“I’m sorry Ladies and Gentlemen,” said the Director of MI5, surprising the other attendees of COBRA with the heat of his emotion, “but I don’t think you fully understand the implications of last evening’s incidents. Five senior department heads of various secret service arms have been attacked at their own homes, two are dead and two seriously wounded, by at least twenty terrorists carrying automatic rifles and explosives and acting in a co-ordinated fashion. This is a full-scale assault on our ability to combat subversion by a large and highly motivated terrorist force on our home-ground. Furthermore, it would appear that there has clearly been a security breach of significant magnitude to enable this to happen.”
The PM dragged his eyes away from the headlines of the newspapers laid out on the highly polished table before him; it just didn’t bear thinking about.
“Terrorist Murder Gangs on the Rampage in London”
“MI5 Under Attack”
“Killers on our Doorsteps” and worst of all, “What’s Up PM?”
“I think we all grasp the implications Gerald; as I said, this is very serious indeed and we must leave no stone unturned. How is the investigation into the source of the leak coming along?”
“It’s still far too early to tell, but that’s what’s so odd. One might think the five attacked had just been targeted at random from a senior officer directory, not targeted on any other basis. One was the head of SIS’ China Command, one from our communications technology department, one the head of our remaining Irish operation, one the head of an inter-services operational review section and the other our head of finance. If you asked me to speculate now I would suggest that someone must have gained access to our secure payroll system which will have names and addresses, but no job titles, so they may have just selected five of the higher paid. We are of course making all the normal checks, but we also have a forensic systems team at the payroll centre while the employees there are all being interviewed, their associations followed up.”
Someone in the room squirmed imperceptibly, that was fast. They certainly aren’t stupid.
Ted Armstrong, head of the CT Command looked about him. The gravity of the crisis was such that even he had been asked to attend. The MI5 chief was a decent man, much preferable to that snobby git from SIS; he had worked with him closely over the years and rather suspected that he saw things similarly to himself. He certainly knew how he’d have felt if it had been four of his officers shot in this way, and here he was in a room of people for whom he had ever less respect, some of whom could hardly refrain from staring at the newspapers on the table.
“If I may add something Prime Minister?”
They all turned to face him, even the Home Secretary whose mask-like face could not hide her wish that he wouldn’t say anything at all.
“As you know six terrorists died at the scenes of two incidents, shot by two of the targets and a local resident. A further two were cornered a little way away and remain holed up for now, the others escaped, which means that there are at least a dozen heavily armed terrorists at large in London somewhere.”
“My God, no one’s safe.”
Thank you for that contribution Minister of Defence, not even you could fail to draw that conclusion.
“Quite correct Minister. Of course, we have called up all our armed officers and are drafting in others from elsewhere in the country, but it seems those who undertook this violence are quite prepared to die. A sad truth we are becoming increasingly familiar with, already confirmed by the usual pre-recorded martyrdom videos which are now appearing on Jihadi websites.”
“Of course, we’re following up with the six identified dead ones’ families, associates and so on, but I rather suspect it will be the usual very grudging and minimal co-operation, complete surprise and so forth. These though are just the demented foot-solders; there are many others behind them, brains, resources, armaments, money… This isn’t following the usual pattern: a few maladjusted teenagers going to some Middle Eastern hellhole for a year and then coming back with the burning desire to start their own little jihad back home. This suggests infrastructure, planning and the ability to infiltrate our own security agencies.”
The already sombre mood in the room darkened further, good; maybe you’ll stop playing and start taking this seriously.
“Prime Minister, if I may?”
The Home Secretary could hardly believe that he of all people had given her the ideal opening.
“My department has been for some time considering additional measures which may be required to deal with the growing threat of Islamic terrorism,” her departmental Permanent Secretary handed her a sheaf of papers, “new laws governing freedom of association, defining more tightly, freedom of speech, the prevention of funds from outside Britain heading to charities here, selective deportations, internment if required, immigration and visa bans on certain nationalities, more resources for the security services, bans on all kinds of face covering, religious slaughter and such things. Obviously said laws would have to be generic and not be community specific.”
A stunned silence.
’Ho, ho,’ thought Ted, ‘now it gets interesting: is there to be an unexpected out-break of common sense at last?’
The Foreign Secretary was furious.
“This is not a policy forum! This is unacceptable: the impact on our relations with the Islamic world, our financial and trade dependence. It’s like something out of 1984. I know they’re going for that big brother stuff north of the border with their state snoopers for every child, but I won’t be part of a government that goes that way.”
Before the PM could intervene, The Home Secretary shot back.
“We have to be realistic, I know we don’t like to admit it but many of those areas with large Islamic populations are slipping beyond our control, they’ve got their own parallel court systems, pay little tax, are separating themselves ever more from the wider community, FGM, need I go on? They only engage with our society to claim benefits…”
Their unspoken leadership rivalries were erupting before his eyes, and worse, those of their officials. He was looking weak.
“Thank you, Home Secretary; however, as the Foreign Secretary says these are policy matters for another occasion.”
The latter minister smiled, presuming a battle won,
“However, I think there may be some merit in what you say Home Secretary. Can you please forward me a memorandum setting out those ideas that I may consider it at length?”
She smirks, me on points I think.
As he followed his boss out of the room Martin Dager was feeling cheerful despite all the serious faces around him. His boss wasn’t much longer for this world, that was obvious; she h ated him, that much was clear. He now had powerful new backers in the succession race, on his own he would have been an also-ran, still would appear that way to his competitors. He had been blind, hadn’t seen the way things were going underneath, had been alone. Now he had been offered help, support, advice, a new network he hadn’t known existed, influential patrons, all for using the right words, being on the inside. What had it cost him?
They were on the road now, Alan and his boys, making their way cross-country by the unmonitored minor roads, slow and inefficient but secure, heading for the rendezvous with the standby team who had been maintaining a very loose and discreet watch on the restaurant just outside Swindon. There they would change vehicles for the van which the base team had procured the night before from a very used car dealer for cash. They’d given it a quick re-spray and plate change, the latter a replica of a local plumber’s plates. Silenced pistols, sub-machine guns, a few grenades, plenty of petrol in jerry cans, hopefully they were ready. A bit under-prepared, but when would they ever have enough preparation for something like this?
Art was his usual taciturn self; Georgy was excited, full of jokes, almost too eager, but Sam… He thought he had got to know Sam a bit over months of training and preparation, but he was withdrawn now, talking more easily with Georgy. Something was different about him since they had brought the Kurdish girl back, he was harder somehow. When Alan had asked him how the girl was doing, he had just got more tongue-tied than usual, simply said she would be ok and that was all.
They were nearly there now. He hasn’t called, normally does a few hours before an operation to wish us luck. Something must have come up. No worries.
The house Sam had left behind was subdued. He had just announced after Evening Prayer that he had been asked to go back into Logres on Monday night, something needed to be done; he would be meeting the other members of his team and Gillian at the little station. Martha had got upset, angry, saying it was too soon, he needed more rest; why didn’t they send someone else?
There was no one else: they were all going.
Iltud had returned the following afternoon, walking into the icy bath of Martha’s displeasure. What did the authorities think they were playing at? He said he was unhappy too, but he had asked, had written, saying it was vital, and they were all volunteers. The girl had only finally understood when she saw him packing his equipment by the front door, asking in the most broken English where was he going, was he taking her too? He had just shaken his head, tried to tell her he would not be long; she sat down and wept silently, seemingly shrunken again, Martha’s arms around her, while he left to join his mates. She had gone into Sally’s room to watch him head down to the station, be joined by four others, walk east into the distance until they all disappeared into the falling dusk. Silently she shut herself away in her own room. The others just looked at each other glumly until Josey asked what was for dinner.
© 1642again 2018