water, and nutrients will be delivered via TerraLevel 1. This is the process that is connected with the darkness beyond the bunker – that has just reached 100 percent of successful completion.’
Doctor Pierce had a riveted audience, hanging on to every word and scrap of information that he was offering.
‘Ladies and gentlemen, while the whole world sleeps outside, you are its guardian for the next fourteen days,’ he carried on. ‘This process will be fully automated, it is completely pre-defined.
‘I must apologize for the initial delays in timing and restoration of lighting. We are investigating the cause of these at present, but we believe them to be routine issues.
‘Your role in this is to keep watch over the planet. If your intervention is required at any stage, you will receive further instructions, as per your training.’
He paused, not for dramatic effect, but to gear up to what was possibly the most worrying part of his speech. ‘And so to the reason for this mission,’ he began. ‘The entire planet and atmosphere which sustains it has long been in critical danger. In short, our planet can sustain life in its existing form for no more than ten years. The Global Consortium has made a radical intervention.
‘What will occur over the next fourteen days are the essential components required for the reanimation of our planet and its atmosphere.
‘The process will continue well beyond the fourteen days, but it will remain undetectable by all available instrumentation. After the project, your memories will be erased of these events.
‘The Global Consortium will maintain that recent catastrophes were caused by a series of unexpected solar flares, and although there will be some inevitable casualties, the safety and security of the planet will be assured for many millennia in the future … if we don’t continue and repeat the mistakes of the past.
‘As military personnel, you will understand the risks involved in a mission of this scale and the overriding importance of achieving the final objective.
‘Your individual briefings will be delivered directly to your personal E-Pads. In the meantime, The Global Consortium thanks you for your service in the Genesis 2 project.’
With those final words, his face disappeared from the screen and the holding image returned. Genesis 2 was underway.
Seated at James’s vacant workstation, he had quickly managed to navigate the terminal. This was a standard Consortium configuration; he had access, of course, via his own work.
Although only on the periphery of this project, he was party to the basics of the Genesis 2 operation. After all, it was he who had escorted many of these people to the training centre and returned them to their civilian lives, all memories erased. He had never met Doctor Pierce personally, but he received his instructions from him via his E-Pad and, of course, he was the very reason he had come to this place: to find out Doctor Pierce’s connection with the child. He had basic clearance on the mainframe.
His presence here wouldn’t be flagged either, so long as he didn’t draw attention to himself by trying to access unauthorized areas. He could see too that since the mission briefing, the entire operation had been stepped up a notch. Security, monitoring, and surveillance were now significantly increased. TerraLevel 2 was about to begin. Although it was fully automated, it would be monitored around the clock. As Doctor Pierce had said, they were guardians of the entire planet, similar to parents watching over children as they sleep. He needed to locate the doctor and confront him about the girl. He also wanted to know how this family was connected. Years of work in this field gave him highly tuned senses for this type of operation.
And he smelled a rat. It was only because he was trying to locate the source of Doctor Pierce’s broadcast that he stumbled upon the information that nobody else had thought to check for. He was unable to determine the location of the broadcast but he was sure that it was delivered live and that it had not emanated from within this bunker. Certainly it wasn’t on the same mainframe that the Control Room team were using. It was while he was scanning the source that he noticed an unusual thing.
Two video streams were being served simultaneously. The one that they were all watching was shielding something else, which was heavily encrypted. It was a Trojan Horse system used rarely in Consortium circles, but highly undetectable – mainly because nobody ever looked for it. Hiding in plain sight. Somebody, within this bunker, had just received an encrypted message from Doctor Pierce. A message that he didn’t want anybody else to see.
The terraforming process was a slow one; these environmental ailments could not be cured instantly. It would take fourteen days for Genesis 2 to breathe new life into the planet. It’s said that it took God seven days to create the Earth. Such a work of art is not so easily recreated. First, all life forms had to be put to sleep. This regeneration would take place around them and unknown to them. The darkness that surrounded the Earth would provide everything that the planet needed to survive.
Over the next fourteen days and nights, that black, impenetrable blanket would change colour and begin to lighten as the complex atmospheric, chemical, geological and biological transformations took place.
Even God would be in awe of this process and might be forgiven for questioning how Man had become so advanced that he was capable of mimicking the power of the Creator.
The terraforming process was complex, and it could be used to breathe new life into extinguished planets, or light the flame of first life in dead planets.
It could also be deployed for destructive and selfish outcomes. When God used His powers to create the Earth, it was for benevolent purposes, to give Man the opportunity to live in His beautiful garden.
Imagine, then, if those powers were used for evil and just how much devastation could be unleashed across the surface of the planet if they were.
It was Nat that I’d seen with Mum! Now I am certain. I don’t know what to think or feel. We’ve grieved for Nat for three years. I’ve missed her every single day since then. And yet there she was, right in front of me. In the middle of whatever is going on in this bunker. I feel incredibly level-headed considering what’s just happened, and I know that Nat and I must be reunited as soon as possible. The fact that she’s alive has to be connected with the amazing technology in this place; we must be caught up in all of this in some way.
But how? Nat seems to be able to move around this place the same as I can. And if she’s inside the bunker now, Mum must be here somewhere too. I’ve got to figure out how to get her back from wherever this device took her. And I hope she’s trying to figure out how to get back to me; she had just enough time to see me. I hope she recognized me. Since she disappeared moments ago, I’ve lost that feeling of ‘connection’ again. It’s already dawned on me that this must be hooked into Nat, it must be a ‘twin thing’. Useful though, because I seem to be able to sense when she’s around.
I must have been picking up on her ever since she managed to get through the bunker doors. If she’s definitely below ground now, that timing seems about right. At that moment, an announcement and alert sounds through the transportation area and the corridors outside. It is eight o’clock, the time of the mission briefing. I curse what’s just happened with Nat and the fact that I’ve got caught here, on Level 4, at the time of the briefing.
I need to run by the Operations Centre on the floor above. I left my phone on the workstation there and I want to ask Kate how I can charge it. I want to see the end of Dad’s video too, it might tell me how I can reconnect with Nat.
I rush back to the lift, and return to the third level. The announcement that the briefing is about to begin is sounding throughout both of these lower levels, which nobody else seems able to access, so far. They must all be connected in some way if they share the same announcement system. I head back to the Level 3 Operations Centre and make straight for Doctor Pierce’s console. I pick up my phone and it lights up as my hand touches the screen. I check the battery life as it should be dead. It’s fully charged now. How did that happen?
This bunker must have wireless electricity. That would explain the lack of plug sockets. I wonder if that’s how it works, this place is certainly techie enough. I’m about to open up the MMS message that Dad sent me, when a familiar face appears on every single terminal in the room. It’s Doctor Pierce. He begins to speak: ‘My name is Doctor Harold Pierce, I have met all of you already, but due to the highly confidential nature of this mission …’
His words are cut off on the terminal at this workstation. On all other terminals he is delivering a briefing speech: ‘Firstly, let me start by reassuring you that your loved ones are all completely safe and secure,’ he goes on. But on the screen I’m looking at, he’s saying something very different. It’s an overlaid message, as if one message is embedded within another.
‘Dan,’ he begins in the second message. ‘This is an encrypted update, which only you will be able to receive.’
‘At present, you are the only person in the bunker who has Purple or Black Zone access. That won’t be the case for much longer. I don’t have much time to speak, we’re currently on an encrypted delivery system. You’ll have worked out already, Dan, that you and your sister are very special.’
I begin to talk, but he continues to speak over me. This can’t be a live message; he must have recorded it beforehand.
‘Dan, as you’ll see on the main screens, I am currently explaining to the bunker personnel what’s going on outside. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard about terraforming, but we’re involved in the highest level project to regenerate the planet.
‘That automated process will begin the second my mission briefing ends. Bunker personnel will receive their agendas directly to their personal devices.
‘Dan, I’ve spent more than twenty years personally preparing for this. I thought I’d covered every possibility, but I’ve missed something … I can’t believe I didn’t see it.’
I get the feeling that he isn’t here to deliver good news to me.
‘The terraforming has been hijacked by a terrorist faction, Dan. I don’t know who they are – or where they are – I just don’t understand how they even got access, it should be impossible, it’s all tied into me.’
He’s flustered and has the look of a genius who’s just been told that his theory is rubbish, even though he knows that it must be correct.
‘If they sabotage the terraforming, Dan, they can kill the planet … everything will be dead. It’s the minerals they want – and the gas – they don’t care about what else is left.’
He’s getting quite distressed now. I’m with him on that.
‘I managed to get some people inside the bunker who you can trust, Dan – your mum is one of them, and James, her friend. You can tell if they’re safe by the devices in their necks.
‘Look closely under their skin; you should see a very faint, blue, pulsating light there. If you do, they’re safe, they’re connected directly with me.’
He furrows his brow. ‘If they have any other colour device, Dan, you mustn’t trust them. I have partial control, but the encryptions were hacked when the sirens sounded. It’s why the lights were off in the bunker for so long, why the timing was all wrong. They hacked in when we were at our most vulnerable – as we handed over from governmental control to the bunker.
‘Dan, I’ve got to go. Remember, you can access all areas here, but you’ve only got a short head start on them. Once the hacking is complete, they’ll have the run of the place.
‘One last thing, Dan: they’ll go for the terraforming last of all. First thing they’ll target are the drones.’
The message ended. Just as his final words were delivered on the second presentation that had been continuing on the main screens.
‘… The Global Consortium thanks you for your service in the Genesis 2 project.’