They stood in awe, at what they saw. They had been through the training; they had absorbed it all with distinction; they were ‘top of the class’ of ’85, but nothing could have prepared them for what now lay in front of them. This phenomenon was just the beginning of an adventure that would take them beyond known science, beyond the metaphysics of even the greatest minds and most enlightened philosophers of the 22nd Century.
They stood, clad in cold weather mufti, surrounded by the remnants of what would once have been gorgeous purples of a wild and barren moorland, that, not long ago, at this time of year, would have seen far more sunlight and a flourishing biodiversity. The pool was like nothing before seen; as colourless as black could be, yet with an apparent depth that could not be fathomed, either by all the logic of particle and quantum physics that formed the basis of everything in the known universe, or by the imagination of the parallel processors in their right brains. Its almost perfect blackness should have absorbed all light and heat, which it appeared to be doing, but it could be seen from space, by the Theta III space station, as an almost perfectly reflective mirror. It was not water but it appeared to be fluid. Touching it, sampling it was impossible, because the temperature close to its surface dropped exponentially, it was presumed approaching zero degrees Kelvin, -273 deg Celsius. In spite of this, the growth of the affected zone was slow, but its rate of growth was increasing. This was described as likely to be a race against time for the two intrepid investigators.
Nick De Caesnicke, of mixed but predominantly Eastern European descent, had a rather pointed face with, at its centre, a nose of less than perfect proportions, which had been broken in street battles that followed the Eastern Uprising. The fact that this was apparently the only injury he sustained and that he had survived that bloody conflict was testament to his wit, extraordinary resourcefulness and fortitude. He stood at 1.9 metres, which was tall considering the fall in averages during generations of near famine conditions throughout the western world. At 115 Kilogrammes, however, he would be a physical match for anyone, but it was his acuteness of mind and his ability for rapid analysis and decisive execution in nearly impossible situations, that had been the reason for his exemplary record of achievement, to say nothing of his heroism, in the last middle east conflict. His inclusion in the Task Force had always been assured.
Agnesha Potts had never been happy with her name, despite the fact her father, who somehow revelled in his strangely old fashioned name, Reginald Fortesque-Potts, had been knighted for his exploits in the farthest reaches of the rain forests of the lower Amazon, where he had not only discovered but also commercialised several extraordinarily simple and natural remedies for everything from the common cold to some forms of cancer. He had, during his ten years on that continent, also fathered several children, one of whom was Agnesha, but by which mother he could not, or would not say. Her features betrayed little of either her jungle blood or her life’s first seven years of tough jungle living, except perhaps for the deceptive and charming naiveté, which belied an intellect and wit that was a match for anyone who dared to challenge it. Agnesha had been brought out of the jungle at the age of seven and taken back to Europe, where she was educated at the Lady Manners School, followed by honours at Newnham College, Cambridge. She had been swept up rapidly by the Cavendish Institute of Bionics for her brilliance in natural science and electronics, particularly in the implementation of natural remedies by now streaming out of South America. Her work had brought her to prominance in several quarters of the establishment, recognising the significant contributions made by her work on nutrition to the revival of the population.
They were both alumni of the ‘Class of ’85’, but they had both been brought together by the Task Force, not just because of their acknowledged brilliance in their respective skills and specialties, but because they had been defined by psychological profiling as being the perfect pairing. This is total mutual empathy and understanding, but without the need for anything deeper; the perfect platonic relationship.
Theirs was what they both laughingly agreed was a latter-day ‘Mission Impossible’, to discover the cause of the Black Pool. This was what they were now examining; this is what had thrown local weather patterns completely awry. The Black Pool had mysteriously destroyed all living matter, from top to bottom of the food chain, within a radius, which was currently around five miles, but it’s strength and influence was growing, slowly and insidiously outwards, but no measurable radiation, virus or bacteria had been discovered as a cause and, stranger than this, no human being had yet been affected. Analysis of the causes of the pool would be very, very difficult, but this is what they were tasked to do.
Chapter Two, anyone…?
(Read the background to this story)