There is pandemonium back down by the graveside. People are running around like headless chickens, the good and the great scurrying away squealing in case it’s their turn next. The Fibbies are tearing about with their guns pointing at anything that moves, squawking frantically into the hidden mikes pinned to their lapels. But it’s all a sideshow to me. The last episode in my life is about to happen up here in this muddy thicket.
I roll over onto my back on the grass and look up at the two Dreeks. I still have the Lapua Magnum in my hand and think about swinging it round towards them but it’s a no-go. The Dreeks would easily see it coming and would pop me before I could get the rifle’s barrel a foot off the ground. This is it, the end of the Jake Redwood story, lying here on my back in the mud after failing to do the one thing that might have saved the whole of mankind. I deserve what’s coming next.
I stare into the eyes of one of the Dreeks and he smiles at me.
‘Krillik sends his regards,’ he says, cocking his gun.
There is a sort of silence, but it’s deafness. I don’t hear anything at all as my two assassins suddenly fly away from me into the tangled mess of scrub behind me, their clothes, skin, everything suddenly ripped to shreds. I was lying on my back at the crest of a small ridge. So the shock wave and shrapnel from the explosion hardly affects me but tears the two Dreeks apart. A cascade of debris follows in the wake of the blast wave and I’m suddenly covered in detritus from the explosion. I scrape off the crap and spin over onto my stomach and look at the scene below.
The deafness is replaced by a ringing in my ears and distant sounds, dull, like I’m listening to them underwater. It’s people screaming. I look down on what should have been the memorial service for Harvey Keen, peaceful, beautiful flowers, the good and the great paying their last respects and bidding their farewells. Now the ground is scorched, headstones flattened right across the cemetery. There are people lying on the ground, still, lifeless, their bodies at grotesque inhuman angles and I know they are dead. I see body parts scattered around. It’s a scene of pure, vile carnage. Survivors are lying injured, some hardly moving, some moaning, rolling from side to side, too damaged to cry out. Others are screaming, running around blood soaked and scorched, desperately seeking help.
I see a huge crater, the source of the blast. It’s in the car park at the far side of the cemetery. I see the remains of what once was a beat up old RV. All that’s left now is a twisted mass of white hot metal with a huge column of smoke rising from it into the crystal blue sky.
I feel someone pulling at my arm, trying to flip me over and get me on my feet. The noise is now a mix of ringing in my head and muffled words, like I’m listening through a door.
‘Get up! We need to get out of here!’
When I turn I see Jane standing over me. She looks angry with me, furious, her eyes burning with rage.
‘For God’s sake, move your ass! The place’ll be crawling with Dreeks and Fibbies any minute now!’ she screams at me, tugging hard on my arm.
I can’t say I’m pleased to see her again but under the circumstances right now I’m happy to be told what to do, especially if it’ll save my hide. I scramble to my feet and she half drags me down a path through the scrub to a clearing near the highway close by. She practically pushes me over the slip road barrier and moments later I’m sliding on my ass down the slippery grass embankment towards a saloon car stood on the hard shoulder with its engine running.
‘Get in,’ she shouts as we reach the car.
I scramble into the back, Jane into the front next to the driver. We’re on the move before I slam my door. Guess who’s driving? My old pal Noone. We drive in silence for a while, Noone trying not to drive conspicuously but in a real hurry.
Then Jane turns round and barks, ‘Well you screwed that up good and proper!’
‘What the hell!’ I snap back, ‘I had a clean shot at Krillik back there, nearly nailed the sucker too.’
‘Ah, so you know that’s Krillik,’ says Noone almost to himself.
‘Brilliant!’ says Jane but not in a nice way, ‘You blow his head off, then what?’
‘Then it all goes away, doesn’t it?’ I say, but I’m pretty sure Jane’ll have a smart come back.
‘Oh really? Do you think so? The top man in the US Air Force, the man that’s actually in charge of the biggest nuclear arsenal on the planet, gets assassinated in broad daylight. What then? Everybody forgets about it and then gets on with their lives. You’re such a dumb ass.’
‘Mr. Redwood,’ pipes in Noone, ‘Why do you think Krillik has secretly worked his way into that particular position?’
I don’t waste time thinking about it. To me it’s fucking obvious.
‘So he can control the nuclear arsenal.’
‘Okay,’ says Noone, like a teacher to a dumb student, ‘Why would he want to do that?’
‘So he can fire the suckers,’ I say, ‘If his plan to kill off mankind goes tits up he can always set off a few nukes.’
Jane laughs out loud at this.
‘Well?’ I say, seeking enlightenment from these two smug bastards.
‘It’s the exact opposite, Mr. Redwood,’ says Noone, ‘It’s so they never get used.’
Jane jumps in, ‘Haven’t you believed a word we’ve been telling you, or are you just too dumb to get it? This whole fucking business is about the real estate, the land, the buildings, the businesses and goods, the things man has made that Grow want to harvest. What’s the first thing that happens when a nuclear bomb goes off?’
I don’t answer. Let her state the obvious for me.
‘Yeah, things get broken. What’s worse is there aren’t many people left around to fix them again afterwards, dumb ass!’
‘The planet would be uninhabitable, Mr. Redwood,’ adds Noone, ‘Radiation, nuclear winters, no uncontaminated land to grow food or raise animals, the rivers and seas polluted and poisonous…no, that would never do. A ten thousand year project, and all that investment made by Grow would be, to use one of your Americanisms, flushed down the can.’
‘The one thing you humans can thank Krillik and his cohorts for is that they’ve stopped you all from blowing the planet to pieces on more than one occasion,’ says Jane, ‘He’s had to stop your ego crazed politicians from going too far in order to protect Grow’s investment.’
‘Krillik…the voice of reason in an international crisis,’ adds Noone as he takes the slip road off the highway and heads for the outskirts of the city.
‘Where the hell are we going?’ I ask.
‘A quiet place where we’ll be safe,’ says Noone, ‘We need to have a little chat.’
We drive for about an hour. The last part of the journey is through the suburbs, smart tree lined avenues, expensive houses. We slow outside what looks like a nice place, the sort of property it’d take me all my pay packet for the next hundred years to afford the ground floor alone. There’s a drive leading to an underground garage. The doors to the garage lift upwards as we approach. Noone slides the car right inside till it touches the far wall as the doors close behind us.
‘Nice house you’ve got here,’ I say.
‘The owner recently decided to take a long vacation and lent it to me to look after,’ says Noone.
‘When exactly did you tell him to decide that?’
‘This morning, just after he loaded the RV with high explosives,’ says Noone.
‘…and what did he think he was doing, loading up toys for a children’s party?’
‘Something like that,’ says Noone, ‘He’s extended this property substantially underground, Mr. Redwood. The man is ex military. He has a morbid fear that one day America will be on the receiving end of a nuclear attack. So, as a precaution, he built the shelter I’m about to show you.’
‘Has? You mean he’s still alive?’
‘Of course,’ says Noone, ‘He drove the RV to the cemetery then walked to the nearest bus stop. He’s probably half way to Hawaii by now, safe and sound.’
They both open their car doors and start to get out but I stay put. Noone sits back down, Jane stands by the car listening.
‘Now I do hope you’re not going to be truculent, Mr. Redwood. We have an awful lot to do.’
‘You amaze me Noone,’ I say, barely holding on to my temper, ‘I took a risk back there. I knew there was a probability Krillik would attend Harvey’s funeral, so I took a shot at him. Okay, I missed but the only collateral damage was one of Krillik’s guys, probably a Torp, and seeing as the guy was head of the FBI and on my tail I sure don’t feel bad about it. You slaughtered dozens of innocent people in cold blood at that graveside. You showed no mercy then and show no remorse for your actions now. You’re a low life, Noone, a complete and utter bastard.’
My little outburst doesn’t amuse Jane. She goes for me like an Alsatian for a burglar’s ass.
‘You fucked up back there Jake, big style. We figured Krillik would be there too, but we weren’t dumb enough to try and take a shot at him. No one will ever get him like that. Jeez! You were the last person on Earth that should have tried that stupid trick. We had it all worked out, a massive explosion at eleven o’clock when they’d all be heads bowed stood in prayer. So what if it is indiscriminate? Krillik would never have picked up on the bomb like he would on a sniper. So what if a couple of dozen innocent people are sacrificed. Hell, if we don’t stop Krillik they’ll all be dead in three weeks anyway.’
‘What?’ I say. This is big news. She goes quiet as if she’s spoken out of turn.
After a few awkward moments, when it’s clear I want an answer but neither wants to break the bad news to me, Noone speaks.
‘We have a lot to tell you, Mr. Redwood. Why don’t we go inside and talk.’
Noone is right. The freak that built this place must have been expecting Armageddon, and wanted to see out his last few months in comfort. It’s like a luxury apartment in the guy’s basement, three bedrooms, two lounges, an office with all the communications and high tech gear you could think of, a kitchen with store rooms stocked to bursting, air and water recycling systems, the whole ball of wax. Noone tells me the whole place is lead lined to protect the area from radiation.
While Noone shows me the layout Jane makes us all coffee. At the end of the tour we all settle in armchairs in the lounge and Noone starts with his fairy story. I keep a hard face till he’s finished.
‘Firstly,’ he says in that droning voice of his, ‘Let me tell you what Jane found on the data seeds.’
I remember there were actually two, the one Harvey pushed into my eye and the one taken from the fake traffic cop when Jane took the reader from his ear.
‘Amongst the information discovered on the seed taken from the Torp we found Krillik’s evacuation plans. It’s gold, Mr. Redwood, pure gold. It gives the location of every shuttle portal on the planet, identifies every Dreek, every Torp and where they could have been found.’
‘Could have been?’ I say.
‘Of course. It’s an evacuation plan,’ he tells me as if I’m too dumb to make the link, ‘They’re all on the move, heading towards their nearest portal. As you know they can only be sent off world one person or one item at a time. It’s a very slow process considering there’s a couple of hundred thousand of them scattered across the globe. It’ll take a week at least to get them to their destinations.’
‘And where exactly are they going?’ I ask.
‘Here and there,’ he says enigmatically, ‘He’s spreading them around small planets, not the main galactic centers of civilization. Forgive me for telling you what you already know but there aren’t that many habitable planets out there that can support the human DNA templated life forms. There are about ten thousand. To make it harder for Krillik most are more than eighteen light years away. About eighty of the nearer planets are large enough and developed enough for each to absorb a percentage of his people without drawing attention to the sudden influx. He’s being very clever. He can retrospectively justify the sudden evacuation of his resources by manipulating the project log so that the evacuation dates tally with the catastrophe. There’ll be no one left alive to put the record straight.’
‘Hold up,’ I say, ‘there’s a hell of a lot to talk about right there. First, what do you mean, forgive me for telling you what you already know? How the fuck could I know there are any human life sustaining planets out there, let alone how many?’
‘We’ll come to that,’ he says, tapping the ends of his fingers together like a patient father. I glare at him but carry on.
‘Krillik is evacuating his crew? Then why aren’t we blasting the fuck out of the portals so he’s stuck down here, seeing as we now know where they all are?’
‘I know that’s what you would do, in fact did, but that won’t save us from the catastrophe. Krillik isn’t a benevolent employer, Mr. Redwood. Anyone who signs up to one of his projects will know his life is expendable if the contract is in jeopardy. If Krillik loses every man-Jack of them, so what? The galaxy is chock-a-block with Dreeks willing to take the risks for a huge bonus. Also, Krillik himself will not be harmed. He has his own portal shuttle. He carries it with him at all times. He can go home any time he likes.’
So, I get to the big question, ‘What catastrophe?’
He takes a moment to answer, ‘Now we come to the second data seed, the one Harvey Keen pushed behind your eyeball.’
‘What was on it?’
‘Don’t you know?’
‘Quit fucking around,’ I snap.
‘You’ve undoubtedly seen it all. Documents, plans, formulae, all written in Arabic. Doesn’t it ring a bell, stir a memory?’
I suddenly feel uncomfortable, a little sweaty and nauseous, but I take a long pull on my coffee and fight it down.
‘I don’t know what you’re talking about.’
‘Then let me refresh your memory,’ he says, tapping his fingers together again, ‘You did two tours of Iraq, right? You took ill on the second tour and were invalided back home. What was the illness? Can you remember?’
‘What’s that got to do with any of this?’
‘Indulge me for a few minutes,’ he says.
‘I don’t remember…some sort of flu bug from an insect bite. I was on an exercise in the desert checking out a hot spot and caught it. I was pulled out in a chopper and flown to Balad air base, then, after they’d done all they could, I was put on a transport plane back home to recuperate.’
It was a long time ago and I struggle to remember clearly. As hard as I try the facts don’t come back to me. I’m chasing memories again. I don’t know why but it’s really uncomfortable. I start to feel hot and sweaty, and tight across my chest. I suck in air hard and have to work hard to stop from vomiting.
‘Take a minute, Jake,’ says Jane. She can see I’m distressed.
I breathe deeply and put my head between my knees. It takes a few minutes before I feel capable of carrying on.
‘I think something happened to you out there in the desert,’ says Noone, seeing my reaction to his questioning and sensing he’s hit upon something very important, ‘…something very bad, perhaps. I believe you were possibly so ill you should by rights have died. But you didn’t. By some miracle you survived. But we both know that you’re slightly different to the other men, don’t we? Your physiology…is unique. I know you find it hard to accept but your survival may have been because you’re not human…because you’re one of us, Mr. Redwood, and alien to this planet.’
This is wild guesswork, an extrapolation from next to no facts because I’ve come over sick all of a sudden. I’d like to shout right in his face, ‘Alien? Like hell I am!’
But I can’t. I find it unbelievable that there’s even the remotest possibility that I’m not human. I know who I am. I’m Jake Redwood, born and bred in Polk. I have unshakeable memories of my childhood, my parents, my friends, and my enemies.
Yet why can’t I shrug off the feeling that there’s something not right here? I can easily dismiss what they say about me being able to bring about the air strike on the farm as nonsense. But how could I have been so sure the man in the picture, General Terence Riddell, was beyond a doubt Krillik? Can I trust any of my memories?
So I say, ‘Let’s play s’pposing.’
‘Go on,’ he says, leaning back in his chair and looking as if he’s made some sort of break through.
‘Supposing I am one of you. Supposing I am an alien. Then what am I doing here and why can’t I remember anything about it?’
‘Let me answer the second question first,’ he says, ‘You can’t remember anything about who you really are because something happened to you, something that was so frightening that it caused you to invert.’
‘What the hell does that mean?’
Jane answers, ‘Inversion for us is when the brain closes off a section of itself and shuts it down. It’s a protection mechanism. It does this to lock in something that’s too important or too overwhelming for the subject to cope with.’
‘Do you want to know the truth, Mr. Redwood?’
‘Yourself. Who you really are and why you’re here.’
‘I’m all ears,’ I say and sit back to prepare for the wave of bullshit that’s about to break over my head.
‘Your real name isn’t Jake, it’s Jek,’ says Noone, ‘You are, or more accurately were a point man for Krillik. He had high expectations of you. You were to eventually take the highest office, General of the armies in the United States. You arrived on this planet twenty years ago…’
‘Let me finish. You arrived twenty years ago, enlisted in the army with a nice little pedigree and the path cleared for you to move smoothly through the ranks to high office. It’s how Krillik works. With you in place, and another of his Torps in the Naval top position, and other point men placed in similar high office in all the other countries with nuclear or biochemical arsenals, he could safeguard the project from potential human interference.’
‘Guff. I have vivid and comprehensive memories of my childhood,’ I say as confidently as I can.
‘Memory implants, part of your cover. You have at least three different histories. It’s a protection mechanism, part of your camouflage. If one persona fails, you disappear and re-emerge as a completely different person, a new history complete to the last detail. Another difference between us and humans is our ability to control our facial muscles. When you change persona you change your facial features, only slightly but enough to become unrecognizable as your old persona. You can’t alter your body frame but that’s not as important as far as camouflaging yourself is concerned. These persona, disguises if you like, were put in you before you left home twenty years and eighteen light years ago. Did you know when you were in the army you weren’t Jake Redwood, you were Jake Dreyfuss?’
‘I don’t believe you.’
‘Of course you don’t. That’s part of the inversion mechanism there to protect you, but I assure you buried deep inside your brain is the alien, Jek, and a whole different reality to the one you’re clinging to so desperately. The big question, though, isn’t am I Jek, it’s why am I not Jek?’
‘What do you mean?’
‘What happened to you, Mr. Redwood? What event was so terrifying, traumatic or dangerous that it caused you to abandon Jake Dreyfuss, your objectives, Krillik’s project and the plans he had for you, and go AWOL? You simply shut down the Jek part of your brain and disappeared.’
‘I’m sorry,’ I say, smiling at him as if he’s a salesman that’s just failed to make a decent pitch, ‘It’s just not believable.’
‘Really,’ he says, and as if playing his ace says, ‘Then how do you explain what happened at the cemetery today? You had Krillik in your sights. All you had to do was pull the trigger.’
I have no answer. I’ve killed people before, shot them down from a distance. They were the enemy and it was my job to neutralize as many of them as I could. That was war and I was a soldier. It’s what I was paid to do, and I earned my pay. So, squeezing the trigger on Krillik should have been a synch. But I screwed up, and I don’t know what went wrong.
‘Let me guess the sequence of events,’ he says when he sees I have no come back, ‘Krillik steps out of the car and suddenly you’re looking at him, the man you’ve been running from for all this time, there in front of you in the flesh. You feel a searing pain in your skull. Krillik looks straight at you. You’re well hidden but somehow he knows not only exactly where you are, but also that you’re a danger to him. He stares into your eyes and points straight at you. The Dreeks protecting him are dispatched to kill you. Now explain that Mr. Redwood.’
‘I don’t know…he got lucky.’
‘No, Mr. Redwood. When you and he were that close for the first time in so long your body had an overwhelming need to send out its pulse, to rejoin the group, let your leader know you were there. It’s instinct, built into your DNA. The searing pain was the battle within your brain to suppress the pulse, a battle you could never win.’
‘Then there’s Krillik. He has the ability to recognize the pulse from every individual in his crew. It’s like a face with a fingerprint to him, every pulse unique. Suddenly, after all this time and out of nowhere he receives the pulse from Jek, the traitor, the man he’s been desperately trying to find then kill crying out across the cemetery to him, I’m here! I’m here!’
I lean forward and say, ‘Okay, it’s a good story, but I’m Jake Redwood, not some alien. I know it deep down. So a few facts fit your story but that doesn’t change who I am.’
‘Are you prepared to put what you believe to the test?’ says Jane.
‘What? Like a lie detector or something?’
‘No, that would be pointless. If we hooked you up to one of those your body would just manage the outcome to protect itself. We have an alternative,’ says Noone.
‘Not interested,’ I say, making sure he can tell from my expression that’s the biggest no he’ll ever see in his life.
‘We need to talk about other things,’ says Jane.
‘The information on Harvey Keen’s data seed,’ says Noone, ‘You’ve seen it before, I’m positive.’
‘What’s on it?’
‘It’s a biochemical production process,’ says Jane, ‘formulae, equipment, the biochemistry and technical methodology, all written in Arabic.’
‘Written in Arabic?’
‘Yes,’ says Noone.
I stifle a laugh and say, ‘I can’t speak a word of Arabic, and I know squat about biochemical engineering. If I have seen anything like this in the past I wouldn’t have known what it was.’
‘Jake Redwood wouldn’t but Jek would,’ says Noone.
For no reason I can figure, Jane gets up out of her seat and walks to a place behind me, so close I can feel her breath on my neck.
‘Take a look at this,’ says Noone.
As he speaks I feel Jane tap her finger against my right ear lobe. Instantly I feel something warm and wet running into my ear. It makes a crackling noise as it flows deep inside the ear, like static. It’s not painful but not exactly pleasant.
‘What the hell!’ I shout as I jump out of my chair.
I blink hard for a few seconds, involuntary, a reaction to whatever has just crawled into my head. When I stop I can still see everything around me, Noone, Jane, the room, all of it as plain as day. But it’s like there’s a whole different world there as well, like I’m inside a video, an observer, there but not part of everything I can see.
I’m in a laboratory, small, glass walls. I’m being shown around by a man, a middle aged Iraqi. I recognize him. I know him. Deep inside my memory I know I’ve met this man before but I can’t remember who he is or when and where we met.
We are walking together through the laboratory and he is explaining what we see. He is talking in Arabic. I don’t know how but I understand every word, even the technical jargon. A set of glass doors slide open and we go into a small room. There is a window at the far side and we walk over to it.
Through the window we’re looking at what must be a super-high risk biochemical unit. I notice something that doesn’t seem right. I look at our reflections in the glass. I look closer at the reflection of the man next to me, then the one of me. There is somebody else there, someone in the distance behind us. The reflection I see is a man, and I recognize him. It’s Harvey Keen. He’s the man standing there behind us in that laboratory.
‘Do you remember that place,’ says Noone, and I’m right back with them in the lounge of the underground bunker. I look at Jane.
‘In future I’d prefer it if you asked before you put something like that inside my head. Anyway, I thought you told me I couldn’t use a seed reader. It would blow my mind.’
‘So I lied,’ she says, no remorse, ‘I needed to play safe and see what was on the data seeds before you did.’
‘To save time,’ says Noone, ‘Let me summaries what’s on that data seed. There are literally tens of thousands of documents all pertaining to the production of a specific biochemical substance. It details the equipment and raw materials needed, the process and storage methods, and how the final product should be used.’
‘So, what is it?’
‘Have you ever heard the word Revelation?’ says Noone.
‘Yeah, in the biblical sense I have. It’s in the New Testament, the book of Revelation.’
‘The book that predicts the end of the world, seven headed beasts, winged creatures, plagues, locusts, death and destruction, the end of mankind. Let’s focus on the seven headed beast. It exists, but it’s not a giant creature ravaging the land…quite the opposite.’
‘What is it then?’
‘It’s a spore. It’s a microscopic piece of dust no bigger than half a micron wide. The spore has seven hooks on it, the seven headed beast. That’s why Saddam named it the Revelation spore. If this tiny organism comes into contact with human cells, even the toughest epidermal skin, it will hook onto the cell’s surface, chemically bind tightly then split open. A fluid comes out that contains the nucleus of the spore. This burns its way through the cell’s surface and penetrates the cell. It then replaces the cell’s nucleus with it’s own in a matter of minutes. It then splits into dozens of new nuclei. These then invade every adjacent cell until it has taken over every living cell in the host’s body. The process takes about an hour, during which the host goes violently insane before the vital organs collapse and the host dies in excruciating agony.
But this isn’t the end of the story. The Revelation spore still has another little trick up its sleeve. As the body starts to decompose the individual cells burst open and scatter billions more spores into the atmosphere. These spores are virtually indestructible in normal environmental conditions.’
‘Oh, this spore exists, Mr. Redwood. It’s a biochemical weapon, man made and human species specific. No other living thing is affected. It’s deadly and if a single spore is ever released into the atmosphere it would mean the end of mankind in about three weeks.’
I look at Noone incredulously. If his story is true then this biochemical weapon is useless. Whoever released it would sign his own death warrant.
‘Who would create a pointless thing like that? It’s a doomsday weapon. The person deploying it would be committing suicide.’
‘Very perceptive of you, and of course you’d be right where it not for circumstances where the weapon would serve the purpose of the person deploying it.’
‘What? Guaranteeing their death and the death of their loved ones, their followers, everyone on their side?’
‘…and what would those circumstances be?’
‘Getting into heaven quicker, Mr. Redwood. The weapon was created by the man you saw on the data seed. His name was Dr Aziz. He headed up the development of chemical and biological weapons for Saddam Hussein. His instructions were to develop the Revelation spore alongside a vaccine. If Saddam had both the spore and the vaccine it was as good as a nuclear arsenal. The balance of power would shift from west to east. Saddam gave him all the resources he needed. Dr Aziz was a very clever man. The Revelation spore was developed and produced, then put into storage in a secret location in Iraq. But Aziz never produced the vaccine.
‘Principally because he never intended to. What Saddam didn’t know about Aziz was that secretly he was a rabid Jihadi. He believed that his soul could be fast tracked into heaven if he killed non believers, and the more he killed the more he would please his God and be exulted in heaven.’
‘That’s crazy. Surely it would cause the deaths of believers as well as non believers.’
‘Right, but wouldn’t they want to die anyway? That was Aziz’s thinking. He was helping them into paradise a little ahead of their schedule, that’s all. He had Saddam completely fooled. He developed a very plausible plan for the production of the vaccine. It was designed to perfection right down to the last detail. The plans are on that little data seed in your head. There’s only one detail missing.’
‘The raw material needed, the starter culture. It’s a material Aziz believed was impossible to obtain.’
‘…and what would that be?’
‘A blood sample from someone infected with the spore that survived.’
‘Harvey had copies of all these plans,’ says Jane, ‘That’s the deal we think he did with Krillik, the Revelation spore and the vaccine manufacturing method in exchange for him, his wife and their Zyg to be taken to a safe place. The spore would be released into the atmosphere and in less than a month everyone on Earth would be dead. It’s a magic bullet, see? Only humans killed with no damage or destruction to the precious things Grow want to harvest. No doubt Krillik promised Harvey that at some time he and his little family would be brought back to the planet where they could have whatever they wanted as a gift from Krillik. It would never have happened.’
‘But Krillik would be just as incapable of producing the vaccine,’ I say.
‘Ours is a society that has developed very advanced nano technology. Producing the vaccine would be much easier for us. It’s a matter of time, that’s all, and Krillik has plenty. By the time homesteaders start arriving here there’ll be a vaccine to protect them built into their shuttle portal reconstruction code.’
‘The threat to Krillik’s plan,’ says Jane, ‘is that humans develop a vaccine in time to save enough people to resist the invasion of the homesteaders. Remember, we’re not a warring people. We don’t have the weaponry humans have.’
Jane goes over to the small bar in the corner of the room and picks up a bottle of Jack Daniels and three shot glasses. She brings them over to the coffee table and lines them up. She pours three shots and puts one in front of each of us.
‘Here,’ she says, picking her shot up, ‘It must be a hell of a lot for you to take in. You’ll need one of these, I think.’
I do. My head aches. What they’re asking me to believe is overwhelming. I pick up the glass and down the drink in one gulp. The bourbon burns its way down my throat and starts to relax me. Jane refills my glass.
‘You are right at the centre of all that’s going on, Mr. Redwood, and we need to know more from you,’ says Noone.
‘What do you want to know?’
‘What happened in Iraq? What happened to Jake Dreyfuss and why did that persona disappear?’
‘I can tell you everything I remember about my time in Iraq,’ I say, ‘But I’m Jake Redwood.’
‘Yes, and I’m sure you’ll be able to give a very good account of your time there but it’ll all be lies. It’s time for you to take that test I mentioned earlier.’
‘I told you I’m not taking any damned test!’ I shout.
He’s really pissing me off now. I’ve listened patiently but I’ve had just about all I can take of these two and their fairy stories. I decide enough is enough. I’d let them bring me here because I thought I’d be safe for a while, and I might learn more about what the hell’s going on. But it’s all bullshit, nonsense, too far fetched to believe. I figure I’ll be better off on my own.
Noone nods to Jane and she leaves the room.
‘I promise we’ll do as much as we can to keep you safe,’ says Noone, ‘but it’s time.’
He stands up and steps over to where I’m sitting, leaning in real close. He’s looking into my eyes. Suddenly he slaps me across the face, hard and sharp. I want to punch the bastard’s lights out and I take a swing. But nothing happens! I can’t move my arms. I can’t move any muscle in my body! I’m awake, fully conscious but paralyzed.
‘What the fuck!’
‘Yes, you can still talk. That’s good,’ says Noone.
It’s then I notice neither Jane nor Noone has taken their drink. I’m terrified. I can’t move a muscle. I’m completely incapable of protecting myself.
‘What the fuck have you done?’ I say, my voice sounding strangled.
‘It’s a derivative of Rohypnol, Mr. Redwood. You can speak but can’t move. It won’t last long. It’s just until we can safely put the other drugs into you. We don’t want you thrashing around and hurting yourself.’
Jane appears again. She’s dressed in surgical scrubs, hat, mask and gown, and she’s pushing a wheelchair. I watch on helpless, terrified as the two of them bundle me into the chair and push me out of the lounge. We go into the kitchen, At the end of the kitchen area is a double cupboard, floor to ceiling doors. Noone opens both doors. It isn’t a cupboard at all. It’s a concealed door. Jane pushes me in the chair through the door into a room. To my horror I recognize the room straight away. It’s the room from my visions, rough cinderblock built walls, a single bulb clipped on a cable to the ceiling. There’s a chair set in the middle of the room. It’s like a dentist’s chair only with metal restraining bands for the head, wrists and legs. A tray is laid up next to the chair. On it are needles, vials of chemicals and all the paraphernalia needed to anaesthetize someone. Behind the chair is a small desk with a monitor screen set up on it. There is a head set, like a skull cap, with wires leading from it to the monitor.
There’s a man dressed in operating theatre garb like Jane has on. He is sitting in a chair in the corner of the room and appears to be asleep. Jane and Noone lift me out of the wheelchair and put me onto the dentist’s chair. They strap me in tightly with the metal bands. Jane squeezes spots of a cold gel onto my forehead before tightening the metal band to my head. She then slips the skull cap onto my head. Noone walks behind me where I can’t see him. I hear the chair at the desk scrape back as he sits down. He talks to me as the other two go about their work.
‘The gentleman asleep here is Dr Patel. He’s very skilled and very experienced. I have every confidence in him. He works for the CIA and has helped them tremendously with their interrogation of suspected Daesh terrorists. That’s what he believes he’s doing here. Dr Patel?’
‘The man is instantly awake, as if he’d never been asleep. Like an automaton he picks up the equipment he needs from the tray and sets about inserting a tube into the back of my wrist. His head hits the bulb as he goes about the task but he doesn’t notice. The bulb swings backwards and forwards exactly as it did in my visions. I know what’s going to happen next and I am terrified.
‘The data reader in your head is a marvelous little thing,’ says Noone, ‘It’s recording everything you see through your eyes and in your mind. I can see what it’s recording on this monitor. I may ask you to describe things in more detail if I see something of interest. I trust you don’t mind.’
I feel the rush as the chemical cocktail hits my bloodstream, ice cold, a thundering noise in my head. In a moment my vision is blurred. Everything seems shadowy and in a darkening swirling mist. It’s as if I’m falling endlessly through a thick fog. I can hear Noone talking to me as I drift out of this reality into a world of memories hidden deep inside my brain.
End Of Part Ten