For those who remember Fall of Night, this is set in the same universe. Chapter One<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-comfficeffice" /> I did not intend to write this brief account of whathappened in London and England during those dark days of 2025. I was a naive child, for all that I wastwenty-five, and so much of what happened passed me by until much later. But those who want a full record haverequested that I do so, even though it will be a very angry accountindeed. The French, I am told, asked in1940 who had betrayed them. After 2025,we were asking the same question. My name is Flora, my parents both Scottish from theHighlands. I grew up in Inverness, butwhen the time came to go to university I went to London. It was expensive as hell – I had to take outa sizable loan – but I was assured that there were enough jobs for graduates inLondon to ensure that I repaid everything by the time I was thirty. Needless to say, that assurance wascompletely in error. I graduated in 2023and spent the next two years looking for work. Respectable jobs were not easy to get, unless you had experience orcontacts and I had neither. I moonlit asa barmaid, had my bottom pinched enough to leave permanent marks and foundmyself tempted into prostitution. Therewere times when I considered suicide. Myparents had advised me against moving to London and I could have gone back tothem, yet that would have meant swallowing my pride. Would that I had gone back to them beforeLondon came under attack. The London of 2025 was not the London of 1940, or eventhe London of 7/7 when suicidal morons decided to blow up parts of the citybecause they were protesting something. Endless cuts in government funding hadcrippled the police, turning entire suburbs into no-go areas where strangersventured only if they were willing to take their lives into their own hands. I – and millions of others – fell into anunderclass that had some of our needs met by the state, but not the ones thatreally mattered to us. We wanted jobsand dignity and we had neither. Is itreally so surprising that the riots of 2011 were only the precursor to more andmore uprisings several years later? Someof us were so heavily indebted that we literally couldn't take up a job, knowing that our creditors would takeeverything. I had barely been in London for five years and I couldtell that the city was breaking down. Every day, there were new delays on the Tube, or endless traffic jams inthe hundreds of roads that led into the city. I had heard that everyone who could was trying to leave the city, hopingto find somewhere where the police weren't hopeless and the neighbours weren't surelyuntrusting bastards who would gut you as soon as look at you. There was no hope that I could leave thecity, of course, not unless I went home. And I told myself that it would get better. Maybe it would have done, but I doubtit. The Russians never gave us thechance to find out. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Yes, I was part of the protest scene; I admitthat now, even though I know that American readers will snort in disgust. How can I blame them? But we told ourselves that someone had totake the blame for what had happened to us and why not the Americans? It was the Americans who had invaded most ofthe Middle East after terrorists devastated San Francisco. Our lives were filled with endless broadcastsof American soldiers shooting down kids, raping women and stripping men oftheir dignity. It rarely occurred to usthat most of those broadcasts were faked, while others were taken out ofcontext. What did we have in common with the American boys in the Middle East? None of us knew a soldier, even a British soldier,apart from the handful forced to live on the streets after the governmentstopped paying their benefits. It never occurredto us spoiled children that there was something shameful in treating yourfighting men like dirt. Our peace and securitycame at a price we were no longer prepared to pay. It was an American serviceman who finally triggered thecrisis that led to the removal of American forces from Britain and theeffective collapse of NATO. Everyoneagrees that he was responsible for the rape and murder of a pre-teen British girl. What no one agrees on is what happenednext. The British Government wanted totry him in Britain, some said; others suggested that the Americans would handout a much heavier penalty to the bastard if he was tried in an American militarycourt. And then the media got hold of itand demonized the Americans. They werewilling to allow a rapist to escape punishment, the media claimed, because theythought that Americans were special. Arational look would have shown that that wasn't true, but it was already toolate. No politician in England daredpush for retaining the American military presence. Six months later, most of the Americans weregone. The next pebble to fall was the disaster in Sudan, twoyears after the crisis with the American serviceman. Again, little I heard at the time madesense. I learned afterwards that a multinationalEuropean force had been dispatched to the area to protect the locals frommilitants who wanted to slaughter them. It worked perfectly until the militants actually tried to slaughtertheir targets. The politicians hadinsisted that the soldiers had to abide by strict rules of engagement, whichmeant that they effectively had to allow the killings to go ahead. A French General – I forgot his name – shot upthe radio, ordered the troops into action and carried out a massacre of hisown. The militants got a bloody nose –and as European troops pulled out, the General handed their would-be victimsenough weapons to defend themselves over the coming years. But it wasn't enough to satisfy the politicians. The General committed suicide and the upper echelonsof EUROFOR were purged. After that, many European soldiers enlisted inthe American Foreign Legion, seeing the writing on the wall. The European Union was doomed. After that, there was the civil war in the Ukraine. The EU had accepted the Ukraine as a memberstate, but the Russians living there didn't accept it and wanted independence;they were backed by Mother Russia, of course. And the Russians reacted harshly when EUROFOR attempted to contain thechaos. They moved troops into Belarusand made endless political and economic threats. The same thing happened for the next threeyears. Very few of us – if any –realised that the Russians were trying to lure us into a sense of security. Suffice it to say that as 2025 rolled aroundvery few of us took the deployments of British – and French, German and otherEuropean – troops to Poland very seriously. The Russians benefited more by selling their oil and gas to us than byfighting, we were told, and there was no need to fear as long as we recognised theirlegitimate security concerns. Chamberlain could hardly have done a better job of ensuring catastrophicdefeat ahead of the actual declaration of war. I wonder now that I didn't notice anything. Did I sense, somehow, that nemesis was approaching? Was that why I flung myself into an endlessseries of drink, dancing, drugs and boys? We partied heavily and it was a rare night when I didn’t find myselfsharing a different boy’s bed. I had nopermanent boyfriend, not even a casual friendship that might have becomesomething more. Why should I havehad? I was completely irresponsible and didn'teven know it. Anything could havehappened to me, because I took almost no precautions at all, but I didn't care. I had been wrapped in a safety blanket for myentire life. On the morning of the 1<sup>st</sup> of May, 2025, Ifound myself in company with a friend from France. (He wasn't a great lover, despite all therumours you may have heard about Frenchmen.) Claude had come to London to meet up with his girlfriend, only to makethe mistake of leaving incriminating texts on his mobile phone. She threw a fit, ordered him out of her flatand – to add insult to injury – smashed his laptop and camera. I found myself trying to cheer him up andfinally suggested that we go visit the London Eye. He’d never been before. For those of you who don’t remember the London Eye, itwas built in 2000 (I think) as part of the celebrations for the millennium. I think it was actually the only one of themto turn a profit. The Millennium Domewas a waste of money from start to finish. Guess how many politicians got sacked over it? None. It was a giant Ferris wheel, rising up over London and up into the airover the Thames. Even at dawn, therewere already giant lines of people waiting to go on it. The counter assistants didn't seem to speak Englishand glared at anyone who suggested that perhaps it would be better if theyfound someone who could. I hated peoplelike them because they always took all the jobs, even the menial ones – and couldnever be sacked for fear of someone accusing them of racism. By the time we got close to the wheel, it wasapparent that it was decaying along with the rest of the city. A number of people seemed to be having secondthoughts and retreated from the lines, leaving the rest of us to wait patientlyuntil it was our turn to board. There was no hope of getting our own capsule. Each capsule could hold upwards of ten peopleand the staff seemed determined to stuff as many people as they could into eachsection. We shared one with an elderly Americancouple, a family with five scrabbling children and a quiet-looking Asian girlwho was chewing her black hair in a manner that suggested that she was deeplyworried. I understood exactly how shefelt the moment the wheel lurched into life. It swung backwards and forwards so alarmingly that I was convinced thatit was about to topple over into the Thames. Inch by inch, we crawled upwards until we could finally see some of London. Smoke was rising up from the direction of thenorth, where there had apparently been a clash between policemen and one of thehundreds of anarchist groups that infected the inner cities. I’d heard about it on the TV, but I really hadn'tpaid much attention. If I’d had anyinkling of the disaster about to befall us, I would have stayed at home – or fledthe city and hoped that I made it to my parents before the hammer camedown. But I didn't and so I didn’t. The American couple clearly remembered London from thirtyyears ago and twittered away about it, ignoring the British citizens in thecapsule. I thought that the old man wasnice, even though he had a tattoo on his arm that suggested military service ofsome kind – I didn't know, then, what SEMPER FI meant or who used it as a motto– but his wife was completely gaga. Shehad a streaming camera people used for uploading live footage to the internetand was filming her husband waving like an idiot to the people on the farend. Judging from the half-tired,half-amused look on the husband’s face, he didn't think that anyone would bewatching the streaming movie live. Thewoman didn't seem to care and, when the children came up to her, happily filmedthem too. Americans. Filming children in Britain before 2025 couldget one in hot water, even if their parents had given permission. No one realises how much social engineeringshapes one’s worldview until the world is suddenly turned upside down, orshattered beyond repair. I winced as the London Eye lurched again and came to ahalt, leaving us about halfway to the very highest point on the wheel. Claude pointed towards the east, where theThames ran down to the sea, but I didn't see much of value looking at it. Some large boats were heading away fromLondon, carrying refugees heading to New Zealand, Australia or even America,although the Americans were careful of whom they let in. I didn't have it in me to do four years ofmilitary service for Uncle Sam, while I found the New Zealanders faintlydisgusting. Anyone could apply for anentry permit, provided that they were white and spoke English. No others need apply. An hour passed slowly as we climbed towards the top ofthe wheel. I kept hearing little creaksin the metal – or so I supposed – running through the superstructure, causingme to wonder if the entire edifice was on the brink of collapse. Claude didn't say anything when I took hishand – perhaps he’d had the same thoughts – and tried to look out towardsLondon. The London Eye had stood fortwenty-five years – as long as I had been alive – and surely it would last longenough for us to get round the hoop and then get back down to the ground. Just as we were almost at the top, a terrifying screechran through the London Eye and the entire structure seemed to jam to a halt, asif someone had put a stick though the wheel. I found myself clutching Claude tightly, no longer caring about mydignity or anything else; I’d been right all along. We were doomed! International Rescue wasn't going to save usand the London Fire Brigade wasn't what it had once been. The Eye was going to topple over and we weregoing to die. I was wrong, it seemed. The London Eye actually seemed to steady. Something had gone wrong with the mechanism,the American guessed, and it would take time for them to fix it and start usmoving again. I resigned myself to along wait, cursing the fact that I hadn't decided to bring any water or softdrinks with us. All we had to eat was apair of Mars Bars and a single Snicker. The kids were making a terrible fuss so I gave them all of the sweets. In hindsight, that was probably a mistake. “Look at that,” Claude said, suddenly. He was still peering north. “What the hell is that?” It looked like a small aircraft, perhaps one of themilitary fighter jets we saw in Armistice Day flybys before they were banned onthe grounds of political correctness. Irealised, a moment later, that there were actually two of them...and they wereboth blazing through the sky at terrific speed. Behind them, a colossal explosion rose up from the ground, far largerthan anything I’d seen outside the video footage from the Middle East. It looked so much like a mushroom cloud thatI was convinced that London had been nuked. “Jesus Christ,” the American said. “Those are missiles!” Time seemed to slow down as the missiles raced towardsCentral London and dived towards their targets. I watched in horror – somehow, I forgot to be afraid – as the firstmissile plunged down into Ten Downing Street. The resulting explosion sent out a flash of light, followed by a massivefireball; seconds later, the shockwave struck the London Eye and it rattledviolently. Flames and debris seemed tobe billowing out all over where Ten Downing Street had been. It should have dawned on me, right there andthen, that the Prime Minister was probably dead, but it didn't make it throughthe numb shock that had gripped my mind. I thought it was hours later when the second missile slammed into itstarget. The Houses of Parliament blewapart in a blinding fireball. “Jesus,” the American said, again. He pulled an Iphone 10V out of his pocket andstarted scrabbling with the smart-screen, only to curse as he realised thatthere was no signal. My own mobile phonewasn't working either. “They were tryingto run...” I saw what he meant and wished that I hadn't. Someone had clearly sounded the alert and theMPs – worthless bastards to a man, voting themselves expenses while ordinary Britonsscrabbled to put food on the table – had been running out of the building, onlyto be caught in the colossal fireball that swept out from the missile’s pointof impact. The remains of the Houses of Parliament– and the buildings near Ten Downing Street – were blazing merrily. It didn't seem possible that anyone couldhave survived in the inferno. They hadn't been the only target. I could see fires blazing up from a dozenpoints of impact within the city. A coupleof them were understandable – I did have a rough idea where the LondonGarrisons were housed – but others were stranger. Why would anyone want to bomb the railwaystations? (It wasn't until later that I wasinformed that it would make it harder to move supplies in and out of thecity.) “Flora,” Claude said. He sounded terrified and I didn't blame him. I wasterrified. “What the **** is going on?” I had no answer. The American had one. “This cityis under attack,” he said. “Listen.” Now that the London Eye was silent, I could hear what hemeant. There was gunfire and explosionscoming from all over the city. The areabelow us was strewn with bodies, all helpless citizens caught up in the midstof a terrorist attack... “It's a war,” the American said, grimly. “Someone is attacking your country.” I couldn't believe it, not until I looked back at theburning remains of the Houses of Parliament. In the space of a few minutes, two of London’s most famous buildings hadbeen utterly destroyed. The American wasright. That was no mere terroristattack. It was an act of war. I didn't know it then, but it was the start of a greatmany strange and terrible days.