Slowly, the earth moved and as it did, Emily flinched slightly. It was only the slightest of movements, but a twitch of her eyebrow and the tiniest of tremblings at one side of the mouth was visible.
She had been waiting for that movement for several hours already, yet even when it came, and despite her having tensed most of the movable parts of her body for much of that time, she still could not help be a little surprised.
Even though it was closer now, she resisted the temptation to run, despite her fear of what might happen. Her tender age and all that she had been through in her moderately short life, had prepared her for this.
She was in full knowledge of how much danger she was in.
They had called only a few days ago. The normality of how it happened struck her as she tried to see the movement ahead.
Two people, looking like they might be a Mom and Pop arriving for their child’s teacher review, had sweetly called at the door of the their classic house in the suburbs.
Summer was in full swing now and since she arrived back home, Emily had taken to answering the door, what with her parents now getting on a little – or so they often joked.
“Good afternoon, Miss Johnson?” She could hardly deny it. “May we come in for a while?” Pleasant. Respectful. And persistent, in a subtle sort of way.
“Who are you,” asked Emily, equally politely. “We don’t just let anyone in.”
“Of course,” said the pleasant man. Providing ID was enough for Emily. The emblem on the badge was one she recognised very easily.
Her parents were away that day – and for several days afterwards, if the truth were to be told. They had gone to be with Emily’s elder sister, Jasmine, to prepare for the birth of her third child.
As they left, with leaving a few chores for Emily whilst they were gone, she reflected that Jasmine was the good girl of the family.
Whilst she herself was the wayward one.
David Lowe and Miranda Stein were the names on the badges with the memorable title, so for the moment at least, Emily would have to go with that.
“Well, what can I do for you,” she asked.
“It’s more what we can do for you, Emily,” replied David, perhaps the more senior of the pair. Or more likely, the junior, with the sucker jobs to do.
“We want for you to able to confirm your loyalty to your country and come back. Come back into the fold to complete unfinished work. Work that you have every right to ask for first refusal on.
“It’s about Minefield, isn’t it?” Emily quickly responded.
Emily stood her ground, despite the proximity of the movement. There would be little value in running, for she knew that they would follow. And they were faster than she was. She knew that already.
But this time, she was not only ready, she was in complete control at last. They did not know this, or they might have behaved differently. That was a mistake for which they would eventually pay dearly, despite Emily’s unshakeable fear.
She could not only see them now. She could hear them too and even though it seemed a little unlikely, she could smell that distinctive aroma too. That newly ground coffee bean like fragrance that for Emily and probably billions of others around the world was so captivating, most of the time.
They were now much nearer.
“They are back,” she said, “Back from the dead and they are even stronger than they were.” Miranda looked at Emily with her piercing eyes and was relentless.
“How can that be?” said Emily in some despair. “We completed our job over a year ago and we checked and double-checked we were done.”
“Sadly, some were missed. There was a hidden enclave deep in the Canadian tundra; in an ice crevice that avoided our drones and anything else we could use to build the picture we needed to ensure their complete eradication.”
David even looked apologetic for the serious omission. But Emily knew she was herself at fault, to some extent. She was on that team. They should have done better.
But now she seemed to be offered the opportunity to repair the errors.
If she wanted to face them again.
They needed to be only a little closer to her now and she would be ready to act. Just a little closer.
She knew they could smell her, for that was why she was there. Deploying the weapon would be critical for the success of her action. For Emily to escape successfully too was another matter. It would be possible, but it would require immaculate timing.
She was possibly only one of three people in the world that their sniffers would identify and attract. Where the others were and why only she had been found, Emily did not know, but here she was, with a job to be done.
Suddenly, over to the right, a man appeared, with a gun in his hand and he was firing. She estimated that she was around half a mile from him and her own quarry was less than 200 yards away.
Instinctively, she ducked from the flying bullets. With a hand held pistol, he would either need to be bloody good – or really lucky – to hit her first off. He was being a deterrent more than a threat at that distance. Yet in the earth around her, she could see where his bullets were landing. One lucky shot and a much more potent disaster would not be avoided.
“We’ll take you to Denver by Lear – we have one ready to go just down the street – and once there, we’ll get you into position by chopper. Because of the sonic weapons they have, we’ll need to dump you fast with your gear and get out of there fast.
“Then it will be up to you.”
There was no hesitation from Emily at all, save for gathering a few things and leaving a note for her folks – gentle and casual, leaving no concerns for them to worry about.
Then she was off.
Further briefings were minimal, as she knew better than most what she was up against. There were only minor tweaks to the background to the problem as the threat had escalated in the last few days. That was all she needed to know.
Although the information she received was useful, there was little to concern her except one thing. There seemed to be something indefinable that they were keeping back, but she wasn’t able to discern exactly what it was, not did she make a fuss.
Although briefing were usually thorough, it was not unheard of for certain elements to be ‘left out in error’.
It had happened before, so she would be even more of the alert.
The moment of truth arrived and as she opened the special container, she almost shied away as she tore the strip off. Just in that moment, yet not quite in time to prevent the spillage, one of the distant gunman’s bullets ricocheted off a small rock and caused a fragment to hit her in the forehead, just above her left eye.
Blood poured from the wound and for a second or two she was blinded, yet already, she could see the toxin beginning to foam as it hit the air, the ground and the threatening beings just beneath the surface.
Now being viciously attacked by the thriving virus, the threat was being eradicated before her very eyes. The rate of shrinkage was incredible and as was predicted, the flow of damage was like a torrent, literally causing a ripple as it spread backwards away from her.
As she had been told in a précis of the top secret research, the likelihood this time of permanent success, would be absolute, so as far as she was concerned it was job done and the team would be in to collect her soon. She had survived the personal threat to her life from the being and dealt a disastrous blow to it, hopefully for ever.
But the gunman was not so easily dealt with and he was now gaining ground. He was being more cautious now with how much ammunition he expended as Emily looked badly injured, even from a distance, so he did not want to overcommit to an already resolved situation.
Emily took to the ground, feigning serious injury, though in fact, she has only received a very superficial wound in one of the areas in the body that bleeds spectacularly, with minimal injury.
She had been given the miniaturised flame-thrower as insurance in case her timing with the being was off, for flame was a last ditch protection against them. Even though it had not been required in that context, she still had it in the ankle-holster when the man approached.
Lying on the ground, with blood pouring from her face caused the gunman to make a fatal error of judgement. A true professional would have made sure. But whether it was from their previous emotional attachment or male bravado or even chauvinism, he failed to finish her off. It was inevitable that the intense flame would do irreparable damage in the dry heat of the desert.
And indeed it did. The gunman died a terrible death in minutes of agony. There was no need for Emily to check any ID, for she knew who he was and why he was there.
There were few beneficiaries for prolonging the fear caused by the being and the ramifications of it resurfacing after this time, but Gregor was one of them.
The start-up he formed when the threat was initially made had rapidly turned him into a billionaire and so when the opportunity resurfaced, he made it his business to prolong the opportunity.
And even though he knew his darling Emily would be called upon to resolve it, he did not let anything get in the way of business, whatever they might have once meant to him.
“Minefield clear,” she radioed in.
The choppers arrived to commence the clean up and ferry Emily back to base. She was treated and commended and thanked by the very highest of authorities in the land, at a specially convened meeting in a large white building in another City.
Then she went home. Back to the mundane life she had started to appreciate.
She thought she might like to take up writing. Fiction maybe, yet she knew that some of the stories she could tell would never be good fiction.
They were simply too unbelievable for that.