Back of City Hall, Adelaide St
You’re gasping for breath by the time you stop at the back of City Hall.
The woman turns to you and offers her hand. “I’m Penny Walter, freelance investigative reporter.”
You shake it. Around you, most people seem unaware of what has just happened. Some are staring at their phones, but that’s nothing new. In the distance you hear screams, sirens and, far off, the beat of helicopter blades.
“I’ve been chasing this story up the coast,” she says. “Melbourne, Sydney, now Brisbane. There’s been sightings in each city.”
“Sightings of what?” you say, not wanting to believe what you just witnessed.
“They look like cockroaches. But they’re hybrids. Cooked up in a lab somewhere, probably. Part roach, part fly, part chameleon, with an extra serving of bad attitude.”
The reporter shrugs. “Not sure if it’s deliberate or if they’ve just spread. You know what cockroaches are like – let them get a foothold and, pfft, game over. Look, I need your help. I dropped my phone and now the damned thing isn’t working .
“We need to catalogue any place these bugs are hiding, or likely to be hiding. I’m not talking about bins or dirty, scummy city corners – these aren’t ordinary cockroaches. They’re a different breed that don’t like dirty. These super-roaches like interesting hidey-holes and alleyways, with textures and patterns that accentuate their ability to cloak themselves like a chameleon
“If you see possible roach hiding places, or see anything that could be a super-bug in camouflage mode, take a photo and upload it to social media using the tags #streetreads14 and #mutantroach. I’ve got a colleague monitoring the feed, collating the data so we can make sure no-one covers this up. I’m expecting the authorities to shut down the phone network any moment, so don’t wait, upload as soon as you take each photo.”
She hands you her backpack. “Hang onto this for me.”
“Where are you going?”
“My contact said she’d meet me in the basement of City Hall. I won’t be long.”
Penny scoots down the alleyway behind City Hall and disappears. You think of running. But you don’t want to leave her bag unattended, that would be rude. You frantically scour the sides of the building, looking for any signs of the roaches. It feels as though storm clouds are gathering, ready to unleash hell on the city.
A few minutes later Penny emerges, brandishing a sheaf of papers. “My source bugged out. Pun intended. But she left these.”
She shows you the papers, covered in words, diagrams, and photos of giant roaches in a laboratory. You flick through the pages. Each page is stamped with a logo: a big black bird on a white background.
“This evidence is mad! A military contractor called Blackwing bred these things in a secret lab in South Australia – at Woomera. A rogue scientist smuggled eggs out of the lab. He wanted to see how they would perform in a real-world environment. He planted them in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. My contact is another scientist – she wanted to stop him, but she was too late.”
From the direction of Reddacliff Place you hear more screams, and gunfire.
“The mission has changed. We still need to catalogue evidence of the super-roaches, but we also need to get these documents out of the city and into the right hands.”
You flip the page. There’s a photo of a strange, amorphous blob attached to a ceiling. Bio-suited scientists gather underneath it. “Whoa,” you say. “I’ve seen one of these.”
Penny leans over your shoulder. “It’s a hatcher. It incubates the roach eggs and spits out nymphs – baby bugs.”
The reporter takes the documents off you and stuffs them into her bag.
A swarm of bugs appears around the side of the buildings on George Street. They hover in the air. Some people run, some stand transfixed. A driver in a BMW rear-ends a council bus.
“We’ll have to leave it. The most important thing right now is collecting evidence and getting these documents out of the city,” she says.
“But it’s practically on our way – it’s under the Turbot Street overpass.”
The reporter shrugs. “I suppose… Give me options.”
You don’t want to run under the swarm of cockroaches so you say, “If you want to get out of the city right now, we should head for Kurilpa Bridge. But if we want to get some photos of the bug-hatcher, we can go to the Turbot Street overpass.”
“It’s your call,” Penny says.
Tank Street: Decide to go for Kurilpa Bridge? Go past the café towards the post office, then along George Street to Tank Street and the bin just before you reach the Santos Building.
Turbot Street Overpass: Try to get photos of the bug-hatcher? Head down Adelaide Street, across King George Square and up Roma Street to the Turbot Street overpass.