Ten o’clock, now we’re getting somewhere. Names at first, some numbers to match, some names obviously noms-de-guerre, whatever those classifications meant if anything, allusions to imports, depots, a few account details. Hazard an educated guess: names only, probably just peripheral local help, not considered core, names and numbers, mainly local core volunteers, but not key leaders, nom-de-guerre and numbers, key people and contacts, some in the UK, others overseas, probably Europe, nom-de-guerre only, the leadership, backers, don’t call us we’ll call you types. Yes, that’s probably it. Operation names, no details other than the resources that might be required, no intelligence details that might help… ‘strewth, some of these operations are huge, over fifty people each, a number seem to be concurrent as well, here’s another one of over eighty. They haven’t got anything like enough names, but there seems to be a reference about people coming in from abroad. This is extraordinary, never seen anything like this outside the Middle East. No sign of dates though, nothing too imminent hopefully; that’s a relief.
Need to start cross-referencing these names and numbers across the files here and also against those held at work to see if any are repeated. There’s just too much chaff. Hmm. A few are repeated, mentioned in passing two or three times, likely important contacts. What had he been doing storing all this in one place? He must really have been convinced he wasn’t on the radar.
Fatal mistake, for him.
Nothing imminent it seems, so have got some time. Use resources at work to find these repeat numbers, maybe some of the others, the people behind some of the names, not the low-grade ones though. Fortunately, there were ways of peering over GCHQ’s shoulder into their data collection networks without them knowing, as long as you were selective.
Yes, I’ll get on with that and go through the rest again tomorrow, decide what to pass on and what to keep for ourselves. If only there was someone else within at work to share the burden, I’m just so alone… Too late to bother her, I’m already leaning on her too much, can’t impose. Get some sleep, be fresh for tomorrow.
“No, no, Jovanka, I didn’t mean it like that, but it’s heavy, so heavy when you’re alone. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, please forgive… You know why… for you… your brother… all of us, those to come, those to come most of all. No, not in your name, in all our names, what else could I do, seeing what I saw, still see… No, not there, let me out, away.”
A hospital bedside, no a hospice, single room, a young man and younger woman, little more than a girl, in the bed, wasted, semi-conscious from morphine, no one else, no one else interested really other than the staff and a few dutiful colleagues who’d done their bit. Hands clenched tight, holding on to prevent the final fall, no tears left to weep, just holding on, willing more life, more time, so many things still to do, to say. The relaxation, last strength to fight has gone, something’s left, just him alone now. “Until I cross Jordan. I promised you, you were still there somewhere, in the room and you can trust me still, as you always did.”
Another dawn start, but they were getting easier now; she was reverting to the rhythms of her country childhood so very quickly.
“Can I get up Mummy? I can hear them, Martha, the old man and Sam. He’s nice, Sam.”
“Of course, sweetie, get your clothes on and I will follow you down in a minute.”
She needed to spend time with him today, had been neglecting him, not that he seemed to notice, everything else was much more interesting.
“One day, Mummy, when I’m bigger, like Sam, can I have a big gun like him?”
“Perhaps, sweetie, when you’re much bigger, like Sam.”
I suppose it’s inevitable, the fascination with older boys, young men really, instruments of death, nature not nurture usually wins out in such things, whatever we do or say. I will have to have a word with Sam.
Downstairs, the others are in the kitchen, finishing breakfast; Sam sitting next to Narin, whose fear of him seems to have thawed somewhat overnight. Martha looks at her in that way, yes, that’s where some of it’s gone. Sam and Narin are pointing at things, Sam naming in English, supplemented by Martha and now occasionally Josey, who thinks it a game, she repeating, trying to master the vowels, the syllables, the consonants, the intonations, smiling when successful, Sam even more.
Iltud just watching, quietly.
“If it’s alright with you Martha, I want to get on with the washing today, it looks dry outside at least, spend some time with Josey and then this afternoon start looking at the language books I was given.”
“That’s fine Sally, Narin here and I will start on her dress this morning, when the light’s best inside, keep her mind occupied and then get on around the house this afternoon. Sam will be helping Iltud out around the holding, won’t you my love?” No dissent permitted there. “And then out training up on the moors this afternoon.”
He nodded and so began perhaps Sally’s first remotely normal day in the Pocket.
Just before lunchtime, her hands starting to get raw from manual clothes washing, learning to use a mangle for wringing out, hanging up outside, can’t someone invent a steam engine powered washing machine something? Voices at the front door, it’s Brother, or is it Father, Peran, never really sure what to call him. She dries her hands and goes into the front room.
“His Blessings on this house and its guests!”
His smile is infectious, the bonhomie bubbling up, raising the mood already. Narin and Martha are on their knees, at a low table, marking out cutting lines on the cloth in pins, trying to use every scrap of material; Josey near them on the settee looking at one of his books. He makes the benediction over them; Narin is smiling at him shyly. He beams at her, pointing to himself, “Father, Aba, Father Peran, Aba Peran!”, then points at her.
She smiles more broadly now, “Narin, Narin,” and then launches into a volley of unintelligible words, relapsing into silence when she sees his lack of comprehension. She tries to go forward on her knees to kiss his feet, but he leans down and pulls her upright, shakes his head and grins at her. She smiles back, less bashfully this time, and shocks him by hugging him fiercely; Martha has tears in her eyes.
“And now the news I carry!” he booms, “Narin here has been asked to see the Council on Monday, the Monday of Holy Week, a good sign of His promise to her, and Sally and this young man here have been invited by the Abbot himself to visit him at the Abbey afterwards, a great honour! I will take them down and guide them; perhaps he will take pity on me and lend me some more books! Martha, will you take the girl with Iltud to the Council, it may be frightening for her? Now, is someone making lunch and willing to share a little with a servant of the Lord?”
Alan breathed a sigh of contentment after his best night’s sleep in ages, responsibilities and worries shed at least for the time being, home with his wife and children in his cottage by the bay. Other than the cold water and damp, mild winters it reminded him in many ways of his childhood home, south of Cairns in Queensland: was there anything more restful than the sound of the waves lapping gently on the sandy shore? Not in his view, certainly not today after the first full night beside his wife.
At least there were no nightmares or flashbacks yet, he had been warned there might be, especially after some of the things he had had to see and do. His wife, a local girl, fisherman’s daughter, anchored him solidly, deeply rooting him in over fifteen hundred years of continuity, her extended family embracing him as one of their own, even more so after he had taken the trouble to learn the native language, a sign of respect and integration on his part. But they also had the sense not to ask those sort of questions, neither did his wife; they had just popped round after his return to catch up, invite him for a drink, just eminently sensible, practical wise folk. She, his wife, just looked at him and said if, when, he was ready to talk…
Stepping through the barrier had been harder for him than any of his team. For Art it was an adventure. As for Georgy, well he was increasingly worried about Georgy, and Sam, who really knew Sam anyway? He was ever the surprise package in the team. But he himself? He had turned his back on the outside, its grasping, its shallowness, and by chance, well not by chance he now thought, had found what he was looking for here; it had been a complete surprise. Consequently, going back was perhaps the hardest thing he had ever done, but he had asked for him apparently, insisted Alan be the team leader, had seen something in him, so Alan had assented, if only because he felt he owed it to them and understood what was at stake a little more than most of the natives here.
He sat up, looking at the morning light streaming in around the gaps of the curtains until a soft voice whispered in his ear, “Alan, you’ve got nothing to do this morning, you’re mine again…”
He was all business today, thought Elaine, working at high speed since a frighteningly early start, updates and memos all completed by nine. Then, other than grumpily discouraging visitors and answering phone calls, which he eventually diverted to her phone in exasperation, doing nothing but peering intently at two of his secure computers. He was methodically scrolling through lists of numbers, names and even maps with flashing dots, she noticed when taking him drinks; she could see he wasn’t moving anywhere by choice. Among the calls she took for him was one from a woman, English, well-spoken but not posh, an assured voice, just asked for him by his first name, enquired of her how he was and could she make sure he call her? That was it, but she recognised a voice with real… affection in it… no stronger, warmth, so perhaps the office rumours were right, she hoped so this time; the voice was a nice voice and she wanted good things for him, he deserved them. She resolved that no one else in the office would learn she had spoken with her for the first time.
Most of the numbers were dormant, no message boxes registered, obviously pay-as-you-go, no data packages, just too obvious really, either not activated at present or discarded. A few were transmitting though, not broadcasting, but sending out “we are here”, waiting. GCHQ and the NSA, at the heart of the old war time five cousins communications intercept arrangements, had gone further than anyone outside realised in tabbing these sort of phones and numbers, huge databases constantly identified the markers of unusual patterns, listening into the more suspicious, monitoring and recording usage, even tracking them in real time, identifying new ones. He, like some of his more senior colleagues, had a direct feed into their systems.
There were things he couldn’t do from here, such as switching on dormant phones’ microphones or cameras. The American National Security Agency would go nuts if they knew, but they had people in Cheltenham who had set it up silently, maintained the cover, closed it down whenever security audits were rumoured. Some people still saw the bigger picture, putting other loyalties before those to their agency and now it could be invaluable, including today on this errand. His office was secure, unmonitored, those of all the key people were, it was one of the ways they did things differently.
Interesting, three of the numbers were intermittently active in what appeared to be the same spot, in a peripheral commercial street in Swindon, another two were likewise active together in a poorer residential side street in Reading, a few others were winking in and out around the country, London, Southampton, Midlands’ towns, Bradford somewhat inevitably, and other similar communities in Lancashire and West Yorkshire. We can’t go chasing them all, it’s the concentrations that are most likely to indicate leadership or allies; two is as many as we can handle at one time, so few for this sort of work.
What have we got available? The base team is at the Cotswolds farm, gaining experience of the outside world, support ready only. The Beta team’s just arrived there, ready but not experienced, put them on Reading, intel gathering only for now, but could be trusted to move in if required. Standby team not fully shaken down yet, back up and emergencies only, for the moment. The other teams, native boys, no incomers among them, simply not yet ready for aggressive deep penetration outside; they are needed to police the barrier, manage the outside trade. That leaves the Alpha team, just back. Alan and his boys were great, able to improvise, not panic, had two incomers which was very unusual, best sniper they had, Georgy was a natural… He had promised them a break though, you can’t use up your best, you have to eke them out and keep your promises.
So, what to do, let it run a bit? What if I’m wrong about the lack of urgency and it costs lives? No, I don’t think I am and staying our hand will give us more time to gather intel, rest Alan’s boys, work up the other teams, maybe even let the other side expose themselves further before we start to close them down. I really want to get to the people behind them, their directors and these ‘allies’ they mention. I really need to identify them. So, get the teams already out to gather intel on the two clusters for now, and then start to look at the other un-clustered numbers.
What about sending some stuff we can’t look into to my man at the Met? Yes, some of the volunteer names and perhaps something with a logistics angle: they must be bringing the weapons in somehow? If we can find out how and where, the police might be able to slow them down at least. And the bank account numbers, she might be able to help there; if not, send them in as well. But let’s start identifying our suspects first in case they go to ground. I know what I’ll be doing at home tonight.
Thanks Elaine for the messages. One from her to call her, great minds think alike, I wonder if she can spare an hour for lunch today or dinner tomorrow night? It seems a long time already.
© 1642again 2018