A smash of glass and the rumble of boots
An electric train and a ripped-up phone booth
Waking up at 6 A.M. on a cool warm morning
Opening the windows and breathing in petrol
Bella wakes, the sound of smashing glass rings through her ears like an alarm.
It’s the Hunters, preparing to level the block.
Bella is lying on a mattress with no cover, it’s too warm for that in London these days.
She jumps up, already clothed in a white t-shirt and black jeans. She is in a daze but adrenalin propels her around her studio apartment. She picks up her midsy (the Money ID Card every citizen is required to carry by law) and slips on her running pumps.
She opens her window and even though she knows what to expect she is frozen rigid. Tens of small drones that look like metal wasps are using 5 metre proboscises to smash the windows of the res-block. Larger drones the size of London Zoo elephants are spraying petrol through the gaping windows.
Bella has only smelt petrol once before. That was when her brother’s res-block was burned to the ground in Clapham seven years ago.
He never made it out. Bella can’t move her body. She looks down to the floor, fifty-four storeys down and can see the red-clad Civil Enforcement Officers pouring in to the building, the rumble of boots rising upwards like the Autumn thunder.
Bella can hear the screams begin. The searing cries of her neighbours knock her out of stasis. The hunters are here because of what she found out. 7 years of research and it has all come together. The knowledge to end the tyranny that Greater England has endured for eight decades.
But, it’s all for nothing if she can’t escape from this soon-to-be burning tower. She looks out of the window at her only chance at saving herself.
Halfway up between the two mega res-blocks that are squeezed in between the old Olympic Stadium and the Waterworks River is the Skytrain track. About 150 metres high, half the height of the two towers that it snakes through on its route through what is left of Whitechapel towards the National Station.
Bella looks out of her window, the stench of petrol making her retch. The track is about 10 metres down and ten metres away from the window. “It’s not jumpable, it can’t be,” she says out loud.
The first fires are being ignited at the top of the tower. A wave of guilt washes over her when she considers they are levelling the res-block because of her. How many deaths will this cause? She hardens her thoughts in the knowledge that the government is responsible for thousands of deaths a day in Greater England’s wars, both internally and externally.
The rumble of boots is getting louder, the troops are outside her apartment. Vulgar shouts can be heard outside.
Bella clambers out of her window and on to the ledge. She hears her apartment door being blown off. She doesn’t look around, instead she pushes her legs with all the force she can manage and takes a leap of faith and knowledge.
The moment of exhilaration is brutally ended when she lands shoulder first on to the hot silver track. She skids along but remains lying on the 4 metre wide shimmering maglev track.
Bella giggles at the thought at what she has done. The wind has been taken out of her but it seems nothing is broken. All she can hear is a tinny whistle which is beginning to get louder and drowning out the screams, the fires and the drones.
Bella turns her head to the right and retches again. A Skytrain is coming towards her.
450 kilometres an hour of pure speed that can reach English cities such as Bristol, Amsterdam and Newcastle from London in less than an hour and carries troops to the frontline in Livingston to carry on the fight against the Glasgow and Edinburgh Scottish nationalists.
The retch give Bella the impetus to spin across the flat track. As the train approaches she manages to roll over and dangle off the track. She holds on to the edge of the track as the maglev zooms past and float over her fingers. The trailing wind almost blows her to the ground but she holds on for what seems like an hour but is probably only five seconds. The train finally zooms past and away through the new slums towards the National Station.
Bella pulls herself back on up to the track. Stood tall and looking towards the old Olympic Stadium, now London’s biggest internment camp. A prison of 40,000 people serving as a reminder to anyone who wants to challenge the government. A mix of underworld figures, human rights activists, psychopaths, enemies of the government and anyone else deemed “un-English”.
The biggest threat to the government. The reminder to the masses of what happens when you attempt to challenge the order. Londoners call it the underground stadium as everyone pretends it isn’t there. Huge metal scaffolding surrounds most of the stadium due to extensions for security reasons. For something that is regarded as invisible it remains the unmistakable emblem of 22nd century England.
It is the symbolic key to the regime’s reign of terror.
Rather handily, Bella has the actual key to the prison.
Or to put it more accurately, she has the codes to access the electricity house that is located outside the stadium. Her research has led her to this point where a simple system shutdown can pull the plug on the underground stadium. Seven years of investigations and the associated murders, hacks and belief.
Due to the regular blackouts twenty years ago that led to regular rioting, escapes and the Dagenham crisis the government had to place the stadium under it’s own electricity generation system. Bella discovered that there is no back up system in place and the government has never reconnected it back to the main grid.
Well they did five years ago, until Bella disconnected again last week, but that’s whole different adventure.
Bella runs along the skytrain track and looks for a place to get off. She runs and runs and can’t see anywhere to drop off until she spots a maintenance staircase that runs rather conveniently down to the City Mills River. Bella descends the staircase by jumping down each flight.
The staircase leads into a building where a fat man in government uniform is at a desk surrounded by CCTV images. He hasn’t noticed her. He looks like a typical guvsheep. A base, greedy, selfish creature who will do what he can to preserve his cushy life and protect the regime.
She silently walks behind the big man and examines the images on the screens in front of her. The images appear to show the nearby area around the building. It is deathly quiet inside the room. The images are deathly quiet too. Concrete and tarmac and no people.
Bang in the middle of the screens Bella spots a feed focused on the entrance to the electrical control building that she needs to enter. It’s unguarded.
The only problem is the guvsheep. Bella looks at him, a bloated man feeding on Tortos, while his fellow country-folk go hungry.
Bella pulls an eight-inch knife out of her jeans and unsheathes it. grabs the guard by the forehead and swipes the knife across his throat. Blood and processed food spurts out over the desk.
Before she leaves the room Bella smashes every screen. Bella can’t handle the silent screens. They remind her of the silent majority in London. Cowed into silence by a sociopathic regime.
Bella fights back tears and finally walks out of the building and makes her way towards the rusting, burgundy hulk of the Orbit.
A thick steel door greets her at the entrance.
Bella simply pushes the door open.
She expected it to be open. She hacked it last night, the door can only be opened from the inside usually.
Bella walks inside and shuts the door. Stairs lead downstairs to a rather bare and basic office. A few desks and a couple of computers are in here. A man is sat a computer, a wiry man with glasses and a hard face. His face contorts to sheer puzzlement, his jaw quite literally dropping at the sight of a sweat-covered Bella.
She walks over to him and cuts his throat in a move so quick it looked almost dull. His leaking body drops off the chair on to the floor.
She walks through the office and spots what she is looking for. A red handle pokes out of the wall. A label above states “POWER”.
Bella pauses in front of it and grimaces at the word.
If she pulls this handle up she will be Cerberus. What will be unleashed on the city and the country?
Forty thousand people released. The resentful, the criminal and the vile – it is true.
But also the revolutionaries. With the wars in Scotland, France and Gibraltar the government is already in trouble. Manpower is running low for their bitter battles.
“We carry a new world here, in our hearts,”
Bella pulls the handle.
In the room only silence, Bella can’t take her hand off the handle.
Outside in London, the power goes out in the underground stadium. The silence is replaced by noise. Screams pierce the East London air, the gates swing open and the battle begins.
by Martin O’Brien based on That’s Entertainment – The Jam