Read the opening of ZERO POINT, a near future science fiction thriller
London, United Kingdom
1st February. 3:14PM
GMT (Greenwich Mean Time)
Square. The crowd was massive. And squeezed.
Fortified rows of riot police wielding batons, tucked behind long
plastic shields, surrounded angry, squashed civilians, heaving and rolling and
want work! We want work!” they chanted, some shoving fists into the air, others
waving banners emblazoned with pound signs crossed with skulls.
crowd was everywhere. Swathes of angry, shouting demonstrators were hemmed in
all over central London and the City. Regents Park. South Kensington. Hyde
Park. Westminster, outside the Houses of Parliament. Canary Wharf. Kings Cross.
It was the biggest mass protest in the UK, ever.
had begun as a series of disparate demonstrations inspired by the Occupy Wall
Street phenomenon - supposedly defeated decades ago - had spontaneously
snowballed from a single occupation of Parliament Square into an unprecedented,
city-wide mass rally.
Then riot police were in amongst the writhing
crowd, shoving with shields and lashing out with batons. People ran and
screamed, some drenched in blood, others throwing bottles and cans at the
officers. Cars were aflame, shop windows cracked.
PART I: THE FIRST CASUALTY
necessary to destroy the town to save it."
An unnamed major
in the US Army on the decision to bomb and shell the town of Ben Tre, Southern
New York Times (8 February
commander who had given us the mission issued an order that everyone wearing a
black distasha [long garment] and a red headscarf was automatically displaying
hostile intent and a hostile action, and was to be shot. An hour or two later
he gave another order, this time that everyone on the streets was considered an
Lemieux, US Marine Corps infantry officer serving three deployments in Iraq
2nd February. 8.32 AM
Road, my police motorcycle raced off the A40 minutes ahead of the Prime
Minister’s car, clearing the traffic so the convoy could travel without the
disruption endured by normal commuters. Two other bikes were hot on my heels. Tensions were high. The previous day,
authorities had used rubber bullets, water cannons and tear gas to disperse the
new-fangled "Occupy" protestors. The operation had been a success -
in the sense it had temporarily cleared the streets. But there were dozens of
casualties, seven young people in critical condition, and two deaths. And the
police were out in force – not just heavily armoured riot units, but even rapid
response fire-arms units were on the streets, setting up check-points around
the city where Occupy protests had originally gathered.
turned left off the main road onto Lisson Grove, accelerating up the street.
The third and last bike slowed, separating from the two speeding on ahead, then
braked to block off the first right-junction leading toward Park Road. Its
rider held out his arms, signalling the traffic to stop from both directions.
soared past him down the road. We’d soon be caught up by a stream of heavily
armed specialist police vehicles, large black Range Rovers, a couple of BMW
7-series, plus more police motorcycles, forming a moving square round the Prime
I drove, my radio crackled in my right ear, “Control to Charlie Echo Team.
Assume your positions to clear Lisson Grove and Abbey Road. Over.”
Delta Alpha out”, I replied, tensing over, sweating inside a florescent police
jacket as my motorbike accelerated, then slowed to a halt at the main junction
where Lisson Grove crossed over St. Johns Wood Road. My bike blocked the
incoming lanes to the right. I held up my arm. The cars coming toward me slowed
to a halt, as another officer parked his bike on the other side of the road,
blocking the traffic from the opposite lanes. Within a minute another police
bike sped past us to head off Abbey Road.
waited, glancing down at my watch. 8.36 AM. Two more minutes before they’d
estimate is over 2 and a half million people." Timothy Bunton leaned
against the leather backseat inside the Jaguar, fingers sliding away at the
tablet on his lap. He was a thin, wiry man, in his late-forties, with half-moon
glasses that kept sliding down to the end of his nose, and greying hair that
was receding. He pushed his glasses an inch back up his nose.
Minister Daniel Carson shook his head and sighed, leaning back as his chief of
staff re-played the footage of yesterday's riots. At forty-two he was younger
than Timothy, with brown wavy hair and sharp, dark eyes. “This was the biggest
protest we've had all year,” said Daniel. “What is it, the tenth one? When is
it going to end?”
don't know but it's making the markets jittery," said Tim.
looked away and gazed out the window, trying to focus on the trees and the
passersby. Although the riots were now the big thing on the political agenda,
there were deeper things at play that required his attention. “So you were
going to tell me about the consultant's latest report. What exactly is he
Timothy grimaced. “Nothing new, except he's
now revised forward his original projections. He thinks we have anything
between a few months to a year before a catastrophic supply short-fall could
destabilise the economy. If he's right it would make this year’s stock market
slump look like a walk in the park.”
sat very still. "A few months? I thought that kick-starting Iraqi oil
production again would alleviate the problem, at least a little. That's what
the Working Group told us. How wrong they were."
Carson didn't blame the public for their anger. Over the last decade - on his
watch - far from recovering, the economy had sunk into the deepest depression
the country had ever known. Unemployment was rocketing at 12 million. Inflation
was at record levels. And the country's national debt had more than quadrupled
to £5 trillion - 200 per cent of a diminishing GDP. Now it looked like all that
was merely a bitter foretaste of worse to
it really be a coincidence that the Working Group keeps getting it wrong, every
time?" continued Daniel. "I've told you this before. They’re
coughed to clear his throat, before speaking carefully. “Possibly. The
consultant warned us the Group's forecasting was too conservative, but as you
know sir, I had no remit to do anything.”
glared. "We should've disbanded the Group. Set up a new one."
chance of that. Roy is besotted with their findings. He would've vetoed any
such move, and as Home Secretary he'd have the clout to make it stick."
enough. But that's why we've got to make this meeting a success. We have to
fast-track our negotiations. Otherwise, this country is going to implode. Look
at what’s happening. We need to buy more time, and Iran can help us do that.
The stick isn’t working. It’s time for carrots.”
nodded. "Well let's just hope the Iranians see sense this time."
will. It's in their interests to accept a deal. Don't forget, they came to us.
They're tired of isolation. This is their ticket into the international
community, if not global leadership. We strike this deal now, we can craft that
outcome, and be well-positioned in the aftermath.”
froze. The tablet slid off his lap, clattering to the floor of the car.
Dan reached over, alarmed. "Are you alright?"
was damn good weather for mid-February. The sky was clear blue, bright with
sunshine, the air sharp and cool, but not uncomfortable – which made a change
as recently the British winters had seemed longer and stormier, the summers
shorter but hotter. It was normal to get a lot of snow this time of year,
though so far we'd been lucky. Passers-by on the pavement had stopped, staring
to see what lay behind the police presence, as they always did. I watched them
watching me, talking amongst themselves, two guys dressed in jeans and anoraks,
a group of three women pushing prams across the road. Long, serene oak trees
along the sidewalk loomed overhead, their leaves swaying in the breeze,
concealing the apartment blocks that lined the road.
took a deep breath and glanced at my watch again. Thirty seconds and counting.
I’d been with Specialist Protection, SO1, for two years now, and it was the
only job in security I could just about stand. Far more comfortable than
roughing it out in the Gulf as I’d done years ago in Army intelligence, it
still made some use of my skills without being too stressful. Most importantly,
it didn't involve killing people. I was done with that. Instead, I was just
keeping my country safe. The pay was crap, of course, but I figured I was
better off than most. Though it was all too easy to get bored. Which was
exactly how I liked it.
glanced at my watch again, frowning beneath my visor. 8:39, plus 47 seconds. A
little late. Not outside the security time buffer, but rare for the transport
to be more than 45 seconds late for a check point - unless something came up. I
glanced around, turned back and gestured at my fellow officer, Sergeant Brian
Turner, on his motorbike on the opposite side. Brian just pointed at his watch
my earpiece crackled.
I said. “Control?”
I looked back at
Brian and pointed at my right-ear. He just patted the side of his head, a
quizzical expression on his face. I inspected my watch again. 8:40, plus 32
seconds. Almost a minute had gone. Where was the Prime Minister’s car?
Delta Alpha to Control, come in, can you hear me?” I kept pressing my earpiece.
The line was dead.
turned back to Brian and waved at him, wondering what had happened to my
earpiece. Something was wrong. If there was a delay, it was protocol for us to
be immediately informed by HQ. Instead the radio had gone down. I flipped up my
channels are down on my radio.”
one arm facing the traffic on his side, flipped up his visor with the other
hand, looked at me, and shouted, “Yours too? What the hell’s going on?”
don’t know”, I shouted back, glancing at my watch again. One minute and thirty.
“Where the hell’s the PM’s car?”
Brian shook his
head. “Something’s wrong, Dave,” he shouted. I reached into my leg pocket,
pulled out my mobile phone to call Control.
I glanced back in surprise, then watched, stunned, as the white sedan at the
traffic lights behind Brian’s bike lurched forward into him. Brian catapulted
into the air as his bike tumbled to its side, skidding across the ground. The
white car swerved round his bike and disappeared down Lisson Grove in a cloud
of dust. Brian landed headfirst on the ground with a crack, his body bending
I kicked my
engine into gear, slammed the phone into my leg-pocket, and grabbed the
handlebars. People were screaming as my bike shot forward, its roaring engine
drowning out their cries. I flipped on my sirens, then flicked my wrist,
careening the bike up the road. I glimpsed the white car, an old Mitsubishi
Lancer, already several hundred yards ahead. Still clutching the handlebar with
my left arm, I reached under for my holster with my right and swung out my
Glock 19 pistol.
swung expertly round two police Range Rovers heading toward us, then hurtled
toward the Prime Minister’s black Jaguar behind them. The Range Rovers braked
and skidded, one smashing into the other, conjoining in a mass of twisted,
wailing metal that plunged onto the right-hand pavement.
The wind stung
my eyes. I knocked down my visor with the butt of the gun, then aimed ahead. I steadied my arm, right-eye lining up my sights,
barely noticing the panicking passers-by scrambling frantically from the scene.
I roared past the wreck of police vehicles on my right, squeezed the trigger,
once, twice, thrice. The back window of the Mitsubishi shattered as I closed
A deafening boom
reverberated out as the car crumpled into the black limousine in front. For a
moment, all I could see was a blinding white light as my ears went blank. Then
a ball of fire exploded upwards and outwards, shards of black, white and blue
ricocheting into the sky as the shockwave drove the air from my chest. I
instinctively swerved the bike to the right and threw myself off as a river of
flame cascaded across the road. The heat engulfed me as I braced myself for the
impact, anchoring my arm round my chest and rolling as I hit the ground.
I rolled about
fifteen to twenty metres before staggering to my feet, waves of smoke and heat
whipsawing around me. I heard yelling and screaming as I tripped over something
and fell through a hedge. I collapsed onto the ground, hitting grass and soil,
rolling around in a frenzy trying to put out the flames, coughing and
spluttering. I struggled to my knees, pulling off my helmet, and looked around.
I was next to a large apartment block standing in a front garden area behind a
broken hedge. I shoved through the hedge back into the road and peered at the
inferno about 50 yards away. Suddenly the ground erupted, blood and soil filled
my mouth, and everything went black.
was a matter of minutes before dozens of police cars, ambulances and fire
engines had congregated around the explosion zone. Police helicopters circled
overhead as St. John’s Wood was cordoned off by groups of armed officers
wielding MP5 submachine guns. Twenty minutes on, and an even larger
circumference - a huge swathe of northwest London - was locked down by police
barricades. Intertwining sinews of static traffic rippled out from around the
area, amidst a mass of terrified, frenzied people running, shouting, crying,
Superintendent Heather Jones watched the chaos unfold on a wall-mounted monitor
from her office in Scotland Yard, as she screamed down the phone, “All
available units to round up the cabinet for transport to PINDAR. Once they’re
safe, all standby armed units to deploy immediately as per emergency protocol
Clean Sweep to every Potential Target Area.”
slammed down the phone, grabbed her body armour from the rack against the wall,
and ran out the room. Whether or not the Prime Minister had survived the
attack, there could be further attacks. Standard procedures meant that the
number one priority for Specialist Operations was the protection of all
slipped on her body armour, her mobile rang. She slapped the phone against her
ear and snapped, “Commander Jones.”
it’s Paul.” Paul Stuart was Deputy Assistant Commissioner of the Anti-Terrorism
on it, Paul”, she said, running down the corridor. “What I want to know right
now, is how the hell did this happen?”
don’t know Heather, obviously we’re trying to figure that out.”
doesn’t make any sense. Who else knew about the Prime Minister’s route today?”
was a pause on the other end. “Well, frankly, I was about to ask you the same
that supposed to mean?”
you’re Specialist Protection. If anyone’s going to have an idea how this
happened, it’s you.”
know as well as I do that we run a tight ship here. The only way this got out
is through someone Prime Minister Carson knew. It could be anyone - his
advisers; hell, it could have been the people he was en route to meet.”
And who were they exactly? Who was he meeting?"
cleared her throat. "The Iranian Ambassador."
Iranians? Bloody hell. Well you make sure you’ve got your house in order,
because someone’s going to take the fall for this - if the shit's gonna stick,
it better not be on our bloody arses.”
Paul. I’ll see you in a few minutes.”
opened my eyes. Shapes blurred and shimmered, before coalescing. I was on the
ground. I squinted against the burning
sunlight. The back of my skull ached. I lifted my head, and winced as a sharp
pain travelled down my neck.
much for my hopes for a life of boredom. What I'd give to have that life back.
groaned as I lifted myself, slowly, gingerly, from the cool grass. I was on the
communal lawn of an apartment block. I rose to my feet and I peered over the
hedge in front of me.
street ahead looked like it had been ploughed up from underneath, a wreckage of
shattered concrete and rubble. In a flash, everything rushed back. Brian, his
body broken, in the air. The white Mitsubishi smashing through the Prime
Minister’s escort convoy. The blast, rippling out, incinerating the Prime
stepped out, feeling slightly dazed, onto the unstable, cracked pavement into a
bustling crowd of onlookers. Some of them covered in blood, wailing, crying, or
just staring into space. The emergency services were obviously overwhelmed,
still finding victims, casualties, in the rubble. The sight re-conjured
familiar images from Iraq and Afghanistan – scattered limbs, heads, torsos.
The war’s coming
I shook my head
vigorously, trying to clear my mind.
Ahead, I could
see the police line around the crash site where Carson’s car had exploded.
There wasn’t much left. Apart from some large twisted shards of white and black
metal scattered around the centre of the blast zone. Smoke and steam rose from
the crumpled mounds of steel and aluminium where firefighters were still
putting out the last remnants of persistent flames.
glanced at my watch. I’d been out for about an hour. I probably hadn’t been
found by the paramedics while I was unconscious because of the sheer number of
This shouldn’t have
I was probably
in shock. Probably concussed.
As I stepped
through the crowd toward the police line, I tried dialling HQ on my phone – the
line was busy. Not completely surprising, but frustrating. I plunged the phone
back in my pocket. A group of police officers beside a row of four police cars,
armed with HK MP5K submachine guns, stood in front of the lines keeping people
pulled out my ID as I walked toward them. One of them stepped toward me as I
I nodded. The guy peered at my ID. “Sergeant David Ariel”, I told him. “With
through Sarge”, he said, letting me pass. I darted under the white and blue
tape toward the smouldering mess that was left from the collision.
forensic team was already on the scene, photographing the area. I walked up to
the woman firing orders to her co-workers, while speaking intermittently into a
small audio recording device, who I assumed must be the lead investigator. Like
her colleagues, she was clothed in a stark white crime scene suit, complete
with goggles, gloves, and a mouth and nose mask which she’d pulled underneath
me, Ma’am”, I said from behind her. She stopped speaking into her mic and
turned to me. I flashed her my badge.
I’m Sergeant David Ariel.”
nodded. I could barely see her brown eyes from behind the reflective glare of
her goggles. “I’m Dr. Meria Stafford, Special Investigator from the
counter-terrorism forensic team. You’re not the SIO here so what can I do you
for?” She spoke sharply. SIO was the senior investigating officer.
“Look I was here
when it all happened. I’m a member of Carson’s escort unit. Do me a favour and
let me know what the hell’s going on here.”
“We’re still trying to find that out Sergeant. Bomb disposal only secured the
area about 20 minutes ago. Now I need to get on with this.” She turned back
toward the wreckage.
“Wait. Have you
identified the bodies yet? Is anyone alive?”
softened and she glanced back at me. “It’s a mess, Sergeant. We haven’t been
able to recover bodies from the wreckage yet. Let alone identify them.”
muttered. It was all I could say. I wasn’t just thinking about the Prime
Minister. What about the rest of our convoy? The blast radius was several dozen
metres – enough to have probably hit most of my colleagues in the escort team
around the PM.
“Any idea about
the explosives? Who could've done this?”
again. “Like I said, I’ve been working the scene for 20 minutes. I know
nothing. Literally. What I can tell you is that whoever did this knew what they
were doing.” She paused and gazed at the scorched crash site in front of us.
Most of the scattered remnants of car that blossomed out from the crater in the
road were charcoal black. What looked like soot or ash was caked all over the
area. “Funny you ask about the explosives. I don’t think they were
“What do you
“Look at the way
the metal has melted and burned. I mean it’s all scorched through, and a lot of
it has disintegrated.”
I thought about
it. “Why’s that weird?”
“Even a tonne of
conventional military-grade explosives won’t do that. There’s either some kind
of added accelerant, or this is a different type of bomb entirely. I’m not
sure. Maybe DU? Obviously DU isn't an explosive, but if added to a conventional
explosive, it might have this sort of effect. But I'm just guessing.”
uranium? I scoured the scene around me in disbelief.
And then I was
on the outskirts of Baghdad. I’d just exited our Challenger-2 battle tank to
investigate an electrical fault with our communications equipment, putting my
engineering degree to good use. “C’mon Davey, for Chrissakes get on with it,”
moaned Jeff in my earpiece. Jeff Donald was the staff sergeant of our unit, but
we’d been on duty together so long we were virtually on first name terms,
though we still addressed Jeff as sir.
said. I was a young infantry soldier and the 2003 Gulf War had already started.
The sun was an unyielding blaze against an empty desert sky as I grappled with
the cable on the side.
I could hear the
drone of an incoming American F-117A stealth fighter as I tried to identify the
cause of the problem. A minute later, the craft swept over us and sliced open
the horizon with a wave of bombs. I ran for cover as I screamed into my radio.
Get out of the tank! Get out of the fucking tank!” They didn’t make it. Three
soldiers were incinerated by a wall of liquid flame, trapped in cages of
twisted metal that boiled them like obscene ovens. I watched, unscathed.
It was hours
before we were found by another patrol. I don’t remember much, except the
carnage that the attack had left behind was nothing but a blackened,
smouldering lump. Months later, we learned that the attack was another case of
mistaken friendly-fire. The stealth-fighter had dropped a load of depleted
uranium shells on us, which had been used to obliterate Saddam’s ground forces
– or what little he’d had of them. The internal inquiry had blamed a faulty
laser targeting system. Perhaps that was true, but as far as I was concerned,
it was besides the point. What the hell were we doing in Iraq in the first
place? Why were we bombing the shit out of the place with depleted uranium?
Stafford’s voice echoed in my head and the vision of Baghdad faded. I was back
in London, but the scene before me hadn’t changed a great deal, and the horror
of having watched my fellow soldiers killed by friendly fire was a permanent
echo reverberating around the inside of my skull.
The war had
definitely come home.
uranium?” I repeated. “Are you serious?”
“Well like I
keep telling you, right now we just don’t know. It’s a guess, possibly a bad one.
We’ll only know for sure after testing samples.”
can you come with me?” a voice came from behind me. It was the constable who’d
let me through the police line.
been asked by the SIO to request you to leave the crime scene. Only authorised
investigators are allowed on scene. Apologies, Sir.”
surprised, but I had hoped to learn a bit more while I was here. “That’s fine
by me, constable.”
“Thanks for your
help”, I told Dr. Stafford, who nodded and hurried back to her colleagues.
officer in charge, if you don’t mind me prying?” I asked as we strolled back to
the police line.
nodded discreetly toward my right at two blokes in dark pinstripe suits at the
far-end of the blast-zone, just inside the police line.
Bloke called Wilson.” SO15 was Scotland Yard’s Counter-Terrorism Command. “He
wants a chat with you, Sir, not right now but in a bit – I told him you were
with Specialist Protection. So I’m going to ask you to hang around a bit if
I could tell the
constable felt awkward passing on the orders – I had senior rank to him.
“Alright mate, I’m good,” I reassured him. “I wanted to talk to him anyway.” I
sat myself down on a relatively stable piece of broken pavement, and waited in
the midst of the carnage, my head still reeling.
I began to worry
about the flashback. I hadn't had any for at least a year. I really shouldn't
be having them now. I blinked, as if each squint of my eyelids would squeeze my
anxieties away. The truth is, I knew what had just happened was a major
I'd assumed this
job was going to be run-of-the-mill. I really didn't need this.
Across the road,
I noticed another dishevelled copper sitting on the ground, leaning against a
half-shattered red brick wall. It was John Croft. I got up and jogged over to him.
I yelled, then coughed, my throat dry.
looked up at me in a daze. His forehead was covered in a bandage going half-way
round his skull. “Dave.” He clambered to his feet and placed a hand on my
shoulder. “How’s it going mate?”
alright, all things considered. You don’t look too good man. What happened?”
sure. After the radios went down I came straight back. Something hit my head in
the explosion. It knocked me out for a bit, but the paramedics sorted me out. I
might have to go the hospital later, get checked out properly, but right now
they’re overwhelmed. Too many victims.”
radio went down, too?” I asked.
he grimaced. “Doesn’t make any flipping sense. What d’you make of it?”
frown deepened, but I shrugged. “It doesn’t add up. Whoever did this took our
radios down to make sure our internal comms were fucked. I’m not sure we
could’ve done anything anyway, but that guaranteed our response would be slow
and confused. My question is, who could do that?”
need to speak to HQ. Talk to the super.” He was referring to Superintendent
Heather Jones, our boss and the head of Metropolitan Police’s Specialist
we call her now?”
paused. “What about Julia? You should call her asap.”
“You’re right – but let’s call Jones first.”
was my girlfriend, a journalist I’d met by accident during my stint in Iraq.
But the priority was getting in touch with HQ.
pulled out my phone and noticed that Julia had texted me.
Then I pulled up
the number for HQ. “I haven’t seen anyone else from our unit Dave”, said John.
“Do you think -”
“We don’t know”,
I interrupted, slapping the phone against my ear as it started ringing. “I
spoke to forensics earlier. They’re still trying to find people. We just don’t
John rubbed the
palms of his hands over his face and sighed. Despite my attempts to avoid the
issue, we both knew most of our unit had probably been killed in the explosion.
It was difficult to believe.
came the super’s voice over the phone.
“Ma’am, this is
Sergeant Ariel. I’m calling you from the scene of Carson’s assassination.”
God you’re alive. What the hell happened?”
Ma’am. Someone just collided with Carson’s car. They broke through our
formation and just went for it.”
everyone else? How’s the team?”
Once again, for
a few moments I was lost for words. “There’s me and Croft here”, I stuttered.
“We can’t find the others. We’ll know more soon I’m sure.”
There was an
unnerving silence for about half a minute.
“Ma’am,” I said.
“The radios went down before it happened.”
They went down before the car came through. I was right there. Brian was in
front of him, then the guy just smashed into him and went past us. About a
minute before that all our radios went down, just like that.”
“Oh my God.
Brian..." For a moment, there was silence.
Still here. Well no, the radios going down - that doesn’t make sense. I’ll look
into it. Maybe it's a technical problem from our end?"
Kind of convenient timing though."
odd." She paused again. "Look, you and Croft, get some rest. I’m
coordinating the escort operation to get the Cabinet underground. I’ll be in
I go. You should know, they’ve cordoned off a whole chunk of St. Johns Wood.
It’s all locked-down. They’re not letting anyone in or out.”
“What, you mean,
not just the crime scene?”
“No, not the
crime scene, I’m talking about the local area, it’s all been locked down. I’ve
been told there are lines of riot police making sure no one leaves. They’re
trying to secure the area and interview as many people as possible before they
let people go.”
“I agree. But
what’s just happened is heavier. Anyway, you guys will obviously be fine
getting in and out, but I just thought you should know. We’ll speak soon.”
9:45 AM GMT / 12.45 PM AST (Arabia
Stephenson wiped the sweat from her brow as she stalked down the corridor of
the American military base, her holdall clutched in her right arm. Her dark,
shoulder-length locks were tied up tight into a bun and concealed beneath a
black baseball hat. A pair of fake designer glasses rested on the bridge of her
nose. She shuffled in her disguise - a grey jumpsuit, standard uniform for
junior staff of the contractor which provided technical services for the base.
up her cover as a junior contractor, the ID pass she'd been sent by her source
had worked so far. Her contact had rigged the system from inside to grant her
the highest level of security clearance on the base. She wasn't surprised about
that, as her source had turned up trumps several times recently. But this
story, she'd been told, was big. Really big. And that was all she'd been told.
The information was too sensitive to be shared in any way. If she wanted it,
she'd have to get it herself. All her informant could do was give her a helping
hand, and she'd have to do the rest herself.
she'd needed to infiltrate the facility had been arranged, piecemeal, by her
contact on base - a senior US military officer. The plan seemed foolproof, but
Julia had no illusions that things could go pear shaped fast if she wasn't
nodded at the group of officers in fatigues strolling down the corridor in the
opposite direction, their voices raised in casual banter. One of them winked at
her, grinning. She smiled back, continuing down the corridor.
took her a couple of minutes to arrive at the temporary intelligence archive
room that had been set-up for the local JSOC unit - Joint Special Operations
Command. She glanced at her watch.
PM. She exhaled, and wiped her brow again. She was on time. She'd been
guaranteed that the room would be empty for an hour - all JSOC officers would
be at a mission brief at a separate part of the facility. She whipped out her
pass again and swiped it through. The reader beeped, and the little square flat
screen beside the door flashed bright green. She leaned forward, allowing it to
read her right eye. It beeped again, and the door hissed, sliding open.
stepped in and glanced around. The door slid shut behind her. It was a small
room, packed with dozens of filing cabinets. There were a couple of computer
terminals on desks in the centre, but apart from that there was little else in
strode toward the far end and scanned the subject-headings on each filing
cabinet drawer. Electronic storage was all well and good, her source had told
her. But it was a legacy of the long defunct Wikileaks movement that for the
most sensitive communications and memoranda, any form of electronic transfer
was viewed with extreme suspicion, and files were transported in secret by
Allied Command Transformation. She tried to ignore the pounding sensation in
her chest as she pulled open the drawer and began flicking through the internal
dividers, searching for the right header.
Kingdom - okay, nearly there. She kept flicking. UK: Threat Assessments. Okay,
okay. Ah hah. She found the section dated this month, and snatched the file out
of the drawer, slammed it shut, then smacked the papers onto one of the desks.
She opened the file and began reading.
should really read this somewhere else - preferably far away from here. She
unzipped her holdall, and carefully planted the file inside.