Night had fallen over the peaceful hills of the English countryside. The lights were dimming in quaint villages as everyone prepared for bed. The birds had nested for the evening and even the wind had quietened to a low murmur.
In the midst of the otherwise silent night, the sound of a powerful engine reverberated through the stillness. The cold glare of a pair of dazzling headlights cut through the surrounding blackness and lit up the narrow country roads as a Delta Fuel Transporter weaved its way through the night.
Inside the driver’s cabin, Phil Williams handled the wheel with expert precision. It had been a long drive, but Phil didn’t mind – he rather enjoyed the scenic moonlit views. The diversion from the motorway had taken him along some of the narrowest roads imaginable and there had been a few tight squeezes along the way, but he had managed alright.
The journey had otherwise proven rather uneventful and Phil was looking forward to getting home. Briefly, he thought about his wife and children, probably tucked up in bed by now – perhaps already dreaming. Well, another couple of hours and he’d be home and they could have a wonderful weekend together as a family.
The headlights illuminated a sign indicating a steep uphill gradient ahead and Phil shifted down into a low gear. The truck’s engine groaned in response as the juggernaut began to climb.
On the far side of the hill, just within earshot of the Delta Transporter’s engine, a solitary figure stood by the side of the road in the cover of some large bushes. He was dressed all in black and the pallor of his face, lit by the moon, gave him the appearance of a phantom.
Captain Black was watching the summit of the hill to his right. He turned and gazed down the road to his left. About half a mile away, at the bottom of the steep hill, lay a small hamlet, nestled just beyond a tight bend in the road.
The sound of the truck’s engine was louder now, and when Black returned his gaze to the top of the hill, he could see the first light of the headlamps beginning to illuminate the trees at the summit. He took his position and waited.
At last Phil could see the top of the hill. He felt the truck’s straining engine begin to ease as the gradient decreased and the road surface became momentarily level. As he started to descend the far side of the hill a movement to the left of the road ahead caught his attention.
It was a man, dressed in dark clothes. He was waving the truck down.
Phil gently brought the truck to a halt. He could feel the strain on the brakes as they held the vehicle on the steep hill.
The man approached the truck, crossed in front of it and climbed up level with the driver’s cabin window. Phil lowered the window and addressed the stranger, whose face seemed to be unusually pale.
“You in some kind of trouble, mister?”
Without a second’s hesitation, Captain Black struck out with a vicious blow to the driver’s head. He crumpled sideways onto the passenger seat. Coldly, Captain Black reached through the window and opened the door.
Ignoring the driver’s unconscious body, he jammed the steering wheel in position and released the brakes.
The heavy vehicle began to move immediately and Captain Black jumped clear as the truck began to pick up speed.
He watched with lifeless eyes as the red glow of the tail lights moved faster and faster towards the hamlet ahead.
By the time the truck reached the bottom of the gradient it was travelling at over 70 miles per hour. Phil’s body was being jostled this way and that by the bumpy road, but the vehicle never veered from its course.
Phil’s eyes flickered open, he hauled himself into a sitting position just in time to see the small cluster of homes looming large in the driver’s window beyond the tight bend.
His last thought was of his wife and children.
The transporter smashed through the stone wall at the edge of the road and hit the side of the first house with the force of a freight train.
The full cargo of volatile fuel went up in less than a second. The explosion was so ferocious that it levelled every house in the hamlet, sending great pieces of masonry careening in all directions. The sky lit up like daylight and, even from his distant vantage point, Captain Black felt the searing heat on his face.
Moments later the fireball dissipated and the last rumbling echoes of the explosion died away.
Then, in the middle of the burning remains of the one peaceful settlement, two green rings of Mysteron light materialised. They moved slowly, methodically, through the carnage.
In moments, the residents of the hamlet had been reconstructed – and reborn into the service of the Mysterons…
TO BE CONTINUED