CHAPTER 1

At the edge of California's Mojave Desert, the Ridgecrest Police Station was inundated with calls from panicked locals. For a small town at one in the morning, this raised concerns with the officers working the night shift. 

    "Hey Chief, we had another call with the same description, a 'rainbow fireball' shooting across the sky. This can't be a coincidence…"

    By call seven, curiosity had overcome the officers and they stepped outside and looked up at the cloudless sky. To the south-east, much to the officer's amazement, was a faint streak of smoke on the horizon heading straight into the desert. UFO sightings from drunk town members had always been a source of entertainment to local officers, but tonight was different. In the sky above them was proof and they needed to investigate. 

    The officers drove east on the 178 for about fifteen minutes. The cold desert night was lit with a blanket of stars emanating from the Milky Way’s dusty spiral and the bright crescent moon in the distance. The only other source of light for miles around was the headlights from the officer's Ford Interceptor as it streaked through the night, following the direction of the smoke above, like an arrow into the desert.

    As they got closer to the source of the smoke, a faint glow came into focus. "What the hell is going on?" wondered the bemused officers as they cautiously approached through the desert's scrubland, now on foot, hands perched nervously on their sidearms.

    A deep crater had formed in the desert surface with debris scattered precariously around, the impact trail etched into the dry, rocky floor for several metres. Approaching the crater's edge, the officers peered in. Through the smoke, they spotted a small rock which stood out with a charred black crust. It was emitting a mysterious, enigmatic glow, with every colour in the spectrum radiating from it, drawing the officers towards it like moths to a flame. The unusual object, faintly dancing with colour through the settling dust, was sitting in the heart of the crater. 

    The mysterious object glowed with an ever changing rainbow of colour.  It was hypnotic and the officers took their hands off their firearms and lowered themselves down to get a closer look. As they got close enough to see through the haze, a dazzling light show was clearly radiating off the scorched meteorite.

    "What is it, Chief?" asked one of the officers. "Some kind of meteorite, I've never seen anything like this before…"

    The officers leaned in, close enough to feel the meteorite’s warmth on their skin and with eyes transfixed and jaws ajar, one reached out a hand to touch it. A sudden burst of energy emitted from the meteorite which sent the officers flying backwards, throwing them through the air to the crater’s edge ten feet away. The officers lay unconscious against the dirt as the blast of light began to settle and shrink, still radiating with a spectrum of moving colours that seemed to merge and dance like a liquid in the cool night air. The sound of a helicopter overhead broke the silence as the whirring blades rotated with a rhythmic hum as it got closer. 

    "Down there, there's something… glowing. I can see headlights too, someone’s already down there."

    The pilot's words sent a surge of curiosity through Dr. Arthur Kinsey, sitting in the back in a smart tweed jacket and grasping a carbon fibre cane in his hands. The grey-haired man looked through the window to the same glowing impact site below and with a slight adjustment of his jacket and an excited squeeze of his cane, instructed the pilot in a soft English accent to put the helicopter down as close to the crater as possible. 

    Arthur looked behind him at two other passengers. Both younger men in their thirties, one tall with thick-rimmed glasses and the other still in a white lab coat courtesy of the urgent call from Arthur to meet him at the helicopter, interrupting their evening’s work in a nearby laboratory. On their chest pockets hung name badges with the acronym C.R.A.D.L.E emblazoned at the top, below which were their names Lawrie and Ryptik. 

    The young scientists had been working Stateside on a collaborative project with NASA when Arthur visited. Hours earlier, Arthur had taken a tour of the facility with them as they briefed him on their project. Now they were on a helicopter assisting Arthur on a "top-secret" mission. Looking out at the desert below, they both wondered what Arthur needed them for and how they were going to be able to help. 

    "Ready chaps? When we land, follow my lead. Bring the digital scanning equipment to map the impact site and any other gadgets you boys have that could help us understand this situation better."

    As the helicopter touched down onto the desert floor and the rotors began to slow, the dust kicked up by their landing created a fog that billowed out and disappeared into the sparse, flat desert around them. Holding a silk handkerchief to his mouth, Arthur lowered himself down the steps of the helicopter and touched down with both feet and his cane on the dry, rocky ground. Looking back at the two younger scientists, Arthur pulled his handkerchief from his mouth to tell his compatriots "Never go anywhere without one" with a subtle wink. Pulling it back across his mouth, Arthur walked forward through the settling dust towards the crater twenty feet in front of them. 

    On the edge of the crater, Arthur put both hands on his cane for support. His eyes lit up at the scene before him. The meteorite was now clearly visible, still glimmering with a spectrum of colours. Arthur’s heart skipped a beat at the possibilities of what this strange object could be. His focus was only broken when he noticed the two unfortunate police officers laying unconscious on the floor with burn marks on their hands. A screen of pale blue light suddenly projected from a machine set up by the two younger scientists, digitally mapping and scanning the landing site. With the analysis completed in a matter of seconds, Arthur told Lawrie and Ryptik to check on the officers and to avoid touching the meteorite. Arthur pulled out his phone and flipped over the monogrammed case with C.R.A.D.L.E embossed into the black leather. It was now 2am in the cold desert morning and Arthur checked the time in London. 'The time in London is 10am' the phone said. Arthur tried making a call, but the phone wouldn't connect. 'His phone must be off' thought Arthur. Trying a different tactic, Arthur called C.R.A.D.L.E's London headquarters.

    "Yes, good morning, this is Director Kinsey. I need to speak to Isaac Wells immediately…"

 

CHAPTER 2

On the Jubilee line train, travelling through London's underground network, Isaac Wells sat on a row of seats near the end of one of the carriages. His eyes were closed and his head rested to one side against the thin pane of glass that stretched up to the ceiling. Sleep eluded Isaac all too often. His obsessive work ethic, coupled with an overactive imagination, meant that sleepless nights working in his office at C.R.A.D.L.E were too commonplace for his liking. The rhythmic sound of the train and the sway of the carriages as it passed through the dark underground tunnels would often be a place of rest and contemplation for Isaac. Catching his thoughts as he passed through London Bridge station, Isaac recalled the phone call and messages that had woken him.  

    "I've just found your next project in the Mojave. Get back to C.R.A.D.L.E for data scans and brief your team, lad."

    Isaac was used to getting unusual challenges and ideas presented to him by Arthur, but this one was as cryptic as they came. 'Found my next project in the Mojave?!' As Isaac tried to work out what it might be, he was abruptly awoken with a large screech as the train approached Waterloo station. Frustration at being awakened was quickly turned to relief that this was his stop anyway. 

    Sitting upright and rolling his stiff neck from the obscure angle it had rested against the glass, Isaac surveyed his surroundings. A mind trained to look for clues and see the minute details with his work at C.R.A.D.L.E was hard to turn off. Isaac would often compare his inventing and scientific work to that of a detective, always looking for clues and thinking outside the box. 

    The carriage had seen better days, a victim of years of passengers commuting across the city. Graffiti and tags were more apparent than ever, with the trains scratched, inked and sprayed into the doors and windows. London was suffering from years of heightened crime and corruption with the police and government dealing with new kinds of crime and strange phenomena, fuelled by the influx of a new drug several years ago. More worrying to the authorities was the nature of the crimes and who was committing them. 

    Sitting opposite Isaac, an old man, wearing a grey trilby hat, was reading the Metro newspaper. The cover story made Isaac look twice. "One man wrecking ball breaks into Bank of London!” Another bizarre story added to the dozens making the headlines these days. Isaac spotted a folded up copy of the paper on an empty seat near him and reached over to get it. He ripped the sections with the cover story out and folded the article in half and put it in his pocket to read further when he got to his office. 'Another article for the wall of weird' thought Isaac as leaned forward and rubbed the back of his weary head. 

    As he rolled his neck to loosen the stiffness, his eyes were drawn to something besides the newspaper headlines. On the old man's right hand was an unusual gold ring. Inlaid into the ring appeared to be several rubies which drew Isaac's attention. For a split second, Isaac thought it began to glow, but was snapped back into reality as the doors opened at Waterloo station. Standing up, still shaking the cobwebs from his head, he glanced back at the old man's ring again before stepping off the train and onto the platform. Pausing for a moment to put on his khaki green parka jacket and, as the train moved away from behind him, Isaac headed for the escalator. 

    Outside Waterloo station, Isaac rechecked his phone as he set off towards C.R.A.D.L.E's headquarters on London's Southbank, shaking off the idea of a glowing ruby ring and blaming it on drowsy eyes. 'I really need to find a new way to switch off and sleep, I'm starting to hallucinate!' he thought as he walked.

    Shaking the tiredness from his head as he walked past the London Eye, Isaac looked up at the dark rolling clouds above the city as the cold autumnal air stirred the leaves around him. The weather seemed to match the mood of the city as Isaac put his fur-lined hood up and questions began to pour back into his mind.

    Walking past the skate park by the River Thames, a lonesome skater floated past the multicoloured graffiti-covered walls. From the corner of Isaac's eye, a large white chess piece loomed into focus. As Isaac turned his head to look closer, he saw a pale individual with white hair cut into a mohawk crouched under a large stencil of a white chess pawn on a crimson red emulsion background. 

    Isaac put his head down as he continued on his path to C.R.A.D.L.E, a walk he loved to make to get some fresh air before he locked himself away for what sometimes seemed like days at a time in his office. Waiting for him would be his trusted team who would be just as perplexed by Arthur's strange message. As Isaac looked out at the River Thames, the same question revolved around his mind.     

    "What the hell did Arthur find in the Mojave Desert?!"

 

CHAPTER 3

Arthur Kinsey pulled up to C.R.A.D.L.E's riverside headquarters on London's Southbank with last night’s discovery secured safely in a transportation case. After spending last week on America's west coast, meeting with agencies and organisations to discuss future projects, the sight of C.R.A.D.L.E's imposing mirrored glass facade was a welcome sight that brought a smile to his tired face. 

    Less than twelve hours ago, Arthur was having dinner with the head of N.A.S.A. when his phone rang with the news of mysterious rainbow coloured smoked over the Nevada desert. Within minutes of receiving the news, Arthur was airborne in the C.R.A.D.L.E helicopter flying east towards the reported sightings. After securing the meteorite and rendezvousing with C.R.A.D.L.E's hyper-jet, the quick flight back to London with the obscure object left Arthur with little time to sleep. With his thoughts racing and his inquisitive scientific mind on overdrive wondering what secrets this entity could hold, a sense of relief washed over him that C.R.A.D.L.E had got there first and secured it before it fell into anyone else's grasp. 

    Arthur had been born and raised with C.R.A.D.L.E in his life. His father, the late enigmatic scientist Walter Kinsey, was one of the founding members of the organisation after the Second World War. The Prime Minister himself, personally chose and tasked a team of six of Britain's best and brightest minds to safeguard the future and develop new ideas and technologies to keep their country safe and at the forefront of the scientific world. In 1945, the Creative Research And Development Laboratory Enterprise was formed. With Government support and seemingly unlimited funding, the men set to work to design and create a brighter future after the horrors of war. Arthur was born ten years later in C.R.A.D.L.E's first headquarters. He would spend his life surrounded by wondrous inventions, brilliant minds and some of the most significant discoveries of modern times. 

    It wouldn't be until Arthur had risen up to the position of Director that he would meet the greatest mind he would ever come across. A brilliant young fourteen year old would be on a school trip to C.R.A.D.L.E when their paths crossed for the first time when Arthur gave an introduction to the group. 

    "Here at C.R.A.D.L.E, we are developing and inventing the technologies that you now use in your homes and are shaping the way we travel, live and understand our universe.'"

    Arthur had delivered a similar introduction to groups of young scientists and visiting universities for years. Still, that day would be different because of one young man's response during an impromptu question and answer session before the tour began.

    "Why can't we use the universe's power to fuel the way we live?" asked a quiet voice. "There is infinite energy out there, and we're still using fossil fuels, polluting the world."

    This bold, evocative retort left Arthur feeling both shocked and amused. This young man had so eloquently challenged his introduction and put into words what Arthur had spent his life trying to inspire C.R.A.D.L.E to achieve. 

    "And who is the young scientist behind this exciting proclamation may I ask?" inquired Arthur.

    "Isaac Wells, Professor Kinsey…" Speaking even more softly now, "My name is Isaac Wells."

    Getting out of the car with his carbon fibre coated case in one hand and his cane in the other, Arthur looked up at the facility he had been instrumental in creating and smiled. 'Home' he thought to himself.

    C.R.A.D.L.E deserved the space and facilities to be seen as the leader of scientific research and allow its growing team to continue to change the world. Arthur knew that the young boy he had met over a decade ago might be the only person to figure out precisely what he had found the previous night in the Nevada desert. 

    The mirrored glass exterior of C.R.A.D.L.E was broken into large triangular windows, tessellating around the building, reflecting the gloomy skies above London. His entry to the main lobby was momentarily paused by a full-body digital security scan before Arthur could walk further. Taking a moment to pause for the scan and to look around at the place he felt most at home, Arthur received the green light clearance to enter. The wooden oak flooring gave a warmth to the crisp white walls and expanse of glass-walled laboratories and offices running throughout the building. At certain times of the day, if the sun shone through the grey blanket of clouds London was accustomed to, the glass would refract in such a way that dancing pools of spectral light would bounce off the walls. 

    Inside the main lobby was a memorial to the six founding fathers of C.R.A.D.L.E in the form of bronze busts. 'If only you could see us now,' thought Arthur as he glanced over to see his father's metallic likeness looking back at him. Arthur collected his thoughts and headed to the front desk, asking the receptionist if Isaac had arrived yet. Upon confirmation that Isaac was briefing his team in his office, Arthur excitingly walked with his slight limp to the elevator, almost forgetting the cane in his other hand. For a man who hadn't slept in over a day, Arthur was feeling remarkably spritely. 

    Isaac had been a remarkable protégé for Arthur, who took the shy young scientist under his wing from the day he recruited him from university. The ideas and creations produced by Isaac's team were elevating C.R.A.D.L.E to new heights. Arthur took it upon himself to continue to find ways to challenge them and keep Isaac on his toes. 

    "Brilliant minds love a puzzle" is what Arthur would often quip to Isaac when he came to him with new projects and 'I think I might have the greatest puzzle of them all for you this time lad' thought Arthur as he ascended upwards in the glass-walled elevator towards the floor that Isaac's team were waiting.

 

CHAPTER 4

In an office on one of the upper floors at C.R.A.D.L.E, Isaac Wells sat with his team in a collection of black leather bean bags close to the window overlooking the river he had just walked along. This informality was a unique quality that drew people to Isaac and made his colleagues excited to collaborate on projects.

    The room was elegantly modern and teeming with a curious assortment of scientific equipment, technology and a particular style that suggested a man with both a passion for detail, creativity and oddities. One glass cabinet stood out particularly from the rest as it housed an impressive collection of prisms of every shape, size all with a beautifully clear clarity that you could ever hope to see. It was almost shrine-like in appearance and was a lifelong passion of the man from a young age. 

    The walls were a crisp white and acted as a backdrop for the dancing pockets of rainbow light emanating from the collection of prisms and crystal objects adorning the surrounding cabinet. The wall had the look of a daytime aurora borealis and gave the office a soft, magical illusion. A group of framed photos and certificates gave a much more personal feel to the otherwise clinical space and provided an insight into the man who would call this office his own. 

    Graduation photos from his time at Cambridge University with his proud father sat next to an impressive assortment of certificates and degrees. This personal and academic collection of memories was accompanied by a series of posters and artwork. A large image of Pink Floyd's iconic ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ album cover hung near a large painted canvas of one Isaac's heroes, Albert Einstein in his infamous tongue flashing pose, by American artist David Garibaldi. Einstein was every bit the rock star of the scientific community that Isaac was now part of. On a shelf in front of the artwork was a selection of models and awards. A wooden model of Leonardo da Vinci's corkscrew helicopter he had built as a child with his dad sat next to a plastic scale model of the Apollo 11 lunar module ‘Eagle’. 

    A growing section of the wall in the corner had just been added to as Isaac placed the newspaper clipping from his pocket to the assortment of other news articles from the last year. 'One man wrecking ball' was now pinned to the wall that read like episodes of the ‘X-Files’. 'Flying man spotted over the Thames' was next to a curious article about a woman walking down Baker Street with electric sparks shooting from her body like a Tesla coil. Isaac had printed off a photo of a Tesla coil in action and posted it next to the article to compare. Post-it notes with scrawled ideas and theories jockeyed for attention with other stories  of mutations, mysterious lights spotted hovering over London, crimes committed by strange individuals and various other unsolved mysteries. The same word was circled in red marker pen with question marks next to them by Isaac on a number of the articles, 'Met-X.'

    Whiteboards covered with copious equations and blueprints pinned up next to them filled other sections of wall space. The whole office had the feeling of someone with too many ideas trying to get out in a multitude of ways. Isaac liked to have simultaneous different projects and visually enjoyed mind mapping to keep on top of them  all. 

    His best friend Clara would often tease Isaac whenever she found more notes, sketches and press clippings on the walls by suggesting he was a ball of string stretched between everything short of turning into the scientific version of Sherlock Holmes. "Always trying to solve puzzles Isaac, even the ones you invent yourself."

    His parents, Franklin and Marie, met at the same Cambridge University that their son would one day attend. Franklin was the son of Caribbean parents who had emigrated to Britain to help their son get a better education after showing a highly developed curiosity from a young age. Marie was the daughter of a German scientist and Scottish mother and raised in Edinburgh where her father had a teaching position at the university. Her delicate looks, dark flowing hair and soft Scottish accent made her stand out from the other students in Cambridge where she would meet Franklin. As students in their first year reading sciences, Franklin physics and Marie astronomy, they bonded over a passion for the Universe. They would pass this intense curiosity and scientific mindset to their son who would go on to become one of the youngest ever graduates to achieve doctorates in both physics and engineering. The year after graduating, Franklin and Marie were married and pregnant with a son, Isaac. A framed newspaper from the day Isaac was born hung on the wall of photos and awards. 'March 12th, 1987, Mystery Meteors Go Missing Over Moscow’.

    Within two years of welcoming Isaac into the world, a distraught Franklin was saying “Goodbye” to his wife who was dying in the same hospital from breast cancer. She died when Isaac was too young to understand. Franklin vowed to raise his son to make Marie proud and his young boy would grow up to make the world a better place. Franklin found comfort in his son’s future and Isaac became the light he needed to cope with the passing of his beautiful wife. 

    "Life can be incredibly cruel, but in even more ways, life can be incredibly beautiful" Marie would say as she went through treatments and Isaac's young innocence afforded Franklin the hope of focussing on the beauty for both of their sakes. 

    Growing up in a small town in Cambridgeshire with mixed backgrounds, Isaac stood out from his classmates for the colour of his skin as much as for his unique mind. Growing into his body, Isaac became taller than everyone else in his class, but retained his slender build, as if someone had stretched him unnecessarily. As a teenager, Isaac’s growth began to slow, but left him standing at a lofty six foot three and still as scrawny as ever. Isaac’s large mahogany brown eyes sat behind glasses that only added to the nerdy image he would often be picked on for. 

At home, Isaac had a room he would escape to in the attic after stressful days at school. The converted loft had been built by Franklin when Isaac was just a boy and over time, had become somewhat of a makeshift laboratory to escape to when his curiosity and ideas took hold. The small room had just enough room for a desk at one end, a bookshelf full of Isaac’s growing collection of scientific interests and curios. This included a number of triangular prisms, model rockets, microscopes and a beanbag placed strategically under the window where Isaac could gaze out at the stars through his treasured telescope that had once belonged to his mother. 

    Scientific curiosity and building things often felt like the only thing that made sense to Isaac who, despite his developing intellect would always play down his abilities in favour of a quote by his hero Einstein that resonated deeply with the young scientist in his makeshift lab. "I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious." 

    Isaac's curiosity would often turn to confusion and sometimes anger as he grew up. "Why am I different?" and "Why don't I fit in?" would be common questions he asked himself. Franklin would often sit up in the attic with his young son who felt more at home with his microscopes and models than with the other kids in school. "Focus on the light and the darkness around you won't be as scary” advised his father. This would be the same  thought as he held up the prisms to the window, creating pockets of random colour in the attic. 

    "If you can focus on the good in people and the beauty of the universe then you will always find peace”. These comforting words from a father to a son who would take that lesson and turn it into a passion and goal in life. Isaac became fascinated by how light and energy worked and how he could use his mind to see the world in through a different spectrum to others. 

    It was a trip to C.R.A.D.L.E as part of a ‘young and gifted’ programme when Isaac was thirteen that made him feel properly at home for the first time. Stepping inside the newly built facility in London and seeing so many exciting inventions and experiments being created told him feel that he wasn't alone. 

    Inside C.R.A.D.L.E there were hundreds of people who thought differently and wanted to change the world too. After a nervous first encounter with the recently promoted Director Kinsey, Isaac was soon being pulled aside and offered the encouragement and guidance he needed to make working for C.R.A.D.L.E his ambition in life. 

    Isaac didn't like formalities. He was an unassuming man who enjoyed an environment of tranquillity and harmony to work in. Despite his double doctorate degree and a plethora of breakthroughs he seemed to make on a weekly basis now, Dr. Isaac Wells was happiest just being known as Isaac. 

    When he wasn't in one of his labs or leaning over a high tech machine, Isaac would be happiest finding inspiration in one of his beanbags he used to conduct informal chats with colleagues about new ideas and overlook the cityscape of London. Here he had time to mull over ideas and calculations until a spark of inspiration would cause him to leap from his seated position and begin sketching at an insatiable pace until the inky scrawling’s began to resemble something that only he would know how to comprehend building. His approach was Da Vinci-like as he made complex calculations to accompany his new ideas and visualised designs. 

    The wall opposite Isaac's framed collection of memories was a montage of these detailed sketches and notes, all beautifully crafted by an imagination beyond his years. Once drawn out on his beautiful glass desk that would double up as an oversized light box, these ideas would be fed into a sophisticated computer system that would complete the calculations and allow Isaac to programme prototypes for testing. This room was Isaac's new home and a significant upgrade from his humble makeshift lab in his attic. Beyond the walls of his office lay a labyrinth of laboratories, engineering and medical science operations spread over many floors and below-ground levels. 

     Currently sitting with Isaac in the spare beanbags were the two people who worked closest to him at C.R.A.D.L.E. 

Clara Banks sat comfortably in the beanbag, reading notes and biting on a pen. Her shoulder-length brunette hair was up in a ponytail and her lab coat was folded up over Isaac's office chair behind her. Clara had known Isaac most of her life, having met on the same day that Isaac first visited the facility. Her surname was a give away for Isaac who had seen her name badge and approached her asking if she was any relation to Stanley Banks, one of the founding members of C.R.A.D.L.E whose bronze bust sat next to Arthur's father, Walter. 

    "He was my grandfather, my whole family have worked at C.R.A.D.L.E at some point," a proud Clara explained to Isaac all those years ago. 

    After going through university in Cambridge together, Clara and Isaac started working at C.R.A.D.L.E. at the same time, having both been awarded scholarships to study and come straight into the organisation when they were ready. At first, the two best friends worked in different departments, Clara in biomedical-engineering and more medical orientated projects while Isaac worked in theoretical experimentation and the engineering divisions. The chemistry the friends shared would soon lead to collaborations and, as soon as Isaac was offered his own division to work on his own projects, Clara became an even more integral part of his life. 

    Also joining Isaac's new team and think tank was a brilliant young Japanese robotics engineer. Kenzi Nakamura was the perfect blend of genius and eccentric that drew Isaac to him and the pair quickly formed a formidable relationship that would result in a number of new technologies and inventions that garnered huge praise from their peers. As well as being regarded as a prodigious engineer, Kenzi was possibly better known within C.R.A.D.L.E for his vast collection of Converse sneakers which were a daily staple for Kenzi. He seemed to own a pair in every colour imaginable. Bow ties that matched his shoe choices, braces, computer game inspired belt buckles and odd socks were a regular occurrence. 

    Kenzi and Isaac also bonded over a love of martial arts and would often hang out in the gym together. Clara would sometimes join in, but felt happier with a punch bag in the corner, rhythmically punching and kicking in time with the music she had playing through her headphones. "She even has OCD in her workouts," Isaac would say to Kenzi as they watched her working the boxing bag in a metronomic fashion.

    Kenzi was much shorter than the lanky Isaac and barely topped the charts at five foot seven, but his compact stature was more than made up for in physical acrobatic skills. Lunch breaks and outdoor mind mapping sessions between the trio would often be interrupted by Kenzi jumping and swinging through the urban landscape of Southbank as he adapted his martial arts training into parkour. Clara would lean into Isaac and with a bemused tone in her voice and whisper "How can someone that short climb a wall that high?" before letting out a relieved laugh when Kenzi would make it back down safely. 

    Today the team were more than happy sitting comfortably in their beanbags, viewing the rolling dark grey clouds outside the window as evening set in as a good enough reason to stay in the warm confines of Isaac's office. Kenzi, sporting a rather bold red Converse and bow tie combination, looked up from his tablet computer to ask Isaac about another project they had been working on together. "I think I've found a solution to the octopus chromatophore material you wanted to mimic. If we use that fibre optic material we made and send pulses of energy through it from sensors we could achieve the camo…" Kenzi's thought process was halted mid-sentence when the frosted glass door made a hushed hiss sound as it slides open and all three turned excitedly in unison to see Arthur walk in. 

    Isaac hadn't seen Arthur for over a week now and, since the phone call, he was all he could focus on. As Isaac stood up to meet Arthur, his eyes were instantly drawn to the case in Arthur's left hand. Arthur’s aversion to detail is what made the last few hours that much more frustrating. Anticipation and intrigue were consuming Isaac's mind all day and had barely heard a word Clara and Kenzi had spoken all day. They were used to Isaac drifting off into ‘deep thought mode’ and were happily occupying themselves with their own projects. 

    At the same time, Isaac's eyes looked distantly outwards at London, the cogs clearly spinning in his overactive imagination. Isaac's eyes were now firmly back in the room and transfixed with Arthur's case, which was now sitting on the large glass desk as the four of them stood around it in silence. Arthur leaned in and placed his thumb on a small panel on top of the case and, as his print registered positively, a green acceptance light flashed to indicate the lid could be opened. Arthur paused momentarily, looked at Isaac and said "It has been your destiny to solve the mystery in this case for your whole life, it just hadn't landed on Earth yet…" 

    With a wry smile, Arthur opened the case, and everyone took a step back to take in what they were seeing.

 

CHAPTER 5

A large mahogany door creaked closed behind an old man putting his coat on an ornate brass coat stand. A frail hand reached up and took off his  charcoal woven trilby hat and placed it on the hanger. A glint of light bounced off a gold ring, causing the red inlay to glow and hum as the he rubbed his hands together to warm up. 

    In the centre of the room, an oxblood leather wingback chair sat in front of a large bookshelf  which stretched the length of the room along the back wall, housing an array of ancient-looking books, Victorian medical oddities and obscure curiosities that would look more at home in a museum. The chair sat on a crimson patterned rug laid on an oak parquet floor. The room was spacious, with a double-height ceiling, art deco coving and gold light fittings. The wall opposite the door at the far end had tall thin windows allowing light to cast a series of oblong shapes onto the floors and bookshelves. 

    On the back of the chair was a metallic casing housing a large glass tank filled with a luminescent red liquid and an array of metallic instruments and connecting pipes that could hinge around the sides of the chair. Either side of the deep red leather chair sat two small tables. To the right-hand side, a beautifully crafted antique Victorian walnut chess set table whose pieces represented a midway point in a game. To the left, a decorative drinks table with several crystal decanters, each half-filled with a selection of whiskies  and sherry. 

    As the man made himself comfortable, he picked up a remote from the table to his left and pressed a switch. In unison, dozens of television screens flickered into life, filling the entire wall the chair faced. Floor to ceiling monitors began broadcasting feeds from different cameras located in a myriad of places from the rooms in the building below and live streams from across London.  Interspersed between the camera feeds were several news channels, broadcasting live and currently reporting on the death of a corrupt Police chief in connection with a massive cover-up operation and shoot out  at a Met-X drug base in East London. 

    The old man reached across to his chess set and picked up a black rook and moved it forwards, taking a white pawn and placed it delicately to the side of the board. Weak from his morning excursion, the old man circled the white pawn in his frail fingertips as he watched the story unfold on the news and thought to himself 'I tried to warn him, the Grandmaster wouldn't be happy'.

    The mahogany door swung open and stooping down to fit through the door frame, a towering man close to seven foot tall entered the room.  He was wearing a white robe with the hood up, leaving the top half of his face in shadow. As he walked forward towards the old man in the chair with a noticeable limp and heavy step, he pulled his hood down as he began to move the metallic components on the back of the chair round to the sides, so they were aligned to the armrests. With his hood down, the man’s face revealed an ashen skin with burn marks across the left side of his face, with damage to his ear and eye clear to see. From just above his nose, the man wore a metal prosthesis that covered the lower half of his face and neck. This breathing apparatus was a permanent fixture, replacing a lower jaw that was destroyed in a fire when he was a boy. His pale burnt face and permanent mechanical breathing device, moulded in the shape of his lower jaw left him unable to speak, but his eyes spoke a thousand words. With glints of red in his irises, the man's eyes seemed to burn with the same fire that almost claimed his life, a muted glow emanating from them. 

    Without taking his eyes off the screens in front of him, the old man had devices placed over both forearms by the towering mute man who could only produce a shallow synthesised breathing noise. The chair whirred into life A pumping noise rumbled into action on the back of the chair as the dialysis machine began to pump his blood through the red luminous liquid from the tank behind him into his system. This interaction between the two men had become so well synchronised from years of weekly transfusions that formalities weren't needed.  Once the device reached full capacity, the old man picked up a king piece from his chess set and as he rolled it between his fingers, he looked at the tall man and spoke in a deep, hoarse Russian accent.   

    "Spasibo, Bishop, that will be all for now… I need to speak privately with… Him."

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© 2020 THE PRISM TM BY RICH SIMMONS

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