Preview of Book Two to be published in 2017

 

Copyright 2017. Copyright in all media and in all forms remains the property of John Stevenson and caelin day pty ltd (aus). Any reproduction in whole or part is conditional on the written permission of the author.

Mark had been gazing toward the small herd of deer, browsing amongst the bracken, for some time. It was a tranquil sight, though he wasn't really looking. He had come to Bradgate Park, as he often did, in the hope that the solitude would instill him with inspiration; but none came, instead he felt only a chill. He had forgotten how quickly a beautiful summer's day looses its heat once the sun drops in late afternoon. The shorts and light clothing that had seemed well adequate an hour ago, suddenly didn't seem quite so. He briskly walked down the hill, away from Old Toms folly and towards the ruins of Bradgate House. Bradgate, Bushby, both houses that had displayed to the eye majesty, and to the soul fear, especially so for Lady Jane Grey, nine day queen of England. Mark realized he was avoiding the plot he had come here to…. He felt the vibration of his phone, and for a moment he regretted not leaving it back home, but at the same time it was also a relief to yet place another obstacle in the way of the plot. "Mark speaking."
"Hello Mark, its Michael. I hope I haven't caught you at a bad time?"
Mark searched his brain for a face to fit the name. "No, it's okay."
"Good, I heard you were back in the city… and…." There seemed a pause, a pregnant one as the saying goes, and it brought an image of studio lights to Marks mind. "I'd like to catch up, if that's convenient?"
Mark realized there was reluctance in his reply. "I'm only here for a few days." He lied knowing it would be much longer.
"Actually I was hoping maybe today?"
"Today?" Now it was Marks turn to pause. He did have time; Avril and Terry were visiting her mother. "Yea…I suppose so."
"Fine, that's good… how about say… in half an hour?"
Mark was further surprised at the apparent urgency. "Half an hour? I'm in the middle of Bradgate Park?"
There was the briefest of pauses. "Bradgate Park? Okay, well then in an hour?"
Mark smiled; it was probably easiest to agree and move on. "It's going to take me a while longer to get back into the city."
"No don't.... it's my request, I'll come out there, I could do with a break from the studio, see you in an hour."
"In that case maybe half an hour would be best for us both. I'm on the Newtown Linford side."
"Yes, I know, see you soon."
The phone went dead, leaving mark staring at it curiously...

As Mark stepped through stile he saw Michael leaning against his vehicle. "Your here already?"
"I was in the car when I called."
Mark nodded, even more curious. "How did you know I was here?"
"It's common knowledge in the business that you were in town?"
"I meant that I was at this gate?"
"It's closest to Newtown Linford."
"And?"
"You have just bought a cottage there?"
"How did?"
"Come on Mark, you're a celebrity, and I'm a celebrity interviewer, it's my job to know what you are doing."
"I hope you don't mean that too literally?"
Michael smiled as an answer. "You look a little chilled. The tea room is still open, do you fancy a cuppa?"
Mark remembered he was, and nodded.
They passed the few minutes walking over the grassland, and across the road in light conversation. The café was small and nineteen fifties kitsch: without intending to be. They took a table against the window
Mark grasped the heavy white pottery in both hands, feeling the warmth a little painfully in his cold fingers.
"It seems you will soon be looking for some publicity?"
Immediately Mark understood. "At the speed I'm writing it won't be on the bookshelves for a long while yet."
"But when it is?"
"Then it will all be down to the publisher."
"Other than personal interviews?"
Mark nodded, he didn't want to seem immodest, but he guessed this was where he was expected to offer to give one. "I'll put you at the top of my list."
Michael winked. "Where I would expect to be."
Mark smiled at the apparent mix of friendliness and immodesty.
"Of course to just pop into the limelight now and again can seem a little self-serving to some sections of the public, and we both know we have to please all demographics, don't we?"
Mark didn't agree, there were times, but an avid young sci-fi reader wouldn't necessarily take to an older person's historical fiction without good reason. "It's not always easy." He said noncommittally.
"It's not, and personally I'd find it painfully embarrassing if someone couldn't put my face to my name."
It probably happens more than you realize thought Mark. "Surely that would never happen, you're so well known?"
"No, but that's because I'm there all the time, constantly reinforcing my presence to make sure of instant recognition."
"I don't see myself as some starlet as being famous for being famous."
"But a little of being famous would be valuable to you Mark. It's fact that people who go into bookshops automatically gravitate to authors who they think they know."
It was true and Mark nodded.
"Of course there lots of ways to get famous, including you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours?"
Mark already knew where the conversation was going. "One good turn deserves another."
Now Michael nodded.
"Truth is my publicist would sue me if I let by any opportunity slip by."
"Well then we must ensure that doesn't happen…" Michael hesitated. "...I can get quite a bit of publicity for you, and right now."
Mark felt a little uneasy at how Michael seemed to be intent on their conversation being some sort of partnership, he needed to cool the expectations down. "That all depends on what it's going to cost me?"
"Cost you, surely you don't imagine you would have to pay Mark?" Michael seemed genuinely surprised.
He tried to find a word to replace credibility. "I was thinking of selling my soul."
"No nothing so drastic."
"So it'll cost me nothing?"
"Well almost nothing."
"Such as?"
"A little bit of information."
"I thought you said it was your job to know what people are doing."
"Sometimes that information only begins as tantalizing tidbits."
"And I know something interesting?"
"That's what my source tells me."
"Well Michael, I think you're source has let you down."
"That's never happened before." He replied adamantly.
"Then maybe you should tell me what this tidbit is?"
Michael looked around them, but they were alone in the room. "Aliens?" He said softly.
Mark stared at him dumfounded as all the horror swept back into his mind.
Michael was pushing his chair back. "Maybe we should continue outside?"
Mark meekly followed.
"You saw the news. There's nothing, just a crackpot claim." He at last managed to mumble as they made their way back over the road. "You know as much as I do. There's no proof: no evidence, and what there was is buried under a million tons of hillside."
"Leave the evidence to me. What I want to know is what you saw."
"Everybody did and no-one believed us."
Michael nodded. "I'm not so sure about that?"
He had been convinced everyone thought his story was ridiculous. "What do you mean?"
"When it came to my attention you were working on another book I had our research people dig up information for use in a future interview."
Mark already knew how much they could dig up.
"The Bushby Hall connection was obvious after your last time on the program." Michael seemed to change the subject. "You'll be aware the police are very methodical. They have procedures, and we in the media learn how to… negotiate those procedures. In fact the police see the media as partners in many ways: we can, and often do assist greatly in many investigations."
Mark nodded; it made sense.
"So when I was told there was no official record of your claim I was intrigued."
So was Mark, he had given one.
"When I dug a little deeper I found there had been a report, but it wasn't in the records anymore. That made me even more intrigued, so I called in a favour." He smiled. "I have read the official police report."
"You've?" Mark smiled, of course he had. "Your informant's in the force?"
"I couldn't for a moment confirm that, but where else would you find out all the really interesting stuff?"
"Then in that case you'll know all I can tell you?"
"It doesn't work that way. The police interview and write the facts. You're a writer Mark; you know that facts are less than half the story."
"But it isn't a story."
"But it needs a story teller, someone whose eye observes, sees the scene, paints a picture in our minds. I need to know what you saw."
"What's the point, everybody will think you're as much of a crackpot as they think I am."
"At this moment yes, but you don't have the resources of a multinational media group. Resources that can put a team of drillers on the hill and place a camera right where you were."
"Is that what you plan to do?"
"Not initially, but eventually we want to show the world first contact."
"But they are dead."
"There's almost certainly going to be remains, and if we're really fortunate that will reveal alien DNA."
"I doubt it, it was in inferno."
"Was it a sustained fire? Was there enough oxygen? Maybe it was a brief fireball. Even if it was extensive, there's a strong possibility the fire won't have destroyed everything?"
Mark looked at him. They hadn't hung about to find out; maybe Michael was right.
"Just think what could be there, the cure for cancer, unlimited clean power?"
"I think you're getting just a bit carried away?"
"Look that's the long term, that's the target, but to everyone out there in their living rooms it's going to be a personal interest story. You saw the divers?"
The image flashed into his mind. "What was left of them."
"At the very least their relatives should have the chance to give their remains a decent burial,"
"To everyone out there they are already buried under a thousand tons of rock."
"But we know they're not."
"Did you know that besides being police officers they were both Speleologists? Every couple of weeks they were in the Peak district exploring some cave. This is a new cave system, and both were members of a cave diving club. The other club members they feel it's their moral duty to find the pair and return them to their families for proper burial."
"They feel?"
"Yes, I have already talked to them. They intend to explore the system with or without ours, and you're support."
"They'll be disappointed, there wasn't that much left to bury." It wasn't a nice image, but it was the truth.
"Mark that doesn't matter, even if they come back with a single finger bone those family's can get some kind of closure. This could be big Mark." He pressured. "It could be the biggest, and you, and our news service could be the one's breaking the news."
"And you as anchor?"
"And unlimited publicity for Nicholas Day."
"If I say no?"
Michael shrugged. "To be brutally frank, ultimately it won't make any difference, but you will give it credibility…. Look this may sound a bit callous, but if you refuse you'll be sidelined."
'Or...' Thought mark. 'If everything goes wrong I'll be the one hung out to dry.'

Mark almost missed reading the first press release. It just mentioned a few cracks appearing in a house on the estate, and as a coincidental afterthought brought in Marks book and how it was supposed there were old workings under the hill, possibly some ancient mine.
Several days later in a larger article, the hall and its ghostly happenings were added to the mix. Immediately there was a growing public interest even if it was less than credible in its content.
Next there was an editorial in the newspaper and a brief telephone interview with Mark in a current affairs program. No mention was made of anything alien to retain credibility.
A little after three weeks of the Bradgate meeting a team was on site.
Mark had the feeling of overkill as he approached the field. Large sheets of canvas had been erected to hide the field through a small gap in a high hedge. He showed the security officer his pass, walked through and immediately realized the need for privacy. His previous experience seemed totally inadequate looking at the equipment before him. An outside broadcast van covered in aerials and satellite dishes dominated the scene, There were not one, but two ambulances; he hoped they were wasting their time. About ten other vehicles, including a police car were parked close to several marquees, and dozen's of people were milling about.
As he crossed the field he became conscious that all this was here because of him, or rather what he claimed was below the hill, and for a moment he wanted to turn around and walk away. After the explosion, the fire and the cave in what could have possibly survived. Everybody was going to look at him when they found nothing, all the television cameras would record nothing but a filed of… "
"Mr. Hill."
He turned abruptly. "Inspector… I never thought you would?"
"Be interested? And why would you think the constabulary would not be Mr. Hill? I shouldn't have to remind you that our last investigation did not arrive at any satisfactory conclusion. The reason it was commenced is and will remain an ongoing investigation, until we can bring it to a proper close."
"Then inspector I have to warn you that may be some time."
"Time means nothing to a policeman: policemen come and go but an investigation stays open. Take Jack the Ripper; not much chance of making an arrest now, and neither can we suggest one person or another was to blame, but one day maybe we can?"
"And I assume there's a certain amount of pride in closing a case?"
"An interesting point, but not entirely correct. If I personally don't see someone charged, I know that when someone is it will be in part because of my work that they stand in the dock, so I guess pride does play a part."
They were at the main tent, Mark looked at Leeross. "Well I certainly hope you have that satisfaction, this is one albatross that should not be around anyone's neck."
"Then until later…." Leeross nodded.
Mark entered the tent and was confronted with yet more people, all talking. Immediately he felt conspicuous, but he had no reason, as everyone ignored him. It was in a way disappointing, he had begun to feel that the whole operation revolved around him, but now he had a feeling of being superfluous. He stood close to the entrance wanting to break into one of the groups but lacking the enthusiasm to. He saw the cave diver he had spoken to a few days back, but he was in an animated conversation with several other part dressed divers. Michael was there but he too was talking to a group; Mark assumed the documentary crew. There were more people around a folding table covered in electronic gear and laptops. Determinedly he walked over to Michael.
"Ahh Mark, at last."
Mark tried to remember what arrangements had been agreed that qualified his arrival as, at last.
"Only anything that is significant." Said Michael back to the crew. "We'll use what entry shots we have already." He dismissed them with a nod and turned to Mark. "So here we are?"
"Yup." Mark smiled inadequately. "Everything seems to be ready?"
"Yes two supply points are already established, and if things go well we'll have a report from the cavern in the next few hours."
"There's someone down there already?"
Michael laughed. "There has been for a couple of days."
"Oh," said Mark in surprise. "I thought it was on for... today?"
"It is, but you know how television is; live broadcasts in inverted commas. Reality is that we've had people here since before we spoke in the park. How do you imagine we are at this place?"
"Until right now I never gave it a thought."
"Most people don't but we had to wait until hydrologists did water flow analyses. It was they who located the general area: this area, where the river lost some its volume. Only then could trace elements could be released to verify we had the right location. A week ago divers found the entrance and verified the system was passable. All this had to be done at the very outset or we could have had egg on our faces when the cameras started rolling. In fact a couple of divers have been right to the cave and bench structure you described; though it has changed. With the outlet now mostly blocked it seems much of what you saw is flooded. Something that without prior knowledge would have caused us severe problems."
Mark nodded. Things just happened to work out when you wrote them, real life was different, real life was where the mundane got in the way of the story.
Michael was still drawing out the explanation. "…Anyway now it's mostly done. It would make boring television besides wasting time for a camera crew to follow straight down only to find the tunnel had completely collapsed."
"Actually I was worried about that. All this and you get to a cave in."
"Well then you can relax, the divers have checked out the route and run a guide rope. That alone is important, there are lots of side tunnels, and dead ends don't make exciting television."
"I suppose not." Muttered Mark obediently. .
"We even have spare air tanks, food and batteries at way stations."
"I suppose that makes sense." Mark agreed beginning to regret he had walked into the details.
"Then when everything is ready and safe, the doco crew… shame you wont…"
"Sorry," the delivery contradicted the word. "No the memories of getting ready to die in a place exactly like that are still too fresh."
"Pity, great personal angle."
Mark felt his nerve was being questioned. "You're not going either?"
"Me?" Michael said mockingly. "You won't catch me down… I mean I can't. I have to narrate…. and when we do the interview it's going to seem odd me asking you questions about the cavern when I have seen it already. The viewers will see the credibility gap. People watch soap without asking questions, but they can see contradiction immediately in a serious program."
It seemed more like an excuse, but mark understood the mans renitence. "I guess so."
"No I'll be watching all the way on the live feed, and then later we go through the motions of interview in the studio."
"You said the divers got to the cavern. Did they find anything?"
"Find anything? No, that wasn't their job. The tunnel is open and…" Michael seemed distracted. "Excuse me Mark, there seems a problem?"
Marks eyes followed Michael as he walked across to a group consisting of several half dressed divers, police officers and men in suits, one of them was Leeross.
"You can't be serious?" Mark overheard Michael spluttering in anger.
Mark recognized the heritage man from their last meeting. He moved closer so he could overhear. "The regulations are quite clear." Muttered the heritage man.
"But we got all the permissions and permits. Our legal team was very thorough."
"Then you will be able to produce the document?"
Mark felt a tap on his arm. He turned to see Leeross indicating he should follow.
"What have they forgot?" Mark asked when they were far enough away not to be overheard.
"Permission to enter a grave site."
"A what, I didn't know there was such a thing?"
"It's usually applied to shipwrecks, mostly from the recent wars, but there are other applications."
Mark was flabbergasted. "And recovering bodies from a flooded sump is one?"
"We'll all be old men before you get a definitive legal answer to that."
"So it's a delaying tactic?"
"Mr. Hill those three gentlemen are from special branch."
"Mark couldn't help staring back. "MI6?"
"This is just between you and me, but nobody is going down that tunnel today or the day after, or the day after than. Special branch is going to shut you down."
"But why?'
"That I can't answer other than it will likely be an health and safety issue. But in an office back in Whitehall somebody will have a nice statement with a very good reason already written."
"It had better be good; shutting down a media project could backfire and give them exactly the opposite publicity."
"There will be no publicity. There'll be a DA-Notice to cover everyone and everything. There's nothing here, nothing happened and no-one will know about it."
Mark felt annoyed. "England not some third world dictatorship where something can be wiped clean from scrutiny."
"Mr. Hill I'm surprised, you are much more naive that I gave you credit for."
"But what possible reason have they got?"
"I'm not special branch, but they like me would have heard of the stations alien exposé. Now it may very well be a great television scoop, but think of the government's position. They want to govern a stable, generally satisfied population. Imagine if there were proof we were not alone. Do aliens walk amongst us, are we going to be invaded. There almost certainly will be social and religious unrest. Doomsday and fanatical cults will emerge. So what do you do, you take over clean up and say it's all a hoax."
Suddenly things began to make sense to mark. "They already know it isn't a hoax, don't they?"
"I can't answer that, and not because I don't want to, I don't know. But as an ordinary copper I know that SB people don't get involved for no reason. It'd be quite within their capabilities to get people down there while your guys were asleep in their beds. If they did, whatever they found is sufficient that they don't want any TV crew putting the pictures out for a worldwide audience."

Joey was a light sleeper; you had to be sleeping on the streets, though Joey hadn't slept on the streets for a while now. Not since he had been introduced to the comparative comfort of the London tube. Not that it was completely safe down here, there were still people who would take anything you had, even if you didn't have anything, and then there were the trains. Joey had got used to sleeping under the short overhang that jutted out from the platform. He'd also got used to the wheels rolling by, centimeters way; he had heard of others who had been heavy sleepers and how they had rolled just too far and lost and arm or leg. No Joey was a light sleeper and when the trains rumble ran through the rail, or some security guards big feet crunched in the ballast he'd wake up. He jiggled about trying to get the cardboard beneath him a little flatter on the sharp rock. It wasn't a bad place to sleep so it was strange how almost everybody else who slept in the warmth by the rails had seemed to have gone off and found somewhere else. He should ask around maybe he should…. Suddenly Joey's eyes opened wide in surprise; somebody was stood behind him. That was impossible; he would have heard them come: he had been a very light sleeper.

Mark paid off the cab and stared down the street towards Vicky's Café. It seemed even more prudent to have driven past, as the place looked distinctly seedy; and he stood out as someone who didn't belong there. The road was reasonably busy, plenty of cars and vans, and even people, but he still stood out. He had come in his usual clothes, nothing special or fancy, but every single person in the street was dressed down in comparison, well with the exception of a few ladies. As he began walking towards the café the fact that every third building was boarded up didn't make him feel any less uncomfortable. He wasn't entirely sure why: it was broad daylight and no one had seemed threatening, and after all it was Leeross who had sent the email; at least he was fairly sure it was Leeross who had sent it.
The glass door was wide open and the interior was busy, but that wasn't surprising. It was fact that for a good basic feed, greasy spoon places like Vicky's gave top value, and if the smell of cooking was any guide that could very well prove true.
Leeross was at a table close to the window. Old habits die hard thought Mark. He wasn't alone as another man sat across the table heartily working his way through a large mixed grill. Leeross was reading a newspaper folded down into a quarter if its size.
Mark glanced over to the thick china cup in front of Leeross and decided it was tea. He bought two and walked across to the table placing one in front of the inspector, then sat besides him. "Leeross," he said imagining Inspector could be a word that wasn't welcome in the establishment.
"Mr. Hill… thanks."
Still the copper thought mark. "How've you been?'
"Good."
It sounded like the truth but Mark wasn't entirely convinced. He knew shortly after the incident Leeross had moved down to the city, and to all purposes disappeared.
"You're a hard man to contact?" said Leeross.
"I am?"
"I kept getting my emails blocked?"
"You did?"
"Probably my fault really. I wasn't able to use the old address and didn't let you know the new one before I left."
"Actually I didn't know what had happened when mine were returned either. Then I heard on the grapevine you had transferred."
He gave Mark a look that held much more information than the word implied.
"But in you're indomitable style you still made contact?" He smiled. "Asking to be my friend on the site, I thought that was quite imaginative."
"I wasn't sure you would even check who asked?"
"Actually I didn't. I have someone who looks after all that stuff for me, but naming yourself 'Ins…. Leeross, fellow monster hunter from Bushby Hall', made sure it got my attention."
Leeross smiled genuinely.
"And then finding there were no other friends just the single message: 'I need your advice,' was enough to make me salivate with curiosity, well besides renew and old friendship."
"I should have kept in touch but I had a lot on my mind. I just wanted to be alone for a while. Drop off the map like they say. Anyway that's not a story for telling here and now."
"Well now we're in contact again I expect full chapter and verse."
The man opposite dropped his cutlery onto the now empty plate and stood. They were both silent until he walked away.
"I'm on a break and have to get back soon, so maybe we leave the reminiscing to some other time: like I said I need your advice."
Mark smiled. "Can I at least enjoy the moment?"
"Be my guest." Leeross picked up a large manila envelope he had, had his elbow on. "Have a look at this photo."
Mark laid it besides his cup, and stared intently. It had been taken in a tunnel and showed the end of a train. Mark looked up "The underground?"
Leeross nodded.
The picture was dark and grainy, and almost certainly taken with a flash that had washed out as the train sped away. It hadn't been obvious at first glance but looking closer mark saw there was a man hanging on the back of the railcar. "Idiot." He said without thinking, and again looking up at Leeross.
"Can you see what he's wearing?"
"Not for certain…. No."
"It's taken on the underground by a film company location scout. He was looking for locations and spotted our joy rider at the last moment. So it was a very quick and poor shot." Leeross's voice lowered. "I'm seconded to the transit police, and he thought I should know what's happening down in the tunnels, especially with them intending to have some very valuable equipment down there."
Mark nodded and pushed the photo back.
"It's a copy, you can keep it."
Mark pulled it back wondering why he would want to. "What's the movie?"
"Ehm… Actually I'm not sure, they have a working title, but talk around the office is that it's something to do with James Bond."
"Wow. I'm impressed." A thought suddenly occurred to Mark. "Actually.... "He began, unsure of how to word his request. "I'm in town for some meetings but Terry is coming down after I finish. We're going to do the museums and a show or two…."
Leeross nodded, the policeman in him expecting more.
"I promised him that if ever one of my books got made into a movie I'd get him on location."
Leeross continued to look at him.
"You know how kids are, desperate for a look at movie stars and film sets." Mark let it drop, he wanted ask for terry but maybe it was asking too much.
"I can't promise to get any one on one meetings with any actors, but I'll ask."
Mark felt slightly embarrassed and changed the subject. "So I don't suppose you found your train rider?"
"No, and the problem is that when we do all we achieve is giving them publicity. They gain a certain amount of fame and from then on it's almost certain some other fool will repeat the stupidity, sooner or later one will fall off and everyone will write letters to the newspapers saying we should have been more attentive."
"I guess it's a hard call."
"Whatever you do you end up wrong, but as the scout pointed out the film crew expect security and we have to at least give them the impression we are doing everything necessary. So I sent the photo to the police lab and asked them to digitally enhance it, and get a mugshot." He took a second photo from the envelope but kept it face down as a matron of a woman came to the other side of the table and picked up the empty diner plate.
"More tea dears?"
"No thanks, I have to go. Mr. Hill?"
Mark shook his head as Leeross stood. "They said I shouldn't waste my time looking for the culprit, as he was wearing some kind of Halloween costume." He placed the photo on top of the first. "You know how to contact me." He turned away and went to the door.
For a moment Mark started after him, surprised at his abrupt departure. Then he remembered the photo and looked down.
"Everything all right dear?"
Vicky's concerned voice brought him back to reality.
"Ohh." She said distastefully. "I don't know how youngsters nowadays can wear such horrible stuff. Never did in my day and doing dangerous stuff like that. And how can he see through those big green things he's got on his face."
Mark was on his feet and after Leeross in a moment, leaving the bewildered Vick staring after him. Outside his gaze raced up and down the street with no sign of Leeross. He pulled out his phone and found the number. It rang out.

The director was in conversation with a large group of senior technicians from the camera, lighting and sound crews, beside other ancillary trades including props, through around them it was obvious that painters and carpenters had already worked their magic to transformed the derelict old station into something it probably never had been.
What was before had been simply creepy was now full of shadow and menace. Even men who were quite at home with the change a few bits of cardboard and plastic could achieve found the hairs standing on the back of their necks, but that only gave credit where credit was due to the magicians of mood. It was spoilt somewhat by electricians who were hiding the last of the cables, and a few others who were moving to various locations, talking, both loudly, and soft, as the sound technicians worked out the acoustics. To an observer it was absolutely fascinating. Tomorrow would be a dry run. The day after that was full costume rehearsal and then there was the shoot. In less than a week the station would again be abandoned.

The apartment building was nondescript, the elevator broken, and the stairs innumerable. At last Mark found himself in front of number twenty-one. Some kid had textured a B alongside: obviously Leeross's occupation had not gone unnoticed. Mark rang the bell.
Leeross opened the door. He said nothing but stood to the side so Mark could enter. Leeross shut the door and walked over to the small kitchen area. "Tea, coffee?"

Mark shook his head. His voice was slightly accusing. "Why did you contact me?"
"You know why."
"That I would be the one who would most understand?"
"Yes."
"Did you ever stop to think it was all in my past, where it should be?"
Leeross didn't answer. "Actually I didn't expect our paths would never cross again. Life goes on, we learn to live with our past and face the future, but the future has a way of repeating the past. I read a new age book somewhere that said we keep repeating our past until we learn the lessons it is teaching us."
"I learned my lesson, stay well away from something you don't understand."
"Maybe that wasn't the answer, maybe it was to understand?"
"Then maybe in happy being ignorant."
"I don't think so. You are as desperate as I am to understand."
Mark gave a grunting laugh. "Desperate to die?"
"Then why are you here?" He didn't give mark time to answer. "Why didn't you stuff the photos into the first garbage can you came to? I pride myself on knowing people and I know you're here because it's burning you up inside."
"I'm here because you contacted me for help."
"Then help me."
They were both silent as Mark wandered to the window and stared out. "Do you think it's a coincidence?"
"The world is full of coincidences, but no."
Again they were quiet until Mark spoke. "Are you still in contact with Kelly?'
"She's the reason I'm here. Said I was getting too involved and needed different scenery."
"She could be right. She still in forensics?"
"Yes, but our shared experience made us all reappraise our positions."
Mark understood the sentiment. "I guess not so much of the investigative police work on the tube?"
"I'd have to concede not the in-depth villain type crime, but the London underground rail system is a microcosm of above ground. Still crime from the pathetic to the brutal." Leeross suddenly seemed to change the subject. "Have you ever heard of ghost stations?"
Mark wasn't sure where the new conversation was leading so the reply was half tongue in cheek. "At the fun fair?" He smiled.
Leeross smiled back. "No, real ghost stations."
Marks smile faded. "You're telling me that there are ghosts down on the underground?"
"Only if you believe in that sort of thing."
"I suppose over the years there would have been a few people who died down there?"
"Actually quite a few, and if you include people who disappear; well lots of those."
"Yes, though I imagine most of those vanish to appear in new lives elsewhere."
"But being as they have disappeared we can never know that for sure, and anyway it's something for other people to hypothesize on. No the ghost stations I'm referring to are real places, but not the ones that people who take the tube see. They're Stations that over the years have become too expensive to maintain, or too little used to bother maintaining. Or stations and lines that have become unsafe or flooded. There are tube lines that were built in the war as refuges; with the intent to include them in the network, but they never were. Others are stations and lines where construction work was stopped when the builders ran out of money, or the investor's out of patience. Even parts of well-used stations are sometimes bricked off. The list goes on. These are the places where you can actually begin believing in ghosts. Standing on the platform of an abandoned station in the silence, and staring into the blackness of an unused tunnel even gives me the heebie jeebies."
"There are a lot of them… abandoned stations?"
"About forty, but not all are underground, and quite a few kilometers of tunnels."
"That many?"
Leeross nodded.
"I presume this is where the movie scout comes in?"
"The movie people don't want to locate on a currently used line where they can get swamped by people, anymore than we want sightseers blocking working platforms."
"So the scout was off on his own, in tunnels where nobody goes?"
"More or less, though we don't let anybody go off on their own with the situation as it is nowadays. But we're here about the situation down there." Leeross's face looked grim. "Am I correct?"
"It's impossible." Was Marks abrupt reply.
"That's not a no."
"How can it be possible? There was the fire, the cave in. We're over a hundred kilometers…. Put aside how one of the creatures survived, how did it get all the way down here?"
"That's the point, it didn't survive, least the ones who you encountered. Special branch didn't want the TV crew down through those caves because they knew what you would find."
Mark stared at Leeross expectantly. "That's ridiculous, there's got to be some other explanation?"
"I haven't said why I was sent down here, have I?"
"You don't have to explain or justify anything to me."
"I know, but the fact is I trod on too many toes. Police work can become very personal. It shouldn't be; to complete an investigation you need to share cold hard facts, and I pride myself on doing just that, but anything you invest time and work into becomes a part of you. It becomes personal. You walk onto the scene of a serious crime only knowing someone is responsible. So you start looking for tiny facts that you can join together, until you dwindle down the sixty-five million people in the street, to one. If you've done it right the case holds and that person pays the price for their crime. I won't say that satisfies me, satisfaction has nothing to do with seeing someone go to prison. How they pay for their criminal acts is something I have nothing to do with, or generally care about. What does satisfy me is finishing the puzzle and when another division, especial one beholden to no-one, takes that puzzle away half finished, I'm left with total frustration." Leeross sighed. "I don't know if I've made it clear or not, but I started the investigation, In fact we almost died trying to, and when I had the chance to solve it, it was snatched away. I made sure people knew how I felt, so I was seconded to the transport authority where I could sit and rue my bloody mindedness. On the face of it I got a promotion, but anyone who knows, knows it was a side step. And because of that, an old acquaintance felt I should have some closure. That person sent me a copy of the diver's report."
"The divers report?" Mark's interest rose. "You mean the special branch divers?"
"The same."
"So you do know what's down there?"
"I know what the diver saw and said."
"Mark was bursting to know, but hesitated to ask."
Leeross pulled an envelope from his pocket and opened it. There was another envelope inside.
Mark looked at him curiously.
"The inner envelope is clean and like the papers it contains are from a chain store stationary department. The contents have been copied on a very busy public library machine. These are precautions so that there is nothing to implicate me, or my associate, and if any accusation was made I will deny this meeting or handing you this."
Mark gave a grunt of surprise. "Very James Bondish?"
"In the contents of that envelope my associate and I in turn have broken the official secrets act. If this is found in you're possession you will be charged under the official secrets act. I don't know what you know of criminal law but believe me governments don't take kindly to people having information they don't want made public; the Wikileaks cables should have demonstrated that. Besides legal implications you would find that after encouragement from the offices of Whitehall many doors will close to you. Your life would change much for the worst."
Mark stared at Leeross in shock. "And after that you expect me to take the envelope?"
"It may be for different reasons, but you want to know what they found as much as I did."
Mark took the inner envelope as if it would burn his fingers.
"Read it, remember it and burn it, then crush the ashes and scatter them as wide as you can, as I did with the original."
Mark placed the envelope in his inner pocket, making certain it couldn't slip out accidentally.
Leeross smiled. "Actually Mr. Hill I feel very relieved to have offloaded that."
"I was under the impression Inspector we were sharing a problem not that I was to carry it."
"Read it and get rid of it A.S.A.P."
"You can be assured I will."
"So problems, back to the one we have. There is a Subterranean in the underground."
Mark had doubts. "Inspector we have to consider your assumption could be a mistaken one?"
"You mean it really was an idiot in a costume?"
"The question has to be asked."
"And I have many times, but I still come up with the same answer."
"I don't doubt that, but I'm having a hard time imagining how there could be."
"Actually there are several possibilities, though all of them are unlikely. Bushby Hall is close to the A-forty-seven; we've seen whatever it may be can ride a railcar, so a truck heading south wouldn't be a problem. Once in London there are any number of entrances to the underground. Then there's the waterways: swimmings a given, and waterways and canals cover the whole country."
"Both seem implausible."
"There is another option."
"The railway?"
"No…that the creature never came here from Bushy Hall."
The possibility was one that Mark had never considered. "That would mean?"
"It would mean that there could be others all over the country, the World for that matter."
Mark was about to scoff but the more he thought the more possible it seemed. "Then why has nobody come across them before now?'
Now it was Leeross's turn to be mocking. "I'll be sure to ask when I can."
"Of course if we report this, we'll both be laughed out of the police station?"
"You'd have first hand experience with that, and if we did the authorities would just slap another DA-notice on us and sweep it under the carpet again."
"Sweep it under the carpet…. again?" Said Mark sensing more in Leeross's words.
"The thing with DA-notices is that we don't know how many times the government has slapped on a gag order. Who knows maybe there have been other sightings; maybe this is the fiftieth?"
Mark was convinced Leeross was overreacting. Stress had many manifestations; was this attitude part of what had caused Leeross to leave everything and come to the city. "Surely the government wouldn't go that far?"
"Mr. Hill I've seen much in my life as a policeman, and believe me the greater part of what I do see the public don't want to see. Your part of the public, you have read the headlines. Everyone throws up their arms in anger when a child is brutally murdered, but they never have to witness it first hand, and neither do they want to. Governments understand this: horror and condemnation are carefully controlled in the public domain. Public anger is one thing, public unrest another."
"Leeross I've no doubt what's said and what's done are two things, but you're putting forward a conspiracy?"
"The people who wanted to make your TV program wanted to show first contact. I believe first contact occurred some while back."
Mark felt out of his depth. The Leeross he had known was the skeptic: the collator of facts. It seemed the changed Leeross was out on a limb that was far too thin. "I have to be honest but that sounds more like something I'd dream up for a novel?"
"The truth is stranger than fiction, isn't that what always proves to be the case?"
"I'm not sure about always?"
"There is only course of action? Give the public the chance to decide what's to be done."
"Go public? That could cause mass panic, you said as much yourself?"
"I did and it will, but we live in a democracy, every day I have worked towards that purpose. Yes there well may be serious repercussions, but people have a right to know what their government is governing on their behalf. We go public and the authorities have to face the problem and deal with it."
"We?'
"I did say I need your help."
"I remember it as advice."
"Go back to you're hotel. Lock the door and read that report. I'll be in touch and you can tell me you think I'm crazy, if like."

Mark locked the door, and then checked it was locked. He knew it was nerves and he tried to control the juvenile fear that special branch was about to burst through the door at any moment. It seemed the envelope had taken on a life of its own changing and influencing, when he already knew what was in the tunnel. Cautiously he sat away from the window and opened the envelope.
His eyes were drawn to strips of heavy black covering sections of the text.
Testimony of… Officer ####### Lead diver
Investigation…. ##############l
Transcript of communications
D1 Ready to submerge.
C You are clear to submerge D1
D1 Waters murky. Around five meters visibility, strong flow. Commencing.
D2 Ready to submerge.
C You are clear to submerge D2
D3 Ready to submerge.
C You are clear to submerge D3
D1 At the entrance. Are you getting this C?
C Yes, It's coming through fine.
D1 Difficult to see if you weren't looking for it, partially hidden by weed. Looks like a fair bit of infall has been removed.
C copy D1
Mark could almost hear the exhaled air as it bubbled to the surface.
D4 Ready to submerge.
C Clear to submerge D4
DI Remind me to send thanks to the civilians for the guide rope.
C I'm sure they will respond positively
D5 Ready to submerge.
C Clear to submerge D5
He had to respect these men. They were diving in the middle of the night, into a flooded tunnel that had seen the end of two other very competent divers, with what almost seemed carefree banter.
Mark wanted to skim through; to read where they entered the tunnel and discover what they had, but he found himself following the decent step by step.
DI C you are starting to break up
C Copy D1. D5 Copy?
D5 Copy. Securing to line. Mark position ####### time ###### D1 copy?
D1 Copy proceeding on.
Mark felt a slight chill the divers were now as good as on their own.
D4 Copy D1?
D1 Copy
D4 Signal strength is falling rapidly.
D1 Copy. D4 copy that?
D4 Copy D1 securing to line Mark position ####### time ###### D5 copy?
Mark was curious where they were and tried to see what was below the black out
D4 D1, C confirms move forward
D1 Copy D4.
Then it came.
D1 D4. At the end of the line. The caves widened out and I'm beside a bench like structure. Looks like this fits the description. D3 secure here.
D3 Securing to line. Mark position ####### time ###### D4 copy?
D4 Copy line secured. Mark position ####### time ###### D1 copy?
D1 D4 Requesting permission to move forward
D4 Copy D1. D5 D1 at end of line and requesting permission to move forward.
D4 Copy D5. D1 you have permission to move forward
D1 Copy D4. Moving into tunnel
Now Mark was starting to skip words in his haste.
D1 The structure bears similarity to lava tubes, Melted smooth, but it's inconsistent with the rock type. I'm passing something… appears to be organic… charred and decaying. I'm taking a sample for DNA analysis.
Mark could feel incredulity in the man's words.
D1 Can you see that D2. It can't… D4 this is amazing it looks like a complete pod.
D3 D1 your contact is broken with D4.
D1 Copy D3. Relay back that we have come to a structure. Looks like a complete pod. There's been a significant explosion. There's a doorway. Requesting permission to go inside.
Mark stared at the word. Pod. What were they talking about?
D3 D4. D1 and 2 have come to a structure and are requesting permission to enter it
The excitement seemed to spring off the page.
D3 D1 permission to enter. D2 Maintain separation and contact with D3
D2 Copy maintaining position at pod entrance.
D1 I'm going in….
Mark lay back in the lounge. The papers still gripped in his fingers. The man described almost everything he had seen from the strange script, to the hole in the power plants door. The only difference was that now much of the spacecraft was flooded. He swam up the ramp but walked past the other doors without apparently even knowing they were there. He found the room where Avril had been and saw traces of the dead diver's neoprene suits. But mostly he saw the aliens. Mark stared at the words….
D1 D2 In the bio room. More Krall. Looks like eight missing.
D2 D1 I can confirm it's a full pod?
D1 D2 Copy I have the ID number K.L.A.S.I.4.3..A.1. I'll get some vid.
D3 D2 Looks like a complete pod. We have an ID. Initial count three Krall missing...
For some time Mark considered reading the entire report again, but there was no point. Much of what he had read merely vindicated what he knew, and with the DA-notice in affect, nobody else was going to know the rest.

"Mr. Leeross. There were several calls for you while you were out."
He slowed and turned towards the pretty you receptionist. "Several?"
"Three… One from Mr. Morris... He seemed a little upset."
"Oh, was he?"
Her voice lowered. "He said you had assured him there wouldn't be any more problems..." She gave him a knowing look.
"And there has been?"
"Last night apparently… and more damage"
He sighed. "Okay Julia, I'll call him."
"If you would." There was a trace of pleading in her voice.
"And the others?"

 

"Detective Smith speaking."
"Smith its Leeross."
Cheerfulness entered the voice; Leeross immediately recognized it as false. "Inspector thanks for calling back. I just called to let you know Aunt Mary is trying to contact you. Can you giver her a call?
Leeross felt a wave of uneasiness flow through him. There was no such person as Aunt Mary. Obviously Smith couldn't speak freely. "Yes of course I'll call her straight away."
"She said she'd be out until after ten."
Leeross looked at his watch that was ten minutes. "Okay. How are you and how the old place?"
"Fine and busy... Sorry to cut this short but… I'd better get on with the old detective work eh."
"Of course. Look after yourself."
"You too. Bye."
The phone went dead. Leeross looked at it puzzled; why would Smith want to talk? Hopefully there was enough time to call Morris. He flicked the intercom. "Julia, have you a number for Mr. Morris?"
"I'll connect you Mr. Leeross."
"Thanks," he put the receiver down, anxiety growing. Moments later the intercom buzzed.
"I have Mr. Morris for you."
"Okay."
"Mr. Leeross?" The voice was confronting.
"Mr. Morris how are things?" He would find out soon enough, so he may as well do it on his terms.
"Leeross you promised me we would have no more problems with trespassers."
"Apparently you have?"
"Overnight two large and expensive, heating units crashed to the floor."
Leeross wanted to ask if it could have been an accident but the mans attitude precluded that. "Was there much damage?"
"That's hardly the point. Replacements have been sent for, but everything is now delayed twenty-four hours."
"I'll send someone to have a good look around. Try not to touch anything until they arrive."
"They have been moved and the place cleaned. I'm supposed to be shooting. We're going to be a day behind as it is, and I can't afford to loose another day until your people arrive."
"Okay, I'll have someone look at the security tapes. It's not possible that anybody connected to the TV station could have been there?"
"The keys were returned to you're security when the last left. It's not the cost Leeross, even though some of this stuff is worth a fortune. It's the production schedule. We can afford delay, the actors have on going commitments and the technicians are needed on other projects. Leeross we're a hundred meters underground behind locked grills and doors, if were not secure here where on the planet can we be?"
"It won't happen again Mr. Morris. I promise." Leeross put down the phone remembering he had said the same confident words only days before. He looked at the watch, the ten minutes had passed and quickly he opened the bottom draw of the desk and took out a mobile phone. It had seemed paranoid at the time but after having the DA-notice slapped onto them both they began to wonder if every call they made was being intercepted. It was Smiths idea in case he wanted to call Aunt Mary on a personal matter. Leeross was glad he had kept up the pre-pay topped up.
"Uncle George?" It was Smiths voice
Leeross tried not to be sarcastic. "Aunt Mary?"
"I was wondering if you were going to call."
"Is there a problem?"
"We'll that depends on if you are happy or not with being a target for internal investigations?"
Leeross was stunned. "You're joking?"
"I don't need to remind you that anything you're doing that infringes on the DA-notice is going to make a lot of serious waves."
"I know that." He said seriously. "Have you any idea what it's all about?"
"Come on Leeross they don't announce what they are up to."
Leeross's voice was downcast. "No... Thanks for warning me anyway."
"Yea well be careful."
"Yea thanks."
"Don't call me at work."
"No, I won't call you again?"
"You can use this phone. I don't think anyone knows about it, least not yet."
"I hope not."
"Bye."
"Bye." Leeross disconnected under a growing cloud of doom.
He had left Kelly's call intentionally to last, as a kind of a reward for making the other two; now he needed a friendly voice. As he reached for the hand piece his hand froze. If internal were checking his records there was a good chance they were monitoring his calls. He used the mobile again.
The voice was slightly challenging but nice to hear. "Kelly."
"It's Leeross."
There was an immediate change somewhere between relief and scolding. "Leeross what the hell are you doing down there?"
"Doing... my job…nothing?"
"Bullshit."
He smiled. "What's the problem?"
"The problem is that the grapevine has a picture of some kid riding the back of an underground train in Halloween costume."
He had though he was stunned before, now he was dumfounded. "Underground train?" was all he could say.
"Yes an underground train." There was a brief pause. "And where do you work Leeross? The underground? And whose job is it to get kids who ride the outside of carriages? Oh yes it's you Leeross."
"How did this photo?" he stuttered.
"Surface, that's a good word for something from the underground. Well word on the grapevine is that some photographer thought he could make a few quid selling it to the papers. You know the headlines 'What are the authorities doing' and all that crap. Thing is that the editor has a DA-notice on his desk and decided to play safe by submitting it to special branch before publishing it?"
He tried to play naïve. "Why would they be interested in some stupid kid?"
"Maybe I should ask you that same question, being as you had the picture enhanced."
"They know that?"
"Yes Leeross. Should I remind you of the provisions of the official secrets act, or of the requirements of a DA-notice?"
"Looks like I'm in deep shit."
"What's wrong with you Leeross, you used to be a conscientious copper, almost a boring one."
"Steady on." He tried to smile.
"Send me a text of where you are staying."
"By the sound of it you don't want any SMS's from me on your phone."
"You'd rather I walk around the streets of London asking where you?"
Suddenly he was smiling. "You could ask any special branch officer to direct you."

The brief time of indecision had passed. Leeross was now in investigation mode. First he needed copies of the photos that wouldn't go viral. The mobile suddenly had a new use. After several attempt he had them clear enough to show the content, but too poor a quality to replicate. A quick search of the Internet provided the name: Smith provided the personal phone number, and he pressed the send button.
Walking out into the reception area he glanced through into another office, checking if the section chief was there; she was. With a cursorily knock he opened the door. "Are you busy Paula?"
She was on the phone and obviously was. "Can you hang on for a moment?" She said abruptly, before covering the mouthpiece with her palm. She looked at him expectantly.
"You heard about the television crew?"
"Another visitor?" she nodded.
"Can you get someone to run through the CCTV?"
"It's been delegated already."
Leeross nodded. "Can you get them to back a bit, in case someone slipped in and hid?"
"They've been instructed to check right back forty-eight hours."
Leeross wasn't comfortable with women working under him. His upbringing taught him to go easy on females, but the problem was that they soon learned that. "Good, good."
"I'm also having them run on into the crew setting up, just in case it was their accident and they're trying to claim insurance?"
"You've got it covered. Thanks." He returned to his own office acknowledging but ignoring Julia's surreptitious pointing. He needed to talk to Hill again, but waiting in the office was a man. Suddenly he realized what her gesture had meant to tell him; even so it surprised Leeross that she would allow anyone in his office without him being there. He tried to make the question an accusation. "And you are?"
"Alistair Grey." The man didn't attempt to stand. He handed Leeross his warrant card.
Leeross looked at him over the card. "Special Branch."
Alistair nodded.
"Have you found what you were looking for?"
"I never know what I'm looking for until I have found it."
"But obviously I must be involved in that process."
"Let's say I want to completely remove you from any investigation."
"Me too."
"Then I have to ask why you trying to resurrect some fantastic theory of aliens living amoung us?"
"Am I?"
"You asked for some specialist work on a photograph."
"A Photo?" He tried to sound innocent. "The only photo I've had anyone look at recently was so that I could identify a train rider."
"We can be here the rest of the afternoon and all night, but I for one have other things to do, so let's get something perfectly clear. I know you have convinced yourself that you have an alien loose on the underground. The suggestion is preposterous and I am here to advise you to forget the idea and get on with the police work that I'm sure London transport has waiting for you."
"Well actually I'm doing exactly what is expected of me; ensuring the safety of all the traveling public, even the stupid ones. So stopping a joy rider before he becomes a PR problem fits precisely into what I do."
"Then that's what I want to hear, providing you are being truthful with me?"
"You're accusing me of lying?"
"Of course not. We just needed some clarification."
"I would have thought a picture of some guy wearing a costume was clear enough?"
"Or a she?"
"Yes, I suppose it could have been a girl."
"Then we agree the image couldn't even confirm your train rider's sex, so to imagine anything more is ridiculous, isn't it?"
"Assumptions are dangers paths in an investigation."
"Exactly, so all that remains s to remind you of the official secrets act, and that you are bound with its directives."
"Is there a connection?" Leeross said curiously.
"We were concerned you may think so after that misunderstanding at Bushby hall."
"The Bushby Hall investigation was never closed."
"Actually you are wrong, the Bushby Hall investigation was closed: permanently."
"And you are making sure the lid is shut tight?"
Alistair stared at him, and then suddenly stood. "We'll its been interesting talking to you but you know how it is, time passes, people to meet and leads to follow." He was turning for the door when Leeross spoke.
"What was there?" Leeross said abruptly.
"There?"
"In the cavern, under the Hall."
"You read the release. The whole thing had caved in and the remains of the divers have been lost forever."
They both knew that was the official outcome. "But it never fully explained the reason for the explosions."
"Didn't it? My reading was that it was simply the collapse of old mine working's."
Leeross looked at him. "Yes, there was a note summarizing something to that effect." His tone was heavy with skepticism. "I guess sometimes we just have to put that old coppers instinct of having everything cut and dried and accept some things will have to be solved by summarization."
Alistair turned back toward the door.
"I hope our little chat has removed me from any further investigation?"
Alistair didn't turn, this time instead calling back over his shoulder. "None of us are ever removed from that possibility." He closed the door behind him.

Demonstrating some of the skill that small establishments muster to complete with the chains, Vicky reached for a cup and saucer and as Mark entered the café. Strangely it felt comfortable. He had stayed at all manner of hotels on his trips. Places where waiters and waitresses did everything they could to cater for his needs, but Vicky in her more casual attitude was a natural at making her establishment a home.
As usual Leeross was at his regular table and spreading another newspaper. "We have to stop meeting like this?" muttered Mark as he sat opposite.
"Very droll." Grunted Leeross.
Mark picked up on the tone. "Bad news?"
"Yes."
"Things just seem to get worse over there don't they?"
Leeross looked past him. "Over where?"
"The headline." Mark pointed to the paper.
"Oh there? Yes."
"So it's another kind of bad news?"
"You never had a DA-notice slapped on you did you?"
"I think the authorities thought I was enough of one already. Who's going to believe a publicity seeking author?"
Leeross nodded.
"In fact I almost demanded being gagged. It would have given me credibility."
"Exactly."
"So what's the bad news?"
Leeross couldn't help a quick sideways glance. "Special branch."
"Oh." Mark nodded. "They have you in their sights again?"
"I don't think they ever took them off me." Leeross folder the paper and put it in his overcoat pocket; supped some of his almost cold tea and stared out of the window. "What would you do if you ever met another one?"
"Considering I don't expect or intend to I've never asked myself the question. But now you ask, probably shoot a lot faster, with a lot bigger gun."
"Strange, I'd had you labeled with more empathy, but now I have to ask myself if should have labeled you more as a redneck."
"Actually I'm offended at that. I do have empathy; just I find it hard to have it for something that's going to eat me."
"We share the planet with many creatures that will kill and eat us, from sharks to crocodiles."
"Past the fact I that wouldn't be eager for a face to face meeting with them either, there is a big difference. Wild animal's forward thinking doesn't go past the next meal. Those things were intelligent creatures, and from what I've seen probably a good deal more intelligent than us?"
"This is first contact with an alien species Mr. Hill. Very few times in our history has it gone off with understanding on both sides?"
"Differences in culture and race may be alien to one another on our planet, but we're talking about an entirely alien species."
"I accept your argument but you must realize the validity of mine. We attack things we don't understand and that's what I fear will happen this time."
"This time? You make it sound as if you actually have evidence there are more of them?"
"No. I have no factual evidence apart from a grainy photo that could in the end just be some kid in a suit."
Mark believed he understood Leeross's calculating mind, but he couldn't shake the feeling that the image was becoming an obsession. "The photos disturbing, but you have to accept that without any...what do you call further evidence?"
"Corroborating."
"…Corroborating evidence, there really is no evidence that another one is down…"
Leeross's mobile interrupted them. "Leeross? Hi Julia… What? Tell me they weren't? Why? Nobody has any idea how they were… Okay. Has anyone told Morris… No… I'll do it... Okay I'll be back soon." He shut off the phone.
"More bad news?'
"The CCTV camera at the station used by the television company was switched off last night. Sometime before expensive machinery was toppled over."
"Toppled?"
"Fell, slipped, whatever they ended up on the floor damaged."
"Hardly a big deal is it?"
"It is to a certain Mr. Morris."
"Who had access?"
"The door onto the platform was locked, and the key was in our security office."
"Could somebody have come up the tunnel?"
"From the main line?"
"Yes."
"They would have to be after more than breaking a couple of heaters. The main lines electrified?"
Mark was a little less certain. "Maybe they had a death wish?"
"Do you know how far they would have to walk?"
"A long way?"
"Long enough."
"I suppose it's not possible then?"
Leeross looked at him, and sighed. "One of the problems with being an ex copper is forgetting you were. And what a copper learns is process. Follow the clues without making judgment. Never… disregard process. A lot of crim's have gone free co's some plod didn't follow process. The thing is that while it seems impossible, it wasn't; though why somebody would just want to push over a couple of lights, after following a tunnel in almost darkness, and after dodging trains on the main line and the live third rail stretches the imagination."
"No..." Mark agreed. "It doesn't sound rational."
"As we've just been talking about, maybe it's time to think of the irrational?"
"To something like someone in the movie crew deliberately did it?"
"I grant it's possible someone stayed overnight and then walked out in the commotion?"
"Then we have to ask why. Insurance?"
Leeross stared at him. "Now how would I know that, other than some people would like to have access to the London Underground."
Mark was surprised. "You're thinking that' some of the crew could be terrorists?"
"No, first off eliminate, and that's making sure nobody did walk up the tunnel. Come on." He stood. "Two sets of eyes are better than one."
"Me?"
"I remember on your TV interview you said that you leap at the chance to visit unusual places, places that you could use in your stories. I'd think you'd rather leap at first hand experience of the underground of London."

Thirty minutes later they were sat in front of a screen. The entrance to the tunnel was slightly in shadow, but quite clear. Train after train raced through at incredible speeds. "Right we're coming to it. We had people go through all the tapes and they found nothing, and before you ask our staff are experienced in this kind of observation work so I'm confident there was nothing to be seen. Usually that would be the end of it but this has happened before so the observation period was extended back and forward." Leeross paused for a few moments. "This is a recording from after lunch. A time when there were people there, and a time we'd be unlikely to have checked." Leeross paused again. "There?" He said quickly.
Mark had seen nothing. "I didn't see anything?"
Leeross replayed the scene. "See as the train passes the shadow… It's not right.
Maybe there was something, but Mark had no idea what.
"Got ya." Leeross was almost laughing.
The scene again repeated, but now in slow motion now. It seemed like the train would never end. Then it did. A window at the back of the carriage was partly blanked out. Mark watched in amazement as the light inside the carriage suddenly appeared as a full window, and now a shape was moving between the back of the carriage and the dark side tunnel. It was still too fast to see detail so Leeross paused and moved on frame by frame.
There definitely was a shape, hanging on the back of the carriage. Frame by frame it turned until it reached up and sprung towards the shadows inside the tunnel leading to the film lot. There were barely two frames where it could be seen clearly. It only took one for Mark to gasp. "No... no.. It can't..."
Leeross was staring at him triumphantly.

Leeross slowly stirred his coffee. "To me it's inexplicable, to the suits in head office it's some idiot riding the outside of a train. Something I'm expected to fix. You know there are two hundred kilometers of track underground, and maybe another forty in abandoned or lost tunnels. How long it would take to search all those with the staff I have spare? And that would mean them dodging trains traveling past at over thirty kilometer's and hour while making sure they don't step on a rail carrying over six hundred volts. So what do you think the suits are going to say when I tell them what I want based on a grainy photo and a shadow on a tape?"
"You wouldn't necessarily have to search the entire tube, just around where there were sightings?"
"Yea, but one was riding past and the other may have come from kilometers away, so there's still kilometers to check."
"I read somewhere that over three million people use the tube every day?"
"That's about right."
"Three million is an attractive target to a terrorist."
"That's been proven."
"So your bosses are going to be very sensitive to something that had terrorism connotations?"
"I already have a DA-notice on me; to initiate an investigation knowing that the facts are false could lead to a charge of perjury. Anyway terrorists don't wear costumes; they do everything they can to blend in."
"Mark nodded. He knew it wasn't Leeross's fault. "I'm sorry."
Leeross nodded. "I did all I could, but it still isn't enough."
"What we need is actual proof."
"If it is one of those things, its probably been there for a long time, and hasn't slipped up before."
"Hasn't slipped up before?" Mark repeated thoughtfully. "Leeross how do your security cameras work?"
"Different locations, different ways. Motion sensors in some, trips in others."
"It's likely the ones at Bushby had been roaming the countryside for years. The only time I have heard when they betrayed themselves was when they startled some other animal, but otherwise they were masters of stealth, and that perpetrated the escaped Tiger myth. If there is one down there, and it's been there for a long time it'll know all the CCTV locations?"
"That's highly probable."
"So why these sightings now?"
"Your suggesting something is disturbing them?"
"Yes. Where are they doing the filming?"
"A branch to the Piccadilly line. The old Strand station?"
"And that's one of the abandoned stations?"
"Built in nineteen oh-seven, so it has a lot of character. It was closed in ninety-four. There's a second platform that was closed back at the beginning of last century."
"And the photo was taken?"
Leeross was quite for a moment. The Piccadilly line… You're suggesting the lamps we're crashed by the creature?"
"I know for a fact it doesn't like infra red. Where does the old tunnel go?"
"One way to the lines in use, and its blocked off the other………"
"… Leeross?" Said Mark puzzled at how his words faded.
Leeross was staring at him blankly. "The ghost?"
"What ghost?"
"Remember a couple of days back when we first talked about ghost stations, and you took that to mean an actual ghost… Some years ago track engineers working one night at the Strand said they saw something… Legend has it that an actress haunts the station."
"You can forget the other hundred and ninety-nine kilometers. If it's there, it's somewhere close by that station."

Two trains arrived at St. Pancreas that afternoon, one carrying Kelly and another an hour later with Terry. Mark and Leeross missed each other by less than half an hour.
"Hi Terry, good trip?"
"No problems dad."
Mark smiled the boy was half Australian.
"Mum said to call once I got here."
Mark handed him his mobile. "We'll drop your bag at the hotel. Have something to eat and maybe catch a movie, or a show, okay?"
Mark flagged down a taxi and they were halfway back to the hotel when Terry handed the phone to him, He was chatting to Avril when an incoming call from Leeross registered. He ignored it and finished talking to her before calling back.
"The movie people say it's okay for a quick look."
Mark had no idea what he was referring to. "A look at what?"
"You said if one you're books became a movie you'd let him see how it works, well the next best thing is somebody else's film."
"Okay, when?"
"Right now."
Mark turned to Terry. He had the weekend planned, but what if none of his books was ever filmed. He'd always regret missing the chance. "Terry how do you fancy visiting a movies set?"
"Oh yea."
"Okay, we're just on the way to the hotel. Give us time to have something to eat and we'll meet up."
"Kelly is down too, come straight over and we can grab a burger and then go straight to the station."

Mark was surprised that the Old Strand station was not totally abandoned. As the location for previous movies and even music videos parts of it were restored. The street level ticket office was one part and as Leeross unlocked the gate they saw what it would have looked like in its glory days. As they passed the ancient lifts Leeross explained that when the station was abandoned they were still working. In use from the very first, when health and safety wasn't a consideration: in later days they exposed their operators to a dangerous workplace; but with falling patronage they were too expensive to replace, so the entire station was closed.
The descended down a spiral staircase as Leeross explained that there were a number of passages in the station that were not maintained, and shut off. Mark wondered what condition the others were in, considering where they were, was far from well looked after.
At the bottom Leeross told them all to be quiet as they walked out into the station. To their left the platform was full of equipment and people. To their right it was deserted. Down the tunnel this way Mark could just make out a wall blocking it off maybe a hundred metres away.
"Its okay." said Leeross softly. "They are in between shoots, but we have to make sure we don't talk too loud."
A young woman was walking towards them. "Mr. Leeross and friends? Welcome to Broadbent and Page media productions. I'm Rebecka Mr. Morris's personal assistant."
Leeross introduced the others. Mr. Hill is an author."
Mark looked at the woman slightly embarrassed.
"Mr. Hill I believe you are the man behind the Legends?"
"Yes."
"I look forward to our organization having the opportunity to turn your books into film."
"Me too." He replied eagerly.
"I'll make an appointment for our script people to have a word with you and explain what we do with storylines once we get our hands on them." She smiled
"Thanks."
"Rebecca..." Terry spoke impatiently. "What's happening now?"
The young woman began with an obviously well practiced run down on the process of filming. After a while it seemed she was talking directly with Terry and when the talk wandered away from movie making Mark took the opportunity to step down onto the track and wander into the tunnel. He stayed at their end to avoid intruding on the filming.
The tunnel was formed by steel rings; and there were numerous signs of new, or old, painted over rust, even so it seemed remarkable that the tunnel had been constructed over a hundred years ago: though the occasional proto stalactite bore out the age. Patches of seepage stained the walls brown and lay in shallow pools on the concrete floor.
"The newer platforms have suicide pits."
Mark turned to see Leeross and Kelly were walking up to. He glanced past them to see Terry and Rebecka were still talking.
"We got the impression we were superfluous." Smiled Kelly. "So we left the young people to entertain each other."
Mark smiled too. "He's growing up very quickly." He remembered Leeross's remark. "Suicide pits?"
"Technically they are anti suicide pits. Basically a space where people who want to jump in front of trains fall below the rails."
Kelly shook her head. "How sad that people get to the stage where they feel that's the answer to their problems."
Mark nodded. "There's a saying that art imitates life. But I know of hardly any books where the hero commits suicide, well other than martyrdom."
"I guess it would be a short book it the hero went that way." Leeross added hardheartedly. "I've seen enough of them and those folks should think about the effect it has on friends and relations, or coppers who have to tell them."
The talk was getting macabre so he changed it. "So why was the line ended here?"
"Basically comes down to the fact the other side of the wall is the Thames river."
"Good enough reason. So is water a big problem?"
"Not so much big as continual. It doesn't have to be the river itself. The city is riddled with old waterways. You probably know that the Fleet flowed down the middle of Fleet Street until it was covered over, and of course there's the water table, so all the tunnels are leaking. That's coped with by the sumps." Leeross pointed to the floor. "Under there are drains where the water collects and where we pump it out from. That amounts to fourteen million liters every day."
"Wow…fourteen million," muttered Mark in disbelief.
"Yep. There's a trapdoor just over there." Leeross lifted the wooden lid to reveal a pool of dark scummy water below."
"Looks like everybody has gone for a break." Said Kelly, less interested in the technical aspects.
The platform was deserted except for Terry and Rebecka, who were half hidden behind some scenery, apparently on purpose.
"I guess we had better leave too."
They had begun walking back to the entrance when Terry and Rebecka came towards them. "What's down there?" asked Terry.
"Not much, it's a dead end: just a sump to drain all the tunnels. Where's everybody gone?"
Rebecka answered. "Back to the studio to look at the rushes, they've finished filming for the day."
Mark was slightly puzzled that the Terry and the woman kept walking past. He was going to remind them that he had said nothing was there when he saw Kelly's conspiratorial smile. He looked quickly back at the young pair then at Kelly. "No?" he said in doubt. But she had begun laughing.
They got to the gate at the bottom of the staircase and immediately saw it was padlocked.
"They have got to be joking." Grumbled Leeross shaking the chain in annoyance...
Kelly looked at him. "You haven't got a key?"
"Not to every gate on the underground."
"So who has?"
"The crew or there are spares in the security office."
"Can you call them?"
He pulled out his phone. "No signal."
"Bummer." Muttered Kelly. "I hope you're not going to tell me we have to walk out onto the main track?"
"What about Rebecka, she's a PA surely she will have a key." Said Mark
Leeross looked at him. "And how long is it going to be before they come back?"
All three of them began grinning.

Rebecka Stepped away from Terry. "We had better catch up with the others."
"I guess so," he said as they began walking out. In the distance they could see the others grouped around the stairwell. "We need a reason."
"We do?"
"Why we took…. Just a second." He walked over to the timber trapdoor and began to lift it. "Better see what a sump looks like in case dad asks."
The light was dim but through the gap they could see the swirling black water. But it wasn't completely black. There was something there, a shape, vaguely human but grotesquely so, and with two massive green eyes staring straight up at them.
Terry slammed the trapdoor shut as Rebecka screamed.

The scream burst out of the tunnel and swept down the platform enveloping Mark and the others like a shockwave. They stood frozen to the spot in alarm as the young couple ran from the tunnel towards them.
"Dad it's…. I saw one. I saw another one. Up there…" He pointed to the dark opening. "They're here too."
Mark looked at Leeross and then at the youth. "Terry are you sure?"
Rebecka was crying in fear in Kelly's arms, but Terry stared at Mark almost calmly. "I know what I saw. I'm not mistaken."
"We need to get away from here." Mark said urgently.
The young woman was still in shock, even though Kelly was trying to calm her down.
"Rebecka do you have a key for the stairway?"
"My bag."
They remembered she had, had a shoulder bag when they met, but she didn't have it anymore.
Leeross already knew but he asked the words. "Where's your bag?"
"It's, it's..." she pointed back down the tunnel."
Mark swallowed. "I'll go and find it." He said unenthusiastically.
"Mr. Hill?" Leeross said with authority. "This is my patch. I'll go."
Kelly looked at him. "Leeross?"
"If I can't find a missing bag what kind of a copper am I?"
They watched Leeross stride confidently along the platform, Kelly most anxious. His gait has eased as he entered the tunnel and had distinctly slowed as the darkness swallowed him up.
They waited, there was no sound and as the seconds ticked by no returning Leeross. From in the darkness came a low growl.
"Leeross?' murmured Kelly softly
They looked at each other in growing fear: at the padlocked gate and then at the open tunnel leading to the main line.
Suddenly Leeross appeared, running along the track way. "Run…." He called out urgently as behind him appeared a Subterranean.
Kelly gasped in shock as Mark pulled her towards the edge of the platform.
Terry too was on his feet but he ran to a bank of switches and with loud clicks several stage lights flooded the platform in brilliant light. The Subterranean snarled and turned, running back into the darkness.
Leeross's pace eased and he stopped, breathing heavily. "Good God Hill, you fought one of those things?"
"Not by choice, and I don't intend repeating the experience."
"I think in the circumstance we can forget the key." Said Kelly.
"Then it's the main line?" said Leeross unenthusiastically.
Mark moved towards the platform edge. "And if that thing's moving around through the sump we should go right now."
Kelly moved close to Leeross and Terry took Rebecka's hand.
Once away from the station the tunnel was lit only by the pale light from widely spaced emergency lights, but with necessity they moved quickly. Stepping gingerly on each trapdoor once revealed by the Leeross in front.
They all thought it but Kelly was the first to ask the question. "How often do trains pass?"
"I'm not sure." Said Leeross as if he had been accused.
Talk ended for a short while until there was a distant rumble. Seconds later a railcar thundered by. Mark tried to remember what tubes he had used in the past. "Piccadilly line, is that the one that runs out to Heathrow?"
"Feel a sudden need to catch a plane Mark?" Answered Kelly. "I think I may join you."
"I was just thinking it's a busy line."
"They all are." Added Leeross.
Mark stubbed his toe for the twentieth time. "So which way when we get to the end?"
"There are two stations close by Holborn and Covent Garden."
"Which is closest?"
"Holborn. I think?"
"How far is that?"
"I don't know Kelly?" There was a trace of irritation in his voice. They were all scared and he tried to sound less annoyed. "Remembering distances is not something I pass the time of day thinking about, but probably less than a kilometer."
"Four kilometers and hour is a brisk walk." Kelly said aloud. "Half a kilometer in seven and a half minutes. If the trains are ten apart we should be okay."
Mark felt he had to point out the obvious. "Problem is that rail-tracks are not a concrete footpath. There are rail, supports to step around and a very hot electric rail to avoid."
"We can do it." Said Leeross determinedly. "We wait at the end of the tunnel until one passes and then get moving fast."
Talk faded until they reached the tunnel intersection. To their left and right the track ran into the distance, but there was lighting. Not as much as they would have liked but enough to see the third rail and where they were standing."
"I don't like this." Muttered Mark as the seconds ticked by.
"No." Agreed Leeross. "But we need the maximum time and we won't have it unless we follow the next train."
It seemed ages but then there was a faint rumble that grew until around a corner they saw the headlight. Unnervingly it hurled straight towards them until accompanied by a shockwave of air sweeping past, the train turned a little and thundered by on the main line track. The noise was deafening then they felt the air sucked away from them as the train hurtled into the darkness.
The train had passed, but none of them felt eager to enter the tunnel where it had appeared.
"We're loosing time." Snapped Leeross as he stepped out into the min tunnel. "Come on or do you want to wait for the next one?"
Reluctantly they followed, the group moving as fast as they could. This time there was no chatter; all that occupied their minds was getting to the station.
It was just over six minutes later that they turned a corner and up ahead saw a circle of light. "We're almost there." Gasped Kelly.
The station gave them a new urgency as the circle of light grew. They were a little over a hundred metres away when the light dimmed. Something was obscuring it.
Leeross came to a halt the others bunching up behind him. "Get back." He said anxiously. "Turn around we've got to go back."
"Go back?" Rebecka's voice had returned as she said what they all thought. "…But the station is just there?"
The sound of a low growl came down the tunnel.
"And so is the creature." Replied Leeross.
For a moment they stood torn between going forward and not wanting to go back.
"Damn it." Snapped Leeross. We can't go forward, and we haven't time to stand here. Back. Go back."
As if to emphasize his words they felt the slightest of breezes move past them
"It's a train?" Said Kelly softly.
Now they turned and as near as they could, ran back. Behind they could hear the squeal of brakes as the train came to a stop at the station.
They had thought they were moving quickly before but now it was a panicked dash. They had no idea how far they had come nor any idea how far back they had to go when the wind began to flow by them a little stronger. "It's moving again." Said Mark as if they needed reminding.
"There up ahead. Its not far?" called out Terry, gripping Rebecka's hand he dragged the girl forward.
They could feel the rumble through the tracks as the train was gathering speed, and could hear it as they saw where the rails split. It was maybe fifty meters ahead as they felt the wind increase.
Mark could see Terry and Rebecka were at the tunnel mouth, moments later Leeross and Kelly. The wind behind was so strong now that it was pushing Mark forward. It felt as if the train was upon him when he leapt forward, throwing himself to the side of the track where it widened into the tunnel. He felt his clothing flap violently as the suction tried to pull him under the wheels, but he clung onto the points as the train thundered by.
"Mark… are you alright?" Leeross was trying to peel his fingers from the rail. "Come on man, we've got to go."
The words penetrated Marks fear. "My leg. I think I…." He said letting Leeross help him up.
Mark was barely on his feet when they heard the growl again.
They all turned back down the track to see the Subterranean. It was beating its chest as if challenging them.
Leeross spoke softly. "Terry?"
"I see it." the youth answered.
"Terry. Take the girls. Get the bag. Get out."
"I can't leave dad…" but Kelly grasped both his and Rebecca's hands.
"We'll get help Terry…Run… we'll get help."
Mark was leaning against the tunnel side. "I can't run. You go. I'll try and hold it off while you get them away."
Leeross was helping him to the tunnel entrance. "Now what kind of a copper would I be, never mind friend if I went now?"
Mark smiled. "A smart one."
"Don't think I ever mentioned but I read one of your books. Something you wrote about the worst demons are the ones in our minds. The ones that wake us in the night reminding us of the things we should have done, but didn't. The demons we can never appease. I think this is one of those moments if I leave you now I'll never have the chance to save you again."
Mark laughed. "You're a bloody fool Leeross, but that makes two of us."
The Subterranean seemed in no rush. It had its prey at its mercy. There was no need to make a rash lunge. It glanced at each of them as still facing it the backed towards the tunnel
"Any last minute advice?"
Mark grunted in amusement. "Don't go in any tunnels."
"You know we stand no chance?"
"None at all, but at least we'll give Terry and the girls a chance to get …"
A female scream thundered along the tunnel.
They turned back towards the sound then at each other in dread, and as one turned and ran best they could.

Mark could see Leeross come to a standstill. He couldn't understand why until he came to the platform. Facing them were two more Subterraneans; but these were different. Not only bigger and bulkier, they wore faceplates and carried what only could be weapons. As Mark hobbled to a halt beside Leeross he saw the creatures lift their weapons towards them.
A commanding voice called out. "Duck?" but they were too bewildered to understand the instruction. Suddenly a man stepped beside one of the creature. "I said DUCK, damn you?"
It was more by natural reaction; but they fell sprawling on their faces.

Mark looked back over his shoulder expecting the one following to pounce, but instead its lolloping run was coming to an abrupt halt. In front of them one of the bulkier Subterranean's was barking. The one behind was roaring.
Then the weapons discharged with a brilliant thin laser light that hit the subterranean full in the chest. The roar became a gargled scream and it fell just short of Marks feet.
One of the new Subterraneans was leaping over the men. It landed besides the injured Subterranean and dug its claw's into its neck.
A man was stepping towards them; behind him were Kelly, Rebecka and Terry. He casually knelt down in front. Leeross recognized him as Alistair Grey. He looked at mark. "You're injured, did it attack you?"
"I cracked my knee on the rail."
"Then firstly I must advise you that you are restricted from mentioning or describing in any way, anything you have just seen under numerous provisions of the official secrets act."
Mark looked at him in confusion "I haven't signed the secrets act?"
"Then maybe you would like Krack here…." He gestured to the Subterranean besides him. "…To explain the consequences?"
Mark was sure the noise the creature was making was laughter.

They were sat on the platform bewildered. Several plain-clothes men were cleaning all traces from where the Subterranean had died. Others were with several more of the bigger Subterraneans. At least four had gone down into the sump. Alistair seemed satisfied with what was happening and came over to them. "How's the leg?"
"A bit sore, but okay." answered Mark.
"And you ladies feeling a bit more settled now?"
Rebecka was quick to reply. "I don't think I'll ever be settled again."
"Yes." He nodded. "It will take time but time if the great healer. " He looked at Leeross. "It seems you forgot all we talked about in our last conversation?"
Leeross smiled.
He looked around their faces. "So events have taken us past me convincing you that aliens are fantasy? Pity. What I am about to tell of the Krall is covered by the official secrets act, but I will reveal is that they are from a star several light years away. Earths astronomers consider the system uninteresting and have not even bothered to name it, so it remains, as do the vast majority of others as a catalogue number: if only they knew. The Krall arrived above South America pre Columbus and were assisted to some part by the indigenous peoples. You will have seen all the Aztec art purportedly depicting gods. It took a long time to discredit the theory that they were aliens, which in fact was what they were.
Earth was not their intended destination. An uprising had occurred on their home planet. When it was allover the defeated leaders were executed the rest set to slavery. To avoid further problems the Krall took hostages to ship off to a distant planet and maroon them there. Only the Krall knew where they were and they would execute them if any other uprising occurred. This was facilitated by the use of pods." He looked at mark and Terry. "A couple of you have seen one of them. It was an immense undertaking but remarkably well solved in that the Kratt were put to work building the means for their own exile. Each Pod's carried around a hundred Kratt in their hibernated state. In hibernation they literally can be stored on shelves so a pod containing many is quite a small, and there were several hundred in each mastership, and there were over forty of these. When the mastership arrived at its destination pods were sent down and the Kratt were allowed to set up colonies. To ensure none could return pods were disabled once landed. Earth was not a primary destination. It was in the minds of the Krall too good for the Kratt, but the Kratt had plans of their own. To them Earth fitted the bill for climatic and environmental requirements very nicely. It had a large proportion of water; they are by nature aquatic, but spend much time out of it. The idea was broached to set ten pods on the planets. Widely spaced so there would be minimal interaction between colonies or the existing inhabitants. This is where things did not go to plan, as it wasn't realized that the Kratt had help from some Krall.
They have three sexes, male and female, what we would think of as asexual who are usually the warriors, and who can develop either way depending on circumstances. There are a number of versions of what happened but the gist is that the soon to be marooned persuaded one of the guards the help. Most versions have it that one of the guards formed a relationship with one of the prisoner's and was induced to help. The rebel Kratt took over the ship but not before the pilots disabled it. In the expectation that assistance was on the way from the other ships the prisoners didn't intend waiting and launched the entire compliment of life pods. With a thousand colonies secreting themselves on the planet guards were ordered to come down and search them out. In the years since they have found many, but many still remain in hiding. You destroyed one and now we know we are close to another."
Mark pointed to the Krall by the trapdoor. "That's where they're going?"
"For a long time we have suspected is a sizable colony in London and creatures in the underground, but suspicion and proof are different things. The Kratt are intelligent beings who know how to hide and it is only occasionally that they are spotted, and then it's for such a fleeting time that we can establish nothing but more suspicion. When it was brought to our attention that Inspector Leeross had a photograph, and had contacted you Mr. Hill. This presented itself as an opportunity. I doubt you are aware but by your doing Mr. Hill an entire colony was wiped out, something with all our recourses we only occasionally achieve. It is something that has not endeared you to the Kratt. You have the equivalent of a price on your head though in this case it's prestige. From your first contact it was prudent to keep tabs on you, ready for when they came to take you."
"Take me?" gasped Mark. "You're making out as if I was some kind of the target?"
"You were, are, and have been since your encounter in the cave. It makes more sense if I first explain a little of the Kratt colonization process. Each pod carries around a hundred dehydrated Krall. The have a unique metabolism that allows for variable conditions, and has allowed them to exist from the Himalayas to the deserts of Australia as a Yowie, or the forests of the U.S. as Bigfoot. When conditions will not support a full colony some remain in a form of hibernation where all body fluids are expelled. In desiccated form the Kratt are to all intents mummies. Kept cool and dry they can remain inanimate for extended periods. An ideal for crossing vast regions of space: but one will remain awake. This is the Warrior; strong, resourceful and when the pod lands in suitable conditions the Warrior will, as conditions improve awake others. Eventually, in optimum conditions the entire colony is re-hydrated and functions as a new settlement. There is no other human that has fought a Warrior and lived. …. ". Grey indicated the creature to his side. "She is quite impressed and tells me that you stink of Warrior." Grey smiled and looked at Terry. "That aside, if you had not intervened Mr. Hill would not be so famous amoung our visitors as he is, or even with us today."
Mark didn't like the idea of fame in the context Alistair was talking about. "What are you talking about stink?" he looked at the others "Do I smell?"
"In its… defensive arousal emotion, a warrior unsheathes its fighting claws. At the base of the two longest are glands that secrete… It's a complex substance but its effect is both as a pheromone and a stain. Once flesh is broken this substance is passed into the victim's tissue. I say victim as the primary reason is to mark its pray so that others will leave it alone. But occasionally the pray will prevail, in that circumstance the pheromone tells other that this one survived an encounter with a particular Krall, or Kratt. That creature over there knew you fought and won a fight against a warrior. The grapevine would have told the rest. Next time you have to opportunity check yourself out under ultraviolet."
Mark could see both Terry and Rebecka were smiling at him.