Charlotte Kirk stepped onto the shore. The air was fresh and clean, slightly salty from the sea. It appeared to be a warm and verdant island. She had tried to stay awake on the journey, not to drink anything they gave her in case it was drugged, but eventually she’d given in. She knew they’d taken a plane, but the next thing she knew, she was waking in a shuttle across the island.
Beacon, they were calling it. She felt it somewhat ironic that a place so shrouded in secrecy, hidden for over fifty years, could have a name of something that shines out so that everyone can see.
She was the first journalist to be allowed on the island. She had to have her story vetted – but she’d expected that. She found all the attention she’d received since the story broke rather strange. She’d appeared on news bulletins all over the world, been offered all kinds of contracts for articles. It wasn’t as if she did all the work – her brother and the network had done so much – but they wanted to remain shrouded, they had so many more stories to chase, so many more secrets to uncover.
She wasn’t sure what she’d been expecting, but it was probably something more militaristic than this. This place was… beautiful. She was standing on a tropical beach and she could see mountains in the distance. She wished her geography were better so that she might be able to have an educated guess at where it was. But it was definitely an island. Danny had been right about that. She wanted to stay out of the way of those families she’d come with, so that they could enjoy the beauty of their reunion. One woman’s son had been missing since the very early days. She had thought him dead. Charlotte was desperate to tell the world their stories whilst standing back to let them enact such important reunions with the privacy they needed.
Then she saw him. Older, with different hair, but still recognisably the sixteen-year-old whose photos she had long pored over, with the eyes of the father she’d seen cry and the hair of the mother who had spent hours talking to her.
He’d agreed to see her – his parents had arrived the day before and she was looking forward to catching up with them, but first she was to hear Jamie’s story.
He looked at her with a mixture of nervousness, curiosity and gratitude. How could he possibly thank the woman who had changed his life?
And as she saw the face she’d known for so long as fixed in time through old photos flicker into life and offer a smile, Charlotte began to recognise just what she had done.
It was over. It was all Niamh could think about. They could annul their marriages. They could take their leave. They could once more be in control of their own destinies. She was no longer condemned to try and force herself into loving the man she’d been yoked with as more than a friend. She no longer had to be anything she didn’t choose.
It was time. Jacques’ parents were on their way. Irina made him promise to keep in touch. It was hard to even speak, there was so much to say and so much to feel.
‘Well, husband, I guess this is it.’
‘I guess so. You know, I don’t think I’ll ever marry another woman, and I daresay you won’t ever marry another man.’
‘But I’m glad that if I had to have a wife, that it was you.’
‘Likewise. Now go and make some boys crazy.’
‘And you some girls.’
‘Let’s always keep fighting.’
And so the men and women who were brought to Beacon as teenagers, raised in an Academy, trained to become a particular kind of citizen, stood on the cusp of big decisions and big reunions.
Time to reconnect with family.
Time to bring their loved ones into each other’s worlds.
And introduce their families to the next generation.
Some would stay, some would go, some would remain together, others would drift apart. Some knew what their futures held, others remained uncertain.
Others spent the hours before their family reunions getting to grips with their new phones…
…and calling old friends whom they hadn’t seen for many years.
‘Hey Katie. How’s uni?’