The light was fading as the sun set behind a copse of trees to the west of the swamp, while the young woman within the open body bag showed no sign of life, and her charred, blackened body hid her features.
“Dear Lord, how could someone do this to someone so young?” Marshall Graham Hancock raised his eyes to look at Deputy Whitby.
Over the last few years, some one hundred and seventy-three adults and children had gone missing in the bayou area alone.
“I only pray this young woman was dead before she suffered these injuries, merciful heavens, I have never seen burns like this before, there can’t be a single area on her entire body that escaped these horrific injuries.”
One of the paramedics attempted to close the bag, only as this happened it was then the body drew in a gasp of breath and two of her fingers on her left hand moved, alone with tears trying to form in the blackened eyes.
“Dear Lord, she is alive,” cried out Deputy Whitby, “How, how could that be possible?”
“Medic” shouted the Marshall, the paramedic recovered from the shock and inserted an IV, looking over the body, it was then they realised most of the toes were missing also three fingers.
As the victim was air-lifted by a helicopter to Mercy Central, Marshall Hancock found a glimpse of hope that others might be found, Susan Whitby grimaced, “It could be months before we can even speak to her, I fear we will need more than this to progress.”
As they had been talking a cry for help reached their ears. “Over here, we have another body,”
Incredibly one of the search dogs led its handler to an old log partly submerged from the land, and from inside a woman’s body was found, it was blackened and missing some 92% of her skin from burns. Another emergency helicopter carefully removed the body, and all the search team quietly prayed that this victim was also to live, yet after that, no further bodies were found.
Five days later, agent, Longman viewed the contents of a ‘For your Eyes Only’ file, moments later she reached to her desk phone, punched in an extension number and waited.
The moment it was answered Jennifer Longman verified who answered and then spoke.
“Get the team together they are alive, I want full backup, we need to retrieve them like two months ago, I am exiting in thirty-five, I repeat thirty-five minutes from now.”
As the others prepared for an emergency evac, Longman punched in a second extension. She had no need to verify the receiver; it could only be one person who she trusted with her life.
“Charli, we found them I instigated operation Dawn.”
As she had been talking Director Charli Harrison of the Home Land Security received the electronic file.
“I have the file, you have the go from my office, every resource will be made available to you, and by the time your team is ready, a full contingent of trained medical personnel will be to hand, I want these two operatives recovered, preferably alive.”
There was a hesitant pause from Director Harrison, “As do we all,” came the reply.
Three hours later six Black Hawk helicopters escorted one Federal Air Ambulance as it settled at Mercy Central landing pad, seven armed Marines were ready as each of the two gurneys holding the two patients were transferred without incident and escorted back to a defended security base.
All this had to be completed before sunset, and they made it with seventeen minutes to spare, after which, everything in a twenty-five-mile radius was placed into an automatic emergency shutdown, no operatives were permitted to exit or enter until dawn the next day.
Every square meter held automated laser defence systems preventing even a rat from entering ground zero, and if it did, which frequently happened, the bodies were disposed of the next day, as nothing breaching the perimeter left alive.
The systems were so sensitive that even flies were targeted, there were three separate emergencies holding sections just off-site, these also had sophisticated automated defence and security, only these had a provision for late arrivals and offered an extremely elevated level of sanctuary.
Fortunately, Jennifer Longman’s had not required the use of these rooms and this pleased agent Longman as the cargo was of such value she knew she would be required to sacrifice her own life to save the payload.
Immediately on lockdown the two survivors were placed into containers of blood and sealed in, with pumps filtering out the impurities every twenty minutes and replacing the blood each time.
One hour before dawn the tanks were drained, and the occupants extracted, their skin was renewed, and they slept, waking moments before daybreak.
It was the child who awoke; first, she blinked her eyes adjusting to the regeneration and there gently lit on the rooms roof was a size A2 note. ‘Welcome home’ was simply written in large bold print.
Liza. Took her time and reflected on the events which had unfolded prior to her rescue, and she realised this time it had been almost fatal and that she and her mother had almost died.
Turning her head Liza could see the other transparent container only metres away, and her mother lay beside it, only she had not awoken. Controlling her breathing Liza mind-linked with Ester, her mother.
“Mum I am awake we made it, but it looks as if we lost James and Alex as the other containers are empty.”
Ester stirred and opened her eyes, it took moments to gather her emotions and then she turned to face her daughter.
“I feared I lost you, as the sun’s rays caressed your skin you started to burn and I watched as you struggled to make it into the swamp, but once it swallowed you from my sight, the water was boiling, and I feared you had failed, only moments later my hideout was exposed to sunlight and I ran for an old log only making it after becoming human toast, I just prayed it had been worth such a cost of life.”
Liza quietly spoke with her mother while technicians arrived to take them for their debriefing.