The continuing adventures of Joshua Carver and his specialised team as they face new challenges, armed with the knowledge they have acquired from their previous missions.
They thought they had seen it all, an ancient alien device, dimensional portals, lost civilisations and a worldwide cartel of evil.
Now they find themselves in the middle of a far greater conspiracy, one that will change the world as we know it, forever.
On their greatest quest yet, from the depths of a lost Himalayan valley, they uncover information vital to the future of the human race, which they must protect at any cost.
It was still dark outside when the Abbott awoke with a start. Something wasn’t right, he could feel it. Every morning he rose before sun rise so that he could venture outside and become part of the new day as it unveiled itself to the world. He would savour the warmth of the first rays of the sun on his weathered skin. It had been his daily ritual for longer than any monk could remember, but today instead of peace he felt an underlying sense of dread.
The Abbott was old, very old. Other monks had come and gone, yet he remained. His desire to travel outside the confines of the valley had long past and the simple life of meditation and teaching was what he lived for. When he was young he had travelled far and wide, learning all that he could and then educating others. The Abbott had achieved a level of enlightenment that no one else had managed to attain. His travels had led him to this place when, as a younger man, he had followed a goat along a hidden path to a beautiful waterfall which concealed a cave behind it. In the darkness he could make out a soft glow of light. To his amazement, the goat passed right through the strange shimmering light. He took a leap of faith and decided to follow.
What he discovered was a large tranquil green valley nestled amongst the mountains. The valley meandered down to stunning turquoise lakes that were fed by the streams that flowed from the snow-capped peaks. It was in one of these lakes that the Abbott eventually found a black stone pyramid. If one travelled to the centre of the lake and looked directly down into the depths the magnificent structure with its intricate etchings could be seen. His purpose now was to guide others on their life journeys and hope that someday, a worthy one would discover his secret and join him, but over all the years no one else had.
The slight chill in the air was not unusual. The valley was protected on all four sides by the majestic mountain ranges. The snow-capped peaks glowed every morning as the sun began its journey over the lush green vegetation that thrived in this isolated region. The Monastery had been built over the centuries, hewn out of the rock. It was located at the southern end of the valley so that the scholars could meditate overlooking the serenity. What had started as a simple abode against the elements had morphed into an impressive structure with room for over a thousand monks.
Outside its walls a city of artists and farmers had also, over time, taken root and become one with the valley. The northern section of the valley was home to herds of goats and other farm animals that provided the population with fresh milk, cheese and meat. Over the years they found that the lakes never flooded or dried up due to the subterranean rivers that maintained a constant equilibrium and as a result the entire valley flourished in a harmonious balance. Wheat and other crops were abundant and with careful management the natural order of things in the valley had reached a stability that had lasted centuries. This truly was heaven on earth.
The sheer mountain tops ensured that there was only one access point into the valley, the shimmering doorway at the end of the cave that formed a natural tunnel through the mountain. Its entrance was located halfway up the cliff face above the Monastery. A set of great wooden doors had been constructed so that the light of the shimmering was hidden from inside the cave and the outer cave entrance was naturally obscured behind a continuously flowing waterfall on the other side of the southern mountains, known as part of the Himalayas. Over time the path to its existence had been almost entirely eroded away. The Abbott was aware that the valley was somehow protected from discovery but he had yet to fully understand the mechanism involving the black pyramid in the lake.
The legend of the valley was known as Shambhala, the location of which had become lost to the outside world. While new arrivals were welcomed with open arms, their numbers had greatly decreased over the years. Sometimes the younger monks who studied here were encouraged to leave for periods of time to experience the outside world and upon their return share their newly acquired knowledge. One such monk was a personal favourite of the Abbott, Tsering. He had arrived in the valley as an eight year old boy with his parents who were fleeing the turmoil of Chinese forces on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau. They had hidden behind the waterfall and had accidentally discovered the tunnel entrance to the valley. His parents were so relieved to find a sanctuary that they approached an elderly monk at the Monastery gates and offered up their only son in exchange for a chance to live as goat farmers in the fields below them.
The monk examined the boy and informed his parents that if their son joined their order he might never see them again. The boy's mother began to cry and her wailing was heard by the Abbott as he walked the wall several floors above. By the time the Abbott made his way down to the noise the monk was trying to drag the boy away from his distraught mother.
“Please stop,” he raised his hand and gently tapped the monk on the shoulder.
“Abbott, I am sorry to have disturbed you.”
“I am not disturbed, merely curious as to why this child is leaving his mother?”
The monk quickly explained the circumstances and the Abbott turned to the mother and boy, “My child, do you understand the reason for your mother’s despair?”
The young boy nodded yes.
“Do you wish to follow this path? It is one that will offer you education and opportunities, although it may lead you away from your mother and father.”
The young boy stepped away from his mother’s grasp, looked at her and his father, and then directly at the Abbott and said nothing for a full minute.
The older monk stepped forward to grab the boy but the Abbott raised his hand and gently said, “Wait.”
The young boy gazed past the Abbott to the Monastery beyond, “I have followed my parents on their path and they have chosen to stop. If I must continue on a different path so that they can stay, then I will gladly do so with the knowledge that one day, if I so choose, I can always turn around and follow another path that will lead me back to them.”
The Abbott smiled, “That is a wise answer. What is your name child?”
“Tsering, and I am not a child,” he defiantly replied.
“Come, my son, I would like to show you your new home.”
Tsering kissed both his parents goodbye before returning to the Abbott’s side. He turned once more to see his parents with tears in their eyes. His mother went to reach out one last time but her husband touched her arm and she stopped. They knew that Tsering had made his own decision.
This had all occurred thirty years ago. Tsering had become the old Abbott’s personal aide during his initial years in the Monastery and had proven himself to be both intelligent and honourable, qualities that the Abbott had seen in him on that first day. The young man excelled in his studies and with the Abbott’s personal guidance had attained levels of understanding far beyond many of the older monks. He had travelled the world and spent the last five years in a Shaolin Monastery deep in central China from which he had just returned only a few weeks ago.
The door to the Abbott’s bed chamber was always open and although it was still pitch black outside his window, the Abbott could see his trusted aide enter his room.
“Abbott, I fear that what we have been expecting may have come to pass,” Tsering reached over to light the candle next to the simple wooden bed.
“Yes, my son, I also have a disturbed feeling.”
Tsering gently helped the old man to his feet after carefully placing his sandals on for him. “Should I ring the bell and wake the students?”
“No, not yet. Let us journey to the wall and see for ourselves if what we fear has indeed occurred.”
Tsering steadied the Abbott as they silently left his room and walked towards the balcony that ran the length of the Monastery overlooking the dark valley below. The first rays of light reflected off the very tip of Mount Meru. Above them, halfway up the cliff face, where the light of the shimmering could be seen, came a distant echo that brought the pair to an abrupt stop. Gunfire.
Emma stared at her reflection and realised it must have been the thousandth time she had done so. The tiny scar above her right eye that she got when Trevor Snelling, the boy next door, had thrown a cricket ball at her when she was eight, was there. Her nose was still slightly crooked, or at least she thought so and her ears were too small for the earrings that she liked to wear. She reached up and traced her finger over her eyebrows and watched as she followed the contours of her face down to her lips and around her mouth. It was almost a sensual motion. Her olive green eyes were devoid of emotion as she finished what had become a daily habit. She leaned in closer to the mirror so her breath could condense on the surface, providing comforting physical proof that she was alive. Every morning she had done this. At least every morning since ‘the incident’ had occurred.
She sat back in her chair and held her hands up before turning them over so she could see all the creases, lines and small scars that came from years of working and thirty-four years of living. Emma recalled how she got some of the scars but others were lost in time, unimportant moments that came and went in the blink of an eye. She stopped trying to remember them all a long time ago. Her mind wandered for a few more minutes before she quietly sighed and stood so she could see the rest of her body in the mirror. Again, as she had done countless times before, she observed every inch of her reflection. Satisfied that she was exactly the same as yesterday, and the day before and the day before that, she walked over to her bedside drawers and proceeded to get dressed.
The bedroom was modern and immaculately styled. It certainly wasn’t to her taste, but then it was not really her home. At the present time, she had no home, other than this serviced apartment. The bedroom and living space were best described as clinical, which was understandable given that it was directly above a state of the art medical centre in a secure high rise building overlooking the East River in New York. It had been leased from the estate of a reclusive billionaire who, amongst other things, had been a long time paranoid germaphobe. She had been kept here, undergoing frequent medical testing, almost like a prisoner, even if it was in a luxurious cell.
Everyday she wore a new set of scrubs, nothing had been worn twice. At night staff would come and remove all the items of clothing she had worn for analysis and eventual destruction. It felt as though every discarded skin cell and drop of perspiration was accounted for. Although some of the tests had been invasive, she had whole heartedly agreed to the arrangement given the circumstances of ‘the incident’. It had been tough, both physically and emotionally, but Emma had endured it all knowing that one day it would be over. Today, after six months of being observed, probed, analysed and tested, she was to be released.
The outfit she chose was a Sass and Bide original that she had purchased online specifically to celebrate today. She was determined that there was no way that it was going to be sacrificed like her other clothes had been. The silk fabric felt amazing next to her skin and the black spotted pattern reminded her of how much she missed Australia. Emma did a little twirl and smiled as the fabric moved and flowed with the same sense of freedom that she herself was now beginning to feel. Satisfied with the look, Emma brushed her natural auburn hair and let it fall over her shoulders. She used to dye it black and cut it short, but now it was long and shone with a healthy natural appeal.
The living room next to the bedroom was similarly decorated with the finest modern furniture, all glass, stainless steel and white leather. It was easy to wipe clean by the team who regularly removed all trace of her presence for analysis. This had been one-half of her entire world for the last few months. The other half had been the laboratory and testing facility directly below her in this secure building.
Emma walked over to the glass coffee table and glanced down at the files that were stacked on it. From the kitchen area, the smell of fresh coffee was intoxicating. Jacinta, the nurse who had every morning taken a blood sample, was waiting not with a blood collection kit, but a steaming coffee and a plate of Emma’s favourite Vegemite on toast.
“Good morning Sugar,” she called out as Emma walked into view, “Oh my, that dress is gorgeous.”
“Thanks, Jacinta. It’s an Aussie designer original and I just love the feeling of freedom in it.”
“Well that’s certainly appropriate for today isn't it?” Jacinta handed her a cup.
“Hmmm this is good,” Emma took another sip and put the cup down on the bench. “So what's the plan this morning?”
“Well Sugar, after you eat we will do one final walk to the elevator, but this time we go all the way down and beyond.”
Emma smiled “All the way sounds so ominous, but exciting as well.”
Emma glanced around the room and felt the excitement building as she realised that today it was goodbye.
“I’m just going to check on our transport downstairs and I will be right back,” Jacinta swiped her card and entered the elevator which also doubled as a decontamination room for the apartment. As the door closed the ultra violet lighting and the atmosphere scrubbers activated ensuring that nothing from the apartment, other than herself, left that level.
Emma sat with her coffee and took a bite of her toast. The files were neatly stacked, so she fanned them out over the table. Taking another bite she opened the top folder and looked at the photographs inside. The coloured images left nothing to the imagination. Photograph after photograph depicted burning wreckage, charred and twisted pieces of metal, blobs of blackened material with faint streaks of redness barely visible. Emma sifted through them and stopped at the one of a half burnt boot. She had seen all these images before. The half boot was the largest piece of an identifiable body part that was recovered from the crash site. The severed foot inside had not been completely burnt by the explosion and was a critical piece in determining the identity of its owner. DNA testing had proven beyond any shadow of a doubt that Dr Emma Bowen had died at exactly 21:23 hours on the seventh of August in outback Western Australia, just over a year ago.
Emma finished her coffee and took another bite of her toast before closing the folder. The headings on the folders indicated that they were Top Secret and were stamped ‘U.N.I.T. C.E.O.’ which meant United Nations Investigation Taskforce, Chairmans Eyes Only. The Incident Status was Closed and the folder’s contents were the only originals, no other copies existed. Emma smiled again, the third time today she thought to herself, as she re read the statement.
Opening the next folder, it too contained photographs, but of a far more pleasant nature for her. The first image was that of a thirty-eight year old bald Italian man, Marcello Spiteti. His comprehensive profile listed him as a former soldier and Interpol agent before joining the UNIT. He was a man with exceptional weapons skills and strong family ties to the Catholic Church, the Vatican in particular where a member of his family had been part of the inner circle for generations. A short stocky man of few words, a little gruff at times, but with a heart of gold. She had felt an almost brotherly affection between them. It was Marcello who had killed those responsible for bringing down the helicopter that had claimed her life.
Next was the file on African American Leroy Priestly. Emma couldn't help but grin as she remembered his movie star smile with the whitest, most perfect teeth she had only seen on television game show hosts. He was a tall, athletic, brilliant ex CIA operative who had degrees in physics and engineering and had been a weapons inspector for the United Nations before joining the UNIT. A born joker and self-proclaimed gift to women, she had gotten on famously with Leroy. She found his sense of humour hilarious.
The file underneath was a little smaller compared to the others but only because, like herself, he was new to the UNIT family. Jim Smithman was a young Australian Aboriginal tracker and successful mining engineer who spoke several languages. He was the one she had spent most of her time with due to her passionate pursuit of Indigenous knowledge. The two had formed a strong kinship that she highly valued.
Finally, there was Joshua Carver. The forty-three year old tall and ridiculously handsome Australian, a former Federal Police Officer who had invited her to join his team. Emma’s pulse quickened slightly as she gazed at his photograph. She remembered their initial meeting in a Darwin Hospital where she had been examining the belongings of a then unidentified Aboriginal male who was dying of radiation poisoning. From that moment her life had changed in ways she could have never imagined.
Emma closed her eyes and revisited every moment in her mind. She had only known them all for a few days but it was the most exhilarating few days of her entire life. But then she had been killed, followed sometime later by ‘the incident’.
Jean-Luc Renouf paced back and forth behind his desk, his hands clasped together behind his back. As Chairman of the UNIT, he had a responsibility to report to the United Nations Security Council any and all developments pertaining to ongoing investigations that were sanctioned by the Council. He had followed orders all his life and understood the importance of the chain of command and the ramifications of not maintaining protocols. Years of distinguished service in the French Foreign Legion, running his own successful business and a brief period in politics had given him unique insights into the ways the world operated. He clearly understood that no matter what you did in life there were always consequences for your actions.
The four men seated in front of his desk said nothing as he continued to pace. They were all impatiently waiting for their special guest to arrive. In a few minutes, she would walk through the door and for the first time in many months they would all be together in the one place. Jean-Luc was nervous. They were the only people in the world, probably the first in the entire history of the world, to know a secret that could change everything. It had been his decision, and the others had agreed, that no one else should be told.
After the incident, he had moved quickly to ensure that the truth would be hidden. A private facility was found and he had paid for it using his own personal substantial funds. The four men had returned to their respective duties but had maintained low key communications between each other while the incident was investigated. Each had contributed in their own way to the investigation. Everything was done off the books so that no one else in the UNIT was aware and they were all careful to ensure that there was no paper trail or data links that anyone could find.
The intercom on the desk buzzed. “Mr Chairman, your guest is here.”
“Enter,” Jean-Luc replied.
“Damn, that is so Trekkie.” Leroy Priestly muttered to himself. Jean-Luc Renouf bore an uncanny resemblance to the actor Patrick Stewart who had portrayed Captain Picard on Star Trek Next Generation, many years ago. The door opened and all five men stood as Emma walked in.
Leroy was the first to move, rushing forward to give her a hug. “Damn, you are looking good,” he gushed.
Marcello Spiteti grabbed Leroy and pulled him aside before leaning in and kissing her on the cheeks. “Welcome home,” he whispered.
Jim Smithman smiled and raised his hand in a wave, “Hey there”.
Then Joshua Carver stepped up. He just stood there grinning. Emma made the first move toward him and they both embraced tightly.
“It’s good to see you too,” Emma eventually let him go and turned to the others. “It’s good to see all of you,” she wiped a tear from her eye.
Jean-Luc grasped her hand, “It’s an honour to have you here with us again.” He led her to a chair, “Please sit, we have so much to talk about.”
They all gathered on the leather chairs arranged in a circle near the gold engraved shield mounted on the wall. Emma looked at them all and just couldn't stop smiling, she had been waiting for this moment for so long. “You guys all look great,” was all she could say.
Jean-Luc raised his hand, “Before we begin, I have a bottle of Champagne that I have been saving for a special occasion and it doesn't get any more special than this.” He stood and walked to the cabinet against the far wall and opened it to reveal a well-stocked bar and mini fridge.
“Now that's my kind of office furniture,” Leroy laughed.
“I've missed that laugh.” Emma reached over and put her hand on Leroy’s knee.
Jean-Luc returned with a bottle of Moët and Chandon Dom Perignon White Gold. “Like I said, I have been saving this, just don't ask how I acquired it.” He said as he expertly removed the cork and filled six glasses.
When they each had a glass, “A toast to old friends.”
They raised their glasses. “To old friends,” they said in unison.
Then Josh kept his glass high, “And to Emma, reborn.”
Jean-Luc looked at Emma, “I have so many questions, as I am sure you have as well, but before we begin can I get you anything, anything at all?”
“Well, please don't laugh but I am really hanging out for some fried chicken and pizza.”
“I am sure that can be arranged,” He smiled and walked over to his intercom on his desk and relayed the food order to his secretary Jane.
He sat back down and looked around the group, “Who wants to ask the first question?”
Immediately Leroy raised his hand, “Emma, what's the last thing you remember before, you know, …. it happened?”
“Umm, I remember quite clearly everything up to the bright light and the voices in our heads when we were standing next to the pyramid. After that, it's a bit of a dream until I was standing in this office just over there next to that really cool looking piece of gold wall art.” She pointed to the engraved shield on the wall beside them.
Leroy interjected, “So you have no recollection of being shot, carried through the desert by a lost Aboriginal tribe, loaded onto a top secret helicopter and then blown out of the sky by terrorist assassins?”
“No, none at all.”
“It's hard to explain, but I will try, I seem to have a basic comprehension what happened to me. It’s as if someone sat down with me and told me everything and I remember it.”
Jean-Luc leaned forward, “Go on.”
“From what I can understand, when we were contacted by the aliens through the black stone fragments of the pyramid, we were all scanned on a sub atomic level and a blueprint of our bodies was uploaded into the alien consciousness. When I reappeared it was, or I am, an exact duplicate of who I was at the moment they scanned me, right down to my slightly high cholesterol, the blister on my foot and every memory I had up to and including that moment.”
“Yes,” Jean-Luc agreed, “All of your test results from the last six months indicate just that. You are one hundred percent human, no abnormalities at all.”
“But you died,” Marcello was blank faced, but his voice had an audible tremor.
“I know,” Emma leaned over and touched Marcello’s hand. “Apparently there is an element of existence that we don't completely comprehend yet, Marcello. You may know it as the soul, but the aliens have no word for it, and the best way I can describe it is, as a spark. Every living thing has it inside, it causes the individuality of the host body. The aliens are an evolution of that spark where they now no longer need a physical form and can exist in a realm outside our current concepts of three and four-dimensional space.”
“But you still died,” Marcello repeated.
“And they knew where I died so that they could take my spark, my soul, and place it back into the rebuilt body, and here I am, the real me, rebooted so to speak.”
Jim’s eyes were wide in amazement, “So they can make anybody whoever died, live again?”
“No, they can't. I exist only because they had the blueprint of my body plus the exact location of my death. Without the blueprint, they could make a body, but it would only be an approximate replica and without the spark, it just wouldn't really be me.”
Marcello wiped a tear from his eye before anyone could notice, “So your soul did not go to heaven?”
“I don't think it had time to get there.” Emma smiled at the Italian, “I still believe in the possibility of God. The aliens exist in the universe just as we do, rather than being the creators of it.” Marcello looked relieved.
Jim looked at Marcello and understood how a religious person could have their very faith shattered by these revelations and was impressed by the way Emma was handling the situation. “But how do you know all of this?” he asked.
“As I said, it’s like someone sat me down and explained it all in simple terms for me, I just know it. I guess it's a few extra memories installed by the aliens as their way of informing me of a few things.”
Leroy scratched his chin, “So you don't have super powers?”
“Haha, I wish, but as far as I know, no. I am just plain Emma Bowen. I can't turn water into wine, or talk to spirits or cure the common cold. Like I said I understand a few more things but I can't build a human clone machine or a device to create alternate dimensions like our alien friends can.”
“Damn, that's a shame.” Leroy shook his head.
Marcello leaned over and jokingly hit him behind his head, “Stupido.”
Just then the intercom buzzed, and Jean-Luc answered it, “Our lunch is here.”
Opening the door, Jane, entered carrying two buckets of chicken and three pizza boxes.
Emma jumped up. “Oh, real food at last,” she exclaimed as she quickly tore open the lid to the fried chicken and deeply inhaled the unmistakable aroma of the eleven herbs and spices.
“Six months of controlled food is enough for anybody to endure,” she grabbed a leg, took a bite, “Hmmm, it’s almost better than sex”. Then realising what she had just said she blushed.
Josh put his arm around her, “Based on that recommendation I had better try some of that.” He grabbed a chicken leg for himself.
Everybody ate some food, even Jean-Luc put aside his love of fine cuisine to indulge in a piece of hot fried chicken.
Emma wiped her mouth. “You have no idea how good this tastes,” she exclaimed as she consumed a slice of salami and cheese pizza.
Leroy watched in amazement as it vanished as well, “Whoa girl, maybe you gained super powers after all, super eating powers.”
“Maybe,” Emma laughed. “So, I have read all the reports up to and including my death. It’s odd but I don't feel weird about saying that, my death.”
“That’s a relief,” Josh smiled at her. “We were concerned about the psychological effects that sort of revelation would have on you.”
“Yes indeed.” Jean-Luc wiped his mouth and put his chicken bones on the napkin and pushed it away on the coffee table next to his chair, “Again, I want to reassure you that all your test results are normal, and as you know the testing was extremely extensive.”
Jim was reaching for a slice, “I still don't completely understand how you were ‘reborn’?”
“Yeah, I kinda only understand that process in a very simplified way,” Emma replied.
She looked at Leroy, “Think Star Trek transporter, and you have the gist of how it works.”
“Oh. That makes perfect sense,” he replied.
Jim looked at Leroy, “Huh?”
Leroy leaned forward and excitedly explained. “The human body is a complex biological machine, composed of billions of individual cells and all those cells are made of compounds which are combinations of molecules and they, in turn, are formed from simple atomic structures. If the aliens can manipulate atoms, it would be feasible for them to build anything providing they had the detailed plans. Our understanding is that matter can be neither created nor destroyed, so it exists all around us in some form or another. So the aliens took your scanned blueprint, started at the beginning by gathering the atomic structures required to make the molecules and built you up to specifications.”
“Exactly,” Emma winked at Leroy before turning to Jim. “We have experimented with the construction concept on a biological level, cloning, only because we don't have the technology yet to manipulate matter smaller than the cellular level. It's like a child building with Lego blocks, they can move the blocks around and put them together, but they can't actually make the blocks themselves.”
“I think I get what you are saying now,” Jim rubbed his chin.
Josh now took his turn, “Are you able to contact the aliens?”
“I don't know, I mean I haven't really tried, and I don't have any memory of any instructions on how to do so.”
“Do you have any memory of these black stone amulets?” He raised his arm and Marcello, Jim and Leroy did so as well, showing Emma the identical bracelets that they all wore.
“No, only the black stone of the pyramid. Wow, that's pretty BFF of you guys.”
“BFF?” Jean-Luc remarked.
“That’s teen speak for best friends forever,” Emma giggled.
“Oh, I see.” Jean-Luc regained his composure, “I suppose that now brings us to the next item of discussion, how we explain your existence to the world.”
“I was wondering about that myself,” Emma replied.
Jean-Luc continued, “Obviously your death and that of the others onboard that tragic helicopter has been rigorously investigated and documented by many different government bodies and overwhelming evidence exists that you indeed perished that night. To have you miraculously reappear now would mean announcing to the world the existence of extraterrestrial beings and the knowledge and power that they possess would lead to catastrophic reactions around the world.”
“So your saying Emma Bowen remains dead?” Emma asked.
“Yes, I am afraid so, however, we do have an alternative for you, Leroy if you would explain.” Jean-Luc gestured towards Leroy who was still busily eating pizza.
“Umm sorry,” he wiped his mouth and smiled broadly at Emma. “During my time at the Central Intelligence Agency, I came across this nifty little program that was developed to manufacture identities for covert agents. What made it so unique was its ability to infiltrate online databases around the world and insert images and information effectively building completely new and authentic profiles.”
Emma looked puzzled as Leroy continued.
“The software generates a timeline of information that anyone doing a background check can find to confirm that you are who you say you are, even if it's all a lie. I took the liberty to call you Emma Reborn, with an entirely new, but completely traceable history.” He reached down beside his chair and produced a black attaché case that he placed on the table and opened. Inside were some magazines and books. Leroy reached for an old Australian Women's Weekly magazine dated September 1991 and thumbed through the pages until he found an article about junior girls lifesavers at Cottesloe Beach and pointed to a photograph of a young Emma Reborn proudly holding a surf award.
“Gosh, that's me,” Emma grabbed the magazine, “But I never did surf lifesaving in Perth.”
“Well Emma Reborn did, and if you search the online copies of this magazine you will find photographic evidence that she did.” Leroy smiled “And you have your very own copy that you kept as a treasured memento.”
“This is amazing, what else is in here?”
“Oh, just a few more magazines from your life and some high school photos and graduation pictures and that sort of thing. All of which are accessible on the internet and Emma Reborn can be traced back to her birth certificate, which I have also included a rather worn copy of.”
“I don't know what to say.”
Leroy pushed the case to Emma, “I have kept your new life as close to what your real one was as I could so you don't have to worry about details, just learn to sign a different surname.”
“Thank you,” Emma wiped a tear from her eye. “Seriously, thank you all.”
Jim leaned in and rummaged through the photo’s until he found one that he held up for her to see, “Here's the two of us at Uluru during our last vacation together, studying the history of Aboriginal language.”
“Look at me, I’m a sunburnt wreck,” She laughed.
“Well, I did warn you about your choice of hat that day,” Jim smiled. “See, it even feels real to say it, even though it's a fake.”
Josh now leaned in across the table and touched her hand, “As Emma Reborn you have a new position at Curtin University teaching Indigenous Studies and a new home just a few streets behind Cottesloe Beach, whenever you’re ready. There is one major drawback and that is that you can't contact your parents or anyone else from your previous life, and it would help if you maybe changed your choice of wardrobe to distance yourself from being obviously recognised.”
“My poor devastated parents, living with the thought that their daughter is dead. I feel terrible for them not knowing, but of course, I understand.” Emma paused for a moment before continuing, “That means that all of you, the people in this room are all I have. Every one of you is now my family, like it or lump it.” Lightening her tone, “I think the new me is ready for a makeover.”
Jean-Luc clapped his hands together, “Excellent. Now that that is sorted, we can move onto other pressing matters, like the possibility of other portals opening.”