Peter could feel he was becoming weaker, it was now difficult to even form the most basic of words, and he had now been forced in allowing Alex to carry out a neuro implant into a section of his brain that controlled his very thoughts. From there he had allowed Alex to implant a specially designed intelligent biochip, with the ability to blend into his brain’s tissues, and become a part of him.
He had long learnt how to avoid tissue rejection and had seen the procedure carried out very successfully on other humans. Within two days he had recovered and was now able to speak audibly to fellow humans, through a complex computer which was controlled by his thoughts and secured onto his electric wheelchair. Basically, it now gave him an element of freedom, which for a time would have been unavailable a few years earlier.
His electric wheelchair had undergone a few modifications of its own. Incorporated into the structure were several tiny yet powerfully booster motors, which acted similar to the old Harrier jump jet designed in the early twentieth century by the military. It gave the chair the ability to hover a few feet above the ground and to even overcome steps and other obstacles, and also had installed anti-gravity plates, designed and fitted by the UKs Portland Foundation.
Peter had not experienced such fun since his childhood, after several uncomfortable falls, he had mastered the controls and showed the ability of any experienced twentieth century pilot.
“So, you like your new toy then do you?”
Peter looked up to his mother.
“Yes, very much, thank you.”
Elaine had taken over full control of the family business on the death of her mother. In her mother’s wisdom, she had ensured that Elaine was fully aware of all those loyal founder members, and their families that would put their lives on the line, to serve them.
From within one of the companies based in the British section, they had secured a military contract, to develop surveillance equipment that could manoeuvre over all types of terrain, with the silence of an owl that was coming in for its kill, and the manoeuvrability of an Eagle in flight.
They had also discovered a plastic substance, that when super-heated acted as a fuel with incredible power, and yet been lighter in fuel load than any organic fuel used before.
This invention had opened the possibilities of space exploration and many other military and civilian uses. They had also discovered that to incorporate it with an anti-gravity device, gave a vehicle incredible power and manoeuvrability.
Fortunately, it was a simple matter for Elaine’s technicians to adapt it for use into Peter’s chair. Elaine had felt her son had built himself into a world that protected him yet offered him very little in the way of any real freedom.
Now if he so desired, he could travel at will, without depending on others to accompany him.
Yes, he still needed certain personal help, but none the less Elaine at least felt as if she had done something for him. Her thoughts were almost transparent.
Elaine had felt so helpless at never having been able to have saved her son, from
the torment of this almost certain eternal entombment, of his wasting mussels. Also, in been so desperate to have had children, Elaine had allowed her mother to act in what she had thought was their best interests.
In truth in those earlier days of genetic research, it was amazing there had not been even more fatalities. As it was, she was still not sorry, the price for having her children had been high, but none the less they were alive and had contributed vastly to the world.
Elaine had not been originally aware of the incident that caused the flu outbreak, but then neither had Peter, that was, until it was too late. It had been an important lesson to the family and a variable that had not been foreseen. Such variables were now given even greater consideration, knowing it to be impossible to cover every possible scenario, none the less these were now taken with deadly seriousness, and if at all possible, never to be over looked again.
The demon had taken its time, it had found an area that was automated and used to control the air purification, and from here it had gained unhindered access into all areas of the compound, other than those in the inner sanctums. It also realised if it was to gain eventual access into this area that it was going to have to leave its hosts body, and somehow acquire a new one.
Unknown however to it, the creatures every movement had been electronically observed, ever since it entered the purification area.
Peter had slowly been increasing his own power base, Alex had been gathering DNA particles, which had been taken from visiting dignitaries, hair samples that had been gathered from their clothing that they had to leave and change into white body tight uniforms.
On occasions it was not unknown for a small sample of blood to be taken to ensure no cross contamination had occurred.
These samples were treated very carefully and used in cloning new exact carbon copies of their hosts. Alex basically grew the cloned individual crossed and genetically altered to incorporate other selected genetic markers. The resulting hybrid looked in every way identical to the human donor yet was without question loyal to The Portland Foundation.
When the clones were ready, the dignitaries were invited back and exchanged, with their memories between their initial cloning were extracted and placed into the clones. It was a dangerous and long process, meaning that in the space of seven years, Peter and Alex had only replaced seventeen dignitaries. Three were serving four-star generals, one was the Chief of Staff, and the remaining held civil positions of authority and power.
Elaine had authorised this secret project, knowing that to have replaced certain selected individuals within positions of power and authority, would ensure her families future research and enable the Foundation to draw upon support from the military and those in control.
The demon made its choice; it had been observing various technical staff that had entered the purification area. Alex had ensured none were hybrid; once transferred the new host had no way of knowing it had been infected. From there it transferred three more times until it found the host it had been looking for. The next day, four members of staff failed to turn up for duty, eventually all that was found of their remains was a pile of sickly dust particle inside their heaped clothing.
Alex personally took charge of viewing the surveillance tapes, each person within a marked area had been electronically tagged, if at any time they came into physical contact with another, it alerted a small surveillance device that recorded where and when. After several hours Alex had a picture of events that had led up to, the finding of the missing personnel.
There was only one individual left that had been in physical contact, which was still alive, and accounted for. She was Corporal Susan Whitby; it was her job to liaise in-between visiting dignitaries, and to escort them into the outer ring of the inner sanctum.
Alex pulled back a tear, as over the years he had come to know and respect this young lady; she was proficient and courteous and extremely knowledgeable.
The Demon had chosen its victim well, if it was to gain entry into the inner sanctums, it could not have chosen a better subject.
“We are going to have to proceed with care.” Said Peter, as he had picked up on his friend’s thoughts, and then relayed his opinion back, to both Alex and Christine.
“This demon is a formidable opponent and one that needs to be treated with extreme caution. Christine, will you update mother?”
Over the next few weeks Corporal Whitby had no reason to enter the inner sanctum, as her posting into such a position placed certain demands, one been that her place of residence was within the compound and that her socialising was always with people of whom themselves were under continues surveillance.
The beast had been growing impatient; it needed to feed, or it new it would start to lose its strength, yet to do so would alert security. Its answer came on the very next day; Alex had engineered it so that Corporal Whitby would show a low-ranking visiting dignitary, into the inner sanctum. He was a visiting professor on a genetic manipulation course.
Peter had taken a dislike to the man, when he had attacked his earlier work, as improbable and basically stupid. In those early university days, such opinions were important to any young graduate’s growth and success.
This professor had taken a dislike to Peter and had been public in his opinions, expressing a view that it was only his mothers’ financial contributions that had acquired him a place in the university in the first place.
As it was, Peter remained unperturbed by his attacks and had graduated, but had never forgotten or forgiven him for his verbal attacks, as he had not only targeted Peter, but also a young student who had not known of Peters wealth, and had over looked his disabilities, and only saw a charming young man, who she soon befriended and in time grew to love.
It was professor Lambert that on learning of their relationship, set out to terminate her scholarship, which in time, had resulted in her death.
Unknown to the man it was Peter that had instructed his appointment into a minor, but none the less important military contract. He had now been informed that his employers had requested a meeting and was dutifully obeying their demands.
“Please professor Lambert, would you read these instructions and if you agree then to sign the contract.”
Corporal Whitby handed Lambert a standard waver, it was similar to that which he had signed on numerous occasions, when visiting other military establishments.
All civilian personnel were required to sign such documents as they were not technically under the same jurisdiction as those in the military. Once signed, he changed clothing and was escorted through the vast hardened steel doors, the two walked the distance between the next entrances, as they approached, they could hear the doors behind them closing, and momentarily sealing them between two worlds.
Alex observed the party as it waited for the huge nuclear blast doors to open, he could not help regretting what he had done, yet knew for corporal Whitby it was probably already too late.
As the doors opened, corporal Whitby led her visitor into a secured area, and then passing three further electronic checkpoints, professor Lambert entered into a sealed research area. There were numerous animals in cages, which also included two old magnificent lions, a quantity of pigs, bears and rats.
Corporal Whitby extended her hand and thanked the professor, it was in that short instant that the demon left Whitby and entered into professor Lambert.
As Corporal Whitby left the area, she was intercepted and taken to a secured area where Alex wanted desperately to try and save her life.
The organic material that had been found in the place of the missing personnel’s bodies, had been analysed. They had discovered a virus that consumed human tissue; and it multiplied at an alarming rate yet died within minutes if its new host had no more tissue to sustain it. Never before had they ever seen anything like it, basically it was a formidable ruthless and very effective predator.
By pure chance one of the victims had died in the purification area, which was plagued by rats. The host virus had transferred itself across and had been slowly destroying their rat population.
When it was realised, several specimens were captured and placed in cold storage. Amazingly the virus had mutated and reacted this time to the cold storage; and went into a form of semi hibernation, only becoming active again when the hosts body heat, rose above a certain temperature.
Alex theorised that the demon must have no natural body heat of its own, and that basically the host body was kept from been destroyed, as long as the creature inhabited the host, and the longer it had inhabited it, the quicker was the decay.
There lay his problem, Corporal Whitby had been contaminated for some weeks, and it was feared her tissue would start to degenerate within a few minutes of the creature leaving its host.
Corporal Whitby had been intercepted, tranquillised stripped, and placed into specially designed containers, which rapidly reduced her body temperature, and placed her into a kind of semi-permanent hibernation.
Meanwhile back in the laboratory.
“Professor Lambert I’m so pleased to see you, I have been asked if you would be so kind as to examine two of those specimens in the adjoining room. Professor Armstrong will be joining you shortly.”
Lambert was startled by the voice, he turned to view a videophone illuminated onto one of the glass walls.
“Did you say Professor Armstrong, I’m not acquainted with his name, have I met him before?”
Alex could feel his lifelong friend shudder at Lambert’s words.
“Possibly sir, quite possibly, it’s not for me to say, I do know he is greatly influenced by your work and was directly responsible for you been employed here.”
His remarks made Lambert sit up with interest, he raised from his seat and turned to face a blank wall, as he approached, it slid open to reveal a smaller version of the security procedure that he had just passed through. Alex could sense his apprehension.
“Is this absolutely necessary?” he asked.
“Quite so sir, it leads into the inner most sanctums where Professor Armstrong and his family live and work. It would not do to allow just any person unrestricted access to them. They view their security with the highest regard,”
His words were interrupted.
“Yes, yes if you say so; let’s just get on with it then.”
Already Alex could feel himself hate the man that he now viewed in his monitor. And as the first of three doors opened, Lambert entered a sealed unit and waited for the next doors to open. After some eleven minutes, he had gained access into another sealed area and eventually into a fully equipped research area with equipment, like he had never seen before.
There was the odd object that he recognised instantly, in been the very best in its field. He could not help but feel the excitement whelm up from within him.
The demon had not had the time it required to gain any high level of control, but could already sense the odour of Elaine, which it had experienced all those years earlier; and now responded like a hungry hound, that had picked up the scent of its prey. In an adjoining area he could see for the first time, Peter and some ladies grouped around him as if reading some kind of documentation; Peter looked up.
“Ah professor Lambert, I don’t know if you remember me, but you taught me in my early years of university. This is my mother Elaine Armstrong and my sister Christine Armstrong.”
The sight before him took Lambert back; he had detested Peter and had not been scared in those early years to express his opinions. Yet the demon within him pushed him forward wanting access into that room.
“I don’t understand, why, why would you employ me when I was so cruel to you?”
Peter just smiled. Lambert entered the final unsealed doors and walked the few paces until he reached the next level of security. The doors opened, and there he found himself almost rushing in, within an instant the doors behind him closed. But this time he heard a different noise, very quiet as it was, he could hear the air been slowly extracted from the room.
Momentarily he was confused; Peter and the others were neither affected nor concerned in the slightest by the escaping air. The demon in Lambert lunged forward in a frantic leap wanting to reach his long-awaited prey, their startled faces pleased him, and he could see the very fear within their eyes as he closed in for the kill.
Mrs Undraus was unsettled; she had not foreseen this development and would have rather of held the upper hand. As it was, she had resigned herself to accepting the situation. Robert and Juliet had returned to their ranch; while global satellite surveillance was still maintained on all those known to have any connection to the family. Also, every effort had been made in trying to find the twenty-four vials, yet she knew already that that would never happen.
“One good point from this bloody mess…, Oh sorry mother” the young man lowered his head; he had forgotten himself, Mrs Undraus refused to allow such language in her presence. “You were about to say?”
“I was going to say Mam, that at least we have one of the actual vials that generated this viral outbreak in the first place.”
Mrs Undraus looked her grandson before her, and then spoke.
“Yes, and the simple truth is it should scare you, why would these people hand over such a weapon, when they know of its unquestionable value?”
Young Undraus was deep in thought.
“We didn’t exactly give him much other choice, did we?”
Mrs Undraus nodded.
“Yes, I will grant you that one, but why did Seth not become aware of it when they were searched, and how did they come to have such a quantity of samples?”
Unknown to Mrs Undraus, Robert and Juliet had been technicians in the inner most sanctums of the Institute, working directly with the likes of Alex and Peter, and having been gifted by Peter with his full knowledge of all his research at their time of conception.
Had she that knowledge, then she would have not trusted him in an instant. As it was, she was unsure of how he and Juliet had escaped and taken advantage of the situation in those early days.
“I don’t know what it is, but I know that family is hiding something from us. I can’t help but feel they are far more powerful than we are been led to understand, and that frightens me. It’s almost as if they have in some way engineered this whole thing, leading us into a well-planned and thought through trap.”
The group sitting in the room had not spoken, they were aware of Mrs Undraus and of her formidable mental abilities. She had placed herself forward to be bio chipped and connected directly through a master chip into Seth; her ability even without this device was equal to any man from within that room. To see her reacting in such a way gave them good reason for concern, and they began to wonder if they had finally come up against an opponent even more powerful, than that of the Undraus Empire.
“Gad…” said Mrs Undraus.
“Could…no surely not…no I’m becoming paranoid.” She refused to elaborate further with those in the room but had mentally instructed Seth to examine the possible variables.
“Just what have we agreed to?”
The group of men seemed somewhat unsettled.
“In truth far more than we had planned, yet I do belief we still hold the upper hand.”
Mrs Undraus looked deeply into the eyes of the man before her. “In what way may I ask?”
He paused, took in a breath, and then continued.
“We have the vial and are working on antibodies at this very moment. Along with that we are aware of more family members almost by the day. Surely even they could not develop such a vast family in such a short amount of time.”
Mrs Undraus nodded and followed his track of thought and allowing the man before her the due respect his position required.
“There is also the inevitable thought that they have to live with the knowledge, that we have it within our power to destroy almost all that they have worked so hard to build. Surely, they would not risk sacrificing such, that it would destroy his family and chances to live a life unhindered. Allowing them to intricate themselves into society unhindered and unnoticed.”
Mrs Undraus accepted his theory, giving his words deep thought.
“Yes, I’m inclined to agree with you, at least in part.” She paused some moments, as to allow herself time for further reflection and thought.
“Yes, I cannot see him giving up his family and all that he has so meticulously worked for, yet they had obviously without question planned for such a variable, knowing one day that a power equal or greater than theirs would come along and demand their attention.”
There was silence within the room.
“If that is the case, then why did they allow themselves to be so easily captured?”
“But Mamma they didn’t, it was only a chance meeting that we became aware of that woman’s babbling, and of how this beast like people, had abducted her family and eaten them. It was our technology that discovered the group out looking for their brothers, and our technology that delivered Thomas into our hands.”
Mrs Undraus smiled at her son, he was keen to impress her, and was a valuable and loyal friend, but he had much to learn and was still young.
“Yes, my son, but do not be so easily distracted, Robert along with that partner of his are without question, formidable adversaries, and even Seth has never seen such a mental response, and from his scan of their neuro wave lengths.”
Young Andrew Undraus had not been aware of Seth’s opinion.
“I’m sorry mamma I was not been disrespectful, nor was I aware of Seth thoughts.”
“No…my son no, you were not disrespectful, nor had I wanted you to be aware of Seth’s thoughts. However, it was important for me to see how you were thinking, and in many ways your thoughts were right. I have just learnt over many years of experience that everything is not always as it may seem.”
Her words were precise and listened to.
“I cannot even at this moment put my hand on anything actually positive to say that I am correct, yet none the less, I caution you to proceed carefully, very carefully.”
There was a moment’s silence, as her words were thought over.
“Please mamma would you share with us, just what it is that concerns you?”
Mrs Undraus thought for some seconds,
“No, my child, not just yet, I could be wrong and if so, my words would put our new found friendship or should I say working relationship in jeopardy, and that would be wrong.”
Andrew lowered his head; he had wanted to hear his mothers’ thoughts and greatly valued her opinions. He knew he had a habit of occasionally speaking without fully thinking something through. However, he had learnt to control his thoughts considerably since he first came onto the inner board of family directors, and knew his mother was grooming him to take her place.
“Please mamma do not leave us like this, it is important to the family, above all else. It is the family that must survive.”
Mrs Undraus smiled.
“I was wondering when you would reach that thought; now apply it to the Portland Institute.” The group of men went deadly quiet, as for the first time it had just occurred to them, something that Mrs Undraus and Seth had been thinking for some hours.