Their Darkest Hour

Discussion in 'Survival Reading Room' started by ChrisNuttall, Jan 29, 2012.


  1. ChrisNuttall

    ChrisNuttall Monkey+++


    Prologue<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:eek:ffice" />



    The senior officers of the Conquest Force rose to their feetas the Command Triad entered the briefing room. Ju’tro Oheghizh bowed his headin submission as they took their three seats, each one representing andcommanding an element of the fleet. Together, they would oversee the conquest – and pose no threat to thestate, back home. They’d be toosuspicious of one another to ever plot treachery together.



    “We have been observing Earth for the past five of itsrotations,” Va’tro Nak’tak said. Years,Oheghizh reminded himself, careful to think in the language of the prey. “The humans are a curious race. They may well be more unlike us than the Uteck.”



    A rustle ran around the compartment as his words sankin. The Uteck, unlike most known races,didn’t possess two arms, two legs and one head. They were utterly alien – which hadn’t stopped them fighting theEridiani to a standstill in fifty years of bloody warfare. The State still believed that they coulddefeat the Uteck and occupy their worlds, but it would be a long time beforeanyone saw fit to resume the war. It hadsimply been too costly.



    “The humans have progressed remarkably unevenly,” Nak’takreported. “Their space presence ispathetic; they have yet to establish a base on their moon or start miningasteroids for war materials. They areliterally unable to pose any threat to the Conquest Fleet, even once we are inorbit around their world. Furthermore,their ruling power seems curiously unwilling to crush its enemies – they appearto be willing to accept the hatred of their inferiors, instead of forcing theirinferiors to submit. This is without aprecedent in all of known space.”



    There was a pause. “However, in certain areas, they are actually more advanced thanourselves,” he continued. “Their mostadvanced computer systems are more capable than the devices we use on thesestarships – and certain other advancements may pose a threat to the LandingForce once we start taking up positions on the planetary surface. In particular, they have an alarmingly highnumber of nuclear weapons and – we must assume – a willingness to use them ifthey face defeat.”



    Azhadib, the Director of Conquest, spoke into thesilence. “Do you believe that this racewill make acceptable clients for the State?”



    “We believe that it may be harder than we expect to convincethem to submit,” Nak’tak said. “Unlikeour previous encounters with low-tech races” – all of which had been broughtinto the service of the State, their development short-circuited by theirnatural masters – “they offer the promise of a workforce that will not requireextensive training to grasp the basics of our technology, assuming that theyare capable of grasping it at all. Wehave a secondary reason not to simply exterminate this race. They will be very useful to us.”



    He didn’t mention the first reason, Oheghizh noted, in theprivacy of his own mind. Known space hadmany mysteries – races blossomed to life, built their empires, dominated thegalactic scene for a few million years and then faded away – but even the Statehad heard rumours of the Elders. They’dbeen warned that genocide would be harshly punished. Oheghizh wasn't sure if he believed the talesor not – the idea of someone being more powerful than the State was difficultto grasp – yet it seemed clear that someonebelieved them. There was no otherexplanation for the prohibition on genocide.



    Earth spun in the centre of the compartment, a luminous orbglowing with blue-green light. It lookedalmost homelike, yet it was home to over seven billion humans. He glanceddown at the reports the observers had filed in their long study of Earth,carefully monitoring the humans and devising plans for the invasion andconquest of their world. As one of thesenior Land Force commanders, Oheghizh could expect high honours and rewards ifhe succeeded in bringing his portion of Earth under control – and endlessinfamy if he failed. The humans wouldpose a formidable problem, even to the State. But they would succeed. Failurewould not be tolerated.



    The assignments had been sorted out by the Command Triad andpassed down as a unanimous decision. Oheghizhwould be assigned to a medium-sized island nation, still one of the mostadvanced and developed states on Earth. Quite why they hadn’t developed any form of unity was a surprise –technological advancement tended to unite previously separated nations – but ithardly mattered. Their politicaldivisions would work against them when the Conquest Fleet revealed itspresence. They would have no time toplan a unified defence before they were overwhelmed.



    And slowly, but surely, Oheghizh and his companions drew uptheir plans against Earth. The HumanRace would never know what had hit them until it was far too late.
     
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  2. ChrisNuttall

    ChrisNuttall Monkey+++


    Chapter One<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:eek:ffice" />



    RAFConingsby/Salisbury Plain/London

    United Kingdom,Day 1



    “It looks like a busy day for us, boys and girls.”



    Flying Officer Alexandra Horton smiled as Squadron LeaderRupert Paddington opened the briefing. The men – and single woman – of No. 3 Squadron rarely had an uneventfulday, even when they were patrolling the skies over Britain. After 9/11, every civilian aircraft that wentoff course sent ripples of alarm running through the United Kingdom Air DefenceRegion and it wasn’t uncommon for Tornados or Eurofighter Typhoons to bescrambled in response to an aircraft that had simply lost its way. Not that anyone was allowed to becomecomplacent, of course. The Eurofighterswere scrambled with live weapons and everyone knew that one day a hapless pilotwould be faced with the choice of shooting down a civilian aircraft or watchingit plunge into the Houses of Parliament. Alex was mildly surprised that none of the thousands of terrorist plotsmonitored by MI5 had ever come close to taking off.



    “We’ve been informed that the UKGDE boys have beentracking more ghosts,” Paddington continued. “Someone higher up the food chain is getting just a little bit concernedwith these reports and they’d like some hard data. You may be directed to perform aninterception if a ghost shows up while you’re in the air.”



    Alex frowned, thoughtfully. Over the last few weeks, radar sets inBritain – and America as well, she’d been given to understand – had beentracking a handful of transient contacts that seemed to be travelling right atthe edge of Earth’s atmosphere. Thegeneral feeling was that someone – perhaps in Britain, but more likely in theUnited States – was testing a new model of stealth drone by flying it throughone of the most advanced air defence environments in the world. It wasn't an uncommon procedure, but surely someone would have said something bynow, if only to prevent an interception that brought one of the craftdown. Rumours she’d heard suggested thatsome of the top brass were more concerned than they admitted, at least to thepilots. There was a distant possibilitythat the Russians might have produced something new that they were using toprobe NATO’s defence environment.



    She shook her head, reaching up to feel her short blondehair. Her fellow pilots had nicknamedher Starbuck back when she’d started training to fly the Eurofighter and thename had stuck. Being assigned to No. 3Squadron was hardly a blot on her record, even if defence cutbacks did maketheir position increasingly insecure. She’d heard that some of the top brass were worried about their abilityto defend the UKADR if more squadrons were placed in reserve, or eliminatedaltogether. Buying the Eurofighter mighthave seemed like a good idea back before 9/11, but now the money was flowing tothe army and aircraft that could provide support to British troops on theground. The Eurofighter was an excellentpiece of kit, yet it didn't have the close-support capability of an Apachehelicopter. Their service in Afghanistanhad always been far less decisive than the MOD had hoped.



    “Horton and Davidson, you’ll be on routine patrol, takingover from the lads out there now,” Paddington said, finally. “Jackson and Stuart will be on QRA, ready toprovide backup if there’s a problem or you need to return to base. Don’t forget to keep one eye on your radarsets at all times. You never know whatyou might run into up there.”



    There were some chuckles from the pilots, although theyall knew that a mission could shift from routine boredom to sheer terror withinseconds. Up in the air, they would be in the front line, notsome paper-pusher in Whitehall who would happily question every little decisionmade by the men at the front. Alex knew pilots and soldiers who had been houndedout of the service by the MOD, or the government, merely for making poordecisions on the battlefield. It seemedto have escaped their notice that soldiers and pilots had to make theirdecisions within seconds and there was no time to take a balanced view ofanything…



    She shook her head as Paddington dismissed them andheaded for her plane. The flight plansaid that she would be in the air within half an hour. There was nothing quite like flying overBritain as the dawn rose. And if she waslucky, it might even be a routine patrol.



    ***

    Darkness shrouded Salisbury Plain, but the sound ofhumming engines could be heard – faintly – in the gloom. Dawn was approaching, the horizon starting tolight up in the distance, leaving the French with little time to get across theriver. Brigadier GavinLightbridge-Stewart allowed himself a tight smile as he lay on the ground,using his night-vision goggles to peer into the shadows. The French didn’t know it, but the BritishArmy had prepared a nasty surprise for when they tried to reach the mocktown.



    Full-scale exercises were rare – the days when theBritish Army could roam across Germany on exercises were in the past, and itwas incredibly expensive to ship men and equipment to Canada or the USA – butthe bean-counters had finally agreed to allow a joint exercise with theFrench. A section of French tankers hadagreed to play the attacking force, simulating an attack from Russia into theEuropean Union. Officially, the Frenchwere playing a fictional nation – it was typical of the politicians to be moreworried about upsetting the Russians than helping out the soldiers who defendedthem – but everyone knew the truth. Russia had been rather more noisy than usual over the last few monthsand senior officers had been warning the politicians that important skills werebeing lost.



    His lips twitched into a smile. The British Army was intimately familiar withthe terrain and they’d used it to their advantage. A troop of Challenger tanks had beenpositioned to give the French a bloody nose, while ground-based air defencesystems had been deployed to prevent the French from using a drone to spy outthe British defences. Once the Frenchtanks started to cross the river, they’d find themselves caught in a trap – unlessthey had a surprise of their own up their sleeves. The politicians on both sides of the Atlanticmight deride the French, but the French military was tough and veryprofessional. And it had picked uprather more experience in the years since Algeria than many outsiders realised.



    He keyed his radio, speaking barely above a whisper. “Prepare to engage,” he ordered, calmly. It wasn't common for a Brigadier to lead fromthe front, but he’d missed the advance into Iraq and knew himself to be lessfamiliar with armoured warfare than he would have preferred. Besides, paper exercises were all very well,but it took real manoeuvring to gain a real understanding of what his forcecould – and could not – do. Murphy neverfailed to put in an appearance in the real world. “On my mark, launch flares and then engage atwill.”



    ***

    “The bloody protesters are still there, I’m afraid.”



    Sergeant Robin Harrison, London Metropolitan Police,nodded as he strode up towards Buckingham Palace. A small army of men and women carrying signsprotesting against the latest cause of the month were gathered outside thegates, shouting at passer-bys while sharing drinks and food amongstthemselves. It seemed that there was noshortage of protesters in London; Robin knew from secret briefings thatanarchist and other radical groups were streamlining their ‘rent-a-mob’systems. The Police had responded bymonitoring Facebook and other social networking sites, but the technical staffhad warned that their ability to take down parts of the internet was verylimited. Robin wouldn’t have cared somuch – people had the right to protest, as long as they behaved themselves – ifcriminal gangs hadn’t started using protests as places to rob the protestersblind. It had only been three months agowhen the Police had had to intervene when the dedicated protesters startedturning on freeloaders within the camps.



    “So I see,” he said, tiredly. Overtime seemed to be a fact of life in thePolice force these days, as was permanent tiredness and generalunhappiness. The number of Bobbies onthe street was going down and, despite the vast number of CCTV cameras all overLondon, crime was going up. Every fewmonths, they’d even get new targets from politicians who didn’t realise thatthey’d systematically crippled the Met over the last two decades. “Anything we ought to keep an eye on?”



    “They seem a surprisingly nice bunch,” Sergeant Singhsaid, seriously. He nodded towards theprotesters, who were trying to convince a pair of pedestrians to jointhem. It didn’t look as if they werehaving any success. “No real fights oranything, just shouting. A few of themkeep looking daggers at us, I’m afraid.”



    “Nothing to worry about then,” Robin agreed. The small police force would keep an eye onthe protesters, some of whom might even be relieved that the police werethere. They might claim to be ananarchist commune, but in his experience those broke down rapidly into chaosand the rule of the strong if there was no presence from the forces of law andorder. It hadn’t been that long sincethe London Riots of 2011. “Don’t worry –we’ll keep an eye on the Palace for you.”



    Singh gave him a one-fingered gesture and sauntered offin the general direction of the police station, where he’d catch something toeat and a few hours of sleep before he went back on duty. Robin watched him go and then turned to lookback at the Palace. It was all lit up,allowing the protesters to see the very heart of the establishment they hatedso much. The handful of policemen didn’twaste time staring at the Royal Residence. They had to worry about keeping the peace.



    A pair of protesters made eye contact with him, and thenlooked away as if they’d seen something dirty, or obscene. Robin wasn't too surprised. Some of the protesters saw the police as theenemy, the men who broke up protest marches and beat up protesters. His father had been a policeman, as had hisgrandfather, and neither of them had to endure the level of public distrustmodern policemen faced. But back intheir day, the police hadn’t been cut back to the bone, to the point whereordinary citizens started to see them as the enemy.



    He shook his head tiredly. Maybe he’d jack it all in early and find aplace in a private security firm. Theywere hiring and the pay was generally better than the Met. And maybe then his family would get bettercare than they could from the NHS. Hiswife wouldn’t even come into London. Shepreferred to live outside in the suburbs, away from the crowds andpressure. He couldn’t really blame herat all. London just wasn’t a safe placeto bring up one’s children any more.



    ***

    “Wake up,” a voice snapped, in her ear. Doctor Fatima Hasid swallowed a word as hermother pulled away the blankets. “Getup, you lazy girl. You’re supposed to beon your way to work.”



    Fatima scowled at her stepmother, but couldn’t quitebring herself to snap at the older woman. At twenty-seven, she should be married and producing kids of her own –at least according to her stepmother. Ifonly her father hadn’t married again…but he had, leaving her to put up with anolder woman who resented Fatima’s presence in her life. Her stepmother had started putting forwardthe names of suitable boys, most of who lived in her grandmother’s village backin Pakistan. Fatima had responded bytaking more overtime with the NHS every time her stepmother arranged ameeting. None of the boys she had methad seemed keen to marry a woman who was far more qualified than they couldever hope to be.



    She pulled herself out of bed and scowled at her face inthe mirror. Dark eyes set in a dark facestared back at her, leaving her with an almost waif-like expression. The uniform she donned rapidly belonged tothe nearest hospital, where she worked ever since graduating as a medicaldoctor. It would be years before shecould pay off her debts and go into private practice and until then the NHSowned her, body and soul. She washed herface and headed downstairs, to where her stepmother was banging pots and panstogether. It wasn't as if she was doinganything useful either. Fatima had toget her own coffee and cereal before heading out of the house.



    “They’ll give you the sack and then where will yoube?” Her stepmother demanded. Fatima ignored her as best as she could. Her father was already on his way to work,after visiting the mosque for morning prayers. “Who’ll want you if you lose your job?”



    “The boys you seem to think are suitable for me have nojobs,” Fatima replied, as calmly as she could. It was true; her stepmother’s family had been pressing her to convinceFatima to marry a boy from Pakistan, who could then be brought to Britain. The fact that Fatima herself didn’t want tomarry a stranger didn’t mean anything to them. They’d all had arranged marriages and they’d turned out fine…well,publicly, at least. Fatima knew that atleast one of her stepmother’s relatives beat his wife. “And I still have an hour to get to thehospital before I start scrubbing up.”



    Her stepmother started to bleat again, but Fatima tunedher out with the ease of long practice. There were times when she cursed her decision to study medicine, eventhough it provided an independence many of her friends would envy. The screaming kids in the waiting room, theinjuries inflicted by chance or deliberate malice, watching men and women dyingslowly in front of her…there were days when she just wanted to walk away fromit. But that wasn't an option, not whenshe still had to pay off her debts. TheNHS was dreadful when it came to arranging life-saving medical treatments, yetsomehow it was very good at tracking down students and demanding that theyrepay the loans they’d taken out to study…



    She shook her head as she finished her coffee and headedfor the door. She’d just have to endureuntil the day she could leave the NHS behind. And then perhaps she could set up in private practice, or maybe evenleave the country. There werehigh-paying jobs for medical staff in America, she’d been told. Maybe she’d emigrate and leave her stepmotherbehind. The thought made her smile, evenas she saw the dawn rising over the horizon. Another day was about to begin.



    ***

    He couldn’t sleep.



    Prime Minister Gabriel Bryce stood in Ten Downing Streetand peered through the bullet-proof glass at the protesters at the end of thestreets. It seemed that there wasn't aday when the protesters weren’t there, screaming and shouting as if they blamedGabriel personally for the economic malaise that had gripped Britain over thelast ten years. The country didn’t seemto be able to hold together a government for more than a year either, not afterthe latest round of parliamentary scandals. Gabriel, two years ago, had been nothing more than an up-and-coming MP,a safe pair of hands for a Parliamentary seat that was solidlyConservative. He’d never dreamed ofbecoming Prime Minister, certainly not after his predecessor’s career had beenblown out of the water in the latest expenses scandal. His opponents had remarked that the onlyreason Gabriel had avoided being implicated in the scandal had been because hedidn’t have the imagination to fiddle his expenses, let alone do anything moreinteresting. There were times when Gabrielfeared that they were right. Nothing hedid seemed to please everyone, or even anyone.



    He looked down at his desk and shook his head,bitterly. It was covered in folders,each one a wordy report from the Home Office, the Ministry of Defence or theSecurity Services. He was supposed toread them all, but reading them was a chore. Didn’t anyone use plain English thesedays? He’d once spent an hour reading abriefing paper on recent developments in Iraq only to discover that it couldhave been condensed down into five or six sentences. At least he’d been able to make his feelings clearon that point. It was a shame that the Civil Service took solong to adapt. The next Prime Ministerwould probably not see any improvement.



    One of the walls of his office held a large painting,commissioned by his immediate predecessor. It showed all of the Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom, from Pittthe Elder to Gabriel himself. He’d beensurprised to receive it, only to be told that it had taken so long to producethat the Prime Minister who’d ordered it had left office by the time it had arrived. The Prime Ministers seemed to be gazingdisapprovingly at him, as if they felt that he was letting the side down. They were probably right. When Gabriel compared himself to Pitt, orChurchill, or Thatcher, he always found himself lacking. But then, they’d never had to worry about aneconomic crash that was slowly bringing the country to its knees…



    “Lucky bastards,” he muttered, as he returned to hisdesk. The files sat in front of him,mocking him by their silent presence. His secure palmtop buzzed, reminding him that he had the daily securitybriefing in an hour, followed by several meetings with MPs before his speech inParliament in the afternoon. Thespeechwriter had promised him a good speech, one he could read out before theassembled MPs, but it wouldn’t go down very well. It never did, not when all he could deliverwas bad news. There were times when hefelt that the only reason the Opposition hadn’t pushed for a no-confidence votewas because they didn’t want to be saddled with commanding the sinkingship. They found it more congenial tosnipe and shout abuse.



    He opened the first file and looked down at it. It was just as he feared; a short summery,and then twenty pages he’d have to read, just in case some bastard with presscredentials hurled a question at him. They’d have a field day with an ignorant Prime Minister. Cursing under his breath, he tapped theintercom and called for coffee. He’dread through one of the files, he promised himself, and then he’d have sometime to relax. And then he’d attend thebriefing.



    And then all the alarms went off at once.
     
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  3. ChrisNuttall

    ChrisNuttall Monkey+++


    <b style="mso-bidi-font-weight: normal;"><font size="3">Chapter Three<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com[​IMG]
    London
    United Kingdom,Day 1

    “What...?”

    The emergency doors burst open as two men hurled themselvesinto the Prime Minister’s office. Gabrielhad no time to react before they grabbed him bodily and carried him over to oneof the office walls. It opened, revealinga hidden shaft leading down into the bunker below Ten Downing Street. He yelped in shock as they dropped him, feetfirst, down the shaft and towards what felt like certain death. Instead, the tube seemed to twitch around himand he found himself slowing and sliding out into the bunker. A man wearing a black uniform caught him bythe arm and pulled him away from the tube, just before the first of his own assailantspopped out of the tube. Gabriel’s mindfinally caught up with the string of events and he realised that the PersonalProtective Detail assigned to Ten Downing Street were doing their jobs. He’d been briefed on the emergency procedures– everything from terrorist gunmen to chemical or radioactive weapon beingdeployed against Whitehall – but he was ashamed to realise that he didn't knowtheir names.

    One of the men – the leader, Gabriel assumed – tapped akey into a concrete wall. A hatchappeared out of nowhere, revealing a set of metal stairs that led down into thebunker. It was illuminated by flickeringlights that seemed to be having trouble remaining alight, suggesting that thepower supply to Ten Downing Street had been cut off. There was an emergency generator in thebasement, Gabriel remembered, as well as a handful of other precautions, but asfar as he could recall they’d never been tested. They certainly hadn't held an emergency drillafter he’d become Prime Minister. Theoversight, he realised as he clambered down the stairs, might have costlives.

    Another doorway opened at the bottom of the shaft,revealing the Crisis Management Centre. Gabrielhad been inside a handful of times, but he’d never grown to like the drabconcrete walls and the effect of being cut off from the rest of the world. The only decoration was a painting of a cobraa previous Prime Minister’s child had produced, a reference to the COBRA Committeethat served as Britain’s emergency council. No one had had the heart to take it down. The team leader pointed Gabriel to a seat andheaded over to the bank of computers and communications equipment placedagainst one wall.

    The ground shook, alarmingly. Gabriel glanced up as the light hanging overthe conference table spun from side to side, proving that he hadn't imaginedthe explosion. Something on thesurface...was there anything left of Ten Downing Street? He silently thanked God that his wife hadn’tbeen in the building. She’d been on avisit to Edinburgh to meet with the First Minister of Scotland, carryingmessages from Gabriel that he didn't dare entrust to anyone else. Dear God – had Edinburgh been hit too?

    Gabriel took a moment to calm himself, and then tried tosound professional. “What happened?”

    The team leader glanced over at him. “I’ve not sure, Prime Minister,” headmitted. He looked a tough young man,but Gabriel had enough skill at reading people to know that he wasnervous. “We picked up a FLASH warningfrom PJHQ warning that an attack wasunderway – we immediately grabbed you and got you into the bunker. But most of our communications lines appearto be down and...”

    Gabriel stared at him. “Has Downing Street been destroyed?”

    “No, Prime Minister,” the team leader said. He frowned, looking down at the console. “I can't get through to anyone else – not PJHQ,not Edinburgh, not anyone. The radionetwork appears to be being jammed. I’mnot sure...ah.”

    He looked up as the main door to the conference roomopened, revealing Major-General Sir Alan Robertson. Gabriel allowed himself a moment ofrelief. Robertson commanded the HouseholdDivision, the main body of troops in London. Among other duties – both operational and ceremonial – the HouseholdDivision was responsible for evacuating the Monarch, the Prime Minister andother government ministers from London in the event of an emergency. Robertson wore a combat uniform and carried apistol on his belt. He was followed bythree other soldiers, all carrying rifles and wearing combat uniforms.

    “Prime Minister,” Robertson said, relieved. “Thank God you’re safe.”

    “You too,” Gabriel said. A fourth soldier had arrived – but he looked more like a man dressing uprather than a real soldier. He had apair of glasses and looked slightly overweight, carrying a small laptop underhis arm than a weapon. “General...whatthe hell is going on?”

    Robertson looked...worried. “Prime Minister,” he said, slowly, “we’re atwar.”

    “At war?” Gabrielrepeated. “Who with?”

    The fourth soldier looked up. “Aliens,” he said, flatly. “We’re at war with aliens from outer space.”

    Gabriel stared at him, unsure if he should laugh orcry. “Aliens?” His Personal Protective Detail seemed to behaving the same reaction. “Aliens? And I suppose that Doctor Who is going to come along any minute to tellthem to piss off?”

    “Please, Prime Minister,” Robertson said quietly. “Hear him out.”

    The fourth soldier put his laptop on the conference table. “Fifteen minutes ago, the entire orbitalcommunications network – ours, NATO’s, the Russians – went down,” he said. “Bare minutes later, we lost contact with theDeep Space Tracking Network – that’s a joint operation largely run by theYanks, but there are stations on British soil and we have access to the livefeed. The last report we had from RAFFylingdales reported a number of incoming missiles that appeared to have comefrom orbit. One of their projectedendpoints – their targets – was the base itself. The entire Ballistic Missile Early WarningSystem has been taken down.

    “At roughly the same time, ground-based radar stationspicked up a number of unknown aircraft breaching the UKADR – that’s the UnitedKingdom Air Defence Region,” he continued. “RAF aircraft on alert were vectored towards the intruders – we lostcontact shortly afterwards with both the aircraft and their bases. It appears that we have been hit badly all acrossthe country. We have lost contact withalmost all military bases within the United Kingdom.”

    “Which leaves us no choice,” Robertson injected, “but toassume that they’ve been destroyed.”

    Gabriel felt...weak, unsure of himself. It seemed impossible, yet...if the unknowns,the aliens, had the capability to hit British military bases, there seemed noreason why they wouldn't – if they were hostile. His thoughts ran in circles. Why would aliens be hostile? What did Earth have that would make them worthwhiletargets? He’d always been taught that acivilisation advanced enough to master space travel would have outgrown thedesire to fight purely for the sake of fighting...

    “It gets worse,” the soldier said, softly. “We have confirmed that a number of strikesfell in London itself. The PermanentJoint Headquarters has been destroyed, along with a number of railway stations,road junctions, and – for reasons unclear – Buckingham Palace.”

    “The King,” Gabriel said. “What happened to him?”

    “He was in residence at the time, along with his wife,his eldest son and his wife,”Robertson said. “We’ve had no word. I send a small detachment to the Palace tosee what they could find, but first reports say that the devastation was almosttotal. There is a very good chance thatPrince Harry may be the next in line to the throne.”

    Gabriel shook his head slowly, unable to quite believehis ears. Robertson was talking aboutthe death of the Monarch – and the deaths of thousands of military and civilianpersonnel – as calmly as if he were ordering dinner. How could he be so dispassionate? Or was he trying to remain calm in the hopethat Gabriel himself would remain calm? If they’d really been hit as badly as Robertson implied, the chanceswere that his position as Prime Minister was no longer viable. God alone knew what he would be able to dofor his country.

    “Contact,” one of the soldiers said, suddenly. “I got a link through to Salisbury Plain!”

    “Excuse me,” Robertson said.

    Gabriel nodded as the General slipped away, headingtowards the bank of computers. How couldhe deal with an alien invasion? Had itonly been an hour ago that he’d been battling with the economic crisis? What would happen if – when – the British populationrealised what had happened to their country? He looked over at Robertson and found himself envying the man’scalm. Maybe he should have gone into themilitary instead of politics. But then,he would have made a poor soldier.

    “We managed to get in contact with Brigadier GavinLightbridge-Stewart,” Robertson said. The name meant nothing to Gabriel. “He appears to be the senior officer left at Salisbury Plain; the preliminaryreports say that the garrisons there have been hit badly. We managed to fill each other in on a fewdetails, but we simply don’t know much of anything.”

    He shook his head. “The Brigadier will be establishing defensive lines and preparing ourcounter-attack,” he said. “We need toget you to the command bunker under the training area. It appears to be intact, thankfully. The aliens don’t seem to know about it’s existence.”

    “Or they would have hit it,” Gabriel said, slowly. “Can theyhit it and...ah, destroy it?”

    “They can drop rocks from orbit,” Robertson said. “If they knew about the bunker, they couldhave taken it out – we assume.” Heseemed about to say more, when one of the consoles started to bleep analarm. Robertson glanced at it and thenswore aloud. “We’ve managed to set up apassive detection system outside, Prime Minister. It looks as if they’re sending in shuttles.”

    Gabriel stared at him. “They’re coming here?”

    “They’re coming to London,” Robertson said, grimly. “I have two rifle companies in the city,armed for dealing with terrorists rather than alien invaders. We can bleed them – I assume – but weprobably can’t stop them from landing in the city. We have to get you out of here.”

    He looked down at the table for a long moment. “Normally, we’d get you and your ministersout through the tunnel network, but parts of it seem to have caved in under thebombardment. I’m not sure if the aliensintended to trap you or if it was merely a fluke, yet we cannot risk using thenetwork. We need to get you upriver asquickly as possible.” He raised hisvoice. “Butcher?”

    One of the uniformed soldiers looked up. “Sir?”

    “Check the boat and prepare it for immediate launch,”Robertson ordered. He looked back at Gabriel. “Butcher served four years in the SAS beforebeing asked to serve as a Close Protection specialist. Hughie and Mother” – a thin man and a tallerman who looked as if he had muscles on his muscles – “both came to us throughthe SBS. They’ll take care of you ifanyone can, Prime Minister.”

    “Thank you,” Gabriel said, quietly. “General...what are you going to do?”

    “I have to get back to the surface and take control of mymen,” Robertson said. “We have to assumethat they’re carrying out a decapitation strike – an attempt to capture or killyou and the rest of Parliament. I intendto give them a bloody nose when they try.”

    Gabriel hesitated. “Don’t get yourself killed, General,” he warned. “The country will need you.”

    “We’ve barely been at war an hour,” Robertson said, “andalready we've been hurt worse than Hitler or Napoleon ever managed. God alone knows what’s happening to the restof the world. We never planned for alieninvasion, Prime Minister. Hell, the lasttime we planned for a military invasion was back during the Cold War.”

    He shook his head. “The lads will take care of you,” Prime Minister. “Linux” – he nodded at the soldier with thelaptop – “will go with you. He’ll beneeded at the bunker. Good luck.”

    “And to you,” Gabriel said, automatically. He was struck by the sense that he wouldnever see Robertson again. “General...”

    Robertson saluted, and then left the room.

    “Come on, Prime Minister,” Butcher said, two minutes later. “It’s time to go.”

    Gabriel had never had the chance to explore the entiretunnel network. From what he recalledfrom briefing papers he’d never had a chance to read properly, the military hadtaken advantage of commercial tunnelling to add their own network foremergencies. Some tunnels linkedgovernment buildings together, allowing swift and silent evacuation; others ledto hidden bunkers and archives that were never intended to see the light ofday. Some information was in the publicdomain, he remembered, but the government had managed to keep a lid on most ofthe specifics. Or so they hoped. Gabriel had also been told that the Russians hadgained access to far too much data on the tunnel network and emergency procedures.

    Perhaps it was his imagination, but they seemed to beheading upwards – and the air seemed to be getting damper. A faint smell reached his nose, a stench thatmade him want to recoil, just before they turned into a chamber that held alarge boat. Butcher held up a hand tohalt Gabriel while he clambered up and into the boat, vanishing over theside. There was a moment’s pause, andthen the engine roared to life. The soldierreappeared and held out a hand to help Gabriel climb up. He was ashamed to realise that Butcher hadsimply lifted him at the end.

    A thought struck him. “Why Butcher?”

    “Dad was a butcher,” Butcher said. “We don’t stand much on ceremony, PrimeMinister. Once someone passes Selection,they’re one of us. The lucky ones get tochoose their own handle. The unluckyones get someone else picking it for them.”

    He waved Gabriel to sit at the bottom of the boat. The sound of the engine grew louder as theother two soldiers climbed onboard and concealed their weapons and uniformsbelow blankets. It struck Gabrielsuddenly that anyone who saw him would know that he was the Prime Minister, butit was already too late to express his doubts. The boat seemed to leap forwards – there was a terrifying glimpse of agrating ahead of them, followed by a smell that made him want to throw up – andthen they were suddenly out in the open. He caught sight of the Houses of Parliament and stared, realising thatflames were rising up in the distance, from the direction of the Palace.

    The boat started to tilt madly to one side as Butcherpointed them upriver, towards the west. Gabrielstruggled to remain calm, even though part of him was convinced that they weregoing to be thrown into the water at any moment. A handful of other boats seemed to be makingtheir way downstream, clearly intent on getting out of London before somethingworse happened. He wondered, suddenly,just how much the civilians knew about the crisis. It had never occurred to him to ask...in thedistance, he could hear the sound of sirens. The police were responding to the attacks, but did they know what theywere facing? And if there really werealiens heading towards London?

    It seemed like a bad science-fiction movie, but it washappening...

    Twenty minutes later, just as they were leaving London, Hughietapped him on the shoulder and passed him a pair of binoculars. Gabriel glanced at them in puzzlement, andthen looked up into the sky. A flight ofaircraft were heading down towards London from the west...but they lookedodd. Gabriel pressed the binocularsagainst his eyes and gasped as he finally made sense of what he wasseeing. The alien shuttles were largerthan the largest jumbo jet the human race had ever produced and they wereheading towards London. They’d escapedthe city in the nick of time. He triedto estimate how many aliens could be on those aircraft before realising that itwas impossible to produce anything like a reliable estimate. For all he knew, the aliens could bemicroscopic in size – or they could look like stone statues of weepingangels. And perhaps they wouldn’t evenbe humanoid.

    “We’re still being jammed,” Hughie said, quietly. The SBS soldier had a faint Scottish accentthat echoed through his voice. “We can'twarn the General or the troops in London.”

    “But they know that they’re coming,” Gabriel pointed out,desperately. Suddenly, he felt ashamedfor running. “They must know that they’reon their way.”

    “Maybe,” Hughie said. “Or maybe the aliens have ways to avoid passive detectors. Any radar station that lights up is likely toget clobbered. I don't know, sir. We just need to get you up to the commandbunker, and perhaps then we can go back to the front lines.”

    “Or the front lines will come to us,” Mothergrunted. “Look.”

    Gabriel followed his gaze. There were more alien shuttles now, hundredsof them, glowing red as they decelerated through Earth’s atmosphere. Just for a moment, he wondered how interstellarlogistics could make an invasion possible, before dismissing the thought. There was no way to know how alien logisticsworked. For all he knew, the aliensmass-cloned soldiers whenever they wanted to overrun another world.

    He closed his eyes and said a silent prayer for the menand women who were about to be caught up in a nightmare. General Robertson had been determined tofight – it crossed Gabriel’s mind that he should have ordered them out, but itwas too late. All he could do now waspray for them – and pray that the aliens weren’t savages. An alien race could wipe out all life onEarth.

    The sound of more explosions caught them as they headedonwards, echoing back from London. Therewas no way to know what was going on behind them either. All they could do was pray. And hope that, one day, they would be able toavenge themselves on the aliens.

    Gabriel shook his head. An hour. An hour after the alienattack had begun and he was on the run. And to think that yesterday he’d been cursing problems he would havegiven his soul for today.
     
    ssonb, kom78, goinpostal and 3 others like this.
  4. STANGF150

    STANGF150 Knowledge Seeker

    Ooooo this looks good. Just one request though please. Next story after this, please keep it on earth, no magic or outer space LoL
     
    goinpostal likes this.
  5. ChrisNuttall

    ChrisNuttall Monkey+++

    Might. What do you suggest?

    Chris
     
  6. STANGF150

    STANGF150 Knowledge Seeker


    Ummm.........I'll have to get back to ya on that. Not enough coffee soaked into my spongelike brain to be fully awake yet......
     
  7. DKR

    DKR Interesting ideas, interesting stories

    THe Brit Amry doesn't have MANPADS?

    Be fun to see trails of smoke leaping up from the ground to 'welcome' the invaders.... SA-7As, RedEye, Stinger, Starburst, StarStreeak, Blowpipe, etc, etc.

    Keep going....
     
  8. goinpostal

    goinpostal Monkey+

    It looks like the start of another good one.Thank you Chris!
    Matt
     
  9. flyaway

    flyaway Monkey+

    Chris, Thanks for the story. I wish you could help us illiterate yanks become better writers.

    Guys, think how Chris writes SHTF stories where the villains are metaphors for those we face, from the Theocracy to the UN to ruling families.

    It would be nice to read fiction based on A Century of War, Anglo American Oil Politics (Engdahl). The villain could be one Joseph Cassano and derivatives.
     
  10. polarbarez

    polarbarez Monkey+

    Chris,
    I love your writing but since you ask I could dig some PAW or medieval based themes.
    Thanks for all you do!
     
  11. ChrisNuttall

    ChrisNuttall Monkey+++


    Chapter Four<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:eek:ffice" />



    London

    United Kingdom,Day 1



    “Anything we should know, sir?”



    The military officer sighed. Robin had been busy organising what medicalhelp he could for the wounded, after a handful of ambulances and policemen had finally arrived. They’d reported that London’s railwaystations had been hit as well, causing massive casualties as well as jamming upthe road network. The emergency serviceswere overwhelmed trying to deal with the chaos. And they still had no idea what was going on. The radio seemed torn between increasinglyhysterical bulletins and requests for the public to remain calm and in theirhomes. Judging from the level of trafficon the streets, Robin suspected that that particular request was goingunheeded.



    “Yes,” the soldier said. A handful of other armed soldiers had appeared, causing many citizens tostart edging away from them. Robinwasn't so impressed, if only because he’d spent his probationary period onSouthampton, wrestling Royal Marines on Friday nights. “There’s a good chance that whoever did thisto us” – he waved a hand at the pile of smoking rubble that had once beenBuckingham Palace – “is likely to start landing ground troops. You’re looking at ground zero for their invasion.”



    Robin stared at him. A terrorist attack was understandable, even if there had been a hideousfailure in intelligence that should have allowed them to detect the plot intime to derail it. Even a handful ofbombs detonated around the city was understandable; Islamic Fundamentalism had beensuspiciously quiet over the last few months and the radicals knew that theyneeded to keep staging spectacular attacks to boost their cause. But an invasion…Robin had taken part indrills where the Met had been seconded to the military for a militaryemergency, yet no one had believed that Britain might actually be invaded. The nightmare of an uprising from the poorer– and Islamic – parts of the country seemed more plausible.



    “We’re at war,” he stumbled, finally. “Against who?”



    “We’re unsure as yet and we don’t have time tospeculate,” the officer said, firmly. “Ineed you to get the civilians out of the area as quickly as possible – startingnow. God alone knows how much time wehave left.”



    Robin allowed his eyes to trail over the gardens and thesurrounding area. A small number ofpolicemen and medics had finally shown up, allowing them to start treating thewounded – although only one ambulance had arrived, which had been pressed intoservice to take the worst cases to the nearest hospital. From what little he’d heard from other policeofficers, London was gridlocked. Everyone who had a car seemed to be trying to get out of the city and tohell with how it impeded the emergency services. The BBC wasn't helping. It was either jammed up with static or ravingabout explosions in a dozen cities.



    “I can’t get everyone out…”



    “You have to,” the officer said, quietly. There was an earnest tone in his voice thatsomehow stripped Robin’s final doubts away. He saw a pair of soldiers carrying handheld antiaircraft missilessetting up a position on one side of the gardens. If the enemy intended to send inparatroopers, the British Army would give them a hot reception. “I don’t know how much time we have left.”



    He strode off in the direction of his men, leaving Robinstaring at his back. Robin’s trainingasserted itself and he began to bellow orders. God knew how he’d wound up as senior officer on scene – the mobile commandcentre had probably been stuck in traffic – but at least no one was arguing. The wreckage of Buckingham Palace hadprobably concentrated quite a few minds.



    “Start moving the civilians out of here,” he ordered,sharply. “Draft able-bodied men asstretcher-bearers if necessary; start moving them at least a mile from thislocation.” He found himself grapplingwith a completely unexpected problem. Ifan invasion force – absurd as it seemed – was about to land in Central London,where was even remotely safe. “Takecontrol of the traffic and get it moving away from here – commandeer anyvehicles that can be used for moving casualties and put them to work. If anyone gives you trouble, arrest them andwe’ll worry about charges later.



    Time seemed to slow down as an endless flow of civilians,government civil servants and worker drones were pushed out of the area. Most of them saw the pile of debris anddidn’t argue, but a handful seemed insistent that whatever was happening hadnothing to do with them. Robin ignoredtheir pleas, then their threats, and finally had a couple arrested and draggedaway. The remainder finally got themessage and headed away from Central London. A few who might have protested saw the soldiers and their obviouslylethal weaponry and made themselves scarce. Robin nodded at two of the soldiers as he checked his radio again, butall he could hear was static. Whoeverwas jamming them had neatly shattered the Police in London. There were thousands of officers on thestreets, cut off from their superiors and probably facing their own privatenightmares. Dear God – if the countrywas really being invaded, what did the invaders intend to do with the Police?



    He pushed the thought aside as he helped a pair ofconstables manhandle a wounded civilian down towards a waiting van. A team of doctors were at least trying toseparate the minor wounded from those who needed a hospital immediately, but itwas a terrifying nightmare. Hardly anyof the civilians were used to violence and anarchy on such a scale and many ofthem seemed to be on the verge of coming apart. Robin might have joined them if he hadn’t felt responsible for managingthe crisis. It was certain that no onesenior to him had made it to Buckingham Palace. He remembered the explosions all over London and shivered. The invaders, whoever they were, might havetaken out Scotland Yard. And if they’ddone that, they would have fragmented the entire network.



    “Sergeant,” a voice bellowed. He turned to see the officer he’d spoken tobefore, looking grim. “How quickly canyou get the rest of the civilians out of here?”



    Robin blanched, reading the bad news in the officer’sface. “Too long,” he said. They’d managed to get most of the people onthe move, but the traffic wasn't taking the hint and heading away from CentralLondon. Entire streams of people werebeing pointed away from the Houses of Parliament and being told to run. It was all a horrible ghastly mess. “How long do we have?”



    “Maybe five minutes, maybe less,” the officer said. “Radar has picked up enemy craft headingtowards London. The chances are thatthey’re coming here. You have to get thecivilians out of the line of fire.”



    Robin nodded and blew hard on his whistle. “Everyone away, now,” he bellowed. The other policemen took up the cry. “Move…now!”



    He looked up at the officer, who had one hand on hispistol. “I’m qualified to fire in theline of duty,” he said, quietly. “Icould stay…”



    “You’re needed elsewhere,” the officer said. The sound of thunder – no, it wasn't thunder– echoed in the air. “Go!”



    ***

    Fatima had never felt so pressured in her life. She’d been on duty at the hospital when thepolice had sounded the alert and had been rounded up to go to the remains ofBuckingham Palace. Seeing the rubble hadshocked her, but there hadn’t been any time to sit down and cry – not whenthere was work to be done. Hundreds ofpeople had been wounded and there weren’t anything like enough medical suppliesto treat them all. From what she’doverhead, the emergency teams that should have been first responders to anycrisis had been caught in traffic, as had most of the ambulances inLondon. Her mobile phone was useless andthe pager she’d been given as they ran out the door had gone blank. She had been forced to improvise splints andbandages for half of her patients.



    “Lie still,” she said, sharply. The wounded man in front of her had been oneof the guards in front of Buckingham Palace when the bomb – or whatever – hadblown it into a pile of rubble. His legwas clearly broken in two places and it was quite possible, judging from thebruises, that he had internal injuries as well. She’d bandaged him up as best as she could, but he really needed anoperation. It didn’t look as if he wasgoing to get one any time soon. “I said,lie still!”



    “They need me,” the man insisted. He sounded delirious, or perhaps he was goinginto shock. Fatima put her hand firmlyon his chest and held him down gently. “I need to…”



    “You need to get better,” Fatima said. She’d heard stories of what happened inPakistan and other less-developed countries when bombs exploded withoutwarning, but she’d never expected to see it in Britain. Someone should have taken control at once andstarted coordinating all of the emergency response teams. Instead, everything was chaotic and the onlypeople who were trying to establish order were a handful of policemen, wholooked as frightened and helpless as the rest. “You can’t go back to your unit with a broken leg.”



    She wanted to give him something for the pain, but therewere no painkillers left. A pair ofcivilians pressed into service as stretcher-bearers appeared and gently liftedthe wounded man onto a makeshift stretcher. Fatima checked his leg carefully, warned them to ensure that theircharge didn’t try to sit up, and then waved for them to go. There was no time to rest – she had to dealwith the next wounded person. It seemedthat there was no end to the wounded; men, women and children, half of themlooking as if they didn’t quite believe what had happened to them. This was Britain, not some Third Worldcountry where the natives killed each other at the drop of a hat. Disasters weren’t supposed to strike theBritish mainland.



    A hand fell on her shoulder and she jumped. “You need to get on your way,” a policemansaid. He looked about as worried asFatima felt, but he seemed to have it under control. “You need to escort the patients back to thehospital. This place isn’t going to besafe much longer.”



    Fatima looked up. All over the area, policemen and soldiers were shouting at civilians tomove. The wounded were being carriedoff, followed by those who could walk on their own and the remaining medicalstaff. She started to follow themautomatically, and then stopped dead. This was London. What the hellwas going on that meant they had to risk moving so many wounded people at once?



    “All I know is that this place is about to get veryunsafe,” the policeman warned. He washolding something back. Fatima had donea course in reading people back when she’d been studying to be a doctor. “I think you’d better start moving – now.”



    He sounded so earnest that Fatima picked up her bagbefore quite realising what she was doing. She could hear the sound of thunder in the distance and see plumes ofsmoke rising up into the sky. Somethingwas clearly badly wrong…shaking her head, she started to follow thewounded. They’d need her when theyreached their destination, wherever that might be. It seemed as if the police and soldiers wereclosing off all of Central London…



    ***

    “I think that’s most everyone out,” Constable McEwenreported, grimly. The sound of thunderwas growing closer. Robin hadn’t beenable to stop himself from scanning the horizon, looking for incomingaircraft. God alone knew what washeading their way. “Sergeant…”



    “Time for us to leave, then,” Robin said. The armed policemen might be a help, but itwas far more likely that they’d just get in the way. It wasn't as if they’d trained with the soldiers– hell, all the plans to hold major exercises had been curtailed by the shortageof cash. He remembered his wife,suddenly, and shivered. At least Helenewas out of London, safely away from the chaos that had gripped the city. God alone knew how long it would be beforethe more rowdy element of the city’s population decided that it was a greatopportunity for looting, raping and burning. “Get everyone back to the cordon and keep moving the civilians furtheraway…”



    He covered his ears as something screeched by overhead. Atiny black dot, seemingly flying as low as it could over London, flashed by andheaded into the distance. No missilesarose to challenge it, although Robin had no way of knowing if the soldiers hadheld their fire or if they didn’t have enough antiaircraft missiles to spendthem freely. Given how much it cost toproduce equipment for the Met, he suspected the latter.



    “Jesus Christ,” he whispered, as he started to run. He’d hoped that it was nothing more than aterrorist bombing, even though the officer he’d spoken to had seemedcertain. “It’s really happening.”



    ***

    Trooper Chris Drake perched on the roof of the Ministryof Defence’s Old Admiralty Building and peered down towards Green Park. Smoke was rising up from all over London,suggesting that the enemy – and he still found it hard to believe that thebrass took the stories of little green men seriously – hadn’t concentratedtheir attentions on Buckingham Palace. From what he’d heard before the CO had dispatched him and a handful ofothers to vantage points where they could see for some distance without beingseen, the enemy had bombarded the railway stations and several junctions. The result of one attack away from the Palacewas easy to see. Westminster Bridge hadbeen hit by…something that hadknocked it effortlessly into the water. Chris didn’t need to be a CO to know that that ensured that it would beharder for any reinforcements to reach Whitehall. Of course, if some of the other stories he’dheard were true, there was little left toreach Whitehall.



    He’d seen action in Afghanistan, but he’d never expectedto have to fight a war in England – no one had. Some of the lads had been worried about their wives, girlfriends andchildren and in truth Chris knew that he couldn’t blame them. The CO had worked hard to keep them focusedon the incoming threat, but without it Chris suspected that some of hiscomrades would probably have seen to their own families. They’d expected months – perhaps years – ofwarning before Britain itself came under threat. No one had expected an attack that had crushedthem under its treads within a few hours.



    The sound of engines pulled his attention back to thehere and now. One of the tech guys downon the streets below had been able to rig up a passive detection system – or sohe’d heard – but radar coverage was a thing of the past. It was possible that their enemy – littlegreen men or whatever – would manage to get tactical surprise, even though thetroops were dug in about as well as they could given the short notice. He started scanning the skies with binoculars,looking for trouble. Who knew what alienlanding craft would look like? Flyingsaucers, or something humanity might have built itself, or maybe even tiny blueboxes that were bigger on the inside. There were just too many possibilities.



    When he finally caught sight of the craft heading towardsLondon, he was almost disappointed. Theywere big, all right; larger than any aircraft he’d seen in his career, massiveshapes that seemed oddly unsteady in the atmosphere. The wings seemed too stubby to keep the craftin the air, although the roar of their engines suggested that whatever waspowering them was more advanced than anything on Earth. In fact, they reminded him of something outof Thunderbirds. Despite himself, he felt a littlerelieved. They might not be as badlyoutmatched as he’d feared. The thoughtof facing the aliens from IndependenceDay had chilled hell out of the soldiers.



    The craft roared closer, moving with deceptiveungainliness. He formed a mental pictureof a SAM blasting one of them out of the air, but realised quickly that the COwould want to hold off on that if possible. God alone knew how much damage a crashing alien transport would do toLondon, or to the civilians who happened to be caught in the blast. He reached for his radio, checked the channelquickly, and keyed the switch twice. They’d discovered that they could beat the jamming to some extent, ifthey used higher frequencies. Chris suspectedthat the aliens might be relaxing the jamming – whatever they used tocoordinate might not be too different from what the humans used – but it hardlymattered. The entire city would haveseen those craft making their final approach.



    They flew over Hyde Park and started to shower tinyobjects down towards the park below. Chrispeered at them through his binoculars, trying to make out shape and form. They looked like paratroopers, but there wereno paratroops. He wondered if they’dsmash themselves into bloody ruin on the ground below, before realising thatthey had to have some way to slow their fall. Some of the SAS operatives had talked about opening their parachutes atterrifyingly low levels, barely slowing their fall before they touched down.



    Other paratroopers were falling now, heading towards St.James Park. Chris leaned forward as thefirst of the black objects touched the ground and straightened up. The sight was so surreal that, just for amoment, he was convinced that he had to be dreaming. He hadn’t wanted to believe it, but it wastrue. The aliens had landed.
     
  12. bad_karma00

    bad_karma00 Monkey+

    Excellent work as always. I always check to see if you're posting anything, lol. Good start off on this one.
     
  13. ChrisNuttall

    ChrisNuttall Monkey+++


    <b style="mso-bidi-font-weight: normal;"><font size="3">Chapter Five<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com[​IMG]


    <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:smarttags" /><st1:place w:st="on"><st1:city w:st="on">London</st1:city></st1:place>

    <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:country-region w:st="on">United Kingdom</st1:country-region></st1:place>, Day 1



    Tra’tro The’Stigbraced himself in the cramped confines of the landing shuttle as the pilotstarted to count off the final seconds. Like most of the other assault formations, Assault Landing Unit #352 hadbeen tasked with decapitating the prey – the humans, he reminded himself – before they could rally their troopsand counterattack. The Kyg’pa - the Land Force – had had plentyof experience carrying out assault landings on hostile worlds and much of thatexperience suggested that the prey were easier to beat if their leaders weredead. In all of the endless briefingsafter they’d been pulled out of their stasis pods, they’d been warned that thehumans – although primitive – were dangerous. Anything that weakened them before their world was occupied and theirnew position as Workers of the State was explained to them was all right by theLand Force. The concerns passed down tothem about capturing the human infrastructure intact were irritating. It meant that the starship crews wereunlikely to fire down at the planet’s surface without authorisation from theCommand Triad.



    He kept his concerns to himself. Anyone who served the State knew that dissentwas not considered welcome, at least from the lower ranks. The people at the top had the right todetermine everything from troop dispositions to attack strategy and they didn'tneed his input. If he kept working away,and survived the coming war, he might just reach the higher levels where he couldactually influence policy. And it wasjust as likely that the humans would roll over and surrender without a shotbeing fired.



    The alarm echoed through the transport as it started to slowdown over the human city. The’Stig hadseen images taken by spy drones during the briefings and had to admit that thehumans didn't seem to know when to stop building. Their city seemed completely disorganised,while their buildings would be alarmingly tight for his soldiers. They’d probably have to start establishingtheir own headquarters on the surface rather than using human buildings, if onlybecause of the size difference. Humansseemed to be shorter and thinner than his people and their buildings had beenbuilt for their comfort. They hadn’tthought to widen them for their new masters.



    He flinched as the drop field caught him and propelled hisunresisting form towards the hatch, followed by the remainder of the Assault LandingUnit. As always, there was a moment ofsheer terror as he tumbled down towards the planetary surface, just before thecounter-gravity field caught hold of his form and cancelled his motion, a meresecond before he would have slammed face-first into the ground. Earth smelt funny – it was clear that thehuman disunion even affected their older cities – but he pushed thataside. The Assault Unit was spreadingout, looking for trouble. Intelligencehad stated that the humans had already lost their command and control networks,but the next thing Intelligence got right would be the first. They were really nothing more thanwell-connected officers who had the ability to avoid being assigned tofront-line combat missions.



    A dead human lay on the ground, not too far from hisposition. He glanced down at the body,recoiling in shock from its oddly-disjointed form. The humans looked as if they were permanentlyon the verge of falling over when they moved, with a suppleness that was aliento his people. A brief glance at thefrontal area confirmed that they were looking at a male. There was no way to tell how the human haddied.



    The radio network hissed, suddenly. “Contact,” it snapped. The sound of human weapons almost drowned thecoordinator’s voice out. “Engage anddestroy!”



    The’Stig cursed and dived for cover. Intelligence had made its usual flawedassessment – they’d landed right in the midst of a Grisna nest and the wretched little creatures were stinging likemad. Hefting his weapon, he led a small detachmentforward, towards the buildings that served as the human centre ofgovernment. The human leaders wereprobably long gone, but taking their buildings would show their impotence. Or so Intelligence promised...



    ***

    Chris Drake couldn't believe his eyes. He was still half-convinced that he wasdreaming, perhaps after a night of too many curries or kebabs. The aliens – and they had to be aliens, not men in funny-fitting suits – were landing inSt. James Park, right in front of him. He keyed the switch on the camera that should have sent a live feed backto the CO, wondering what the straight-laced officer would make of it all. The aliens...were very alien.



    His first thought had been humanoid dinosaurs, but theymoved with an eerie grace that belied their hulking forms. They were larger than humans, carryingweapons that looked too ungainly for humans to use, wearing camouflage uniformsthat seemed to automatically blend with their surroundings. What little skin he could see was gray andleathery, reminding him of elephants in the jungle, but their eyes were darkand very cold. Their faces seemed to bealmost immobile, although he couldn't tell if they were naturally inscrutableor if he just couldn't recognise an alien expression when he saw it. One of them seemed to be the leader on theground, using hand motions to advance his troops forward; the others seemed tobe grunts. He reminded himself not tocount them out too soon. The British Armyused its best troops in the Air Assault Role and he had to assume that the samewas true of the aliens.



    He looked down at their weapons, trying to see what theywere carrying. They didn't look that fancy, certainly not comparedto weapons he’d seen in a hundred different alien invasion movies; indeed, hewas sure that they weren't much more advanced than anything he’d seen onEarth. There was a crudeness about theirdesign that reminded him of some of the makeshift weapons they’d pulled out ofcaves in Afghanistan, or weapons produced with a Russian eye towards functionalityrather than appearance. Some of theweapons seemed to be almost portable machine guns; it struck him, suddenly,that they could probably carry more weight than the average human. Their transport aircraft were heading off inthe distance...



    The CO gave the order and the fighting began. A number of British soldiers had beenpositioned in nearby buildings, using them to pour fire down onto the haplessaliens, while a team of mortar gunners started to lop shells towards theirlanding zone. It was a shame that they hadn'thad a few days to prepare, Chris thought, as he saw a couple of aliens hit theground, dark blood staining the grass around their bodies. The Household Division had never expected tobe fighting a major action in the heart of London. Some equipment that they’d used in Afghanistanwas outside the city. It might as wellbe on the other side of the moon.



    For a moment, he was sure that the aliens were doomed,before they started to return fire with surprising accuracy. Their handheld weapons had the same rate offire as a GPMG and their aim was better than anyone would have expected. A pair of their leaders – he assumed, seeingthey seemed to be in charge – were slipping forward, leading a direct assault againstWhitehall. One of them was shot down bya sniper, while the other managed to take cover against a damaged car. It exploded a second later – the IED team hadbeen putting their expertise to work – blowing the alien backwards. Chris watched dispassionately as it crashedback down to Earth and lay still, presumably stunned or dead. The remaining aliens had taken cover and werelaying down fire towards the defenders. From what little Chris could pick up on his radio, they’d managed topick off many of the soldiers through heavy fire. A handful of buildings were burning as aliengrenades set fire to their interiors.



    A dull roar echoed overhead as a second flight of alientransports roared down the Thames. Thistime, a team with a Stinger was cleared to engage the enemy craft, launchingtheir missile at almost point-blank range. Whatever countermeasures the aliens had were ineffective at such adistance and the missile struck the alien craft on the side of itsfuselage. For a moment, it seemed tohave survived...and then it flipped over and came crashing down into theriver. A colossal fireball blew up fromwhere it had come down, throwing debris everywhere. If any aliens had survived, Chris couldn't seehow they could get out of the water and into the fight. A second alien transport was hit just beforeit could start unloading its cargo. Thisone was damaged and managed to stagger away over London before coming down inthe suburbs. Chris breathed a silentprayer for the civilians living where it had crashed before dragging hisattention back to the main battlefield. The remaining alien transports had started to deploy alien tanks.



    The British Army had considerable experience moving lightarmour around by air, but the aliens clearly had better technology thananything available to the Army Air Corps. Their tanks looked bigger and nastier than a Challenger II, althoughthere was something funny about their design. It took him a moment to realise that they seemed to be lacking anytreads, almost as if they were designed to be nothing more than moveable pillboxes. They hit the ground and bounced; Chris cursedas he realised that they were riding an air cushion, rather like smallhovercraft. Each of the alien tanksstarted towards the defence line as soon as they landing, big guns rotatingaround with terrifying speed to challenge the puny humans ahead of them. They weren’t completely dependent upon thebig guns either, he saw. The alien tankscarried what looked like small machine guns, four to a tank. They probably could engage multiple targets simultaneously.



    A streak of light announced that one of the antitank teamshad engaged the nearest target. Thealien tank stopped dead as the missile blasted through its upper armour and presumablykilled the crew, but its comrades opened fire at once. Chris felt the building shake as they rakedthe windows with machine gun fire, while using their main guns to clear anylarge obstacles on the ground. Theentire building seemed to be on the verge of collapse as a shell detonatedinside; frantically, he scrambled backwards to the fire escape and started toslide down to safety. Judging by thenoise, the aliens were responding to any attack with savage force. They didn'tseem to have to worry about civilian casualties.



    Cursing, he ran towards the rally point, just as the Old AdmiraltyBuilding started to collapse into a pile of rubble. Other soldiers joined the retreat, fallingback to regroup and reform the defence line – but would it be enough? They’d been warned to be ready to slip outinto London and try to escape the alien dragnet. Perhaps the time had come to leave...



    A thunderous roar sent him falling to his knees. Behind him, the aliens were advancing,carefully. The rubble slowed their pace,but it also provided cover for their infantry. At least they hadn't yet realised just how small humans were, comparedto their hulking forms. Humans couldhide themselves in places no alien could follow. A handful of soldiers were taking advantageof the confusion to use grenades to set up makeshift IEDs. The aliens might take Westminster, but they’dtake nothing more than a pile of rubble – and a very bloody nose.



    ***

    The’Stig ducked as a human bullet cracked just past hisear. He couldn't count just how manytimes he’d come close to death; the humans might have been small and puny, butthey knew how to fight. If it hadn't beenfor the tankers, the Assault Unit might have been wiped out in the first hourof the assault. Even with the tankers,the humans were bleeding them hard. Atleast their backs were to the river, he told himself firmly. They'd have nowhere to run when the tanksclosed in on their positions. Anyrational species would have realised that the position was hopeless and soughtterms.



    He wasn't sure who was in command right now, not after thehumans had taken down the transport carrying two superior officers and theirmobile command network. The threat ofhuman-portable weapons had clearly been underestimated, part of his mind noted,cursing Intelligence under his breath. Several units had been shredded, leaving him as the senior officerwithin eyesight. He didn't even knowhalf of the troopers who had been drawn into his orbit. All he could do was keep them moving forwardand hope that the tankers sucked up most of the incoming fire.



    A pile of rubble allowed him a chance to slip under cover,just as one of the troopers saw what looked like a pile of metal discs on theground. The’Stig was just a second toolate in ordering him to stop; he picked the discs up and an explosion blew himinto bloody fragments. Even their bodyarmour couldn't protect them against such an attack. The’Stig scowled and inched backwards, eyesscanning the piles of rubble and peering through the smoke in hopes of seeingthe humans before they saw him. Theentire area could be mined, but he doubted that he’d be able to get a team ofexperts to come down and remove the mines safely. Reporting their presence to his superiors –once they were appointed – would only mean that they’d be told to becareful. They needed to take the humanleaders alive.



    Something moved,right at the corner of his eye. Instinctsent him jumping backwards, just in time to avoid a knife thrown at him by ayoung male human. The human was wounded,he realised, and it had still attemptedto take his life. Was the entire speciesinsane? He fired a burst towards thehuman and watched bright red blood splash on the rubble. They looked so fragile and yet they couldkill and kill and kill...



    And they could hide. Hindsight, always clearer than foresight, showed him just what hadhappened. He’d ignored the human’shiding place because it was too small for one of his people. If he’d taken a longer look, he might nothave been surprised so badly. And someof the other troopers who’d been ambushed might have remained alive, if they’dbeen more aware of what the humans could do to them. They’d have to learn quickly on thisworld.



    He motioned for his troopers to hold their positions. The tankers were coming up behind them andmore reinforcements were on the way. Letthe tankers take a few bullets – which would only glance off their armour inany case. His troopers needed a restbefore they pushed onwards – and besides, the humans were trapped against theriver. They’d have to break through the assaultlines to escape and that wasn't goingto be easy.



    ***

    “They’re sending in their tanks, sir!”



    Major-General Sir Alan Robertson nodded, sharply. After some thought, he’d established hiscommand post in the Houses of Parliament, assuming that the aliens wanted totake Parliament relatively intact. They didn'tseem to be that concerned about manyof the other historic buildings in Central London, but it made sense. It would have been easy for them to take outthe civilian government from orbit if they’d simply wanted them dead.



    But his force was in an untenable position – which, he admittedto himself, he’d known about long before the aliens actually landed. The aliens seemed to be bringing in morereinforcements and their supplies of Stinger missiles were running low; itseemed that the aliens did have some form of effective countermeasure. Besides, he didn't want to shoot down anothercraft and see it crash in London. Theteam he’d positioned in the London Eye had reported that fires were spreadingout of control from where one of the alien transports had crash-landed.



    “Send in the Javelin teams and tell them one shot each,” heordered, sharply. The British Army hadordered thousands of Javelin missiles, but most of them had been stockpiled inthe countryside or deployed to Afghanistan. No one had thought to equip the Household Division with more than ahandful of antitank weapons. Who intheir right mind would have considered that they’d be needed? “And then tell them to head for thetunnels. They’re to get out of the cityand link up with the rest of the army.”



    The ground shook violently as the aliens started bombardingWhitehall. Alan swore under his breath,realising that the aliens were clearly using orbital or drone surveillanceassets to track his men. Their advancewas almost unstoppable now, particularly not with what remained of his two companies. There was no point in getting more men killedfor nothing.



    “Sound the retreat,” he ordered. He keyed his radio and issued thecommand. “Get the lads out of here...”



    High overhead, an alien drone detected the signal, lockedonto his position and fired a single missile. Major-General Sir Alan Robertson died before realising that he was evenin danger.



    ***

    “We’re to get out of here,” a sergeant was yelling. “Move, you stupid...”



    Chris picked himself up, just as the alien advance brokethrough one of the makeshift defence lines. He fired a quick burst from his SA80 in the hopes of slowing the aliens,just as he realised that they’d blocked him from reaching the tunnel thatshould have led down into safety. Beforehe had a moment to think about it, he turned and ran towards the embankment,jumping down into the Thames. The riverwould carry him downstream and he’d be able to link up with what remained ofhis unit once he got out of the water.



    Behind him, London burned.
     
  14. ChrisNuttall

    ChrisNuttall Monkey+++

    I'll have to give that one some thought.

    I may do another PAW story. I have half an idea in mind. Not sure about the medieval idea, although I may think of something.

    Chris
     
    STANGF150 likes this.
  15. A very enjoyable story so far! I will check out your book on Smashwords. Thanks.
     
  16. ChrisNuttall

    ChrisNuttall Monkey+++


    Chapter Six<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:eek:ffice" />



    London

    United Kingdom,Day 1



    “My God.”



    From his vantage point, Robin had been able to see someof the fighting – too much of the fighting. What he’d seen had left him silently grateful that he wasn’t closeenough to see the rest of it. The alienshad landed in force – two of their transports had been shot down, including onethat had crashed into the other side of the Thames – and taken Whitehall. God alone knew how many soldiers had beenkilled in an ultimately futile last stand.



    He looked down towards the streets. They had been emptying with remarkable speedas people fled the battle, heading towards their homes in the hope that theymight find safety with their families and friends. Robin suspected that there was going to be nosuch thing as safety in London for the next few weeks, if not ever. What the hell did the aliens want? Part of him refused to believe that there were aliens, but the evidence wasundeniable. The flames and smoke risingup in the distance suggested that the world had indeed turned upside down.



    “Sergeant,” one of the other policemen said, “what thehell do we do?”



    Robin silently cursed him for asking that question. In truth, he had no idea what they should do, because the Met had never seriously consideredthat London might be invaded. The lasttime the British police had considered the question had been back during WorldWar Two, when – if he recalled correctly – they’d been ordered to maintainpublic order, but avoid giving any help to the Germans. But the Germans had never invaded and theplans had never been put to the test. What would the aliens do now they’d won themselves a city?



    His radio buzzed, suddenly. The jamming seemed to have stopped,suggesting…what? Logically, the alienswould have wanted to keep the police and military forces fragmented, butperhaps their own communications were affected by their jamming. Or perhaps they were going to be hunting downany remaining soldiers and hoped that some of them would be foolish enough touse their radios. Or perhaps…he pushedthe thoughts aside as a cold voice, utterly inhuman, echoed out over theairwaves. The aliens were finally makingtheir demands known.



    “Attention,” the voice said. “This is Ju’troOheghizh, speaking for the Eridian State. All humans are to pay careful attention to this message on pain ofpunishment. Planet Earth has beenconquered and is now part of the Eridian State. Your leaders have been captured or killed; your military forces havebeen scattered. Further resistance isfutile. Accept your new position in theuniverse or you will be destroyed.



    “All civilian humans are to remain within their homesuntil instructed to report to the occupation authorities,” it continued. “Any attempt to impede the passage of myforces will result in severe punishment. Human military and police personnel are to turn themselves in to myforces. All weapons are to besurrendered to the occupation authorities. Failure to report will result in…”



    “Severe punishment,” Robin muttered. The aliens didn’t seem to hide theirintentions. There was no guff aboutcoming to liberate humanity from human leaders; nothing, but naked force. And they’d already taken London. “And what happens if we report in?”



    The message came to an end and then started to repeatitself. Robin listened a second time,but there were no differences – and no clue as to the fate of police andmilitary personnel. If he recalledcorrectly, Iraq had collapsed into chaos partly because of the absence of a proper police force, yetthe aliens might not care about chaos on the ground. Their attacks on London had shown afrightening lack of concern for civilian casualties. He glanced up as another alien transportroared overhead, dropping what looked like heavy crates towards theground. They’d probably start pushingout from Westminster as soon as they felt strong enough to brave thesurrounding city. God knew it wasn't asif there was much in the way to stop them.



    “We go to the nearest police station,” he said,finally. Scotland Yard might be gone,but it was far from the only police station in London. “We take the weapons and we conceal themsomewhere before they think to secure the stations for themselves. And then we wait and see what happens next.”



    He watched as the policemen leapt to work, grateful thatsomeone had finally told them what to do. Robin shook his head as they started to run through deserted streets,avoiding crashed and abandoned cars, hoping against hope that they would findsomeone more senior to issue further orders. He didn’t have the slightest idea what to do next.



    ***

    Ju’tro Oheghizhstepped off the shuttle and onto Earth, looking around him with ill-concealedinterest. The humans seemed to havebuilt habitations suitable for smaller creatures than themselves, although manyof their buildings had been levelled by the first wave of assaulttroopers. A handful of humans, severalwounded, sat in the middle of the grassy park, watched by armed guards. It was difficult to read human expressions, butsome of them were clearly watching his troopers and considering how best toescape. Others seemed to be completelyunaware of their surroundings. Thediscovery that there were other races out among the stars was always a shock toplanet-bound races, even ones who had conceived the possibility long beforethey reached into space. He doubted thatthe humans would be any different from the other races brought into theState. It would take time to hammertheir new status into their heads.



    “The lead assault units were badly hurt,” J’tra Rahol reported, as soon as theyexchanged salutes. “The humans foughtbravely and well. We’re still findingtraps left behind in the ruins – their small size gives them an advantage thatcost many of our lives before we adapted.”



    Oheghizh narrowed his snout. “And the surrendered humans?”



    “Many appear to be in shock,” his subordinate reported,as they walked into the makeshift command centre. Oheghizh had hoped to set up in the humanbuildings, but if the humans had had time to leave surprises behind them, itwould be unduly risky. “I do not believethat we have captured any truly important humans. Their leaders appear to have fled before welanded in their city.”



    “Unsurprising,” Oheghizh said. There had always been an awareness that thehuman leaders might have been able to get out of their city – London, theycalled it – before the assault force landed. Some of the Land Force Commanders had called for targeting the human leadershipwith strikes from orbit, but the Command Triad had overruled them. They needed to bring the humans into theState as quickly as possible and having their leaders alive would make thateasier. It would take too long torebuild human society directly. “Do wehave any idea of their current location?”



    Rahol tapped the computer display. “The humans appear to be attempting toregroup their forces to the west,” he said. “A number of human military units apparently escaped destruction duringthe opening minutes of the bombardment, including a number of air defenceunits. We have targeted active sensoremitters from orbit, but they appear to have learned from experience and arekeeping any remaining active sensors turned off. Their effectiveness will decrease rapidly aswe have destroyed their bases and supply dumps.”



    He pointed one long finger at the human roadnetwork. “Our own forces are landingaround the cities, trapping the human civilians within our grasp,” hecontinued. “There have been a handful ofengagements between our forces and human military units, but most human unitsseem to be attempting to avoid contact. We have broadcast our demands for surrender on all human military andcivilian channels. So far we havereceived no reply.”



    Oheghizh nodded, slowly. The humans were no doubt shocked by their sudden fall from power ontheir homeworld. Given time, they couldprobably regroup and launch a series of counterattacks that would cost theState dearly – and put a hold on his personal career ambitions. Logically, they needed to maintain thepressure as much as they could; practically, they needed to get set up on theground before the naval forces surrounding Earth insisted on withdrawing mostof the transports. The humans hadmanaged to shoot down a number of shuttles, more than any of the planners hadexpected. Logistics were going to beweaker than anyone had expected when they’d drawn up the plans to invade Earth.



    But it wouldn’t last. The humans were just as dependent upon supplies to keep their forcesmoving as the State – and their supply dumps were flaming ruin. Their effectiveness would fall sharply overthe next few days, leaving them without the ability to do more than harass hisforces. And then they’d be in controland well on the way to turning Earth into a productive outpost. The humans were certainly more capable oflabouring for the State than several other races he could mention!



    “Keep grouping our forces for a push westwards,” heordered, finally. There was no way toknow how the great mass of human civilians would react to their presence. The human government seemed to believe thatkeeping the civilian population disarmed was a good thing – although some oftheir measures had seemed so absurd he’d wondered if there was a translationproblem – but it was clear that they’d never quite succeeded. Orbital observation indicated mass unrest inparts of the human city. It couldn’t betolerated. The Land Forces would have toopen up the roads to allow supplies to be moved around the region. “And expand our patrol perimeter. I want the humans to feel our foot on theirchest.”



    ***

    Garden House School had been a primary school yesterday,when the world had made sense and aliens were just figments of humanimagination. Now, it had been turnedinto a makeshift medical centre, following emergency plans that had been drawnup sometime during the cold war. Classroom tables had been pushed together and covered with blankets,allowing the wounded somewhere to wait for treatment. Fatima wanted to close her eyes and rest, butthere was no time. The small number ofmedical staff in attendance were doing what they could, yet there seemed to beno end to the wounded. And the civilianvolunteers were doing more harm than good. She bandaged up a wound that really needed an operation in a properhospital, knowing that she might have condemned the patient to a slow andunpleasant death. Any half-traineddoctor knew the value of a sterile environment, but they didn’t have a hope ofmaintaining one in the school.



    She removed her scarf as she saw the next patient, asmall girl barely old enough to go to school. Her parents seemed to be in shock, pointing at their daughter’s arm asif they expected Fatima to be able to know what was wrong just by looking. She always hated treating children – youngchildren couldn’t tell doctors what was really wrong with them – but there wasno choice. She wrapped the scarf aroundthe child’s arm, turning it into a makeshift sling. It crossed her mind that her stepmother wouldbe horrified to see her in public with her hair uncovered and she almost brokedown into helpless giggles. Aftereverything else that had happened since the first explosions, it was almost arelief to worry about something so petty.



    “She’s in pain,” the mother insisted. “Can’t you give her something for the pain?”



    Fatima shook her head, grimly. The school had had a well-stocked medicalroom, but they’d used almost all of the painkillers within the first hour. They’d sent runners to the nearest hospitalin the hopes of getting more, yet none of the runners had returned. Fatima’s superiors had been reduced to urgingpolicemen to take painkillers from nearby shops, along with what other medicalsupplies they could find. And therestill seemed to be no end to the wounded. Leaving a child in pain tore at her heart, but what else could they do?



    She heard the sound of screaming from outside and closedher eyes. London had had riots before,but what would happen with an alien invasion force in the heart of the city? She breathed a silent prayer as the sound ofgunshots echoed out in the distance, followed by a faint humming that seemed toecho in the back of her head. One of thedoctors walked over to the classroom door and peered down the corridor. He jumped back, his face white as a sheet.



    “They’re coming,” he said. His legs buckled and he collapsed on thefloor. “They’re coming!”



    Fatima braced herself as the first of the aliens cameinto view. It was clear that the alien –she couldn’t tell if it was male or female – seemed to be having trouble incorridors designed for humans. Theweapon it carried in one hand looked too large to be carried by a human,although she had to admit that she knew almost nothing about weapons. Dark eyes, seemingly without any colours atall, peered around the room. Fatima metthem for a second and was struck by just how alien the alien seemed to be. It turned and headed onwards, followed by a small number of otheraliens. Fatima realised, as she felt herown legs give way, that they were expanding outwards. God alone knew what they’d do when they raninto resistance...



    And, despite herself, she hoped that they would place themakeshift hospital under guard. IfLondon really did dissolve into chaos, the hospitals and chemists would beamong the first places targeted for drugs. Who knew how the aliens wouldreact to rioters?



    ***

    Building by building, the advancing assault unit sweptthrough the human city. Outside theirgovernment centre, it seemed that there had been no time to rig traps or othersurprises, although Tra’tro The’Stigknew better than to take anything for granted. His superiors had noted his achievement in the first battles by grantinghim a lead role in the expansion, along with reinforcements that had beendispatched from orbit. It was a honourhe would happily have foregone. Theoddly misshapen humans seemed either curious or terrified of his patrol; hewatched in amusement as some ran away, while others just stared at them as ifthey’d never seen a non-human before. Heshifted his weapon towards one of the humans who was paying too much attentionto them in hopes of scaring the little creature away. The human emitted a high-pitched whine andfled.



    The humans had abandoned many of their vehicles in positionsthat made it harder for the tankers to advance in support of the groundtroops. Two of the tanks had alreadystarted pushing human vehicles to one side, but the remainder were holdingback, nervous about the consequences of meddling with alien technology. Besides, the humans had shown a flair forcreating traps and no tanker wished to lose his vehicle to a mere improvisedbomb. The’Stig cursed them under hisbreath, even as he saw another group of humans ahead of him. They were staring at his patrol as if theycouldn’t believe their eyes…



    A human voice yelled a command and the first projectilescrashed down around them. The’Stig’sfirst thought was that they were under attack by human soldiers, but they werethrowing glass bottles and stones rather than grenades and bullets. A moment later, one of the bottles crasheddown on top of a trooper’s head, sending him sprawling down onto the road. The humans might not be soldiers, but theycould harm his troopers. Their defiancecould not be tolerated.



    He snarled as he pulled down on the firing trigger andsprayed bullets over the humans within eyesight. They fell to the ground in bloody heaps,their comrades suddenly running back as if they’d realised that it wasn't agood idea to challenge the occupation force. The’Stig refused to let them go easily; he lunged forward, firing burstafter burst as he moved. The attackended almost as quickly as it had begun, with a number of humans dead and twoof his troopers mildly injured. Hesilently made a note to praise the body armour in his report. If they hadn’t been so well-protected, theywould have certainly had more injured, if not dead.



    “Advance,” he ordered, sharply.



    The force continued on its way, coordinating with othergroups as they pressed out along the human roads. It dawned on him suddenly that they weren’treally controlling the city at all, merely the main roads they intended to usefor transporting supplies. They simplydidn’t have the numbers to maintain control over the entire city. After a moment of thought, he kept thatinsight to himself. His superiorofficers no doubt knew all about it and intended to deal with the humans inanother manner. Their city was dependentupon food supplies from outside, wasn’t it? They could simply be starved to death if they refused to cooperate.



    He smiled darkly as the first assault drone hummedoverhead, watching for further human ambushes. The humans who had escaped the brief engagement – if he dignified theone-sided massacre by calling it an engagement – would spread the word. Any attempts to slow the occupation forcewould not be tolerated. Maybe the humanswould learn quickly enough that the occupation force could relax.



    The drone reported what looked like another ambush upahead. He checked his weapon as theforce moved carefully onwards, ready to deal with the ambush when it wastriggered. The humans would learn – orthey would die. In the end, he told himselffirmly, Earth would belong to the State. The only real question was how many humans would have to die before therest realised that they had no choice, but to submit.
     
    goinpostal, STANGF150, kom78 and 3 others like this.
  17. ChrisNuttall

    ChrisNuttall Monkey+++


    <b style="mso-bidi-font-weight: normal;"><font size="3">Chapter Seven<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com[​IMG]
    Long Stratton
    <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:smarttags" /><st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">United Kingdom</st1:place></st1:country-region>, Day 1

    “I saw you come down,” a voice called. Alex barely heard him. “Are you all right?”

    Alex shook her head. Her entire body was shaking with post-combat stress. She’d left RAF Coningsby expecting nothingmore challenging than a routine patrol and an attempt to intercept one of themysterious ‘ghosts.’ Well, the ghostsweren’t a mystery any more, were they? They belonged to the bastards who had blown Davidson out of the sky andshot her down, whoever they were. She’dpracticed ejecting before, but she’d never had to eject from a Typhoon in themidst of a battle…she cursed her own weakness as she tried to stand up. Her legs refused to cooperate and shestumbled before grasping the proffered hand gratefully.

    “I…thank you,” she managed. Normally, a pilot bailing out of an aircraft would have been tracked byground-based radar stations and a SAR helicopter dispatched from the nearestbase. Now, she had the unpleasantfeeling that the rest of the RAF had more important things to worry about thana single Typhoon pilot. The explosionsshe’d seen as she drifted down to the field suggested that the entire countrywas under attack. “Do you have a mobilephone?”

    “I tried to call an ambulance when I saw your parachute,”the farmer said. He looked older thanher father, but there was a toughness around him that reminded her of the RAFRegiment soldiers who guarded the RAF’s airbases. His face was tanned by the sun. “There’s no signal at all.”

    Somehow, Alex wasn't surprised. The unknowns – whoever they were – had tohave taken out the communications satellites, as well as jamming ordinary radiofrequencies. There was no reason whythey couldn't jam mobile phones as well. She cursed under her breath as she realised that she wasn't entirelysure where she was, or how to report in to whatever remained of her unit. The country was at war and she had enlistedto defend it. She needed to return tothe base. And that might be impossible.

    “I can take you down to the farm,” the farmer offered. He held out a calloused hand. “My name’s Giles, Giles Smith. I own the land about here.”

    “Alex,” Alex offered, as they shook hands. “I didn't mean to land on your farm...”

    “Don’t worry about it,” the farmer said. He frowned, for a long moment. “I don’t suppose you know what those flashesI saw in the distance were?”

    Alex filled him in on what little she knew as they walkeddown towards the farmhouse. It was aneat little building, surrounded by a field of sheep and cows, almost likesomething from a bygone era. She wouldhave been charmed if she hadn't been so worried about the situation – and thesmell from the fields. The people whosuggested that humanity should abandon technology and go back to the land hadnever smelled the countryside. She was happy with air conditioning andfiltering.

    Inside, she allowed the farmer’s wife to give her a cup oftea while she tried to call the base. The telephone line buzzed and clicked alarmingly, and then went dead,without even a dial tone. At Smith’ssuggestion, she tried the internet and was pleasantly surprised to discover thatthe farmhouse had broadband. Smithexplained, when she asked, that the farmhouse often played host to young peopleand they all demanded internet access.

    “And the wife likes watching streaming video from London,”he added with a wink. “I know betterthan to get in her way.”

    Alex smiled as she tried to access MILNET through theinternet connection. It should have acceptedher password and allowed her access, but the link seemed to keep dropping out,as if some of the network nodes were malfunctioning. The unknown enemy had launched their attackwithout being detected, at least until it was far too late. There was no reason why they couldn't havelaunched a cyber-attack as well and taken out most of the military’s securenetwork. The pilots had briefed thatthat was supposed to be impossible, but the unknowns had done far too much thatshould have been impossible.

    Finally, the system blinked up a warning; enemy troops inLondon and several other cities. Alexstared at the screen, not quite believing her eyes. How could anyonehave simply landed in London? Wherethe hell was the rest of the RAF? Thethought – the thought that she had been trying to avoid – floated back to thesurface of her mind. She’d been blownout of the sky, along with her wingman. It was quite possible that the remainder of the RAF had met the samefate, or had been caught and destroyed on the ground. Who the hell were they fighting?

    A set of general orders, directed to soldiers and TAreservists, flickered into existence. They were ordered to make their way out of the cities and rendezvous withofficers at certain locations, each referred to with a different codename. Alex stared at them, before realising thatwhoever had taken command of the British military wouldn’t have wanted to puttheir instructions on the military network, no matter how secure it wassupposed to be. The unknowns wereprobably monitoring every move they made.

    But she had noidea where to go. The RAF had neveranticipated needing to establish covert rendezvous points, certainly not sincethe end of the Cold War. She could finda list of military bases online, yet the chances were good that they had beendestroyed or attacked and occupied by the unknowns. The unknowns...their enemy didn't even have aface! Who the hell were they fighting?

    She clicked on one of the options and an answer, of sorts,floated up in front of her eyes. Aliens. It seemed impossible, butso did the ghosts – the ghost aircraft that had blown her out of the sky andkilled her wingman. She covered her eyesfor a long moment, feeling the world spinning around her, and then looked backup at the screen. The damning words werestill there.

    “Aliens,” she whispered. How long had it been since she’d watched the television show where theRAF had accidentally shot down a UFO, only to find themselves caught in themiddle of a war between two alien races? Years...she’d been a child at the time. “It’s not possible...”

    But she could think of no other possible explanation.

    Smith came back into the room and she filled him in, leavingout nothing. The farmer listened carefully,without interrupting, and then nodded. “Isuspected as much,” he admitted, after she’d finished. “The BBC has been raving about monsters in London. They must have seen the aliens...”

    “But what do they want?” Alex asked, helplessly. “What does puny Earth have that they mightwant for themselves?”

    “I have no idea,” Smith said. He shrugged. “Listen; I have to go to the Parish Council and tell them what’s goingon. God alone knows what’s going tohappen if London’s been occupied and we have to see to the crops. Lots of people might come running out of thecities and heading for the farms. I’dlike you to come with me.”

    Alex hesitated, and then nodded just as her stomach rumbledloudly. “Have something to eat first,”Mrs Smith said, firmly. “And you aswell, Giles. You don’t eat enough as itis.”

    ***
    Alex had never been to Long Stratton before, but Smith washappy to fill her in as they rumbled into the town and headed towards the TownHall. Long Stratton was a civil parishwith a population of roughly three thousand people, many of whom seemed to bethronging the streets as if they expected answers to be handed down from above. It struck her that many people around thecountry would have only seen explosions or heard thunderclaps, or perhapslistened to the ranting from the BBC – and wouldn't have the slightest idea ofwhat was going on. How long would it be,she asked herself, before confusion turned into panic? And how long would it be before the aliensmade their demands known to humanity?

    Smith parked by the Town Hall and nodded towards theold-style stone church. “There’ll behundreds of people there, seeking guidance,” he said, softly. “Everyone knows everyone else here, not likein the big cities. We have a realcommunity here, despite everything London can do to ruin it. Little green men aren't going to take thisplace from us without a fight.”

    Alex kept her opinions to herself. Some of the farmers would have shotguns, orhunting rifles, but most of the population would be unarmed. It was quite possible that they could produceMolotov Cocktails and other makeshift weapons, yet how would they stand up tothe alien onslaught. The defenders of LongStratton and its sister towns might just be marking themselves forextermination. What was her duty to themif they decided to challenge the aliens directly?

    Smith led her into the Town Hall after a brief chat with thepoliceman standing outside, looking rather worried. Alex saw his hand toying with his radio andrealised that the police in Long Stratton had been cut off from London by alienjamming. She thought about telling himwhat she knew, and then realised that it would be pointless. He couldn't do anything about it, butpanic. Shaking her head, she allowedSmith to lead her into a small room. Three men were gathered there, looking deeply worried. She smiled inwardly as they saw her uniformand frowned, uncertain what to make of her presence. God alone knew what she was going to tellthem.

    “This is the Parish Council, or as much of them as could beassembled,” Smith said, without preamble. “Rupert Leigh; Tory MP for his sins, but a good man outside politics.” A tall thin man nodded impatiently. “Timmy Simpson; used to farm quite a bit, butnow pretty much retired.” Simpsonsnorted, making a gesture with his fingers that suggested counting money. He was an older man, with a hunch thatsuggested that he was bowed under some great weight. “And the Reverend Macpherson, shepherd of ourlittle flock.”

    “I should be in the Church,” Reverend Macpherson said,shortly. “People need to come togetherand pray to God for guidance.”

    Smith nodded and started to outline what he’d heard fromAlex, starting with the story of how he’d found her in his field. Halfway through, when he reached the bitabout aliens, all three of the councillors stared at her. They looked as if they wanted to call in thepoliceman and have the pair of them arrested for public drunkenness. Smith finished by reminding them of some ofthe more hysterical statements on the BBC – “we live in strange times,” hesaid.

    “I wish I didn't believe you,” Leigh said. His voice had an upper-class edge thatreminded Alex of a certain breed of officer. They’d sounded as if they’d been absolutely certain about everythingtoo. “But aliens...dear God, what are wegoing to do when we tell the people?”

    “We shall inform them in the Church,” the Reverendsaid. “They will have time to reflect onGod’s will instead of panicking.”

    Leigh snorted. “Butwhat are we going to do?”

    Alex had been giving the matter some thought. “They made us study recent military historyback when I was a trainee pilot,” she said. “The first few hours after an invasion are always the most dangerous forordinary people, because the occupation force will be on edge and unsure of itsground. You may not see very many aliensthis far from London, or they may decide to take stock of the entirecountry. I think you need to considerwhat you’re going to do when they arrive – and what you’re going to do about others.”

    She scowled. “Rightnow, London and a dozen other cities are war zones,” she continued. “The population is going to start fleeing thecities and heading for the countryside. You’re not that far from Norwich – and that’s got upwards of threehundred thousand people who will find themselves starving very quickly. What happens when they start flooding thefarms? You have food here – and animalsthat can be slaughtered for human consumption. What are you going to do when they arrive?”

    “There’s the police,” Leigh said, slowly.

    “I think you have to assume that the police and the militaryhave been knocked on the head,” Alex said. She didn't want to admit it, but it was quite possible. “Even if there is still a working governmentand military out there, they are going to have more on their hands than helpingyou. You need to start planning for theworst.”

    “Good God,” Leigh said. He stared down at the table, helplessly. “I don’t think that there is anythingwe can do if the situation is that bad. We can’t hold back swarms of starving humans...”

    “We may have no choice,” Simpson said, flatly. “Do you want to wait and see your familiesstarving because you gave all your food to refugees?”

    “I would remind you,” the Reverend said sharply, “thatcharity is your duty towards your fellow man. Remember the parable of the Good Samaritan.”

    “The Good Samaritan,” Simpson replied, “was in no danger.”

    He shook his head, slowly. “We may be in serious trouble anyway,” he warned. “It isn't as if we keep stockpiles of foodand seeds out here – normally, we could just order the supplies when we neededthem. How dependent are we on the restof the world? International trade isprobably shot to hell.”

    “No doubt,” Alex agreed.

    “Then we put it to the vote,” Leigh said. “We can speak to the people in the Church –ask them to work together to safeguard our farms and the rest of ourproperty. And then we can hope that thiswhole crisis is just going to blow over.”

    “Hark at him,” Simpson crowed. He laughed, unpleasantly. “Stupid politicians always think that the world will go back to normal if they justkeep their eyes closed long enough. Thecountry has been invaded, you idiot! Even if the army does manage to give those thievingbastards a damn good thrashing, do you think that anything is going to be the same ever again? Really? I want some of whatever you’ve been smoking.”

    Leigh reddened, but he somehow managed to keep his voicecalm. “If the worst does happen, we’reprobably doomed,” he said. “I refuse tostop hoping for the best even as I try to prepare for the worst.”

    “Typical politician,” Simpson said. He looked up at Alex, amused malice glintingin his brown eyes. “You want to bet thatwe’re all dead a week from today?”

    “That will do,” the Reverend said. He stood up from the table. “I believe that it is time to sound the bellsand summon the townspeople to the Church. We can tell them what we know and then we can decide what to do.” He looked over at Alex. “I’d like you to remain at hand. You may be needed to answer questions.”

    “I don’t know what else I can tell you,” Alex admitted. “I’ve told you everything I know.”

    Simpson shrugged. “Somepeople will probably feel better knowing that someone in a uniform is tellingthem not to worry,” he said. “Back inthe War” – it took Alex a moment to realise that he meant the Second World War –“they used to tell us to keep calm and carry on. And we did too.”

    “You lived out here, safe on your farm,” Smith pointed out,with some amusement. It was clear thathe and Simpson were old friends. “Ithink the people in the Blitz probably felt a little different.”

    “I have no doubt of it,” Simpson said. He looked up at Alex. “After the meeting in the Town Hall, let meknow if you decide to stick around. Ihave some items you may be interested in using.”

    ***
    The announcement and discussion in the Church was just asbad as Alex had feared. Nearly twohundred people had crammed themselves into the building and they all wanted totalk. The children had picked up ontheir parents’ emotions and looked fearful, apart from the ones too young toknow that something was wrong. Alexfound herself targeted by irate people who wanted to know what had happened tothe RAF, or why the invasion had been allowed to take place. After trying to point out twice that she hadbeen taken completely by surprise, she did her best to ignore the louderprotesters. It wasn't as if there wasanything else she could do.

    “We can survive this if we all pull together,” Leigh said,once the general panic had calmed down slightly. The sheer unreality of the situation helped,although the BBC had clearly managed to cause panic in some quarters. One report claimed that London and Manchesterhad been occupied by giant elephants. Alex couldn't help, but feel that little gray aliens would have beenmore traditional. “We don’t know what’sgoing to happen, but we will getthrough it all.”

    The crowd didn't ask for specifics, luckily. Alex allowed herself a moment of relief thatit seemed to be quietening down, even though she wasn't sure what she wanted todo now. Where did she go to reportin? RAF Coningsby was almost certainlydestroyed – or occupied by alien forces. The RAF had been taken completely by surprise.

    She stepped outside and looked up at the darkening sky. An entire day had gone by and she’d barelynoticed. High overhead, the stars werecoming out – and there were a handful of trails burning their way down towardsEarth. The remains of humanity’spathetic space program, she assumed. Some of the other lights would be alien starships...

    In the distance, she heard the sound of thunder andshuddered.

    The night no longer felt safe.
     
    goinpostal, kom78, STANGF150 and 2 others like this.
  18. ChrisNuttall

    ChrisNuttall Monkey+++


    Chapter Eight<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:eek:ffice" />



    Salisbury Plain

    United Kingdom,Day 1



    “Prime Minister?”



    Gabriel shook himself awake, surprised that he’d managedto fall asleep. After they’d leftLondon, they’d followed the Thames upstream, with only minor delays caused bybridges that the aliens had targeted from orbit. A couple of hours later, they’d left the boatand transferred themselves to a Land Rover Butcher had recovered fromsomewhere. Reading between the lines,Gabriel guessed that the vehicle had been stolen, but he had found it difficultto care. Exhaustion had overwhelmed himsoon afterwards.



    They had parked in the midst of woodland, with thevehicle half-hidden under the trees. Asmall group of armed soldiers wearing camouflage uniforms had surrounded thevehicle, glancing around nervously as they waited for the Prime Minister todisembark. Gabriel knew very littleabout the military, but he could tell that the soldiers were worried. No matter how he looked at the situation,there seemed little cause for optimism. A day ago, he’d been Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Now...his position as Prime Minister seemedalmost meaningless. No Prime Ministerhad ever had to flee London for fear that enemy troops would capture or killhim. Even Charles I had managed a reasonablydignified departure from his former capital.



    Butcher led him into the woods, down towards a smallconcrete building marked PRIVATE, KEEP OUT. The soldier opened the door, revealing a ladder leading down into thedepths of the Earth. Unwilling to showfear in front of the soldiers, Gabriel followed him down and realised to hisrelief that the lower levels of the bunker were properly lit. A uniformed soldier was waiting for him. The man looked deeply worried, but relievedwhen he saw the Prime Minister.



    “Prime Minister,” the soldier said. “I’m Brigadier Gavin Lightbridge-Stewart. Welcome to the bunker.”



    Gabriel followed the Brigadier as he led the way througha hatch into a large concrete room. Itseemed primitive compared to some of the other emergency facilities he’d seenover the years, clearly not a facility that had been intended to return toactive service. A number of maps hadbeen scattered on the table, with red lines drawn on them by a handful ofmilitary personnel. Several more officerswere working what looked like an older set of radios, trying to get back intouch with the rest of the world. Oddly,Gabriel felt a pang of relief as he took in the scene. The situation was bad – disastrous – butexperienced personnel were trying to come to grips with it. They might not be so outmatched after all.



    “Please, be seated,” the Brigadier said. “I have a military brief for you, but youmight prefer a shower and a change of clothes – and a hot meal. The situation is unlikely to change in thenext few hours.”



    Gabriel hesitated. In truth, he wanted the shower, and some food, and a few more hours ofsleep. But he needed to know what wasgoing on before he could come to grips with the situation. Perhaps they could find out what the aliensactually wanted – assuming they wanted anything. If invasion and settlement was their goal,surely they’d have some kind of plan to deal with the human governments. He remembered the report that alien craftwere heading towards London – the craft they’d seen as they headed upriver –and shuddered. The aliens had made atleast one of their goals quite clear.



    “I’d like the briefing first,” he said, finally. The Brigadier nodded, as if he understoodperfectly. Neither of them could do muchto influence the situation, but they couldn't just rest while the entirecountry was in danger. “How much do weactually know about what’s going on out there?”



    The Brigadier tapped one finger on the maps. “Most of our military communications networkhas been badly hammered,” he said. “Wenever anticipated the physical destruction of the network nodes or the satellitenetwork orbiting the planet, although most of the hardwired connections – the landlines – are undamaged. Our intelligenceis therefore very limited and changes frequently, but I’ve had severalintelligence and signals units working on what we do have and trying to puttogether a comprehensive picture.”



    His expression darkened. “The aliens – whoever they are, whatever they want – have clearly notlimited their attentions to us,” he added. “We have intermittent contact with the Americans and they confirm thatWashington has been invaded; we also picked up a brief report from a French militaryunit that implied that Paris had also been hit. I’m afraid that we have been unable to make contact with American or Frenchgovernment officials – the outlook, Prime Minister, isn't good.”



    Gabriel nodded, bitterly. He’d hoped that they would be able to call on NATO for support, but itwas clear that NATO had fragmented, with the national military forces on therun – fighting their own helpless battles. The American President was a friend and he’d managed to make someprogress in talking to the French President...what had happened to them afterthe aliens landed? America was sopowerful that he assumed that the aliens had devoted much of their attention tosmashing them flat. It was quitepossible that the President and everyone else in the line of succession wasdead.



    “We have been attempting to make contact with personnelin Europe – we have officers at NATO Headquarters and a British Army base in Germany– but so far attempts have proven fruitless,” the Brigadier said. “I think we have to assume the worst; theunits have been destroyed or scattered. Parts of the internet are still working and we may be able to establishcontact, but...”



    He shook his head. “Overall, Prime Minister, the news is about as bad as it can get,” hecontinued. “From what reports we have received,the Royal Navy has been effectively destroyed from orbit. We’ve picked up witness reports of warshipsbeing hit by missiles or kinetic energy weapons, leaving them ablaze andsinking. There are reports that suggestthat many large container ships have also been sunk. We assume that the other major naval forceshave also been destroyed, but we’ve heard nothing apart from a brief internetmessage from Toulon reporting a sinking carrier.”



    “My God,” Gabriel said. How many sailors had died before they’d even known that they were underattack? “What about the air force?”



    “The RAF has lost most of its bases to orbital strikes,”the Brigadier said. “The aliens havebeen dropping in on some of the bases and converting them – I suspect – to bridgeheads. I’ve issued orders for material to be removedfrom the remaining bases before the aliens arrive and take possession – the RAFRegiment has orders to briefly engage them and then withdraw before they can bedestroyed by superior firepower. Ahandful of aircraft survived the first strikes and attempted to hit back at thealiens, but results were...not optimum. Thealiens have also been landing on civilian airports and deploying their forcesto take up positions on the ground. Ourability to impede them is very limited.”



    He waited, perhaps expecting Gabriel to say something,but there was nothing to say. “They alsobombarded most – not all – of the army garrisons in the country,” heconcluded. “Damage was very significant,but enough soldiers survived to allow us to begin preparations for undergroundwar – if necessary. I’ve had teams of soldiersreturn to the damaged bases and remove as much equipment and weaponry as we canfrom storage – as well as rounding up soldiers, reservists, and anyone withmilitary experience who is willing to volunteer. I suspect that the aliens won’t leave usalone here much longer – they have to know that we’re attempting to regroup.”



    Gabriel shivered. “Brigadier...Ineed a honest answer,” he said. The Brigadierlooked oddly insulted by the question. “Canwe stop them if they come here?”



    “Unlikely,” the Brigadier admitted, after a moment. He drew out a line on the map. “I have positioned our remaining armour –that’s Challenger II tanks, the best tanks in the world – in positions wherethey can give the aliens a bloody nose when they come westwards. They’re backed up by antiaircraft weapons,small antitank teams and a whole series of booby traps. We can and we will give them a bloody nose,Prime Minister, but we can't stop them. They have complete air supremacy and the ability to drop rocks on usfrom space. A straight fight will be disastrousfor us.”



    “I never claimed to be a military man,” Gabriel said, slowly,“but why are you talking about fighting them if you can't stop them?”



    The Brigadier frowned. “Prime Minister...in recent years, we have had to operate on reduced logisticsthat have, quite frankly, cost lives. Normally, we would be able to draw ammunition, fuel and spare parts fromour deports on the mainland, although we could never afford the stockpiles thatwe believed to be necessary for modern warfare. Military units burn through their supplies at terrifying speeds, evenunder the best of circumstances. Rightnow, our logistics train has effectively been destroyed. I imagine that we will become unable tooperate the tanks within the next week. And, of course, they have eyes in the sky. They’d be able to detect us moving the tanksand blow them away from orbit.



    “What that means is that our best chance for actually hurting them badly is now,” he added. “From what we’ve seen of their armour inLondon – we managed to get pictures from the battle – we should be able to givethem a rough reception. Our tankers havebeen given orders to hit the enemy hard, then fall back and abandon their vehicles. We should be able to make them more carefulabout advancing into unsecured territory while we prepare our fallback option.”



    Gabriel shook his head slowly. Yesterday, he’d been thinking about theeconomy. Now he was forced to thinkabout war raging across England’s green and pleasant land. It should have been unthinkable. He rubbed the side of his head, feeling aheadache pounding inside his skull. Howcould anyone come to grips with what was tearing the country – the world –apart?



    He looked up at the military officer. “And what do we do after they’ve smashed ourtanks?”



    “The only thing we can do,” the Brigadier admitted. “We fight an underground war – an insurgency –until they decide that humans are too dangerous to keep as slaves.”



    “But...” Gabriel stopped,unsure if he should believe his ears. The thought of waging an insurgency against the invaders was romantic inthe abstract, but in the real world he knewit would be horrific. God alone knewhow the invaders would react to insurgents – human history showed a wide rangeof possible alternatives. Hell, for allhe knew the invaders had technology that would allow them to read humanthoughts or track human soldiers by their scent. “Can we hope to win?”



    “I don’t know,” the Brigadier said. “All I can say is that it seems to be theonly alternative – unless we want to raise the white flag and surrender.”



    Gabriel settled back into his chair, feeling the strengthflowing out of his body. Surrender? Winston Churchill had rejected the very ideaof surrender, insisting that Britain would fight on the beaches and fields andstreets – but Churchill had known that invading Britain would be a monumentaltask for Adolf Hitler. Would hisattitude have been different, Gabriel asked himself, if the Nazis had actuallylanded? Europe had seen bitter fightingin towns and cities, but Britain had been spared. But now...the aliens had succeeded where along string of enemies had failed. They’dlanded in England and the remains of the British military was on the run.



    And yet...what did the aliens have in mind forhumanity? He’d wracked his brains, buthe hadn't been able to come up with one solid reason for an advanced alien raceto invade the Earth. All they could takefrom Earth was humans – and surely if they were advanced enough to cross thegulf between stars, they were advanced enough to make machines that wouldreplace slaves. Maybe they were justmindless monsters, intent on exterminating all other races, but then they couldhave just dropped rocks from orbit. Ormaybe there was something he was missing. If only he wasn't so tired...



    “I don’t know what to do,” he admitted. He cursed himself a moment later, forforgetting the one thing that should have been a priority. “What’s happening with the civilianpopulation?”



    The Brigadier’s expression hardened. “The aliens have come down in force aroundLondon, Manchester and a dozen other cities,” he said. “From the reports we’ve had, they’ve beenrefusing to allow anyone to leave and they’re backing up that refusal with liveammunition. Other parts of the countryhave seen riots and unrest – I think that they’re only going to get worse aspeople realise that the government has been crippled. We’re trying to get reservists out of thecities, but...”



    He shook his head. “I’m afraid it’s going to get worse, Prime Minister,” he added. “It won’t be long before we seestarvation. God alone knows how manypeople are going to die.”



    Gabriel silently cursed his predecessors – and himself. Over the years, Britain had become increasinglydependent upon food imported from overseas – upwards of fifty percent of Britishfood came from outside the country. Andwith the global trading network shot to hell by the aliens, there were likelyto be shortages very quickly. The damagethe aliens had inflicted on Britain's road and rail networks wouldn't makedistributing what was left any easier. There had been calls to establish a national strategic food reserve thatwould allow the government to feed the people, if necessary, but successive governmentshad chosen to avoid the issue rather than pay for the necessary precautions.



    “We never planned for this sort of global outrage,” headmitted. Perhaps, he added to himself,because the prospects were so horrifying. “What do we do about it?”



    “I don’t think we cando much about it,” the Brigadier said. “I think that we will have to hope that the aliens choose to feed ourpopulation – we sure as hell can’t do it for ourselves.”



    Gabriel tried to find some of Churchill’s determination withinhimself, but it seemed impossible to believe that there was any hope of victory– or even survival. His position asPrime Minister was meaningless...



    “Have a rest,” the Brigadier advised. “I have teams working on our long-term plans –it’s possible that the aliens will give us enough time to lay the groundworkfor a long-term insurgency.”



    “Or they won’t,” Gabriel said. He pulled himself to his feet. The room seemed to be spinning around him andhe was suddenly aware of the people covertly watching him. He had to be strong for them, he told himselffirmly. It didn't help. “If we can't beat them, Brigadier, what’s thepoint of even fighting?”



    ***

    Brigadier Gavin Lightbridge-Stewart watched, his faceimpassive, as the Prime Minister’s bodyguards helped him down the narrowcorridor. There was a small selection ofrooms under the bunker, where he could have a shower and a long sleep – God knewhe needed it. The man wasn't a soldier andhadn’t even considered the possibility that he might find himself on the run;for all the bellyaching about British politicians and the seemingly endless scandals,Britain wasn't Afghanistan or one of the other countries where politicalleaders knew to keep a bag packed for flight at all times.



    He looked down at the map on the table, trying to forcehimself to remain optimistic. Thesituation was grim, but the reports from London made it clear that the aliens weren'tgods. They seemed to have a slightshortage of force fields, directed energy weapons and all the other miracle technologythat any self-respecting fictional alien race should possess. In fact, some of their technology looked tobe inferior to human tech – although therewas no way to be sure. The analysts hadtaken a look at the images of the alien landing shuttles and concluded that theyshouldn't fly, at least with any technology known to mankind. Their best guess was that the aliens had someform of negating gravity. The shuttlesactually seemed to be more fragile than human craft. They’d been hit with Stingers and blown outof the air.



    How long do we have? He asked himself. They’d been spoiled by modern technology. The fog of war, once banished by overhead reconnaissanceand satellite imagery, was back with a vengeance. There was no way to know what the aliens weredoing – at least until the scouts were in position to start reportingback. And the aliens could presumablytrack their radio transmissions and direct their aircraft to pick them off...



    The Prime Minister had looked as if he was on the vergeof collapse. Gavin couldn't blame him;no one, in their worst nightmares, had imagined an alien invasion. He didn't want to think about what the civilian population was feeling, looking outinto the darkening sky and wondering what would happen to them now that theircountry had been invaded. Britain hadbeen a good place to live for many; now...now it might become a nightmarishalien-ruled land. Or perhaps the alienswould choose to work through human proxies.



    He shook his head. There was no way to know.



    Passing command of the bunker to one of his subordinates –who had been commanding a troop of tanks until Gavin had pulled him out toserve in the bunker – he headed for the ladder up to the surface. He could inspect the defence lines and chatwith the soldiers, just to see how they were coping with the situation. And he could start laying the groundwork forunderground resistance. The PM mightswing towards coming to an accommodation with the aliens, but Gavin had otherideas. His country had been invaded.



    He wasn't going to let that pass without a fight.
     
  19. Grimjaw

    Grimjaw Monkey+

    A very good start to a good read. Thanks.
     
  20. ChrisNuttall

    ChrisNuttall Monkey+++


    Chapter Nine<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:eek:ffice" />



    London

    United Kingdom,Day 2



    Westminster looked like a war zone.



    No, AlanBeresford, Member of Parliament for Haltemprice, corrected himself. It was awar zone. Alan prided himself on hiscynical approach to life – it had certainly served him well in politics – buteven he felt a pang as he saw the damage the aliens had inflicted on the heartof the British Government. The Houses ofParliament were scorched – by the aliens or their human defenders – and Big Benhad collapsed inward on itself. Therehad been hundreds of dead bodies scattered about, but from what he’d heard thealiens were collecting them up and disposing of them. He didn't want to think about how.



    At thirty-five, Alan had been in politics for most of hislife. His father had been awell-connected MP who had arranged for his son to receive employment within theoffice of another MP, who had in turn opened up a whole series of doors for hisfriend’s son. Alan knew little about theworld outside politics and cared less. Allhe cared about was the chance to make money, increase his personal power baseand pass his legacy on to his son. He’ddreaded the prospect of an effective Prime Minister in Ten Downing Street for along time – the thought of someone like Thatcher taking a look at his hiddensecrets was terrifying – and he’d done a great deal to keep the position in thehands of a pathetic non-entity. Alan nolonger believed in Britain, but then – why should he? The great British population, blessed withthe gift of democracy, freely chose to elect men with few real qualificationsfor government – and then blamed those men for what they did to thecountry. No one had ever really heldParliament to account for a very long time.



    But now...the world had changed overnight. Aliens had arrived, real aliens. Alan hadn’t seen any of the battle at firsthand, not when he’d been cowering in his upmarket flat fearing that everysecond might be his last. He’d believedthat it was more likely to be terrorists and the BBC’s increasingly absurdbroadcasts just another sign of panic caused by the terrorists. The news had only penetrated his skull whenhis political fixer had staggered in, bleeding from his shoulder, and ravingabout massive aliens. And then he’dheard their broadcast...



    His position as an elected MP was useless now, Alanknew. The British Government was on therun – no one had seen hide or hair of Bryce and his ineffectual Cabinet sincethe aliens had landed. Alan knew betterthan to assume that Bryce could turn the situation around, which meant that itwas every man for himself. The aliens,on the other hand, wielded real power. He could make an alliance with them and offer his services in exchangefor protection, wealth and more power than he’d ever dreamed possible. Who knew what sort of rewards a race thatcould cross the gulfs between stars could offer their faithful servants?



    He stopped dead as he saw the alien patrol turningtowards him. Despite his belief that thealiens needed allies, it took all of his strength not to turn and flee. The massive brutes loomed over him, carryingweapons that seemed too large to be real. Alan had used shotguns and hunting rifles while staying at estates ownedby his friends, but the alien weapons were very different. It struck him that the aliens had to be lesssocially developed than humanity – yet it hardly mattered. They’d crossed the gulf of space to reachEarth and impose their will upon humanity. It had taken them barely a day to crush most of humanity’s defences.



    Alan smiled and held up his hands, hoping that the alienswould understand the gesture. Their darkeyes showed no sign of human emotions; their faces seemed curiously immobile,almost as if they didn't have emotions at all. Or perhaps he was just looking in the wrong place. They might show their thoughts by how theirhands moved when they spoke.



    “I come in peace,” he said. “Take me to your leader.”



    “Follow us,” the lead alien grated. The voice didn't seem to come from its mouth,but from a small device hanging down below its oversized chin. Alan wasn't too surprised that they couldspeak English. They were clearlyadvanced enough to monitor human broadcasts and decipher human languages. “Do not attempt to escape.”



    The area surrounding Ten Downing Street and BuckinghamPalace had been devastated. Alienmachines were moving through the rubble, pushing it aside and exposing thehidden network of tunnels under Whitehall. A set of alien-designed buildings had already been erected in Hyde Park,allowing them to come and go freely, rather than trying to fit into humanbuildings. They’d have problems usinghuman vehicles and aircraft, Alan told himself, and smiled. Even heappreciated that the aliens were on the end of a very long logistics chain. They’d be delighted if he could convincethousands of humans to serve their new overlords.



    One of the aliens held up an oversized hand to stop himin his tracks, while a second waved what looked like a metal wand over hisbody. A security check, he realised, andallowed his mobile phone to be confiscated without demur. He hadn't been able to get a signal to callanyone – the landlines seemed to be badly damaged, or perhaps the staff justhadn’t reported in after the aliens had landed – and he made a mental note tosuggest to the aliens that they restore mobile phone communications as soon aspossible. It would go a long way towardsallowing them to win hearts and minds.



    The interior of the alien building was oddlydisappointing. It seemed more like agiant tent than anything else, with dozens of aliens working on small consolesand barking orders – or at least he assumed they were orders – at theirsubordinates. A massive image of Britainwas displayed against one wall, covered with red and green markers thatappeared to surround most of the larger cities. For the first time, Alan allowed himself to doubt the wisdom of hiscourse of action. The aliens seemed tohave won the war in the first day. Perhaps they wouldn't need him...



    His escorts opened a door in the side of the building andpushed him into an oversized office. Itwas easy to believe that it was a power office, like the rooms favoured by CEOshe knew, but perhaps it was just normal for the aliens. They would need more living space than humans– a large human office might be uncomfortably cramped for them. A single alien was half-crouching in front ofa desk, tapping away at what had to be a computer terminal. He – Alan decided to assume that it was amale, at least until it was proven otherwise – wore a simple black uniform,decorated with golden writing. Assumingthe aliens prized gold as much as humanity, he was looking at a seniorofficer. He stepped forward and did hisbest to place an interested expression on his face. Who knew how the aliens would react to a manoffering to help them?



    “I am Ju’tro Oheghizh,”the alien said. Alan assumed that Ju’tro was a title of some kind –General, perhaps, or Leader? It wasunlikely that the supreme commander of a force invading the entire planet wouldbe based in Britain. “You wished to talkwith me?”



    “Yes, sir,” Alan said. Perhaps the alien wouldn't understand human respect, but there was noreason to take chances. “I am a highofficial in the government of this country. I wish to offer you my services.”



    There was a long moment as the alien’s unreadable eyesbored into Alan’s face. “We know who youare,” the alien said, finally. Alan’smind raced; he hadn't seen them communicating, but who knew what they might beable to do? They might havecommunications implants in their skulls. “You will assist us in bringing humanity into the State.”



    “Of course,” Alan said, quickly. He allowed himself another smile. “I would be happy to serve.”



    ***

    “You know,” Sergeant Singh observed, “I was rather hopingthat it would be a nightmare.”



    Robin nodded in agreement. They’d found their way to a police station,hidden most of the weapons in what he hoped was a secure hiding place, and thengone to sleep in the station’s dormitory. A handful of policemen with families had gone to their homes to check ontheir loved ones. No one had attemptedto dissuade them. Robin had consideredtrying to slip out of the city and make it to his house – and his wife – butthe aliens had blocked all of the roads out of London. He had kept trying the telephone, only tohear nothing, not even a dial tone.



    He pulled himself out of the bunk and checked theshower. The station's internal watersupply was still working, thankfully, as was the internal generator. Most of London's power had been lostovernight, although there was no way to know if the aliens had done itdeliberately or if humans had simply shut the power stations down before theyfell into alien hands. London had seemeduneasily quiet after the events of the invasion, but Robin had noillusions. It wouldn't be long beforethe veneer of society fell away and what remained of social order collapsedinto anarchy. And without the police onthe streets, it was likely to spread rapidly. God alone knew what would happen then.



    “I managed to get some news from the BBC,” one of theconstables reported after he entered the briefing room. Had it only been two days ago when he’d beenon patrol, back when the world had made sense? “They were claiming that negotiations are in progress and it was all aterrible mistake.”



    Robin snorted. “That was no mistake,” he said, flatly. He couldn't see how a race that could cross light years could launch anattack on London by accident. The BBC had never impressed him as apoliceman, if only because it tended to side against the police force wheneverits honour, capability or competence was called into question. “The planet has been invaded and we’re atwar. God help us.”



    He scowled over at the darkened terminal. Normally, it would have been glowing withupdates from across the city, as well as items of interest, lists of suspectsand all the other information that the modern policeman needed on a dailybasis. Now, it was dark, suggesting thatthe police communications network was still down. Each of the police stations would have beencut off from the others...he shook his head, bitterly. What were they supposed to do now? Report in to the aliens and see what they hadin mind for police officers?



    “I’ve got something,” one of the other constablessaid. “I heard a voice...”



    He fiddled with the radio again and the static faded awayto a background hiss. “...Speaking forthe Conquest Force,” a voice – unmistakably human – said. “I am the sole surviving member of theBritish Government. We have beendefeated. The Eridian Conquest Fleet hasdestroyed our defences. We can no longeroffer resistance to their invasion force. I am therefore ordering all remaining military units to surrender atonce to the nearest Eridian force. Theirleaders have assured me that they will be treated well, in accordance with their Rules of Law.”



    Robin swore. “Whothe hell is that?”



    “That’s Beresford,” Sergeant Singh said. “I think he’s sold out to the aliens!”



    “We must accept the fact that human independence isover,” Beresford continued. “They haveinformed me that humans who are willing to serve will receive good treatmentand a chance to climb within their ranks. Humans who refuse to serve them will be treated as criminals and rebelsagainst the new lawful authority on Earth. I have been charged with making the process of human assimilation intotheir society as smooth as possible. There is no other hope for the survival of humanity. The aliens rule the skies. Long-term resistance will only result in thedeaths of millions of humans.



    “Accordingly, I am ordering all civil servants andpolicemen to report for service at once,” he continued. “Those who do not report will be treated asdeserters and will face the consequences when they are caught. Our priority must be the reestablishment oflaw and order within Britain. Those whodo not submit to their rule will be punished.”



    There was a long pause. “We have grown used to human despots concealing their true motives behindfancy language,” he concluded. “TheEridians do not seem to share our attitudes. They wanted Earth; they took it. Their attitudes will not be swayed by pleas or protests. They believe that might makes right. Do not, for the sake of all humanity, seek tochallenge them. They will respond withdeadly force.”



    A moment passed, and then the message began to repeatitself. “Turn it off,” Robin snarled,savagely. He couldn't believe hisears. There was no way to doubt thatBeresford had sold out to Earth’s new masters. They’d probably promised him wealth and power if he served them. “What the hell do we do now?”



    One of the constables put their choice into words. “They seem to want us to work for them,” hesaid. “If we do that...”



    “Collaboration,” someone else growled.



    “If we work with them,” the constable continued, “wewould insulate the ordinary people – the people we swore to protect – from thealiens. If we refuse...we put our livesand those of our families in danger. Weall know how the aliens react to challenges.”



    Robin nodded, bitterly. A group of louts – if he could be excused a moment of politicalincorrectness – had attacked an alien patrol with glass bottles and littleelse, apart from bad intentions. Thealiens had opened fire and killed many of their attackers before the remainderfled for their lives. It hadn't been theonly encounter between the aliens and humans who had tried to fighteither. The aliens didn't seem to carethat the humans were young, barely armed, and powerless...they’d seen a threatand dealt with it. They didn't havelawyers and politicians in uniform holding them back from handing out a goodthrashing.



    “There’s another possibility,” Sergeant Singhsuggested. “We join up – and prepareourselves to turn on the aliens if necessary. They might have told us thatthey’ve crushed all resistance, but we know that that might not be true.”



    “I won’t push anyone into the decision,” Robin said. He’d made up his mind. “If anyone wants to leave, they can do so now– without fear. I will go and see if Ican shield humans from them...”



    “Maybe,” Sergeant Singh said. “Or perhaps they’ll expect us to do as we’retold. And we might be told to dosomething truly awful.”



    ***

    Fatima rubbed her eyes as she pulled herself from thedepths of sleep. She’d just run out ofenergy – after seeing so many patients she’d lost count, she’d ended up findinga quiet corner and just collapsing into an uneasy sleep. Never in her worst nightmares had sheimagined having to help so many people – and watch others die though lackingthe supplies to save them. Maybe it hadbeen a dream...she shook her head, cursing her own weakness. It had been no dream. They were still in the makeshift hospital andshe could hear patients moaning in pain.



    She pulled herself to her feet and headed towards thecorridor. It was crammed with patients,lying on the floor; only the lucky ones had blankets to insulate themselvesfrom the cold. The sight appalled her;the NHS hadn't been the best medical service in the world, but it wouldn't haveallowed such conditions in a hospital. Now...now there was nothing they could do for their patients, but try tomake them as comfortable as possible. They’d raided all the nearby chemists and supermarkets – and they were still short of supplies.



    A hand fell on her shoulder and she jumped. “You all right, missy?”



    It was a policeman, wearing what looked like riot-controlgear. “I’m tired,” she said,bitterly. “What are you doing here?”



    “It seems that they want us to take care of thehospitals,” the policeman said. Hesounded as if he didn't quite believe his own words – or the changes in theworld since...had it really been only a day ago? “There’s fifty of us assigned here and over ahundred at the nearest hospital. Someone’s been helping them assign us, that's for sure. Did you hear the broadcast?”



    “I’ve been sleeping,” Fatima admitted. Her body ached and she was uncomfortablyaware that she stank. The white jacketshe wore had been stained by blood. Hersupervisor would have been furious at her if she’d turned up to work looking asif she’d walked out of a slaughterhouse. “What happened?”



    “One of our beloved MPs has sold out to the aliens,” thepoliceman explained. “I think we’reexpected to bow and scrape before them now – or they’ll be offended. And it seems that their response to offenseis to open fire.”



    Fatima shivered. “Is there nothing we can do?”



    “It seems that we’ve been beaten,” the policemansaid. “Maybe there’ll be a chance to dosomething about it later, but for the moment we just have to keep our headsdown and see what happens. Maybe theremains of the military can beat them off, or...something. Perhaps the Americans will fly a captured UFOup to the mothership and blow them up...”



    He shook his head. “All we can do is wait and see,” he said. “The fighting seems to be at an end – and welost. The country has been invaded. And God alone knows what is going to happennext.”
     
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