The Phantom Trap

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Summary

When Jessica was young she was a bit of a Goth. She went on to study Physics at Manchester University and pursued her interest in where Alchemy meets modern science, sometimes in ethically questionable ways. Her old Goth friend Rae studied Anthropology. Jessica moved to London to do her Masters in Astrophysics at UCL, she meets Claire, and they discover that a skin of Dark Matter is building up (approximately one light year away) around the Earth, fuelled by the Residual Life Force of each and every human that has ever lived. The skin of Dark Matter, like the human race, is growing exponentially, in 20 years it will have reached critical mass and will catastrophically implode into a black hole. Meanwhile Rae comes up with a theory that, as Homo Sapiens evolved from Denisovians they were infected by some form of Dark Energy that is still within us all and is using our Residual Life Forces to create this massive black hole. Rae, back in Manchester, develops a method of temporarily becoming an ectoplasmic being with control over energy wavelengths; a skill he passes on to Jessica and Claire. Claire sources some ancient Homo Denisovian DNA from an archaeological site in the Great Rift Valley. Rae uses it to irradiate terminally-ill volunteers. He discovers that this DNA irradiation process stops a human’s Residual Life Force from mutating into Dark Matter way out in space. It

Genre:
Fantasy / Scifi
Author:
billk20
Status:
Complete
Chapters:
1
Rating:
n/a
Age Rating:
16+

Untitled chapter

Phantom Trap

M Kelly Feb 2015

The experiment

Jessica and Rae sat in the kitchen waiting for Libya. Jessica’s parents had already left to go furniture shopping in a warehouse, at a retail park.

“So, Rae, is it dogs or is it cats ?”

Jessica couldn’t stop herself, you often can’t when you’re nearly fourteen, especially when you’ve just moved to a new house and you’ve been keeping something really weird, really secret for five days.

“What d’ymean ?”

“Which do you think are more intelligent ? “

“I don’t know” Rae thought for a second “dogs.... you can train dogs. Dogs can tell you when you’ve got cancer ...or cocaine. And dogs rescue people all over the place. You never see cats rescuing people. They don’t even go out in the snow”

“Alright, yes but rescuing and sniffing and all that is only one type of intelligence .... so anyway, I actually checked it out and scientific tests have shown it’s not, actually, one or the other. Both cats and dogs are intelligent and sensitive..... but most scientists agree that sensitivity is difficult to measure. “

Jessica had a tendency to sound a bit earnest when she spoke about something she had read in a text book, or scientific journal, or website of that ilk.

“What !? These scientists, they have IQ tests for cats and dogs !? Actually, do they Jessica? They have a cat MENSA for really clever cats?” Rae’s Manchester accent became harsher when he was trying to be sarcastic. He wasn’t very good at being sarcastic but he thought he was.

“Stop it Rae. You’re being like totally specieist and daft, you know that don’t you ?”

Jessica could feel the knot in her chest tighten, she didn’t like arguing. Some of her friends said it wasn’t arguing it was just talking but it was the sort of talking where the other person didn’t listen properly to what you were saying. Sometimes the knot grew and everything felt cold and dark and she couldn’t speak. She had been excited about telling Rae and Libya the weird Shandystuff and now it was starting to go wrong. She should have waited for Libya.

“Alright, calm down, I’m only kidding about.” Rae made a face. “Can I have a drink ?”

As Jessica took the blueberry cordial down from the shelf the doorbell rang, Libya had arrived.

Shandy had been Jessica’s tenth birthday present. She was a part collie, part corgi, maybe part terrier, type of dog; neither particularly intelligent, nor sensitive. One week ago Jessica’s family had moved half way across their town to a nicer suburb. To some girls of that age this would have been a major drama but Jessica had become/ realised she was a Goth when she was 12 and a half so it was more of a darkly ironic minor tragedy. Jessica was intelligent and bookish, and, as her father said: “ too quiet for her own good”. Some people, the unkind type of people, describe such people as nerds or geeks. For some being a bullied nerdgeek is worse than being a bullied Goth. Goths have a group mindset type strategy for dealing with bullying.

No-one cares too much about whether a dog is going to make a successful social re-launch when a family moves. They get all het up about whether cats will settle down and how you have to keep them indoors and rub butter on their feet but dogs just have to make do. Some people would say that such a pet philosophy is reasonable since cats are more likely to go AWOL.... Jessica had had many such conversations/ arguments/ crying in the bedroom situations.

Shandy was alright with the move across town apart from the fridge in the corner. It was the same fridge and the same type of food that was in the fridge as before but Shandy had a problem with it. She barked excessively whenever anyone walked towards it and she growled like a wolverine if they raised their hand to open the thing. It wasn’t as though she wanted any of the food that was in there. She only stopped when either they opened the fridge door or she was ejected from the kitchen.

That first Saturday after the move Jessica (Goth name Ska) had her two Goth friends, Rae and Libya (real name Libby, actual real name - Elizabeth), come over. Rae was lucky in that he already had a cool name. The three of them were into Alchemy (not magic, Jessica was adamant about that) and the paranormal and they often irritated each other explaining why ghosts could not exist. Jessica wanted to appear cool when she showed off Shandy’s growling and barking shenanigans, which was difficult since she was so excited, seeing as she was the first actual person she knew who had a possible ‘rabid dog -space portal- phantom phenomenon’, ever.

They quickly agreed that Shandy was probably-possibly barking at a ghost/ spirit/ poltergeist phenomenon that couldn’t really exist, or, more logically, an anomaly in the space time nexus. The space time nexus was very popular with young teenagers just then, as it had been since the 1980′s. Jessica, Rae and Libya had been warned off Ouija boards by their parents, the internet, schoolteachers and American films and therefore approached the problem using more scientific or naturally scientific methodologies.

Jessica’s parents had gone to a large Scandinavian furniture store to eat meatballs and buy soul-destroying flat-pack furniture so the three intrepid Alchemists had the afternoon free to pursue their ancient craft. To begin with they checked the magnetic fields with a compass; there were no anomalies or manifestations of spectres, banshees or tortured souls. They used a barometer and a thermometer, no anomalies. They set up a small electro-magnetic field; no anomalies, Libya got a small electric shock but that was her own fault. It was warmer at the back of the fridge which was to be expected. They shone a light through a prism, no anomalies or banshees or similar. They recorded the fridge and played it back on Libya’s recording software and could find no dog-bothering frequencies.

Rae argued that it must be that particular part of the house that Shandy was mithered about since she had not had a problem with the fridge where Jessica used to live. Jessica and Libya accepted his logic, Often it was best to do that with Rae, he could be a bit obsessive. They then took swabs from on, and around, the fridge and tested them for alkalinity and other chemical attributes, which meant they could use Jessica’s large chemistry set.

Jessica disguised her Alchemic research from her parents by simply being interested in chemistry, to the extent that she had been given an expensive chemistry set and a Bunsen burner for her Christmas / birthday present (including gas cylinder, safety goggles, gloves, fire extinguisher, instructions and a strict health and safety warning). Rae, Libya and Jessica had all read works by Alchemists such as: Michael Sendivogious, Arthur Dee, Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa, Edwarde Kelley and Isaac Newton who wrote more treatises on alchemy, mysticism and religion than he did on physics. .

Jessica, Rae and Libya started to set up their lab in the garage. They talked in general terms about poltergeists, spirits, etc and the most recent films they had seen that featured such phenomena. Rae and Libya were getting into a row about baby zombie vampires when Jessica brought up a Newtonian recipe on her tablet and called them over. Libya and Rae stopped their yabbering and looked at the screen, their disagreement shelved for later.

“So this is the one I was talking about,” she turned the screen to her friends.

If sublimate of crude ♁ be precipitated with water, oyle of Tellemonpoured on the dry
precipitate & digested in a good heat to make the brimstone sulphur sublime from the ♁.

Then the oyle of Tellemon be washed away from the ♁ & the ♁ sublimed a fresh.

This sublimate will have no volatizing virtue. And yet tis not the loss of the sulphur

but the action of the oyle of Tellemon on the ♁ which destroys the volatising virtue.

For if brimstone be added to sublimate of crude ♁ the volatizing virtue is thereby diminished.
And if oyle of Tellemon or Vacyllion be added without adding or taking away any Sulphur

the volatising virtue is also diminished. And particularly ♄ antimoniate in these cases
is less raized& after sublimation remains less fusible on a red hot iron then
when sublimate of crude ♁ alone is used.

“And this definitely isn’t meant to make whatever it is that Shandy is barking at, manifest itself ?” Libya sounded cautious.

“No, that’s not what Newton was after. It’s supposed to calm it all down, sort of help it find a way out.”

Jessica opened a rucksack and pulled out a Bible. “And someone needs to read from Leviticus.”

Jessica attached the Bunsen burner to the gas cylinder; she was going to heat up the mix that Libya was preparing. Rae ran through Leviticus; he wanted to get it right.

Thirty minutes later, after they had put some of the mixes on the fridge and heated others up using the Bunsen burner, the ground floor of the new house stank to the proverbial (mainly due to the brimstone sulphur) and a couple of the chemical heat mixes gave off a fireworks-style light show with fizzly sound effects and some popping noises that were almost small explosions. Rae’s sermon was interspersed by coughing due to the smoke that was a by-product of the small explosions. There was a pulsating low frequency noise that pressed on their eardrums, the fridge sort of jumped three centimetres into the air pogo-style for thirty long seconds and made a series of growling/ banging type noises the like of which they had never heard. That was when Rae gave up reading from the Bible. They were all pressed up against the wall at that point. Most people would have been. And even when the fridge stopped working and all the pyrotechnics died down, Shandy, the dog still barked at it. Maybe the potassium/ magnesium/ dog hair (Shandy’s hair) mix applied to the back of the fridge had something to do with that. Luckily no-one was hurt, scared maybe, quite a bit actually.

Upon their return Jessica’s parents did get a little upset about the defunct fridge, however, they couldn’t pin it on Jessica and company as the three Alchemists had done a rigorous clean up and house ventilation.

Some months later, they were never sure exactly when, Shandy gave up barking at the (new) fridge and Jessica could never be totally sure if the Alchemy had helped since there had never been a chance to do a blind test and there never would be. In her heart of hearts, wherever that was, she knew, for a while, that the spirit world was involved. As far as Alchemical experiments went that Saturday afternoon was no watershed moment. It was not destined to bring about a renaissance in the ancient arte. On the other hand Rae and Libya remembered it as just about the sickest Saturday ever.

Infotainment (seven years later - October)

A large lecture theatre is an intimidating place for some, for others a bowl of drudgery and for a few

a platform to entertain and inform. Dr Robert Stronach was one of those; the infotainers. When they are good an hour passes in a trice. When they are not, the cheesiness and the drowsiness wrestle sluggishly like slow-motion, sumo wrestlers. Stronach rarely strayed into cheese territory. He stood in the well of the room with a large screen at his back, he was delivering a lecture to third year Manchester University BSc students about the philosophy of physics and his work on the NEMO experiment: searching for neutrino-less double-beta decay. At 31, just over 6 foot tall with a full head of hair and no particular social tics, he was not a stereotypical or clichéd manifestation of a Physics professor. Jessica sat towards the front of the lecture theatre and was pleased that when he spoke, he had an agreeable Scottish burr.

“When Gutenberg developed printing in the mid-15th century, some enlightened individuals

thought that it signalled the end of the lecture as a form of communication, since anyone could read an published text for themselves.

However, I’m not here to read from a published text. Over the next few weeks I hope to discuss various philosophical and ethical aspects of physics and to tell you about our current research here and at UCL. As you are aware Manchester University and UCL are part of a large group who believe that by sharing information they, we, will advance learning at a faster pace than we have in the past. Now you can explore all manner of reality and in doing so you might pin down Dark Matter, Dark Energy or Multi-dimensional Quantumalities of all sorts. Super. “ He paused. “ Which brings me back to Gutenberg; who was a gifted man, though somewhat naive. Bear with me.”

An image of a woodcut of the printer appeared on the large screen behind Stronach.

“ He went bankrupt in 1455, when his investor, Johann Fust , foreclosed precipitously on the loan used to finance the building of the famous press. Fust got hold of the printing equipment as well as the 200 copies of the bible that had already been printed. “

An image of the press followed by one of a bible flashed up.

“Gutenberg had not printed his name in those bibles !” Stronach shook his head from side to side and pursed his lips. “And then the man who was to become Fust’s son-in-law, who had been working with Gutenberg, went to work for Fust. Some people have suggested that meant that he, the son-in-law, and Fust, had planned this manoeuvre in advance. Fust then took the bibles to Paris to sell and pretended they were hand copied. People noticed that the volumes resembled each other and since they did not know of the new-fangled printing in Mainz, back in Germany, Fust was charged with committing black magic. He had to confess his scheme to avoid prosecution. And weirdly he later changed his name to Faust, go, if you will, and figure”

An image of a woodcut of a wizard figure came up.

“ Which goes to show,” he paused and looked around “ a number of things: make sure you attach your name to your work, don’t sign contracts without checking them carefully and don’t ever make claims that you cannot back up. And.... sometimes the public will think what you are doing, or what you have discovered, is bizarre and / or unbelievable. Actually, members of the scientific community will react in that way. Would anyone like to give me examples of that phenomenon ?”

Stronach proceeded to use still and moving images, group work, role play and peer teaching to entertain his audience of 43 students and to tick all the required pedagogical boxes. It also meant that approximately 80% of the students at that lecture would still be able to spoil a dinner party with their ‘understanding’ of neutrino-less double-beta decay being mentioned in the Gutenberg Bible, eight to twelve years after the event.

One of the 20% of the students who was not likely to misremember was Jessica Hambleton, now 21 yrs old, studying for her BSc in Particle Physics. Seven years after the dog/ fridge garage experiment she was still into energy wavelengths, their measurement and manipulation. She was also now interested in Dr Robert Stronach’s research. She had been interested before the lecture but Stronach did have a way about him and now she was totally focussed. Which meant Jessica did something she had always told herself she would never do; she stayed back after the lecture while the other students filed out and Stronach packed his notes away. She had worked out what she was going to say. She wasn’t the only student waiting to talk to the personable professor. By the time they were alone he was almost out the door and she had probably over-thunked it. He stopped, he had noticed her earlier. She was no longer a pre-adolescent proto-Goth as she had been seven years earlier, she was a healthy, attractive young woman, with a bit of the Goth about her.

“Yes ? Was there something you wanted to ask?”

“Err, yes. Well, one of the main topics I’m researching is the, errr, potential that EUV energy manipulation has to produce antimicrobial outcomes. Plus human core frequency wavelengths... “

It was difficult not to notice his eyes, they were green with flecks of grey. “ And I, I wondered if that, those kind of things were umm, an element of your NEMO experiments ?”

He smiled,

“It is, they are, yes, absolutely, well not my personal strand of the experiment but it is an important part. If you email me I can send you more details. ”

“That would be great. Thank you.” There was a pause.

“ Are you thinking of taking a Masters ?”

“I hope to, yes. ”

“Well, send me some of your work, if you like. I mean I have to get away shortly as I have an appointment back in London this evening but I’ll be back up here next week and maybe we could discuss it then ?”

“Really ? Right, well yes, that would be really great. Thank you.”

As far as interviews went it was a little informal but as far as networking went it was stellar work.

And as far as professors went, he was ‘nae bad’.

The Library ( October - Manchester)

Although Jessica no longer went by the name of ‘Ska’ and was no longer a pre-adolescent, proto-Goth, she did still have an interest in Alchemy. It didn’t seem such a ridiculous thing. After all, recent advances on new antibiotics had been inspired by 9th century texts. One big thing that had attracted her to science was the way it never stopped and how it built on the discoveries that had gone on before. The fact that Isaac Newton had done so much weird Alchemy but had also ‘discovered’ stuff like gravity was brilliant, and how 50 years ago dark energy and dark matter seemed frightening, whereas now it was almost taken for granted, even though no-one seemed to really have a handle on it. Sorting out the dark stuff; that would be a job worth doing. Not that she thought she was the one who could do it but being in some way involved might be fascinating.

And so it was that after the Stronachian lecture Jess went to the John Rylands Library on Deansgate. There was lots of stuff online and she had read much of it but there were many volumes in the Library that were not online and she also found the place inspiring. This might have had something to do with the fact that it has been described as one of the greatest pieces of neo-Gothic architecture in Europe. The reading room was massive and had been used as a location in too many films.

Jessica had read quite a few manuscripts about Alchemy. She had taken notes and had come to the conclusion that the most commonly used ‘elements’ in activities relating to the control or ‘affectation’ of the human spirit were: Felspar *, Mercury, Sulphur, Blood, Alcohol and Bone. She was doing some additional research since the use of such ‘elements’ had not enabled her to gain control af any human spirit.

Jessica was not the only ex-Goth who found the Library useful and sexy. She had not seen Rae for nearly six months. He was studying Ancient History and Anthropology and he was using the Library to research early Christian chants as forms of meditation and energy creation. Jessica was still trying to find out if Alchemy/ old school physics offered any way into energy manipulation and measurement. This had meant re-creating some odd experiments such as Andrew Crosse’s electrification of quartz crystals in 1836 when he had ‘created insects’ and that of Stanley Miller and Harold Urey in Chicago in 1953 when they combined water, methane, ammonia and hydrogen in a flask, passed electrical currents through the mix thereby creating organic compounds and amino acids; renowned as the building blocks of life. Even though these experiments were derided by some and appeared to be dead ends Jessica still clung to the possibilities of Felspar* , Mercury, Sulphur, Blood, Alcohol and Bone.

Rae had lank black hair and was tall in a way that was gaunt and gawky by turns. They sat in the cathedral-like Reading room and Rae explained how he was using music editing software to synthesize ancient Christian chants so as to channel or catalyse latent energies in consecrated buildings of worship. Jessica was obviously interested and they discussed electromagnetic wavelength phenomenology and aspects their researches had in common (quietly). She agreed to make some measurements of one of what he called his research performances but was not prepared to refer to them as ‘researchances’

Felspar: any of a group of hard crystalline minerals that consist of aluminum silicates of potassium or sodium or calcium or barium.

Stronach ( November )

Dr Robert Stronach was true to his word; he emailed to say he was back in Manchester and offered to discuss Jessica’s progress over dinner. Jess had checked him out extensively online and he seemed just fine, no nasties. He was eleven years older and that was about right as far as she was concerned since when she would be in her early thirties he would be in his early forties and ready for kids, unless he was already ready for kids which would be problematic but fixable. She was aware that she was getting ahead of herself and yet, having a plan; it gave you focus. On the other hand, planning so far ahead might be considered a bit obsessive compulsive, she had to watch that.

At 4.00pm she had a shower. At 4.30pm she did her hair. At 4.50pm she dressed ‘smart but seductive’: Prada top ivory with patterned relief motifs- hardly any cleavage uncovered but bare arms, Liberty jacket curling leafery, Elieten shot silk skirt just above the knee and Choo shoes; all for the grand total of £120 from the charity shops in Alderley Edge where WAGs and other stylish ladies cast off their used attire. It was often worth the return train fare on the Friday afternoon or first thing Saturday.

At 6.10 pm she arrived, ten minutes late, at the Midland, where he was staying, where he was waiting patiently for her and where they ordered cocktails. The lady had a ‘rhubarb sidecar’, without the sugar, or the syrup but with the pear brandy and the Cointreau, he had a cocktail that involved whisky; it was very grown up. The bar was expensively elegant. Stronach was charming, becoming more so by the minute.

If he had known how much online research she had done on him he might have found her creepy but then again he might have been flattered or then again considered her sensible. Considering the modules on safeguarding he had taken, the third option was the likeliest.

Over the meal Stronach agreed to give her feedback on her recent work. He asked her about her family as well as her research and she asked him about his and a little bit about his family. They talked about other aspects of science, of the University College London and London itself and they even touched upon music and art. The service, the food and the ambience were fine although the lights could have been less bright. They were finishing the coffee by 10.00pm, Stronach explained he had an early start and offered her a lift home in a taxi.

“But you’ve got an early start.”

“Not so early I can’t see you home safe.”

Jess didn’t live far from the city centre. She had a room in a shared house three miles south in Chorlton-cum-Hardy. She asked him in for another coffee but seeing all the lights on he suggested they should meet up again a week later when he would be on his way back down from the Highlands of Scotland where he was to visit his uncle. He got out of his side of the car and opened her door, he did not attempt to kiss her but did say he would look forward to seeing her again. She was fine with that, maybe a tiny bit disappointed.

Core Resonance (of Eleanor) (December- Manchester)

Jessica had locked the door and pulled down the blinds, which was not unusual. The room looked out onto the back of a very large Victorian building. It was impressive so far as back of buildings went but the John Rylands Library it was not. She had wired herself up to a range of resonance energy-measuring machines and had made sure a colleague held a key and knew when the activity was supposed to end. Eleanor sat on the other side of the room, she was almost the same age as Jessica and had a very similar body mass. She was also wired up to a copycat set of machines. She did not look overly apprehensive. They had sort of done this kind of thing before and she had signed a waiver some weeks previously.

Certain energy wavelengths run through, and emanate from, each individual whether human, king cobra, angel fish or cockroach. Each human has a set of wavelengths that are very similar to any other human’s when at rest. However like the proverbial snowflake, they are not the same and Jessica wanted to find out the why. To that end she had persuaded a group of similar aged and sized female students to have their wavelengths measured under a variety of conditions. They had tried measuring at different times of day, before and after eating, during various stages of their menstrual cycles, and biorythmical cycles, during and after exercise, meditation, etc; and the range of wavelength levels did vary, as might be expected and yet not in a way that led to the hint of a ‘breakthrough’.

The breakthrough that Jessica was looking for related to the concept that an individual gives off a ‘core resonance’ of wavelengths which does not change and is different to any other person’s core resonance. Jessica’s initial thought had been something like; “ if we can harness that menu of core resonance wavelengths and relate it to that individual’s DNA, then maybe we can personalise medicines, for instance, so side effects are eliminated ....”. It was not an original premise but it was a worthwhile project.

Her limited research had not proven the existence of such a phenomenon and so she had asked Eleanor, who she had known for nearly two years, to go a step further. Jessica had done a module on Ethics and was in two minds as to whether the experiment she was conducting was totally ethical but Eleanor was sworn to secrecy and the door was locked so what the hey. It was not exactly new science, and forms of it had been criticised in the past but they were both consenting adults.

Opposite each woman sat a screen and onto the screen opposite Jessica there appeared a sequence of images. To begin with her positive and negative responses were measured. If the image did not stimulate a positive response as measured by the machines then nothing happened. After a few minutes there was a change and if there was a positive, or noticeably negative response then Jessica received a mild, yet unpleasant electric shock. The idea was that after a short period of this treatment the person receiving the shocks would cease to naturally register signs of pleasure or displeasure and would go into a state of lockdown. At that time the energy levels could be measured and compared to others that had been gathered from that individual. The whole process took about twenty minutes.

Jessica did not enjoy the experience, not many people would. Eleanor watched (that was what made the second part less unethical than things that were really unethical) and then agreed to take her turn. Jess had checked that she had normal blood pressure, was not on drugs or pregnant and that there was no history of heart conditions, epilepsy, neuralgia, etc; in her family and so she was rather surprised when, after fifteen minutes, Eleanor slumped forward in her chair. Shocked might be a more accurate adjective. Jessica had checked the electrical current coming out of all the wires, carefully.

Luckily she had taken the precaution of loosely strapping Eleanor, and then herself to some extent, into their respective chairs. People sometimes did faint at the slightest provocation. She gently pushed Eleanor’s head back and used her thumb to lift her left eyelid. She wasn’t exactly sure what she was looking for but they always did it in films. Her own heart was pumping wildly. That would be great, if the two of them had heart attacks , then she would really be in it. Except she would be dead and that would be rubbish and embarrassing.

“Eleanor !” She tried to keep her voice down. “ Shit !” She tried not to breath, so that she could listen for Eleanor’s breathing. She felt for a pulse, forgot which finger she was not supposed to use, then thought she could feel it, Eleanor’s pulse, not her own. She couldn’t be dead,. “ Oh God, no !” Jessica’s heart beat wildly, Eleanor was a healthy young woman and Jessica liked her.

After what seemed a long time Eleanor made a choking noise. Then there was some moaning and coughing, and then some words that made no sense, and then she was apparently fine. Her energy wavelengths read as they had done before the experiment. Eleanor herself did not think the electric shocks had been so horrific and was actually prepared to continue. Jessica, who was conducting the experiment, thought differently. Explaining a dead body on campus would be tricky. Maybe she could set the experiment up back at her own place, it backed onto ‘the meadows’ through which ran the river Mersey. You could get rid of a body that way. Jessica pretended she had not actually thought that particular thought whilst knowing that it is impossible to ‘unthink’ anything..

It was while Eleanor was resting with a cup of sweet tea (Jess got a lot of her medical knowledge from old films as opposed to contemporary medical texts) that Jessica smelt the beginning of a breakthrough. She was checking and comparing the wavelengths she had recorded whilst Eleanor was unconscious and those from previous occasions and there was something about the unconscious ones that caused her normally smooth brow to furrow. They were not at all like those taken when Eleanor had been asleep, or meditating or watching fish in an aquarium. They were not dissimilar in the ways you might expect, as in: deadened, or soporific, or uncomplex. No, in fact they had a character, a life, of their own. Some electrical charges were diminished at certain voltages but not at others and some in the microwave range were increased. However, unless she rendered her subjects unconscious she would not be able to gain more evidence. Jessica was sure the University would not condone such activity at her level and she was none too comfortable with the idea herself.

Church Chanting( January)

Rae had found a broad-minded vicar. It wasn’t difficult, south Manchester was full of them. The church, St James in Didsbury, needed funds and hired various rooms out, including the church itself so long as there was nothing obviously immoral or untoward involved. Rae had it booked from 1.00 – 3.00pm on that windy Tuesday afternoon. He was not entirely sure why he needed to do his experiment in a church, he thought that the repeated use of the building for meditation and worship might have imbued the fabric of the building with power of some sort that might improve his chances of ‘separation’.

For the first fifteen minutes the sun shone through the stained glass windows and the church looked almost charming. By the time he had his kit set up the clouds were gathering and the church was alternating charm and gloom. Rae had used a simple music software package to create beats to back up his chanting. Nothing happened for over ten minutes. He was recording both, sound and vision as well as a range of energy wavelengths on separate devices. The space was cold but he was wearing layers and sat on a duvet on the floor. He began to drift out of total consciousness- as expected. He had meditated like this before and this is what happened; you became calm and distanced from your body. What happened next was not like what had happened before. The air fizzled gently and a dull greenish, bluefish glowing sphere, nearly a metre in diameter appeared in the air in front of him. It was of itself and had feared and pain which he was somehow aware of. It started to pulsate slowly as Rae’s consciousness diminished. After approximately 90 seconds Rae slumped over, totally unconscious. Moments later his recording equipment made a whumping noise as its internal circuits and fuses blew. The glow faded away, the space was normal again, just the synth beats in the dark.

Two minutes passed and then he groaned and regained awareness of his surroundings. He had a headache and he was cold, apart from that he felt normal. He checked his equipment and replayed the recordings. They all blacked out at the crucial moment. He swore but did not try to repeat the experiment, he knew he needed backup.

Stronach’s return ( January )

Can two people look forward to something in equal measure? An impossible equation but not necessarily a pointless question. How much do your worries or secondary concerns diminish as you draw closer to your object of desire? He was staying at the Midland again. Not exactly the most romantic hotel in the world, maybe not even in central Manchester.

Jessica had dressed to impress. She had also collated her most recent research and printed it as digestible chunks of information. The official reason for their meeting was to allow Robert to peruse her research and give feedback. He had already read some that she had sent him by email. As far as he could tell it ‘showed promise’ and was well worth pursuing even though it edged, at times, into what some might call scientifically dubious territory. At their previous meeting Jessica had spoken about elements of Alchemy relating to the core resonance that she had been working on. She would not, normally have mentioned the Alchemy that was down to the cocktails and the wine.

She wore mainly black and it suited her. On the tram into town that was evidenced by the fact that two separate male individuals greeted her and asked her if she wanted to go for a drink. It was only 7.00pm and they appeared to be sober which meant they accepted her polite response regarding

‘her boyfriend’ without getting surly.

The Midland was quiet. They had cocktails while Robert looked over her documents. He made positive noises, he seemed genuine. As they neared the bottom of the cocktails he suggested an

′ Italian’. Five minutes later they jumped in a cab.

Over antipasto they discussed the metaphysics of human energies; known as Ontology. As they waited for the seafood main courses they got stuck into Thale of Miletus who taught that all things derive from a single first cause or ‘Arche’. By desserts they were into bioenergetic field theory and how that related to Jessica’s future research. It was intense.

The Church II ( February )

The winter had been mild, a few leaves still lay sodden in the gutters. Jessica sat in her pit thinking of past relationships. It was 11.50am on a Sunday that had a case of sad clouds hanging heavy and low over the flatlands of south Manchester. Maudlin, that was the word. She didn’t like being maudlin, she didn’t need to be maudlin, she wasn’t a Goth any more. And things were going ok at Uni. So what was wrong ? Maybe she shouldn’t have a crush on a professor ? It was more than that. They had dined together, at the Midland Hotel no less. He wasn’t her professor, so it wasn’t ‘improper’ / ‘unethical’. Whenever she had read about such situations in books or seen similar in films, she had thought the girls shallow and the men somewhat predatory. But she wasn’t like that; he was interested in the same field she was, he was interesting and good-looking and he hadn’t even tried to kiss her. So no need to get like Emin in her tent. Get up, have a shower, get a thingy on, get rid of the grease in this hair. Maybe she should phone a friend, go to the Whitworth gallery, have a drink at the Madox. Sundays did not have to be totally tedious. But then again, art galleries often depressed her, she usually got the point and some of the references but what really was the use of it ? You didn’t cure anything with art. And the video art ? Was she a philistine ? Sod it if she was. Maybe just go for a drink in Chorlton then Kodi a film and heat up a pizza, or a curry ? She started thinking about curries. Some time passed.

The phone rang. That ring tone needed changing. Maybe to ‘Lark Ascending’- that was cheerful, or maybe something by the Cure, that wasn’t. It was Rae. He told her about the glowing shape and how he had blacked out in the church. She was intrigued, she didn’t like the bit about blacking out but this wasn’t officially to do with her studies and the glowing thing, that sounded worth a look see; if he could do it again. The vicar had said Rae could use the church (for the usual fee) any afternoon that week. They settled on Tuesday.

Jessica had an old Nissan estate, it was useful for carting kit around. Rae had a Honda Accord.

They arrived at the church within five minutes of each other and started setting up her equipment. Then she did a recording of his energy wavelengths, temperature and blood pressure. They corresponded to those she had taken four weeks previously at the University. Rae turned his beats on and started chanting. Jess sat quietly, she had two video cameras recording and a spare cheap one in her pocket. There was a thermometer, barometer and a jar of ants. Ants behaving erratically; a sure fire sign of monkey business. Rae’s chanting was quite good; hypnotic, mesmerising. She shook herself, he was the one supposed to be going into a trance. He said it had appeared in the air, about three metres in front of him, two and half metres up in the air, about the size of a standard, household laundry basket but sort of shapeless.

The chanting and the beats melded together and then, there it was; a greenish blueish glowing thing in the darkening church just as he had described it. Jessica could feel her heart beating. Before he had gone into a trance they had propped him up with cushions in case he blacked out again. This enabled Jessica to concentrate on the glow. There wasn’t much to it, really. It sort of pulsated rhythmically, hovering in the position Rae had described. It did not appear to be connected to him but that meant nothing. And then she started to feel fear and pain. It was not her fear, she did not consciously know what she was afeared of and yet her gut was wrenched by it. Like an anxiety attack there was no logical or obvious catalyst. The sweat was cold on the back of her neck and she had that nausea thing going on.

Rae continued to chant for a few seconds before falling back against the cushions and then it was just the beats and the greenish bluish pulsating glowing thing and the fear, the feeling of panic and wanting to run. She couldn’t just leave Rae alone with it, whatever it was. She dropped to her knees beside him and shook his shoulder. She called his name. No response. Moments passed while she was paralysed with indecision and fear. Then the beats accelerated and the glow sputtered and blew apart into throbbing gyrations of light which smashed into the walls of the church. Jessica recoiled from the explosion and fell against a pew, bruising her thigh.

She checked Rae’s pulse, after the kerfuffle with Eleanor she knew where to press. She checked again. She couldn’t find it. The blueish light had come from Rae and gone into the walls and now he was possibly dead. She turned the music off and pulled the cushions away so she could straddle him. Then she overlapped her hands and banged down on his chest.

“Come on Rae! “ What was the song you were supposed to do this to ? She had looked it up after Eleanor blacked out. ‘Stayin Alive’ ! That was it. Stupid old joke. How did it go ? It didn’t matter, it was basically two beats per second, Jessica carried on and then she heard a crackling sound and as she looked up the walls of the church pulsated with a deep green/ blue glow, the glow fractured from the walls and coalesced as cocoon of the blueish light around them and then, two seconds later, crashed down into the figure between her legs. He gasped and began to breath.

She checked Rae’s pulse on the monitor, it was a bit slower than at the start and his breathing was shallow but he was alive. Maybe they should have brought a doctor, too late now. The key issue was; had the cameras captured the phenomenon. She was desperate to see. She knelt by his side and called his name. There was still no response.

Jessica had checked online and it did say you could slap people across the face gently to wake them up from unconsciousness. Having called his name a few times she shook his shoulders with no result then she slapped his face.

It worked, he moaned and swore. Moments later he sat up and said he was ok.

They played back the video and there was definitely something glowing in the dark. Rae’s pulse was racing on the monitor. They looked at his wavelengths during the event and they were quite different from previous recordings.

“ This is awesome !” Rae was elated.

“ But what is it ?”

“ I don’t know but you were monitoring the space, yeah ?”

“ Right, yes, of course. Did you feel any emotions before you blacked out”

“No, I don’t think so. I just seemed to sort of stop being me, Why? Did you ?”

“Yes, it was like someone else’s fear but it was like mine at the same time but I had no idea what I was scared of.”

When they reviewed the recordings they could see that an energy field had manifested itself during the period the glow was shimmering but after it exploded the data input stopped.

“So if we compare the wavelengths of the glow how do they relate to the changes you recorded in me?” Rae yawned.

“ Let’s see.” Jess lined up the recordings and reformatted the wavelengths into columns on a timeline; it helped to make comparisons and the comparisons did show a relationship in the depletions and alterations of Rae’s wavelengths with those of the Glow.

“ So it’s like part of me went out there and was separate for a short time.”

“ Well yes, but it was actually like all of you, you were dead Rae, no pulse at all.”

“ Yeah, I guess. You know we should do some more of this.” He yawned again.

“ Are you ok ?”

“ What ? Yes, I’m just tired, I’m fine. So what do you say ?”

“ You mean more of the chanting and the dying?”

“ Yes.”

“I think I need to analyse the recordings more carefully first.... and I’m not sure that you dying is necessarily a healthy outcome. Do you feel weird in any way?”

“ Nothing some sleep won’t fix.”

“ Ok. Good. Hopefully you’re right.” She looked around, “ I suppose we had better pack up.”

Rae seemed distracted for a moment then he focussed.

“ Oh right.” he sounded a bit sulky.

“ No, come on Rae, don’t get in a huff. I mean I do need to check out the recordings properly and you need to rest and then see a doctor. Then we can work out a way forward on this.

“OK.” He started unplugging his gear “but I am moving forward on this, we’ve got proof, I can’t stop now.”

“Yeah but remember, and I’m not being funny or anything but people could look at this” she gestured at the monitoring equipment “and say it was just post production effects.”

“What !? But you saw it.”

“Yes, I’m not saying it was’ effects’ I did see it but other people, they might be cynical I mean you would be if it was someone else showing you a glow.”

“But it’s not just a glow, there’s my heartbeat stopping, that’s recorded. So, that’s a good reason for investigating more. “

“Yeah, I’m not saying stop, I’m just saying get some rest and get checked over and make sure you haven’t got any bad side effects.”

“OK, ok. “ He yawned

Jessica saved, uploaded and clouded the recordings before she turned off all the monitors.

Pre- London, Felspar , Mercury, Sulphur, Blood and Bone

March

A week later Rae e-mailed her. He had found what he thought were interesting readings while recording a choir in a church and wanted her to do a proper monitoring job on it while he attempted what he had before. He talked about the purity of the choir boys and the effects on the wavelengths which sounded a ‘bit out there’.

Jessica did not want to conduct another church chanting session with him until they knew more about the forces that had knocked him out. Such experiments would probably entail using animals which she did not relish. And anyway, she would not be able to get permission to use animals until she was doing her Masters.

In addition to all of that it turned out he had still not seen a doctor so she said no, not until he had had a medical once-over .

Jessica had gone back to her Alchemy texts and teenage research notes which led her to do some experiments with mixes of, amongst other things: felspar , mercury, sulphur, blood, alcohol and bone.

She had found that certain proportions allowed a wide range of energy wavelengths to pass more freely through many different substances. This meant she could measure a wider range. Rae’s talk of the purity of choir boys reminded her of how a wide range of ancient cultures prized virgins, often the sacrifice thereof, as part of their religious sacraments. Was it possible that such bones might be more efficacious? Maybe it wasn’t the virgin thing but more the pre-hormonal nature of the bones. Jessica put it on her ‘to-do’ list.

Jessica moves to London and meets Claire. September

The path of a MSc student is more solitary than that of an undergraduate. At UCL you had to study four core modules, each worth 15 credits. Jess had chosen: Particle Physics, Atom and Photon Physics, Quantum Computation and Communication plus Order and Excitations in Condensed Matter. In addition to these modules each student had to undertake two options, each worth 15 credits and she had chosen: Space and Climate Science, plus High-energy Astrophysics. This meant you did get to meet other postgrads and discuss topics of mutual interest. The rest of the Masters was made up of a Research essay, 30 credits and a Research Dissertation, 60 credits.

It was at the second lecture about Space and Climate Science that Jessica met Claire who was from Plymouth, studying Astrophysics and had interests that overlapped with hers. Claire was 22 years old, bookish, asexual, sceptical regarding many phenomena but unable to totally discount what some called poltergeist activity.

It was due to this interest that two weeks later Claire made contact with a team of three people who investigated such matters. She obtained the team’s permission to record some of their work, using Jessica’s new, souped-up kit. The group referred to themselves rather cheesily as the ‘G team’. They believed that when a person dies in traumatic circumstances then that human’s life force may be trapped in this dimensional plane (nothing new in that, they would readily admit). However, they had come to the conclusion that a ‘normal’ death results in a human’s life force moving away from the earth to dissipate into space.

Grayson and the G Team

Jessica and Claire took Jessica’s Felspar mix and monitoring devices to join the G team not far from Jessica’s flat. It was a big house, built around 1840. The G team had a transit van (no decals) and some of their kit was similar to Jessica’s. Nevertheless, she and Claire set up all their equipment. The transit van had a back-up generator so they could by-pass the house’s electricity. A middle aged couple had moved in eight months previously and had been experiencing increasingly upsetting phenomena.

Claire had found the G team online and being anti-religious she had decided to ‘give them a go’, rather than a priest.

The team consisted of the 56 year old Gavin, originally from Wiltshire, who also ran a landscape design company. At just under six foot the physical side of his job kept him fit and the skin on his hands as leathery as a farmer’s. Michael was nearer 60, a retired electronics engineer similar in build to Gavin but greyer, rotund and less rugged. Tom was the baby of the group; a 30 year old unemployed graduate from the north east, he had studied anthropology at Hull. He was five foot nine inches tall, slight and his high cheekbones gave him an elfin look. It was evident from the way they set up their monitoring devices that they had done this type of thing before.

The G team’s approach to the dispersal of traumatised energy meant they had to assess it, measure it and then re-create the same blend of electromagnetic wave forms and any other anomalies relating to temperature, air pressure and the chemical make-up of the air itself.

They would then use this ‘mirrored environment’ to create a portal leading out of the property, towards the stratosphere and thence space. This would allow the residue of the traumatised being to transmogrify into the fabric of the universe.

They had done this successfully before. They did not use the word ‘ghost’ or ‘poltergeist’, preferring the term; ′ residual traumatised energy’, or ‘RTE’. What they did not understand was why there were not more of them out there, causing problems for the living. Considering the number of people who had been murdered there should have been plenty more than they had heard of. Gavin thought that some people just learned to live with them or the RTE’s might have a shelf-life depending on the intensity of their traumatic departures.

But still. By 9.15pm Jessica, Claire and the G team had witnessed enough to know that you couldn’t have learnt to live with this RTE.

They all had their equipment in place by 8.00pm since the disturbances generally occurred between 8.30pm and 5.00am. At 8.40pm the temperature in the hall and living room dropped by 2 degrees Celsius. At 8.45pm the ambient temperature in the bedrooms rose by 4C whilst the whole ground floor dropped to 12C. The oxygen content of the air had gone down from 20% to 10% (like breathing at Everest base camp ) and there was a smell of rotting meat everywhere.

When Jessica and Claire had asked Gavin “what happens if it all goes wrong ?” he had replied that he didn’t know but each member of the team carried an axe and a long piece of rope in case they were in an upstairs room (rope to tie to a bed so they could climb out the window, axe to smash window). They did not work above three stories.

Meanwhile the lights had dimmed and were flickering which was not surprising when you looked at the monitors. Jess could see out the window that the house opposite did not have flickering lights.

The monitors were registering a pulse, way below the audible spectrum . At 8.56pm the walls started vibrating in the living room, hall, stairwell, landing and main bedroom.

At 9.00pm the bookcase in the main bedroom fell forward, crashing down on the bed. Tom was positioned close to the foot of the bed and some of the books that fell from the bookcase hit him on the legs. He cried out. Gavin shouted up the stairs and Tom confirmed he was not badly hurt. The couple who owned the house sat in the dining room where the least activity had ever taken place. Michael, the retired electronics engineer, sat with them, watching the monitors with pen and notepad; old school back up. Jessica and Claire were up in the second bedroom (there were four in all ) watching and listening through four video cameras. They both had headaches and Claire said something sarcastic about ‘the Omen’ but her heart was racing.

Gavin had arranged some ornaments in the living room; the couple had stopped having such things in that room some two months ago. At 9.08pm those ornaments flew from off their separate perches and crashed down together in the centre of the room. At 9.15pm the electricity went off but the walls continued to vibrate and appeared to glow a dull yellow green as though lit from within. Tom shouted something about feeling weighed down, Claire and Jessica felt it as well, Michael checked and replied that there was a gravitational anomaly.

Gavin had switched the electrical input feed to the van’s back-up generator. He had been walking round the house throughout this period with a hand-held electromagnetic frequency traducer. He now went to the dining room and asked Michael if they had enough information. Michael said he thought they had. The G team then retired to the van to create the ‘mirrored environment’.

At 10.05pm Gavin and Tom brought a machine to the house and placed it in the open front doorway. The machine was nearly as big as a standard household washing machine. It was what created the ‘mirrored environment’ that created the portal. They turned it on and the various weirdnesses coughed and spluttered and died away as the RTE exited this plane and gained its supposedly natural non-existence in space . As far as the couple were concerned it didn’t matter where it went, just so long as it went and didn’t come back then that was £3,000 well spent.

Jessica, Claire and the G team spent another forty minutes taking readings then another half hour packing their respective equipment away as Gavin chatted to the relieved couple who brought out a bottle of Martell cognac to celebrate. What had started out, months previously, as a topic of dinner party conversation had become frightening in a way they couldn’t talk to their friends about. Now it was over and they could start their lives again.

Dark Energy Survey

Later that week Jessica and Claire examined recent measurements of the fabric of the universe, taken by the international Dark Energy Survey (DES) wherein they compared their findings based on the visible part of the energy spectrum with those of the Planck satellite mission which observed microwave radiation. Claire, as a postgrad in Astrophysics, was able to access data as it was logged onto the system. The most recent seemed to show a build-up of Saturn-sized globules of a type of dark energy, seemingly around the earth at a distance of some light years.

Jessica tried to explain

“ So you’re saying that we, the Earth actually, is, are at the centre of an incredibly huge almost spherical space , maybe the size of a thousand solar systems. Think of it as a massive grapefruit but with no flesh.”

“A grapefruit ?”

“No, alright, an orange, they’re rounder.” Jessica smiled

“More spherical...Ok...”

“And the border, or the ‘skin’ of this space is made up of an increasing number of holes or globules of dark energy but this dark matter/ energy is different.”

“Define different.” Claire sounded like a TV scientist as she angled her head.

“Don’t do that. They can’t even really define any kind of dark energy but they can discern differences, ok? Anyways..... we’re trying to find a way to explain this to people right? So just accept, for the sake of argument, that this skin is deteriorating and the deterioration has been increasing…..And this is the thing, on a time scale that relates to the increase in the world population.” Jessica pointed at the graph she flicked up on the laptop..

“So, you’re saying that people have been dying, and their life forces have been shooting out towards the ‘orange skin’ layer for thousands of years and by the time they get there they have mutated into this even weirder dark energy which starts to dissolve the fabric of the space/ time/ gravity construct, or whatever you want to call the essence of our universe. “ Claire’s right hand was pressed into her cheek.

“Yes, kind of. Eventually the skin layer will be so full of bad dark energy that the whole grab...orange will implode, creating a black hole. The trouble is that the population of our planet has grown and is growing exponentially and it appears this growth ratio is replicated out in space. “ Jessica pointed at the graph :

Claire was working on her pad.

“So that means that if the world’s population continues to grow and the life forces of those who die continue to do what they are doing, then the implosion will take place in approximately 220 years.”

“Ok well then..... What !? You mean as in, two hundred and twenty years from now! ?”

“ Yes.... 220 years , as in by 22--. “

“But that can’t be right, that’s not what I worked out. Show me.” Jessica grabbed Claire’s pad, and looked at the calculations.

“ God. So just say for a moment that these projections are correct. What are our options ? “

“ ’Well, I don’t know, I suppose we can stop procreating, I mean not just you and me, I mean everybody, everywhere and / or we can find a way to stop people’s life forces doing what they do to the fabric of the universe.” Claire wrinkled her nose.

“Ok, so we would have to convince a lot of politicians to pass laws that ban bonking; for the first option; and that’s not going to happen. But for the second; well we probably could come up with a way of trapping the RLF’s , couldn’t we?”

Claire frowned, Jessica continued

“ so then we would have to convince all those politicians to not only allow us do the trapping but also to fund it on an industrial scale. And I don’t think that the living humans would be ok with millions of souls of dead people sitting around in boxes all over the place.”

“We don’t accept the concept of ‘souls of dead people’.” Claire did her TV scientist face.

“No of course, but masses of other people do and they will damn us all to perdition. Maybe this is the natural way of things. Maybe the universe has a fail-safe mechanism.” Jessica sighed
“What exactly do you mean ?”
“ We have found out that it is only the spent, or ex, life forces of us humans that are eating away at the universe, right ?”

“Yes but we didn’t test dolphins; and two chimpanzees isn’t actually a proper sample.” Claire frowned at her own understatement. .

“Humour me. Once creatures evolve to the state we have, maybe they naturally become dangerous to their environment and other species.”

“What ? So the universe just obliterates them and all the innocent creatures that have just been minding their own business ?”

“Possibly. Because if we went to other planets we might ruin them as well. And if the fail-safe mechanism meant only humans that were destroyed who’s to say the orang-utans wouldn’t develop into something equally unpleasant”

“Okay, but hold on, I’m not such a big fan of the ‘who’s to say’ branch of logic so can we go back to first principles.” Claire put her fist on her hip. “ If we can’t stop people making new people, i.e. procreating. We’ll call that the PMP option. And we can’t trap all the RLFs because it might offend those of a religious persuasion – we’ll call that the TIL, ‘trapped in limbo’, option. Why don’t we go back to your Alchemical approach , which is what helped us get this far ?”

“ It’s not ‘my’ Alchemical approach, it’s Newton’s and many others’ ” Jessica tried to keep the edge out of her voice.
“ Hair-splitting noted. But still the fact remains: we have to let people procreate but we need to stop their dirty residues from destroying a part of our galaxy.”

“ Only if you totally disregard my thesis that this is the natural way of things and that otherwise we will develop into a race of planet de-spoiling nasties, which is a bad thing.“

“ Ah, no but you see, who’s to say that us discovering this phenomenon and working out a cure, isn’t the natural way of things and that this process is something that makes our species less nasty so that we can advance to the next stage? Or maybe it’s just Intelligent Design.” Claire whispered the last words.

“What ‘next stage’ ?”

“ I don’t know...... maybe when we have mended the damage our RLFs have done to the universe maybe we can mutate them into a power source, a new form of green energy !”

Jessica looked at her, she didn’t know what to think, a dull pain throbbed above her left eye.

Claire continued.

“ Or we can ignore it and spend the rest of our lives doing pointless research on whatever we choose, knowing all the time that a few years down the line everything goes kaput and it was all totally totally.... pointless.” the silence hung again.

“ Ok, Ok. When you put it like that......”

“Right then, good. So we have to reverse the mutation process so that all departing RLFs mend the fabric of the universe instead of destroying it.”

“Righty ho then.” Jessica made to stand up, “ I’ll get right on it.”

“ Ok Ok Ok, I know. Whatever we try and do, we will need help.” Neither of them moved.

“Well Rob knows that RLFs leave this planet and with the increase in dark energy , y’know, provable facts are facts.”

“Yes, alright, that’s a start. It’s just so immense. God, let’s go for a coffee.”

They locked up the lab and were walking down the cramped stairs to the ground floor when Jessica remembered.

“ You went to see Rae, I forgot. What did he say ? “

Claire half turned and almost tripped

“Oh, he’s got a new avenue of research. He’s, ... actually this could be relevant, of course ! I should have thought ! I was distracted by your end of universy thing.” Claire danced out into the ground floor corridor nearly bumping into an innocent fellow student.

“What ?” Jessica had not expected such an excited response.

“ Wait til we’ve sat down with a drink.” they got their smoothies and sat down in the high-ceilinged refectory. “Ok, it’s like this; there are two separate accounts of how God created humans in the first two chapters of the book of Genesis.” Claire got out her iPhone and opened a note page.

“Yes, I think I had heard of that. “

“ Oh, ok, right. Right, so accepting that the Bible is not a scientific document and there may be various ways of interpreting it like God as a metaphor for the force of creation and all that, yes ?”

“Absolutely.”

“Ok, so Rae has looked at the Hebrew original of the Book of Genesis and the way it was translated and in the first chapter he reckons it means ‘mankind’ cos even in the King James’ version Genesis chapter 1:27 it says :

’God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.′

and the Hebrew word for man can also mean mankind. Also male and female is probably plural. And at that point in Genesis it doesn’t mention any names or any ribs being taken out and it doesn’t mention the Garden of Eden.”

“Ok. How come Rae never told me? “

Claire scrolled down .“I don’t know, I guess he just worked it out recently, anyway … in Chapter 2 God makes a man , another man yeah, and it says in verses 7 and 8

’And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.′

“ so that’s not the first lot of humans, that’s the man who was made of dust, the definite article ian’t used in the same way in Chapter 1. And then a bit later he, God says:”

′ It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.’”

Help meet ? “ Jessica scowled

“ Friend, helpmate, obviously.”

Claire continued to scroll down with arched eyebrows,

“And then in verse 19 they suddenly start calling the man Adam and then the rib thing happens and we get a woman and Adam says;

‘This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’ “

“Right, so God definitely had two goes at it ?”

“Yerrs. The way Rae has it is - in Chapter 1 God makes humankind and leaves them to fend for themselves, no special Garden, no rules about certain fruit. But then maybe He, God, wasn’t impressed by what he’d done and thought He could create an upgrade so in Chapter 2 He made Adam and then Lilith but don’t go there and then Eve and gave them, Adam and Eve, rules.”

“ One rule.”

“Yes, ok, one rule which they broke and thereby you have your original sin.”

“So ?”

“So, that’s a metaphoric explanation for what makes our Residual life forces toxic.”

“Ohhh....And what about the first lot of humans?” Jessica slurped her coffee sceptically.

“Right, that’s the thing. They never sinned because they hadn’t been given any rules or trees or whatever but when Adam and Eve were thrown out of the Garden they, or their offspring ended up inter-breeding with the first lot otherwise interbreeding would have wiped them out as they mutated badaways. “

“Badaways ?”

“Yes, it’s a word. So the offspring of Ad’n’Eve , that’s a kind of contraction stroke collocation, would have gone off and got intimate with the offspring of God’s first attempt at people-making and so the ‘Original Sin’ thingy would have spread.”

“Don’t tell me, Rae reckons that,,,,, no, ok no … what does he reckon ?”

“He reckons, and he’s not alone in this first part, that this all took place in the Great Rift valley in east Africa or a bit south west of there, and that if we could find remains of the first lot of humans before they got mixed up with Adam and Eve then we could extract some DNA or use the Felspar mix and the energy field impulse to activate the essence of what was their life force and then see if that could be used to de-toxify our life forces and thereby stop them from becoming dark energy. “

“That second part is pure Rae.”

“ Yes but remember this fits in with what you said about the fail-safe mechanism.”

“ In what way ?”

“Well, according to your theory, the dominant hominoid species is us and because we are bad / dangerous planet-killers our departed souls will destroy our part of the galaxy, right ?”

“ For the sake of argument; right.” Jessica squished up her empty sachet of sugar.

“Right, but before Homo sapiens there were the Neanderthals, the Denisovans, the Heidelberg lot and, err , Rhodesiensis, Antecessor, even back to, umm I think it was, Erectus and Ergaster, with some overlapping and inter-breeding. “

“So ?”

“So, one of the older species could be like the ones in the first chapter of Genesis, like us but without the sin.”

“Isn’t that a bit racist ? And what is this with taking the Bible seriously ? Seriously ? ”

“No, it’s not racist, it’s speceist. And I’m not , I mean Rae’s not, taking the Bible literally, it’s an allegory or a metaphor thingy. ..... If it’s possible that an earlier Hominoid species could contain a sort of antidote to our problem then surely it’s got to be worth looking into ?”

Claire’s look was almost pitiful, Jessica was never sure if she was totally serious, nevertheless she responded logically.

“Hold on, I’m confused: if the idea is that sinful Homo Sapiens mixed their genes with an earlier species and made them bad, forward slash, wiped them out, then why would their DNA now work as an antidote ?”

“Ok, so that’s where the Alchemy comes in. We have to find a way to boost the ancient DNA.”

“Have you got a plan? You’re not thinking of going to Africa?”

“Do you think we could get a grant?” Claire kept a poker face.

“Stop it.” Jessica was smiling, “seriously, what’s the plan?”

“Actually, I sent e mails to our anthropology department and five other unis yesterday asking for specimens.”

“And what about Rae? Is he doing the same? “

“Errr, I don’t think so, I think he’s concentrating mainly on the ectoplasm chanting thing.”

“Oh, God, no. Who’s helping him? “

“ I’m not really sure; he was a bit vague about that.”

The Specimens and the Old Testament thesis October

During ‘the season’, April – September, in any given year there may be 5-10 anthropological digs going on in central Africa conducted by African and non-African universities. Claire tracked down six from the previous summer, five of them had found humanoid remains, three were prepared to send her samples from those specimens.

They all arrived in the first week of March with partial DNA analysis. None were promising.

“We should have asked for samples from previous digs.”

“Well we still can.”

“I’ll get on it.” Claire sounded depressed.

“What about Rae’s samples?”

“I told you, he’s not getting samples, he’s perfecting his ectoplasm.”

“Right, yes......” Jessica sat staring at her screen,

“ look he just sent this and it’s got more of the Bible stuff.”

Rae’s e-mail

“ The Old Testament explains how Adam’s son procreated with the humans who were created before Adam. First God expelled Adam and Eve from Eden and placed guards at the eastern entrance.

Genesis 3

24 So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.

Then Adam and Eve had two sons: Cain and Abel. Cain tilled the ground, Abel looked after the sheep. They both made an offering to God but God, for no apparent reason, did not care for Cain’s offering. Cain then killed his brother Abel.

Genesis 4

5 But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.

6 And the Lord said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? And why is thy countenance fallen?

7 If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.

8 And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.

9 And the Lord said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother’s keeper?

10 And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground.

11 And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother’s blood from thy hand;

12 When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth.

13 And Cain said unto the Lord, My punishment is greater than I can bear.

14 Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that every one that findeth me shall slay me.

15 And the Lord said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the Lord set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.

16 And Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden.

17 And Cain knew his wife; and she conceived, and bare Enoch: and he builded a city, and called the name of the city, after the name of his son, Enoch.

Although Adam and Eve had raised other children, including Seth, Cain must have met, or very possibly did meet, the previous race of humans that God had created who lived ‘east of Eden’ (which is why G-d put the guards there).

This was a race/ species of humans that had never been in the Garden of Eden and had not eaten of the tree of knowledge and therefore did not carry the Original Sin.”

Conference call November including Robert

Jessica, Claire and Rae decided it was time to Skype; they had a written list to discuss......

Problems and possible solutions or activities designed to create solutions:

Prob 1/ The three DNA samples that we (Jessica and Claire) have received showed no discernable dramatic difference to other, more contemporary samples of DNA.

Sol 1/ We are already gathering up samples from earlier anthropological digs, as are you, Rae (?)

Prob 2/ If we did find a ‘sinless’ example of ancient DNA and were able to enliven it we would then need to get hold of existing Residual life forces ( RLFs) i.e. humans, irradiate them, then test to see if said RLFs were still malevolent (after the humans had died)

Sol 2/ Rae suggests asking the terminally ill to volunteer.

Prob 3/ Develop a method of measuring the malevolency, the property that makes an RLF transmutate into dark energy,

Sol 3/ Not actually a problem if the ‘sinless’ DNA experiment works.

Prob 4/ If we were to ‘irradiate’ a group of humans with the de-toxifier we need to know if that might affect the living humans, as opposed to just their life forces after they die. So they can’t just be left unattended since some of them might not be bed-ridden and as Rae says, they might turn into monsters. Not a scientific term Rae ( J ).

Sol 4/ J, C and/ or Rae could volunteer, or they could monitor someone, in a secure environment.

Rae looked out from the screen. Claire tried to be sensible,

“Maybe we should still try and convince the Head of Faculty or someone in government.”

“Yes, and if they decide we’re mad or dangerous they could have us expelled and we wouldn’t have access to these, or any other facilities.” Jessica replied.

They sat staring into space out of their screens. Claire looked up

“What about those poor monkeys with AIDS ?”

Rae’s experiments December

Rae sat in his run-down Subaru estate in the Withington hospital car park. He was monitoring (residual) life force movement. It was dark and the rain gently raineth. It was his seventh night and he had made a list. At 7.00am he drove home. Having breakfasted he emailed his list to the hospital registrar with a freedom of information request concerning the number of deaths that had occurred in that time frame. He then checked his emails and realised he had an appointment with a Helen Zawodski at 3.00pm at the organic cafe on Beech road. He decided to get his head down.

He dreamt of koala bears stamping on piranhas, then each of the bears, there must have been about twenty of them, scooped up some of the squished piranhas into stylish frying pans and then waddled around, legs akimbo, with the pan in one paw while the other paw held an ornate cigarette lighter under the pan ( presumably to heat it ?) all the while smoking a big old-fashioned pipe. Each bear had a different, and characterful, pipe whereas the pans were all of one upmarket design. Rae awoke refreshed and, as far as he could ever be, cheerful.

It was only a three minute drive to the cafe. It was the fourth time he had met Helen: a 48 year old, 5 foot 5 inch tall, not unattractive, divorcee. Helen was possibly not long for this world; she had a chronic neurological condition. Rae now knew a number of women who were ‘not long for this world’. He had joined a dating site and was a member of an online forum for people in and around Manchester with terminal conditions. There were enough such people to be dealing with just in the suburbs of Chorlton-cum-Hardy and Withington.

Rae had continued his ectoplasm experiments with the help of some of these women. He really couldn’t see the point in seeing a doctor as Jessica had demanded after he passed out in the church. They would only listen to his heart and take his blood pressure, and since Jessica was busy down in London it was more convenient to seek local assistance. It wasn’t as if Jessica would be able to do anything particularly clever if things went pear-shaped apart from administer basic first aid and the defibrillator, and he could train anyone to do that.

The deal was; the women, and it was almost exclusively women that he had made contact with, did not expect to live for many more years. When Rae explained part of the nature of his research into the human life force, some became very interested.

Rae had tried astral travelling to no avail; the thing he hated most was the way you fell back into your body with a bang. That, and the fact that he never actually went anywhere.

On the other hand he had gained more control over his ectoplasm emanation during a sequence of five sessions since the one Jessica had monitored. On this occasion Helen Zawodski was to be his assistant (for the second time) . For some reason he could not fathom she liked to meet in the cafe on Beech road and have a cup of green tea before they went to the church. Maybe it was the thing about meeting in public, maybe she wanted there to be witnesses that she had been with him before they went off to desecrate a holy place. Thus he realised that he could ‘fathom’ why she wanted to meet in the cafe; therefore he would never be able to say that “women were a closed book to him” and that, unfortunately, pumped up his ego.

An hour later they were setting up the equipment in St -------’s as the rays of the afternoon sun filtered through the 19th century stained glass windows: St Francis of Assisi and one about Jonah and one about Noah, all very animal-centric. They placed a cup of water in the vestry of the church and set up a camera to record what might happen to it. Returning to the nave Rae made himself comfortable amongst his cushions, Helen helped wire him up, then she turned on the equipment and the music/ soundscape. After about eighty seconds Rae ‘left’ his body as a form of energy/ spirit that at times reminded Helen of a truncated jaguar, at times a dolphin and at others almost a dragon. As Rae lay unconscious this shimmering proto-being travelled to the vestry where the water in the cup dissipated.

The multi-hued apparition floated back to the nave and hung above Rae’s body in the slanting shafts of coloured sunlight; it was beautiful to Helen’s eyes. Then slowly it rained down onto and into Rae and was gone. Ten seconds later Rae was conscious and becoming coherent.

When Rae and Helen returned to the vestry they witnessed the denuded vessel as had the video camera done so moments before. The recording showed a gently pulsating glowing cloud of many jewel-like colours, the size of a small armchair, shape-shifting as it floated into the room and hovered above the cup for eleven seconds whilst it shone all the more brightly. It then floated out of the room and, moments later, was hovering in front of the tranced-out Rae before re-joining him with a gentle fizzing sound.

That was on a Monday. By Friday the hospital registrar had confirmed the death toll that Rae had listed. Rae emailed Jessica the video files that showed his water-disappearing phenomenon.

They skyped. Rae did not find Jessica’s first question amusing. He was easily riled.

“No, I didn’t ‘drink’ it. You of all people should know that it’s about energy. I’m energy, water is energy, I just subsumed it by connecting my energy field to its latent energy, or something like that. I’m not sure what the right words are and I’m not interested in doing the maths because as soon as you let the mathematicians near it, it’s dead in the water, no pun intended.” Rae was animated.

“Ok, so, what about the list of dead people ?”

“I was trying to see how far I could track them afterwards.”

“What ? With the kit I gave you?”

“Yeah but I pimped it, it’s got more mojo now.”

“ Right.....and how far did you track them?” Jessica decided not to ask how he had pimped the equipment.

“ About one hundred thousand feet.”

“And they stay the same ?”

“As far as I can tell. But that’s no surprise”

“No, I guess not.”

“So, I’ve got an idea.”

“Oh. What is it ?”

“ I want you to go up on the Heath with Claire.”

Rae’s women and the spaceship tree December

The clouds were breaking when Jessica picked up Claire at Highgate tube and drove up Southwold lane, along Hampstead Lane towards Kenwood House, took a right after the playing fields and parked up on Bishopswood road. They walked a short way along Hampstead lane, dropped into the Heath via a line of towering Beech trees, right past the unnamed darkened pond and up and out across the sloping Cohen’s field, across Sham bridge, past the Duelling ground and into Springett’s wood. There were occasional patches of white blossom on the Hawthorn and small spring-time flowers were out and about as, occasionally, was the sun.

Apart from the Hawthorn and the Blackthorn the other trees had not bothered.

On the high ground in Springett’s wood stood a majestic copse of Beech trees. One tree stood no longer, brought down in the storm of ’8, it lay in splendour, horizontally. This enabled visitors to travel up the tree by walking along the ground.

“He said the west side of the trunk .” Jessica stood looking at the base of the fallen Beech.

“Yes, I know, you said and as far as I can see that’s north,” Claire pointed in a northerly direction, “so that must be west.”

They walked round to the side she had indicated and looked at the trunk. The first twenty feet were relatively graffiti-free. They both took photographs of the trunk and the surrounding area. It was a weekday and they were able to set up 2 battery-operated video cameras without anyone noticing.

On the way back to the car they did not have a coffee and they did not visit the gift shop.

That evening up north in Manchester Rae went into a trance in his church, aided and abetted by the woman called Helen Zawodski.

The next day Jessica and Claire went back to the tree on the Heath and there, burnt into the trunk, was the inscription: Rae + J + C .

They looked at each other and swore. Then Jessica looked around.

“No, hold on.” she took out her mobile and dialled. “ Rae ? Yes, amazing. Look I don’t want to appear sceptical but where are you ? “

“In Manchester.”

“And last night ?”
“Don’t start Jekka, anyways,” Rae always sounded very Manc when his hackles were up.

“ I thought you said you were going to set up a couple of cameras.”

“Yes we did.”

“ So go and check them.”

Jessica and Claire hurried back to Jessica’s and connected the first camera. It was set to take a frame every 5 seconds. At 3.05am the previous night, a shimmering animalistic glow, appeared, it hovered in front of the western side of the tree trunk for 25 seconds, moving about 4 feet from left to right. Then it disappeared leaving the message branded into the trunk.

They looked at each other and swore, then they laughed and swore a bit more and did a little dance.

Rae goes too far January

By his sixth attempt at travelling outside of the church Rae found he could travel, as an ectoplasmic ball at speeds of up to Mach 3 (just over 3,500 kilometres per hour). At that speed he could come to a stop in less than a hundred metres. He could also go really high, really really high. He couldn’t ‘see’ where he was going but he could sense it, and it didn’t matter if it was light or dark, wet or dry, windy or whatever.

He could not feel the wind, or the rain, or the snow, in his hair.

Through the dating site and the forum for people with terminal illnesses Rae had convinced a number of women to let him follow their life forces immediately after they died, while he was disconnected from his body, i.e. in the ectoplasmic state.

Before they died Rae had to make contact with them in his ectoplasmic form so that he could become aware of their nature and thereby monitor the changes that might occur to their residual life force after death. The first person with whom he did this was Helen Zawodski. She did not actually appear to be at death’s door although she said she had only months left.

In fact she seemed quite healthy.

Rae realised he would have to transmutate in the house or flat of a dying person rather than in his cosy church. Helen offered to let him try doing it at her place. She was fascinated by Rae’s esoteric research. The first time she witnessed his life force exit his body and coalesce as a glowing series of proto creatures her fascination morphed into arousal.

When he did it in her living room and then returned to his body she could not help herself.

The next day Jessica called to check how he was. E mails and texts told you some things but when you knew a person well the tone of their voice told you plenty more and she wanted to know as much as possible since she was sure he had not seen a doctor. Jessica felt he was being cagey.

“So there were no measurable differences at this Helen’s apartment ?”

“That’s correct, it was all the same, like the previous occasions.” And there it was, a little catch in his voice, a private joke, a smugness or something.

“Rae ?” He certainly did not sound unwell.

“What ?”

“I don’t know, you sound ,,”

“What ?”

“I don’t know....... So Helen was ok ?”

“Yes, she’s good.” And there it was, that something in his voice.

“Rae ! Have you...have you become personally involved with this Helen ?”

“What !? That’s none of your ... I mean that’s irrelevant.”

“Well it’s not irrelevant. I mean if she’s terminally ill that means.... well you know what it means, she’s going to die ….soon, so if you let your relationship become personal...”

“Hold on. You’re having a relationship with your professor. Isn’t that personal ?”

“ Rae, that’s totally different.”

“ Is it ?”

“ Yes, because one, he’s not my professor, he’s a professor at the university I attend and he has no involvement in my tuition or appraisals or grading. And, two, he does not have a terminal illness.

Oh, and three, I am not using him in an experiment. Ok ? “

There was a pause, she could hear him breathing.

“Alright, but look, the thing is.... I know this sounds lame but ...she started it.”

“Rae.” Jessica could hear herself sounding like her own mother.

“No, listen. I had to do a run-through away from the church and she volunteered her place so obviously I accepted. ...”

“And ?”

“And she’s actually really nice..”

“Nice ? How old is she ?”

“Don’t you start...sorry, no, ok, she’s 48....” there was a pause, Jessica didn’t say anything.” What ?!”

“Nothing, I didn’t say anything.”

“Right, ok, so anyways, after I successfully transmutated and then returned to my body, well, she …..”

“What ? Ok, no, obviously...oh Rae…”

“Look Jess, she’s an adult and she hasn’t got that long to live.....And.... y’know... ‘I don’t get out much’.... so I didn’t know how to say no....... And it cheered her up.”

Jessica couldn’t help laughing, he sounded just like he had when he was 13.

“Oh Rae, what are you like? “

“I don’t know but she’s happy and I’m quite happy and we’re trying to save the world aren’t we ? “

“ So ?....”

“Well, y’know, don’t give me a hard time for breaking a few rules.”

“What do you mean ‘rules’? What other rules have you been breaking ?”

“No, I didn’t mean ‘rules’, I meant ‘rule’, although I suppose I did break the speed limit on the way to London.”

Jessica, Claire and Rae Skype February

During a three way Skype call Rae, Jessica and Claire developed the thesis that each human acts as a kind of recorder of time, their residual life force is a sort of locket of compressed time. Most people understand time as a linear construct but many scientists posit it is probably multi-dimensional. Gravity is also poorly-understood ( scientists, like meteorologists and economists can repeatedly predict and theorise, then professionally re-appraise and almost re-write their own history) . They, as in: Jessica, Claire and Rae, posited that time and gravity are part of the same matrix and that a person’s residual life force goes out into the cosmos as a little ‘time bomb’ and at a certain distance from the earth mutates/ explodes into a form of gravity/time that is part of what some scientists describe as ‘dark energy’. And that blob of dark energy is much, much bigger than a human being.

As Jessica, Claire and Rae had previously theorised, this anti-gravity/ dark energy is forming the far-distant ‘skin’ of dark energy that they had discovered from the astronomy department’s measurements. Working on the premise that this is happening because the Universe perceives humankind as a dangerous ‘bacteria’ they agreed to follow Rae’s idea that maybe the ancient story that was eventually written down in the first three chapters of the Book of Genesis in the Old Testament might be a useful metaphor. Thus if they could find, re-activate and turbocharge DNA from an early humanoid species they might be able to use certain energy wavelengths to irradiate contemporary humans with said DNA -which might cause them to be less dangerous to their own selves and habitat and therefore appear less dangerous to the Universe. This could mean that when people die, their life forces would stop mutating into the skin of dark energy that will otherwise cause approximately 0.01% of the Milky way that surrounds the Earth to implode into a black hole, 200 years hence.

(Solar System is approx 0.0032% of the Milky Way )

Lunch of doom March

Jessica, Claire and Rae sat around Jessica’s kitchen table. Claire was speaking,

“So, like I said, all we have to do is reverse the mutation process so that all departing RTEs mend the fabric of the universe instead of destroying it. Simples.”

“I think I already said that.” Rae sounded deadpan.

“It’s not a competition. If we were going to patent the process surely we’d all be on it.” Was Claire’s tone brittle ? It was hard to tell.

“Actually I don’t think we want to go down that road.” Jessica sounded all grown up.

Claire turned to her “Why not ?”

“Weeeelll, I was talking to Rob...”

“What do you mean, talking to Rob ?” Rae sounded tense.

”Look of course he knows things about what I’m working on, and he has experience so … anyway look the point is, say we do re-activate some ancient DNA and apply it to living people and they do become innocent of so-called original sin ?”

“Hopefully they mend the fabric of the universe.” Claire sang out.

“Yes, that’s after they die but what if they become all loving and caring and pacifistic when they’re

actually still alive ?” There was a pause, they looked at each other, the clock ticked.

“That could be lovely ?” Claire sounded unsure.

“Maybe, if it happened to everybody at the same time.”

“But we probably can’t do it that way....” You could hear the cogs in Rae’s brain going round

“God! Why didn’t I think of that. Shit .”

“Right, if we made everybody in the UK loving and caring then we wouldn’t be prepared to defend ourselves against an attack from another country. “ Jessica sounded suitably depressed.

“That means it could be used as a weapon ?” Claire’s voice was tight.

“It’s a possibility, so I think we should download anything related to this research from the university intranet and save everything with encryption on separate hard drives which... which we should hide, and we need to talk about how we should communicate from now on.”

“That sounds very Bourke Conspiracy.” But Rae did look worried.

“I thought you’d be all for dark web encrypted e-mailing, didn’t you used to have a website on there? Something about the inner dolphindragon ?”

“ Yeah, funny. We all did daft stuff back in the day.”

“Well, right, well we’ve put all that ‘daft stuff’ behind us now.” Claire and Rae both nodded with pursed lips, no-one was prepared to make the joke about what they were doing now they were older. They sat for a moment, internally philosophising,

“ So Claire ? “

“What ?”

“Did you get any more DNA ?” Jessica widened her eyes quizzically

“No, alright not yet but there is some on the way, look.” Claire pointed to her laptop screen.

“Oh right. That’s about, what ? More than twenty ? Excellent work. “

“Have you got any further with the activation process ?”

“No, Rae but now that you’re down here we could all have a go.”

Jessica’s sarcasm was warm and friendly.

“Right, no problemo, it’ll be like old times. Did you tell Claire about your dog and that fridge ?”

“No, very funny.” Jessica pulled a face. “ Actually, seriously, weren’t you going to help us do the ectoplasm thing ?”

“Oh, right, ok, yes we should do that. I’ve got the kit in the car”

An hour later Jessica sat down on the cushions and concentrated on her breathing as Claire and Rae wired her up. She was nervous, as any sane person would be.. The beats started, Jessica closed her eyes and matched her inner chanting to the rhythm. After approximately 90 seconds she noticed a tingling sensation in her shoulders. The beats became her and she became the beats. Like in a dream on a hot afternoon she was somewhere else yet somehow partly still self-aware. And then she could see the church, her eyes were closed but she was no longer behind her eyes, she was above her body. The slight tingling was what she was, just a tingling floating in the air. She was ectoplasm; a floating, shimmering shape about a metre across, almost resembling an otter and then a sea eagle and then a horse, a repeating sequence. Her sensations had altered, or rather the way she sensed things had changed; space was a glittering three-dimensional fabric of microdots connected in lines that corresponded to the density and energy of the: air, wood, metal, glass, skin, electricity, sound, etc;.

It was confusing but as Rae had said it just took a while to get used to. She spent the next 5 minutes doing just that then, as previously agreed, Rae changed the frequency of the beats and she regained her inner chanting thus enabling her to successfully return to her body. As she came to she felt faint and slightly nauseous, feelings that decreased over the next ten minutes.

Claire also seeks volunteers amongst the terminally-ill,

Jessica makes strides with her Alchemy March

Jessica and Claire discussed Rae’s relationship with Helen and the general problem with leaving one major area of the project solely up to him. Jessica had known Rae for nearly ten years and sometimes it’s difficult to be objective but with so much at stake it wasn’t a matter of trusting him or not trusting him and they decided that Claire should gather their own group of terminally ill volunteer guinea pigs.

“If any of us gets ill, or dies in an experiment, then the others need to be able to continue.”

Claire was not one to waste sugar on a pill.

Which left the question of how much more Rob should be involved. The trouble was that when Jessica had explained their “grapefruit skin” theory wherein our residual life forces travel far into space to mutate into a form of dark energy which is coalescing into a skin that will cause our part of the galaxy to implode into a black hole in about 200 years, Rob came up with a different interpretation / prediction.

He said it might be that the coalescence of our residual life forces as a ‘skin’ would not result in a black hole but might create a force field that would protect us from the dangerous gravity-acceleration that was threatening the rest of the Universe. This was a hypothesis that needed to be considered which would mean they would have to consult other, qualified scientists which brought them back to the pacifist weapon conundrum.

Rob did agree, however, that at some point making people less angry, aggressive, greedy, etc; might very well be an interesting experiment/ worldwide activity.

Jessica also made some time to show Claire what she was doing with energy wavelengths and some of Isaac Newton’s alchemical ideas. She had use of a lab of sorts at UCL and a sound diffusion chamber (since some of the energy wavelengths consisted of sound). Both spaces allowed the user to sit clear and safe of the experiment in progress. To begin with they were using some of the ancient DNA that had shown no interesting properties. Jessica and Claire mixed a variety of minerals with a variety of organic compounds, attached them to a tiny amounts of DNA, then channelled a range of energy wavelengths through those (many, many) mixes.

Working in tandem they were able to process one sample every two minutes.

On the sixth day, after about 35 hours of tests the made what they hoped was a breakthrough. Sample number 1.005 showed distinct intensification and modifications.

Claire had lined up a few volunteers but they still had no pre Hominoid/ pre original sin DNA.

Was it worth trying out the intensified Hominoid DNA on a human guinea pig ?

Jessica visits Rae in Manchester April

Jessica had to go up to Manchester for her mum’s birthday. The weather was good so she arranged to meet up with Rae in Chorlton park. It was a flat park with a brook along the northern edge, bowling greens, tennis courts. playing fields and a small wildlife area that had had, as Jessica’s father was wont to point out, wallabies in it before ‘the bastards’ killed them. He got upset about the wallabies.

She met Rae under the firs and Scots pines on the mound they called ‘swizzerland’.

They talked about their shared journey involving Alchemy and Anthropology and Jessica couldn’t

help mention the fridge they had experimented on as teenagers. When he initially denied any recollection she thought he was joking but when she pressed him he was adamant.

“Rae, come on, you mentioned it the other week...” Rae looked blank, “ Libya was there as well.” (Libya was the name of their mutual friend at the time).

“Well maybe it was just you and Libya that did it.”

“No! We did it together, there was an explosion and you had to clean the garage ceiling and the house stank.”

“According to you it did. I really don’t know what you’re talking about. Anyroadup who says Libya ‘remembers’ it ?”

“I’ll call her.”

“Right, call her.” They stared at each other.

“I didn’t keep in touch. I think she moved to Australia.”

“Facebook her.”

“I will. But look, you do remember when we went to the Pitman museum in Oxford with your uncle Derek? ’Cos that was about the same time.”

“Yes, we did that. That was really good but I never tried to exorcise your fridge.”

“But you do remember how Shandy used to bark at it even when we moved house?”

Rae stared up through the pine needles. “Errr, yes, I suppose so, maybe but I don’t remember messing about with your fridge” Rae said the last sentence with a strange mix of innuendo and irritation so Jessica gave up questioning him and they talked about the experiments that were actually conducting. However later that night she asked Libya, who turned out to be in Perth WA, to be her friend on fb.

By the time Libya replied, she was back in London

A week later Rae got lucky, in a bad way, in that one of his volunteers was on the verge of death. She had been transferred to a Hospice in south Manchester and with the help of two other volunteers, including Helen, Rae was able to follow her residual life force out past the stratosphere. He rented a large truck and set up his kit inside it in a road adjacent to the Hospice. Helen stayed with him in the truck while the other volunteer (the one not on the verge of death) stayed with Gaynor, the dying volunteer in the Hospice. When Gaynor died her Residual Life Force (RLF) began to journey away from the Earth. Rae’s life force followed it,

His perception of space started off as with previous ecto journeys but as he was leaving the thermosphere he started to experience distortions of shape and colour in his peripheral vision plus a slight sense of nausea combined with episodic bursts of euphoria, as you might experience at the start of an LSD-induced trip. This progressed through colour intensification, strobing, anamorphicational hallucinations, accompanied by more euphoria, morphing into delusional metaphysical understanding mixed with bursts of paranoia ending up with flat out visual abstraction but with no vomiting, which was a blessing. The trouble was that as he entered the last phase he found himself incapable of monitoring Alwyn’s residual life force so he returned to earth having travelled at an average speed of 2,700 kph for 5 minutes

He believed that he had witnessed a discernible change in the resonant nature of Gaynor’s RLF as it passed from the mesosphere to the thermosphere ( mesosphere 50-80 km, thermosphere 80 -700km above sea level)

After Rae’s return to his corporeal form Helen felt the need for him to stay at her place.

She was the one who mentioned that he seemed to have lost weight.

Jessica called Rae the following afternoon, she was concerned that he was putting himself at risk to no real purpose. She had also made contact with Libya in Australia and she had confirmed the haunted fridge incident.

Together the two of them had come up with a list of memorable things that they had done with Rae when they were teenagers.

So when Jessica spoke to him she tried to be diplomatic, working up to the subject but the fact was she had to tell him that the fridge incident had happened, Libya had confirmed it. Rae’s usual bombast evaporated. Jessica was able to run through her list and discovered that Rae could not remember the whole weekend the three of them had wasted trying out Francis Bacon’s approach to making gold.

“Ok, so it is upsetting, I guess. But, at the end of the day, they’re just memories.” Rae’s response echoed down the hall of clutching straws.

“That’s an interesting way of looking at it.” Jessica’s scepticism was unhidden, “Have you been keeping a record of your weight ?”

“ Yes, sort of. Look, this is a stressful time so weight loss is to be expected and anyways, I need to eat more, you always said I was too skinny. Or was that Libya ?”

“Rae ! ? “

“ I’m joking, obviously. But look, I definitely noticed a change in Gaynor’s life force as she left our atmosphere, so now I could make a comparison with an irradiated subject.”

“Gaynor was your last volunteer ?”

“ Yes. Gaynor. I’m not going to give them numbers, Jessica.”

“I’m not saying you should... do you think you’re getting more....”

“ More what ? “

“ Testy ? “

“ You mean tetchy ?”

“ok, tetchy then.”

Maybe, yeah, I might be but that could be a natural reaction, nothing to do with going ecto.”

(‘Going ecto’ was their shorthand for Rae’s method of allowing his life force to exit his body.)

“And we don’t really have any other options do we ?”

And the fact of the matter was that Claire and Jessica had not developed another way to monitor the RLFs as they moved off into space so, considering the stakes, Jessica gave way .

J and C irradiate May

Claire and Jessica were both working on their respective theses, ignoring the sunshine that beckoned to each of them through grimy windows. Neither could seriously consider sunbathing, as their Life Force investigations had used up any spare time they might have thought they had.

Claire had received another batch of DNA samples and she had some lab time booked for 6.00pm.

In 2003 it cost a million pounds sterling to sequence a genome, by 20-- it could be done in less than half an hour, using equipment costing less than a thousand.

At 6.45pm she found her first piece of ancient aberrant quasi-hominoid genome in a DNA sample from Othaya south of Nyrei in Kenya. She rang Jessica.

After the euphoria came the reality check. They had eleven volunteers: three had a few months to live, five had ‘months rather than years’ and three had ‘possibly two years, possibly less’. They could irradiate the volunteers with a souped-up version of the ancient Kenyan DNA and would probably find out how that affected them while they were alive but how could they monitor their (residual) life force after they died ?

Rae’s way seemed to possibly entail losing your memories and, according to Helen, your body mass.

Rae was prepared to take that risk but were they ?

Jessica and Claire put that dilemma into the “cross that bridge” (CTB) basket.

Two days later they used the ancient DNA extract to irradiate six of their terminally-ill volunteers. Since they did not have a clinic or use of a hospital ward they had to monitor the volunteers at their respective houses across north London. They had come to terms with the fact that their official postgraduate studies were doomed to failure. Saving the world took precedence even though they might never be able to prove they had saved the world which was as Claire put it in her poshest tones,

“a tad galling and then some but it’s not all about Kavlis, Franklins or Nobels”.

(Major science prizes)

They had compiled a questionnaire which the volunteers filled out as they signed up for the experiment. Each irradiated volunteer had to fill out a similar form on a daily basis after irradiation. They also had to write a diary of their thoughts and emotions. In addition to this Jessica and Claire took blood samples and checked blood pressures every other day.

The changes started to become apparent after 3 – 4 days. Lowered blood pressure and a feeling of well-being were the most obvious symptoms, followed by a distinct aversion to all aspects of greed and aggression in themselves and others. Volunteers who had been depressed by thoughts of their impending deaths grew happier and more accepting of their fates.

Jessica and Claire sent Rae a sample of the enhanced DNA and an encrypted video file showing him how to use the DNA to irradiate his volunteers.

“Yes, that is a good thing.” Jessica sat facing Claire in her kitchen “ but Mrs Huddlestone and Mrs Angstrom might die in a month maybe and, apart from Rae, we don’t have a way to monitor their journeys.”

“Well, we do ‘have a way’. You succeeded in going ‘ecto’ .”

“Oh thanks Claire. Rae’s losing his memory and his body mass and God knows what else by ‘going ecto’ . And anyway, seriously, if we could do it the ecto way we could never use what we found out as evidence, because, according to Rae it’s what he ‘noticed’ so that’s hardly objective scientific data and he noticed it whilst travelling through space as a ball of ectoplasm so...” Jessica left the thought hanging, they stared at their hands. Claire broke the silence,

“ Right, ok, so it’s not a good idea for us to ‘go ecto’ but if we could get an animal to do it and then attach a monitoring device to the animal’s ….....no, alright that’s not going to work. Ok, maybe we could add a trace to the life forces ?? A trace of HelioZetitic energy or somesuch ? Or neutrinos laced with gamma rays. No I think I just made that up... ” Jessica was looking at her, “ ok, alright, I was just blue sky thinking...aloud.”

“ No, you’re right, I don’t mean what you just said was right, that was just mental but we have got to think outside the box as well as working with what we’ve got. “

“Did we decide why we can’t try and just destroy everybody’s residual life force before it heads off into space ?”

“Yes we did, because we would need massive resources and since loads of people will equate the residual life force with ‘a human soul’..” Jessica stressed each syllable “then that’s not going to happen. No, my plan is I’m going to try and see if Rob can get us access to some more powerful equipment. ”

“I thought you said he thought we had it all wrong ?”

“ He may think we’ve come to the wrong conclusion but he knows we need to understand more about the actual phenomenon, he’s a scientist.”

“Yes, he’s your pet professor.”

Jessica threw a biscuit at her. “ Shut up Claire.”

Rae and Helen get serious June

Helen Zawodski and Rae went for a walk on the hills above Disley into the back end of Lyme Park, 15 miles south east of Manchester. There were a few clouds in the sky and they were scudding along so it wasn’t balmy. Helen asked Rae if she could leave her body and become ectoplasm at the same time as he did and they could “see what happens”. Rae said she would need to go solo first and she saw the sense in that. He realised that if he measured Helen’s wavelengths before she went ecto and before she was irradiated he could then continue to monitor her and compile a full profile. Data goldmine.

They agreed to go back to his place and get started.

Three days later he had measurements of: 1/ Helen’s body- pre rad, 2/ Helen as ectoplasm-pre rad, 3/ Helen’s body post rad day one, 4/ Helen as ectoplasm post rad day one and 5/ Helen’s body- post rad day two. He had encrypted the files and sent them to Jessica. The short phone call they had had regarding the matter had consisted of Jessica saying she thought ‘going ecto’ had dangers attached and Rae pointing out that Helen was a terminally-ill volunteer who had witnessed Rae himself going ecto and had suggested she wanted to do the same without any coercion on his part, and the information he could glean from measuring her could be invaluable.

He did not mention the fact that at some point he was going to leave his body and become ectoplasm at the same time as Helen for two reasons: firstly he knew Jessica would make a big fuss and then insist that she and probably Claire came to monitor the situation, and so secondly, he absolutely did not want them there because Helen had told him that she wanted to do it because they had ‘such fun’ when they were intimate she thought going ecto together would raise it to another level. He convinced himself that his energy-measuring and video-monitoring equipment could record everything that needed to be recorded.

Helen had also volunteered to allow him to temporarily trap her residual life force (and experiment with it) when she died if he thought it would help. Helen had long since eschewed any religious or spiritual notions. All four of her father’s grandparents had fled pogroms in Russia, one set of her grandparents had fled Germany in 1937, her mother was a lapsed Unitarian, her father a non-practising Jew. God was a laughable comfort blanket. If he did exist the idea that ‘free will’ meant he wasn’t a sadist was insulting and the Jesus dying on the cross so we can have eternal life construct was a pathetic but understandable for the times, piece of control freakery. She was, if anything, a pragmatic utilitarian humanist; try to act in a way that benefits the most people the greatest amount, or if you’re going to be lazy and selfish, just try not to damage other people. Lots of utilitarians lumped animals and ecosystems in with ‘people’.

The only problem Rae had with all that was that Helen was already so ‘nice’ the enhanced DNA irradiation might not make much noticeable difference to her energy wavelengths.

Jessica convinces Rob to get her access to better equipment end of June

Jessica decided that diplomacy and tact were good things. Being nice to someone because you wanted them to do something was not wrong in itself, especially if you liked the person anyway. Doing nice things to them and letting them do nice things to you was normal if you really liked someone.

It was not manipulation.

When Rob wasn’t away at weekend symposiums or conferences, or she was not seeing friends and family in Manchester, they, as in Jessica and Rob, would generally go for a meal on the Saturday night then go back to his place. She liked waking up on Sunday morning in his big bed in his comparatively large bedroom. She wondered if it was easier to love someone if they had a big clean bed and a really cool kitchen. She wondered if that meant, if that applied to her, that she was bourgeois. Could you be bourgeois if you weren’t French ? Of course you could, stupid.

But seriously, shouldn’t she really be dating a poor student like herself ? Could love only be true ‘if born of suffering ?’ Where was that from ? It sounded melodramatic, maybe it was Les Mis ? She decided to concentrate on the here and now which was simple because she was hungry. Should she make bacon and eggs or crumpets ? Ok, nothing was simple. Strawberry jam on toast ?

Forty minutes later she was sitting opposite Rob eating bacon and crumpets. She had been dead set against the idea at first, citing the ‘that way madness lies’ argument to ward off a breakfast that ‘flies in the face of decency’, - which was the second plank in her defence. Rob, however, was persistent, telling her she was too young to become set in her ways and to miss out on such a delicacy.

Reminding herself that she was about to ask for his help she agreed.

Thus it was over bacon and crumpets, which she thoroughly enjoyed, that she broached the subject of access to more powerful technology. As she had predicted Rob’s objective scientific principles won through and he agreed to try and get her access to a more powerful radio telescope.

All in all it was a pretty good Sunday.

Now they just needed a volunteer to die.

Rae and Helen go ecto

At 7.00pm Helen drew her heavy living room curtains. They had set up the the monitors, music files, beat boxes and video cams. Both Rae and Helen were wearing loose-fitting clothes and they lay back against the cushions. The beats built, they let their minds drift as they aligned themselves to the rhythm.

As before their life forces separated from their bodies. Previously, when Jessica had witnessed Rae departing his body to become ectoplasm he had appeared as a floating ball of light, approximately one metre in diameter, hovering 1.5 metres above the ground. And when Rae had observed Jessica, and later Helen, go ecto, that is how their ectoplasmic forms had manifested themselves.

This time Rae could see the furniture and the walls of the room as he had seen other inanimate objects during his previous out-of-body experiences. Everything seemed to be made up of jewel-shaped LEDs and as he looked at Helen’s ectoplasm things changed. ‘She’ started out looking like a spherical champagne chandelier, then he focussed and instead of seeing the ball of light he started to travel toward and into the light.

What actually happened was that both Rae and Helen’s ectoplasm surged towards each other and coalesced into a throbbing psychedelic ball of coloured lights that span on its axis. It expanded to almost two metres in diameter then shrank back over a period of five seconds to just over one metre in diameter. Then the ball inflated over a similar period to over two metres across. This inflation/ deflation cycle continued for another 30 seconds, the light dimming and brightening relatively. During this time Helen and Rae stopped using words, or rather they had no words to describe their perception. They had become the void, the void was everything that ever had been, was or would be. Unable to process the experience using the tools of sentient consciousness and language they too were, catatonically, everything that ever had been, was or would be.

And then the inflation phase did not stop, the deflation phase did not occur. The spinning continued and the ball increased in size until it almost touched the ceiling. Then it did touch the ceiling and there was a dull, gentle explosion of light and the beats blurred then stopped as the room was left as before – except that the gently pulsating walls, floor and ceiling contained the combined life forces of Helen and Rae.

Rae goes missing end of June

And so it was with death in mind that Jessica called Rae on Monday morning. He didn’t answer. By 6.00pm he had not responded to SMS, WhatsApp, twitter, e-mail personal and academic, Instagram, snapchat or Skype nor his mobile on 3 further occasions. She thought about phoning his parents, she had been to his house a few times when they were teenagers. But all that would do was worry them. If Rae hadn’t told her where he was going or why he wasn’t going to be answering his calls then he wouldn’t have told his parents. Those days were long gone.

She checked through her e-mails, maybe there was one where that Helen Zewodski had been comped in. Five minutes later she was fairly sure that no such e-mail existed.

She called Claire for the third time that day at 6.20pm, they decided to leave it until lunchtime the next day before they panicked. Claire’s suggestion that maybe Jessica could go ecto and zoom up to Manchester like Rae had zoomed down to London was given short shrift.

Lunchtime was 1.30pm and there had been no word from Rae. Jessica and Claire sat in the uni canteen, Jessica toyed with the remains of a half-hearted Caesar salad.

“I suppose the only option is for us to go up there. “

“If he has become stuck as ectoplasm then wouldn’t the Helen woman have contacted us ?”

“Yes, you’d think….but she hasn’t. Are you coming?” Claire nodded. “Ok, we’d best put the kit in the car.”

Seven hours later they were stood outside Rae’s front door. There was no answer. Luckily Jessica knew where the key safe was and the combo. They looked around his flat, not expecting to find him, hoping not to discover his body. Jessica’s hunch was that he was at Helen’s.

They found Helen’s address after a bit of a faff with his laptop.

There was no answer when they got there, a semi in a cul-de-sac. Claire opened the gate at the side of the house and they went round to the back garden. She peered in through the gap in the curtains.

“Someone’s sat on the floor, look!”

Jessica was trying to open the kitchen door, it was locked. They got a rock and broke in.

There were two bodies sat on the floor propped up by cushions; Rae and Helen. They grabbed a wrist of each, there were pulses just. As they knelt there they became aware of a dull subtle throbbing that seemed to emanate from the walls.

They set up a ring of the felspar mix around each of the bodies and turned on the equipment. As the beats and the wavelengths built the walls of the room started to glow as they had done when they had watched the G Team at work.

After what seemed a long time Rae and Helen regained consciousness . Later it became apparent that parts of their life forces had mixed. Previously Helen had had about one or two years to live and Rae possibly 50, later on tests showed they both had 25 years to look forward to. Also Rae had decided to continue his research going ecto as he believed he had, whilst in the ectoplasmic state, somehow learnt that it would not take 220 years until the black hole end event, in fact it would take 20 due to a tipping point scenario.

Also he wasn’t worried about dying. He had, he thought, somehow become aware of the true nature of the universe. “Our human existence should be an extremely brief stop on a journey of much more immensity but we are being stopped by this “so-called original sin/ dark energy shitfest”, was how he put it. As his life force had mingled with Helen’s he had been divested of his ‘oneness’- his individual nature- and with the additional effect resulting from Helen having been irradiated with the enhanced DNA, he had seen ‘beyond the void’. Jessica had to ask how he could be sure. It was 14 hours since Rae had been part of the pulsating walls and ceiling of Helen’s living room.

He sat with Claire and Jessica in his own kitchen, Helen had gone dinghy sailing at the Trafford water sports centre, she had not only recovered from the experience, she had gained energy.

“Maybe it was a hallucination ? “ Was how Jessica framed her question.

“Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. It’s just, you know how we always said how ridiculous it was that mathematicians and physicists thought it was their job to describe infinity ? “ Jessica nodded, “and that was because it was beyond numbers and the laws of a universe that we could perceive ?”

“Yes, I know, the difference between the skin of a dodecahedron to the power one zillion versus the skin of a smooth ball but then there would still be the atoms and sub atomic particles.”

“Yes! Well where I went, that wasn’t an issue. The number of dimensions or particles wasn’t an issue because there weren’t any numbers or particles. “ Claire joined in with,

“ That’s all good and all but what do you want to do about it ? Do you want to go back into the wall ?”

“Very funny Claire but, yeah, maybe I do but first I want to irradiate the rest of the world .”

“How do we know that will work ? We’ve still got to do tests .”

“I’ve irradiated Helen right ? And before I irradiated her she was different, I sent you the files. Then when I went ecto with her she was like a gateway into a totally different reality where we all are supposed to get to if it hadn’t been for some kind of mutation that happened to our DNA 200,000 years ago.” Jessica butted in,

“Yes but you didn’t go ecto with her before you irradiated her so you don’t know if it would have happened anyway. “ She looked at Rae, Rae looked from Jessica to Claire and back,

“Right, ok, so I need to do a couple of single blinds with control variables.” there was a pause,

“ That’s what I’ve got volunteers for..”

“And who’s going to scrape you off the walls ?” asked Claire

“I can set up the process you used and make it come on automatically.”

“Oh come on Rae, seriously !?” Jessica’s voice bounced around the room.

“Well alright then one of you stay while I do it. What else have we got ?”

“I’ve got access to the Chinese radio telescope for 30 hours over the next four weeks.”

“Fantastic but I bet that’s specific time slots and we might not be able to arrange for someone to die at the right time.” The reality and the ridiculousness of Rae’s statement silenced them for a moment.

“No, alright that’s true but we could, “ Jessica sounded tense, “ we could hold someone who has died until the following time slot ,”

“You told me it was a total no no to trap someone’s residual life force.” Now Claire’s voice bounced around the room.

“ Yes that’s true but if we do only have 20 years left, then that puts a different light on it.”

“That’s just something that Rae said after,” Claire turned to Rae, “ no offence Rae, after we peeled him out of the wall. It’s not in any sense a proven scientific fact.”

“We don’t really have a lot of those, “ Jessica was deadpan

“Helen said she’d let me trap her temporarily to see how it feels.” Rae sounded tired.

“Yes but she has to have died, for you to do that.... and she was looking in pretty good shape this morning ….....when she went off to do some sailing....” Claire looked at them, “Well she was.”

“ Ok, let’s be objective.” Jessica tried to ignore Claire’s antagonism. “We need to check all our volunteers and maybe get some more, and in the process work out which of them is going to die first and then see if we can use the new telescope to track that person’s Residual Life Force. After that we irradiate the one who dies second and track theirs. And then we do that a few times over.”

“Alright, well I’m up for that, “ Claire turned again to Rae who was silent. “ So, Rae, how was it, being part of the wall with Helen’s ectoplasm ?”

Rae looked into Claire’s eyes for a moment, “It’s not a sex thing Claire. It’s just it feels like I’ve seen the bigger picture. No sorry, that sounds American. No, I feel like I’ve seen what’s possible and it makes all this,” he gestured to indicate the world, “ it makes it seem so insignificant.” Claire and Jessica both moved in their chairs, “No, I don’t mean insignificant, sorry, no, all of this is really important but it’s only a stopping-off point on the way to somewhere, to something.... so, so much more incredible.”

“You’ve not gone and got God, have you Rae ?” Jessica couldn’t help herself.

“Fuck off Jess, it’s totally not a God thing alright ?”

“Alright, I just wondered.”

“No, look, you’ve been monitoring your volunteers and the DNA irradiation makes them better people doesn’t it ?”

“That’s one way of putting it.” Jessica pursed her lips.

“Well then, even if we don’t stop the black hole happening then, if we find a way to irradiate everyone then at least the final twenty years will be better than anything that went before. “

Claire and Jessica mulled it over. They both started to speak at the same time. Claire gave way.

“That is true as long as the effect it has had on, what is it, six volunteers ? Is the same for the entire world’s population. “ Claire broke in,

“We’d need to do a multi ethnic sample base of about five thousand before anyone would take us seriously and before we were halfway through that, according to you Jessica, the process would have been stolen and turned into a weapon.”

“Yeah, well I was thinking about that and we need to develop a protection shield and / or a reversal process. “ Rae sounded matter-of-fact.

“Really ?! Is that right ? Ok, I’ll get my other lab to knock them up .. no but seriously, Rae, you’re probably right but even if we didn’t do that then the intelligence agencies or the military would, and then it would be like an arms race. “ Claire joined in,

“So we’d irradiate Syria for instance and then the Russians would de-irradiate them and put a protective shield over them and all over themselves. And we’d already have one over us. And if we were going round trying to turn people into gentle pacifists whilst at the same time making sure that we stayed nasty and aggressive, well, I wouldn’t like that if I was a Russian or whoever.”

“Yes but if we irradiated them then they wouldn’t be fussed ’cos they’d be all like ‘it’s nice to be nice to the nice’ sort of thing.”

“But would we be being nice, if we were doing it to other people but not ourselves ?” Claire asked.

“Yes but no but, but the idea is ; you have to make sure everyone is nice and all that before the ones that aren’t at all nice start getting involved.”

“Ok, ok , ok I’m getting dizzy now. So Rae, are you actually saying that we have to secretly irradiate the whole world ? Seriously ?”

“Not exactly, not straight away. I agree that we have to do a few more tests but not thousands. Even if we somehow got the funding and it was secret, which it wouldn’t be, it would take us what ? About two or three years to irradiate then test five thousand volunteers and by then the process would have been stolen and the de-irradiation process would be everywhere and the protective shields would be all over the shop and we’d be stuffed.”

The conversation ended without an agreement. Rae wanted to have a siesta, Jessica and Claire needed to get back to London.

Visitors July ?

The house that Jess had a room in, just off the Holloway Road, was a big old house. It had a staircase that went up to a small landing where there was a bedroom and a toilet, then the staircase turned left and on the next landing were two large bedrooms. Next the staircase zagged back on itself like a dog after its tail and went on up to a small bedroom and a bathroom that had a cage the size of a dishwasher housing two budgies. High above the stairwell was a skylight which helped since the walls were all dark plum. The pictures that hung on the dark plum walls were black and white and featured the landlady’s grandparents in India between the wars. There were many large and small wooden and brass statues of animals (from India) throughout the house. It had the feel of an idiosyncratic museum.

It was a Tuesday, Jessica had only been back from Uni 20 minutes when there was a knock at the door. The landlady was out teaching at a local English language school until later in the evening so Jess answered the door. A man and a woman, both in suits, stood there. Jessica was just about to deliver her standard response to religious door knocking, cold-calling types when the woman asked her if she was Jessica Hambleton. When she asked who was asking they identified themselves as government officials and asked if they could ‘have a talk’. It was five days since Jessica had had the meeting with Rob and the astrophysicists.

The two officials followed her into the front room where they all sat down. The officials explained that they were aware of the meeting, and the basic facts concerning the development of a black hole. The government had designated the situation as ‘of major concern’ and since Jessica had been doing research into the subject the government wanted to co-opt her and her colleagues into a working group. They would all be paid at professorial level, starting with a guaranteed 12 month contract. The work they did, although classified, would go towards their respective Phds. When she mentioned her current studies they assured her that her Masters would be awarded as soon as she joined the government working group.

“We wouldn’t want your scientific career to be slowed down or impeded by this situation.” said the man from the government without a trace of irony. “You have, by all accounts, uncovered a threat to our nation, our planet. That in itself deserves commendation. “ He paused for effect. “That in itself deserves commendation. We hope that working towards the amelioration of that threat would be your goal. With government backing you will be in a much more powerful position to do that. We have a facility just north of London where you will have access to whatever is needed to solve this problem.

“Is it easy to get to from here ?” Jessica realised she sounded inane. The female official continued,

“You wouldn’t be commuting Ms Hambleton. This is a highly classified operation with national security implications. It’s not just your knowledge we need, your personal safety is also a serious concern. You will be staying at the facility, and let me assure you, it is no army barracks, the living quarters are more like a 4 star hotel. “ she almost sounded like an old-fashioned travel agent.

“What if I preferred to work the way I have been at UCL ?” Jess asked.

The officials glanced at each other, the woman replied.

“Well I think the government would have two questions to consider: the first is why would a citizen of the UK not want to help the democratically elected government, representing the people of the UK when there is a national security alert? And secondly, when that individual has been made aware of the security implications and the classified nature of the situation why would they want to leave themselves open to attacks from other governments or terrorist organisations ?”

“Why would other governments want to attack me ?” This time the man replied,

“As yet we don’t know the whole story and until we do, we cannot rule out the possibility that this is some kind of attack by an unfriendly or terrorist organisation. “ He seemed calm. Jessica spoke up.

“But we’re talking about a black hole, everybody would be dead !”

“That may or may not be the whole story. Until we have a full understanding of the problem and possible solutions we have to take all possible precautions. Surely you can see the sense in that ?”

Jessica sat amongst her landlady’s Indian sculptures. “What about Rob, what about my parents ?”

“They will be informed that you are working on a classified government programme. They will be given a cover story stating that you have gone to Chile on a twelve month astrophysics research programme. This will account for your not showing up at family functions, etc;. You will be able to contact them.

“ ok ...right, so I’ll need to talk to them and my colleagues and then decide.” Jessica tried to sound older than she felt.

There was another pause and the officials exchanged glances yet again, Jessica didn’t like the way they did that. The woman spoke up.

“I’m afraid it doesn’t work like that. As we mentioned, this is a matter of ‘major concern’ , by that the government means that emergency powers are employed. This is a situation where you are either with us or against us.”

“ Yes, of course I’m not against you....”

“So you pack your bags now and come and stay in a 4 star facility with sauna, pool, etc; with your Masters degree in your pocket and a Phd to come plus the salary, knowing you are working for a good cause. Or you don’t pack anything and you come with us as a terrorist suspect and get to spend the next two months being questioned in a secure facility; no Masters, no sauna, no salary.”

Jessica looked from one official to the other. Her legs felt weak and her heart was thumping in her chest.

“ Ok then.... I’ll get packing.”

The government officials had had similar conversations with Claire and Rae. Rae had asked if Helen could come with him. As he asked the question he knew the answer would be negative, he also knew that he would, in fact, be able to involve her as she was an irradiated volunteer and needed to be monitored. He felt as though he was partly in control of the situation.

July – September

At 9.30pm on that Tuesday Jessica, Claire and Rae sat down to eat in the government facility near Little Chalfont, north west of London on the A413. It was pleasant inasmuch as the food, the décor, the pool, the sauna, etc; were all high class. Still, it was a secure facility, with combination locks on most doors and corridors (apart from the communal ‘social’ areas).

Rae was a bit sarcastic about how encrypting their files had meant nothing once Jessica and Rob met with the astrophysicists with their findings about the dark energy build-up. Claire pointed out that they hadn’t been getting very far, working alone. Rae did not press the matter, he just had an ‘I told you so’ look about him.

Before they said their goodnights Rae pressed a slip of paper into Jessica’s hand under the table.

When she got back to her suite she put it in between the pages of a book she was reading in bed. She was fairly sure she was being filmed but thought the angle that she held the book offered some protection. The note explained that once a person had ‘gone ecto’ a few times they did not need the beat sequencer to make it happen. You could chant yourself into the ectoplasmic state. The note said that this was information they should keep to themselves for the moment. Jessica sat there wishing Rae had not given her a note that instructed her to keep a secret from the authorities. Would she be classified as a ‘terrorist’ if she was caught keeping such a secret ? What was she actually going to do with the note ?

If she gave it to the authorities then Rae might be classified as a terrorist. Even if he wasn’t he would never trust her again. Should she try and eat the note ? Just flush it down the loo ? Surely they weren’t checking the …. no surely not. She tore it up and flushed it away and had a sleepless night.

The next two months were productive in that many more volunteers came forward and were irradiated .

The British government had access to radio telescopes and were able to monitor the volunteers’ life forces as they died and their respective life forces moved out into space. These life forces did not mutate into dark energy. The government authorities had also downloaded all the files from Jessica, Claire and Rae’s laptops and back-up repositories. It did not take the authorities long to de-encrypt the files regarding the Felspar mix, the Residual Trapped Energies (RTEs), the DNA experiments and so on. They did not dismiss these projects as they might in normal times. It’s surprising how open-minded the establishment can become when emergencies of such earth-threatening proportions raise their fearsome heads. Not that they often did. An emergency of this magnitude had no precedent.

As soon as the ‘mutation into dark energy’ aspect had been verified the focus moved on to irradiations and monitoring the demeanour of the volunteers who had been irradiated, especially those who had a few years life expectancy. The results were promising, feelings of; anger, frustration, ambition, greed, lust, jealousy, envy and bigotry were all diminished

The British government was having high level meetings with other world powers about the black hole thesis. There would never be a good time to let the general public know. Unless they did know it would be difficult to persuade many of them to submit to an irradiation that removed their lust and ambition.

An advertising company was brought in, or rather, two advertising company directors who had signed confidentiality agreements came in for a consultation. Once they had assimilated the scale of the problem they reverted to type and started asking questions such as: could they sell access to the irradiation procedure as a ‘stress buster’ ? Or a way to truly enjoy your retirement ? Were tax breaks possible ? Access to free public transport and/ or cable TV ? Anger management ? An alternative to Pilates ? The Director of the Facility asked them to concentrate on making the thesis palatable to the general public. The advertising executives went quiet.

Jessica, Claire and Rae were walking ‘in the woods’, a copse of pines approximately the size of a football field. They had been there for ten weeks. Rob had been granted visiting / consultation rights. Helen came once a week to be monitored and to visit Rae. Claire had two suitors, they were psychologists working in the facility, she found their attentions sometimes flattering and, at times, irritating. In such hothouse conditions it was difficult to gauge their true feelings as much as it was her own.

“I had a look round last night.” Rae whispered. They knew everything was taped and filmed so the copse was the only place where they might possibly not be heard.

“How did you do that ?” Jessica already knew the answer.

“You know.” Rae made a gesture with both hands moving away from his torso to indicate that he had gone ecto. “On the far side,” he nodded his head to his left, “there’s a bunker that goes down five floors and they’ve got some of the mix and some seriously powerful pulsation devices that could push it out maybe all over England up to the Lakes I reckon.”

“That’s what you expected wasn’t it ? I mean at some point we will need to irradiate a large number of people all at once.”

“With, or without their consent ?” Rae asked flatly.

“Rae, if the world really could end in 20 years, and you knew that, then why would you, I mean any individual think they were so important that they shouldn’t give up some of their drive, their violent urges, their greed, and all that, so that humanity can survive ?”

“Ok, so what if I tell you that our government plans to keep 1,000 politicians, 2,000 bureaucrats and 40,000 armed personnel out of the process. So they won’t be irradiated, so they can protect the country. And if we’re going to do that then most other countries will be planning something similar.”

They continued to wander slowly around the middle of the copse, there was no wind.

“Average it out at 30,000 per country, say 120 countries is 3.6 million but it won’t be an average of 30,000 military personnel because they will need to replenish themselves, as in breed, so they will need spouses and children so it will be more like 9 or 10 million. And the governments will use the emergency to do away with elections in case the gentle irradiated masses voted to dismantle the armed forces and irradiate them all and achieve world peace. Now how long have we got left if those numbers stack up ?”

“ It’s fairly simple” Claire liked sums, “ if you’ve got 9 million unirradiated people on the planet instead of say, 7 billion we get about 12 times longer before it goes pop, so 2,400 years instead of 200. Aaach, no right, if you’ tipping point thesis is correct that could be more like 600 years.”

“Ok, alright, now think of the dynamic of a society with a privileged, aggressive elite and a docile proletariat which has no vote.”

“ Bit 1984 ish.” Claire’s voice was half whisper half whimper, it sounded almost over dramatic.

“It’s not funny Claire.” Rae was prone to take things the wrong way and now he was on his high horse that facet of his character was heightened. “ I saw a postcard that had been printed in the 1930′s in Catallan and it said something like ‘better to die a free man than live a life in chains’.” Rae left the thought hanging, his eyes looked into Jessica’s, she took up the issue.

“ Well, yes, Rae but you could argue that no-one is totally ‘free’ and there’s different types of chains. Also you have to recognise that people who have been irradiated have a different mindset.”

“Bovine.” Rae replied.

“That’s not fair. Up to now tests are showing decreased aggression, ambition, greed and envy but not total lack of them. People can still enjoy playing sport and wanting to win but it’s just not so big a deal as before. And they also seem to lose their attachment to religious icons.”

“You mean they stop believing in God.”

“Kind of, and that means they are less likely to go bombing and shooting in the name of a God and that’s not such a bad thing actually.”

“Maybe so but the point is that the people calling the shots will not have been irradiated therefore because they will still be greedy, ambitious and aggressive the world will still be a shitsville.”

“ Maybe but there will still be a world. “ Rae snorted, Jessica continued unabashed. “ No seriously, it will still be very unlikely that anyone will be going to war ’cos the masses wouldn’t support it, they wouldn’t fight, so it would just be the un-irradiated soldiers killing each other. I mean, say France wanted to invade Spain. Their army could walk into Spain and take some territory but then they would have to defend it against the Spanish army. Unless they knew where all the Spanish army was beforehand and had bombed them to death. But the Spanish army would have missile launchers hiddan away programmed to fire against incoming. So it would be like the nuclear stand-off we have now. “

“Alright, let’s say that is the way it goes. That means that all the existing military conflicts stop without resolution. Whoever holds most of the disputed territory on the day the mass irradiation takes place, they keep that territory.” Rae tried to keep his voice down. Claire entered the fray.

“Rae, surely there’s never going to be a day when there aren’t unresolved territorial disputes, so there will never be a perfect time to irradiate people. And...” Claire continued over Rae’s half-formed interjection, “you are also supposing two things to be true; one, the political/ administrative dynamic that you described is the actual outcome and two, that the people that get a chance to live will feel the same way as you and that Catallanian you mentioned.”

“But that’s the point; they will never get a chance to know they are living a half life.”
“Rae !” Jessica’s whisper was harsh and angry “ how can you describe living in a world without rape, torture, child abuse and war as living a half life !” there was the inevitable pause before she continued “And anyway, it’s all out of our hands now.”

“But we still don’t know all the facts. I mean, say it turns out that, in the long run, irradiated people end up as miserable as people are now. You know how in a supposed Utopia there are different degrees of nastiness and passive aggression and they still have an impact on people’s feelings so that’s possible. Now just say that you guys revisited what you did with the ancient DNA and the mix and the irradiation process and maybe you could come up with something that could help with that.” Rae had calmed down a fair bit.

“ I guess it’s possible... we’d need some help from the psychologists.” Jessica looked at Claire.

“Jessica don’t do that.” Claire was easily wound up when it came to her relations with the two young psychologists embedded in the facility. “ Anyways, have you heard the latest theory that’s going round about the Residual Life Forces ?” Jessica and Rae grunted in the negative. “Well, the idea is that Homo Sapiens became the dominant species because their life forces were taken over by dark energy, making them even more aggressive and smarter than they had been. So dark energy is like the creatures of the universe that is made up of dark matter. They worked out that if they could hijack our life forces then when we died our life force could fly out into space but instead of dissipating harmlessly it could go far far out and form the skin that would cause this part of the galaxy to become a black hole which is a form of dark matter. “

“Why couldn’t dark energy just form the skin in the first place ?”
“ Don’t be silly, if it was that easy everything would already be dark energy and dark matter.”

“So when dark energy becomes aware that we are in the process of thwarting their evil plan won’t they come back and just thwart us back ?” Rae asked with a hint of sarcasm.

“Maybe they will.” Claire seemed serious. Jessica turned to her

“That would mean we’ve been aliens all along and if we had remained like the other Hominoid species we’d all be happy and gentle, living off nuts and berries.” Rae, being an anthropologist spoke up,

“ Not necessarily, we might have still evolved certain self-preservation tendencies and all be living in tribal units and be fighting each other for territory and food.”

“Whose theory is this anyway ?” Jessica asked. “I mean there’s nothing in the media yet and the only people you talk to are here..... Is it Mark ? “ Mark was one of the psychologists.

“I don’t know if it’s his theory but, yes, he did tell me about it.”

“He’s a psychologist, isn’t he ?” Rae asked with a tone in his voice.

“Yes, alright, he’s not an anthropologist like you but we don″t have to get all ‘ologistic’. You... I mean we, haven’t come up with any other theories.”

“No, apart from natural selection.” Rae’s sarcasm was not his best feature.

“It’s a bit of an odd jump isn’t it ?”
“What is ?”
“ From having creatures whose life forces harmlessly disseminate into space to having a species whose life forces fly out into the cosmos to form a skin that can destroy our solar system and then some ? “
“And the DNA we used was from what appears to be the remains of maybe Homo Denisovians ” Jessica added.

“Alright, alright, sorry. Ok yes, you have a point.... which I already knew about . Sorry, I was being a git.”

“That’s ok.”

“But I still need to get my head around the idea that dark energy got into our ancestor’s life forces so as to destroy us 200,000 years later. “

“Dark energy doesn’t exist in the same space/ time continuum as us, that’s not an issue for them.”

They continued to wander around the copse, it was not cold and the sun was filtered pleasantly by the denuded branches. A squirrel ran up a tree. Jessica broke the silence.

“I suppose we should try a different way to enliven the DNA and all that. We haven’t really done anything creative in that area since we got here. Now we’ve got all these volunteers coming forward it shouldn’t be hard to sell the idea to the Director.

The Director of the Facility was 55 years old. Had studied Geophysics at Clare college Cambridge and was one of the many who had counselled politicians that they be ‘led by the science’. The science that Jessica, Claire and Rae had brought along struck him as nightmarishly outlandish but the astrophysical data backed up the initial concept and the findings they had made of contemporary, unirradiated Residual Life Forces compared to irradiated Residual Life Forces now stood up to peer review.

The Director hoped to spend his later years in the House of Lords so he had no intention of blocking Jessica. The lab she was working in was deep underground and she was being monitored to ensure she did not blow herself up. Newton, Faraday, Watt and so many others had made important breakthroughs in their early twenties, who was he to presume she might not, since it appeared she had already ?

He also knew that the profiling of the recently irradiated volunteers looked uniformly pacifistic, unaggressive and , most saliently, unacquisitive. All the volunteers showed a marked decrease in their desire to own or buy any new products. People who had previously circled 8 on the 0-10 scale when asked if they would like to have the most recent model of a car or TV set scored 3 after radiation. Heads of multinationals would not like that type of development. In normal times, when many heads of multinationals pressured governments, governments were to prone to give. These might not be normal times and yet if Jessica could find a middle way.....

Jessica and Claire try to get busy Sept ?

The lab was about 8 metres by 11 metres. There were two 6 metre long benches and isolation chambers in two corners, each about 3 metres square, 2.4 metres high. Jessica and Claire had been reading back through old Alchemy texts and had decided to try some new mixes using the old favourites such as: Felspar, Sulphur, Mercury, Oxygen, Gold, Bone marrow of lambs, Honey fungus, Walnut oil and Alcohol . They were also trying a variety of energy impulses ranging from the Super low end of the spectrum through to Gamma. Tiny particles of the ancient DNA mixed with larger amounts of contemporary DNA would be embedded in one of the mixes, placed in one of the isolation chambers then zapped with a cocktail of energy impulses. Afterwards they looked at the result with an electron microscope to see if the contemporary DNA had undergone change (s).

They were concentrating on the ares that affected aggression, lust, etc; however the computer did a full comparison in case of unexpected effects to the contemporary DNA, e.g. regarding intelligence, physicalities, susceptibility to infections and the like.

Claire and Jessica sat in the lab looking through the electron microscope data. Claire spoke quietly

“You know it doesn’t really matter if we do or don’t find a less passive result.”

“In what way ?”

“Well the army is always going to say the people that we irradiate are too passive and the politicians are going to go along with them and it will always end up with the politicians and the military remaining un-irradiated.”

“Maybe..... but say, for instance, we find that we can create safe Residual Life Forces and the only difference in the living humans is that they have, on average, a 50% weaker libido and they like to go for walks instead of watching telly but they still like a fight. Then the rationale for keeping the military un-irradiated and all that is de-bunked.”

Claire smiled and breathed in

“Well... maybe” and breathing out she continued “but I doubt it.” There was quiet in the lab.

“Anyway, you know what we forgot ?”

“No, I don’t know, otherwise it wouldn’t be ‘forgot’. Let me guess. Is it someone’s birthday ?”

“ No.”

“Did we forget to turn the gas off ?” Jessica was writing in her notepad with a pencil.

“ No. “ Jessica pushed the pad in front of Claire in very feint letters it said ‘talk about it in copse’

as Claire read it Jessica said

“ Alright, Oh, I know … you’re getting engaged to that Mark.”

“No, shut up, that is so unprofessional.” Claire looked into Jessica’s eyes. “ You know what? I need some fresh air.”

The copse protected them from the mizzle, just. Later there would be droplets from branches but for now it was a haven.

“Right, seriously now, what have we forgotten ?” Jessica still kept her voice to a whisper.

“We forgot to see if we can reverse the process.” There was a pause, as might be expected.

“Bloody hell, God I hate science...... no, but why would we really want to do that?”

“Well.... say for example that after 18 months people started to go weird.”

“Define ‘weird’.”

”It doesn’t matter what type of weird, let’s say dysfunctional...alright, maybe they become so apathetic that they cease to eat, they just curl up and die.”

“Is this something else your Mark thought up ?”

“Jessica ! He’s not ‘my Mark’ and it doesn’t really matter who thought it up, does it ? “

“No, sorry, ok.”

“I mean, would you like it done to you ?”

“I don’t see why not.” Jessica pushed the hair away from the side of her face.

“That’s not a very convincing-sounding answer Jessica.”

“No, alright, we’ve done over a hundred people since we came here and none of them have lost interest in the things they were previously interested in apart from that boxer. I mean that man who was a trainspotter still goes trainspotting and eerr, that woman who went rally driving is still doing it. She probably doesn’t win but she’s still...”

“But don’t you think that we should still try and figure out how to protect ourselves from being irradiated just in case there are long-term negative effects ?”

They walked along the path, a wood pigeon cooed, a squirrel ran a nut up a tree.

“ Apart from living in a Lead and Strontium-lined room, I can’t see how you would really stop the radiation. I mean, we can’t devise a pill or any internally-taken antidote, it doesn’t work that way

does it ?”

There was a sudden, aggressive beep sound followed by two more coming from speakers at the edge of the copse.

“ Could Ms Hambleton and Ms …...... please report immediately to reception.” The message repeated itself twice. They looked at each other, Claire spoke

“Where’s Rae ?”

“He had a visit from Helen last night.” they exchanged looks, “… Oh shit.”

They hurried to reception from where they were escorted by an uninformative security guard down two storeys to level B and thence to room 19 where they were introduced to Major Somebody who asked them to be seated. The Major was about 45 years old, just under 6 foot with a ski jump nose that reminded Jessica of Sponge Bob Square Pants. However his voice was clipped, home counties.

He informed them that Rae had failed to turn up for work on his monitoring project and a medic had been sent to check if he was ok as he was not answering his phone. The medic had found the door to Rae’s quarters locked and had received no response to his loud knocking. The medic had called security and additional medical support. Upon entering Rae’s suite they found the comatose bodies of both Rae and Helen. The medics had not been able to bring either of them back to consciousness.

The Major looked from Jessica to Claire and back again. Jessica explained that she and Claire could probably sort it out and that they would get right on it. The Major said they would have to write a report and blood samples would need to be taken.

“Blood samples ?” Claire asked.

“ Yes, any member of staff who undergoes such a trauma has to have a once over; protocol, especially when a visitor is involved. Drugs might have been taken.”

“ Rae doesn’t do drugs.”

“Nevertheless, samples will be taken.”

Forty minutes later Jessica and Claire had set up their kit of sequencers and ‘scraped’ Rae and Helen’s ectoplasmic forms out of the walls and put them back in their respective bodies, not obviously any the worse for wear. A woman who said she was a doctor took the blood samples, blood pressures, looked into the back of their eyes, checked their reflexes, had them walk around the room for a few seconds and asked them if they felt ok which they said they did apart from feeling extremely tired. She had them sign a form and then she was gone. Jessica and Claire left them to get some sleep.

The next day Jess and Claire took Rae for a walk in the copse.

“Bloody hell Rae !” Jessica whispered aggressively “What do you think you’re up to !?”

“ It’s Helen.” They both gave him a look “ No, I mean I like the feeling but she’s totally mad for it.”
“Right ! There you are” exclaimed Claire.

“What you are where ?” asked Jessica.

“The thing I was saying about unforeseen developments....This is one of those. People who have been irradiated become addicted to going ecto together and end up stuck in the walls.”

“Why would they know how to go ecto ?”

“Well if Helen knows, how do we know how many she has inducted ?”

“How could she induct someone else ? Rae ?” Jessica turned to Rae.

“ Eerrrm , I leant her the equipment so she could do it with other terminally ill volunteers...”

“You did what ?!?” Jessica “Oh God.” Claire.

“ It seemed fair ,” was Rae’s somewhat weak response.
“ So, are they all dead yet ?” Jessica asked quietly but angrily.

“No they’re not, not any of them.”

The next day they got the blood tests back. When Rae had had his meeting with the doctor he met back up with J and C in Jessica’s quarters. He told them there was a problem with the results.

“She said my blood cells looked old, she said I didn’t have enough platelets and lots of other counts were below normal. She did some tests and told me my lungs seem weak and my eyesight is deteriorating.”

“Shit.” Jessica “ Oh God” Claire

After more tests were carried out on Helen and questions asked they came to the conclusion that Helen had been sucking the life juice out of Rae and she had enabled other terminally ill volunteers to do the same to other un-irradiated people who they had contacted on exotic / esoteric websites.

Jessica asked Rae to meet them in their lab.

“Ok, we can’t keep this secret, and presumably Rae, you’d like some of your life juice back, I mean that wasn’t the deal was it ? That you’d give Helen maybe 20 years of your life expectancy for taking part in the trials ?”

“No, it wasn’t.”

“So we’ll have to get them all in and explain it to security.”
“ Security ?”

“ Yes, if some of those other volunteers are sucking the life out of innocent younger people, that’s got to be a crime.”

Jessica had suggested they meet in the lab because she did not want to keep any more secrets, she knew they were being monitored and that was probably for the best. However, Rae had a different opinion and so did Claire. In hushed tones they agreed that a walk in ‘the woods’ would be nice.

Once amongst the conifers Jessica got back to the topic.

“Right, so the possibility is that we end up with an un-irradiated minority boss class whose very existence means the world will end in, what was it , 4,000 years ? “

“ No, 2,400 years.” Claire interjected.

“ Right, and an irradiated proletariat that will become addicted to going ecto with members of that boss class. Lovely people but they won’t be able to resist the thrill of the ecto bonding rush which, in turn, sucks the life juice out of some poor soldier. “

“Why would the soldier agree to do it ?” Rae asked, Claire answered.

“The irradiated prole will offer them some weird sex bribe or something. Or maybe people in the military will envy the irradiated proles being all happy and if they , the soldiers, can get their life expectancy down to 20 years they won’t be fit to fight and will be retired and so they would get irradiated. “

Claire looked at Jessica, then at Rae.

“Hold on, if soldiers are going to be irradiated on retirement, and maybe politicians as well, that changes the maths. We could be back to 40,000 years.”

“Well that’s ok then.”

“Well yes it is, as far as I’m concerned, to be honest.”

“Claire !” Jessica looked at Rae

“It doesn’t change the 1984 dynamic and why would someone want to demote themselves to prole ?

I mean there will be benefits to being in, or retired from, the military. That’s how totalitarian states get by” Rae sounded self-consciously cynical.

Over the next 3 weeks Jessica and Claire were able to requisition human child bone marrow; the facility had access to NHS body donations. They were also able to commission tests on a range of adults and children as young as 18 months and DNA going back thousands of years. After fourteen days they came to a rather hasty conclusion that the Dark Energy that had been possessing / infecting human life forces for over 150,000 years could not recognise a host body until that host body recognised our concept of time, as in planning what to do later, not simply living in the moment. That is why a toddler’s bone marrow was effective.

Jessica and Claire created a bone marrow cocktail using elements they had utilised before and pumped in a range of energy wavelengths to create what was in essence an ‘anti-time’ bomb, which if exploded in the right place should destroy Dark Matter.

While they were doing this astronomers discovered a mass of Dark Matter closer to the solar system than the developing skin of Dark Energy . It would take a normal spacecraft 15 years to get there but Rae believed he could get there, as ectoplasm, in three months, taking an ‘anti-time’ bomb with him.

If it did destroy the Dark Matter that would be some kind of proof they had created something that might be used against (the) Dark Energy.

Jessica, Claire and Rae hypothesized that if they could get enough child bone marrow to energize Alchemically they could create thousands of ‘anti-time’ bombs. They would string them round the earth like a web using satellites and then activate them simultaneously. This would re-set the time frame by destroying all the Dark Energy that is inhabiting everyone on the Earth and in so doing cause the death of everybody and the world would revert back to the state it was in about 200,000 years ago, i.e. before humans were infected by Dark Energy. As Claire said “that would mean that you, your parents, grandparents might never get born but everyone who does get born will live a blameless life; no more child abuse and torture and all that.” of course, it was a hypothesis, and they had been drinking, they weren’t at all sure if it would definitely work.

The second hypothesis/ plan was the one that consisted of irradiating the vast majority of the world’s existing population , leaving a boss / military class un-irradiated to supposedly keep sovereign states independent and protected. A dystopian future …

After the hangover early October

Upon recovering they decided to retrieve Rae’s life force from Helen. He couldn’t go to the edge of the cosmos without some ‘juice in his tanks’ as Jessica had put it. It was not so much that he was a changed man though that is what he was. He was less of a man in many ways. Claire regretted asking if he had ever been much of a man. She regretted a few things she had said when they had been drinking.

The kit that Rae had given/ lent to Helen had been confiscated by the Authorities some weeks previously. This meant that none of her terminally-ill pals had managed to replicate the set-up.

Some had tried with laughable and dangerous outcomes.

The Authorities had visited Helen’s acquaintance Peter Headingly. He lived on the second floor of a large, paint-peeling Victorian house in Withington, Manchester. Many of the window sills had bare wood showing and were crying out for some linseed oil and two part filler, never mind a bit of paint. Peter, being terminally-ill, was way past that kind of mundanity. He was also pretty skint and his attempt to copy Rae’s beat-sequencing, energy-pumping, ectoplasm-inducing equipment fell way short of the mark.

He had started off with KorgMicrokorg synthesiser circa 2003. He’d wired it haphazardly to a practice amp. The seriously dangerous bit was where he had intended to use an open microwave oven and an infra red lamp. In his defence it had to be said, if you were terminally-ill and you had a chance to leave the confines of your body and fly wherever you fancied, you would. You know you would.

If you then had the chance to persuade an unirradiated, non terminally-ill person to do it with you, thereby making you fell physically rejuvenated to the power of three, you totally would do that.

Helen herself had been brought into the Facility, for evaluation, for a long time. She wasn’t given the “come voluntarily and get a big salary” option. As far as any of her friends or interested parties were concerned she had taken a turn for the worse and volunteered for medical tests.

Her quarters were not unpleasant and she was an optimist, especially now she felt twenty years younger. Jessica, Claire and Rae were fairly sure she had not mastered going ecto without the beat-sequencer and energy input sources. Obviously they did not want to tell the Director of the Facility that such a thing was possible. Nor that a tracery of energy-meshed wavelengths could be directed all around a room so as to incarcerate the ectoplasmic energy. ‘Every card should have a sleeve’ as Claire had said. Jessica had long since given up correcting Claire’s misremembered adages.

Jessica had been working on a version of the gateway they had first encountered when observing the G team at work. Her new version was designed to suck / tempt / channel Rae’s life force (s) out of Helen and back into Rae. It was an experiment that could only be tested on the two of them.

That was what Jessica told the Director. He didn’t seem to feel the need to run the idea past any of the other scientists. His general demeanour suggested that he did not think Rae had much more to offer the enterprise they were involved in. Using him as a guinea pig was not a problem.

Jessica did not impart that sentiment to Rae.

The labs were bigger than back at UCL. There were more protocols and everything was recorded separately from the recordings taken by the participating scientists. Jessica and Claire strapped Helen and Rae onto padded gurneys. Three years previously Jessica would have felt somewhat trepidatious during such a manoeuvre as it presaged the dramatic spasming of those who had been strapped down.

She had become accustomed to the procedure while working at the Facility. This time it involved Rae whom she had known since she was eleven years old. She had met him on their first day at grammar school and like a friend you make when you are young she felt affection for him and irritation with him in almost equal measures. It was only as she fastened the straps on his ankles that she also felt admiration; they were on a journey she could hardly have imagined when she was 15 and heavily into Alchemy and Cosmology.

Claire was on the the other side of the lab strapping Helen down. They had lied to Helen. She thought she was going on another ecto-fondling expedition with Rae. Being an inmate of the Facility Helen didn’t have to be told anything. Jessica had asked Claire to handle that side of things as she herself was too angry with the woman even though she knew that Helen had not initially become involved with Rae to steal away his life expectancy.

Jessica turned on the energy-sequencers and related paraphernalia and the two patients let themselves devolve towards the ectoplasmic state. Claire pulled the sheet off the gateway and rolled it into position between Rae and Helen. Jessica fired up the energy mesh ‘cage’ that would keep Helen’s ectoplasm in place. Helen’s ball of ectoplasm appeared just after Rae’s and it/ she moved towards him but stopped within a foot of the invisible cage wall. It then moved around exploring the space it was confined within. It seemed to swell and then unswell.

Claire turned the gateway on, it pulsated and glowed. Jessica flicked a switch and the current flowed in a way that caused Helen’s ectoplasm to shudder and make a subsonic moan that Jessica and Claire could feel in the back of their throats and in their chests. The room throbbed for nearly 30 seconds and then the ectoplasm flickered and died away as it returned into Helen.

Rae’s did the same. Soon after they were both conscious although a tad dazed. Helen was not aware of what had actually happened although she knew she had not ‘supped of the cup that holds the elixir of life’. They took blood samples then Claire summoned a member of security and Helen was led back to her quarters. They kept Rae back for more tests, Claire and Jessica had agreed between themselves to diplomatically keep Rae and Helen apart as much as possible.

Two days later they got got the results of the tests back. Rae’s red blood cell count was back up, as was his iron and TIBC and TSH levels. His LFT, UE Creatine, ESR and his Differential (ADB) were all just super average. It looked like he should live well past his 70th birthday not counting bus, train, plane and car accidents, unforeseen diseases and taking his ectoself half a light year across the galaxy.

Rae’s journey to the Black Matter not

After the tests all came back positive Rae was set to go. They had been feeding him an enhanced diet for two weeks. It might help and it couldn’t hurt was the underpinning logic. Members of the British government had thought about trying to persuade foreign powers to use their foreign massive telescopes to attempt to track Rae’s ectoplasmic journey into space. Then they had decided against it. Telling the Chileans, Chinese, Americans, etc; that you were sending a an ‘indefinable’ energy source out into the far flung galaxy for an undisclosed purpose and that you’d like them to keep tabs on it and report back was never going to work in the arena of ‘Top Secret’ matters.

The British government had its own secret telescope on Henderson island, one of the Pitcairns, in the Pacific and one on South Georgia island in the Atlantic. They were disguised, so to speak, as Oceanographic water treatment research centres. The vast circular dishes were made to look like the water-treatment plants. These two set-ups triangulated with Jodrell Bank in Cheshire, England. This gave the Brits a decent ability to monitor cosmological phenomena.

Jessica, Claire and Rae’s initial projections had envisaged a three month return journey. Rae’s previous trip beyond the stratosphere had only taken him approximately 120 kilometres above the surface of the earth, his acceleration had verged on the exponential. Extrapolations were difficult.

As things stood Rae had regained weight and vigour and Jessica thought he was as sane as he ever would be. It was a rainy Tuesday morning when the three of them were summoned to the Director’s office. The man behind the desk was not the Director they knew and did not respect. This man was hard-faced and yet bland at the same time.

Jessica asked after the previous Director and was informed that the ex-Director was just that; ex;

‘as of yesterday’ followed by some bureaucratic jargon.

Rae’s mission had been postponed. The idea that young scientists could go messing with Dark Matter or Dark Energy (or DMDE as the new Director put it) and there would be no unforeseen negative repercussions was under review. Jessica responded,

“The galaxies are all in flux, on a astral time scale. Dark Energy and Dark Matter are coming in and out of existence all over the place. The only way we can find out if we can have any effect on any of it is by sending Rae’s life force out there. “

“Well not exactly Ms Hambleton. It would be one way we could try to ascertain if we can affect them. We do have other options. “

“Really ? Such as ? “ Jessica tried to sound polite.

“That is confidential information.” His tone was oily.

“Yes, well it’s all confidential but if we don’t share information then we risk missing connections and making breakthroughs. That’s how science works best.”

“Information is being shared; at certain levels.” He paused, presumably for dramatic effect. “Your job is now to continue to monitor the volunteers.”

“What about our work on the DNA?”

“That will be left on hold while the review takes place.” Claire spoke up

“How long will the review take?”

“There is no definite time frame as yet. We appreciate the work you have done but for now you will concentrate on monitoring the volunteers. Thank you.”

Jessica, Claire and Rae left the office in silence.

New plan October

“Let’s have picnic and a game of cards.” Jessica suggested.

“It’s October.” said Rae.

“It’s not cold, Raymond,” Jessica made a face and looked side to side wonkily.

“Oh right, oh ok,” Rae cottoned on.

“I’ll make a flask of coffee,” was Claire’s attempt at normality.

They grabbed coats, cards, coffee and rugs from their rooms and they were off to the copse. Were they kidding themselves that they couldn’t be heard amongst the trees? They didn’t have much choice.

They spread the rugs under a Monterey Pine.

“It doesn’t look like they’re interested in our Plan B anymore,” Jessica stage whispered as she held a hand of cards in front of her mouth.

“They’re happy with the Boss Class solution,” Rae muttered.

“That explains why they’ve stopped us pursuing the happy medium,” Claire used her coffee cup to hide the movement of her lips. “BTW I don’t think they are actually going to be filming our lips.”

“So how many years do we end up monitoring vollies?” Jessica posed the question.

“How long do we live is more like it,” was Rae’s rejoinder. The wind gently rustled the tops of the trees.

“Jess !!” A voice called out from the edge of the copse. “Jess !!” It was Rob.

“We’re over here !” Jessica shouted, “Here !”

Moments later Rob appeared from behind a tree. Jessica was up on her feet and they embraced.

“I didn’t know you were coming,” Jessica’s lips were on his neck.

“No, neither did I. Let’s sit down.” Rob continued, his voice tight. “I’ve been brought in to ‘help out’.”

“To do what, exactly ?” Rae butt in.

“I don’t know exactly. Why are you all out here?”
“It’s maybe the only place we’re not recorded.” Jessica explained.

Rob looked around at the trees. He got up and walked about a bit, looking up at the trunks and down at the roots. He came back to the group and sat down again.

“That might be true. So what’s going on with you guys? What are you playing ?” he gestured at the cards.

“Rummy but not really. There’s a new Director and he’s put us on hold. We’ve been told to just monitor the volunteers, nothing else, no more DNA research,” there was a pause. “How long do you think you’re going to be here ?” Jessica looked around again.

“ I’ve no idea. They’ve taken my phone and laptop which they said they’d return tomorrow. Not the phone though. “
“Well we’re stuffed then” said Rae.

“In what sense ?” Jessica sounded brittle.

“We’re the four people who know the ins and outs of the situation and now they can do what they want with us. I mean, I don’t know what cover story they gave you Rob but we’re at an astronomical facility in Chile so a tragic accident could easily happen.”

“That’s a bit Bourne Legacy isn’t it ?” Claire did not sound sure of herself.

“Well it’s either that or they keep us here for basically ever and keep us from doing any proper research, ’cos they wouldn’t have got rid of the old director and put us on hold unless they had decided to go with Plan A, and that means we’re the loose ends.”

They sat there, the playing cards unused in their hands.

“You’re right,” Rob said quietly, “why else bring me in ?”

“I’ve worked out how we can get out,” Rae picked up a card. “Trouble is, we need that DNA if we want to progress our experiments.”

Claire and Jessica looked at each other, Jessica turned to Rae,

“We got some.”

“When ?”

“Just after we talked to the new Director.”

“How ?”
“You don’t want to know.” Jessica and Claire looked at each other again.

“Where is it ?” Rae asked.

“We smuggled it out. It’s not important where it is. ” Claire said quietly but forcefully.

“Yes, ok, fine but it is, cos if something were to go badly wrong we” he gestured at Rob “might need to get it.”

Jessica and Claire looked at each other and this time they started laughing. Rob got there first,

“Oh no, really ? No ? Ok, ” the laughter subsided “Don’t you think you should cut some bits off and give us both a bit just in case ?”

“Oh, no.” Rae had just realised where Jessica and Claire had probably hidden the DNA. The way he looked at their groins made them laugh again despite themselves. Rob broke in,

“Ok, what is your plan Rae ?”

“Right, ok ...” it was quiet again “they could stop us going ecto by drugging us or something. So one of us can go ecto now, disable the alarm system and the locking mechanisms then the others can take the body and drive away.”

“Why would we leave one of us as ecto ?” Claire asked.

“As protection.”

“So we could have got the DNA then, then.”

“Yes, maybe you could..”

“So we didn’t have to....” Claire looked at Jessica.

“I didn’t know he had a plan, obviously. Anyway they might arrest us or something when we go back in so it was for the best.” She shifted on the rug and grimaced.

That’s all very well but where exactly would we go Rae ?” Rob asked.

“Well now you’re here I’m thinking that place of your up in Scotland. ’Cos we’re going to have to take our families.”

“What do you mean ‘families’ ?” The laughter had gone from Jessica’s voice.

“Our parents basically.... and any brothers and sisters you care about. ’Cos they’ll go after them as bargaining chips once we’ve gone.”

“What’s to stop them coming after us as soon as we leave ?”

“We’ll leave them locked in without communications so it could be hours before they are able to inform the authorities.” Rae emphasised the last words unnecessarily.

Jessica said “Not really Rae, the guard hut has glass windows, they’d be out in minutes, not hours.”

“Ah, well, that’s the thing Jessica,” they were both sounding like fourteen year olds “ “I’ve worked out a way to change the structure of things like glass.”

“Change the structure Rae? When did you learn to do that?”

“They’ve had me monitoring the volunteers for the past two weeks, I’ve had some spare time. I don’t hang about.”

“Don’t sound so Manc Rae.”

“Yer just dead jealous.”

Claire interrupted what was becoming childish banter “So how long do you think it would be before they came to check the Scottish place out ?”

“I don’t know, hours and that gives us time to move our plan forward, as in I could head out for the Dark Matter.”

“Hold on Rae,” Jessica looked around, “ the Dark Matter doesn’t actually matter, we’re not trying to prove anything anymore. We just want to get to Plan B where it’s a fair world, peace and love and all that, no Boss class sort of thing. So we just have to irradiate the British government, well the Cabinet really, and MI5 to begin with, followed by all the major powers and their secret services. And we could do that right now. I mean the first two bits. “

Rob leaned into the middle of the group.

“If Rae can do the glass thing then that would mean we wouldn’t need to spirit any family members away, or drive up to Scotland.”

“But what would happen if the irradiated British government didn’t want to irradiate the other governments ?” Claire wondered.

“ But they would,” Jessica sounded totally sure.

“But why ? They might see it as an act of war, I mean starting a war.”
“I don’t think so, “ Jessica was calm, “ once they’ve been irradiated I think they would see it as the only way to create world peace that didn’t involve two separate classes in each country. All the feedback we’ve had from the volunteers is that they look for the best humanistic utilitarian solution to any problem.”

Rae joined in “And if we don’t do it, the second best outcome is a world with no democracy where an un-irradiated elite treat an irradiated proletariat fairly well and us four live like prisoners, or don’t live at all.”

There was a beeping noise and a voice came over the speakers at the edge of the copse, “Could Mr Rae …......, Ms Claire …....... and Ms Jessica Hambleton please report to Reception. This is a priority message, could Mr Rae........”

“Shit .” Rae looked around to see if security guards were approaching “Once we’re in there they could drug us or kill us. Jessica, are you up for this ?” Jessica looked at Rob and then at Claire.

“Well I am anyway, thanks for asking Rae.” Claire interjected.

“Sorry, I sort of presumed you would be, in a good way.”

Jessica turned to Rob again, “Rob ?”

Rae swore under his breath, “ Why do you have to ask him ? I thought you were a grown up now.”

“Ok Rae, I’m up for it . I just wanted to know what Rob thought. Rob?”

“Considering what Rae said about the four of us being the only ones who know the ins and outs of it all then it does look like they don’t want us going anywhere anytime soon and I don’t care much for that. I’m in but I like what Jess said about doing it all down here in London. Most of the Cabinet will be in Westminster this afternoon; MI5′s headquarters are just down the river so we can affect them both at the same time. How long does it take you to leave your body Rae ?”

“I can do it in about three minutes. You,” he motioned to Claire and Jessica “just need to get a sliver of that DNA ready for when I get up there.”

“No” Jessica broke in “we all have to be away from here before we irradiate the place.”

“But I thought Rae was going to disable the alarms and all the communication systems so it wouldn’t matter if they were irradiated or not?” Claire queried.

“That would mean I’d have to find and disable every mobile in the Facility.” said Rae.

Jessica continued “ Ok so if you disable the alarms and unlock the front gates, then we can...”

“The Director’s office is two floors down, how do we know if the radiation will permeate that far ?”

the lines on Robs forehead were noticeable.

“That’s true but it also means his mobile won’t work down there so if Rae disconnects the broadband and locks all the doors....” Claire was animated

Rae jumped in “ And then if I unlock the doors after you’re gone then the Director will come up to see if he can use his mobile and that’s when we hit the DNA.”

“I think you’re going to need back up, I’ll go ecto too..”

“What will you do ?”

“Watch your back, and I can move things, and stop things.”

“Oh, really? Aren’t you going to ask Rob ?”

“Shut it Rae.”

“Who’s sounding all Manc now?”

“Hold on Jessica, why is it you and Rae and not me and Rae going ecto?” Claire asked

“I’ve done it more times than you, and I feel responsible.”

“Alright. ….ok ...So we drive your bodies clear of the Facility then Rae can put a pulse into the DNA.

Which makes me and Rob responsible for your bodies” She gave Jessica a look, “just saying.”

“Alright, Claire, we are all responsible but I have done it more times.”

Rob “Anyways, sounds like a plan.”

“You just need to put some of that DNA somewhere near to the main door.”

“Oh I know, you know how there’s like a sort of little roof over that entrance ? “ Claire asked “ You, Rob, could you put the DNA in your wallet and throw it up on there ?”

“Ok. It’s a nice wallet ay but since this is a bit of an emergency, if that’s ok with you Jess?”

“What !?!! “ Rae exploded.

“I gave it to him, that’s all. Calm down Rae. No it’s fine, it’s an emergency. I’ll get you another...”

Rob looked at Rae, “it’s a nice wallet, it was a present.”

“ Ok, ok, fine Unbelievable but fine. That’s all sorted then ?” Rae looked round at them, and they all agreed. “Right. Alright I’ll go over there and get started . You ok Jessica ?”

“Errr, yes, I’ll go there,” she indicated a tree to her right, “ and get started.”

The beeping sound came again and the message requesting their presence at reception came over the speakers. Rob said

We’ll drive towards London and stop when we’re about say, ten miles away from here. Will you be able to find us?”

“It’s not a problem, you know where your body is once you’ve left it sort of thing.”

Rae and Jessica sat down at the base of Larch trees approximately fifteen metres apart and started humming their rhythms.

Claire knelt down near a rhododendron bush and put her hand down the front of her pants. Rob emptied the contents of his wallet into his back trouser pocket. Claire took a small red penknife from her jacket pocket. She took the plastic wrap she had retrieved from within her pants, placed it on Rob’s wallet on the ground, opened the plastic wrap and took out a piece of ancient DNA the size of the jack at an end of a pair of earphones. She sliced off a fleck of it and put it into the wallet, then re-packed the sample and put it back from where she had taken it. Rob spoke,

“You knew this was going to happen?”

“ That new Director gave us the creeps. We knew something was wrong.”

The sound of Jessica and Rae’s humming had gone up a tone as first Rae’s, and then Jessica’s ectoplasm coalesced in front of their seated forms.

“Right, I’ll get to that main entrance.” said Rob.

“I’ll follow you.” They started towards the main building “ we need your car for these two,” she gestured at the bodies.

“It’s round the side, in the front car park. Maybe you should stay with Jessica and Rae just to keep an eye on them, in case anyone comes looking. You did say.”

“Oh, errr, ok.”

“Well, you could say they are in a coma or something and can’t be moved until they get a doctor or something.”

With that Rob jogged off. Claire watched as the two balls of ectoplasm followed after him, at about five metres above the ground. It was a weird and wonderful sight to behold although Claire was possibly a bit too tense to totally appreciate it.

Plan into action Oct

Rob came out from amongst the trees and felt the mizzle against his face. The ecto-forms of Jessica and Rae were now maybe eight metres above ground and stayed within the confines of the copse to escape detection. They had not tested themselves against any weaponry. Theoretically, physical missiles such as bullets would not be able to harm them. Nevertheless they remained hidden by the leaves and branches. Rob had no way of communicating with them so he stuck to his task and marched towards the entrance. He was about a tennis court length from the doors when they opened and two beefy security guards stepped out. One of them said his name in a way that was a question and a threat at the same time. If you’ve ever been in a pub somewhere like Neasden, somewhere in Suffolk or Essex at about 11 o’clock and heard some bloke say the classic line “you lookin’ at me?”; it had that twang to it.

“Yes, I’ve got an appointment with director.” was Rob’s starter and then, thinking on his feet he added “I’ve just got to get a file from my car.”. He was only five metres from the nearest of the two guards, there was a security van parked less than that to his right and he instinctively swerved to try and use it as some sort of shield as they had both started to move towards him.

He had only taken two steps when they both put their hands to their eyes and made incoherent gasping sounds. He looked round and saw one of the ecto-forms had moved out from amongst the branches. There was no point in trying to ask questions. Rob pulled his wallet out of his back pocket, ran around the temporarily blinded security guards and, in basketball dunk style, dropped it on to the porch roof.

At a similar pace he went round the side of the building and retrieved his car which he then drove round to the copse and manoeuvred, as far as he could, into it.

He shouted Claire’s name and followed her reply. It was not as though it was a wild and tangled forest, just that it was only the second time he had been there and things were a tad tense.

It took them a few minutes to carry the bodies to the car and then put in the back seat and fasten the seat belts. It was a first for both of them. And things were a tad tense.

Meanwhile, the ecto-forms of Jessica and Rae were going about their work of disabling various security and communication (and data) systems within the Facility. By the time Rob was driving towards the main entrance gate the guards were locked in and the windows had been changed to something that was opaque.

Rob and Claire headed for London, the passengers in the back muttered not a word.

Thirty minutes later Rob turned into an industrial estate and parked in front of an unused warehouse. Moments later two shimmering balls of ectoplasm were hanging at head height, like giant electrified Christmas baubles by either side of the car . Five or six seconds passed then the one near Rob’s side pulsated five times, going lighter then darker while getting bigger and smaller.

“It’s so beautiful.” Rob almost whispered. Claire looked from it to Rob.

“Maybe we should get out of the car.”

“Oh right.”

They got out and almost immediately the baubles went in and dissipated as they re-engaged with their corporeal entities. Rae and Jessica made whimpering and grunting noises and regained consciousness.

“Are you ok ?”

“Are you guys ok ?” Rob and Claire asked at the same time. The returned ectos wanted water, Rob leaned in and passed a half-full bottle to Jessica. It then transpired that Rae and Jessica were ‘ravenous’ and ‘starving’. Claire had seen a sign on the way into the industrial estate. They drove round to the ‘Sarnie Shop’; a large ex caravan, and grabbed a variety of baguettes stuffed with sausages, bacon, eggs and similar. They drove back to the deserted warehouse car park and ‘got stuck in’ whilst trying to discuss the next phase of their plan in detail.

“I feel more in control each time. I could definitely keep some DNA up in the air while you irradiate

it Rae.” Jessica mumbled through drippy egg and bread.

“So, do we need to take you, as you are, into central London ? Or is it actually safer for me and Claire to stay here with your bodies ? “ Rob asked.

“I guess we can’t be 100% sure that someone hasn’t notified the whatsits so it could be dodgy travelling into London.” Rae burped. Jessica opened her window

“Thanks for that Raymond.”

“Sorry.”

“I think we should do it here, it’s only about twenty miles to London, we’re much less likely to be stopped as ectoplasm. “ the other three gave Jessica a look. “Alright, what !? I’m just saying, anyway you asked the question Rob. so....”

“Yes, I did, and now you say it, it’s obvious that you’re right. It just sounded ….obvious...and a bit weird. Sorry.”

“Anyway,” Claire stepped in, “so you two will go and turn all the politicians and everybody in central London into nice people and then meet us back here, and then what ?”

“Then we do China, Russia and America, have some tea then North Korea and Syria and so on.”

You couldn’t always tell if Rae was being sarcastic or not.

“Well, yes but logistically we’d do Moscow, Beijing, Pyongyang...”

“And that AnsongSooChee.” Rae butted in,

“Aung San SuuKyi .” Claire corrected. Jessica continued,

“then Syria and anywhere else in that area ..”

“That’s quite a few stops then, “

“Yerrrs, and then over to the States, and the rest of the Americas.”

“And Africa at the weekend.” Rae definitely sounded sarcastic.

“Well you were the one who wanted to do this Rae.”

“Oh, and you would have just let the world go to... thingy in a ..wotsisit.”

No, I wouldn’t. Whatever thingy and wotsit are. Y’know you’re getting forgetful again aren’t you ?”

“I think that’s the least of our worries at the moment. We all signed up for this, I can’t see anyone backing out now.” Rob joined in, “what we need to decide is what we do this afternoon if you don’t come back. Claire and I can’t very well sit here all night..” Claire nodded.

“Ok....” Jessica started “ you’ve got a garage out the back of your place Rob haven’t you, so...you could put the picnic blanket over us and drive back to your flat and leave us in there until we do get back.”

“Will you not get cold ?” Rob’s Scottish burr was discernible.

“No, you can’t feel any physical sensations of your body when you’ve left it. You know that”

“Sorry, yes. So what would happen if your body was damaged or...destroyed while you were ectoplasm?”

“ Well, Rob, you better make sure that doesn’t happen because if I was left as a floating ball of ectoplasm I’d be quite angry and the person responsible for destroying my body would be in big, big trouble.” Jessica’s tone was half jokey, half threatening.

“Anyways, that’s all a bit beside the point ’cos we’ll be back in about thirty minutes, so one of you ladies better sort us out a bit of DNA.” Rae was, as he indicated, to the point. “Oh, and I’ll tell you what, before we shoot off to London we could open that warehouse and you could park up in there.”

“Is there no chance the alarms might go off?” Claire sounded cautious.

“Not really. When we were back at the Facility it’s like you can see glowing fibres going away from the buildings and you just tie a knot in them kind o’ thing and then it just sort of sends back a happy signal to wherever it came from. You can just get on with whatever you want. We could so rob a bank.”

The others looked at Rae with concern. “No, alright, ’s just an idea, like a joke? Ok? A Joke?”

The silence was profound and yet what everyone was thinking was difficult to tell.

“Let’s get on with it.“ Jessica dragged them back to reality, “if you two get out of the car for a mo’ Rae and I can get a move on.”

Twenty minutes later Rob and Claire were sat in the car in a dirty warehouse and Rae and Jessica were flying at a speed of 600 kph and an altitude of 30 metres towards central London. Jessica’s ectoplasmic form was levitating and propelling a few tiny shards of DNA ahead of itself. She could communicate with Rae’s ectoplasmic form. It wasn’t words but it sort of was. There were less stresses in the cadence of each sentence/ idea. As they approached St John’s Wood they started to ascend from 30 metres above ground level so that by the time they stopped above Lambeth Bridge they were hovering at approximately 800 metres. They were semi-transparent and almost impossible to detect using radar. Jessica moved eastwards leaving a few fragments of DNA suspended in her wake. Rae rose above the fragments and sent waves of modulated energy downwards through them. Seconds later over two hundred thousand people were less selfish, greedy, elitist, paranoid and aggressive, including everyone in the MI5 and MI6 headquarters and the politicians in the Palace of Westminster. The effect covered Vauxhall, Pimlico and Wesminster.

Jessica and Rae repeated the performance over the City of London then they headed back north to the warehouse where they re-entered their own bodies. Jessica opened her eyes. The world seemed much less exciting from a human’s point of view. Of course, it was a dirty, abandoned warehouse, nevertheless...

“So ?? “ Claire prompted “How was it ? I’ve been having kittens.”

“Well, we did it as far as I can tell.”

“Well done. How do you feel ?” Rob put his hand on Jessica’s knee. She breathed in and looked around.

“I’m ok, I guess. It’s just so weird. How about you Rae?”

“Good, fine... ‘s just ….how can we tell if it worked ? We can’t go all round the world doin’ this if it doesn’t actually work.”

“ I don’t know. I’m starving. Can’t we go and eat and ...”

“We only just ate less than an hour ago. “ Claire interjected.

“Well, I don’t know maybe it’s all the flying around. It must use up some energy ….... What !?”

“Anyway, we can’t stay here.” Rae said.

“And really we should check you both out before you do any more of that ecto malarkey.” Rob looked at his watch, “We can’t be sure if it’s safe to go back to any of our places at the moment and we can’t risk going to UCL”

“Maybe we could call that new Director back at the Facility- from a public phone- and see if he’s chilled out?” Jessica suggested, and they all pondered the pros and cons. Jessica continued

“Y’know ..actually even if he was sort of chilled out by the irradiation he would still have to report us missing, it’s not as though there’s anything evil per se in doing that, it’s just part of his job.”

“ Well that would mean that the police, or whoever, will come after us however chilled out anybody in the government is.”

“So we have to get the Director to call off the police...”

“But....”

“which means we have to go back to the Facility and convince the Director our idea is the way to go.”

“Oh, no way ! Jessica ! We just broke out of there!”

“Look, if they are really after us how long do you seriously think we can stay hidden ? If we use an ATM or our phones then they know where we are. They know Rob’s car registration and I don’t know how to steal another one, do you ?” there was a pause.

“Well, I guess I could if I was ecto. “

“Ok, fine but I didn’t mean that anyway, since the police would come looking for the stolen one.”

“Yeah but they wouldn’t look hard, I mean with vigour, they haven’t got the resources.”

“Maybe not but we can’t live in a car.”

“Well it doesn’t have to be ‘a car’ it could be a mobile home. Y’know, like a Winnebago.”

“Rae !! Stop it ! You always do this.”

“What ‘this’ !? I’m just suggesting alternatives. We don’t always have to agree with you Jessica. Y’know you’re not necessarily always right. And don’t start getting sulky.”

“Ok, guys let’s stay calm” Rob played the diplomat. “A Winnebago doesn’t get us out of the country without passports and we can’t use our passports until we’ve smoothed it over with the authorities..”

“No, but we don’t actually need any of that to leave the country, do we ?” Rae argued. The sounds of pigeons in the rafters mixed with the sound of the traffic on the nearby A road.

“You mean we just set off as ecto from here and do Russia and China nd Burma and north Korea in one trip”

“Whoa, whoa, that’s what I mean by wanting to check you over. If something went wrong and ”

“Look Rob, I’ve been over 10,000 km up into space and back .”

“Ay, and by all accounts that was a wee bit hairy.” Rob tried to sound friendly.

“Ok, maybe I overdid it a bit speed-wise or maybe it was going such a distance from earth but I thought you were the one who said we couldn’t leave our country all pacifistic and all that cos it would mean we’d all be at risk of invasion?”

“Yes,,,,, I’m not denying that but slowly,slowlycatchee monkey is maybe wiser than dashing in, or rather, off.”

Rae breathed in and looked around the warehouse. He seemed to almost deflate; one moment he was quire feisty and then, over a period of just a few seconds, he lost his spark.

“Alright, so what’s the plan?”

“We call the Director from a public phone and see if he’s chilled out and if he’s prepared to let us have a short holiday and call off the police, if he has alerted them.” Jessica and Claire nodded.

“Alright, I don’t suppose that can hurt.”

Claire googled local pubs on the basis that they couldn’t simply drive round looking for a public phone box. Plus the fact that a pub would have toilets and, as Jessica pointed out, food.

The Pub Oct

It was the kind of pub that at 5.10pm on a Thursday was thinking of getting its act in order. By 6.30pm the back restaurant area would be a bit like the canteen of a holiday park. Having used the facilities Claire, accompanied by the rest of them took her handful of change to the public phone. She had only ever used a public phone on two other occasions and they had both been traumatic. This time was different, she had her own mobile phone in one pocket and her purse in the other, she was sober and there was no animal excrement on the receiver. And the cherry on the cake was that, when she got through to him, the Director was totally chillaxed and saw no reason why the authorities should bother JCR+R if they were just going to have a short break. He quite understood that they may have been worried about the policy/ approach he had appeared to be implementing. That morning’s policy of irradiating the whole world whilst remaining the only un-irradiated country, now seemed ridiculously aggressive to him. He would look forward to seeing them in a week or two’s time.

“Wow.” Claire looked at them..”

“Yeah, wow... fantastic, let’s get some food.” Jessica was focussed.

“Pies.” Rae was too.

The pub didn’t have a huge menu but what they did they did fast. As the escapees awaited their pies and sausages and pizzas and supped their drinks whilst Jessica and Rae tore into packets of crisps, Rob had to spoil the mood.

“I don’t want to sound paranoid but what did we think the Director was going to say?”

“ Rob, what are you doing ? You’re not getting binary about this are you ?” Bits of crisps sprayed from Jessica’s lips.

“ I think he said he was getting paranoid.” Claire was already half way down a large Chardonnay.

“No, what I mean is, if the Director did still want the police to pick us up then he wouldn’t necessarily tell us that. It’s quite possible he would pretend everything was tickety-boo and wait for us to fall into a trap.”

“Like what trap?” “Which trap?” Jessica and Claire said at the same time.

“Like us going back to our apartments and just picking us up from there.”

“Bastard.” Rae said into his beer glass.

“Yes, maybe and we do have to go back to get our passports and check you guys out, you’re well over-tired”

“We need agents to work on our behalf.” Claire’s fist came down with a thump.

“How d’you mean ?” Jessica said through a mouthful.

“People to go to our flats and check them out.”

“Yes but say they get picked up and interrogated ? Who’s going to be prepared to do that for us ?”

There was a pause.

“Helen.” Rae answered.

“Helen?! I think she’s still locked up back at the ranch.”

“Right, ok, that’s perfect, we can ask the Director to let her go and then...”

“But why would she do that for you, after , y’know?” Jessica interrupted.

“Well I might have to offer her something in return.”

“Rae ?!?”

“No. I wouldn’t actually let her have any.”

“Hold on.” Claire was nearing the bottom of her glass. “Why can’t I just go there ectomlastikpally? ”

“Ectowotiscally?” Jessica’s eyelids drooped.

“You know what I mean.”

“Where?”

“To all of our flats. It’s my turn.” Claire sounded adamant.

“You might be over the limit.”

“I’ve only had a glass of wine. Anyway, who’s going to breathalyse me? “

The food arrived and put an end to the debate.

Claire ‘goes’ to London

The slightly merry band booked into two rooms in a nearby hotel. Jessica and Rae were feeling extremely tired. Claire stuck to her guns and set herself up with the pillows so she could leave her body and travel into London as ectoplasm. It was about 7.00pm as she set off. Ten minutes later she was approaching Jessica’s flat just off the Holloway road. She hovered 50 metres above the small supermarket on the corner monitoring the energy levels in the nearby parked cars and vans. There was a gym almost opposite Jessica’s place. The road was full of parked vehicles. Claire could ‘see’ the energy signatures of single occupants in five of the vehicles. A sixth, large vehicle, possibly a furniture removal van, housed five separate individuals.

As she watched she felt a dragging sensation. If she had been in her normal physical state she would have described it as a series of hooks lancing into her shoulders and the inside of her chest, dragging her earthwards, towards the large vehicle. Her perception of her surroundings flickered as she fought against the drag. As ectoplasm she didn’t exactly feel pain, more a mixture of angst and distress as her energy shuddered and weakened.

She fought against the dragging sensation. For 15 seconds it was stalemate then she changed tactics and lashed out, sending a bolt of microwave energy directly at the vehicle. There was a series of thuds and explosions as the elctronic system in the ‘removal van’ exploded. Claire felt the dragging sensation disappear. However she was injured , and it took most of her energy and the best part of forty mintes, to fly back to the hotel north of the capital.

Rae and Jessica had dozed off but awoke as Rob reacted to Claire’s ectoplasmic reappearance. ‘She’ hung like a giant Christmas zoomorphic bauble, a few feet above her corporeal form, shining much less than she had before she set off. And she continued to float, seemingly unable to blend back into her body. As she shuddered and shimmered, Rae, Jessica and Rob discussed the problem. It had to be assumed that Claire had been injured by someone and/or something. Claire seemed unable to communicate.

Jessica remembered Rae’s writing on the tree, on the Heath.

“Claire, can you write what happened ? Go up a little for ‘yes’ and down for ‘no’” The ‘bauble’ went up.

The best thing they could find was a towel. Claire’s bauble started to singe letters into the fabric.

“Five people in big van at J’s tried to suck me in it hurt think I hurt them cant seem to join my body weak”

They decided that they would need to measure her wavelengths to objectively assess the situation and hopefully, fix it. To do that they needed the full kit of monitors, sequencers and energy modulators. One set was at Jessica’s flat and one was in her Lab at UCL. They couldn’t put the two parts of Claire in a vehicle because her ecto part would simply pass through the body of the car as they drove away and she was not strong enough to propel herself back to London.

Rob had studied for his Bsc and Masters at UCL and, in his first year, had stayed at one of the Halls of residence that formed part of the Bloomsbury campus. Whilst there he had spent time with a young woman who worked in the Bloomsbury theatre and through that liaison he knew a route from the paint frame at the back of the theatre up across the rooftops of the Slade and into the Physics building via a door on its roof. If there were people watching the entrances to the University buildings it was unlikely they would also be watching the theatre. Rob could hire a van and collect the equipment the following morning or he could call a large cab using the hotel landline and do it that night. Rae said he would help Rob carry the kit from the lab. He looked weak and hardly capable but Rob thought better than to argue.

The two of them set off at 8.40pm in a 4WD taxi, headed for Bloomsbury, looking for a large supermarket on the way, that would stock some jumbo-sized rucksacks.

Jessica sat watching Claire’s ectoplasmic form hover above her actual body. She remembered that when she had been/ gone ecto it had taken hardly any noticeable effort to hover in a stationary position. It had not, however, been an unconsciously-driven function. As she thought that thought letters began to appear on the towel,

Hard staying up what is underneath

“We’re on the third floor so probably a bedroom, then maybe the breakfast room below that then possibly a basement.” Jessica spoke to the glowing presence.

Jessica realised what Claire was intimating; if she lost the power to stay afloat she would sink through the floors and down into the earth below. How would they explain that to the guests downstairs? More to the point, how would they get her back if she sank into the ground beneath the hotel? Jessica felt immensely tired herself but she knew she had to act fast. What could support Claire’s ectoplasmic form if she lost her ability to hover? Some kind of electric field should do it. Maybe even a TV turned on could do the trick but the TV was bolted to the wall. The kettle? Come to think of it, they were both earthed. She looked out the window, there was a petrol station diagonally opposite. She had an idea.

“Hold on, I’ll be back in five minutes, I’m going to that petrol station over there.”

And five minutes later she was back, with a variety of lithium and alkaline batteries, a roll of tape, a pair of scissors and three rolls of oven foil. She taped five lithium batteries together as a tube then cut strips of oven foil which she folded and scrunched into 2 ropes/ wires. She cut sheets of foil and pressed them together to form an almost metre-square bed which she put on top of two pillows under the still-floating ectoplasmic form of Claire. The pillows were to give Claire a chance to get back up before she went into the floorboards if the electrified bed didn’t work. Jessica knew that going into the floorboards was no worse that going into the pillow but it just seemed nicer. Then she connected the foil rope wires to either end of the lithium tube and to either side if the foil bed using the tape.

“Ok, see what happens if you stop trying and just let yourself sink down.”

The softly shimmering bauble sank down and came to rest on the oven foil which reflected the light.

It looked pretty and, according to the words singed on the towel; it worked.

Jessica sank into the sleep of the almost just.

Rob and Rae, catburglars.

Rob and Rae arrived outside the Bloomsbury theatre at 10.15pm. Perfect timing as people were using the bar but the play wouldn’t be finishing for another half hour and the bar stayed open until 11.30pm. Rae had slept for most of the journey, he was still sleepy as Rob led him through the foyer and down a passage and through a door. The theatre was owned by UCL and Rob knew that if you looked like you were on a mission no-one was likely to stop you since a variety of groups used the communal spaces. If he did get stopped he was picking up some props, he had his UCL ID card in his wallet and he was a professor so he reckoned he out-ranked everyone apart from the manager and deputy manager, and he knew the manager who was a fellow Scot.

The door led to a staircase that took them up to the second floor and along a corridor and through another door into the paint frame. The paint frame was a long room at the very back of the theatre. Two large paint frames on the back wall were connected to electrically-operated hoists that took them up and down into and out of a void above and below. So you stood on the floor of the room which was about 65 metres long by 5 metres deep and 10 metres high with a gap between you and the wall. And it was out of this gap that the two paint frames rose and fell at your behest, allowing you to paint the theatrical backgrounds without the use of ladders or scaffolding.. At the far end there was a ladder up to a platform and a doorway that led Rob and Rae out onto the top of the building. Up another external ladder and they were onto a wide, flat bitumen roof under a clouded sky that reflected the warm glow of the metropolis.

40 metres further on and they had to sit down on the edge and slide down a one metre-wide, gently sloping, Portland stone roof edge and into a pedestrian access gulley. The night air was helping Rae to focus, which was a bonus since he felt like he was wading through mud. The situation wasn’t dangerous, as long as you concentrated and didn’t fall the four storeys to the ground. There was a knee-high parapet on their right and the copper-plated roof rose gently away on the left for the next 50 metres and then up the next sloping portland stone roof edge and onto the flat roof that surrounded the cupola of the Slade. They turned left, heading south, walked round the rooftop cabins and into the next gulley with its own knee-high parapet and copper-covered sloping roof. 60 metres more and they were on the roof of the Physics department. Rob had his keys and Jessica’s, one of Rob’s got them through the rooftop door. He pressed his phone and, just using the light from the screen led them down a steep, narrow staircase and out into a corridor, the glow of the city made it possible to see. A final, wider staircase and they went along another corridor and the third door on the left was Jessica’s lab.

Even by the light of their phone screens it only took a few minutes to fill the six rucksacks with the electronic equipment; the down side was that they could only manage to move two each at a time.

It was 11.05pm, the sound of traffic rumbled gently from the nearby streets.

They took the first four up to the roof then Rob went down for the last ones while Rae had a rest.

When Rob arrived with the other rucksacks Rae had dozed off again. Rob went down onto one knee,

“Rae !” there was no response, “Rae!”

Rob manoeuvred himself to walk along the gulley, he had one rucksack on his back and one hanging in front. It wasn’t so much the weight of nearly 30 kilograms, more the balance and the fact the front rucksack stopped him seeing where his feet were going that made him turn round and unload one of the sacks. This meant they both had to make three trips on each of the two copper-covered roofs. By the time they had all the bags on the floor of the paint frame it was 11.25pm.

“We’ve missed last orders.” Rob was sweating.

“We can stop at an offy on the way back.” Rae smiled wanly.

There was a big flat bed trolley, like those at a garden centre, near the door. It was usually used for moving the big canvas backdrops that the scenic artists painted. It was just the job and since stagehands from touring companies were always moving props in and out of the theatre after a show, the cat burgling duo were not stopped and questioned as they transferred their kit from the theatre lobby to the taxi.

Rae fell asleep moments after the taxi drove away. Rob stopped the taxi on a side road near Euston station and used the ATM and the supermarket for provisions. He hoped that the railway station locale would be a confusing lead if anyone was tracking his cash withdrawals. Back in the taxi Rob kept looking backwards to see if they were being followed. As far as he could see, they weren’t.

Forty minutes later he was knocking on the door of the hotel room, Rae was leaning against the wall blurrily awake like a ten year old back from his holidays.

Making Claire whole again, rejuvenating the others

They set up the kit and measured Claire’s wavelengths then spent four minutes pumping the required series of missing energies into her floating, lambent ectoplasm which shimmered and shook and then faded away. Claire’s body gave a little spasm. Jessica had wired her up to the monitors which were now pulsating reassuringly.

“Thank God for that.” Jessica sat back on the uncomfortable chair. Rae lay on one of the beds, snoring. Having unclipped the leads, Rob and Jessica put Claire on the other bed. Jessica said “Me now,” as she smeared the Felspar mix on her temples and attached the leads. She lay back on the floor and Rob went through the same process as with Claire. Jess had dozed off seconds after lying down, when Rob woke her she felt much better than she had all day.

They wired Rae up, checked his levels, smeared his temples with the Felspar mix, measured his levels then pumped him with a range of wavelengths. He continued to snore.

“He needs the sleep.”

“I know but....”

Jessica shook Rae’s shoulder and woke him and after the normal few moments of grogginess, he appeared in good spirits. He said goodnight and locked the door after they left to go to their room where sleep stole away their fears.

The morning was overcast. It was too late for the hotel breakfast. Jessica showered while Rob grabbed some croissants and coffees from the petrol station across the road which they consumed with Claire and Rae in their room. All four felt rested and all four felt ill-at-ease.

“So we can go back to London and grab the passports now we’ve got the beating of them.” Claire sounded feisty.

“Yeah, but that was just one lot and we don’t know for sure what you did to them..” Rae said quietly.

“Well I zapped them and they didn’t get back at me after their first attempt so it stands to reason I knocked them out.”

“Mmmm” Rae sounded non-committal.

“Maybe you did but they did hurt you Claire. But in any case it seems to me that the passport approach needs reconsidering.” Rob tried not to slurp his coffee.

“Go on then...” Jessica gave a warning glance to the other two.

“The thing is, if we travel normally, by plane or whatever, using passports to get into places like Russia or China then we put ourselves at risk at each frontier or airport, in addition to any other risks.”

“Well, yeah...”

“It’s just that since we, well you three can travel ectoplasmically, surely I can learn to do it and we can work out a way to move our bodies along as well so as not to have to go through customs. “

“Maybe but we would have to move the equipment as well and even if we could do that we would have to access a power source fairly regularly to top up our energy levels otherwise we could end up like Claire last night and just sink down into the earth.” Jessica said evenly

“And if we want to go into a hotel we need the passports, with stamped visas,“ was Claire’s input.

Rae chipped in “ Thing is Claire, those muppets you ran into last night? Well it’s a fair bet they’re part of an organisation and they will be looking for us..... and like passports going through customs are going to register on their radar, know what I mean?.”

“And I think, if we put our minds to it we should be able to arrange other ways of accessing power sources....”

“Such as ?” Jessica interrogated Rob.

“I don’t know, airbnb ? “

“Huh ?! “

“Ok, I’m not saying I’ve got this figured out but like Rae said; flying into a foreign airport is tantamount to walking into a trap.....I mean we don’t even know how fast we can go, maybe we can just fly to wherever, say Beijing and back in a day…… Look I know I was down on the Director last night but maybe he is worth checking out”

“How so ?”

“Well if what we did yesterday worked then he should be cool about us coming back and using the Facility to lay low and work out our next move.” Rob stood up, walked to the window and dropped his empty cup in the wastebasket. Jessica took up his theme,

“Yes, I suppose we do need to find out exactly what effect we had on London before we go off all gangbusters, I mean, we’ve never irradiated people en masse like that and we do need to upskill Rob.”

“Fair play Jessica,” Rae stretched the last syllable, “ so how exactly are we going to make sure that the Facility is safe? “

“I don’t know Rae, let’s have a little think shall we? Little bit of thinking never hurt anyone did it?”

Rae smiled, that was something they used to say when young teenagers, it had come from Jessica’s father. Rob interrupted the memory.

“There are two men looking at my car.” The others jumped up, “No! Don’t all rush to the window at once. They’re moving away,” Jessica slowly stood up and positioned herself nearer the window.

“They’re walking up to a silver 4x4, looks like they’re talking to someone.” He paused,

“Oh bugger.”

“What?” Rae and Claire spoke at the same time.

“Two big fellas just got out and the four of them are walking this way.”

As predicted there were four visitors and when they knocked on the bedroom door Rob called them in from the en suite. Claire and Jessica’s ectoplasmic forms laid them flat out on the floor, immobilised. They had no documents and they wouldn’t speak, so Rae took DNA samples from each of them. The car provided no clues. Although it housed an impressive range of guns and knives they were from a variety of countries.

Rae used the remaining gaffer tape, on the men. Jessica rang the Director from a not-so-nearby public phone. She was put through immediately.

“Oh, I’m glad you called. I did try and call all of you , twice, and I did leave messages. There was an incident near your flat, Ms Hambleton last night and we have been informed that six foreign nationals have been taken into custody by the authorities. We were worried for your safety“

“What nationality are they ?”

“Well we’re not exactly sure as they are all still unconscious. ”

“Ok, well with that in mind you might want to send some of your people to room 21- at the P------- in J------- there’s four men tied up on the floor and they might very well be foreign nationals.”

“Righty ho. Are you all safe and well ?”

“Yes, thank you, how are you ?”

“Splendid, thank you. Err these men on the floor, are they alright?”

“Yes, just tied up.”

“Jolly good, don’t want anyone getting hurt unnecessarily.”

“I don’t think they felt that way about us.”

“Yers, I suppose they wanted information and they may have resorted to force, you have a point but that doesn’t mean we have to sink to their level.” there was a pause, “ I could always send you some guards if you’re worried.”

“Actually we were wondering if we could spend some time at Flaunden( the estate near Little Chalfont housing the Facility, ) ?”

“Yes, yes of course, you’re always welcome. When were you thinking ?”

Jessica suggested that afternoon said her goodbyes then returned to the others.

“ How do we make sure the Director is being honest ?”

“ Two of us could go in first .”

Thus Jessica, Claire, Rae and Rob went back to the Facility which was situated in the 140 acre

grounds of B----- Manor. This grand, early 19thcentury building had been refurbished by SIS

to cater for VIP visitors. It was not being used when Jessica, Claire, Rae and Rob came back for their second sojourn so they quietly moved in and de-bugged the premises.

The government contractors had built the Facility’s laboratories by excavating a site almost ½ k from the Manor house. They had dug down 60 foot so they could bury the main part of the operation under the earth they had excavated – thus creating a new hill. Jessica persuaded the Director that all the personnel should stay in that building under the hill while she and her colleagues were in residence.

Within four days they had discovered that as they used their ecto powers not only did they dissipate various energy wavelengths which could be replenished using the energy modulating equipment - they knew this from their recent exploits- but also that the activity they undertook as ectoplasm would most probably have a long term negative impact on their general well-being/ the actual fortitude of the atoms of their bodies, in a way that might very well not be repairable. In other words their trip around the world would probably knock 20-25 years off each individual’s life expectancy even if they were successful.

Nevertheless by the end of the fourth day they had developed their powers so that each of their ectoplasmic forms could levitate a pod (like those that go on the top of a car ) that was large enough to accommodate: their own body, an energy modulator/ power pack and a small but powerful battery to power it in an emergency. They started in the large ballroom with weighted mannequins which was sensible since they crashed a few times as they honed their technique. The pods also had a much smaller containers attached in a recess that housed some of the Ancient DNA. On the afternoon of the third day they made successful test flights across the grounds.

Claire contacted the Kenyan University that had supplied the original bits of DNA but, and after four days, had had no response. It was time for a team meeting. Jessica began her summing up.

“ From what I can see from these questionnaires we have all filled out,.. in… whatever over the past few weeks and the conversations we’ve had in the past few days it seems to me that the more we go ecto the less love we have for this life, or our life on earth. You could say we have all come to see it as a very small and insignificant part of a massively larger picture. Actual suffering is very real for those suffering and so much is due to people’s violent actions most of which are probably, I think, motivated by the dark energy that hi-jacked Homo Sapiens, 200,000 years ago.”

“So, is it possible that after a certain amount of time being ecto we could stop wanting to save the world, ’cos it’s not worth it?” Claire asked.

“I suppose that is a possibility.”

“But the idea is that we’re going to do something to put an end to all that suffering.” Rob said quietly.

“”The trouble is we all seem to love being ecto but we can’t exist in that state without our actual bodies being alive and so we would have to keep returning to our bodies to feed them so to speak.”

“I suppose, theoretically, we could put our bodies on life support if we could find someone to look after the life support machine…” Rae trailed off.

“But the weird thing is, is; why do we like it so much? I mean I know it’s fantastic being able to fly around and move things and all that but shouldn’t that initial thrill have started to wane?”

“So what’s the worst case scenario you’ve come up with ?”Asked Rae; not wanting the topic of ectoplasmic intercourse to crop up.

“We could give up before we’ve finished; there could be loads of peaceful governments but still billions of people all over the place that we haven’t irradiated and so in maybe less than ten years they could vote the peaceful politicians out of power. Oh, or we could all be killed before we even do the governments” Jessica tried to sound objective.

“But it’s not just us losing interest that we’ve got to worry about- and that dying thing, we seem to keep forgetting that we haven’t actually got enough of that DNA to do the whole world and the guys at K…. University aren’t answering our e-mails, or phone calls.” Claire added.

“We know where they found it, push comes to shove we’ll have to go and dig some up ourselves.” Rae pushed his chin out.

“If there is any more to dig up.” Claire stressed the syllables.

“Guys, it’s a bit late for getting all negative. We had to do what we did because they were coming for us. Saving the world isn’t supposed to be easy.” Rob’s attempt at humour failed to raise more than a grin any of them.

“Could we train people to take over from us just in case we do sort of give up on it?” Claire mused.

“Who could we trust?” asked Rae

“We could start by checking out the people in this Facility, I mean, they’ve all been irradiated so they should want to do what’s best for humanity.” Jessica stood up.

“How do we do that without letting everyone know we’re back on the base?”

“Oh come on Raymond, one way Skyping should do the trick; with a thingy on the voice feed. Don’t bother me with the details, you know I’m a big picture kind o’ girl.” Jessica’s attempt at humour was only slightly more successful than Rob’s. Rob himself had to hold back a tear as his heart tightened in his chest, it had suddenly hit home that they would quite probably all die or be badly injured, and there was no going back.

They decided to at least interview employees at the Facility to see if they might be safe to train to go ecto and whether they actually would want to.

The next week also involved practising flying as ectoplasm at an altitude of 40 feet to be less noticeable to radar. This had to done over the grounds of the estate. The Director organised a discreet link to a nearby Air Force radar station to see how effective they were. He had also sent security teams around the perimeter of the grounds to check for any suspicious activity. They researched ‘Flying under the radar’ and decided it was theoretically, sort of, possible as long as you check the route for overhead wires and/or go very slowly. The other option they explored was blocking radar but that in itself suggests the possibility of some kind of presence to those monitoring the radar signals. Such an approach involved using Digital radio frequency memory, or DRFM jamming, or Repeater jamming which is, as the name suggests, a repeater technique that manipulates received radar energy and retransmits it to change the return the radar sees. This was the basis for Stealth technology. The trouble was that this method required more energy/ concentration than the four of them could invoke while flying and levitating their pods.

On the afternoon of the eighth day they re-convened for a confab in the underground communications room. Rob and Rae had conducted the Skype interviews and chosen five candidates who might be taught how to become ectoplasmic and who, they believed, could be trusted. Claire had discovered that the Kenyan University had disbanded their archaeology department due to ‘funding cuts’. Jessica had a map of the world on a large screen.

“This shows the UK’s military bases around the world. I think we all agree that we could fly for a maximum of ten hours before we need to re-charge and rest.” The others nodded.

“So, say we set off to off to do Paris and the Middle East. It’s about 2,600 miles or 4,350 kilometres from London to the British military base near Limassol in Cyprus. We go south east, across France, over south Germany, north Italy – all at about 350 kph, then we pick up speed down the Adriatic, the Ionian, south of the Peloponnese , east over the Med, to end up at the base to re-charge the batteries.

4350 k at average 480 kph takes about 9 hours plus a 30 minute stop over Paris.”

“That cuts it pretty fine.”

“Maybe the Director could arrange to have a ship in the Adriatic just in case.”

“I suppose we could ask, they don’t have to know any details. Just be prepared for a friendly freak visit.”

“The next day we can do Damascus, Tehran, Bagdad, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and be home for tea.”

“That would involve flying over Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Jordan and Israel ?” asked Rae in a worried tone.

“Yes.”

“We are so fucked.”

“Don’t be so negative Rae.”

“Yes, Rae, Man up. Everybody’s got to die sometime. But seriously Jessica, do we have to do all those at once, I mean they’ve all got hundreds of jet fighters and missiles and everything.” Claire gave a little jokey sigh.

“If we do Tel Aviv and Damascus first we’ve got a safe return journey from Tehran and Bagdad. We can’t very well leave any of them prone to the others, can we?”

“So, just out of interest how fast can their jets go and how fast can we go?” Rob asked

“The Israeli Lockheed Martins can do Mach 1.82 and just over Mach 2 at a push with the afterburners”

“What does that mean in old money?” Rob asked.

“Mach 2 is about 2500 kph which is about, what? 1600 mph? We haven’t been able to try that kind of speed over the estate- we’d need to have a go over open countryside”

“Do you think the Director could ok it with the air force?” Rob looked at Jessica.

“We can ask.” Claire started to type an e-mail.

“’Because we do sort of need to know.” Rob added.

Jessica continued her briefing.

“So anyway, Limassol, north to Tallinn, Estonia that’s about 4000 k, mostly overground.”

“Surely we can make a detour?” Rob suggested.

“I suppose we could go west across the Med from Cyprus to Gibraltar that’s only about, what? 1800 kilometres?, We could rest there if we needed to or go on, “ she put her finger on the screen, “ maybe another 2000 kilometres to the north of Scotland, keeping to the west of Ireland…. I seem to remember there’s a base up there somewhere. “

“We could go from there to Moscow, half of it over water and back west to rest up at that base in Estonia.” Claire was looking at the screen and pointing. Rae stood up.

“Jessica,I’m just thinking, I mean the thing is, I’m not being funny but say we do do Paris and the Middle East and then something goes wrong, well that leaves Moscow and Washington untouched. They would just keep causing trouble.” He looked at the others. “Can’t we do Moscow first ?”

Claire and Rob nodded.

“Ok, I suppose so. We can swap it round . But when you say ‘I’m not being funny’, are you basically saying that you don’t like Russia?” Jessica raised an eyebrow.

“No. I’m saying that I don’t like what the Russian government does, a lot of the time.”

“But you’re getting your information through the western press mostly, so aren’t you worried that you’re allowing yourself to be guided by propaganda?” Jessica’s face remained impassive.

“No, I’m not worried, actually, Jessicah. I’m quite comfortable with the ‘propaganda’, and anyways, how do you know where I get my information from?” Jessica smiled. “Oh very funny.” Rae smiled despite himself.

Claire broke in “So that would still leave us in Cyprus after Paris, Moscow, Tel Aviv and all that and then it’s east to Beijing. Which is what? 7000k ?? Where do we take a break ? “ Jessica looked at her notes and up at the screen.

“Either Nepal which is 4900 k, and it’s over land: Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan –and I agree, we don’t want to do that if we don’t have to…… But Limassol to Singapore staying south of India is 8800 k ….and most of it is across sea, so surely we could do 1500 kph without too much trouble?”

“But before we head off to China shouldn’t we go down to Kenya and try and find some more DNA?

I mean, oh no I know. These guys we’re going to train up here, we could send them down there, two of them are biologists and we can show them exactly what to look for.”

The other three looked at Rob then at each other and nodded. Rob and Rae went upstairs to get some food and arrange training sessions with the new recruits.

Visitors

Rob and Rae were in the Library, Claire and Jessica were in the basement, fine tuning the routes, using a souped-up version of Google Earth. It was another overcast day and they were still awaiting the Air Force’s clearance to conduct the speed tests.

A large food delivery van drove up to the main gates of the estate and stopped. It was a weekly occurrence. The guards looked over the paperwork, checked the underside with mirrors and opened the back of the van to view the contents. The Facility was on amber alert so they directed the van to the receiving building. This was a small, modular warehouse type building, 100 metres down the driveway.

It had been erected for the express purpose of keeping deliveries away from the modern Facility laboratories and the Manor House whilst they were fully checked over by the three guards who were assigned to that role.

It’s not easy to be a full on security guard if you do not like the idea of confrontation or violence. You can direct people the right way, ask them to turn off their mobile phones, even tell them they are not allowed backstage. On the other hand, it’s unlikely that you would knock someone spark out, or shoot them, unless it was massively for the greater good. So when the driver and his oppo got out of the truck, carrying small automatic rifles the three security guards did not take immediate control of the situation. If you don’t take immediate control of a situation like that you suffer consequences. The two visitors strapped the wrists and ankles of the gentle guards with plastic ties and gaffer taped their mouths. As they were doing this another vehicle was approaching the main gates. The occupants didn’t expect to be allowed into the estate, they just needed to distract the main gate guards while the two armed visitors who were already on the grounds made their way on foot the 400 metres from the small warehouse to the Manor House.

They went to the back of the House and stuck a small piece of plastic explosive against the door and retreated. The explosion was muffled. This did not mean it went unnoticed. Rob and Rae heard it and went to check the video monitors in the hall. The guards in the main Facility had seen the two armed visitors walking from the small warehouse on their own monitors and had informed the Director. He, in turn, had reminded them, the guards, that there were very important visitors at the Manor House who needed to be protected, otherwise millions might die. The Director realised he had to push psychological buttons if he wanted his staff to act aggressively. Although he had been irradiated he knew the big picture and from a humanitarian utilitarian perspective knew that some people might have to suffer and die if they were to save the planet.

There were four guards on duty in the main Facility building that afternoon. By the time they left the Facility on the way (half a kilometre) to the Mansion House the visitors had put the explosive on the door. It took the guards 10 seconds to get into the car and another 30 seconds until they drew up at the back of the House.

Rob and Rae, having seen the visitors on one of the monitors, had chosen the better part of valour and headed down to the securable basement.

Jessica looked up from the screen, Rob and Rae had just barrelled into the room.

“What’s wrong?”

“Activate the full lock down, quick, we’ve got visitors.”

Rob was keying in a code on the console by the door.

“Oh shit, right.” She started to type on the keyboard.

“How did they get in?” Claire asked.

“There was an explosion I think. You know what to do Jess, yeah?”

“Yes, I’m doing it.”

“Have you talked to security?” Claire continued.

“There wasn’t any time.”

“If they’ve got explosives then that door might not be enough.” She started to phone security as Jessica’s phone rang. Jessica looked at the screen and pressed a button as she passed her phone to Claire who could see the Director’s name on the screen.

“Hello, is someone coming?”

“Yes, I’m awfully sorry about this, they should be there any second. Are you alright?”

The Director sounded annoyingly urbane.

“Not really, it’s a little bit tense actually. Where are your men Director?!”

“They should be there now. The door to the basement area is approximately 20 centimetres thick and designed to withstand…”

“Oh shit, guys, I think we should all get ourselves down that way.” Jessica had uploaded the security video feeds and could see the two visitors sticking something to the outside of the locked door.

“You’ve locked it ? “ Rae asked.

“Yes but it looks like they’re going to blow the door open.”

Rae grabbed Claire’s hand, “Come on!”

“What?!”

“We can’t do anything like this,” he nodded down at his body. Claire understood his point and they started running down the corridor.

At that very moment the Facility’s security contingent were running through the back door, they were all armed and carrying their weapons, the Director’s short motivational speech had included references to innocent children and the fate of humanity. It had worked.

The two visitors were approaching the top of the basement staircase to distance themselves from the impending blast. They stepped into the corridor and turned to the left and right. The Facility guards were walking quietly and quickly along a nearby corridor. They came to a T junction and as the first guard dropped to his knee to check round the corner the explosives detonated. He counted to three then looked round the corner and saw the visitors starting their journey down the stairs. He let off a short burst and two of his bullets took a small amount of flesh off the left buttock of one of the visitors. It did not stop his progress down the stairs. The security guards ran towards the stairs but by the time they had stopped and pushed a bit of cloth round the corner to draw fire, the visitors had entered the basement.

When the explosives detonated Claire and Rae were chanting their way to an ectoplasmic state. Jessica and Rob had followed them to the room at the end of the corridor and locked the door. There were six doors along the corridor, all locked, The visitors had some kind of thermal-imaging device and it only took them a few seconds to ascertain whether a room was occupied or not. Those few seconds per room meant that at the same moment they were applying the detonator to the small lump of plastic explosives the guards were coming through the basement door and Rae had achieved his ectoplasmic state.

The guards and the visitors were about to start shooting when Rae sent a wave of subsonic energy directly through the wall which knocked the visitors unconscious. This meant that the two shots the guards fired passed over their slumping bodies.

The Director arrived ten minutes later and apologised again. “The thing is,” he continued “I didn’t want to bring in guards from outside agencies or other departments as it’s so hard to know who to trust.”

He sounded almost like a guilty schoolboy.

“We only need about ten more days here, surely you can get some extra security in and not allow them any outside contact for that long?” Jessica tried to hide her anger. “I mean it wasn’t so long ago that we were being held here incommunicado. “

“Yes, right, you’re right, I’ll get right on it. We won’t allow anyone at all past the main gates until we have a more vicious defence. Needs must, and all that.”

“It might be wise to put someone to check the food that has already been delivered.”Claire suggested.

The Director arched his eyebrow. Rae took up the baton.

“Those guys who just paid us a visit, they were out to kill us weren’t they? They didn’t expect to kidnap us or have a chat and set us straight.” The Director continued to look out of his depth,

“ Someone wants to stop us” Rae stressed each word.

“Yes, of course, you have a point. I’ll get on to it right away. I do apologise, I have been slack, from now on - no more Mr Nice Guy.” The Director now sounded like a posh, ineffectual uncle. He left them to their devices (stiff drinks all round) with an assurance the emergency builders would be replacing the blasted doors within minutes.

“God, is that what everyone is going to sound like after we’ve blasted them?” Rae’s question was almost rhetorical.

“He’s southern, he probably went to Harrow, you’d always think he sounded …” Jessica paused, searching for the right expression, “dead posh. Better that than worldwide suffering and poverty and all that, eh ?”

“And no nothing anywhere in 200 years,” Chimed in Claire.”

“Alright, alright, point taken. “ Rae slurped his drink. They could hear the emergency builders blocking up the hole where the back door had been.

“Shall we have a proper meeting tomorrow morning to go over the final details?” Jessica looked around at the three others. They nodded.

“Yes and y’know, I was thinking, “ Rob nodded towards the sound of the repair work. “Maybe we shouldn’t leave the security up to the Director…”

They agreed to take turns to watch the monitors, they did not, however, go straight to bed, the adrenalin kept them talking about the itinerary. It was 1100 kilometres to the NATO base at Amari in Estonia then less than 600 k to Moscow. If they went with an air force jet they could be in Estonia in an hour. Rae was on his second drink.

“Once we let the air force, or any of the military in on our plans then it’s no longer a secret, the idea that we stop at a NATO base means everyone knows our business. “

“Alright, so the alternative is that we do it ourselves and the Norwegians, the Swedes, the Danes and the Germans, the Estonians, etc; could all possibly see us and go after us, that’s even before we hit Russian air space. “ Rob sounded depressed.

Jessica poured herself another brandy, “That’s not exactly true about the plan not being secret; I mean this place is run by SIS, they must use the Air Force to do lots of spy stuff. We could ask the Director to arrange a jet, one of those Typhoons that have the big delta wings, to fly to Estonia and back after a break for re-fuelling and whatever…He could tell them to fly at a particular altitude and a particular speed. He could give them some old soap about a test of some tracking device or other. Then we could fly above the Typhoon so radar wouldn’t see us and people on the ground couldn’t see us.”

“Yes but the Russians would be tracking the jet as it approached Estonia and they’d see us as we separated.”

“No, look,” Jessica pointed at the map on the screen, “we could peel off one at a time, over the Baltic Sea, individually we’d be too small for them to notice. In fact we could get the Director to arrange a few more flights out of the base ’cos that would be part of the tracking test he was doing and that would mean the Russians would have lots of other things to be thinking about.”

“Excellent.” Claire put her drink down. “Come on Rae, that is excellent thinking,” She picked up her drink again, “ I will drink to that…..Genius.”

“Ok, so going with that MO, it takes an hour to Estonia then going low at 350 kph that’s 4 hours to Moscow and back, hitch a ride home above the Typhoon, another hour, total journey time 6 hours. However… we do need to be sure the radar won’t detect us. I don’t think we can just assume we’ll be too small. I assume that was an assumption Jessica? Or did you have some valid research to back it up?”

Rob arched his right eyebrow quizzically.

“Actually you’re right, I have no research to back it up. But, no! Look, ok, the reason we couldn’t hide ourselves from radar was because each individual could only concentrate of flying and levitating the body pod at the same time, right?”

“Yes.”

“Well if one of us didn’t have to levitate a body pod then surely they could refract the radar frequencies round the rest of us?”

“Probably. Yes! Why didn’t I think of that? But…. You don’t mean all the way from here to Moscow?”! ”No, I mean two above a Typhoon, two in it to Estonia, then one of us escorts the two with pods to Moscow.” Claire broke in.

“But since it’s only a few hundred kilometres to Moscow what’s the point in taking the pods? We’ll be back in Estonia in under an hour so there’s no issue of having to re-charge. The pods are just making it complicated, for that part anyway.”

“The thing is, even if we make ourselves invisible there’s always the possibility that something could go wrong and if we didn’t make it back y’know, can we trust the new recruits to continue the mission?”

“Well I don’t know Rob, it’s you and Rae who have been training them, what do you think?”

“I’m no’ so sure, what do you think Rae?”

“I don’t know and when you think about it, why are the four of us going all the way to Moscow?

I mean just say they did spot us and bring us down, like shoot us down? I don’t know if the new crew would have the bottle to give it a go.”

“Alright, so what are you saying now?” Jessica sounded a bit cranky.

“I’m just thinking it through, don’t start alright? Say four people set off for Russia and then two stop in Estonia as back up kind of thing, while two carry on to irradiate Moscow?”

“Yes, that is the plan at the moment, so when you say ‘people’, who are you talking about?” Jessica kept her voice level.

“I’m just thinking, maybe one of us should go with the new crew to Kenya and one of the new crew could go to Estonia as part of our back-up pair.”

“Hold on, there’s two separate issues there. First; two people stopping off in Estonia and second, mixing the crews and that could be one or two people.” Jessica counted off two fingers.
“Yep, you are right, two issues.”
“Personally, on a subjective level, I’d like us four to stick together, especially for this first trip. I mean I can see the sense in two of us hanging back in Estonia, it’s only going to be for 30 minutes if everything goes according to plan.”

“Alright, can we talk about this in the morning? I’m really sleepy.” Claire yawned.

“That’s ok by me and I’m happy to take the first watch, two hours. Who’s up for the second?”

Rob looked around the room, Rae put his hand up.

New Reflex

Jessica mumbled in her sleep as Rob got into the bed. Rae had taken over the watch. Night time mumblings and half conversations were normal nocturnal activities for Jessica. Rob lay on his side, put his hand on her hip and dozed off. He awoke about an hour later and lay there wondering if he was dreaming. An ectoplasmic sphere of energy hovered a metre above Jessica’s body, gently pulsating. Having ascertained that he was, indeed, awake, he wondered what to do. He tried to remember if they had planned on doing some kind of night time test but quickly discarded the notion. What were his options? If he tried to go ecto himself he wouldn’t be able to communicate in any detailed fashion with Jessica and considering the debacle with Rae and Helen going ecto together, he ruled it out. If he got up…. No, just keep it simple, Jessica’s ecto form appeared dormant, ah but how did he know it was definitely Jessica’s? Rob gently massaged her hip, if she stirred that would mean the ecto sphere was not hers. She did not stir, not even the faintest mumble.

Rob spoke directly to the sphere, “ Jessica? Are you ok? “ The pulsations juddered, the ball swelled a little and then faded to nothing as it dropped towards Jessica’s body. After a few seconds he rubbed her hip again, this time she mumbled something indistinguishable. He squeezed her upper thigh a bit harder, her leg moved as she awoke.

“What?”

“Are you ok?”

“Mmmm, yes, why? What’s wrong?”

“ You were just out of your body, did you not notice?”

“What? No, what do you mean?”

“You were hovering above your body, your ecto form was there” Rob gestured at the space above them, “ and when I pushed your leg you were non-responsive.”

“But that’s not possible. I’ve been asleep, honestly.” They lay facing one another; Jessica was holding Rob’s hands in hers.

“I believe you but you were there. You must have done it unconsciously.”

“But I have no memory of actually being in that state. How did I become me again?”

“I called out to your ecto and it sort of shimmered and then inflated a wee bit and then sort of sunk down into your body and then you woke up.”

“So maybe I was, sort of protecting myself?”

“I suppose that is a theory……. If that is something we start to do unconsciously and I’m with you and I do it too - could we end up like Helen and Rae? “

“Well if we were having ecto sex then I can’t see how we would be protecting our physical forms.”

“Ok, hold on let’s not get ahead of ourselves, I mean we don’t know if I went ecto as a form of self-defence and even if that was the case, if I or if we think it’s a bad idea we could set up some monitoring equipment and link it to a beeper so it wakes us up if we change.”

“Yes, I suppose we could but say it kept waking you up every twenty minutes, that wouldn’t be so grand.”

“Yes but we’re going to have to monitor each of us anyway. This is a strange, I mean unforeseen, development.” Jessica smiled ruefully and pressed her feet against Rob’s.

“Mmmm…science is full of those.” They lay there in the dark. “Hopefully, the one thing we can rely on, is that our ecto form won’t simply desert our bodily form because if the body dies then the ecto dies and the ecto is not suicidal. We’re sure about that aren’t we?”

“Rob, how can we be sure about anything? It’s science. Our ecto might not desert our bodily form but it might go and do something that we didn’t plan, or maybe even normally approve of. I mean you do, well I feel amazingly, y’know, sort of free… powerful when I’m in that state. ”

“Almost Godlike.”

“I’m a woman.”

“Goddess-like.”

“I’m going to have to sleep in another room until we fix up the monitors aren’t I? “

“We could fix them up now. I mean we’d better tell Rae because he’s going to go to bed after his watch and say he goes ecto in his sleep.”
“Ay, that’s a worry. It’s a bit like the Jeckyll and Hyde story where Dr Jeckyll started becoming Hyde without taking the potion.”

“Rob. that’s not really helpful….Oh, shit, I better go and check on Claire!” Jessica pressed Rob’s hands, released them, turned on the bedside lamp and started to get out of the bed.

“Hold on Jessica, “ Rob sat up, “let’s be careful about this. Don’t just go sticking your head into her room.” Jessica was pulling on a sweat top. “If she’s gone ecto, y’know, it, I mean she might lash out to protect her if she doesn’t recognise you.”

“Alright, what do you suggest? Should I go ecto?”

“Is she older than you?” Jessica pulled her pants on and sat down on the side of the bed.

“Oh come on Rob, she’s not going to have, what? Some form of sex with me to get a few months of life force. I mean it would have to be consensual surely?

“I wasn’t thinking of you two having sex if you must know. I was just thinking it would be a good idea to shout her name and wake her up before you go in the room, that’s all”

“Oh, right, ok.”

Claire was fast asleep.

Wales

It was a cold, dark, windy night when ecto Claire (without pod) and ecto Rae (with pod ) accompanied by ecto Rob (without pod) to refract radar , raced to Wales ( White Castle, aka Llantillio Castle 5 k east of Abergevanny ) and back, a distance of 202 miles / 325 kilometres. It was a straight line; west across the Chilterns, south of Oxford, across the Cotswolds, north of Cirencester and Stroud, across the Severn, north of Monmouth and the impressive hill top ruin was lit up like a Christmas tree. They came at it from the east, on the south side, and slowing down to 100 kph they semi circled the castle and headed back east. If you had been keeping a lookout from the top of the13th century gatehouse you might have seen the one dark grey pod come and go but you would have had to have the eyes of a hawk and then some. The Air Force had been asked to look at this area of the UK, to take no action if they did see anything and to report back to the Director. The air space had been checked for commercial and non-commercial flights. The three ectos did 450 kph at a height of 80 foot on the way there and then, going full throttle, 3,500 kph at 800 feet on the return leg.

They had sorted out their heat signatures and their ‘showy’ glow and the Air Force had not picked them up on the radar. Rob used his ectoplasmic ability to manipulate energy wavelengths to refract the ultra high radar frequencies, allowing them to glance past the pod as opposed to being reflected back.

Upon the couple’s return they agreed that once you had fixated upon your destination then as long as you knew there were no hills, mountains or towers in the way you could go full throttle if you went in a straight line. If, however, you had to do any manoeuvring then you needed to fly at less than 300 kph.

The first mission.

Before heading to Russia they had to send off the crew that Rob and Rae had prepared for the Kenyan mission. They had obtained permission to take over the Kenyan university’s archaeological dig by donating £150,000. Now that the British government believed in world peace they were happy to help Jessica and her colleagues with finance and logistics. They were willing to provide a plane (a Challenger 3000) to take the new recruits to the British military’s training base in Laikipia County in Kenya, via Limassol in Cyprus, followed by provisions and jeeps to take them to the site of the abandoned archaeological dig.

The DNA search crew left from Northolt on the Tuesday morning at 10.05am and reported their arrival at the Kenyan base at 5.30pm GMT. Jessica, Claire, Rob and Rae left Northolt at 8.30pm in a Boeing C-17 Globemaster III, cruise speed 829 kph, they were hitching a lift with a cargo of equipment which included their own version of a portakabin. The Director thought this was ‘more discreet’. The area behind the cockpit was kitted out with seats, they strapped themselves in. The plane flew north east east out over Great Yarmouth across the North Sea, over north Germany and the Baltic Sea, not quite a straight line to the base in Estonia - so as not to spend time flying over Sweden.

The plane landed with a slight bump at 10.35pm GMT, the wind was gusting up to 25 kph from the north, the temperature was dropping from -8C headed towards -15C, precipitation was not predicted.

Jessica and Rae ensconced themselves in the portakabin and were ecto in less than three minutes. Rob stood on the runway with a sample of the ancient DNA in his hand. He held it out to the two shimmering spheres as they emerged from the back of the plane, it rose from his hand and then it and the spheres were off; south east to Moscow 870 kilometres away.

The wind did not bother them, the cold was irrelevant, as was the light from the waning moon. They were, to all intents and purposes, invisible to the Russians, the Estonians, Latvians, etc;. The land they flew over was almost flat. They had picked the night of a day when the Duma and the Federation Council were sitting. This meant that nearly all the influential Russian politicians were in central Moscow. Jessica and Rae headed in at a height of 2,000 feet and irradiated them all.

They were got back to the base in Amari 25 minutes later and returned to their respective bodies in the portakabin. Claire took blood samples from them both while Rob micro waved them burgers, chips and beans. After eating they felt fine. The only question was, had it worked? Time would tell was their thinking and with that they zipped themselves into sleeping bags and went to sleep under the watchful eye of an energy frequency monitor, just in case any of them went ecto accidentally. The rest of the night passed uneventfully as the re-fuelled C 17 Globemaster took them back to Northolt.

Claire and Rob did Paris two days later without a hitch. And two days after that the four of them were back in the Globemaster on their way to the British military base at Limmasol, Cyprus. The DNA recovery crew had radioed to say they had arrived safely and had begun the search.

Rae had had to explain to them the recent development of going ecto whilst asleep. He hadn’t been able to actually explain it, he had described it and suggested the use of energy frequency monitors to wake anyone who did it. As far as Jessica, Claire Rob and Rae knew it had only happened on the occasion Jessica had done it but for all they knew it might have happened to Rae, or any of them, previously.

Rae had argued that maybe, if it happened again, say to him, that he should not be woken, it was possible that it was a ‘natural’ development and the ecto would automatically blend back into his bodily form as he woke up. The other three had convinced him that, considering the job they had to do, experimenting with this ‘unforeseen development’ was not the safest plan. Considering the ‘unforeseen development’ might have been the precursor to a dramatic, even catastrophic, end game scenario, this was a severe form of ostrichism.

From Limassol Rob and Rae did Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Damascus, Tehran and Baghdad overnight. It was unbelievably straightforward and yet if the DNA recovery crew didn’t find any more ancient DNA then where would that leave them? With Washington D.C., Naypyidaw (Myanmar), Pyongyang, Islamabad, New Dehli and Beijing unirradiated?

“Up shit creek.” Was how Rae put it.

“But we had no choice, the Director was shutting us down. We had to do what we had to do.” Jessica looked around for support.

“And it’s not as though the world was in such a great state, on the brink of some war or other every fortnight.” Rob came to her aid.

“Yes, alright, I’m just saying ’s all. “ Rae looked away, embarrassed by his own childish tone. Claire spoke to the back of his head.

“Well the Director’s lovely now and if we can’t find any DNA then he’ll organise loads of scientific biologists to copy the tiny bit we have left and make us some.”

“Make some DNA?” Rae looked bemused and intrigued.

“Oh yes Rae, now they don’t want to spend all that money on bombs and tanks and fighter jets they can spend it on science and everything will be fine, super, super, fine.” Sometimes it was very difficult to know when Claire was kidding. “But in the meantime I think we should do what we said and go digging in Kenya.”

The night after the Middle East foray they flew south to Kenya. They arrived at 9.10pm local time, the heat was palpable even though it was dropping from an afternoon high of 45C. They radioed the DNA crew to discover that the crew had not discovered any ancient DNA as of that moment. They got some sweaty sleep in the portakabin with the energy frequency monitor and a couple of fans on. The bleeping of the monitor woke them up at 3.15am. Unfortunately it did not tell them who had been ecto. They agreed they had not thought the one energy monitor/ four subjects set up through but voted on taking a chance of getting another three hours sleep. It worked, there were no more disturbances. They got up at 6.15am and set off at 7.30am on the bumpy, two day drive to the archaeological dig south of the Gura river about 12 k south west of Nyeri. The Director had organised three 4x4’s and three armed guards. Jess and co couldn’t fly the pods as the Kenyan government were very touchy about the British military flying into their country; the use of the base was seen as a big favour. If they had picked up small UFO’s on their radar it was likely they would attack and even though Rae was sure the four of them could outrun any missiles, the consensus was for non-confrontation. Added to that was the fact they would have to levitate a cargo of food and water rations.

At the end of the first day’s drive they radioed the DNA crew again but got no reply. They radioed the base they had come from and that channel was clear but the base had not heard from the dig and when they attempted to contact the dig, they too had no joy.

“I could ecto over there and have a look see.” Rob opened his water and took a drink. “We’ve got the GPS. I mean, forewarned is forearmed.”

“Mmmm.” Jessica looked at the other two. Rae leaned forward and spoke quietly.

“I’m not being funny but if anyone does go ecto then they should maybe do it where nobody,” he made a sideways gesture with his head, “ can see them do it.”

“Rae, are you being racist?” Claire asked in a child-like tone of voice.

“No, I’m an anthropology student, remember? It’s just the way it is in lots of Africa, if people see something they don’t understand or something weird, they might think it is ‘kamuti’. I mean if someone in England saw one of us going ecto they might think the same.”

So Rob went for a ‘quiet, private walk’ with Jessica and went ecto while she kept lookout while he flew to the dig, south of the Gura river. Once there he could not locate the DNA crew or their guards, he saw a few dead animals in the 500 metre circle around the campsite that he surveyed. Some had been ripped open by predators but most were apparently untouched.

He flew back to the convoy and reported the worrying news. There was no sign of anything untoward at the dig, apart from the dead animals, no clues as to where the crew or their guards might have gone. The supplies were there, the tents and the clothing, no sign of a struggle; a mystery.

They had no choice but to carry on. Jessica and Rob were packing their kit away, talking in hushed tones. Jessica sounded frustrated,

“So after all that; forewarned is not fully forearmed. If we can’t tell our guards what we know because telling them what we know means telling them how we know it.”

“No, it’s alright; we don’t have to give all the details, we can just say that no radio contact means ‘code red’, guns ready and all that.”

“Ok, uhuh, but I still think that we need to get over this ‘they can’t know we can go ecto’ business because sooner or later one or more of us is going to have to do it in front of them.”

“Well I suppose we could try explaining it to them, they seem quite intelligent.”

“Rob!”

“What ? I didn’t mean it like…. Well ok, maybe I was being a bit patronising but I wasn’t being racist, you know I’m not like that. Jessica?”

“No, I know you’re not.”

Rae and Claire walked up from where they had been packing their kit away, Claire spoke first.

“I’ve just been thinking and I’m not sure it’s such a great idea to drive up to the dig. I mean we don’t know what’s gone wrong but say for instance that an armed group has abducted our crew and they have lookouts or something to tell them if any more people arrive. Well we’ve only got these three armed guards and we’d be putting them at risk.”

“They’re armed guards, so that’s sort of the point isn’t it?”

“Yes but if twenty armed guys ambush us then we’re all dead or kidnapped so I’m just thinking that maybe two of us should go there ecto and spend more time searching around.”

“If we find any terrorists or whatever we can fuse their weapons, y’know like melt the firing mechanisms and then we’re safe.” Rae said quietly.

And so they drew straws and Rob and Jessica went for a further look see, ectoplasmically.

The ‘dig’ had been taking place in a series of caves in a hillside 200 metres south of the Gura river. Rob and Jessica flew slowly on either side of the river north east away from the dig for about 8 kilometres then semi-circled back and did the same in a south westerly direction. The tree cover was sporadic

They found nothing, apart from a few more dead animals. They had agreed beforehand that if they found no trace of the DNA crew above ground they would do an intensive search of the cave system.

The entrance had been discovered fifteen years earlier and the University had started excavations five years after that.

Rob and Jessica made their floating way down a passage that averaged one metre wide and one and a half metres high, down an incline that averaged 17 degrees for about 25 metres until it opened out into a small cave the size of a large, knobbly, living room; dust, soil, scuffed footprints. They had focussed their nascent light energy into a wide torch beam, this meant that instead of appearing as a gently throbbing ball of light, they looked like a shaft of light.

Two more passages led out of the first cave. The one to the left was the largest, almost fifty per cent wider and taller than the original and carried on downwards in a similar fashion for about 30 metres where it opened out gradually into a 60 metre long gallery averaging 8 metres across and 6 metres high. It was here that the first remnants of ancient humans had been found; bits of axe heads and humanoid bones. At the end of the gallery yet another passage led downwards, at a steeper gradient for 40 metres until it opened out into a railway carriage-sized space at an angle of 45 degrees. They hovered in the space and scanned it.

Nothing, just dust, footprints, rocks, stalactites and stalagmites as it had been for thousands and thousands of years, apart from the footprints and the ’tites and ’mites growing at about 0.10 mm per year when there wasn’t a drought.

And then there was a shudder. Both Rob and Jessica felt it. It wasn’t a physical, earth tremor type shudder; it was a shudder of energy waves, not a pulse. You could have five different energy wavelengths coming at you and it could still be felt as a sequence of overlapping pulses. This was like a sequence of pulses that randomly came and went. The feeling of it did not mean they understood it, or know exactly where it came from, the shuddering emanations continued spasmodically. They could not talk, or communicate in any detail but now they could sense it came from further inside the cave system. The main emotion they exchanged was what might be described as ‘take extra care’ which was a bit obvious, whilst still being instinctive and heartfelt. Jessica flew slowly down the next passage; it wound gently downwards like in an oversized meerkat’s den. Suddenly the pulsations came again.

There seemed no point in retreating. How you feel when you’re in a healthy ectoplasmic state is the best bits of you, the bravest bits of you maybe the impulsive bits of you too. Jessica continued and it was in the fifth cavern that she saw what appeared to be a small and possibly recent fissure in the cave wall, there were two other, older openings at the far end. The pulsations had diminished and yet were still discernible and she felt they emanated from the fissure. She narrowed herself and entered what was a long narrow tunnel that opened up into a space the size of a crumpled school gymnasium. Rob was behind her and felt the dull thud of what, as a human, he would have called pain however, as ecto it was more a grinding form of existential angst; like when your ice cream falls out of the cone after only two licks….. but a thousand times worse.

They both shone two wide light beams across the cavern. In the centre, where it dipped down, the beams of light seemed to stop. It wasn’t that they illuminated an actual black mass of a physical substance, it was more that the light stopped having any meaning; it simply ceased to exist.

As Jessica and Rob both hovered, trying to think, they could feel that their cognitive faculties were becoming muddy. Time seemed to stretch; their sense of self was weakening.

Suddenly Rob released a ray of microwave energy directed at the ground and the thought,

“Get out !” It was enough. They retreated at speed along the tunnel. The earth throbbed in a bad way, self-preservation was the order of the day.

If they had had legs it would have felt like wading through mud. Jessica, like Rob, felt as though her lungs and heart were being dragged out of her chest, even though, as an ectoplasmic ball of energy she had neither heart nor lungs. A fear was upon them.

It took four times as long to get out as it had done to find their way to the dark mass but they did get out onto the surface, then, painfully back to the camp and into their bodies.

Claire and Rae gave them glucose and mineral drinks and news. They had been checking local radio stations and had heard reports of attacks taking place in three not-so-distant villages; details were hazy, many people were reported to have been left comatose, some, possibly dead.

Rae and Claire had plotted the towns on a map and the dig was at the centre of the irregular triangle. An hour later they caught another news flash of a fourth disturbance in a fourth town and its position confirmed the theory that Jessica, Rob, Rae and Claire were developing. This was that their DNA- recovery crew had come into contact with the dark phenomenon in the cave, had been affected by it, and then those individuals had spread out to go in search of other life forms/ energies. The reason postulated for it not infecting Rob and Jessica was that they, unlike the DNA crew, had not been irradiated; and like all un-irradiated humans, still housed the original dark energy. The crew had been irradiated and thus were more like the innocent ancient hominoids (probably Homo heidelbergensis or Denisovians ) that the original dark energy had infected 300- 200,000 years ago.

“But what, I mean, how are our guys harvesting the life energies out in those towns?” Claire’s brow furrowed.

“Maybe they’re not. Maybe they’re sort of tasting all these people to see if they’re uninfected by the original dark energy. Maybe the dark mass in the cave is a residue of the original dark energy that infected the human race or another type of dark energy that never managed to infect the ancient humans but our crew re-invigorated it when they blasted through the rock.”

“And like Lucas said, where are the security guards that were with them?” (Lucas was the head of the security team- him and Mason and Jacob and James the cook/ guard - accompanying Jessica and co.)

“They might be in the cave with the dark mass, or further down in the cave system or maybe they went off after our guys but it’s too risky to go down there, well I mean we’ve got to stop our DNA crew from doing whatever they’re doing first, ’cos it’s like four guard’s lives against hundreds or even thousands out there.” Jessica gestured to the outlying landscape.

“Right, well I think we need to explain it as best we can to Lucas and the rest of the guards.” Rob stood up and stretched. “We’re all going to need to go ecto at some point soon and anyway they can’t be expected to protect us if they don’t know what’s going on.”

“Are you going to do that? “ Rae asked. “I mean I don’t know how they’re supposed to protect us from whatever it is you saw down there. Guns aren’t going to be much good. And if they come with us to the towns where our guys have gone thingy, I mean we don’t even know how mental that could be.”

“No, you’re right Rae, maybe they can’t do anything about what we saw down there but out in the towns they can translate if necessary and possibly watch over our bodies if we all have to go ecto at once. And they can drive better than us. I guess we need to all agree what we’re going to say, or what Rob’s going to say to them and then see what they are prepared to do.” Jessica tried to sound diplomatic as opposed to patronising.

And so it was. Rob fessed up and Lucas and the other guards laughed and agreed that stranger things had happened and that ‘juju’ was for ‘old women’ and if Rob doubled their daily rate they would drive them wherever they wanted and watch over their bodies if they entered the ‘spirit world’. Everybody packed the supplies away and then split up into two convoys: Claire and Rae with Lucas and James drove eastwards whilst Jessica, Rob, Jacob and Mason drove in a north easterly direction.

The small town

The man walked towards the small town, dusk was approaching, the dog-like calls of Turacos formed a background to the gentle hoots of the laughing doves; it was a nice night for a walk. On the outskirts lay the shanty houses and at the first of these the man stopped. Inside a woman was preparing food, her two children were playing behind the house. There were a series of short moans as all three fell unconscious to the ground. The man continued along the road to the next shack and a similar sequence of events took place. This man was a new type of man. His physical form was that of Philip Williams, a psychologist Rob and Rae had trained back at the Facility in England but no man like he had existed before and now he was one of the very first four such men, set on a path to create a new race.

Jessica was, as her mother might have said, “havin’ none of that”. If anyone was going to start a new race of humanoids it was Jessica and her crew.

By the time she arrived at the outskirts of the small town with Rob, Jacob and Mason a gibbous moon hung low and yellow above the trees. The ‘new man’ had walked past more than fifty shacks and nearly two hundred people lay unconscious, possibly dead. A few lay on the dirt road outside their homes. Mason stopped the 4x4 twenty feet from the first of these bodies. Jacob already had his virus mask on and his automatic rifle in his lap. Moments later he was stood in the beams of the headlights a few feet from the first victim; a man in his thirties. Jacob moved closer, aiming the cocked rifle at the man. He pushed his upper arm with the toe of his boot.

“Hey, wake up brother. You Ok?” there was no response. Jacob gestured to Rob and Jessica who came closer, both wearing their masks. Rob bent down and felt for a pulse. Tense moments passed

“He’s alive.” Rob stood up. Looking down the road they could make out three more bodies lying by the sides of the road in the dirty moonlight.

“Right, that’s it.” Jessica started walking back towards the car.

“What are you doing?” Rob spoke to her back.

“I’m going ecto and I’m putting a stop to this.” She stopped and turned, “Can you radio Claire and give them a heads up?”

“Yes but hold on, let me do it with you, we don’t know what his powers are. We need a plan”

“Alright, I know that but we need to get a move on.” Rob was already at her side as she said ‘move’.

Jacob radioed Claire whilst Mason stood guard as Rob and Jessica changed into ectoplasm in the 4x4.

The road curved round to the right, the two hazy shapes of fuzzy dull light rose to a height of about fifty metres. They had a plan, of sorts. Looking down they could see the new man who had assaulted the villagers, standing outside a shack. Rob flew down to a position twenty metres above the ground and thirty metres to the left of him and let out a bolt of electric energy that smashed into the ground two metres from the new man. As he looked at Rob’s diversion (as he described it afterwards) Jessica hit the new man with a bolt of electrical energy. He fell with a crunch. She felt a sense of elation, power and fulfilment like nothing she had felt before.

Jessica stayed in the air, keeping watch while Rob went back to the 4x4, made himself human again and then drove up and secured the unconscious figure with gaffer tape.

They radioed Claire and Rae who were about to approach another of the four ‘new men’ and were relieved to hear of the effectiveness of Rob and Jessica’s approach. Claire and Rae had found the second of this new breed leaving a village in the middle of that night. They followed Jessica and Rob’s MO with success. The radio stations were full of talk of plague and proposed travel restrictions.

By lunchtime the next day both Jessica and Rob, and Claire and Rae had bagged the remaining two and

the four new men were trussed and unconscious, in the back of the jeeps.

One of these men was Mark Thompson, the Mark who had been keen on Claire back at the Facility in England. And although Claire didn’t like to admit it, she had been a bit keen on him too.

It was early evening and they were all back at the dig. Claire was trying to make a point; that they did have some kind of duty of care to the four guys, the ‘new men’ who Rob and Rae had trained.

“ It might be possible that the dark matter in the cave infected them because we irradiated them back at the facility, making them more like early humanoids…. so then re-irradiating them might be the answer”.

“Maybe that could work Claire but we only have enough DNA left to do Beijing so if we don’t find anymore then we’ve left the world at the mercy of the Americans and the Chinese.” Jessica tried again not to be patronising.

“So what’s so different from now? And anyway that little equation left America in control” Claire countered.

“Claire,” Rae broke in, “we’ve done London and Moscow and the Middle East, you know the situation. We can’t put our four’s welfare ahead of millions of others.” His tone was not aggressive, more conciliatory, which was a step up for Rae. “And they knew this was a dangerous situation.”

“Maybe we could take them with us to Beijing.” Claire looked pathetic. The others said nothing but their faces gave the answer.

“For the moment their condition is stable so I suggest we concentrate on finding some more

Devonian type DNA.” Rob sought compromise as usual.

“There’s no way I’m going back down there as ectoplasm.” Jessica sounded adamant. “ It could sense us, I mean, I felt like I was melting away and not in a nice way.” She looked at Rob.

“Yes, no, I know, I felt it. No, I meant that one of us should try it on foot, connected by rope to the others at the mouth of the cave.” Rob saw the looks on his colleagues faces “Alright, me, I should go in on foot.”

“Yeah, maybe but first off don’t we need to know why did our crew from the Facility go off in four different directions knocking out everyone they found?”

“I don’t know, and we don’t know what actual condition those poor bastards are in. They were unconscious when we left them. When they wake up they might turn into flesh-eating zombies.”

“Oh come on Rae, keep it real. Flesh-eating zombies….as if.” Jessica rolled her eyes back in her head. They all laughed, hollowly at first then hysterically. Claire was the first to recover.

“Well anything’s possible but all we’ve got to work on at the moment is the hope that the Mass won’t see us as meat because we are already infected, us being Homo Sapiens and all that.”

“Ok even if we go with that, the thing is, that thing, that Mass seemed to fill up the whole of that side cavern and going past it could mean going through it and you’re not doing that on foot.” Jessica put her hand on Rob’s arm.

“Ok, right,” Claire broke the moment, “ so why don’t we try and scan the whole cave system from up here and then consider our options.”

The sense of this appealed and twenty minutes later Claire and Rae were hovering above the sparse vegetation that covered the hillside. They spent two hours sending what amounted to radio waves down into the ground, much like in an asdic operation but not on the ocean wave.

Claire’s plasmic form found a sandy patch where she caused grains to levitate in clusters which she then fused to create a 3 dimensional, to scale, reconstruction of the cave system. She allowed it to settle down onto the ground where it stood, at its highest point maybe three and a half metres, at its widest about five metres and longest six. The sand had melted to become a dirty blue green glass-like substance that twinkled in the sunlight.

With Rae and Claire back in human form they discussed the possibilities. The guards looked on, half impressed and bemused.

“If this is the main entrance then you can see that over there,” Claire pointed at the brim of the hill. “On the other side it looks like there are caverns near the surface, so maybe we could burn a way in there and then we’re on the other side of that stuff.”

And that is just what they did. They used the solar panel kit to supplement their ectoplasmic force, as the process of disintegrating solid rock requires a lot of energy.

Having broken into an unexplored cavern, Rob and Jessica went in on foot and began the search.

The four of them alternated in pairs so that two of them were always ectoplasm, scanning the surroundings and cave system (from above ground) for Black Mass activity. Hours passed, at times they felt the earth hum, it was a dull vibration and then it would fade away only to reassert itself half an hour or so later; a reminder that the black mass of nothingness lay there, deep in the same cave system, waiting to do what? Rip out your soul? If you die, you die, but to live and not be you? Jessica tried not to think about it.

Whichever couple was down there had to keep scraping away at the cave floor, bag up the resulting debris and carry it out to the surface to be checked over a second time by their ectoplasmic colleagues. It was tedious and desperate at the same time. On the second day they reminded themselves about the degenerative nature of going ecto and decided to reduce the ectoplasmic guard duty to one individual at a time. With the river close by and the guards’ ability to hunt game they could have kept at it for weeks.

At 5.00pm on the second day the radio beeped into life. Rob sat down and put on the headphones.

It was the Director of the Facility back in England. After the normal exchange of pleasantries he informed Rob that the UK, France, Moscow and Tel Aviv had invited all the nations with nuclear capability to join them in a race to disarm. ‘Great news’ as he put it. He enquired about the group’s progress and suggested it would be really useful if they could find some more DNA and proceed with the game plan. He offered to send additional personnel. He sounded worried.

Later that evening as they ate, Rob described the conversation.

“He said that the four countries we dealt with will go ahead with disarmament even if the others won’t sign up.”

“That would be a bit of a signal.” Rae spoke with his mouth full.

“What d’ymean? We irradiated the capitals around Israel.” Jessica asked.

“No, alright, no I mean like with the Americans….and the Chinese. They’ll see that they could …well…invade Russia for instance.”

“Alright but hold on, we’ve been over this before. Anything like that would be weeks away, I mean months. We just need to focus.”

Focussing was difficult. Sleeping arrangements were fraught. What do you do with people who just start floating off? They took turns. The guards were willing if the pay was fair. One guard on duty meant the four of them could sleep. But what was the guard supposed to do? Keep looking in on the sleeping forms and if a big glow appeared, shake them on the shoulder? And what if the glow zapped him? What sort of pay was sufficient?

So Jessica, Claire Rob and Rae took it in turns to keep watch over each other. One guard stayed awake to check the perimeters which had been wired to give notice of human approach. 0.5 gauge fishing wire and cat’s bells.

China was already a big investor in Kenya. . Twenty Chinese agents walked towards the camp under a waning gibbous moon and a sky full of stars. It was almost impossible to see the fishing wire in those conditions. The first agent who walked into it, felt it and signalled to his comrades.

Jessica’s guards had been promised a big bonus and the protection of the British government if they had to use live ammunition. So when Jacob heard the tinkling sound he woke the rest of the camp and then he and the three other guards moved towards the northwest quadrant. They had infra red scopes on their rifles and had quickly put on darkened aluminium foil body suits, only their eyes could be detected. They fanned out and lay down quietly.

When the canisters landed Mason shouted “Gas!”. They had not brought gas masks. With moments of consciousness left all four guards sprayed the moonlit terrain with automatic gunfire. The noise was horrendous. Claire had been on watch over her sleeping comrades (as ectoplasm) when the alarm went off and had risen to a height of fifteen metres above the guards. As the bullets flew she lashed out at the Chinese agents. The bullets killed five and injured four more. It appeared that Claire’s energy pulsations had killed the remaining eleven and the four who had been shot. Mason and the three other guards lay unconscious on the ground.

She levitated the guards’ bodies away from the gas; aided by Rae who arrived seconds after the gunfire had died down. Jessica, Rob and Rae had retreated to the opposite side of the camp and on the way Rae’s body had slumped to the floor as he involuntarily went plasmic. In fact it was his plasmic form that had joined Claire in her assault upon the Chinese agents and then helped her get the guards away from the gas. Rob, with Jessica by his side, spoke to the two dull shape-shifting, glimmering forms.

“I’d better go and check if any of whoever is out there is conscious. Can one of you cover me and one go check the surrounding countryside to see if there’s any more out there?”

“Hold on Rob, let Claire and Rae see if there are any more out there before you go anywhere.” Jessica nodded to the shapes and they floated away. Jessica turned to Rob, “Rae just went ecto without any prep.”

“I know.”

“Presumably because of an adrenaline rush?”

“Possibly but my heart was racing as well.”

“I know, mine too but we haven’t clocked up as many hours as Rae. He was the first to go ecto in his sleep, and now this.” Jessica frowned.

“Maybe he meant to do it; he’s just gaining mastery over the transition phase.”

“Maybe, I hope so, we’ll see when he gets back.”

Jessica and Rob checked the guards again, they were breathing but unconscious, as was Rae’s human form. They manhandled them all onto the back seats of two of the jeeps. They were about to drive away when Jessica remembered Claire.

“Don’t ever tell her.” Jessica whispered to Rob as they lifted Claire’s unconscious form into the passenger seat.

“Tell her what? That we forgot her? It wasn’t just you and it never happened.” Rob smiled and turned towards the other vehicle.

They drove down the track to the east, away from the almost invisible gas that was slowly dissipating, there being not much of a wind. They stopped by the side of the river.

Rob walked up to the side of Jessica’s jeep, she let the window down. Her other hand was on Claire’s wrist.

“She’s still got a pulse, I’ll check the others.”

“I think they’ll be ok. If they’d wanted to kill us they could have just dropped a bomb. It’s more likely they, whoever they are, want what we’ve got and us I suppose.”

“Except that we haven’t got anything.”

“Well we’ve got that tiny bit which we better hide more securely. But don’t get glummy on me, we will find some more. ” He kissed her on the cheek.

The stars sparkled in the sky as a duller, shimmering eagle-ish shape detached itself from the skyscape, it was noticeably larger than the last time Jessica had seen it. The shape floated down above Jessica’s vehicle and dissolved into nothingness. Claire groaned and came to.

“I couldn’t see any activity anywhere, I did the east, Rae went off the other way. I’m totally cream-crackered and I want some foo….” She curled up in a ball and fell asleep before she could finish the last word.

“What about the people who attacked us? Claire? Claire!” Jessica pushed her shoulder, there was no response. “Oh, brilliant.”

Rae’s dolphin/ dragon/ panther (or whatever it was supposed to be, Jessica could never remember) had always been bigger than Claire’s eagle/ squirrel/ blackbird and as Claire’s ecto form had grown since she had attacked the Chinese, so had Rae’s. It was the size of a large car as it came at them, a dullish sparkling thrum, out of the night time sky. It dissolved above their heads and Rae awoke, said almost exactly what Claire had said and then did what Claire had done; no response to Jessica’s questioning.

Rob checked the pulses of the guards who sat next to Rae whilst Jessica checked those in the vehicle where Claire snored gently.

“Right, so what have we got? Claire’s asleep and Mason and Jacob are still unconscious.”

“Same here.” Rob nodded his head at the jeep he had just come from.

“Great, and we’ve got an unknown number of armed killers out there, possibly conscious, unconscious, possibly wounded and conscious, possibly dead. I can’t believe they didn’t check.”

“From the blast of energy that Rae and Claire let out I would have thought anyone out there would be incapable of doing anything for hours. I guess that’s what left them so worn out. Look, I could go and see if anyone’s alive out there while you stay here, ok?”

Jessica sat in the driver’s seat and sighed. “Will you be safe?” she felt tired and depressed.

“As safe as is possible- all things considered. Like you said, we can’t assume they’re all dead. I’ll get the guns first, just in case.” Rob sat down against the car wheel and started his inner chanting.

He rose from his body and flew off, to return minutes later with the guards’ automatic weapons and then he was off again. Twenty minutes later he re-appeared bearing gifts; a dead Chinaman. Jessica and the crew were all asleep or unconscious so Rob stayed floating above the vehicles until just before dawn when Lucas and the other guards came to over a period of a few minutes. The gas had been designed to knock out, not kill; they regained their faculties by breakfast time.

Rob flew back to the camp site. As he approached it he created a pressure wave that sent a wind across the area so as to push any remaining gas away.

With Claire and Rae awake negotiations took place, the guards were prepared to stay on but on condition that 1/ their daily rate was doubled and was paid into their bank accounts on a daily basis and 2/ a £20,000 bonus per man was wired into their bank accounts by that afternoon. It seemed reasonable, when the Chinese attack force failed to contact their superiors it was quite possible that another squad could be sent in. Without gas masks they were vulnerable. With gas masks they were vulnerable.

Rob arranged the transfers over the radio with the Director back in the UK. The Director insisted on sending some extra armed personnel, as he put it “There’s not a great deal of point in us being pacifists if the Chinese and the Americans aren’t. We’ll get a squadron of special forces down to you asap.”

The Director was proving to be a pragmatical pacifist; a philosophical conundrum.

The dead Chinaman gave up no useful information. Jessica and Rob ectoplasmically incinerated him and his gang an hour later. They then re-charged themselves from the solar panels. Meanwhile the guards buried the weapons which had been fused by Rae and Claire’s attack. When Rob was back in human form he suggested that two of the guards should gather nut husks, fruit stones and similar vegetable matter to burn in a soil-topped mound to create charcoal. With this, and some old tee shirts, they could make simple gas masks. Jessica sat drinking a coffee while he explained the process. When the guards had set off she asked,

“Where did you learn that Rob?”

“We had a great chemistry teacher at school, he was a bit paranoid but he was good fun.”

Jessica smiled.

“I still think we should have someone up there,” she nodded at the sky, “all the time, keeping an eye on things. I mean, we can’t sleep wearing gas masks.”

“No, you’re right. It’s just that it seems to take more out of me each time, I mean it feels fantastic when I’m in that state but it’s draining the years away and yet I sort of don’t care…”

“Yes, I know but if we get captured then…”

“Yes, you’re right, we’ll sort out a roster.”

Rae had spoken hardly a word since waking up. He ate a big breakfast robotically then went down into the caves. They had wired up the solar panels to a series of lights that ran through the five main caverns (and seven minor ones – each the size of a camper van) they had access to. A relatively large passage led away from the fourth cavern. It decreased in size over a distance of nearly fifty metres until it was just large enough for a small adult to pass through. According to Claire’s 3 dimensional model of the cave system, the cavern that tunnel opened into housed the Black Mass. No-one had referred to Rob’s offer of walking towards it with a rope round his waist. When you were down there and you felt the earth thrum, it put you off making a visit.

Rob, Claire and Rae spent the afternoon digging and sifting, digging and sifting. The gentle occasional earth-shuddering continued. Claire took over from Jessica on ecto guard duty at 18.00.

At 18.35 Rob unearthed some fragments of fossilised bone and gave them to Rae for analysis. Jessica went down into the caves at about 19.00 and an hour later found some more fragments in the same cavern. Just after midnight Rae declared Rob’s fragments to be definitely hominid and very probably Denisovian. There was not enough there to do the whole job but Jessica’s find looked promising. Rae fell asleep at the bench. Jessica had gone to sleep an hour earlier, feeling more positive than she had for some time.

THE SAS

At 4.30am back in Limmasol, Cyprus, a squad of 42 SAS commandoes were boarding a transport plane, headed for Kenya.

BACK AT THE DIG

Two hours after the transport plane took off from Limmasol, Rae rose, unconsciously and ectoplasmically from his sleep yet again. Claire had just devised a monitoring set up that kept track of the sleeper’s brain waves and sound an alarm if they indicated the sleeper had gone ecto. Unfortunately Rae wasn’t in his tent with the new monitoring device; he was in the tent with the DNA testing equipment.

Rae’s giant dolphindragon floated away from the camp, headed towards the entrance to the cave system. Slowly it entered the first tunnel, squeezing itself to fit the limited space. It inched forward to the first cavern.

At 8.00am Jessica and Claire went to Rae’s tent and then to the lab tent where he had been testing the samples. Rae sat there, his head resting on his folded arms. They tried to wake him, to no avail. They stood outside the tent and called Rae’s name. Nothing happened apart from Mason asking if anything was wrong.

Jessica called out to Rob as she ran back to their tent where Rob’s unconscious form was being guarded by Lucas. Rob returned from his aerial guard duties; his dark glimmering shape hung above the tent for a moment, was it a griffin? Whatever, it manifested itself in his body. He sat up as Claire caught up.

“What’s going on?” Rob almost groaned from fatigue.

“Rae’s gone ecto, I think accidentally. He’s slumped over the desk in the lab tent.” As she uttered the words Rae’s ectoplasmic form was hovering in front of the Dark Mass, waiting to make contact.

“I’ll go and look in the caves.” Claire turned and started walking.

Contact. Rae’s ectoplasm disintegrated into thousands of shards of energy, careering out of the cave system, some of the energy simply dissipated out through the rock.

“Not on your own Claire. I’ll come with you.” Rob started to get out of his camp bed then slumped back muttering a profanity. Jessica knelt over him.

“What’s wrong?”

“I just feel weak, that’s all. A bit of food and I’ll be right.” As he spoke the earth shuddered.

“What’s that…. Jessica…” his voice failed as he, Jessica and Claire crumpled to the ground. The shuddering ceased after less than 15 seconds. Mason and Lucas were quickly on the scene. They knelt down and tried to check if they were breathing. So it was the sight of the side of Mason’s head that Jessica woke up to.

“What’s happening?.... ” Jessica experienced the first phase of consciousness where she had no understanding of what, or who she was. This was quickly followed by the second phase where she felt that something calamitous had happened and that she was probably responsible but she still didn’t know who ‘she’ was. “Oh no…what?...” Here she hit the third phase of self-awareness and yet something was not right.

“I’ll get some water” Lucas said. Claire and Rob were going through the same process of re-gaining consciousness. Soon, although they were all lucid and had had a drink of water, none of them wanted to sit up, they just lay there. Jessica couldn’t understand what she was feeling; she knew that she was Jessica Hambleton from Manchester and that she was in Kenya but there was something else.

“Lucas, what happened? Are you guys ok?”

“Yeah, we’re fine” he looked round, the other two guards nodded, “ It’s you guys who all just fell over. It was like the ground rumbled and then, boom, you three fell straight down.”

“How long were we out for?”

“Not long, maybe a minute…. Are you feeling ok now? Can you sit up?”

“I don’t know, I suppose so…” Jessica felt as if she knew things she hadn’t known before but what were they? She sat up, her hands pressed against the ground, her head hurt. “Lucas, could you get me the medical kit?”

“Yes, ok. I think we should get you all into the jeeps, in case we have to get away from here quick.”

“Ok, Are you guys ok?” Jessica asked Claire and Rob. They mumbled in the affirmative not too convincingly.

“What the f--- was that?” Claire’s voice was almost a growl.

“I don’t know.” Somewhere in Jessica’s mind she wondered whether Claire normally swore.

As the guards assisted them to the jeeps the radio signalled an incoming message; it was the Director to say the SAS should be arriving, as planned, in two phases. The first cohort of eight would be parachuting in at any moment and then the rest would drive in with supplies the next day.

Jessica, Rob and Claire all swallowed aspirins and sat back in one of the jeeps. They all felt a moderate throbbing headache and a general feeling of unease; nothing specific just a nagging anxiety.

The soldiers parachuted in thirty minutes later. Their leader introduced himself to everyone as Captain Fallon and proceeded to check the status of the camp and its inhabitants.

“So the four original guards are missing and the men they were guarding are in comas and one of you guys has just gone missing?”

“Well, yes but our guy, Rae, well you’ve been briefed yeah?” Jessica frowned.

“You’ve developed some kind of method of travelling in an out-of-body way.” Captain Fallon’s face remained stony.

“Yes, so we’ve got Rae’s body here but we don’t know where he, I mean his ectoplasmic form has gone. “

“When did that happen?”

“This morning, we were just going to start looking when there was a kind of earthquake and we blacked out.”

“Ok, Ashburton!” Fallon turned to one of his men “check out seismic activity in this area in last 12 hours.” He turned back to Jessica, “But you’re ok now?”

“Sort of, I guess.” Jessica looked to Rob and Claire, they looked glum but nodded. “We need to do some more digging in the caves. Will you be ok up here?”

“Yes but what about the member of your group called Rae?”

“We might find him down there but we’ve got a job to do and we need to get on with it.”

Captain Fallon looked half impressed and half disapproving. Jessica stared him down

“It’s a big job, we can’t fuck about.” She looked around, she realised what she had said, “ Sorry, I didn’t mean to swear.” Jessica wondered why she had sworn, she hardly ever swore, did she?

Rob prepared himself and went ecto, recharged himself via the solar panels then rose above the camp in his quasi griffin form. Jessica watched, what was that? It looked more threatening than usual. She went down into the caves with Claire.

They called Rae’s name half-heartedly, somehow they didn’t hold out much hope. The air seemed to carry an electric charge, dry and hot. They started digging where they had left off

“What do you think?” Jessica broached the subject.

“I dunno, maybe he’s gone off with Helen again.” Jessica looked at Claire, lit by the arc lights. That was the second time Jessica had noticed a new-found hardness about her. And yet it didn’t seem to matter.

“I think he’s still here, I can sort of feel him.”

“Yeah, maybe. I mean he’s either in the Dark Mass,” Claire nodded over her shoulder “or he’s gone away God-knows-where, or…”

“Or he’s in us

“Don’t be sick J’ska.” Claire responded in what might have been a northern accent. Jessica looked at her uneasily.

“Did you do that on purpose?”

“Do what on purpose?”

“Talk like Rae!”

“I didn’t!”

“You bloody did. You sounded all Manc and you called me ‘J’ska’; that’s pure Rae.”

“Shut up.”

“Oh, way scientific Claire. Why don’t we arm wrestle for it. Oh God no! Now I sound like him. Fucking Hell!”

“Hold on. Alright, calm down. Let’s just calm down…. Oh God this is mental.” Claire knelt with a trowel in her hand. She was stabbing it into the earth. “I mean you’ve got a nerve going on about ‘scientific’- it’s you and Rae that got us into this Alchemy madness.”

“Claire! Stop it. You’ve known from the beginning, well almost the beginning, what this involved. It’s what got you excited.”

“I just don’t want Rae inside me, ok!? So if it has happened we have to work out how it happened and reverse it; like when we sucked him and Helen out of the walls.”

“We need to check who else he’s gone into and then we could make a portal….but….no…that was ok when they were in the walls ’cos they came out as two separate ecto forms and their bodies were there waiting for them but we’re not walls so how are we going to stop our life forces, or bits of them, from getting mixed up in the process.”

“No, that’s ok, look, say it is just the three of us; you me and Rob. We set up the extraction portal and we’re all there including Rae’s body. Everybody’s life force comes out floats around and then Rae’s bits will go back to him since that’s where they naturally want to be and our life forces come back to us since where else would they want to go?” Claire looked almost smug.

“Yeah, no but, look that’s the way it should happen but now Rae has possibly integrated with the Dark Mass who’s to say what would happen if our ecto forms were hanging in the air with his?” They knelt there thinking. Claire broke the silence.

“I don’t want him in me.”

“I know, you said that already. I don’t want him in me either.”

“Yes but you’re northern so it probably doesn’t feel so bad.”

“Claire, get lost, don’t be so racist!”

“It’s not racist actually, it’s regionalist if it’s anything and I don’t remember regionalism being mentioned in the United Nation’s Declaration of Human Rights.”

“Claire! Stop it! God, you’re worse than he was/ is”

“Oh God I know! Sorry. It’s just so weird, it wells up and just spews out. I feel violated.”

“Alright, stay calm, let’s go and see Rob. I need to look at my files, maybe there’s a way of setting up two types of portals and we stick Rae’s body right on one of them so his life force can’t go anywhere else once they come out of us. They packed up the bags of excavated earth and were leaving the cave system, Jessica continued her thought process aloud,

“The trouble is, if it goes wrong and we are all incapacitated then we are totally fucked, as Rae would say.” Claire gave her a look. “No! That was me quoting Rae, not Rae inside me.” They laughed

“Oh Jesus Christ, what is to become of us?” Claire’s accent was, unusually, northern, Jessica looked at her, wide-eyed, Claire returned the look.

“Claire! Oh bloody hell you sounded just like Rae’s mother then. What the flaming hell is going on? Come on, let’s find Rob.” They rushed through the last tunnel as best they could and were out in the sun. Jessica called out to Rob as they walked towards the camp. Mason came towards them making a shushing gesture, he then walked with them to Rob’s tent.

“I’ve been watching over him, he needed the sleep.”

Jessica turned to him.

“I thought we agreed that it had to be one of us who guarded…one of us, while we slept.?”

“Yeah, I know but he’s paying extra so I’m taking the risk.” Mason whispered

“Right, well done you but you saw what Claire and Rae did to those guys who came the other night?”

“Yeah, I know that but I’m not going to go in the tent to wake him if there’s trouble.” Mason nodded towards a piece of string that was tied around Rob’s foot. “I’m going to get way over there.” Mason nodded towards a large rock, “and pull on the string.”

Jessica smile in spite of herself. She looked at Claire who was grinning. They both looked back at Mason who smiled and said, “It’s a big rock.” He wrinkled his nose and winked, they were all smiling.

“Nice one but I think I’ll, wake him up” Jessica made to enter the tent.
“Hold on Jess, maybe the strings not such a bad idea. I mean we don’t know what’s going on and if Rae’s … y’know… then Rob might wake up and …well, y’know.” Claire gave a little shrug.

“No, I don’t know but I can imagine certain possibilities so ok. Right then Mason,” Jessica nodded at the string,” let’s see if your string theory works. “ Claire let out a snort. “What? Oh, sorry, no that was an accident. Stop it. Right, listen, Mason, where are the soldiers?”

“One of them is supposed to be guarding the entrance to the caves, the others are scouting the area and my guys are off duty ’til 12 noon so they’ll be sleeping over there.” He indicated the far side of the camp.

“Ok let’s do this.” Jessica picked up the ball of string that was attached to Rob’s foot. The three of them proceeded to walk the 25 metres to the rock which was bit larger than a smart car. They hunkered down behind it and Jessica pulled on the string and shouted “ Rob! Wake Up!”

A moment later they heard his voice asking “ What’s up? Jessica? “

Realising there was no crisis Jessica ran towards the tent shouting “It’s ok, it’s ok, it’s only me.”

Rob was fumbling with the string around his foot. “What’s going on Jessica? What’s all this string?”

As he asked the question he was remembering. Jessica hugged him.

“It was just in case you woke up ecto ’s all. Your idea I believe.”

“Mmmm, desperate times.”

“Right, anyway, how do you feel?”

“Tired, obviously.”
“Yes, sorry but this is important, do you feel odd in any way. I mean in any new way. Jessica looked into his eyes.

“I don’t know. I think I woke up in a bad mood.”
“Right, ok, I’ve never known you wake up in a bad mood…. You’re so even-tempered.”
“Maybe it’s the heat… or the new circumstances?” Rob’s tone was sarcastic.

“There! You’re being sarcastic.”

“So?”

“You’re not sarcastic, not like that. You don’t….” Claire and Mason were approaching, Rob continued the conversation unaware of them.
“Alright, what’s this all about? You’d drive a man mad so you would.”

“Oh God, there! That’s what I mean.”
“What !?”

“That! That was pure Rae’s dad. This is bizarre. Ok so.” Jessica turned to Claire then back to Rob, “So Claire and I were down in the caves and we felt different, hold on..” Rob was about to interrupt, “Look, either Rae’s ectoplasm, his life force, went off somewhere, who knows where, or he went down into the cave and maybe that was what the earthquake was.”
“What was?”
“It was his ectoplasm reacting with the Dark Mass, and he went BOOM.”
“Boom?”

“Yes! BOOM! And his ectoplasm was dispersed and some of it, or all of it, ended up in us, leaving you in a bad temper, being sarcastic, or when you just sounded like Rae’s dad and earlier Claire sounded like his mum. It’s so weird. “

“You’re not wrong there.” Mason intoned

“Alright then, for the sake of an argument which I’d rather not have. What’s your plan? “ Rob sat on the edge of his camp bed.

“We thought we could make a portal, wire it up all around Rae’s body then the three of us could go ecto and the bit’s of Rae’s life force that are/ might be in us would go back into him.”

“Like when we got him out of the walls with Helen.” Claire chipped in.

“Have we got the kit to do that?” Rob asked.

“Yes, I think so. You’ve come round quickly.” Jessica half smiled.

“Well I can’t be ars….Ugh! No, the thing is, you’re right, I can feel something in me and I don’t like it.”

“Whoa! Right, I just thought of something.” Claire shouted.

“What !?”

“If it all goes pear-shaped, I mean if it goes badly wrong then who’s going to do the job on Washington and Bejiing ?”

“Oh for fuck’s sake. Sorry. Sorry, God he’s a bad tempered fellow.” Rob calmed himself. “I think we need to discuss this with Captain Fallon.”
“Who?” Jessica looked blank.

“Captain Fallon, the chap who’s in charge of the SAS squad. In fact we probably need to train some of them to do the business.?”

“Stop it !” Jessica had noticed the sarcasm again.

Ten minutes later they sat in the shade of the lab tent with Capt Fallon. Jessica was trying to explain the (possible) situation.

“Therefore we’re not sure if trying to release what might be the residual life force of Rae, will damage us three and if it does damage us and we can’t complete the mission…. “ she left the question hanging.

“So, do you have a plan?” Fallon asked.

“We need to train some of your group to do what we do.”

“To become an out-of-body energy force?”

“Basically, yes. Would you need to get permission?”
“Normally, yes but in this case I have been ordered to expedite your expedition as you see fit. However, I have to ask a basic, possibly naïve, question.”

“Ok.”
“Can you not simply continue, I mean if you have sufficient DNA, can you not go on as a threesome, so to speak?”

“Errrm,” Jessica looked at Rob and Claire. Their faces showed the distaste they felt at continuing with Rae residue in them. “The thing is, it feels very uncomfortable and makes it difficult to concentrate and therefore to be sure of one’s decisions…which could put the mission in jeopardy. I mean, do you have anything in principle against taking over the irradiation of Beijing and Washington? “
“No. I know to you we are just soldiers but as members of the SAS we aim to stop conflict. We’re all trained in other disciplines and we actually want to be part of a world where there isn’t torture and conflict.”

“Right….” Jessica looked abashed and confused . “So, what would you do….”

“We’d be employed creating irrigation systems, setting up aqua farms, that kind of thing.”

“Are you sure you weren’t in London or the Facility two weeks ago?”
“Errr, no, we were in Scotland on manoeuvres.”

And so it was that Jessica and Rob spent the afternoon training 4 SAS officers to gain control of their ectoplasmic selves. The soldiers took to it quickly. Having been trained in a variety of techniques, their concentration levels were high. By evening they had mastered the basics of flying. The oddest thing was that each of their ectoplasmic avatars looked like a puma mixed with an eagle. And that was in a week of very odd happenings.

The heat died down to 22 C by 6.00pm. Fallon and three of his team had eaten and were resting after their exertions. Mason and his crew were monitoring the wire alarm system and the cave entrance wherein three SAS men were digging for DNA. Claire had ‘re-humanised’ and was eating with Jessica and Rob. They agreed that if the next morning’s SAS ecto trials went well then they could attempt the de-Raeing

The second SAS unit was expected to arrive mid-afternoon the following day and then a team of twelve could be deployed in the caves to excavate more DNA.

It was a pleasant evening in the circumstances. There were no attacks by foreign agents, no earthquakes and no other incidents with the Dark Mass. They organised a rota for the overnight guard duty and attached the existing DNA samples to the arms of Jessica and Rob who were the first to bed down. Three hours of guard duty, six hours of sleep, simple. Apart from the gnawing uncertainty as to whether you would awake as ectoplasm and manage to force your way to the Dark Mass

Morning of the De-Raeing

As the second SAS cohort started the final leg of their drive to the camp Jessica and Rob were overseeing the next phase of the ecto training of Captain Fallon and his three subordinates. Claire was in the cave system excavating DNA with Mason and the bodyguards.

Fallon and his men worked as two pairs about three kilometres from the camp. One ecto soldier levitated a small wrap of leaves the size of a pack of ten cigarettes at a height of 1,000 metres while the second ecto soldier issued a wave of radiation down through the wrap towards the ground.

Jessica monitored the type of radiation. By noon both pairs of soldiers had mastered the technique. At lunch Rob and Jessica told Claire the good news and an hour after eating a light meal they made their first attempt at releasing their inner, Rae back to Rae.

They positioned Rae’s unconscious body on a camp bed and Rob prepared to go ecto in his own tent. Rob’s ectoplasmic force rose into the air, it was now the size of a campervan with what might have been wings. It was difficult to tell as the whole thing fizzed and stuttered in size, colour,, intensity and opacity. It seemed to be having some kind of fit. The colour of the sparkling winged campervan/ griffin avatar from blue to dark violet to red to yellow and back again chaotically as shafts of some kind of energy pushed out at various points; stretching a skin that didn’t actually exist. This lasted less than a minute as Claire and Jessica looked on helplessly. Then the fizzing and crackling stopped as the griffin avatar disappeared and, moments later, Rob came to.

There had been no response from Rae. Jessica was holding Rob’s hand.

“Rob, are you ok? Robbie, what happened?” Rob moaned , “Rob?”

“Jesus Christ! That hurt. God, what happened ?! That was the weirdest yet.” There was a pause, Claire was checking Rae’s vital signs.

“Rae’s no different.” She called out.

“No, I don’t think he would be. It was like something, like a little demon is in you and it’s trying to get out but it doesn’t know where or can’t see where and it’s really angry and it’s like it’s kicking the inside of your head and down here.” Rob indicated his chest. “ It’s just bloody awful and it feels like it lasts forever and will never end. How long was I up there?”

“About 45 seconds.”

“Christ.” There were tears in his eyes.

Jessica and Claire sat on the ground in silence.

“The thing I, say we make a Felspar portal and we all go ecto on one side with Rae on the other and then the bits of Rae would know where to go, hopefully. But we’d also have to make a Felspar cage to put around him so he doesn’t involuntarily do it again.

“Well you wouldn’t think he’d want to go back to that Mass if it did blast him to pieces .” Claire sounded depressed.

“Maybe. That’s if our ecto forms learn from experience. And the other thing is that we could end up doing the same thing. I mean whatever force attracted Rae to that thing down there could work on us.”

“Ok, so we’ll all have to be monitored , which is what we have been doing. Remember, Rae fell asleep at the lab bench, that’s why this happened.

“Ok, right, You’re right.” Jessica sounded glum and irritated.

“So the main thing is, we still need to get rid of the Rae that’s in us. And I vote we make the portals and get on with it.”

Jessica got up on her knees next to Rob who was still lying on the camp bed.

“What do you think sweetie?” She squeezed his arm. There was silence. “Rob?”

When he spoke it was with effort. “I suppose you’re right Claire. I mean the portal idea should work. We should have thought it through before. Just so long as it’s not like just now.”

“Hello?” Captain Fallon stood outside the tent. They explained their plan to him.

“OK, so you want to do that here, this afternoon?”

“Yes.” Jessica spoke for the group.

“Right. The thing is, if Rae regains consciousness after your experiment there are four possibilities that spring to mind:

A/ he is ok, B/ he is not ok and needs treatment of some kind, C/ he is not ok and presents a threat to all or some of us and D/ he immediately goes ecto and heads straight for the thing in the caves which could result in another blasting of his life force out into not only yourselves but possibly myself and my men you have been training..” He looked around at the three of them.

“Yes, those are possibilities.” Jessica answered. There was a noise from outside the tent.

“Captain.” It was one of Fallon’s men: he reported that he and his squad had been down in the caves excavating for DNA when the four missing scientists had appeared from the tunnel that led to the Dark Mass. They were confused and barely monosyllabic. They had no memory of who they were or where they had been but they could walk and were non-threatening. The soldiers had brought them to the edge of the camp.

“This is the issue I was about to address.” Captain Fallon was very proper; his father was a Deacon in the Anglican church. “Shall we go and appraise the situation?”

Rob rested whilst Jessica and Claire went with Fallon. As they approached the group of scientists who sat, sprawled on the ground they noticed the blank looks and when Claire actually spoke to Mark he did not recognise her and had no apparent interest in knowing anything about his previous life.

Having spoken to the medic, Fallon, Jessica and Claire returned to Rob in his tent where Fallon voiced his thoughts.

“Based on the 4 scenarios I outlined earlier on, and this new development my recommendation is that we accompany you back to the base and attempt your re-making of Rae there.” Jessica broke in,

“I suppose it is possible that when Rob tried to release his inner Rae earlier on that might have stirred something in Mark and the others to bring them out of wherever they were hidden.”
“But they could only have been hidden in the Dark Mass, otherwise I would have sensed them when I surveyed the cave system.” Claire was upset.

“Possibly… and that doesn’t preclude that some of Rae went into them. So it makes sense for us all to do it together…. and I take your point “ she nodded at Fallon, “ that it would be safer if we were well away from here … although it is only 200 kilometres and Rae could possibly travel at Mach 3 if he went ecto.”
“But if he did reach the Dark thing in there it wouldn’t blast him 200 metres directly back at you guys… if we are all at the base.” Fallon sounded sincere but then, men of his rank went on media courses where they learnt to do that.

“In addition, you will have to go to the base on your way to finish the East section of your mission.”

“Plus we do need to take Mark and the others somewhere they can be looked after.” Claire was still trying to take it in.

“And that would probably need to be the Facility back in the UK.”

Thus it was agreed they should return to the base.

They spent the next 3 hours packing and preparing the kit they would use to ‘de-Rae’ themselves. The rest of the SAS unit that had driven from the base arrived in convoy at 13.20 hrs. Jessica and Claire demonstrated the extraction techniques they needed to use in the cave system to retrieve the DNA samples. By 16.30 hrs Jessica, Rob, Claire, Mason and crew were driving the unconscious form of Rae back to the Kenyan base accompanied by Captain Fallon and 6 SAS soldiers. Jessica and Rob sat in the back of the third jeep. Mason was driving, with Luke in the passenger seat. Claire was in the back seat of the fourth jeep with Rae. Jacob was driving, Mark was in their passenger seat. Rob had dozed off on Jessica’s shoulder; no mean feat considering the state of the road. It was Jacob who saw it first: the dark glittering ecto griffin form of Rob was floating above the jeep he was in.

“Jesus!” Claire leaned forward to see what Jacob was looking at.

“Oh God! Beep the horn ! Stop them!”

Jacob beeped repeatedly, flashed his headlights and activated his hazard lights as the convoy came to a halt. Rob’s proto griffin started to float back down the track. It now looked like it had that morning, as though little banshees were trying to break out from within. The colours flashed from deep reds to dark turquoise. Claire jumped out and ran towards Jessica’s jeep shouting a warning. Rob was already moaning as Jessica grasped the situation and shook him.. He came to as before, with a series of moans and bad language.

“This is getting beyond a joke.” Claire looked harassed.

“I know.” Jess turned to Mason as Fallon ran up to the vehicle. They discussed driving through the night as Rob’s propensity to turn ecto had become an issue.

“We could feed him on caffeine and vitamins.” Rob lay in the back looking pale and weak. Fallon explained the night time driving protocols; lead car drives approximately one kilometre in advance, radioing back a double click signal every five minutes to indicate a clear route. If the signal did not come through the convoy was supposed to get off the road, turn lights and engines off and prepare to fight.

“We can adapt the monitors to run off the car batteries, then if any of us,” Jessica nodded at Rob and Claire, do it again we’ll have an almost immediate heads up.”

And so they drove through the night with air con turned off to facilitate the ecto monitors. Their sweat soaked the seats they sat on.

It was 25 in the shade when they arrived at the base. Jessica’s stomach rumbled as she got out of the jeep. While Fallon talked to the base commander she and Claire set up the de-Raeing equipment.

Rob tried to help but he was feeling very sketchy and mainly watched.

They were half way down the runway, just off the tarmac. Fallon sat at the end of the runway with his finger on a button. They positioned Rae’s body in the centre of a circle formed by a flexible pipe filled with the Felspar mix. An electric wire ran through the centre of the pipe. Jessica, Claire, Rob, Mark and the three other scientists from the Facility sat in a circle around Rae’s body. Jessica and Claire had set up the beat sequences in front of Mark and his cohort and explained again the way to go ecto. The fact they cottoned on so quickly re-assured Claire regarding their recovery.

Captain Fallon and his men looked on with binoculars. At twelve noon Jessica and her six colleagues started chanting as she pressed the switch to send a low voltage current through the Felspar mix.

After about 15 seconds all seven ecto forms manifested themselves. Each one was in turmoil as Rob’s had been twice previously. As a light show it was quite something; the glimmering, shimmering shapes, each as large as a town car, floated at about 4 metres above the ground. Points on the surface of each sporadically zapped outwards as if something or things were trying to escape.

And that was exactly the case, and this time the ‘things’ had a signpost to follow; the electrified pipe surrounding Rae.

With a series of howling explosion the manifestations within the seven ecto forms broke free and headed straight at Rae. They were visible as pinpoints of light for only milliseconds and then the seven ecto forms dissipated back into their human hosts.

Fallon took his finger off the button.

Jessica came to, going through the process of not knowing anything to feeling guilty about everything in about ten seconds but this time the guilt faded faster than before. The radio beeped and she heard Fallon’s voice asking if everything was ok. Why was he doing it from a distance? She couldn’t remember. Oh, it was Rae, they had to check if he was still Rae. She felt aches all over her body as she stood up. The dizziness made her sit down again.

“Jessica, are you alright? It was Rob, he sounded as feeble as she felt.

“Yes, no, just a bit dizzy, and, errr, achey.” She felt her stomach rumble. “And a bit sick.”

She looked around and saw the radio receiver was only a couple of feet away. She crawled over and spoke into the handset to answer Fallon’s question.

“I think so, we just need to check everyone.”

They answered to their names and affirmed they were in no real pain. Rae let out a whimper and a moan. Jessica spoke into the handset again.

“Everyone’s conscious and self-aware apart from Rae, he is conscious and, I’m just checking.

“Rae!! “ Claire was trying to stand up. She sat back down, groaning weakly. “Claire, what’s wrong?”

“Nothing, I’m just a bit dizzy. And nauseous.”

Jessica tried to stand up for the second time and was more successful. She stumbled towards Rae, who was starting to sit up.

“Rae, just take it slowly.” Rae groaned and lay back down. Now it was Mark and the three other scientists who made efforts to stand and were successful. They started to walk away from Jessica towards the perimeter fence. She heard the sound of engines in the distance. The noise grew quickly as Captain Fallon and his team drove past in three vehicles and came to a halt twenty metres behind the four scientists who appeared to be on a mission. Fallon commanded them to stop. There was no response. He repeated the command. They continued to walk towards the perimeter fence, maybe 800 metres away. Fallon fired three rounds from his semi automatic weapon into the air. The group of walkers did not flinch as they continued on their march out of the base.

“Evans, the leg of the one on the right.” Corporal Evans was carrying a sniper’s rifle. He steadied himself against the side of his jeep and pulled the trigger. The scientist on the left, who was now fifty metres away, fell to the ground. Almost simultaneously the other three escapees fell to the ground and their ecto forms rose into the air. One of the vehicles that Fallon’s men had arrived in was a flat bed truck carrying a missile launcher. Fallon shouted “Fire!!”

The missile exploded right in the centre of the group of fallen bodies. The ecto forms flew upwards, away from the earth, their human hosts now blown apart and very, very dead. They would add to the grapefruit skin effect, on the other hand, Jessica, Claire and the others were alive.

At the de-briefing session that evening Claire had regained some of her composure. Still, her voice was pained as she asked what would the families be told. She was referring to Mark and the other three scientists who had died with him. Like Jessica she wondered what her family would be told if she died on this mission. Captain Fallon answered.

“They’ll either be told that there was an explosion at the observatory in Chile or at the Facility in England or in a cave collapse at the dig. They were serving their country and will probably receive a posthumous civilian award. I’m sorry but we couldn’t take any chances.”

“I know you had to do it. It’s just….” She faltered and then ran out of the hall. Jessica followed and caught up with her outside their hut.

“Claire, I know this is difficult but we…”

“Jess, I think I’m pregnant!” Jessica stared at her for a moment.

“Oh God! Oh Claire … but we m…Oh! You mean Mark!”

”Yes of course.”

“No, I didn’t mean….no the thing is, I think I’m pregnant too. But, y’know the thing is , with everything that’s been going on… You haven’t , you haven’t done a test kit thingy, have you?”

“No.” her tone made it clear that it was fairly obvious that there had been no opportunities to obtain such a thing in the past few weeks. “ Can we get some?”

“I think we should. I mean if we are pregnant then it, I mean the foetuses, might have been affected by Rae’s life force.”

“Oh God! I’d sort of tried to stop myself thinking about that.”

“And it’s not only Rae’s life force but it’s possible his life force had been tainted by the Dark Mass.” They stood there, at a loss.

“Bloody hell, it’s alright that man thing about going off to war and having a last fling but when you’re a woman…. Jeeez. Anyway, I thought you were on the pill? “

“Yes, I am, theoretically but what with all the, y’know….I guess I forgot. But maybe it’s all the other stuff that’s been going on. Maybe that’s put our cycles out of sync. We need to get some kits.”

On one level they now both felt an antagonism towards the foetus that might lie within them. On another level Claire felt it was her last connection to Mark. She felt responsible for his death. Jessica had come to the conclusion that she wanted a child with Rob and this might be their only opportunity and then she questioned herself as to the logic of such an outlook. If they were to die, in the next few years what would be the point of having a child? If it outlived them it would probably, no definitely, be kept at the Facility, under observation, never able to live a normal life. And it very well might be abnormal, in a way that was difficult to conceive, to an extent that was difficult to imagine.

If they were to live another twenty years then they could try again. It didn’t really matter how long they had to live, she couldn’t give birth to this thing that could be part her, part Rob, part Rae and even part of another dimension of existence.

The next day Jessica, Claire, Rob, Rae, Captain Fallon and the three of his men who had been trained to go ecto flew back to England.

Return to the UK Facility

They sat facing the Director in an underground room at the Facility. No-one was smiling. The Director sounded depressed.

“The American government has effectively evacuated Washington D.C. They are meeting at the Mount Weather emergency operations centre in Virginia to make necessary decisions. It’s about 50 kilometres northwest of D.C. It’s a giant underground facility. The President, Vice president and a few Senators are fulfilling some public commitments so as not to cause panic. The Chinese government have done something similar which makes it much more difficult to irradiate either government en masse so to speak. Our eyes on the ground inform us that many of the American government officials left Mount Weather last weekend, presumably to see their families and to be seen in public. Similarly many military officials left the Pentagon for the weekend. This gives us options. We know very little of what the Chinese State Council is up to but they have their annual party conference in three weeks and it seems likely that many of them will attend.” No-one spoke. “For the moment let us assume that we succeed in irradiating the majority of the relevant government and military officials in China, North Korea and the USA. Soon afterwards we will presumably achieve consensus between all the nuclear powers for the next stage of worldwide irradiation. We might need to re-title that but that’s not my concern at the moment. More to the point, what we need to compute is the amount of what I will call ‘sorties’ it will take to pacify over 80% of the earth’s population. When you,” the Director nodded towards Jessica and Rae, “ irradiated London the effect was felt from Shepherd’s Bush in the west to Thamesmead in the east, Finchley in the north and Tooting Bec in the south.”

“I imagine you have already done the numbers on this. Actually I thought we did this, weeks ago” Jessica looked around at Claire and Rob. They pursed their lips thoughtfully but said nothing. Rae did not say anything, nor did he purse his lips.

“Not exactly but we have to go over it in detail, especially considering recent developments. So, yes, to irradiate 80% of the world’s population would require 2,000 sorties and it takes two individuals to effect a single sortie. Each individual will only be able to go on ten of these missions before they start to lose control of their abilities. Therefore we will be putting 400 individuals at risk unless we, err or you, come up with a solution.”

“Yes, you’re right, people will be putting themselves at risk but they will, presumably, be volunteers from the armed services of a variety of countries.” Rob still sounded tired. “And if we have to ask 400 people to possibly lay down their lives for the sake of countless millions then so be it. I don’t need a guilt trip. We will do our best to ‘find a solution’, in the meantime I suggest you remain thankful that Jessica and Claire…and Rae discovered this phenomenon.” There was an awkward pause then the Director continued.

“I hear what you say Professor, and I apologise if I sounded ungrateful, it’s just that it would be useful for there not to be a sense of ‘kamikaze’ about these sorties; for the sake of the volunteers we hope to attract.” He pressed a button on his remote and a map of Africa appeared on a screen. It was peppered with red stars. “We have another serious problem in that we will need a relatively large amount of early humanoid DNA to facilitate the world wide irradiation. We have to suppose that the Chinese are, to some extent, aware of our plans otherwise they would not have attacked you the other night. We must also assume that the Americans might gain some insight at any moment. The stars on this map represent sites where it is feasible that one might find the type of DNA we seek and we will be sending agents out to as many of them as we can.” He pressed his remote again and some of the stars turned green. “The green stars are in countries that we believe we can persuade to allow us temporary partnership in the control of their airspace so as to protect these sites while we, and the French and probably the Russians, search for DNA but in the meantime it is only the Kenyan site where you were working that is a definite source. Therefore we have to make every effort to protect it, especially since it appears to house some sort of Dark Matter. And that is where you come in.” The Director looked from Jessica to Rob, to Claire and then Rae. “We cannot force the Kenyan government to allow us to control their airspace. The Chinese have a great deal of leverage due to the size of their investments in the Kenyan economy. They will, however, honour their commitment to allow us unimpeded access to the archaeological site from which you have just returned.”

“Who? The Kenyans?”

“Yes.”

“But they won’t actually do anything to stop the Chinese or anyone else from trying to take it over?” Jessica spoke quietly.

“No, and to that end we are sending more troops to guard the area. However, if someone decides to drop a bomb there is little we can do and that is where you come in.”

“How?”

“We would like you to try and devise something that could disable any incoming aircraft or something that could protect the area from missiles, preferably the latter.”

Captain Fallon’s left eyebrow rose dramatically. Jessica exchanged looks with Rob and Rae, Claire sat, looking at her knees.

“Well, we can always try. You definitely don’t have anything that can do that?”

“No. I can assure you, I would know if we did.” The Director’s tone showed no hint of sarcasm.

“So, we would be building you a weapon?” Rob asked.

“I suppose you could put it like that but as you said, in the circumstances; ‘needs must’” The Director grimaced diplomatically. “And if you did come up with a device we might be able to persuade some of these other countries,” he pointed at the map “to protect their sites as well. It’s a fluid situation and there are members of the American and Chinese elite who could try and take advantage of this situation. Many of them simply do not believe our prognosis.”

Jessica looked around,

“Right, then we’ll need some more books and you’ll need to make all of this” she looked around again indicating the whole underground complex, “safe with an activated Felspar matrix in case any of us go ecto accidentally.”

Test kit

Jessica had ordered the pregnancy kits shortly after they had landed and so after the meeting with the Director she and Claire took them to their respective bathrooms. Rob was with Jessica, she had made it clear that she did not want to proceed with a pregnancy considering the foetus might be infected by Rae’s life force and the Dark Mass. Rob, who had experienced the ferocious ‘inner Rae’ and the Dark Mass, was more than happy with her decision.

At dinner that evening Claire told Jessica that she was not pregnant.

In bed, afterwards, Jessica told Rob.

“Do you believe her?” Rob spoke in a whisper.

“What do you mean? Why wouldn’t I?”

“Well look, ok first off, I know that normally a woman chooses what happens to her body but these are not normal times.”

“Yerrrs….” Jessica felt better after her shower; ‘better’ was a relative term.

“And think on, Mark and Philip and Graham and Alistair are dead, probably because that Dark Mass in the cave infected them in some way and made them head off, twice”

“Yerrs, like we discussed when they went wandering off the first time….. but it didn’t affect us.”

“No, not in that way but we can’t be sure that it had no effect on us and we certainly can’t be sure what effect it may have on the foetus in Claire’s womb.” Rob lay on his side in the half light.

“Ok, the foetus, because it is, it would be, innocent, possibly in a similar way that Mark and Philip and everybody in the Facility were after we irradiated them.”

“Exactly, and then we have no idea how the foetus could affect Claire.”

“So…that’s why she could be lying.”

“It’s a possibility. So maybe we should talk to the Director about it. I don’t want to sound paranoid but we could all be in danger because of this.”

“In danger ?! What ? Us ? “ She held onto his upper arm, he smiled.

“Don’t get sarcastic with me lassie.” He tickled her under the ribs with his left hand.

“No! No! alright, go on.”

“I don’t think you should be on your own with Claire.”

“Seriously? I mean what good would it do her to kill or harm me, or anyone, here?”

“ I don’t know… it’s just that mad things are happening but I believe we can get through this…if we stay canny, which means being more careful than might seem logical. Remember you can put the sugar on the rhubarb crumble but ye canna take it oot.” With that he hugged her and almost immediately started snoring.

Research underground

The next day at breakfast they discussed creating a protective shield around the archaeological site or a sonic or ultrasonic ray or some kind of hitherto undiscovered ray that would disable the flight systems of enemy aircraft or their missiles using a mixture of Alchemy and Particle Physics. Claire did not say much.

The Director had previously provided over fifty ancient texts on Alchemy for their earlier research so Jessica had them brought over from the old Hall while Rae rested and Rob oversaw the engineers finish off the Felspar cage; which consisted of a linked series of electro-charged tubes of the Felspar mix attached to the ceiling of every room in the first sub level in the underground complex.

The manuscripts were delivered by a uniformed guard at 9.20am. he informed them that he had been given orders to stay in the room with the manuscripts at all times. Jessica was initially surprised ( Claire didn’t seem to care) and then realised that Rob must have spoken to the Director. She decided not to protest and spent the morning reading through notes made by Isaac Newton on his alchemical experiments e.g. Jan 22 I dissolved 280 grains of ♁ once acted on by

in 🜹 480grains &

480grains & water 960grains & when the
humidity was boyled away the matter remained black in the
bottom & upon increasing the heat there arose a salt as
easily as 🜹 arises & the caput mortuum remained white &
seemed in the sublimation to have been in fusion. The
sublimate weighed 400grains & tasted vitriolique. The caput
mortuum was very hard & weighed 132 grains. I put it in a fireshovel on the
fire & it fumed a little, & then weighed 120grains. So
that there was about 160grains carried up. The sublimate
was pure white but would not flow on a hot iron. It
seemed to have much the same volatility with 🜹 for I laid
some of each on a glass & holding the glass over a candle
they flew both away in the same heat & time. With salt
of 🜿 it made a little, & but very little ebullition. Perhaps
the aqueous spirit which makes a strong ebullition staid behind
in the caput mortuum, or els was not loosed from the other spirit

She sighed repeatedly as she turned the pages.

Meanwhile Claire stared at the pages of “The Six Keys of Eudoxus”.

Particularly: . Behold a great Mystery which I reveal to you without an enigma; this is the secret of the two mercuries which contain the two tinctures. Keep them separately, and do not confound their species, for fear they should beget a monstrous Lineage.

Rae joined them after lunch and half-heartedly read the Rosarium Philosophorum, originally:

part II of De Alchemia Opuscula complura veterum philosophorum..., Frankfurt, 1550

Here Sol is made black like unto pitch,
With the Mercury of the Philosophers.

Here the Soul descendeth gloriously from heaven,
And raiseth up the Daughter of Philosophy.

It was hard going at the best of times and these were not the best of times. The guard had been replaced by another during lunch. They were underground, they couldn’t see or hear the rain. The minutes passed at a snail’s pace.

At dinner Jessica tried to express her thoughts which were still muddy;

“The thing is, we started with a current running through the Felspar mix to create a portal, or a corridor but if we could find some other substances and/ or wavelengths going through or in counterpoint and then sort of play them off the Felspar effect maybe we could sort of do the opposite kind of thing and that might work as a force field if we set it up right.“

“Don’t some of them mix organic and inorganic matter?” Rob asked.

“Yes and we can try that tomorrow or as soon as they can get us some lamb’s blood.”

“Lamb’s blood?”

“Yes, it’s nearly always lamb’s blood, y’know, it was accessible and innocent - kind of thing.” She saw the look of incredulity on Rob’s face. “But it’s probably the mix of minerals and amino acids that help create the effect, if there is any effect.” Rob’s face remained unconvinced. “Look, I’m not stopping you from trying to create something with your modern, fancy particle physics. I’m sure there are thousands of particle physicists who have been trying to create force fields for the last fifty years but you go ahead and good luck to you.” She closed her eyes at him. “But us, we do it old school.” She smiled.

“Yeah and really,” Rae had not said more than a sentence all afternoon, “I mean logically, it should be the blood of a human baby.”

“Rae!!” Claire had also hardly spoken all day, “don’t be so sick!”

“No, I’m just saying, y’know, logically. I’m not saying we should kill a baby but some do die of natural causes and the blood might help.”

“Oh, shut up, you really are…. Oh I’m going to bed. Goodnight!” Claire got up and moved her chair backwards.

“Rae, I don’t think we’re that desperate yet.” Jessica belatedly tried to calm things down. “Claire?”

“No, I’m going to bed, I’m not in the mood.” And with that she left.

“Nice one Rae.”

“Oh come on Jessica, as far as we know, Dark Energy did not infect animals, it infected Homo Sapiens so using the blood of baby Homo Sapiens that haven’t become self-aware and are therefore innocent might actually be more useful than a bloody lamb. We can’t go getting all prissy about this. Like Rob said, there are millions upon millions of lives at stake.” Jessica looked at him. “Look, I know she’s upset about Mark but we’ve got to try all the possibilities.”

They were all in bed before 10.00pm. During the night no-one left their body voluntarily or involuntarily.

The Director joined them at breakfast and gave them an update on Captain Fallon and his team.

“They will finish training the new ecto teams over the next two days and then they will set off

for …. Well, on the next stage of their mission, ‘need to know’ and all that. Now, on the plus side, we have unearthed more useful DNA at the Kenyan site… and your books should arrive today. So….is there anything else you need?”

Jessica looked at Rae, Rae looked back at her, she started a hesitant sentence which he interrupted.

“We need the blood of children under the age of three.”

“Excuse me?” The Director’s left eyebrow went up.

“It’s the nearest thing to the blood of innocent pre Homo Sapiens, in a metaphysical sense.”

There was a pause. “Look, young children die all the time, I know, it’s sad but it happens. And people allow their organs to be used for transplants and scientific study so what’s the difference?” Rae looked at Jessica again. The Director looked at Jessica. Jessica looked at him and remained silent.

“No, as you say, transplants and all that.” He coughed, his eyebrows levelled. “ I’ll get on it.” As he turned to leave he added, “ “Don’t be concerned about the increased presence of guards, I just felt that in the circumstances we can’t be too careful.” And with that he was gone.

Jessica and Claire had ordered various chemicals, minerals, tubes and paraphernalia the previous evening and they spent the morning mixing a neutral paste with chemicals and minerals in buckets. They passed on the six mixes to two engineers who took them to a large fortified space deep in the complex and poured them into 5 metre lengths of 40mm diameter tubes, which were duly labelled.

In the afternoon Claire and Jessica passed various currents and wavelengths through, and over, the tubes and noted the effects. Of which there were none. They then did the same to pairs and threes of the tubes and so on. The engineers had rigged up a device that dropped a metal weight into the middle of the coiled tubes.

It took all afternoon and did not provide a breakthrough.

The blood arrived the following morning, twenty pints in metal flasks.

Jessica pushed her emptied bowl of muesli away.

“So what are we going to do with it, Raymond?” Rae ignored her tone.

“I reckon we empty the tubes you set up yesterday and mix 500 cl with every 3 to 5 kgs of each mix and then fill the tubes back up and pass the current back through them but also send the pulse sequence we use to go ecto through them as well.”

“Ok, well can you do that while Claire and I get on with some more mixing coz we got some deliveries ourselves this morning thank you.”

“Yeah, I can do that.” Rae turned his head, “ How’s it going with the proper science Rob?” Rob had just finished his full English and was stretching.

“Ah, well they’ve got this supercapacitor material that can be charged up and then discharged in one powerful event to repel incoming fire but that’s only been tested with tanks as far as I can find out.

And getting the details of that needed help from the Director. The main problem is the size of the site in Kenya, no-one has built the supercapacitator material on that scale. Also it would need a massive pulse of energy to stop a serious missile, and it would have to be perfectly timed. It would take weeks, months to set enough solar panels and an electrical substation to provide such power, I mean it’s way more than what you’ll be using to power those rings and it has to be delivered in a pulse.”

“What about someone going ecto? Y’know and going up and sort of doing a similar thing?”

“If they had enough warning I suppose that might work. I’ll ask the Director. He must have started recruiting volunteers for the main mission so…..”

“and if that doesn’t work then what?” Claire spoke for the first time in two days. Her tone was flat.

“Well we’ll need our other option and that’s why we’re going to do some more mixing.” Jessica found herself talking as if to a five year old to jolly them along. “Are you ready for another session?”

Claire stood up, she didn’t look well. “Yes, just give me 20 minutes, I need to get ready.” And with that she left the canteen, the others exchanged glances but said nothing.

For the next two days Jessica and Claire kept on mixing, engineers kept on filling tubes, setting them as rings and passing various currents through them and then, when the rings did not create a force field Rae took out the mixture, added blood and repeated the tests. Rob made very little progress with the supercapacitator material enlargement. Meanwhile, somewhere in Scotland, Captain Fallon’s men trained to ectoplasmically repulse missiles,.

On the political front the nuclear peace conference was looming. The UK, France, Russia, Israel, Iran and Iraq were all keen to decommission their nuclear weapons. The USA and China were pretending to be. North Korea, Pakistan and India said little.

And so it was on the fourth day of tests that Rae made a breakthrough. He, with the help of the engineers, had set up three of the rings. The first lay on the floor, the second was suspended one metre above that and the third a metre above the second. The first was loaded with the Felspar mix plus the blood, the second involved mercury, sulphur, copper, salt, fungal spores and blood, the third had plant extracts, powdered quartz, gold and blood. They passed a 14 volt current through each of the rings and set one sonic 5 kHz repeating pulse and one repeating pulse of infra sound at 5 Hz. When they dropped a 10kg weight of steel into the centre of the rings it stopped, effectively suspended, a metre above the highest ring.

Rae sat in a nearby room with two of the government scientists looking at the monitors and the video feed.

“Fucking hell! Oh, yes!”

He picked up the phone and called Jessica.

“Jess ! get down here now! It’s amazing! ……Yes! It does. Just come and see.”

Over the next three days the engineers built a large version of the 3 ring force field generator in the grounds of the Facility, in a massive marquee that the Director had had erected.

Then the Air Force dropped an unarmed missile on it from 10,000 feet. The missile disintegrated at an altitude of 5,000 feet as it hit the force field.

“So, we should take it to Kenya.” Claire sounded better than she had done for a long time.

“What? Us?” Jessica’s brow furrowed, Rob pursed his lips.

“Well, yes, in case anything malfunctions, we’re best set to work out a fix.” Claire retorted.

“Errr, well actually I am,” Rae joined in, “since I’m the one who brought the blood to the party.”

“Point taken Rae, although you might not want to phrase it like that on your CV.” Jessica gave him a toothless smile. “ I guess I hadn’t really thought this through” she turned to Claire, “ I mean, are you sure you’re well enough ?”

“Yes, I’m fine, I’ve just been tired and, y’know, sad and worried. I mean you’ve not been a barrel of laughs yourself. But on the plus side, none of us has gone ecto involuntarily since we got back”

“Yes, no…..but….. no, you’re right. Fallon is looking after the Americans and the Chinese and all that, so, yeah,” Jessica looked at Rob, “I guess we should look after this end of things.”

As she was finishing the sentence the Director entered the room.

“And what end of things might that be?” He enquired with a raised eyebrow. Jessica re-capped. “Well, yes, I had assumed you would, just to make sure, loose ends and all that. And the site in Kenya is still our only definite source of the Denisovian DNA so we do need to look after it. The Chinese obviously suspect something. They might send another attack squad in or they may drop a missile if they work out exactly what’s going on, and it’s another ten days until the Chinese Congress….. so better safe than sorry.”

“Have they tried anything at any other archaeological sites in Africa?” Jessica wondered.

“Not that we’re aware of but to be frank we have not got intel on all of them. I suppose we should, unfortunately in some of those countries China has a lot of leverage and we simply don’t.”

That evening one helicopter transported the rings and attendant paraphernalia to Northolt, another took Jessica, Rob, Claire, Rae and the four engineers. Two planes ferried them overnight, south to Kenya.

There, waiting in the morning light, were twenty British soldiers assigned to getting them and the gear to the site. This squad was headed by a Major Solomon (Majors were normally in charge of up to 120 soldiers). They had trucks and armoured vehicles and as much heavy ordinance as they could carry. They sent two drones ahead to check for obstacles and enemies. The journey from the airfield to the archaeological site took 12 hours; it was sweaty and uncomfortable.

Claire vomited on three occasions but insisted she was ok and almost proved it by dozing off and not separating ectoplasmically from her sleeping form. They arrived at approximately 22.00 hrs. The soldiers and the engineers began to unload the tubes that would form the rings. The temperature had dropped to 16 degrees, still the humidity made the engineers’ work tortuous.

The setting up time had been estimated at 7 hours so Jessica, Claire, Rae and Rob went to the three tents that were still within Felspar cages to get some sleep. They set the alarms to 05.00 hrs.

Claire’s eyes were darker than before, her skin more translucent. As she slept she became more enmeshed with the different dimension that was developing within her. Her dreamscape expanded; she was space, she was time, she was neither, she was the eternity of absolute zero. When she awoke she knew what had to be done.

They arose just after 5 and ate a breakfast of coffee and energy bars. At 07.00 hrs they turned the power on. There was no discernable change; no noise or light show but the current was flowing.

Claire managed to go ecto after switching the current on the rings, which would allow the Dark Mass to float off out into space ( to accelerate the grapefruit skin effect) as she accompanied it . Jessica convinced Rae and Rob they have to go after it/ them and try to destroy them- Claire and the Dark Mass, before they get to the ‘skin’.

They didn’t come back and the Director had their bodies frozen in case they ever did.

Capt Fallon and team managed to irradiate the Chinese Congress and many of the American political elite. Unfortunately Fallon had not irradiated all the American Congressmen etc and the un-irradiated Congressmen form a separate administration with the backing of part of their military, thus setting off a second American civil war.

The End

With thanks to Carol Hambleton, my wife.

An epilogue of sorts

The dark energy that imbued itself into the newly-evolving species of homo sapiens was a handicapped, or evolving form of ‘being’, a new form of dark energy, or maybe it was a damaged form that had found itself somehow ‘cast away’ on Earth. It saw that homo sapiens was the first species that was properly sentient and became aware that their residual life forces flew out into the universe to become stardust ….thus giving the baby/ exiled dark energy a route off the planet , the planet that was somehow a graveyard for it/ them. This could be exemplified (personified and thus verbally explained) when the team that JCRR send down to Kenya accidentally energise some of the malignant Ancient DNA.

APPENDIX

Neanderthals, Denisovans, and modern humans are all considered to have descended from Homo heidelbergensis[7][8]that appeared around 700,000 years ago in Africa. Fossils have been recovered in Ethiopia, Namibia and South Africa. Approximately 500,000 years ago a group of Homo heidelbergensis migrated into Europe and West Asia via yet unknown routes and eventually evolved into Neanderthals[

Dark matter existed as a concept, first proposed by astronomers like Jan Oort in 1932 and Fritz Zwicky in 1933, who also noticed discrepancies in how much mass astronomers could see and how much physics implied should be present. But few paid their work any attention, writing their research off as little more than cosmological oddities. And no one had bagged such solid evidence of it before. And because no one had predicted what dark matter’s existence might mean for galaxy dynamics, Rubin and Ford initially didn’t recognize the meaning of their flat rotation curves.

“Months were taken up in trying to understand what I was looking at,” Rubin told journalist Maria Popova. “One day I just decided that I had to understand what this complexity was that I was looking at, and I made sketches on a piece of paper, and suddenly I understood it all.”

If a halo of dark matter graced each galaxy, she realized, the mass would be spread throughout the galaxy, rather than concentrating in the centre. The gravitational force — and the orbital speed — would be similar throughout.

Rubin and Ford had discovered the unseeable stuff that influences not only how galaxies move, but how the universe came to be and what it will become. “My entire education highlighted how fundamental dark matter is to our current understanding of astrophysics,” says Levesque, “and it’s hard for me to imagine the field or the universe without it.”

http://www.astronomy.com/news/2016/10/vera-rubin

GEOTHERMAL ENERGY

But drawing energy from the crust won’t send it into a deep freeze: Its heat is constantly renewed by the virtually continuous decay of radioactive elements sprinkled throughout it. “Cooling the Earth’s core by drawing geothermal energy from the crust is like trying to cool the western end of Lake Superior with a few ice cubes,” says Paul Richards, a professor of natural science at Columbia University.

It’s a good thing that we can’t cool the core. The spinning metal there generates Earth’s magnetic field, which protects us from deadly cosmic radiation. If the outer core cooled, the liquid would solidify, and both it and the solid inner core would grind to a halt, the magnetic field would dissipate, and high-energy cosmic radiation would bombard the planet, essentially turning Earth into a giant microwave and ending life on the surface.

https://www.popsci.com/stuart-fox/article/2008-09/could-tapping-planet-geothermal-energy-cool-earth%E2%80%99s-core

Plant biomarkers hint at early human habitat



Source

The earliest documented representative of the genus Homo is Homo habilis, which evolved around 2.8million years ago, and is arguably the earliest species for which there is positive evidence of the use of stone tools. The brains of these early hominins were about the same size as that of a chimpanzee, although it has been suggested that this was the time in which the human SRGAP2gene doubled, producing a more rapid wiring of the frontal cortex. During the next million years a process of rapid encephalization occurred, and with the arrival of Homo erectus and Homo ergaster in the fossil record, cranial capacity had doubled to 850 cm3.(Such an increase in human brain size is equivalent to each generation having 125,000 more neurons than their parents.) It is believed that Homo erectus and Homo ergaster were the first to use fire and complex tools, and were the first of the hominin line to leave Africa, spreading throughout Africa, Asia, and Europe between 1.3 to 1.8million years ago.

According to the recent African origin of modern humans theory, modern humans evolved in Africa possibly from Homo heidelbergensis, Homo rhodesiensis or Homo antecessor and migrated out of the continent some 50,000 to 100,000 years ago, gradually replacing local populations of Homo erectus, Denisova hominins, Homo floresiensis and Homo neanderthalensis. Archaic Homo sapiens, the forerunner of anatomically modern humans, evolved in the Middle Paleolithic between 400,000 and 250,000 years ago. Recent DNA evidence suggests that several haplotypes of Neanderthal origin are present among all non-African populations, and Neanderthals and other hominins, such as Denisovans, may have contributed up to 6% of their genome to present-day humans, suggestive of a limited inter-breeding between these species. The transition to behavioral modernity with the development of symbolic culture, language, and specialized lithic technology happened around 50,000 years ago according to some anthropologists although others point to evidence that suggests that a gradual change in behavior took place over a longer time span.

“There are only two ways to live your life.

One is as though nothing is a miracle.

The other is as though everything is a miracle.” AlbAertEinstei

Albert Einstein (supposedly)

I. THE UNKNOWN NATURE OF DARK ENERGY

The discovery that the universe is expanding with an ever-increasing velocity is now a decade old, yet there is no compelling theoretical explanation. We have a cosmological standard model, called CDM, that seems capable of accounting for (at least in principle) all cosmological observations, including the apparent acceleration. But it is sobering to note that in CDM as much as 95% of the present mass-energy of the universe is not understood, with

only 5% of the present mass-energy in the form of \stu
” we understand (baryons, radiation, neutrinos). The rest of the present mass-energy of the universe is assumed to be dark: about 30% in the form of dark matter providing the

bulk of the gravitational binding energy of galaxies, galaxy clusters, and other large-scale structure, and about 70% in the form of dark energy driving the present expansion of the universe. Both dark matter and dark energy point to physics beyond the standard models of gravity or particle physics. This paper is concerned with dark energy [1], the primum mobile for the present accelerated expansion of the universe.

While CDM seems capable of accounting for all observations, the aim of cosmology is not simply to nd a model that describes the observations, but rather to nd one that agrees with observations and is also grounded in physical reality.1 The most important task ahead is to discover the nature of the dark universe, in particular, dark energy. To date, all indications of dark energy come from measuring the time evolution of the expansion history of the universe. In the standard Friedmann-Lema^tre-Robertson-Walker (FLRW) cosmology, the expansion rate as a function of the scale factor a is given by the Friedmann equation

2H2(a) = H2 0 µ Ra􀀀4 + Ma􀀀3 + ka􀀀2 + DE exp 3 Z 1aa0

a0 [1 + w(a0)] §

:

https://www.google.co.uk/?gws_rd=ssl#q=dark+energy+nasa+pdf

http://humanbioenergy.com/

Modern science tells us that the human person is not just a physical structure, but like everything else, we are also composed of bioenergy fields. We can measure electrical currents from the heart with an electrocardiogram (EKG); electrical bioenergy from the brain with an electroencephalogram (EEG); and, the lie detector measures the potential of the skin. Various magnetic imaging devices, night vision devices and others, can measure the electromagnetic fields around the human body

The exact nature of the bioenergetic field is not specified, even as a speculative hypothesis, in Rogers or the other literature on holistic healing. On the one hand, the biofield seems to be identified with the classical electromagnetic field; on the other it is confused with quantum fields or wave functions. For example, Stefanatos (1997, 227) writes: “The principles of energy medicine originate in quantum physics. Bioenergetic medicine is the study of human and animal bodies as dynamic electromagnetic fields existing in an electromagnetic environment.”

http://www.colorado.edu/philosophy/vstenger/Medicine/Biofield.html

Much of alternative medicine is grounded on vitalism, the notion that living organisms possess some unique quality, an élan vital, that gives them that special quality we call life. Belief in the existence of a living force is ancient and remains widespread to this day. Called prana by the Hindus, qi or chi by the Chinese, ki by the Japanese, and 95 other names in 95 other cultures (Brennen 1988), this substance is said to constitute the source of life that is so often associated with soul, spirit, and mind. Wheeler (1939) reviewed the history of vitalism in the West and defined it as “all the various doctrines which, from the time of Aristotle, have described things as actuated by some power or principle additional to mechanics and chemistry.” Modern theories of vitalism include those of Driesch (1914) and Bergson (1919).

In ancient times, the vital force was widely identified with breath, which the Hebrews called ruach, the Greeks psyche or pneuma (the breath of the gods), and the Romans spiritus. As breath was gradually acknowledged to be a material substance, words like “psychic” and “spirit” evolved to refer to the assumed nonmaterial and perhaps supernatural medium by which organisms gain the qualities of life and consciousness. The idea that matter alone can do the job has never proved popular

http://www.hep.ucl.ac.uk/postgrad/

The UCL high-energy physics group is a large group with over 70 members, including nearly 30 Ph.D. students. We have a diverse programme addressing these key questions and offer research degrees in the following areas:

Studies of Standard Model processes at the energy frontier and Properties of the Higgs Boson and Physics Beyond the Standard Model - analysis of data from the Large Hadron Collider. The excitement from the discovery by the ATLAS Experiment of what looks like the Higgs boson continues and the focus has shifted in determining the properties of the new boson and comparing them to the Standard Model predictions. The UCL group is heavily engaged in these studies, as well as leading measurements of key Standard Model processes. We are also leading analyses to search for new resonances with masses at the TeV scale or above, decaying to pairs of Higgs bosons or W/Z bosons, which are predicted in many theories beyond the Standard Model.

Neutrino Physics - the MINOS(+) experiment is seeking to elucidate the nature of neutrino oscillations, with an extension called MINOS+ planned for the future. The NEMO experiment is searching for neutrinoless double-beta decay, which is one of the few methods to directly determine the mass of the neutrino and to determine whether it is a Dirac or Majorana particle. The successor to NEMO, called SuperNEMO, is under construction, and UCL is leading the project, both in the UK and internationally.

CosmicRae Physics - the highest energy collisions occur not in man-made particle accelerators, but when extremely high-energy cosmicRaes from outer space strike the Earth. The ANITA experiment is seeking to make the first observation of ultra-high energy cosmicRae neutrinos using radio antennas in a balloon over Antarctica. We also investigate novel techniques for the detection of such particles.

Dark Matter - The nature of the elusive dark matter, accounting for 85% of the mass of the Universe, remains unknown with no definitive first detection as yet. The LUX and LZ dark matter experiments will achieve world leading sensitivity in the direct search for WIMP dark matter, the favoured candidate, exploiting two-phase xenon targets. UCL is heavily engaged in both of these projects.

Muon Physics - Muons can probe physics beyond the SM through the observation of decay modes that are essentially zero in the SM or through discrepancies between very precise measurements of a fundamental quantity e.g. dipole moments and the SM prediction. At UCL we are pursuing both of these methods. We are involved in constructing the COMET experiment in J-PARC, Japan that will search for the neutrinoless conversion of a muon to an electron (in the field of a nucleus) and the g-2 experiment in Fermilab that will make a 0.14 part per million measurement of the muon’s magnetic moment. A measurement that presently differs from the SM by over 3 standard deviations. Both of these experiments expect their first data in 2016.

Plasma Wakefield Acceleration - A new method for particle acceleration is being pursued at UCL which exploits the properties of a plasma to generate electric fields 1,000 times greater than conventional machines. The AWAKE Collaboration is pursuing a proof-of-principle experiment at CERN using high-energy protons to generate the “wakefield” and accelerate a witness beam of electrons. UCL is one of the lead institutes in the project and is responsible for the spectrometer to measure the increase in electron energy. The result of this experiment could lead to future particle accelerators an order of magnitude shorter in length.

Proton Therapy - UCLH is to host one of two new Proton Beam Therapy (PBT) centres in the UK. PBT uses protons in place of X-rays to provide more accurate radiotherapy with fewer risks of side effects. The technology uses for proton acceleration and delivery in PBT is a direct evolution of accelerators developed for high energy physics research. To support the new treatment centre at UCLH, a number of research areas are being explored in collaboration with the UCL Dept. of Medical Physics. These include new detector systems for Proton Radiography and Proton CT, proton and neutron dosimetry and accelerator modelling to enhance patient throughput and treatment quality. In particular, a collaboration exists with the Clatterbridge Cancer Centre and NPL to develop a proton calorimeter for a proton CT system based on technology from the SuperNEMO calorimeter.

QCD phenomenology - published data from HERA and the Tevatron is being analysed to provide a precise QCD framework for physics at the LHC and beyond. This includes the determination of parton distribution functions and higher order corrections which will be vital for any discovery at the LHC. We are also leading the development of next-to-leading order Monte Carlo generators, such as POWHEG, which are key tools for the studies at the LHC.

BSM Phenomenology - We explore new theories that go beyond the current Standard Model of particle physics, in light of the latest experimental results from the LHC, searches for rare decays and a host of other observations. These data are used to constrain BSM paradigms, like Supersymmetry or Grand Unification, which attempt to address open questions such as the nature of Dark Matter. In doing so, we put a special focus on the properties of neutrinos as they are the least understood matter particles.

Further details of the group’s activities can be found from the various experiment pages on our website.

1820s-1840s MICHAEL FARADAY ESTABLISHES ELECTROMAGNETIC LAWS AND INVENTS THE ELECTRIC MOTOR AND POWER GENERATOR

The son of a blacksmith, Michael Faraday was apprenticed to a bookbinder in London where he read every scientific book he could get his hands on, and conducted experiments. He joined a Philosophical Society, meeting every week to hear lectures on scientific topics and discuss scientific ideas.

When he was twenty-one, he heard scientist Humphrey Davy speak. Faraday persuaded Davy to employ him. He served as Davy’s Chemical Assistant at the Royal Institution and for two years as Davy’s assistant and valet.

Faraday was an experimental genius, but it took him some time to break free and do the research he longed to do.

Finally, on 3–4 September 1821, Faraday proved that “a vertically mounted wire carrying an electric current would rotate continuously round a magnet protruding from a bowl of mercury. This phenomenon, which Faraday called electromagnetic rotation, showed that it was possible to produce continuous motion from the interaction of electricity and magnetism” (DNB).

Ten years later, on 29 August 1831, he discovered electromagnetic induction – the production of electric current by a change in magnetic intensity. “Very quickly after this discovery, Faraday found how electricity could be generated by passing a magnet in and out of a helix wound with wire. These devices were, in effect, the first transformer and dynamo” (DNB). His discoveries established the practical use of electricity.

Faraday also liquefied chlorine, isolated benzene, and established the laws of electrolysis. With William Whewell he coined many concepts - electrode, electrolyte, anode, cathode and ion.

In the 1840s he seemed to be at a loss to decide what he would explore next. Then William Thomson (later Lord Kelvin) asked him a question at a lecture. Faraday began experimenting with heavy glass, and discovered that magnetism was a universal property of matter. He gave a lecture attended by James Clerk Maxwell that laid the foundations of the field theory of electromagnetism - and modern communications.

Faraday was a charming man able to explain complex ideas simply. He taught chemistry to a generation of Royal Engineers. He began a popular science lecture series for adults and another for children that continue today. In the 1840s he made sure that women could become members of the Royal Institution.

Calmly confident that “The book of nature which we have to read is written by the finger of God”, Faraday faithfully served the poor and ill all his adult life, and refused to develop poison gas for use during the Crimean War.

http://www.britsattheirbest.com/ingenious/ii_19th_century_1800_1831.htm

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