A busy shopping street.

A lane in a quiet coastal village.

Nowhere was safe.

350 children. Gone.

What started as a single, observational path just exploded.

250 were taken in the last month alone.

In a bizarre twist, families with one child taken, were hit again. as if losing one wasn’t bad enough. It also brought the age of the youngest child down.

To 6.

*****

The envelopes were plain. The address labels typed onto stickers. The only prints were from the postman and there was no DNA on the stamps.

Everyone watches CSI. Everyone.

Each family received one. As did every major news service.

And most of the minor ones.

They all contained a single DVD.

*****

Center screen was a podium.

No Microphone.

Experts deduced a a camcorder fed to a computer. Though they could have also checked the site to which the video was uploaded. This detailed camera type, computer system, and a great deal of other, less interesting, technical details.

A girl, 14, pig-tails, freckles and a summer dress walked, stage right, to the podium. She coughed, frowned down at the podium, then up, into camera.

I am one of the 500. My name is Sandra Fields. I am fine.”

She looked beyond the camera, nodded slightly, then walked off, stage left.

Next, a boy, 16. Acne, band T-Shirt. “People are talking about our kidnappers; about our captors.”

Then, a girl, all smiles, skipped to the podium. “Hello, Mommy.” Suddenly shy, she looked down. “I…I’m ok. Don’t be sad. I saw you on TV, crying. It’s ok. Don’t be sad.”

Sandra came back on screen and hugged the girl. “Come on, Tray. We have to read, remember? Look, here we are.”

That was the second, most played, clip. The love, friendship and caring of these two girls continues to confound psychologists. Even after everything that followed.

Tracy Coleman, 8, read.

We have no…no cap…captors. No one is holding us. We are free to go.” She swallowed and breathed. “If we want.”

Tracy Coleman beamed the brightest, gap toothed smile into camera and waved, “I love you, Mommy. Bye bye,” then skipped from the podium.

Until Mrs Olivia Coleman got a court order preventing it, that was the most played clip.

Sandra was left at the podium. She looked uncomfortable, wrong footed. She shrugged at the camera, ran her hands through her hair, and followed Tracy Coleman off screen.

Brian came next. His eyes were red. “Mr and Mrs Coleman. You have a wonderful daughter.” He sniffed, cuffed his nose and wiped his eyes. He looked down at, what was apparently, the script.

He coughed. “Why would we need to be taken when you drive us away all on your own?”

A flame haired girl, 18, flirting with her audience. “You have it all. You were meant to hold it for us.”

She was joined by a blue haired goth “But you wanted to keep it. You own all the money, keep all the jobs.”

A pierced, tattooed punk. “For the first time in history, we can expect a future darker than your present.”

They walked off together. A young, black man followed. Neat, in a suit. The picture of a business man.

You left us in debt. Most of you knew of The Collapse, but did nothing about it. We.”

He paused.

We don’t get to inherit the earth. We get to pay for your failings.”

A small child came from the left. The punk came from the right. When they met at the podium, he was lost behind it. She hoisted him up, cradling him against her hip. She whispered the lined to Tommy Franks. Her 6 year old brother.

Vair…vair is no one.” He mumbled. “Jus us.”

He looked to camera and was joined by his sister. “Just us.”

More children joined, from left to right. Repeating the refrain, ensuring it was understood. “Just us. Just us. Just us.”

Then, walking to the front of the group, Margret Pierce. First Child.

You will find us, eventually. You might even try to take us back.” The camera pulled into her face. “But we will never be yours. You took away our future and gave us up. We are simply returning the favour.”

That ended the news organizations discs.

The family videos contained special messages, for their eyes only.

*****

To date, 1200 more children have vanished. Each sends a disc every three months. None have been traced.

Of the children, 250 have been found, and 150 of those were forcibly returned.

Of that 25 stayed.

Some were committed, sent for deprogramming. They were gone within a week of capture.

50 have returned voluntarily.

First Child will be 23 this week.

The following month, Tommy Franks will be 13.

Both are still missing.

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He stared out of the window. It was a beautiful day.

He drew a breath.

       She took a bite of the cake, opened her mouth to say –

             “We should fake our own deaths and run away.”

                     She coughed cake over the table.

“What?”

He looked at her, picking crumbs out of his coffee. “It’d make a fantastic story. You and me in a diner in…New York. On the table next to us is an old couple. Jewish, of course. We’re all tawlkin and they say ‘You look like a great couple. May and I have been together 60 years.’ She’ll nod and say ‘Sixty years,’ and he’ll reach over and cover her hand with his, and smile. Then they’ll look and say ‘So. How did you two meet?’ And we’ll say ‘Well, it all stated when we faked our own deaths. Could you pass the sugar?'”

She laughed. Took a breath. Laughed again.

“We’d travel the world,” he continued. “People would see what we left behind and say ‘That looks just like their work. God, if only they were alive to see it.'”

She stopped laughing, wiped her eyes and took a mouthful of coffee.

“We can’t do it.” She eventually replied. “The pain would kill my mother. We’ll have to wait until she was dead.”

“That could be at least 30 years!”

She smiled. “Surely I’m worth the wait.”

“Oh, undoubtedly you are. I’d just like to be able to enjoy it.” He took a bite of the cake. “This is amazing!”

“I know! I was about to say that when you started with the death and stuff.”

And nothing more was said about it.

***

It was late when her mobile rang. Her hand flopped about for it and she frowned through sleep stuck eyes at the name.

“This had better be good.”

“Secret Identities,” he said. “What about secret identities. We just need excuses to travel. A lot. No death, just fake names at hotels and bars. And disguises.”

“Good night. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”

She hung up and turned over. For 2 minutes her eyes refused to close. She reached for the phone and hit redial.

“When?”

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She exhales in the dark.

“You can touch me if you want.” 

***

The couple were sat in the sun by the window. She eats cake.

“We should fake our own deaths and run away,” he says.

***

“We have 4 minutes to save the world, ladies and gentlemen. Are we in place?”

***

Marcus crouches behind a desk, bullets are flying over head. “Screw this.” He yells to his team “We’re kicking this old school.”

Smoke grenades fire into a corridor. He counts off 3, and makes a break for the door as his team sends a wave of bullets to cover him.

***

Sam stared at his new face in the window.

The memory of the fist detonates, white hot, behind his eyes.

His face hit the ground – not that it had so far to travel as he was already on his knees. His nose crumpled on impact.

A voice spoke from beyond the wall of fog rapidly moving in.

“That”ll do.”

Tipping the table in front of him, Sam leaps to his feet, screaming at himself.

“It won’t do. THIS. WON’T DO”

***

A girl stands at a podium. She’s 10, and all grins.

“Hello, Mummy.” Suddenly shy, she looks down. “I’m OK. Don’t be sad. I saw you on TV crying. Don’t be sad.”

***

The letter sits on the table. It’s wrong, too dark at the edges. Not to much placed as…written into the scene.

Austin looked at it. “Is that it?”

His friend looked at him, “Let’s see – it’s the only letter in the room, and it has one word on it, Zarkophski. What do you think?”

***

The butt of Geraldine’s gun slams into Dan’s head hard enough for him to feel it through his armour.

“What part of that order did you not understand, soldier? You do not do this on my watch.”

Dan was on his feet, his own gun drawn, pointed at his captain.

***

Naomi hefts the broken body of her friend.

“See, this is why there’s no side kicks”

***

A hand reaches out.

The body is emaciated, stretched.

The face warped. Free time has seen better days.

“Help me. Please, someone, help me.”

***

The eyes of a sleeping giant snap open.

***

 

Litranaut Season 2

 

***

 

Marcus slips his key into the ignition, pauses, looks out the window at his friends.

He smiles and turns the key.

***

Starts Now

 

***

The fireball engulfed the car, throwing it into the air. The blast threw his team to the floor and shattered windows. It landed in slow motion, the sounds of the flames and car alarms echoing as the image fades to black.

 

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