Sunday 16 September 2012

The Obscurati Chronicles- Part 14

“MOTHERFUCKERS!” Mark Southsea screamed at the top of his voice, his mouth tight with rage and his teeth bared like a dog.
    “Sectarian bastards!” the woman standing next to him shrilled. “SOPpy scum!”
    There was a man at the front who was slightly more diplomatic. He pointed his finger and shouted:
“You are dividing the Proletariat with your reformist policies!...”
    On the other side of the road the Socialist Organizers hurled abuse back at them: “Petit-bourgeois trendies!”... “Stalinists!”... “I spent three years in the WRSL so I know what a dirty organization you are!”
    The choices of weapon for both lines in the battle were angry words and their stacks of newspapers which they brandished in their arms like spears. The Socialist Organizers carried copies of Direct Action, a similar tabloid the WRSL’s Socialist Times, which they were trying to sell to the policemen on the roadblock. The attempted persuasion and coherent insults eventually broke down and two sides resorted to simply gibbering and grunting at each other like apes at a waterhole: Expletives rose above the clamour: “Fuckin’... Fuckin’... Shit!... Fuckin’... CUNT!... Fuckin... Fuckin’…” Eventually a group of police officers left the roadblock to break it up.
    The protest had begun peacefully. The newly-formed umbrella group Toxic Skies- No Thanks! had organized a simple gathering and demonstration at the St Albans Road cordon at the western outskirts of Belswill. Several coaches came up from London and about two hundred people had thronged along the disused road carrying placards and chanting slogans like: “TWO FOUR SIX EIGHT- TOXIC SKIES ARE WHAT WE HATE!” and lead-chorus shouts like: “What do we want!? SAFE SKIES! When do we want it!? NOW!” The “SAFE SKIES” soon morphed into “JOBS NOT WAR!” and eventually “WELLER OUT!”, (The Prime Minister’s name; put in earlier. Also choose another name. Craig Weller was the PM in Rockall.) with no change in the enthusiasm. Jonathan Capel, a Member of Parliament who led the group did a speech through a megaphone which was applauded by the rest of the crowd; several other supporting orators followed him, to equal applause. It was September and the weather was unseasonably cold and wet, but this didn’t dampen the spirits of the protesters; their bodies were covered in raincoats and their heads crowned by woolly hats, but every face was bright, smiling and defiant.
    Mark had jumped on the first train from Bristol as soon as he heard what had happened and arrived at the sports arena by the afternoon of the second day. It was now Sunday, four days since the helicopter crash in Belswill. (Check continuity and chronology- Ed) The demonstration had been organized almost spontaneously and the organizational work was falling naturally into place. The individuals involved had risen immediately from marginalized obscurity into national fame. The refugees in the stadium were slowly dispersing as family and friends granted them asylum in their homes and Mark had no problem finding an empty camp-bed to sleep on. He did very little sleeping however; he spent several hours on the phone and his laptop with WRSL members in the locality. This was easy because there was a large contingent in London and by the third day a whole gaggle of his comrades were on the London Overground to Watford Junction, ready for action. They were denied access to the stadium because it was only open to Belswill residents and their relatives, so Mark went out to meet them in the traditional WRSL way: at a pub. Glyn tagged along out of sheer boredom; he was finding life in the stadium tedious without his books and his own laptop. As of yet, the Belswill people had been given no deadline, not even an estimate, as to when they’d be allowed to return to their hometown. Mark’s London comrades greeted him warmly as such, although he knew none of them and had only met a few of them at WRSL conferences. They huddled round a table in the lounge bar and, as in his recent visit to Bristol, the conversation soon rose upwards into the Marxist firmament that was way out of Glyn’s reach. He once more felt himself being excluded from his brother’s world.
    They had to wait for two other comrades with cars to arrive in order to reach the roadblock because all busses to Belswill had been cancelled and the town’s railway station lay inside the exclusion zone; a temporary replacement bus service ferried railway passengers around the zone, after the trains, from and to London, stopped at adjacent stations. The main protest was already underway when they arrived. A dark and intimidating atmosphere hung over the area; it was overcast and light drizzle fell persistently. The grey, moist sky was full of helicopters, circling like giant gnats. These were big, loud military aircraft, very different to the brightly-coloured police ones that were usually seen. The noise of their rotors made all other sounds muted and toneless. All in all, a massive chunk of southern Hertfordshire had been completely ensconced (Check definition) by the British armed forces. The entire town of Belswill and many acres of countryside to the north and west of the town were sealed off from public access. The road was blocked by a row of cones with police ribbons stretched between them; in front of those, two police vans were parked. Behind the police cordon was a second back-up roadblock consisting of concrete chicanes; this was manned by armed soldiers, not policemen. The WRSL visitors parked their cars on the disused pavement behind a long row of coaches and other vehicles belonging to the protesters. Glyn followed Mark’s band up the road towards the police lines. To both sides of the road a row of soldiers were stood in a carefully-spaced single file across the pasture; they paced back and forth, their rifles at the ready. “Security’s very tight.” remarked Glyn. “I’ve never seen anything like this before.”
    “Well, we’ve never had a helicopter carrying ninety litres of concentrated polyethylspidroxic acid crash in Belswill before.” replied Mark without looking at him.
    “Why aren’t the police enough on their own?”
    “Do you know how dangerous that stuff is?” butted in one of Mark’s comrades, a man called Mick or Chris or Rob; Glyn couldn’t remember.
    “I know it’s very nasty stuff.”
    “Nasty?” Mick/Chris/Rob frowned at him. “One drop of it on your skin can give you liver cancer! You're not going to be able to eat the vegetables grown in your garden for the next eighty years! The farms round here will have to close.”
    “Still, why the squaddies with guns?... And look!” Glyn pointed. He had been gazing across the verdant fields and pewter sky when he saw a huge steel vehicle with a domed superstructure, like the carapace of a tortoise. It growled like a lorry as it rolled across the sward a few hundred yards away near the edge of some woods; its caterpillar tracks hurled clods of mud into the air behind it. They all stopped and looked at it. “A tank?”
    “That’s not a tank, it’s an armoured personnel carrier.” said another of Mark’s comrades, who Glyn thought was called Steve. “The army always uses them to move troops around; it’s nothing unusual.”
    “Are you sure? It looks like a tank to me; it’s got a turret and a big gun barrel…”
    “Yeah, well my brother’s in the army so I should know the difference, thanks!” Steve snapped at Glyn.
    Glyn jumped at Steve’s sudden sharp tone and stopped for a moment; the WRSL posse walked on without him.
    The police wouldn’t let them get closer than about ten feet from the cordon, but it was easy to see past their shoulders to the second army roadblock about a hundred feet inside the police one. The soldiers there were standing or crouched with their rifles raised; not quite pointing at the protesters but slightly above them, in a semi-threatening way. It occurred to Glyn that if they opened fire then the police on the outer cordon would be cut down by their fire along with their targets in the crowd. Behind the row of troops another tank was parked, its gun barrel raised in a phallic salute over the helmets of the soldiers. Behind this stack of exclusion the road continued into the town; the streets deserted, the houses and shops empty. “Mark.” Glyn privately plucked his brothers elbow and said in a quiet voice. “That is a tank; it’s not an armoured personnel carrier. Why would the army need tanks just to keep people out?”
    “I don’t know; I’m not Stormin’ Norman!” Mark’s tone sustained his comrade’s irritation. The others all turned and glared at him. Their looks said more than their words did. Glyn wished they’d all come out and just tell him to his face. He almost asked them to.
    The main features of the demonstration began soon afterwards. A large white van with the letters BBC stenciled on the side of it appeared and a group of cameramen emerged with a suited reporter behind them. Technicians set up a portable satellite dish on the roof of the vehicle. This activity galvanized the WRSL contingent; they nodded to each other and started edging closer to the front of the protest with their wads of newspapers held up. They kept catching each other in the corners of their eyes as they moved forward, tactically coordinating their movements. As soon as the cameras were rolling and the reporter started speaking the WRSL members were conveniently placed in the background behind the reporter, their newspapers arranged in their arms for all the viewers at home to see. Jonathan Capel and the other main Toxic Skies- No Thanks! management scowled at them and moved forward themselves to try and upstage them. At the same time the BBC camerman stepped to one side and changed his angle to try and frame out the activists in the background. The reporter kept talking as if nothing were happening. The WRSL contingent moved accordingly back into shot while Capel and his friends attempted to outmanoeuvre them. To Glyn it looked like a game of chess on the rain-washed tarmac of the road. Then the WRSL’s rival group, the Socialist Organizing Party, turned up and the slanging match broke out that ended the protest. Eventually the police threatened to make arrests and Mark and his gang slunk off muttering insults at them; Glyn followed.
    Once they were back in the cars Mick/Chris/Rob turned to Glyn. “So, Glyn, are you coming with Mark to the TS-NT public meeting tonight?”
    Glyn shrugged. “Might as well; I’ve got nothing else to do.”
    “Great that’s settled then. Mark, you’ll bring Glyn along, won’t you?”
    Mark was sitting in the front passenger seat directly in front of Glyn. He turned round and looked at his brother, his face a mask.
    The comrades dropped Glyn and Mark off at the stadium; as they walked towards the main entrance Mark stopped and grabbed Glyn’s shoulder. “Listen.” he said. “Are you… are you serious about coming to the public meeting tonight?”
    “Yeah, sure I am.”
    “Then… could you please do me a favour... and don’t mention… you know what.”
    Glyn rolled his eyes. “What?”
    “You know.”
    “No, I don’t.”
    Mark sighed. “That… bullshit that those morons in there were telling you… I know they’ve been talking to you and I’m worried you might be thinking of taking them seriously.”
    “Do you mean about the UFO?”
    Mark flinched at the sound of the word. “Yes! And it’s a load of bollocks!”
    “But, Mark; don’t you think people have a right to say what they saw in…” 
    “Don’t bring it up at the meeting, Glyn!” Mark jabbed a finger at his chest. “Please do not!”
    “Why not?”
    “Because it will discredit the entire campaign and make us all look like nutcases!... Surely you’ve seen the TV! This issue is gaining national and international importance! The bourgeois government has been caught out collaborating with transnational Capitalist corporations to endanger the environment, not to mention the health and lives of ordinary people! Don’t you realize we’ve caught them with their pants down!? Didn’t you see the headlines in papers? ‘HELICOPTERGATE’. The last thing we need right now is to be associated with a bunch of ditsy space-alien enthusiasts!”
    Glyn paused. “Mark, this is a public meeting; that means…”
    “No!” he shouted. “You promise me now that you won’t mention that shite! Do it now, or I won’t drive you there; you can stay here!”
    Glyn put his hands in his pockets and gazed at the ground.
    “Right! Stay here then!” Mark strode off away from him.
Glyn didn’t want to tell his parents the truth about why he wanted to money; he thought up an excuse, but before he had the chance his grandmother came up and gave him the cash. She told him that she would not be attending herself without explaining why. Glyn however knew. As he walked out of the stadium entrance he looked back to see his father and grandmother sitting by the tea-bar chatting. Beryl Southsea needed to talk to her son.
    Glyn headed out of the stadium without talking to anybody else and made for the closest London Underground station, which was only a short walk away. It was getting dark (Check sunset times. What time is it? It’s September) and the rainclouds were clearing. With his Grandmother’s cash he bought a return ticket to Wood Green. He sat huddled on the Tube train, glancing over his shoulder at the other passengers, as it hurtled along the Piccadilly Line; after everything that he’d heard he couldn’t resist a frisson of paranoia. Toxic Skies-No Thanks! had exploited its new-found publicity by hiring one of the most prestigious venues in London, and also one with a reputation for the subversive and avant-garde: Alexandra Palace. There was a huge crowd of hundreds of people flocking into the floodlit building. The floodlights were mixed with the piercing spotlights set up by the multiple TV company mobile units, and Glyn saw the same BBC reporter there that had been at the roadblock protest earlier in the day. Newspaper sellers of various political persuasions were lined up hawking their journals to the attendees. Glyn spotted Mark and the WRSL brigade among them and urgently altered his course to the other side of the throng. It was too late, his brother spotted him. As Glyn walked into the building he glimpsed Mark’s surprised and infuriated, and warning, shake of the head.
    There was an hour before the conference began so Glyn went to the cafe where he’d agreed to meet his new friends. They saw him as he entered the room and smiled at him furtively. He bought a cup of coffee and went and sat beside them. There were four of them including Glyn, just four. Only one had been a complete stranger; the other two had been vague acquaintances within the Belswill community; all had been thrown together by the extraordinary events of the past few days. They’d caucused in the stadium as soon as they realized that they were not alone. Unfortunately, out of the original two dozen people who’d admitted their experience, including Daisy, just these four stalwarts were left. As Glyn sat down Judith, a pretty young secretary from a firm in Barnet, said to him without greetings: “The Parkinsons have been reported dead.”
    She held up a page from the Evening Standard and pointed to a paragraph half way down the leading story. “… Among the casualties named were Graham and Dia Parkinson whose house on Bailey Avenue took the full brunt of the impact. Their bodies were recovered by an RAF forensic team…”
    “But… but… this is crazy!” protested Glyn. “She was in hospital when it happened. My Nan emailed me to tell me to me she was being released that morning.”
    “Well she’s dead now. And so’s her husband.” said Joe, a man in his sixties who’d been at the seance in Dia’s house. “It says she was killed that morning in the helicopter crash.”
    There was silence around the table as the implications of this news sank in.
    “This means our lives are in danger.” said Gary, a young foreman at Belswill Tesco who was balding prematurely, despite only being twenty-nine.
    “Then let’s forget all this and go home!” said Joe.
    “No!” retorted Judith. “We agreed! The world has a right to know!... Besides, our best chance is to get the word out in public. Then if anything happens to us like what happened to Dia nobody will believe it. We also need more witnesses to come forward… There must be two hundred or more who saw the thing! Where are they?”
    “Well then, somebody has to get up and speak during the Q and A.”
    There was a long silence. Three pairs of eyes slowly turned in Glyn’s direction.
    He caught on. “What!?... Why me?”
    “They’re more likely to listen to a little posh kid like you.” There was derogatory tone in Gary’s voice.
    Judith glared at him and then smiled at Glyn. “You’re young and innocent. You’ll be believed. The rest of us will just be accused of making it up. What’s more you were there the night before; you saw what kicked the whole thing off.”
    “So was Joe.” he protested.
    “Yeah, but I’ve done time for burglary.” said Joe.
    “That was a long time ago wasn’t it?”
    “Yes, it was in 1982; I got a year; six months suspended. But mud sticks, Son.”
    “It’s the kind of shit the papers can dig up.” added Judith. “They’ll make out Joe’s a fraudster.”
    Glyn felt himself on a downhill slide as irresistible as an avalanche.
    The throng organized themselves into the rows of seats in the auditorium and the meeting began with a raucous vocal uprising of cheers which quickly solidified into repeated chants of “TOXIC SKIES- NO THANKS!... TOXIC SKIES- NO THANKS!... TOXIC SKIES- NO THANKS!...” The chairman, a suited and political-looking man raised his arms in an appeal for order. The clamour subsided. “Thank you, Comrades! Thank you very much! It fills me with hope to hear such feeling, such passion. And now, with no further ado, I present to you, the man who has had the guts to stand up to the scorn of Government! The scorn of his party! The derision of the Press…” and he added a great deal more complimentary description… “Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Jonathan Capel MP!” There was an almost deafening earthquake of applause as Capel took to the stage. The audience turned into a row of wide-mouthed faces, eyes screwed up in a mixture of rage and adulation.
    Jonathan Capel was a long-standing backbench Labour MP from Cumbria, a Left-wing politician from another era. As a student he'd been a member of CND and had demonstrated against nuclear weapons at Greenham Common and Aldermarston. He campaigned on environmental issues and had caused a public stir for burning an effigy in the street of the CEO of the British corporation with the largest Carbon Footprint. He was tall and handsome with thick grey hair and an aquiline profile, a calm and sophisticated disputant; as a result he was often invited onto current affairs TV programmes and was a hero among the country's liberals. Glyn assumed that Mark would like him, however his brother denounced him as a "social democratic careerist... a Reformist twat!" But despite this the WRSL was backing Toxic Skies- No Thanks! for tactical reasons. "What furthers the Revolution is good, what hinders the Revolution is bad. That is our only morality." Mark said.
    Capel raised himself up to his full height dramatically. "Ladies and Gentlemen..." he began in a deep, educated voice. "We are being bombarded! We are having poison dropped on our heads by incompetent and uncaring corporations..."
    His speech lasted about forty-five minutes; it would probably have been about half and hour but for the raucous and worshipful applause and whistling that followed most sentences he uttered. "...These are chemical weapons in effect, not intent; if you're riddled with cancer and your child is born with three arms it doesn't matter a jot to you what the intent was of the people who caused it. Does it matter if 'Sorry! It was an accident!' is sent to you..." "...Today in Vietnam four generations after the war birth defects are still a hundred times the world average..." "...the effects of polyethylspidroxic acid are identical to those of Agent Orange..." "...The time has come for the people of Britain to say 'Enough!' We will tolerate this no longer! This unacceptable risk to the environment and to our bodies to the future of our planet and the lives of our children!" He ended his speech with his fist in the air, his cheeks flushed with emotion. He left the stage to a clamour that made Glyn's ears rattle. A woman in the seat next to him was weeping as she bellowed her approval for her leader.
    Other speakers came on stage as supporting acts, talking for shorter periods of time; a local Belswill councilor, a farmer, a schoolteacher and several others. Then it was time for a question-and-answer session. Gary nudged Glyn in the ribs and the latter hesitantly raised his hand. A dozen other hands were up already and the steward with the roving microphone was trying to attend to questioners in order. The speakers all sat on a panel on stage answering the questions directed to them by name. "I have a question for Jonathan." said the first man after he'd stood up. "Has the Prime Minister spoken yet about whether there will be a public enquiry?"
    Capel then replied through his own mike: "Not as yet, although with the calls from some of the Opposition MP's together with my own..." A few other questioners followed and the various speakers answered. Glyn kept his hand in the air and it was starting to ache when the steward finally squeezed himself along the row of seats, the people half-standing to let him past.
    Glyn stood up and took the device and held it up to his face. It was heavier than he expected; it felt warm in his hand and smelt of electronics, like an open TV cabinet. "He... hello." Glyn flinched slightly as heard his own voice reverberate around the auditorium. He felt exposed in the open space above that huge plain of people's heads. "I have a question for Jonathan. I... I live in Belswill and I was wondering if any of you had heard about the... the stories that I have; that a..." He felt his voice lock with nerves. "That what crashed on that house in Bailey Avenue was not a helicopter at all, but a spaceship."
    All the speakers on the panel frowned in confusion. There was a muttering from the crowd. "A what?" asked Capel.
    "A spaceship."
    "What like a rocket?"
    "No, a spaceship...  from... outer space, a UFO."
    Somebody in the audience chuckled and within a second there was a burst of laughter and derisive sneers. Capel smiled thinly with embarrassment and scorn.
    Glyn began to shake; his head was spinning and his cheeks blazing. "I was there the night before and saw something strange in the sky. I'd just been to a Spiritualist meeting..."
    Gary poked his hip and hissed: "No need to tell them that much!"
    The laughter redoubled. Capel sniggered too. "I don't know what you're talking about, but it sounds ridiculous." He lowered his brows sternly. "This is actually an emergency conference to discuss a serious issue: a real threat to the health and lives of our communities. Nobody came here to waffle about space aliens. Maybe you're at the wrong meeting, Sonny." He emphasized the address with an angry snap. "The loonies convention is down the road."
    The audience laughed and applauded Capel's dismissive wit. Glyn felt himself wilt as he handed the mike back to the steward and sat back down. Gary shook his head in frustration, but Glyn felt a hand caress his shoulder. He looked up and saw Judith smile at him from the next seat along.
    The meeting moved on to the next questioner, but when Glyn looked up he saw that Jonathan Capel was still staring at him. The politician was too far away for Glyn to read his expression. A moment later Capel looked round as somebody poked their head out from behind the backstage curtain. He and Capel exchanged a few words before the head vanished.
    The meeting ended about ten minutes later. The audience all stood up and condensed into the same social groups in which they'd come in. "That wasn't very good, Glyn." moaned Gary.
    "Leave him alone!" Judith countered. "He did alright." Joe nodded in agreement and smiled at Glyn.
    The throng diffused slowly towards the bar where a crowd of well-wishers and admirers gathered around Jonathan Capel and the other speakers. Glyn and his friends joined them. Glyn had no time to react when a pair of rough-looking suited men with the emblem of Alexandra Palace on their lapels strode up to him. "Oi!" one of them barked. "Are you the bloke who swore at our barmaid?"
    Glyn shrugged. "No."
    He didn't have time to add that he hadn't even been to the bar yet before the bald, craggy-faced bouncer retorted: "Yeah you are! We don't like people coming in here and being abusive to our staff! OUT!... NOW!"
    "Erm... what are you...?"
    The two men seized him by the arms and shoulders, digging their fingers in hard.
    "OW!" yelled Glyn. He heard Judith and Gary protest vocally as he was frogmarched out of the bar and along the corridor towards the entrance to the Palace. When they reached the doorway a third man was standing holding it open. They pushed Glyn so hard over the threshold that he lost his footing and sprawled onto his hands and knees. The bouncers slammed the door and strutted back inside without another word.
    Glyn struggled to his feet and rubbed the gravel off his grazed palms.
    A man was standing nearby holding a placard. He was wearing a suit with a wing-badge on the chest and striped epaulets, a pilot's uniform. As soon as he saw Glyn he strutted over and shoved his face close in, making Glyn lurch back. "You people!" he spat. "You fuckin' people! You don't fuckin' know what you're talking about and you're fucking up our businesses!"
"Are you OK, Glyn?" asked Judith. She was driving steadily though the carotene wash (rep- Ed) of the street-lit main road into London.
    Glyn was sitting in the rear seat next to Joe. His hands and knees were still sore, but the bleeding had stopped. "Fine thanks, Judith."
    There was a lot of tension in the air. When they got into Judith's car Gary and Joe had started arguing over Glyn's performance at the meeting. Gary was still chiding Glyn for his weak and aphasic interrogation of Jonathan Capel. Joe countered by saying that Glyn had done alright considering his youth and inexperience at speaking in public. Gary refused to let the matter drop and continued his rendition of Glyn's mistakes. In the end, Judith, who had been concentrating on their task in hand cut in: "For fuck's sake, Gary, it was you who wanted him to be the one who asked! You said they'd be more likely to listen to him, remember? And anyway, what's done is done, so get out of his face!" Her subsequent question to Glyn broke five minutes of throbbing silence.
    She only seemed to half hear his answer. Her eyes widened and she turned the steering wheel slightly. "He's slowing down!"
    Gary leaned forward. "This must be the place."
    They were following the expensive black BMW being driven by Jonathan Capel. After the Alexandra Palace event ended, Glyn's friends had met up with him outside the building and waited in the carpark for forty minutes for the MP to emerge. He left the Palace and turned south towards central London. In the thin late-night traffic Judith had no trouble in following him. Capel had pulled over outside a very upmarket restaurant in Belgravia. Immediately a squad of tailcoated doormen jogged up to hold the driver's door open for him and facilitate the few yards' walk across the pavement to the entrance in any way they could. This time it was Joe's turn. He waited ten minutes to let Capel get settled at his table then he got out of Judith's car and walked past the restaurant. As he reached the large windows that overlooked the street he slowed down and looked in, then he briefly held up his mobile phone, as if checking the display, and then walked on. To avoid suspicion he walked on round the block rather than reverse direction to get back to the car. Judith started the engine and pulled away the moment Joe shut his door. "Who was he with?" she asked.
    "Henry Davidson and Claude Moraine."
    The other three gasped.
    "I've got a photo; it came out perfect." He held up his mobile.
    Gary whistled. "Well, he don't half hit the town above his money!"
    "Yeah." said Joe. "He dines well for a troublesome backbencher. Hanging out with the Shadow Cabinet."
    "Where to next?" asked Glyn.
    Joe winked. "My place!"
Judith was beautiful, Glyn finally admitted to himself. He watched her by the kitchen sideboard as she cut and spread jam sandwiches. Her profile was strong and elegant and her dark reddish-brown streaked hair was stacked neatly behind a headband with two sweet locks cascading down each side of her face. She had a voluptuous and shapely figure and she moved nicely, and her eyes were the deepest brown with long thick lashes like a horse's. But she was very old, twenty-three. Far too old for him, and he knew it. There were six years between her and Gary too, the same age gap as with Glyn; but with Gary it was in the other direction and that made it a very different matter.
    As if on cue the man in his thoughts spoke suddenly, making him jump. He must have entered the room quietly while Glyn was daydreaming: "Glyn, Joe's finished; we're just going to test it. I'll give Jude a hand with the tea."
    He glared darkly at Glyn and stood in the doorway until Glyn had left the room. Had he seen Glyn looking at Judith?
    Glyn entered the lounge of the converted farmhouse Joe shared with his two brothers in Radlett. It was now almost midday and he had been tinkering with the camera for over three hours. As Glyn walked in he was still hunched over the dining table with an assortment of tools and electronic spare parts. His long grey hair was slightly sweaty and ruffled from hard work. He looked up as Glyn came in and gave him a triumphant smile. "It's ready, Glyn. I think it's going to work." He held up his apparatus. "The cam only needed a different lens and a bigger film chip. The real problem was fitting it into the sling, but I've done that now."
    "Are you sure it won't fall out?"
    "Positive. I've sewn it in really tight. I've also weighed it and it's definitely not too heavy. Old Dixie's done races after eating more weight than she'll be carrying today, greedy little thing she is. The reason we need a wide-angle lens and ten gigabyte film chip is we'll have to shoot in HQ so that we can be sure of capturing what we need. We'll need to do a steadycam edit before uploading the film, otherwise people won't be able to see it properly."
    Gary and Judith entered the room carrying mugs of tea and a plate of sandwiches. "I don't know why they call people like you 'fanciers'." said Gary. "Sounds a bit kinky, like you want to shag them or something." He chuckled.
    "The English language just hasn't caught up with the times... Thanks, Jude." Joe took a mug and jam sandwich from the tray. "Ours is a passion that goes beyond the mere sexual, Gary. It's the meeting of great minds and great wings."
    "I can't imagine any passion beyond sexual." replied the younger man. He glanced at Judith. He was leaning back on the settee next to her, his arms spread out on the top of the seat back. The tips of his fingers were giving her shoulders just the lightest of touches. She appeared not to notice.
    It was the morning of the fifth day since the Belswill disaster. Glyn had slept on a put-you-up in the lounge next to Gary. He'd pretended to be asleep even when he wasn't. Gary had kept waking him up by tossing and turning; every hour or so he'd got out of his squeaky camp bed and walked up the stairs to stand outside the spare room where Judith was spending the night. In the morning a text had arrived on his mobile phone: "GLYN, WHERE DID YOU STAY LAST NIGHT? MARK SAYS YOU'VE BEEN SOCIALIZING WITH A BUNCH OF MENTALLY ILL RUFFIANS. CALL AS SOON AS YOU CAN PLEASE. MUM." Glyn had immediately switched off his phone.
    "I'll go and fetch my lady." said Joe as soon as they'd finished eating and drinking. He went out into the shed in the back garden and came back with a pigeon held deftly in his hands. His face wore a proud grin and he muttered sweet nothings to the bird. "Everybody, this is Dixie, my top bird. Have a look up there and see the prizes she's won me." He indicated with his eyes a shelf with six or seven ornate trophies in pride of place, dominating the room. The pigeon appeared relaxed in Joe's grip, as if accustomed to it, but her head bobbed around as if startled by all the other people there. "I'm entering her into the St Malo Race next year so we must take care of her."
    "We will." said Glyn. "How does she find her way home from so far away?"
    Joe flashed him a kindly smile, as if grateful that somebody understood even a small part of his zeal. "One of the great mysteries surrounding this most enigmatic of species, Columba Livia Domestica." he gushed. "In America they race up to 2000 miles and the birds not only arrive back at the same home, they enter the loft by the same hole they last left by."
    "Feathered rats!" snorted Joe. "That's what my dad called them because they shit on him in Oxford Street last week."
    Joe turned his head and grimaced. "They never shit on me, Gary. Why is that? Think about it."
    "Reverse cause and effect, Gary."
    Joe put Dixie carefully into a transport cage and placed her gently on the back seat of Judith's car, then they all got in and drove off. Glyn sat in the front seat with a detailed map of the area. Their route took them around the Belswill cordon. After five days of the chaos and congestion caused by the closure of the main roads, the nearby section of the M-One motorway and the main railway line, most drivers simply avoided the entire area. The damp, cloudy sky was still full of army helicopters and police vans passed them almost every few hundred yards. They all looked warily out of the windows as they drove along. Dixie bubbled away quietly in her cage, seemingly excited at the prospect of another race. Judith drove calmly to St Albans then to Welwyn Garden City. They parked on a remote country lane near the city and checked the skies. "There are too many choppers." complained Gary. "This ain't going to work. They'll see what we're doing."
    "We have to try." said Joe. "We can just let her slip out of one of the car windows." He lifted Dixie out of the cage and began fitting her into the sling. Glyn checked the map against Judith's sat-nav to be certain of their location. "Joe, are you sure Dixie will fly in a dead straight line?"
    "Like the proverbial crow." Joe replied. The pigeon flapped her wings a bit as her owner adjusted the sling; she appeared uncomfortable in it. "There there, Dixie." he soothed. "You won't have to wear this for long. I'll take it off when we get home." The camera lens stuck out from a pouch over the bird's belly. Joe switched on the device and then wound down the window and let her out. The pigeon glided down to the side of the road and perched briefly on the tarmac, then she took to the air again and sped off south westwards over the fields and woods of the countryside. She quickly gained speed and height, her wings flapping rapidly despite her unnatural cargo. "Go, Girl, go!" muttered Joe fervently as he watched her.
    "Do you think we're going to get away with this?" asked Gary
    "I don't see why not." said Judith. "The Army will be desperately watching out for people breaking in or flying there in hang-gliders and things like that; none of them will notice a little pigeon flying overhead. There's no signal to trace cos the camera's recording to the memory chip only; it's not transmitting anything."
    "How long will she take to get back?" asked Glyn.
    "She'll be home long before us." said Joe, still watching Dixie, who was by now just a speck in the sky.
    "Good." replied Glyn. "Dixie may well turn out to be the most important pigeon who ever lived."
    "She's that already." Joe mused.
    Sure enough, the pigeon was back in her loft when they arrived back at Joe's house. She was pecking hungrily at a plate of grain, the camera still safely tucked into its pouch on the sling. Joe beamed as he walked into the loft. "Good girl, Dixie." He took the sling off her body and checked the camera. "Yes! It's working."
    They all clustered round Joe's laptop as he plugged the camera into a USB interface and copied the film file to the computer. When this was done they all sat down with cups of tea to watch the silent footage. They all saw the interior of Judith's car wheel about as Dixie flapped in Joe's lap, then the road as she was pushed out of the window. Then the picture steadied as she began her flight home. The green countryside passing quickly beneath her at the bottom of the screen. Within a few minutes the familiar skyline of Belswill appeared on the horizon.
    "Great! We aimed her just right! She's passing right over the..." Joe's voice dissolved into silence and his mouth gaped.
    Judith gasped and leaned forward to stare at the monitor screen.
    "Oh my fuckin' God!" exclaimed Gary.
    "We were right!" said Glyn quietly.
The Prime Minister was interviewed on the news that evening. "I can assure all residents of Belswill that the clean-up operation following the toxic spillage is almost complete and the town will be reopened within four days at the latest..."
    "Good!" said Arthur Southsea. "We've had enough of being kept away from our homes, thank you."
    Glyn nodded.
    His father looked at him. "Glyn, you've been very quiet since you came home. Are you alright?"
    "Yeah." responded Glyn in a preoccupied tone.
    He noticed his mother glance over at him curiously too. "Glyn... who are these people you stayed with last night?"
    He shrugged. "Just some friends."
    "Mark said they were crazy people, alien-believers." There was a pause. "Have you got a girlfriend?"
    Normally he would have been embarrassed; the Grigsbys were on the other settee.
    The stadium was now almost empty as the Belswill refugees were granted temporary hospitality in their friends' houses; the news that the "Helicoptergate" cordon would soon be lifted was very welcome news indeed. Glyn and his family had been offered accommodation at the home of some friends of theirs in Watford. He and Mark were sharing a spare room while Daisy, his mother and father were sleeping in another. Janice and Clive Grigsby were old friends of his parents' from university who, although living close by, had had little to do with them for many years until the disaster. Glyn got the impression that they didn't get on all that well and if they'd been forced together for a longer period, sparks might have flown. One of the issues, he was sure, was that the Grigsbys had a slightly bigger house than the Southseas.
    "No, Mum, I haven't got a girlfriend." he snapped. "I need to go out for a walk." He got up and left the room. He left the house and wandered up the street towards Watford town centre. He checked his phone; a text had arrived. "JUST UPLOADING IT NOW. CAN YOU GET TO A PC? JUDITH."
    He texted back: "NET CAFE." There were computers in the house, but he didn't think he'd be allowed to use them for the purpose he wanted. Mark had told Arthur and Marianne Southsea that Glyn had been brainwashed by a group of UFO fanatics, but his plan backfired somewhat because their parents scorned this accusation more than they did Glyn himself. Mark's vindictiveness cut Glyn like a blade. His bother had hardly spoken to him since the Sunday conference and this felt so unfair. Perhaps he'll change his mind when he sees what is about to hit the Internet. Glyn chortled. He reached a street in the retail district and found an Internet cafe. Its neon signboard stood out in the evening streetlight. He found an empty workstation and put two pounds into the slot, giving him an hour's access to the Worldwide Web. He used Google to find the website that Judith had set up earlier in the afternoon, The page design was crude and not customized away from the host's template in any way. It was intended to deliver information, not to look good, and Judith had had no time to include any cosmetic frivolities. The title box of the site included a brief introduction; it said directly and to the point: "The British Government have been lying to us about the Belswill Incident. No helicopter carrying toxic waste crashed in Belswill at all. Instead it was an extraterrestrial spacecraft, a UFO! Think that sounds crazy? Understandable. But we have the evidence. Watch this video to find out more:" And there was a large arrow pointing to an embedded YouTube pane. Judith had also established a YouTube account called "HertsRoswell" and it already had a dozen subscribers even before the single video had been uploaded.
    Glyn glanced over his shoulder; nobody was paying him any attention. He pressed the play button and the film began:
The film opens with a shot of a man and a woman sitting in a normal lounge with everyday furniture around them. Captions under their images identify them as "Judith Wright" and "Joseph McAndrew". Judith is a young woman with brown hair. Joseph is an older man with long, grey hair.
    Judith says: "Good evening. Everybody by now is aware of the story dominating the headlines at the moment: that last Thursday a helicopter carrying toxic chemicals crashed in the town of Belswill in Hertfordshire. The town and surrounding area were subsequently sealed off and over five thousand people were evacuated from their homes; the region effected has been a total exclusion zone occupied by the military ever since.
    "But we have been lied to! What really happened there was that an alien spacecraft, a UFO, came down and either crashed or landed at the place the lying Government claim a helicopter did. This is why they have sealed off Belswill, because they want to keep that secret. I'm not a 'UFO nut' and neither is my friend Joe here. We are simply people who witnessed what really happened there. I myself saw an unknown flying object hovering in the air over the main road last Thursday morning while I was on my way to work. I went online and learned everything I could about UFO's, as quickly as I could, and I found out that this is not the first time this has happened. In July of 1947 at Roswell in New Mexico, USA an alien spacecraft crashed in the desert and was secretly salvaged by the American Government. For years they've been lying that it was a weather balloon. But it's happened again! This time in a built-up area, so they can't pretend it's just a weather balloon any more; they have to think of something much more drastic to keep people away while they examine the wreckage of the craft and the bodies of the alien beings piloting the craft. So, they made up the story about the helicopter and its load of toxic chemicals. What's more, they've lied about what happened to people in the house where it happened. Joe, you witnessed that didn't you?"
    The man, Joseph, takes over the story: "Yes, Judith. The evening before the craft landed I attended a Spiritualist seance organized by the medium Dia Parkinson. I think that it's this seance that triggered the appearance of the UFO, for whatever reason or by whatever means. BBC News reported that Dia Parkinson was killed when the helicopter crashed on her house..."
    The picture changes to a screenshot of the story about Dia Parkinson's death on the BBC News website.
    "...but in fact Dia died of a heart attack soon after the seance. She was admitted to Watford General Hospital by ambulance and died in their Emergency Department. So we've been lied to there. Her husband Graham has been reported as dead too, in the helicopter crash again, but he is in fact missing, and we're concerned for his welfare."
    Judith then says to the audience: "You may well ask: 'But how have the Government managed to fool the world in this way?' A fair question. Part of the answer is that they have managed to persuade the MP Jonathan Capel to lie for them..."
    The picture changes to Jonathan Capel MP's official parliamentary portrait.
    "He is the man leading the Toxic Skies- No Thanks! campaign, but he knows the truth really... or at least he knows that the helicopter story is a lie. That's why he's so fiercely publicizing the helicopter story. To lead the public as far as possible down a blind alley. Here is a photograph..."
    The picture changes to a slightly blurred image taken through the window of a restaurant from the street outside showing Jonathan Capel sitting at a table talking to two other men.
    "...of Jonathan Capel holding a meeting with two senior Opposition MP's: The Shadow Home Secretary Henry Davidson and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition Claude Moraine. These are two men he claims to be fighting and claimed, at a recent all-party investigation committee, were, and I quote: 'the scourge of the British people. Selfish, deceitful, irresponsible and incompetent' because of their successful attack on the Government's veto of changes to air freight regulations that allowed this supposed 'accident' to happen. What's he doing meeting up with them like best buddies so soon after slagging them off? What's more there was an emergency TS-NT conference at Alexandra Palace on Sunday in which one of our friends was kicked out of the place by security guards simply because he asked Capel a question about UFO's."
    "You might think that this means nothing, that Capel could just be attempting to do an honest behind-the-scenes deal or something. But what if I were to tell you that we have proof that the BBC have been faking aerial photographs and film of the crash site. We've all seen the news reports showing videos of a broken helicopter wreck lying on top of a demolished house and people in chemical suits working round it, but they're faked! We've proved it. We've managed to obtain real footage of the crash site using a very original method. Tell us about it, Joe."
    Joseph turns to the camera. "I'm a keen pigeon racer and own a number of homing pigeons. We attached a small camera to one of them and released it from a point which means it would pass over the crash site on its way home. We knew that the military guarding the site would probably not notice a pigeon flying overhead. The camera obtained footage which show something very different to what we've been shown in the news."
    Judith then adds: "Right, we're going to run that footage now."
    The picture changes to a silent, slightly blurred video from a fast moving source flying about a hundred feet in the air. It is flying over a street full of large suburban houses. Bordering this is a dual carriageway. The roads are empty of all traffic except stationary military vehicles and a few large white lorries. A number of men in military uniform and a few others in white overalls are wandering about on the ground. Nobody looks up at the passing camera. A huge white tent has been erected over the broken brickwork of one of the houses. The video freezes.
    Judith says: "Right, we're going to pause the video there. This is the most important frame of all because here..."
    A cursor appears on the screen pointing towards the entrance to the tent.
    "... you can see that the fabric at the door to the tent is slightly pulled back and what's that inside?"
    The cursor indicates what looks like one section of a metallic disc-shaped object, just peeking out from inside. It is dark grey in colour and shiny, slightly reflective. A number of indistinct human figures are standing around it.
    "From what the viewer can see and the size of the tent I estimate that the craft is about a hundred to a hundred and thirty feet across. This is exactly what I saw last week hovering over this road!"
    The picture changes back to the shot of Judith and Joseph sitting in the lounge.
    Judith says: "Please, if you are watching this then spread the word! Upload this video and mirror it on your own channels. Show it to your friends, show it at work, show it to your family! We have been deceived in a massive and disgusting way! The biggest story in history has been kept from us... yet again! Don't let the Government get away with their lies... yet again! Thank you."
    Joseph says: "Thanks you."
Glyn refreshed the screen and saw that the video had already had over 200 views. He logged into his Facebook and Twitter accounts, copied the link to the video and posted it onto as many pages as he could and Tweeted it." Then he left the Internet cafe and called Judith.
    "What do you think?" she asked cheerily.
    "Brilliant! It'll spread like wildfire! We did a good job there!"
    "I couldn't have done it without you and Gary, Glyn. Sorry we didn't give you a mention."
    "That's OK, Judith... What will happen to you though. I hope you won't get nicked by the police."
    "No! If anything like that happens to us everybody will know we're telling the truth and the video will go viral."
    Glyn ran back to the Grigsbys house and found Mark drinking tea in the kitchen. "Mark! I've got to show you something!"
    His brother was too surprised and curious at Glyn's excitement to maintain his hostility. But when he'd watched Judith and Joe's video he sighed and rolled his eyes. "Glyn, this is fake."
    "It's not. I helped film it."
    "Glyn, is this what you've been up to these last few days? These morons you've been hanging round with Photoshopped this while your back was turned."
    "But I saw the pigeon when we got home..."
    Mark cut him off by jumping to his feet and hurling his mug at the wall. It shattered loudly. Tea fell like rain. "It was one they prepared earlier you fuckin' dumb little twat!" he shouted. "Can't you see you're turning into a fuckin' reactionary fascist anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist!?"
    Glyn stared at him open-mouthed, trembling.
    Mark's face was a red circle of outrage. "Just stay out of my way, OK!? I've got a Revolution to fight for. I'll be damned if anybody's going to distract my focus by feeding me any crap about little green men from Mars!... I don't care if you're my brother! You obstruct the Revolution and you become my mortal enemy!" He glared at Glyn for another few seconds and then paced out of the room.
Glyn awoke suddenly and sat up. He didn't know what caused him to be launched so explosively out of his sleep. The bedroom was completely dark; Mark was snoring in the other bed. Glyn got out of bed and stretched. The illuminated clock said 4.47 am; Glyn groaned. He knew from long experience of suffering from insomnia that it was a waste of time trying to go straight back to sleep when he awoke like this. He'd just spend hours staring at the ceiling. He walked over to the window and pulled back the curtain. The street outside was an amber tableau, not a thing stirred. Then a cat jumped down from a fence and padded across the road. Glyn let the curtain drop back into place and looked down at his brother. A small amount of streetlight filtered through the curtain to illuminate his upturned face and open snoring mouth. The atmosphere in the bedroom had been like a freezer when they'd gone to bed after their argument the previous night. They had undressed in aching silence, ignoring each other. Glyn finally could bear it no longer and muttered "'Night, Mark." Mark had paused undressing and seemed to be wondering whether to answer, then just said: "Hmph." in a neutral tone and carried on kicking off his trousers. Glyn couldn't wait till they were allowed back into their own home, each boy with his own bedroom. "Just four days the Prime Minister said." Glyn whispered, half to himself half to Mark. Shortly afterwards Mark would then have to return to Bristol to resume his studies; would Glyn ever see him again after that? The question made him feel very sad, more sad that he'd expected.
    Glyn decided to go for a walk. He dressed and headed downstairs; he was about to exit the front door but then he changed his mind and headed for the garden. He used the spare key that the Grigsbys had lent him to open the door and step outside. The sky was clear, which made a nice change, but it was cold, almost frosty. Glyn went back for his jacket and then started strolling aimlessly, breathing in the chilly fresh air. The Grigsbys' garden was huge, well over an acre, and it was neatly-kept by Clive Grigsby's full-time gardener, another source of ire for Glyn's father no doubt. The sky was black with just a hint of deep blue that foretold the coming dawn. The garden was well-shaded from the streetlights by the Grigsbys large house allowing the night's sky to put on its full display of stars. Glyn descended the patio steps to the smooth lawn and walked out into the middle of it. He puffed deeply and his breath condensed in the frigid air, briefly distorting the stars. An owl hooted from the trees at the end of the garden and it was answered by the quail of a fox. There was no other sound.
    Then he did hear a sound, a low rumble like distant thunder, but it was steady and it grew swiftly in volume until it was recognizable as the roar of a jet engine. The sound flowed and ebbed as a jet aircraft approached and receded into the distance, but it was quickly followed by another. This time the aircraft flew directly overhead. It was just visible in the predawn sky as a dark arrowhead-shaped fighter jet and it eclipsed one of the brighter stars briefly. Warplanes flying overhead had become extremely common during the past week and Glyn had got used to them; however it was unusual for them to be active at this time of night. When the noise of its engines faded away into the background silence Glyn realized that there was another sound, this time one that was very unfamiliar. It was a steady, muttering, low pitched growl coming from the east. As with the aircraft this sound increased in volume, but this time more slowly. It changed in nature to a repeated whipping, slapping sound as if somebody was beating out a rug at very high speed. Before long Glyn's ears discerned several different sources for the sound, but all coming from the east. He finally recognized the sounds just before he saw the helicopters. They were a group of five flying in formation; but they were not the small and agile patrol helicopters that the army had been covering the local skies with over the last week. These were the big heavy-lifting transport helicopters with double rotors. They had a strange name and Glyn had to think for a moment to remember it: "Chinook" he muttered to himself.
    The five helicopters were cruising slowly towards him, heading almost directly from east to west. They were in a square cross formation with one in the middle, but when they got closer Glyn realized that the one in the middle was not a helicopter. He gasped as he realized that it appeared to be some kind of circular disc-shaped object. It was hard to tell when it was silhouetted against the dark blue early morning sky, but it looked very like the object that Joe had picked up with his pigeon camera that they had put on the Internet the previous evening. It was slightly bigger than the helicopters and was curved smoothly and evenly on its upper and lower surfaces so that it resembled an athletic discus. At it's widest point in the middle it must have been about twenty to thirty feet thick. Glyn strained his eyes; his heart pounded as he understood the implications of this vista. I'm actually seeing a spacecraft from another world! It was not lost on him that it had come from the direction of Belswill too. The formation of aircraft were passing dead overhead now and Glyn had to lean right back to watch them. As he did he thought he saw tenuous strands of some kind linking the disc to the four helicopters; they were almost invisible in the darkness. He had begun to sense that the UFO was flying under its own power and the four helicopters were flying in formation around it, as an escort perhaps, but now he realized that he was wrong. The strands he saw were cables; the helicopters were carrying the UFO.
    This unearthly haulage mission cruised away towards the west, never altering their course and speed. The rattle of the helicopter engines eased as the distance increased. For a moment Glyn considered running inside and waking Mark up and showing him, but abandoned the idea. Mark would probably not agree to even come and look, and if he did he'd probably refuse to believe his eyes and end up scorning his younger brother even more than he currently did.
    Instead Glyn returned to his bedroom only to retrieve his mobile phone; he dialled Judith and waited, but her phone just rang, which surprised him at that hour. He left her a voicemail briefly explaining what he saw and asked her to call him as soon as she could.
Glyn spent the day using up all his pocket money at the Internet cafe reading the comments on the YouTube video and his Facebook posts. These were very numerous as the video now had thousands of views and a few mirrors had emerged on other users' channels. The comments varied a lot and ranged in credulity from: "You're a bunch of bullshitting fucking loonies. UFO retard cunts!" to "That looks like a scout ship from the Cassiopeian Council." Glyn left the cafe and headed back to the Grigsbys for dinner; when he was halfway there his phone rang. "Hello?"
    "Glyn!" a breathless voice hissed in his ear.
    "Is the you, Glyn?"
    "Yes. Who's that?"
    "Are you alright, Gary?" He could recognize the voice now. "You sound a bit flustered."
    "No... Listen, Mate. I'm going away, and I advise you to do the same."
    "What? What are you talking about?"
    "Glyn! Do what I'm doing and get out of there!"
    Glyn paused. "Where are you, Gary?"
    "I'm going away; my mate Craig is letting me stay at his house in Windsor. I've just left and they won't find me there. You've got to do the same, Glyn, or they'll get you too!"
    "Get me? What do you mean?"
    "Have you called Joe today?"
    "Don't bother. Joe's dead."
    Glyn stopped walking;  his heart skipped a beat. "What... what...!?"
    "His brothers found him the bath dead. He'd slashed his wrists. Suicide... or at least that's what it looks like." 
    "Get away, Glyn! Get out while you still can!"
    A horrible thought crossed Glyn's mind. "Gary... have you spoken to Judith today?"
    "No. I called her, but she's not picking up." 
    His tone of voice illustrated both their thoughts.
    "Don't go home, Glyn! Get away! Go somewhere they won't find you." Gary ended the call.
    Glyn dialled Judith and quickly as his trembling fingers would allow. There was no answer. He tried again, but there was still no answer. This time he called Watford General Hospital. They told him that they had nobody on their own list called "Judith Wright", but after a few more enquiries they discovered that somebody of that name had been admitted to Barnet General Hospital a few hours ago. Glyn ran as fast as he could to the railway station. An hour later he was pounding through the entranceway of Barnet General Hospital in north London. As soon as he'd reported in to the Emergency Department reception desk he was directed to a small waiting room. He passed a group of people in the corridor who were weeping; one of them was a young woman who looked a bit like Judith. Her sister!? A pair of policemen stood nearby. A few minutes later a young doctor came to see him. "Mr Southsea, I understand you're a friend of Miss Wright?"
    "I'm sorry to have to tell you, Miss Wright died about an hour ago. She was assaulted in her home and sustained critical injuries; we did all we could, but were unable to save her. I'm deeply sorry.
    Glyn went outside for some fresh air. His breath was coming in uncontrollable gasps and his heart was thudding painfully in his gullet as if he'd just run a long race. The world was spinning round his head. Ambulances driving past him sounded far away and indistinct. After a few minutes he felt himself slowly calm down. His shock had given way to a raging thirst. The membranes of his mouth and throat ground together like sandpaper. He went back inside the hospital and gulped from the water fountain in the main waiting room. He'd just finished when he saw one of the policeman he'd noticed earlier approaching him. It was too late to do anything, say anything or think anything. "Excuse me, Sir. Are you Glyn Southsea?
    "I'm arresting you under Section 43A of the Prevention of Terrorism Act of 2005. You do not have to say anything, but it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you may later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence. As you are under eighteen years of age a parent or guardian will be informed before any further procedure is undertaken."

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