Chapter 11

Rachel Philips was still unconscious, thick bandages covering her skull. Ed sat beside her, holding her hand, willing her to wake, to smile at him, to forgive him for what he had done to her. His mind was in utter turmoil remembering the events of the past few hours. The scientists' discovery that the small ovoids were inert implants, that they became active when subjected to human touch, and that they then extruded tiny limbs and moved towards the nearest source of life, insinuating themselves into their victims' brains.

That was how Mark Ross had been subverted by the aliens. On reading Mark's diary later, it became clear that the colonel, with his usual passion for all things WWII, had visited a historical site during his furlough, and had acquired several 'items' of interest. Among them at least one ovoid. It would not have taken long for the small device to work its way into his brain, through his eardrum, or possibly past his eyeball. And Mark had, no doubt, got the transmitter at the same time. They had found one similar to it in the grave.

But Straker's thoughts turned to Rachel. He had almost forgotten that she had picked up one of the ovoids, that was, until he had read the report, and realised that she was in deadly peril. Sitting there, holding her hand, he shook with the memory of running into her office, and seeing the obscene silvery thing slithering with an appalling swiftness down her hair, towards her ear. It was nearly in position. He had no other choice, no other option if he was to save her from becoming subjugated by the alien device.

He had aimed his gun at her head, praying that his marksmanship was good enough, that his hand would not betray him, and pulled the trigger. The bullet skimmed her skull, leaving a deep and bloody gouge, but catching the alien monstrosity and utterly destroying it.

She had given one startled look of pain and anguish, one sharp cry of agony, before losing consciousness. And despite all the attempts of the doctors, she was still unconscious. He was beginning to despair.

Alec stepped in, unnoticed, and just stood there in the background, silent. There was nothing to be said. Nothing that anyone could do. Apart from wait.

And pray.

Hours passed in a blur of emotions. Regret, horror, loneliness, despair. Helpless and exhausted, despite all his efforts, his eyes closed and he slept, his head resting on the bed next to her hand.

Someone was playing with his hair. He usually hated that when it happened. It messed it up and made him feel uncomfortable, but for some reason he quite liked the sensation this time. He opened his eyes, realised where he was and eased himself upright, stiffly as his back complained.

Her hand reached out to him and she opened her eyes and smiled.

Rachel Philips grimaced as she felt the bare patch on her head just above her ear. The stitches were neat and precise, and she knew that the resulting scar would be virtually invisible, especially after her hair had regrown, but it looked dreadfully conspicuous as she looked in the bathroom mirror. She pulled her hair forward to try to obscure the whiteness of her bare scalp, and felt an arm circle around her before she was pulled back against him. He held her closely, his arms tight and his hands clasping her firmly to him. She leaned back, relishing the touch of his skin against hers, the warmth of his body, his breath on her neck.

'Will you forgive me?' his voice was soft and hesitant.

She twisted in his embrace so that she was facing him, her lips reaching up to his. She didn't say a word, simply held him, kissed him, forgave him, thanked him.

They brought Rachel Straker home by SHADO Supersonic transport. Home to England, to lie in a quiet country church beside her husband. Both coffins were draped with the Union Flag, Edward's medals resting proudly on top of his. Ed kept a quiet vigil overnight, not from any sense of duty, or propriety, so he said, but ostensibly to ensure that nothing untoward happened.

Alec simply smiled and said nothing

And the following day, in the bright sunlight, Ed Straker, in his Colonel's uniform, waited outside the church for his fiancée to arrive with Alec and the others.

Rachel looked at him. 'Ed,' she asked, bemused, 'is that a new medal? Or have I simply not seen it before?'

He looked sheepishly at her. 'I've had this quite a while. Just thought that I should wear it today in honour of Edward, especially as he has something similar.' His hand flicked over the five pointed gold star on its white red and blue ribbon on his chest. 'I think he earned his more than I did though.'

And then he turned and smiled, as a motorcade approached. Several vehicles with outriders in attendance pulled up alongside the church and four men in high ranking military uniforms got out, nodding a greeting to each other and approached the SHADO Commander.

'Gentlemen, you are most welcome,' Ed Straker greeted the group. Discrete but super-efficient SHADO security ensured that no cameras, no press, no reporters, were in the area to record the presence of the four Defence Chiefs. Britain, USA, Germany and Russia. They shook hands with Straker, and, after a few minutes pleasant conversation, entered the dim coolness of the church to take their places in the pews.

It was a simple, but nonetheless moving, ceremony. Straker had considered asking for a full military funeral for Edward, and after all, the young soldier qualified for that honour, but it would have raised difficult questions. So, this was the compromise. But it had an unexpected advantage. The Chiefs of Staff were among the very few individuals in the world who were fully conversant with SHADO's operations and Straker had arranged a conference at SHADO HQ to discuss the recent events.

Afterwards, after the prayers, the readings and the quiet eulogy, the coffins were carried out to the graveyard. And as Ed Straker threw a handful of earth on top of the coffins lying side by side, he was startled by the sound of overhead planes. He looked up. There, in the 'missing man' formation, four SHADO Sky jet fighters performed a flypast to honour a soldier who had fought aliens long before any of the SHADO team were born.

Rachel touched his arm and he turned to her and smiled, and reached out to gently touch the pearl necklace that she was wearing. The legacy from Edward to his wife, and now passed to Ed Straker's fiancée. Ed had given it to Rachel the evening before, quietly, almost diffidently, simply fastening it around her neck with a brief explanation before they went out for a meal at their favourite restaurant.

Later that evening, when she went to bed by herself, as Ed stood guard in the church, she found, on her pillow a note in his own distinctively elegant hand.' 'You are mine own, and I as rich in having such a jewel as twenty seas, if all their sands were pearl, the water nectar and the rocks pure gold.'

The meeting afterwards, in SHADO HQ was long, involved, contentious. None of the powers wanted to accept that aliens had been active on Earth for longer than they had assumed possible, but the evidence was conclusive. They went away promising to investigate all sealed archives from the war years and to report back to the SHADO Commander.

And later still, in the late evening, after all the fuss had died away, Ed Straker sat in his office drinking coffee with Alec.

'It was a series of coincidences when you think about it Alec. If I hadn't gone to Washington, and then hadn't had to stay behind in the hospital, I would not have been on hand to visit Rachel Straker that night. She would never have mistaken me for Edward and therefore I wouldn't have investigated why her husband had not received his medals. That led to the discovery that the aliens were on Earth as early as the 1940's. Edward's legacy was the information he left us, the alien objects in his archive that have proved so informative.' He smiled wearily, then stood and stretched. 'Well, I'm off home. I want to be in early to go through the reports again and Rachel wants me to put that oil painting up in our apartment tomorrow.'

He smiled slightly at the memory. The portrait had nearly caused their first argument. Rachel had wanted it to be hung in the living room at home, Ed had wanted it in his studio office. But, the disagreement ended abruptly when Ed simply kissed her firmly and decisively, leaving her quite breathless, then pulled her down beside him on the bed, and effectively ended any dispute for quite some time.

He nodded a farewell to his friend and set off.

It was a cool, moonlit night, and he enjoyed the drive home, thinking about his Great Aunt, and her lonely life. But his Rachel was waiting for him.

Epilogue

Deep under the pyramid, buried in the soft sand, under thousands of tons of meticulously carved rock, the small, beautifully marked ovoid lay, waiting as it had waited for thousands of years, for the touch of a human to bring it to life.

Family Tree

Thomas Straker married Alice… in England in 1881

They had four children

1 Thomas b 1883 d 1918 married Mary b 1896 d 1919

One child – Edward, b 1919 d 1942 married Rachel b 1921 d 2010 no children – Rachel moved to Boston in 1946 to be near Edwards on relative; George

2 Sidney b 1897 d 1899

3 James b 1903 d 1904

4 George b 1905 d 1982 moved to USA (Boston) 1930 married…

One child George b 1940 d 2007 married …..

George had one child

Edward born 1969 = Rachel Philips 2010

LtCdr.