by Andrew Foote
Throughout this story real organisations and real people are mentioned by name. Their place in the tale is in the author's imagination. No thoughts, words or deeds attributed to those people or organisations are real, nor have they ever happened. This is a story! It's fiction. The people and organisations, even when they interact with the characters, are presented in an entirely imagined and fictitious manner, and no discourtesy is intended to them by the author nor by the web site.
I was so getting in to everything it was difficult to understand whether training was interfering with studying or the other way round. Liam had been correct in his assumption when he had warned us about the many functions and events we would be expected to attend and these only served to further disrupt our routine but like he'd said, with success comes notoriety and it wasn't possible to have one without the other.
All the medallists were invited to a reception at Downing Street and to my surprise, I actually enjoyed it. The Prime Minister was very well informed and seemed to be aware of who had competed in what event and managed to spend time talking to us individually and at no time was he interested in scoring party political points.
A group photo rounded off the day and the following weekend, one of the Sunday supplements ran a double page spread of it numbering everyone and below the photo, names, disciplines and medals gained were set against the numbers by way of identifying all of us.
This was interesting as we were so caught up in competing that I didn't know who was who as time hadn't allowed for us to follow every event.
Lucas and I competed on and off but because of our status, we didn't do club or regional meetings anymore, just international events and at the risk of sounding smug, we were unstoppable, no one managed to get close to us with some couples actually refusing to go up against us in a belief that it would be a waste of time although that little voice in our heads, you are only as good as your last screw-up, kept our feet firmly on the ground.
Mornings and evenings spent at Christchurch where we had all of us taken those early faltering steps, we treasured. It had become so much a part of us that to miss one of these sessions due to whatever else we had to be involved in was a hardship, we had become like a family in sport.
Our desire to understand how we were so close to each other, thought transference and communication finally bore fruit as we received a letter from Birmingham University.
Lucas read it out loud.
'Following on from your visit to our faculty, I put together a small team to further investigate the phenomenon of your joint mental connection and we believe we've come across something very interesting.
As I explained, our research, whilst we are making extraordinary progress, is still in its infancy and so there are many areas where our understanding is limited and particularly where mental ability and brain function is concerned. DNA gives us indicators however interpreting our findings, making sense of the information is for the most part conjecture.
Given what we already know about both of you, we concentrated on little understood DNA strings which we believe control or govern thought processes and neurological functions, the results were exciting although we cannot be certain what they tell us but in your case, these strings were almost identical and also there was a surprising similarity with strings found from the remains of the two boys now buried at Wormleighton.
I have had the opportunity to talk with your Sports Psychologist Dr Patterson but she tells me that unfortunately if quite understandably, you are unwilling to partake in further tests or experiments. I say unfortunately because to take part in non-intrusive tests such as the wooden block experiment while monitoring your brain activity would be very useful in helping us understand what we're seeing and so if you ever have a change of mind, please contact me.'
"Doesn't say very much does it?"
"Well it sort of does, it's just that they haven't a clue how to figure out the results. It was never our idea not to take part in more tests, well okay maybe it was but what harm would it do to volunteer ourselves Andy?"
"None I guess but we'd have to clear it with our parents first. Come on, let's do it!"
With a bit of gentle persuasion we managed to get our folks on side and so Lucas phoned Professor Adams.
"Thank you Lucas, thanks very much! I'll organise our people and our colleagues at the department of neurology and work out what we would like to do. There's just one other thing? I already know what some of these tests will be and like I said in my letter, they're all non-intrusive and by that I mean we're not going to be slicing bits of you off or anything but under some circumstances, our brains excrete endorphins and hormones and so we'd like your permission to take small blood samples, one before each test and one immediately after. These are just a quick pinprick on the finger but when we analyse the results, compare your brain activity and look at the results of the tests, it will give us a far better understanding of what's going on. Would you be happy with that? They'll be taken from you in sterile conditions and by a fully qualified nurse."
"We don't have a problem with that Professor, we want to know what's happening probably more than you do so help yourself!"
Two weeks on and we again found ourselves in Birmingham. Three tests had been put together, the first being a rerun of the brick thingy, the second had us sitting apart with our backs to each other then after about ten minutes of quiet thought, we were to draw something, anything on a pad of paper which would then be compared. The third and final test involved one of us being shown cards about the size of playing cards but with simple shapes such as a triangle, a circle or a rectangle printed on them. Some had single numbers printed on them amounting to fifteen cards in all. One of us had to study each card as it was shown, the other far enough away as to be unable to see them. We weren't allowed to talk nor were we allowed to use our hands, in fact we had to sit on them! We were however allowed to make eye contact then whoever wasn't looking at the cards had to draw what he believed the shape or the number was then once the exercise had been completed, the cards were shuffled and we swapped places.
All three of these tests were recorded on video and blood samples taken at the beginning and end of each of them, our brain activity was monitored by us wearing skull caps fitted with pickups which relayed information to little recorders similar the ones used when Peter had our hearts monitored but the blood samples got me thinking and I was curious.
"I can see why you want these samples but won't they all show the same thing? Surely the one taken at the end of the first test will show the same thing as the one taken at the start of the second and so on?"
"Actually not Andrew. We will rest you for ten or fifteen minutes, have a cup of coffee, go for a walk or just relax. By the time we begin the next test, whatever substances your brains secrete will have long since dissipated thus leaving a clean new sample. We will of course be comparing like for like just as a cross reference but we don't expect there to be anything to find."
We did the tests completing them just before lunch. Professor Adams wouldn't give any indication regarding the results but promised to do so once all the data had been collated and analysed so giving both them and us a much clearer picture.
We walked to New Street station and got the train back to Gloucester and a late lunch.
We had all but forgotten about that visit, too involved in our studies and sport to dwell on it I suppose but then we got a call from Lauren.
"Hi Andy! I've just had a call from this Professor Adams guy. He told me he had processed the results of those tests and wants to speak to everyone involved with you."
"Why does he want to talk to everyone?"
"I've no idea, he wouldn't say but he sounded excited and he asked if you two, me, both sets of parents together with all of your coaching team could be at the meeting so what we are proposing is this. We organise something at your school. You will have to skip training but Tony thinks that this get-together, it could be held in the same place as where your study group meets as there's video to watch and he can sort out a link to a laptop so everyone can get an idea as to the results, something that might be difficult to do at Christchurch."
"Saturday next. No one at school makes life easier, no prying eyes if you get my drift."
"That isn't a problem for us but why the need for secrecy Lauren?"
"Again I'm not entirely sure Andy but Adams was very instant. Whatever it is he's come across is something he wants or needs to keep under wraps. Now, is it game on?"
"Okay, I don't suppose we have many choices but all this cloak and dagger routine makes me nervous and I could begin to wish we hadn't agreed to anything."
"Yes but you did didn't you so now it's time to carry the punches. If you want my honest opinion, I think you did the right thing otherwise it was always going to be in the back of both your minds, the not knowing or understanding I mean. It's my belief, given that Professor Adams feels the need to involve everyone, what he has managed to discover is very important and something that he can't dismiss as just another small scientific breakthrough. If you ever need me, as always you can call me at any time of the day or night and whilst you're not exactly kids anymore, you still need guidance and I'm here to be that guide should you feel the need."
All the time during that conversation, the phone had been on speaker. Lucas had left me to do the talking but once over, he made his feelings known.
"She's right you know? I'm with you all the way when you said that maybe it would've been better not to go chasing this but we did and so we have no other options open to us other than run with it. Surely it can't be that bad?"
"I dunno. I just have this weird feeling that we're going to find ourselves under the microscope yet again. We've had enough publicity since the games to last us a lifetime and we just need a break from it for a while."
"No arguments there Andy but let's just hang loose until the weekend shall we?"
We were met at school by Mr Fairbairn who unlocked the building to allow us access.
"I've been invited to sit in on this, I hope you don't have any objections?"
"No sir, none whatsoever. You took us up to Birmingham for that first visit so it's only right you should be here."
Just at that moment, Professor Adams, a lady we recognised as one of his assistants together with another man entered the lab. Professor Adams introduced himself to our folks and coaching team before the other lady connected up her laptop and once she was all set, he started to speak but at no time did he introduce the other man who just took a seat at the back of the room. As the door closed, we noticed another guy standing outside in the corridor almost as if he was on guard but never thought anything of it.
"Thank you everyone for cutting your weekend in two but I hope to explain why it's been seen necessary to bring you all together in a way that protects Andy and Lucas' privacy and also allows us to be as open as we can be in regard to our findings.
I think you are probably all aware, we conducted some simple tests together, the boys cooperated fully and I must say, I'm so very pleased they did because what we discovered was something unique and dare I say, something of tremendous importance but before I go into too much detail, I'd like you all to watch these tests and see the results."
He had his assistant run the footage. The brick test showed that of the three structures we built, all were identical. Our pick of colours the same, our hand selection also.
The second test where we had to draw something was pretty much the same. We'd drawn matchstick people, some walking, some running. A picture of a double-decker bus and a figure chasing it then finally hopping on board then a desert scene and a figure sitting by an oasis drinking some water.
Lucas burst into tears and so I grabbed him in an attempt to calm him down. Professor Adams looked very concerned and once Lucas had regained a level of composure, gently questioned him.
"I'm sorry but I must ask you. What did you find so upsetting Lucas?"
"It's just that they represent something I said to Andy what, about four years ago? It was just one of those conversations we had back then and I'd all but forgotten about it up until now. If you had asked me the other week what it was I had sketched, I couldn't have told you, not because I didn't want to but because I wouldn't have been able to remember, it just happened."
"But you Andy? You did an almost identical copy?"
"I must have done but like Lucas, I have no recollection of doing so."
"Interesting but let us move on. That final test, the one with the cards. In both instances, the results were identical with both the boys managing to get all the answers right. Quite astounding and the odds? I dread to calculate them but now to the blood samples and here I need to introduce you to the gentleman sitting behind you, General Sir Jack Palmer."
He stood up and walked to the front then spoke.
"I apologise if this seems somewhat melodramatic but I have my reasons so please bear with me.
I hold the position of deputy head of counter intelligence at MI6. I need to make it clear that nothing discussed in this room this afternoon is up for further conversation save between yourselves. I have to insist that nothing and I mean nothing you hear leaves this room. Do I make myself understood?"
A general nod of heads.
"Thank you. Obviously none of you would be here had we not been perfectly satisfied that you presented no risk to national security but I have to ask all of you to sign these documents that bind you to the Official Secrets Act and once signed, it becomes a criminal offence punishable by imprisonment should you disclose anything that is talked about this afternoon. I'm sorry if I'm coming across as being highhanded but as you come to understand what is happening here, I know you'll see why I had to go down this route."
The documents we passed around and we all signed them and once collected and inspected closely, the General handed the floor back to Professor Adams.
"Yes well I add my apologies to those of Sir Jack but to continue.
As you might be aware, we took small samples of Lucas' and Andy's blood before and after each test. We needed to see if their brains secreted endorphins or chemicals that would give us a lead regarding their closeness and……..we found something quite astounding. We have still to identify precisely what this compound is composed of but we are almost certain that it is the trigger that is responsible for their communication one with the other. Nothing sinister boys, just a natural occurrence if highly unusual to the degree that it's something that in all my years of research, I've never before come across. Now I must hand back to the good General."
This time, instead of standing, the General took a seat.
"We all read newspapers, listen to the news so you will be aware that the world is facing the serious threat from terrorist organisations the like of which we've never come across before. This isn't like conventional warfare where you know your enemy, these are people you might've known for years, lived next door to perhaps but radicalised by the perverse teachings of others and the only way we can overcome this threat is by gaining intelligence, to understand their next move before they have the opportunity to strike.
Yes we have operatives on the ground but getting close to those who call the shots is very difficult not to mention extremely dangerous work. Even if they do come across that one little snippet of information, how can they forward it on? You have to understand, no tribesman here, no ignorant towel-heads these. They're highly sophisticated, committed murderers and they are more than able to use the latest technology to thwart any attempts to infiltrate their organisations. So where do we go from here? You might well ask that question because sure as shit, we are.
Maybe we have come across a breakthrough. Consider this if you will.
Andrew and Lucas have a unique gift of communicating with each other. That's obvious isn't it but up until now science couldn't provide any answers. Professor Adams thinks that he has turned the corner.
How might it be if whatever chemical compound these two lads secrete could be synthesised, maybe even modified to make it more powerful? Introduce it to the food that these people eat then with one of our operatives, being able to hear their thoughts then pass that information on, we get first-hand knowledge of their intentions and there's absolutely nothing they can do about it. They would be totally unable to block such communications even if they did discover what we were up to which I have to say, is highly unlikely."
The room was silent although I could feel the panic that Lucas felt so I held his hand.
My father spoke up.
"I hear your argument but isn't it all somewhat insidious? Invasion of privacy is a pretty serious thing all be it necessary under certain circumstances?"
"Yes okay but we already have the capability to monitor your phone conversations, eavesdrop on your email and internet usage, plant cameras and listening devices in your home, office or vehicle that are so small you'd never find them so I fail to see your argument Mr Pope. We are talking not only about the security and safety of the United Kingdom and its citizens, the entire civilised world would be a safer place. Think back to New York and the Twin Towers attack, the events in Paris last year and what happened in Brussels. What if we knew in advance that these atrocities were being planned? Take another example, that of piracy in the Indian Ocean carried out by the Somali's. This is costing the maritime industry billions of dollars every year not to mention the lives of the crews those ships carry? We have to act and act fast Mr Pope!
Look. I didn't set out my stall very well but it goes beyond your agreement. Samples of Andrew and Lucas' blood have been sent to Portendown for further research so it's out of your hands. We might require further samples but these are small such as would be taken at your GP practice. You can refuse of course but I hope you will not.
I think that about wraps it up. I will give you a phone number you can call if you have further questions or concerns but for now, remember that you are all bound to secrecy under the act so I would urge you to abide by it. Good afternoon to you and boys? Bloody fantastic performance by the way!"
Gregg Carmichael interrupted before the General could leave the room.
"Before you go General, I have a question for you."
"Go ahead Mr Carmichael."
"Let us assume for a moment that this compound could be synthesised and somehow fed to those terrorist leaders. Your idea of there being an operative nearby who was able to gather intelligence and pass it on to security agencies has merit but I see a problem. Given that you now have at least two people who are able to share their thoughts, well that's my point. Communication is a two way street, your operative might be able to eavesdrop on the thoughts of your terrorist but conversely, your terrorist would also be able to eavesdrop on your operatives thoughts and the entire thing could get blown apart."
"We are a long way off, there's going to be plenty of research and trials before such a serum could be even considered for use let alone deployed but I accept your point. As things stand, it wouldn't be feasible but what if this compound could be modified in a way that would, and I use your analogy, made to act as a one way street so blocking one or other men from either transmitting or receiving thoughts? The point of meeting you all this afternoon wasn't my idea. Professor Adams and Dr Patterson insisted that these two boys were made aware of the test results and the likely reasons behind them. To allow this to happen without having in place strict security measures would have meant that the boys would be free to share this information and the possible consequences of this idea being taken up by those organisations that seek to harm us would place the lads in a very risky situation indeed.
From here on in, this subject is not up for discussion. I dare say that you will never hear from me again. The safety and security of you and your families is of paramount importance so the less you know, the better it will be for all concerned. Let me reiterate. This subject is now officially in lock-down. You may not discuss it with anyone who isn't here today, Professor Adams and his colleagues are prohibited from writing a paper on it, all records of the tests have been removed from his facility and are now property of the Crown."
We left the school feeling shell-shocked. This was not what any of us wanted to hear but there was nothing much we could do about it except stick to the rules as laid down and get on with life.
I later had a chat with Lucas.
"I said that I had a bad feeling about today didn't I."
"Yeah but it really isn't so terrible when you think it over? We know now that we're not a pair of oddballs, what we do is due to a natural phenomenon, an unusual one for sure but still natural. Actually I feel better about things, it's sort of cleared the air."
"I suppose so……..yes okay you're right but I still don't know how I feel about it, not the phenomenon as such but just understanding it is difficult to get my head around."
"Then don't try. You need something to take your mind off it, make you feel better."
"Oh yeah?? Got any ideas then?"
"Yes I do as it happens and for openers, it involves us going upstairs and taking a shower."
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