Liam walked slowly around the motionless machine. He jabbed its armour plating, then drew back, as if the prodding might wake it up again.
"It's weird, it's like it can't see us any more",
"Liam, it was going to kill us" said Heather, who had not moved from the wall,
"I know, but then something happened, wait...".
The inside of his pocket was bleeping.
"Do we answer it? I don't suppose it makes any difference now",
"Well, they've already found us," said Heather,
Liam picked up the radio.
"Liam, where are you?" Sam's voice boomed from the other end,
"We're, we're in a field, just outside town",
"Yeah, the Creepers are here",
"What else is in the field?",
"There's some sheep, and a pylon",
"Yes, I thought so. Listen, the Intellect is heading your way, very quickly, I think",
"The entity; it's in the electrical cables, coming your way, very quickly. Aaron's disabled the signal to the Creepers, but we need to stop the entity somehow. It wants to kill us all".
"Okay, we're on it".
Heather stood up.
"What are we on?" she said,
"That was Sam. We need to take out that pylon, come on",
"But what about the Creepers?"
"Should be okay, Aaron stopped them".
The two of them set out sprinting across the field, all the time the Intellect getting closer.
Sam stood for while, paralysed to the spot, her heart still hammering. She replayed the previous scene over and over. It was like she had been compelled by a force inside, like it hadn't been her that was in the room moments before. Or it had been a suppressed part of her that had never surfaced before. But then everything was surreal now. She felt rather light-headed.
"Hi," said a voice beside her,
"Aaron, when did you get there? You just appeared out of nowhere",
"Oh, I just climbed down and came in the window downstairs. I saw that light, that went shooting through the overhead cable",
"Yeah, that was it. It's left the server now, left the building. The others are going to try and stop it",
"So you got it to leave, just like that?"
"I told it about the virus and it believed me, because it's in my personal record. I just didn't say that the pen drive was blank".
"Did you really infect all the computers at your old school?",
"Yes, that was me," said Sam,
"And it corrupted all their files and everything?",
"That's pretty cool".
"Wait," she said.
"What is it?"
Aaron could tell that her voice had changed, as had her whole body language. Sam held herself tightly. Her body visibly straining under the tension.
"It's a message," was all she could say, her speech wavering, like each word required deep concentration to produce.
Aaron dared not interfere with her as she stared at her phone. Gradually some of the tension began to unwind, until finally she turned to him, and he glimpsed tears running down her face.
"Is it her?" he asked, hesitantly.
"Well, is she okay?"
"She will be".
Without warning, she threw her arms around Aaron and held onto him. He hesitated for a moment, and then hugged his new friend.
The door swung open behind them and Mr Peterson appeared once again.
"Hello, erm the last thing I remember I was filling out the register on my computer, and then I woke up out there. Does anyone know what happened?"
"Are you sure about this?" said Heather.
Liam was fiddling with the rear of one of the Creeper weapons.
"We've got to do something. Could you hold this steady?"
"Liam, you're not an explosives expert",
"It worked before, and this one's fully charged; should be enough to do the job. It's just a valve in here somewhere I need to find, that's all it is".
Heather looked back to the illuminations of Peterdale below. There was another light that got her attention now though; brighter, and closer than the others, growing in intensity with each second. It was close enough now that Heather could make out a purple tinge to it.
"Liam," she gasped, "I think it's coming",
"Run," said Liam.
He grabbed Heather's hand, and she instinctively followed him as fast as she could, struggling to get a grip in the soft mud.
They kept on running, neither daring to look back, until an explosion rocked the ground. The next few seconds flashed past. Heather lost her footing and felt herself falling. Then she was looking straight up at the stars, Liam beside her, more crashes and explosions going on as the pylon collapsed, but they seemed oddly distant. Finally, the night sky was filled with the sparkling purple energy of the Intellect, swirling into the darkness above.
"It's over," said Heather,
"Hopefully that's the last we'll see of it," said Liam, "but who knows. Maybe it will come back, or maybe it will be something else next time. Whatever it is we will be ready. We will..."
Before he could say any more, Heather put a finger to his lips. She looked at him intently for moment and then kissed him. Liam was initially disconcerted, but then responded by delicately wrapping his arms around Heather and drawing her up close. After a few seconds she withdrew.
"I, that was..."
"No," Heather whispered, squeezing his hand, "don't say anything".
She kissed him again.
The next day Aaron was fiddling with one of the computers in the bunker, while Sam hovered nearby.
"Hey, how's it going?" she said,
"Oh okay, just trying to get round this encryption",
"Wait, let me try something. We just need a way to bypass the code".
Aaron stood aside and watched.
"Ah, I see what you're doing. I should have thought of that really",
"It just takes a bit of imagination," Sam smiled, patting him on the shoulders.
She headed over to the central table where Liam had just joined Heather.
"Those Creepers certainly left a mess around here," he was saying,
"Well it was never that tidy to begin with," replied Heather,
"True. Any info from that DNA scan?"
Heather opened her mouth but it was Sam who spoke.
"His name was Joseph Crane. Worked as an IT technician for Sparktech Electrics, and was well respected as far as I can tell; came here the day after I arrived, reportedly to troubleshoot a problem with the server. I would guess that no one has seen him since",
"Where did you find that out?" said Liam,
"I had a look around the IT office. He had all his documents and paperwork with him. All that, and no need for DNA tests",
"Yeah. Listen, I've decided I will join you and be a member, but in return I'd really like you, I mean all of you," she nodded to Heather as well, "Fish and Chips, to come to the hospital with me to see Phoebe",
"What? But I've hardly ever even spoken to her Sam," Liam replied,
"But you, I mean we, have a responsibility. She was hurt because of what happened yesterday,"
Liam and Heather looked at each other.
"It's not our fault though," said Heather, "we didn't do it did we?"
"That's exactly the point," said Sam, "You need to show people that. I've seen the way everyone talks about you up there. People are terrified. They like to pretend you don't exist, because all they associate you with is destruction and horrible things happening, and it's because you hide away in a hole in the ground, alienated from the real world out there",
"This is the real world," Liam pointed out,
"Yeah, but you know what I mean",
"I know," said Liam, "it's just it's always be a rule that we involve other people in our work as little as possible, because it is dangerous. You know it is",
"She's already been involved. Look, after everything I did for you yesterday, and everything we went throught together, I'm just asking for this one thing, then I'm happy to be part of Fish and Chips",
"Of course we're really grateful for everything you did yesterday, and you're very welcome to join us, I hope you do. But I can't promise anything; I'm sorry. Whether you choose to stay is up to you".
Note: Thank you to anyone who stayed with this until the end. I think everyone has at least one story burning inside them that for whatever reason they feel the world needs to know about. This is mine. I hope you enjoyed.