Saturday, 18 October 2014

Chapter 17 - Part 1

The doors exploded outwards, tearing them violently from their brackets. Krank and James instinctively lifted their weapons and aimed them at the smoke filled gap.

Carter smiled as he saw a small grenade device roll through the thick fog. 

"Flasher!" Krank screamed. A second later the vast observatory was consumed by white light.

Gunfire ricocheted through the hollow chamber and Carter, hand still over his eyes, dove to the floor. 

"Atkins?" he yelled.

"Sir!" a thin voice barked from the corridor.

Magnificent, Carter thought, daring to uncover his eyes and survey the scene, Atkins was here to re-address the balance of power. Carter appreciated the ruthless, dogged efficiency of a man like Atkins. Unlike Anthony, if he was given a task, he would follow it through without remorse, or die trying. 

"Get the girl," Carter shouted, trying to get a visual on Atkins or one of his men. He saw Krank lying on the floor to the left of the entrance, but it was not obvious from this angle if he was shot. James had seemingly vanished, perhaps hiding behind the equipment. He saw the shadows of three men dressed in combat fatigues sneak across the open area heading to the telescope. But Ebbe and Anthony were nowhere to be seen, despite having been at the viewing station only seconds earlier.

Scrabbling forward on all fours, Carter took a peek over a computer terminal, and saw Atkins stride through the thinning smoke. He had an arm dressing, several cuts and bruises deforming his face into a permanent scowl, and he appeared to be using a rifle as a make-shift crutch. His eyes scoured the room intensely, immediately spotting the prostrate Krank. A flick of his free hand sent a fourth man in Krank's direction. The soldier pulled out a handgun and looked to Atkins for orders. Atkins gave a nearly imperceptible nod, in response to which the man unloaded six shots point-blank at Krank. 

If the man weren't already dead, he sure is now, Carter thought. Time to reveal my whereabouts he decided, having yet to identify where any of Anthony's team were hiding. Best to get behind the armed men, and let them seek out and destroy. 

Cold steel pressed against the nape of his neck gave him pause. Slowly Carter turned to find himself face to face with Jake's steely visage. Jake kept his semi-automatic pressed firmly against skin as he gestured with a shake that he didn't want Carter going anywhere. Without removing his gun, Jake looked up for a second, before returning his attention back to Carter. 

Moments later Art emerged from the shadows, keeping ducked and low, his eyes seeming to flicker to scour the whole room as he moved. 

They won't kill me, Carter tried to tell himself, Ebbe said she needs him. That means they have no choice. But the indentation of the gun barrel was all too real, and the quivering sensation in his bladder and bowels was impossible to ignore. They may not kill, but God only knows what else they could do. The temptation was to shout to Atkins, to get these two bastards outnumbered. But this guy, whatever his name was, he had the same look Atkins had in his eyes. It was cold, undoubtedly a sociopath. Great soldier, but difficult to reason with. The other guy he had called over, he looked like a man of reason. But he was on lookout, presumably for Anthony, Ebbe and the other kid. 

"There's no way out," Carter hissed, trying to making it sound like a threat.

He received a gun butt to his forehead for his troubles. From the man of reason no less. Guess your character judgement is a little off today Carter old boy, he told himself.

"Do you think?" Art asked Jake, who responded with a toothy shark grin. "Yeah me too," Art concluded the unspoken conversation without further elaboration.

They think Ebbe can do something, Carter suddenly realised. Of course she could! What an idiot. They had been transported here in a second, therefore they can transport out without detection. But they were still here, why? That doesn't matter now, take advantage. They won't kill you. They need you.

"Atkins!" Carter yelled urgently, "quickly!" 

Jake didn't flinch, and Carter heard the deafening crack of his gun blasting at point-blank range. Numerous bullets tore through his flesh, and he felt a hot, burning sensation at the point of entry. 

A dark cloud fogged up his vision, the room fading into murky nothingness. 

I'm dying, he concluded, feeling curiously light, almost as if he were lifting up and beginning to float from the ground. A pin-prick of light emerged in the pitch black of his mind, and soon began to widen, flooding his eyes, if that was how he was seeing this, becoming like a tubular tunnel of light. 

Ebbe? What was she doing standing in the tunnel? 

Anthony too walked into his field of vision.

"Wakey  wakey sleepy head," chided a hollow voice which sounded like it came from within his skull. 

"I'm not dead?" Carter mumbled with a dry mouth. 

Laughter echoed from within his head. 

"I told you." That was Ebbe's voice, clear and confident. 

"What did you tell me?" Carter muttered, finding he had arms with which he could rub his eyes. Blinking, he re-focused on the pure white room, with no definable join between the ceiling, wall and floor, it was almost as if they were floating. Except he was definitely lying on a firm surface.

"You aren't really here. None of us are. This is, er... like a memory bank for our original selves."

Carter sat upright, rubbing his temples, before patting his chest where the burning sensation from his gunshot wounds had been. 

"But, he shot me," he gasped incredulously.

Anthony cackled with unreserved amusement. 

"Let me guess, Jake?" he asked. 

But Carter didn't care to answer. Frantically he scrambled back to his feet, only for a large forearm wrap around his neck.

"Going somewhere chap?" a familiar voice boomed, the sound dropping silent unnaturally. Carter squirmed and the arm loosened its grip, allowing him to whirl around to see Krank towering over him with a large grin plastered across his face.

"You... you were shot," Carter fumbled over his words, taking several steps back, only to find himself tumbling into Anthony's arms.

"Yeah," Krank agreed, "hurt like a son of a bitch oddly," he added, "how could that be?"

"With quantum linking it's perfectly possible," Ebbe responded matter-of-factly.

"Sure, sure, I thought so too," Krank muttered sarcastically.

"If you could transport everyone away, why didn't you?" Carter asked, pulling himself away from Anthony, trying to smooth out the creases in his suit.

"Best to keep up the illusion as long as we can," Ebbe replied.

"Keep Atkins busy fighting ghosts," Anthony added with a chuckle, before the humour dropped away from his face, "Krank!"

Carter found himself in a bear grip before he had a chance to react. He made a futile effort to wriggle free, before concluding the first time he had not escaped Krank's grip, he had been released. 

Anthony strode up to him slowly, coming closer and closer, until Carter felt his warm breath on the skin of his nose, though oddly he could discern no obvious odour.

"Minister," Anthony hissed, "you know what we need," he started, "you understand we don't have a lot of time to fuck around," he paused and leaned in so they were almost touching, "can you deliver?"

Carter tried to pull back, recoil from the hot breath heating his face, but Krank was immovable, and Anthony lingered uncomfortably long, his eyes fixed on Carter's. 

What choice did he have? The technology he had so long wanted to investigate was now firmly in the grips of Ebbe, and he had, for the moment, lost control of her. His usual tricks wouldn't work right now. The only choice was to play along, play the long game. He was good at that. Sure, they could organise their little space trip. He could even make it seem like they were in charge. But ultimately, no one fucks Carter Huntington over and doesn't live to regret it.

"Fine," Carter sighed with convincing resignation. "Whatever you need, I'll help if I can."

Anthony slapped his cheek a couple of times.

"That's a good lad," he grinned with a cheeky wink.

Enjoy your small victory now, Carter thought, you'll soon wish you'd died back in that basement. 

Monday, 6 October 2014

Chapter 16 - Part 2

Anthony investigated Ebbe's pale, angular face for any hint she was taking the piss. If she were, it was out of character, and frankly, her face seemed the picture of reason. Her eyes unwavering in their piercing intensity, seemingly boring a hole through the dumbstruck Carter. 

If there were any humour in this scene, it was certainly seeing that fatuous politician reduced to a mumbling fool by this petite framed woman. Anthony saw the switch of power jump like a spark of static electricity. In that split second Carter's shoulders had slumped from being taught and proud, to quivering and frail. Ebbe, in contrast had seemingly grown in stature, commanding the attention of the room like a conductor.

"Let me see," he finally spoke, wanting to understand what had so shaken their esteemed leader. He knew better than to immediately question the frankly bizarre assertion that they were not on the planet earth. That was a tad too much to comprehend, no matter what he had seen of late. Let's peek through this magic telescope of hers before I make myself look stupid, he decided.

Ebbe said nothing, only gesturing to show he was more than welcome to see for himself. Slinging his gun over his shoulder, to rest on his back, he stepped towards the eyepiece with unexpected trepidation. 

Fear no man, fear no beast, fear no unknown, he repeated an mantra his dear old mum had cooed to him as a young boy to allay his concerns about the unseen terrors in the dark recesses of the bedroom at his grandmother's farm. I am fearless leader, he added, which brought forth a little smile to his lips. 

Crouching to squeeze into the sculptured seat, he glanced at his colleagues, all watching him as if he were walking to the gallows, to be strung up by the neck until dead. Their eyes wide, like deer who've just heard the hunter step on a twig. 

His eye wrapped around the black scope and he took a few seconds to adjust to the view. For a moment his brain couldn't discern anything noteworthy. He could see white and grey contours, dappled with black pits. It was only when he pulled his eye away and looked up at the blackness above that he understood it was a portion of the moon within the eyepiece. With renewed understanding he looked back and concentrated on the image. It struck him as odd that Ebbe had focused on a hunk of the moon, and left a portion of black space in the lower left corner. Was it the moon, or the area of space she had been aiming at? What was he missing? Had the scope been adjusted since Carter peered through it and immediately saw something that drained the blood from his smug face?

No, it was no toy telescope that could be bumped by a careless elbow. This beast would only move if its master, Ebbe, commanded. And the master was not one to make careless mistakes. She aimed it where she did for a reason, and it was he, being a layman who could not see the stars for the solar system who was missing what was presumably in front of him.

But wait, there! The segment of space within the viewfinder was not the simple black void he had first imagined. There appeared to be an image, some sort of structure, or design, faint, but definitely discernible. Was it behind the moon? Or opposite? Impossible to tell without understanding the scale, but it appeared to be some sort of honeycomb configuration. The more he stared, the more obvious it became, until the pale white glow of the moon started itself started to look more like a two dimensional overlay upon this structure. 

He forced himself away from the telescope to discover he had begun to shake. He clenched a fist forcefully, physically rejecting the nerves that the unearthly sight had started to instill.

Unearthly, he pondered, staring out at his team through a light, hollow head. Unearthly. That was exactly what Ebbe had said. But what did she mean? Surely there was some other explanation, a space station, or satellite, maybe, yes, maybe an alien craft. Maybe the telescope is simply defective. Surely that was it, the lens was structurally damaged and the honeycombing was being falsely projected back to their ignorant eyes to mis-comprehend.

But Ebbe was no fool. Ebbe would know if it were faulty equipment. That would be the first thing to check. It's what he would do too. 

"Could it be the lens?" he asked, wanting to be sure she had eliminated the obvious.

"First thing I checked," she responded patiently, just as he suspected.

"Why do you say..." he stumbled over his words. It sounded too far fetched to be discussing the concept this was not Earth. Because if it's not Earth, then what in God's name is it?

"Call it an educated guess," Ebbe answered, clearly understanding exactly what he was trying to ask. "The discovery of the control room only further backs up my theory that we are living on an unnatural construct."

"Day to night," Anthony mumbled, marvelling at the thought that buried beneath the English countryside was a machine that could determine the time of day in the sky above, his head giddy with an influx of thoughts, his stomach churning like a raging sea.

"I can't be sure, of course.The technology beneath our feet is beyond all my wildest comprehensions. It's akin to seeking the Holy Grail and instead finding God himself," Ebbe enthused, gesticulating with wild-eyed enthusiasm. 

She enjoys this, Anthony chuckled inwardly, finding the thought somewhat comforting. 

"So, o' fearless leader," he began, forcing himself to make light of the moment, for fear of losing his sanity in an abyss of the unknowns that were encroaching upon him like dark demons, "what do we do now?"

Ebbe's eyes lit up, and her mouth curled into a sly grin, which reminded Anthony of the look a shark gets as it's about to kill. 

"Carter here is going to get me a spaceship," she declared dramatically.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Chapter 16 - Part 1

The observatory was shrouded in darkness, with only small streaks of light penetrating the murk. Plastic sheeting rippled gently, briefly revealing the dated grey computer equipment below. The vast telescope was aimed at the closed ceiling, patiently awaiting a view of the night sky. 

A brilliant white flash illuminated the entire chamber in an instant, before retreating back to a single point in the centre of the room, leaving behind a party of seven. Three of the team, Art, Jake and Krank, immediately stepped forward in three separate directions, guns pointed ahead, primed for any potential ambush. As the trio swept the room, Anthony lit a flare, filling it with a red glow, which threw quivering shadows of Ebbe, Carter and James across the towering walls.

"Hello sweetie," Ebbe cooed gently, as she made her way to the telescope, running a hand lovingly across the eye piece and checking her fingers for dust. "Some white light would be appreciated Gannymede," she shouted to James, who nodded, and scurried across the floor to a side wall, where he flicked a few switches. After a few seconds, several strip lights on the side of the walls started to blink into life, finally bringing a clean white light into the building. 

"Clear," Art yelled from the left. This sentiment was echoed by Jake and Krank, and all three swiftly returned to Anthony's side. 

"A little help?" Ebbe shouted to anyone willing to listen, as she started to pull the plastic sheeting away from the computer panels. Anthony nodded to Art and Jake, who both immediately stepped up and began pulling away the thin sheets and tossing them to one side.

Anthony eyed Carter with suspicion. He didn't like the way he was watching Ebbe, and he didn't like the way he seemed unperturbed by the events that had unfurled in the last few minutes. What reasonable minded man would remain so calm when transported across space and time without a word of warning? Besides, Anthony had an innate distrust of politicians. Especially their esteemed leader, who had surely reached his position by duplicity and corruption. Anthony could tell Ebbe a thing or two about her friend, that was for sure. 

"Secure the room," he barked to James and Krank. James gestured to Krank, who followed, James leading him towards a pair of large metal doors with frosted glass panes. Krank tested the door, and found it was locked. Wordlessly the pair planted small amounts of explosives where the two doors met. Before taking up position, one either side, a few metres from the doorway, guns trained on the entrance.

Anthony acknowledged their confirmation that the only way in was now protected, and started to feel a little more relaxed. He turned his attention back to the prime minister, Hunter, as Ebbe had called him. Carter seemed blissfully unaware Anthony was eyeing him with mistrust as he slowly spun around, taking in the vast chamber that housed the telescope.

"Need any help Ebbe?" Anthony asked. She didn't answer, but he was pretty sure she shook her head. The lady was in her own world now, that was for sure. 

"Pretty cool, eh," he said to Carter, who was staring up at the ceiling in awe. At first he got no reaction, and was about to ask again, when Carter turned and offered a wide smile that Anthony found hard to dismiss as anything other than a politician's mask.

"Spectacular," Carter agreed, "I've often wanted to visit, but the job rarely permits a getaway."

"All those foreign visits," Anthony replied suggestively.

"Quite so," Carter responded bluntly, refusing to rise to Anthony's jab at recent headlines. "Though with Ebbe's box of tricks, I could visit Russia, China and the US in the same day." 

"It's some next level sci-fi shit ain't it!" Anthony enthused. While he had the man engaged on strange phenomena, Anthony thought it was a good chance to check how extensive the lapse of gravity truly was. "It's been a few days of crazy shit, don't you think sir? What with the sun, and the gravity."

Carter nodded thoughtfully.

"It's been the most difficult few days of my term so far," he confirmed. "Ebbe, dear girl, do you need any help?" he then shouted, before turning back to Anthony, "pardon me," he said, before striding off to Ebbe without awaiting a response from either. 

Slimy son of a bitch, Anthony thought. Typical politician, never actually confirmed or denied anything. Look at him, leaning over Ebbe, placing his arm around her shoulder, as if she were a vulnerable waif, in need of his protection. My God, he snorted, she's actually playing into his act. He watched, wide mouthed with incredulity as the hard-edged Ebbe twirled her hair, and even seemed to giggle girlishly at something he whispered into her ear. Is this the same woman who defied his V6 and placed herself in the line of fire? 

"Jealous mate?" Art remarked with a wide grin plastered on his craggly face.

"Fuck off," Anthony spat, "she's playing him like a violin," he countered. 

"Whatever you say," Art grinned.

"At least you talked less when you were in a coma," Anthony joked.

"He doth protesteth too much," Art chuckled. Anthony responded by jabbing him gently in the ribcage with the butt of his gun. "She's an amazing woman," Art added, his grin dropping away.

"No mate," Anthony corrected, "she's so much more than that." 

Art turned to eye Anthony with a lopsided smile. With an amused snort, he returned his attention to Ebbe and Carter.

"I suppose you're right mate," he added, rubbing the back of his head.

Ebbe suddenly stood and gestured dramatically at the ceiling.

"Release the Kraken!" she intoned with mock authority, as a loud hum began to vibrate through the building. A sliver of light peeked through the emerging crack in the ceiling above. The whirring vibrations intensified as the dome split apart and daylight spilled through. The mechanism shuddered to a halt once the roof had opened to the full width of the telescope. A eerie silence fell upon the room, as all the occupants stared up and out at the light blue sky now visible.

"Gentlemen," Ebbe started, "you have all seen recent phenomena that defies your understanding of the world as you know it. Am I correct?" 

Everyone nodded, and mumbled she was correct.

"Sadly, you are all far beyond the curve in this matter. Some, I believe, have been aware of our precarious situation for some time now, but out of ignorance, or fear, or out of greed and malice, they have opted to shield the world from the truth. Now, I fear, it may be too little too late to reveal to all humanity what the few had learned. What do you think, Hunter?" 

"Ebbe?" Carter replied with a frown.

"Your government have had a team protecting that control room for years now, have they not?"

"I, I..." he stuttered, much to the delight of Anthony. Gotcha!

"To be fair, I never expected it to be you who'd order my assassination," Ebbe added bluntly, much to Anthony's surprise. Instinctively he reacted, anger boiling up within. Stepping forward, he aimed the tip of his semi-automatic at Carter with a scowl.

"You son of a bitch," he cursed.

"Ebbe, I can assure you," Carter began to plead.

"Hiring a strike team to attack your own men was a stroke of genius, I must say," Ebbe continued, her steely gaze fixed upon Carter. "Eliminate me, and take control of the cubes below, all under the radar. Tricky tricky." 

Anthony flicked a glance at Ebbe and she nodded back him, her eyes gesturing to Carter. The woman was a natural at this, Anthony thought, before signalling to his team that they should encircle and restrain the prime minister.

Within seconds Carter Huntington was tied up on a swivel chair, his hands behind his back, his feet secured tightly together with a plastic pull-tie. 

"Lucky for you I'm not the vengeful sort," Ebbe glared at Carter, before turning back with a sweep of her hand, to gesture at the sky, "besides, sad to say that I shall be needing your help. And," she paused and turned back to face him, "if you're wondering why you would do any such thing, I shall show you why you have no choice, through the lens of this telescope."

"You'll have to wait until dark to show me a missing moon, and by then my team will have found us, and you and your team will be nothing more than a bad memory for me to digest," Carter scoffed.

"Wrong again," Ebbe smiled, eyes sparkling.

A bright white flash blinded the men, all turning their heads with a shout of surprise. When they turned back to the telescope, Ebbe was absent. 

"What the?" Jake rasped incredulously.

Anthony just watched the area she had been standing only seconds later intently. He was certain she would be back shortly. She had simply returned to the control room. 

"Dear lord," Carter gasped, shifting uncomfortably in the chair. 

Every member of the team slowly followed his line of vision, and all allowed their guns to drop to their sides. Through the wide opening in the roof, the formerly light blue sky had began shimmer, wave and within seconds vanished. In it's place was the night sky. In the time it takes to blink, the mid-morning had jumped to the dead of night. 

Before Anthony had time to process this switch, a blinding flash announced Ebbe's return. 

"Now, Prime Minister," she continued as if nothing had changed, "give me just one minute," she added before taking a seat beneath the telescope and silently adjusting the view-piece. Everyone watched in awed silence, seemingly unwilling to comment on the newest impossibility their minds were having to process.

"There!" Ebbe declared with satisfaction. "You first Hunter," she said, giving a nod to Anthony that his legs could be released. 

Anthony slowly unsheathed his blade and leaned in towards Carter. He held the sharp blade close to the prime minister's nose and let the man catch his own reflection in the weapon, before lowering it to cut the binds. 

"No funny business," Anthony hissed after the cut released Carter's feet. 

Carter opted not to respond, and instead stepped up obediently to the viewing chair, his hands still bound behind his back.

"This is a little awkward," he suggested, shaking his tied arms before he sat.

"Deal with it," Ebbe replied harshly, "now look," she commanded.

Carter exhaled, and shuffled awkwardly into position, grumbling a little as he did. 

"What? What the?" he muttered incredulously. He pulled his eye away from the lens with a heavy brow, his eyes fixing upon Ebbe. "What, what does it mean?"

"I'm not entirely sure we are on planet Earth," Ebbe responded point blank. 

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Chapter 15 - Part 2

Carter Huntington gazed out of the large north facing window, swirling a glass of bourbon casually. Outside, the tops of the trees trembled gently and a collection of dark clouds could be seen in the distance. 

Looks like rain, he thought to himself absently. Good, the land is better for a good dousing, it brings the world to life. 

In his left hand he held several sheets of printed paper, all slightly crumpled in the centre due to his firm grip. Taking a sip of the amber liquid, he dropped the papers, letting them randomly drift to the plush carpet.

"Where is she?" he muttered under his breath, staring unblinkingly at the branches of the horse-chestnut tree. He turned and tossed the remaining bourbon down his throat, before dropping the glass to the floor and placing one hand onto the glass pane. 

He stood, gazing at the dark green leaves and small spiked buds emerging, soon to be dropping and releasing their conkers. When he had received the message, the leaves were lighter green, fresh and vibrant, and the buds still months away from appearing. Had he acted too late? Everything took time. Bribes, under-the-table deals, cross agency politics, back-handers and all the while keeping a low profile. Finding out who was going to do what, which agencies were affiliated with whom and getting someone convincing undercover in a short time-frame. It was what he did, but normally you had a year, maybe more, not a few months. 

He removed his palm from the glass, and watched as the imprint swiftly vanished, leaving no obvious mark. That invisible mark, he pondered, is my whole life. Someone could extract a full set of prints from the glass and know everything about me. A whole person, hidden from sight, yet in plain view. That sums me up nicely, he thought, I am in the public eye, yet know one sees me for who I am. 

No one, that is, except her. She was different. What was it she had said when they first met? 

'Why are you here?' she had asked.

He had thought that was an odd question to ask an MP at a political rally. I'm here to support my party, he had told her. No you're not, she had countered bluntly. You look distracted, she had explained. He had tried to argue he was simply new, and a little nervous about having to make a speech. She had told him that was utter nonsense, that he was perfectly capable of talking in public. She suggested he was uncomfortable selecting one set of principles to adhere to, that he was more suited to a more free-form society. She posited a theory that he was only there to please someone else. And then she left to present a speculative theory, something to do with increased UV levels.

He had looked for her after she finished the seminar, but he found no sign of her. She had apparently left immediately after her presentation. Despite efforts on his part, they did not meet again for another year. 

Carter chuckled lightly, his tanned face creasing with fine lines as he smiled, his dark brown eyes thinning. In his career since that day, he had been the one in control, the one pulling the strings on the puppets below. But she, somehow, had a power all of her own. When she said jump, he didn't just ask how high, he asked what direction, when, and who else should jump too. 

He eyed the curved glass his had let tumble to the cream carpet. A few drops of bourbon were still dangling from the side facing the ceiling, threatening to slide down and merge on the other side, but somehow remaining suspended.

He fixated on oak table reflected in the curve on the base of the glass. Even from a few metres away, he could swear the image was shimmering, as if the glass was vibrating. He glanced up at the vast window, squinting unconsciously at the wide panel. But it seemed perfectly stationary, the only discernible movement was wind outside causing a gentle ripple in the trees.

He stepped towards the glass suspiciously, and knelt, hand outstretched tentatively. There! The image was shimmering. His forefinger touched upon the surface of the glass cautiously, but he could sense no actual movement. Yet, even with his hand holding it still, the reflected image continued to shimmy. He released his gentle touch and leaned in closer. Before his curious eyes, he saw the table vanish in a blur, before the image seemed to re-tune, becoming the reflection, not of the library of his rural retreat, but of her, standing with a sideways smile set within a pale face.

Carter stood and whipped around. The library was gone. The window with the view through to tall horse-chestnut trees was gone. All of this was replaced by a room of pure, perfect white, in which stood Ebbe, James, and three other men he did not recognise.

"Don't worry mate," the tallest chap said, stepping forward, hand outstretched, "even if she explains to you what she just did, you won't understand." Carter stared at the man, and at his waiting hand, before grasping it and giving it a vigorous shake.

"Thank you for keeping her safe," Carter said as he released the man's hand and stepped up to Ebbe. Without saying a word, he grabbed her and pulled her into a tight embrace. From the corner of his eye he noticed the tall man glaring in confusion at this action. 

"Ebbe, my dear lady, I had almost given up on you," he enthused after releasing her from his arms. 

"And I you Hunter," she replied, her eyes flicking to the man he presumed was in charge and back again in a split second.

"Have I ever failed you?" he retorted, before continuing without giving her time to reply, "where in God's name are we?" he marvelled, spinning around on the spot.

"Unless you want to hear about quantum whatnots, don't ask such things," the man in charge told him, "Anthony Bishop, and my team, Art and Jake. This is Krank, current guardian of this chapel, and I guess you know the lad," he added.

Carter nodded to each man respectively. 

"So, Prime Minister, er, how do you two know each other?" Anthony added.

Carter smiled flatly. 

"We've got quite a history, Ebbe and I," he responded cryptically, "isn't that right?" he turned to Ebbe with a wink. She sucked in her lips and offered a wry shrug. 

"Well, I presume you didn't bring me here for a cocktail party?" Carter continued, wanting to move the conversation on swiftly, "and I don't want an international incident to be sparked by my absence, so I suppose it is best we proceed."

"Oh don't worry about that, you're not really here," Ebbe responded cryptically. Carter's face crumpled in confusion.

"Quantum whatnots," Anthony reminded him with a grin, tapping his head.

Carter looked at the ragtag group before him, assessing the situation. They all looked worn and tired, all except the man with the pock-marked face, Art, who looked a beacon of health.

"And it's not an international incident we're trying to avoid," Ebbe explained, fixing him with one of her steely gazes that meant only one thing, trouble. "We're trying to avoid a Biotic Crisis," she concluded.

"A what?" Carter repeated, unfamiliar with the term.

"An extinction level event. End of days," she explained bluntly. 

Carter wished he still had the glass of bourbon in his hand. He needed the reality of the smooth burn down his throat to counteract the sheer unreality of this pure white room, and Ebbe standing before him declaring the world was to end, as calmly as if she had just stated she had made roast chicken for dinner.

"Okay Ebbe," he sighed, "convince me."

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Chapter 15 - Part 1

A cool breeze whispered though the tall grass, making it sway back and forth gently. Crickets chirped to each other, and the scent of wheat drifted from surrounding fields.

Ebbe and Anthony were sitting in the meadow, their backs to the crashed helicopter, both munching silently on energy bars he had scavenged from the wreckage. To the right of them, Art, Jake, Krank and James had congregated, and were also chewing contentedly on the bars, chatting and joking as they did.

Ebbe gazed up at the sky, purposely trying to clear her mind from the buzz of recent events. The day she had driven home in her Land Rover, to be confronted by a group of armed men, tasked with her, and her loved one's, slaughter, seemed an age ago. It seemed a million more mysteries than she had contemplated had sprung up over night, like a dam being deluged with more water than it was designed to retain, slowly cracking and beginning to leak. That meant the water was certain to burst through shortly, but what that actually meant was still beyond her mental reach.

It doesn't matter, she concluded. Watch the sky Ebbe, watch the sky. That's where the mystery began, and that is where it shall end. 

Clouds had lackadaisically filled up the light blue expanse, leaving only small gaps where pillars of light streamed out, highlighting random patches of countryside like a spotlight. 

"Rays from heaven," Anthony said for no reason, as if sensing what she had been looking at.

Ebbe nodded in agreement, she may not believe in heaven, but the sentiment seemed fitting. Anthony had not yet asked how Moon Face was walking and talking, nor had he asked how they had appeared from thin air. She appreciated that right now. Especially because the desire to know was written all over his face. His green eyes were practically quivering with intrigue every time he looked into her own. He also kept glancing over his shoulder at Moon Face, who was currently laughing raucously with Krank.

"Moon Face," she whispered under breath, thinking maybe she ought to refer to him by his actual name. Though perhaps saving a man's life was enough to allow you to call him whatever you liked. 

"Do we still need to go to this observatory?" Anthony questioned after a long silence. 

Ebbe turned and studied his tired face, wondering how gaunt she must look herself. He had asked a good question. The whole point of going to Keilder was to show what she had learned, but now things were so advanced, it seemed a moot point. But yet, she could not truly explain the phenomena that had filled up their lives with so much recent drama. She could explain what was wrong with the view from that telescope. And ultimately, if a mission to fix the problem was to be arranged, the money men needed to understand how far reaching the issue was. Men of power tended to have isolationist viewpoints that didn't allow for the sort of thinking she would require for her ultimate goal to be realised. Facts that even a layman could understand were needed. She had a team of laymen, ready to have their minds expanded. There was one more man she also needed to convince, and she may now have a way to get him where she needed, without having to send in her new recruits to extract him from his always well-guarded locale.

"We do Anthony," she confirmed, turning her eyes back to the rays of sunlight streaming through the clouds. "Fearless Leader," she added, more to herself, with a little chuckle. She couldn't really remember when she started assigning nicknames to people, rather than use their own. It was just more efficient in her mind. Names were arbitrary, random designations. Her nicknames had reasoning and logic behind them. What did Anthony mean? Beyond being a random collection of vowels and consonants. Fearless Leader was so much more dramatic and descriptive. Gives a man something to aspire to. 

Ebbe turned and surveyed the rest of her team. Grim Reaper, Moon Face, Chum, and young Ganymede. Those names all meant something to her. Jake, Art, Krank and James; they meant nothing, just a sound.

"What's my name?" Ebbe pondered out loud, lying back, crushing the stalks of grass behind her.

Anthony turned and almost looked as if he may lean over her and land a kiss on her lips, their eyes locked in a brief tryst, before he too leaned back and stretched out with a content sigh. 

"Ebbe!" he declared, baffled about having to state the obvious.

"No, I mean, what name would you give me?"

Anthony's thick brows sunk low with confusion.

"I don't get you," he admitted, sliding his left leg up and crossing the right over it.

"You're Fearless Leader, Art is Moon Face, Jake is..."

"Grim Reaper," Anthony chucked, "I remember." He sat back up and studied Ebbe with such intensity she was certain she was starting to blush. 

"I don't know," Anthony said with a sigh, "Brains?" he shrugged in defeat.

"Oh please!" Ebbe grumbled, "be original!" 

Anthony waved his hand, his way of showing he couldn't do any better. Ebbe smiled and also sat back up. She caught him eyeing Moon Face again.

"It was the machine below the house," she decided to offer, "it cured him."

Anthony shook his head vigorously. 

"No," he retorted bluntly.

"No?" Ebbe replied in confusion.

"No! It was you," he explained, fixing his stern green eyes upon hers, "I know it was you. Whatever you may have used, however you may have done it, It was you." The pair allowed the words to linger in the late morning air momentarily. Ebbe found herself unable to respond, taken aback by the sheer earnestness of his declaration. 

"If you say we need to see this observatory I trust you also have a way of getting us there quickly?" he finally continued, as if he had been giving her time to digest his initial statement. Ebbe swallowed, and offered a gentle bob of her head to confirm his assumption.

"In which case, Miss Nystrom, my team is your team," he broke his attention from her, and stood, turning immediately to offer his hand to her. She waved his hand aside and picked herself up. The pair stared out at the countryside.

"It looks so ordinary," Anthony commented. Ebbe agreed with a single nod. "You're wrong you know," he added, causing Ebbe to turn to look up at him, his frame suddenly seeming more impressive and comfortingly muscular. "I'm not Fearless Leader," he paused, his ocean green eyes unblinkingly focused on her, "you are." 

Monday, 1 September 2014

Chapter 14 - Part 2

Anthony's feet landed silently onto the dry earth, protected from the morning dew by the leafy branches he had just clambered back down from. The man above was no longer and threat. Whatever had been started, Anthony had finished. It was obvious the shooter was primed to kill Anthony and only an act of divine intervention had saved his life. But it was not right to leave the man to die slowly, perched in the treetop. A quick blade into the nape of the man's neck had ceased whatever life he had remaining in an instant. 

Maybe not a soldier's death, but better than purgatory.

The question now was whether some form of transport was further down the road, still hidden from sight. Ebbe's Rover had been dropped on its side and destroyed, what were the chances the attacking forces vehicles had also suffered the same fate? That would depend on the extent of the free floating incident. For all he knew, the event could be localised just to the area around the house, or could have extended to the whole country, or beyond. 

Anthony stuck to the treeline, hugging the shadows, keeping his profile hidden. There was no knowing what other delights Atkins had left behind. He broke into a light trot, partly to invigorate his abused muscles, partly to pick up the pace. The sooner he found a way to seek out help, the better. But where to turn? The whole series of events stank of double-crosses, triple-crosses, and cover ups.

Conspiracy theory bullshit, that's what it was, he grumbled, taking a moment to stare up at the blank blue sky, perfect as a painting, before returning his concentration to the road ahead. He sucked in deep breaths as he jogged, filling his lungs with curiously stale air. He'd tasted air like that before. It was office air. Goddamned air-con crap, recycled through the lungs of all of the sickly, pale-faced desk-jockeys that generated the supposed intel that he and his teams turned into missions. He slowed to a walk, eyes surveying the landscape with suspicion. Why did it feel like he was still in that bloody basement, trapped beneath the rubble, sucking in the dwindling air supply? 

Stopping, he spun around, inhaling the dead air through his nostrils, holding it in his lungs, savouring it like you would a cigar, before releasing it, imagining the invisible breath escaping like thick sweet smoke. 

Bad air.

Was it poison? Could all that they had experienced and seen, be part of some sort of mass hallucinogen released into the atmosphere? Was that unnatural blue above simply  manufactured by his mind? Perhaps an image, a photo, or painting he had once seen, retained in the recesses of his mind, and now released falsely to his visual cortex. 

Either that or he truly was still stuck beneath a pile of rubble, sucking up his last few breaths, brain cells dying off by their billions, his mind creating the easy escape, and the impossible sniper in the tree.

That's it, goddamn it, I'm a dying man, living out the fantasy that I escaped. He let out a little chuckle, amused by his own foolishness. 

"I suppose," he gesticulated to the bushes opposite, "I shall turn the corner and and see a fully furnished humvee, keys in the ignition, a dice hanging off the mirror," he chuckled, amusing himself, before his face dropped, his eyes frozen.

"Ebbe," he muttered. Before slapping his own face as hard as he could. "Pull yourself together Anthony," he muttered, "until you breath your last, you keep on acting like a soldier. Enough of this shit."

He turned and unexpectedly let out a thundering shout. 

"I'm not ready yet, you bastard." 

Not caring who had heard, he immediately broke into a run, rounding the corner at full speed. The thin single track road began to widen here, and the high hedges fell away, revealing the tumbling countryside of fields and small intermittent copses that surrounded the area as far as the eye could see.

No humvee, he noted with relief, vindicating his assertion that this was no dying dream. Though, he paused, he may have deleted the idea to self-vindicate and perpetuate the dream. He told himself to fuck off and continued his jog, slowing the pace a litte, eyes peeled for any unfriendlies who may have heard his outburst. 

The coast was clear, the horizon free of choppers heading in as back-up, the landscape free of any obvious sign of surrounding troops. Had Atkins come completely free of any form of back-up? Out of the corner of his eye Anthony spotted a matte black object protruding from behind a grassy knoll to the centre of a wild grass field. Throwing subtly and stealth to hell, Anthony clambered over the dilapidated fence, a piece of which splintered off under his weight, and strode menacingly across the strongly scented grass. He had already floated off the ground, been shot at point blank range, battled three armed men, and been saved from a sniper by the hand of God. These were no longer the times to be shuffling on knees and elbows. Whatever that field contained could watch him goddamn stride toward it.

His boots kicked through the tall, dry grass, breaking stems, and crushing delicate buttercups. But it felt more real than anywhere had for a long time. He could smell the sweet wild flowers gently drifting upwards, he could hear the swish of grass blades against leather, the rattle of seeds being knocked loose. Here, he wasn't being poisoned, or sucking up deep, useless breaths of stale air. 

Or was this the final stage? Was this sweet, clean meadow his walk into the valley of death? 

Something was in the field. It was real. Focus on that Anthony, focus on the object. You're not skipping into heaven, you moron. Life wasn't the fairy tales and bullshit shown in films and books, and neither was death. It was messy, gruesome and sudden. 

Ahead of him the sky finally began to diffuse into orange and yellow, and indistinct white smudges started to drift into view. Anthony paused and watched as a large yellow sun began to shimmer upon the Eastern horizon. The glowing orb breached the horizon and lazily hung just above the distant tree-line, shining warm amber light upon the landscape below. And now, even before he had reached the metallic black object, the orange highlights made it patently obvious what he could see was the landing strut of a stealth helicopter. 

When he reached the mangled wreck, it was clear the vehicle had landed in this dip, dropping off Atkins and his troop, and had suffered the same fate as Ebbe's range rover. As best as Anthony could make out, when the gravity had released its grip upon the machine, it had quickly upended itself and so dropped on its rota blades, when normality was resumed.

An upside-down 'copter was bloody useless to Anthony. 

"Well, shit," Anthony couldn't help but grumble,"now what the fuck do I do?"

"Language Anthony!" scolded an uncannily familiar voice.

He whirled around to see Ebbe, her face lit up by wide smile. Beside her stood Art, scratching his head, a lopsided grin writ upon his bemused face.

"Now I know I'm dreaming," was all Anthony could splutter.  

Friday, 22 August 2014

Chapter 14 - Part 1

"Steady now lads," Krank commanded, watching Jake and James carefully position Art's makeshift stretcher, so his head could be slid into the same cube that had just fixed the bone in his arm. "What I think you'll need to do fellas, is keep hold of the tail end, to ensure his head is cubed," he instructed. 

Ebbe had hoped to prop the stretcher between the columns that housed each black cube. But they were too far apart, and Ebbe was convinced the area she wished to heal needed to be contained within the dark space contained within. With no real tools at their disposal, a manual solution was all they could manage.

"You sure you can keep him still?" Ebbe pressed, "I don't know what would happen if he was moved." Before thinking she had no idea what would happen even if he is kept perfectly still.

"We got him," Jake replied bluntly, his steely eyes confirming to Ebbe his resolution more than the words. That was as good as it could be. DIY brain surgery. That's what this was. But Ebbe was defiant in her decision to pursue the idea. The man had had a bullet lodged in his brain for goodness sakes, and since then, he had been bumped and jostled about. His chances, even with immediate medical care, were slim to none. Now, the best anyone could truly hope for was a vegetative state. But maybe, these curious blocks of shimmering black, these cubes absent of light, maybe they could offer an otherworldly cure. Ebbe had reached in and sought out the materials required to fix Krank's arm, and the proof it had worked was right in front of her. What difference was a brain? It's just neural tissue. 

Yes, but, to fix the bone in an arm, she needed bone. Extracting that from the man who had trapped them down here was one thing. To do what she was planning was to condemn another human to death. Could she truly do that? At first, the thrill of thinking she could cure the incurable had been fuel to her fire. The breathtaking complexity at work within the cubes was overpowering, overwhelming, and intoxicating. The moment she had seen Krank flex his arm, she had felt power such as she'd never known, and she wanted more. 

"Ebbe? All ready girl?" Krank beamed, bringing her out of her own thoughts.

"Sorry?" she answered.

"Our man is in position. Time for the magic show," he grinned excitedly, clearly also gripped with the thrill of it all.

Ebbe sucked in a deep breath of still, tasteless air and nodded. Eta and Xi, the Greek letters, were again to be her goal. Most of the cubes had contained different letters, some had been identical pairs, such at the one she was about to insert her shaking hand, and the one Art was placed like a patient getting a CAT scan.

"Eta," she mumbled, staring into the void, her hand hovering over the surface.

"What's that love?" Krank responded uncertainly.

"A metric tensor Chum old boy," she muttered, her eyes fixated on the lifeless black cube, "it's the geometry of spacetime. It's beautiful," she added. 

Krank swayed his head up and down in the approximation of a nod, lips pursed, before turning to Jake and James, and shaking to say he hadn't understood anything she'd just said.

"It's as if I can just reach in here and choose the DNA from any time and space I wish," she marvelled, eyes wide, face frozen.

"Ebbe?" Krank stepped towards her with concern, arm outstretched.

"Don't move," she shouted, waving an arm at him without turning. Krank froze on the spot, face dropping into confusion.

Ebbe ended her hesitation and plunged the tips of her fingers into the inky black. There was the letter, as before, floating, if that was the right term, within the cube. How it appeared as your hand entered the device, and why it was a Greek alphabet, Ebbe didn't really understand. Was it an alien technology? But why the human language?

No time for such musings woman! Focus on the task at hand. 

With a deep inhale, Ebbe focused on Art. 

A surge of electricity coursed through her veins and she found she was inside the sub-atomic particles that were Art. Lightning flashed, once, twice, three times. It didn't just flash, it sought her out, fired through her, seared her. But she became the lightning, until it died out, and it was dark. There was something foreign sitting in the black. The storm still surged far in the distance, snaps of synaptic lightning bolts firing. Bang, snap, crack. Yet, it was fading away, no longer the crack and snap. I need to extract these protons, neutrons and electrons, they aren't us, she thought, as her, as Art, as everything. They are holding the storm at bay. We need the storm to survive. 

Without extracting her left hand, she slid the right into the opposite cube, her eyes looking straight ahead without seeing. The letter was grasped instinctively and the collective her, saw the basement, saw Anthony was no longer there. Two new bodies were lying opposite Shark man. None were Anthony and so she was out of the basement and into the corridor. Another body, not Anthony. She was the house. The house could not see Anthony inside it. But it could see him outside. 

Ebbe was the moist early morning air. Anthony told the air to check the bushes. The air was already rustling the leaves, dancing around their stalks, and sending chills down the neck of the man staring down a sniper rifle at Anthony. The air sank into the man and knew he was preparing to shoot. He was aiming at Anthony, and Anthony was smiling and waving. 

The foreign particles lodged within Art, we don't want them. We need to repair. Replace the neurons.

A finger pressed against a trigger. 

Ebbe felt the ground rumble, begin to shake violently, before the white walls and floor cracked and tumbled away from her. A muzzle flashed and the smell of gunpowder and burning flesh filled her nostrils. A bullet burrowed it's way into the back of her skull and lodged itself in the parietal lobe. Her vision blurred and faded, blood oozing from the back of her skull. She tried to lift a hand a check the entry wound, but her limbs were weighed down by imperceptible bonds. A hazy blackness drifted over her, as she felt her lifeforce ebb away. It was so blank, so meaningless.