Part 2: Forgotness
Chapter 6: Loch an Eilein
By TWG Fraser
Copyright 2016 TWG Fraser
Shakespir Edition, License Notes
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Chapter 6: Loch an Eilein
The Reveille sounded.
That was the downside of free accommodation on a military base. In this case, the Royal Barracks of Rothiemurchus by Loch an Eilein. Home of the Scots Guards Regiment, the Royal regiment that protects His Highness Prince Andrew.
The plus side was that this was the best regimental barracks in the country. Even the beds were better.
The Reveille was still painful though.
A couple of days after the episode at Malham, where the mutant had been shot by the girl and Linux had taken the two of them away, I had a visit from Captain Cronin.
He agreed that there was nothing I could have done: Linux’s paperwork would be found to be correct and there was no law against shooting wetters, even by commoners.
The conversation had continued.
“I think,” Captain Cronin had said, “that there is no point avoiding the obvious here. That Linux can probably see and hear everything we do but we can’t get into their systems. They have their own private network, they use the Tor browser so tracking their web page visits is close to impossible, unless we run an a lot of exit nodes, getting keystroke loggers onto linux computers to see what they write has proven difficult, even turning on their cameras and microphones is a lot harder than it should be. All in all it seems they know our movements and thoughts long before we know theirs.”
“So they know everything and we know nothing?” I asked.
“Sort of. This has always been the case to be honest. We’ve never stopped a single attack before it happened or saved a single life. But once we know who we’re after, after an event, then we can start to piece together the history. For instance: we know Linux has been in contact with Wetters because she said so. There are not many working phones in the wetlands, so we have a rough idea who she’s been talking to, and it looks like some traders in old tech right down south, Berkshire way.” said Cronin. “Things have been getting pretty hot down there. There’s a gang of marauders who attacked a wetland enclave in that area. It sounds like they’re looking for something or someone. The Scientologists have been expanding along the Cotswolds. Then a week later we get a break in and suddenly Linux is waving a letter signed by the Prince in front of a wetter claiming its her messenger.”
“So, something is happening down south and Linux is connected? And her mutant may have brought in some old tech?”
“Technology is what Linux does. It stands to reason that she would be interested.”
“Is there anything illegal with that?”
“Well, most of the time no. No one cares about an old phone or a CD. But if it were something big, something new, then there could be a problem. Or, more to the point a solution.”
“Treasure Trove used to mean treasure found that was 300 years or older.”
“And there’s a lot of treasure in the lands of the old UK.”
“So the Prince changed the law. Its not 300 years now its 3 years. So anything found is his, or the crown’s anyway.”
“Ah.” I said.
“Yes, Ah.” Said Cronin.
“So, if this tech gets into Linux’s possession and we could prove that it was found, then Linux would be breaking the law.”
“Yes. Not a particularly big law, but a law all the same. And then maybe we could take a poke round the Linux offices and uncover bigger crimes maybe?”
“At least put a spanner in her works?” I said.
“Yes.” Said Cronin. “Thats the general idea.”
“So you’re still after Linux?” Cronin nodded. “And I still want to find out about this mutant.”
“That’s right. And the mutant is currently in the New Raigmore here in Aviemore. And if you can pass on anything you find out that might be incriminating against Linux would be most helpful.”
“Well. I’ll see what I can do.”
But I hadn’t been able to do much since coming to Aviemore. We knew the mutant was unconcious at the hospital and was regularly visited by Jane May and Mint Linux. We also knew that the mutant was having a lot of operations. But I hadn’t made any more progress than that.
I had tried to find out about the other wetters who had got in at Hulland Gate, but nearly a week had gone by now without a sighting.
I was having a mid-morning coffee when my phone rang. It was Captain Cronin again, he was back at the Scottish Recording Centre.
“Your friend Jane May has just done a search on her phone for brain damage.” He said.
“Well we knew that.” I said. “I’m not even sure why they are even keeping him alive.”
“Ah, well it wasn’t just brain damage. It was also ‘how to stop someone talking gibberish when on drugs’.”
“Oh, so he’s talking?”
“Yes, seems so. Maybe it would be worth popping round and seeing if you can get anything out of him if he’s being so talkative.”
“Yes, thanks Captain, I think I shall.”
So I took an old military Land Rover and drove into Aviemore. Captain Cronin had told me the mutant was on the top floor so I made my way up there. Its handy that no one questions someone in uniform. I asked at the top floor reception where the Linux room was and was pointed to the end of the passage way. I went into the room.
The mutant was lying there, his eyes half open.
“Hello.” He said.
“Hello, Felix.” It said that was his name on the chart. Though it also said he was female. Which, which actually could be right, now I looked at her again. Its amazing how you can see things clearer from one second to the next.
“Hello Felix.” I said again. I already liked her a bit. Looking back at the murder of the four men now was easier to understand. It was self-defence. And more impressive: four fully-grown men. Mind you why was that impressive? I could take four fully-grown men like them and I’m close to fifty. Still it put a smile on my face.
“I’m Commander Colme. From Trident. How are you feeling?”
“Nice.” Said Felix in a muffled way.
“Can I ask why you’re here?”
“We were shot in the head.” She replied with a smile.
“I don’t mean the hospital, I mean in Scotland.”
“Oh.” She said. “Bill and Ben wanted us to.”
“Bill and Ben?” That rang a bell from my childhood before the flood. Just how much medication had she taken? “The flowerpot men?”
“The flowerpot men?” She asked in return.
“You said Bill and Ben, did you mean the Flower Pot Men?”
But Felix did not reply. She looked zoned out to be honest. I asked again, and again.
“For the fourth time please. Did you say Bill and Ben like the Flower pot men?”
I got through this time.
“Like them? No, they are the pot men.” Answered Felix. It looked like she was struggling to try and help me.
“OK.” I gave up on that line. “But Bill and Ben sent you to Lady Linux?”
“Why, what was the message?”
“Message? There was no message.”
“So what were you to deliver?”
“No, not like Live and Let Die Wings.”
“What?” This was frustrating, Felix was losing her likeability now.
“Wings, like a bird, or a plane more like, though actually we suppose more like a parachute. Parawings, that’s the word.”
“Parawings?” I asked. It brought to mind the gyrokites some U-Boats used in the Second World War. But I couldn’t believe she meant them
“Yes, that’s the one.” Felix said happily and dozed off.
“Hello!” I waved my hand in front of her face to try and get her to wake up. She was quite a pretty thing really.
“Hello.” She said waking up suddenly. “We have met you know. A few times actually, we listened to you down by the gate.”
I still wasn’t getting the hang of her use of the word ‘we’ meaning her single self. It was a joke from around the Gates sometimes that wetters used the plural all the time. But it was hard to make sense of it. But actually this was interesting, if off topic.
“You were behind the wall the whole time?” I asked.
“We were. It was very frightening but you never looked. Well, until that soldier looked. They got a fright!”
“You frightened him?” I knew Jones had been hiding something.
“Didn’t mean to. We just stood up and they backed off and fell over.”
“So you didn’t attack him?”
“Why would I do that?”
“Because you’re a spy.”
“A spy in the house of love?” Oh, she was off again. “Sorry. We are a spy? No. We’re just trying to help.”
“Help us.” I didn’t follow.
“Felix!” The girl Jane was standing in the doorway with with a cup of tea. “You shouldn’t be here. You’re not allowed to speak to her. Out. Or I’ll call the Linux family.”
“I’m going.” I said, “Got all I need for the moment. Thank you Felix. You’ve been very helpful. Take care now.”
I left the room. ‘Take care now’ might sound threatening. I hadn’t meant it like that.
I was in a hurry now. But to where? I wanted to speak to Captain Cronin but phones sounded very insecure. The last person I wanted hearing our conversation was Linux. And I certainly didn’t want to have to drive down there just to pass on the message.
I drove back to the barracks and went directly to Signals and spoke to the Sergeant there.
“Do we have any private communication lines with Captain Cronin down at Tissington.”
“Yes Ma’am.” Said the Sergeant. “We have direct lines to all our regional Headquarters.”
“I was wondering whether you had any other method?”
“We can send a motorbike if you can get it signed off Ma’am?” He said. “It will take about 24 hours to get there, its 3 ferries at least.”
“Nothing else?” I asked.
A private who had been sitting behind the desk manning the phones, interrupted.
“There are the pigeons Ma’am.” The Sergeant huffed.
“Really?” I asked. There had been a time soon after the flood and the subsequent electro-magnetic pulse when pigeons had been used. Before the Linux family was able to start connecting us again. “We still have them?”
“Yes ma’am.” Said the Sergeant grudgingly. “Its not official. Some of the retired men kept the system going from the home in New Chelsea.”
“Can you take me to them please?” I asked. The Sergeant almost shrugged his shoulders.
“Grey. Take the Commander down to the old codgers. See if they can help.” He saluted me and the private lead me out of Signals and across the barracks, through the family housing and up the hill to the regimental retirement home. New Chelsea it said on the sign. It was surprisingly comfortable inside. The nurse at the desk looked up.
“Hi Angie. “ Said Grey. “Bob about?”
“He’s up in the attic if you want him.” She said and nodded at me. “Commander.”
We took the lift up to the top floor and then up a ramsay ladder into the attic.
“Bob!” Shouted Grey. “Bob, you up here?”
“Sergeant-Major Acton to you Grey!” Shouted a voice from out of the gloom. A shutter opened in the roof letting light in and revealing a wire coop with a one-way entrance though the slates. The wire coop was large, at least 2 meters square, and explained the quite heavy smell of what I presumed was bird shit and feathers. “Come over here, I’m expecting some messages.”
And almost on cue a pigeon pushed its way through the gate forcing a lever that shifted a pointer round a dial to the number one.
“And here we are, from Loggerheads.” Sergeant-Major Acton went silent.
“Everything alright Bob?” asked Grey.
Sergeant-Major Acton looked up.
“No, not really. Its my nephew. Out at Loggerheads. Dramatic cunt. Sorry Ma’am.”
“Carry on Sargeant-Major.” It wasn’t the first time, won’t be the last. No point even thinking about it.
“Grey. Get your arse down to the Major. It look like Loggerheads as fallen. Fucking Scientologists are on the move at last.”
“At last?” I asked. As Grey took the note from Acton and went back down the ladder. “You’ve been expecting them?”
“Oh yes Ma’am. They’ve been moping up the wetter islands inbetween Loggerheads and Wales over the last few months. They took all the Cotswolds islands last week. We think they’re heading here. The Major doesn’t believe us.”
“I must say I am impressed by your information. Intelligence only told me yesterday about the Cotswolds. Not that I’m confirming that by the way.”
“Of course Ma’am. Can I ask why you’re here?”
“I need to send a message south to Tissington Gate. Captain Cronin.”
“Ah, head Spook in the south. Used to know him. Want to write it on this.” He gave me a tiny piece of paper. “Got a pigeon here, Snowball, she’ll take it down.”
“How soon?” I asked. “Sorry, I don’t know much about pigeons.”
“Its about 400 miles. If Snowball is feeling lazy or the winds are against us, about eighth hours, but probably six hours, could do it in four.”
“So, this evening? That’s brilliant.” It was impressive.
I wrote my note: mutant confirms old tech is a parawing?! Also, Scats just took Loggerheads?! Are we under attack? Colme
I could have written on the other side. But that covered it. I gave the note to the old Sergeant Major who rolled it up and attached it to Snowball’s leg.
“Good luck old girl.” He said as he launched the pigeon out the window.
“Thank you Sergeant-Major.” I was about to leave when something else occurred to me.
“Have you heard anything about a flying wetter? Or a parawing, paraglider, that sort of thing?” He looked at me for a minute.
“No. But I can ask around.”
“Thank you Sergeant-Major. I’m staying in B Barracks for the moment if you hear anything.”
“Will do. Ma’am.” He added and saluted.
I left the New Chelsea building and headed back to Regimental Headquarters. I wondered if they were taking the message from Loggerheads seriously. I knew the place. It was the last outpost of Toplands to our south west. A good fifty miles from Wales, I had sailed past it many times. It was shocking if the Scientologists really felt they could attack Topland soil. Afterall we had Trident Submarines. Which admittedly couldn’t move anymore but had people forgotten how powerful they were? Once.
When I got back to Headquarters I expected to see soldiers running in all directions as the military reacted to the news of the fall of Loggerheads. But it was just another summer afternoon, the sound of marching practise and a brass band playing in the distance, some large engine being given a bit of throttle somewhere. Nothing had changed.
I went to the front desk.
“Any news for me?” I asked the private.
I went to the mess and ordered afternoon tea and then stepped outside to try and phone my family but I couldn’t get through, so I went back in and tried the office phone: no one answered. They were probably out playing in a river, or walking to some distant lake. My husband was good like that. Always thinking of things to entertain the children. He lived in the now, without guilt of the past or fear of the future, which is exactly what a child needs, protection from reality while they slowly pickup the tools needed to deal with life. Something they don’t get from me.
Then I decided I needed exercise to clear my head. I went up to my room, got changed and went for a run round Loch an Eilein and its smaller sister loch to the south the improunceable Gamhna. I had heard someone say it was Gow-oo-na. The Gallic H is a tricky beast in this case an OO sound but I had heard it as a V sound and completely ignored. But I guess its some kind of early French. The language of Asterix and Obelisk and who knows what the hell an obelisk was for.
Such thoughts kept me going on the three mile or so run. When I returned I found an invitation at the front desk.
I was cordially invited to an informal dinner with His Royal Highness Prince Andrew and assorted guests.
I had a couple of hours to get my uniform pressed and my shirt ironed, boots polished, hair cut. We all knew that informal meant merely for Prince Andrew, we would have to dress up as best we could.
I wondered who’d be there. If I was invited then it would probably be a more military list. On the other hand the Prince was known for his ‘playfulness’ so it really could be anyone, and quite possibly someone you really did not want to meet. It depended on who or what was taking his interest tonight.
I would have preferred trousers but knew that the Prince would make a comment so I went for the skirt.
So I was on edge when my driver took me the short distance to the
Loch an Eilein Castle causeway. I sent the driver away. I wanted to be neither early nor late and found that many other guests were of the same mind, joining me on the short walk across the Loch.
Topland or Scotland, depended on your origins. To the native Scot, if there ever was such a thing, it was Scotland. To the rich who had bought their way in before Trident, it was Topland. It could have reverted to Northern Britain but the Prince hadn’t liked that.
My mind had wandered, I noticed, as I marched over the cobbled causeway to the Castle. But I didn’t want to catch anyone’s eye and have to make polite conversation, so it was better to look lost in thought.
“Ah, Commander, how are you?” I recognised Mint Linux’s voice and came out of my reverie. She looked as light and perfect as any woman my age can. I felt the jealousy rise and fade again. Good on her, why not? She had this uncanny ability to make you like her without seeming false,as if she really did mean well.
“Well, Lady Linux, and yourself?”
“Good thank you, busy as ever.” We stopped at the gate while the Castle guard checked our invitations.
“Trying to rule the world like all businessmen? Domination using whatever means possible.”
“Ah. You’re referring to the idea that Tom Cruises’s Risky Business was the st art of it all? Been listening to Darren and Jim’s Pirate Radio Show Commander. I am surprised.”
“May have caught a bit of it last night. Certainly seems the case doesn’t it. He’s trying to get into Havard Business School but needs money. So he sells women to children for sex. But that’s not good enough for the Havard Admissions man. Its only when Cruise offers him a woman as a bribe that he gets the offer of a place.”
“And the moral is?” Asked Mint.
“The moral is that there is always someone in trouble who is willing to do whatever it takes however illegal or merely immoral therefore, the good business person must always do whatever it takes, not for the business that they are working for but for themselves.”
“And you think I am like that?” Asked Mint as we walked through the gates.
“You are very successful. Therefore you must be doing whatever it takes.”
“That’s very damning.” Said Mint.
“Well, its me who had to clean up the mess wasn’t it.”
“But I was just an electrician’s daughter back then, teaching IT at Bell Baxter High School.” She said.
“Well, I wonder when I will have to clean up your mess. If you’ll excuse me.” We had been lead into the hall of Loch an Eilein Castle. It was set for a dinner for about 30 people at one long table.
“I’ll try not to let that happen.” Said Mint Linux as we parted ways. “Have a good night Commander.”
I nodded to her as she walked away towards some grandee or other I didn’t recognise, unsure why I had suddenly got to cross.
I didn’t really recognise many people apart from the top brass in the forces: General Drubbington, Admiral Rackson and Air Marshal Fiennes.
I tried to avoid them and ended up talking to some wives in a corner about holidays in England. Drinks were served, nibbles passed around and then without anyone really saying anything we all stopped talking and turned towards the inner door. It opened and in walked the Prince.
Though there was a man close to his ear to whisper anyone’s name he wasn’t sure of, the Prince seemed pretty good at getting everyone’s name right.
“Commander Colme. Good to see you.” He said.
“You Highness.” I saluted. He walked by. And that was it. What the fuck was I doing here? I considered having another drink but knew I should pace myself. It could be a long night.
I wondered if the women would be ushered out while the men had port?
It had happened to me before in other messes. Sometimes I think I nuked the wrong people.
You get an ear for people’s tone of voice in these things, the voice rises, there’s a tiny pause, smile, a longer build up its a joke: laugh. I went into autopilot and rode the conversation.
Sometimes the conversation would stop all together and I would have to quickly rewind in my head what had just been said: a question, do I like my uniform? Oh sweet fuck.
“At least I don’t have to decide what to wear every day, and a man does my ironing.” I paused. “But I avoid regulation underwear.”
That got a laugh, it always does, but wait for it, wait for it, here it comes.
“I bet the men love that.” As if! Why? But I smile and laugh.
“Only my husband knows.”
“Well we promise not to tell anyone.”
“Thank you.” I said. That was it I couldn’t take any more. At least with luck I would have a man on either side at dinner. Actually that’s not preferable either looking at this bunch of cockwombles. Four hours and it would all be over. But the temptation to speed up the process by getting so blootered that the next thing I would remember would be tomorrow morning was extraordinary.
“Steady Commander.” It was Mint Ubu at my side again.
“Reading my thoughts now?” I turned to her. She smiled.
“I don’t need technology for this one.” She said. “You have a very demonstrative features. I like that. Its honest.”
A gong rang loudly and we were ushered to our seats. I was set quite far down the table between two large sweaty business types. Both in oil. Both competitively loud and keen to show that they were not at all impressed by a woman Naval Commander. Even the Trident one.
They talked oil during the oer d’oeuvres, oil rigs during the starter, oil men during the main course, their salaries, cars, houses, holidays and wives during the pudding, and had never once asked a question about me by the time the cheese arrived.
The food was good, different, rich. The wine was very good. The best we had was from Tanzania interestingly.
Then it was that moment.
“Would the ladies like to retire to the Royal Drawing room for coffee?” Said the Butler.
“Not you Linux!” Shouted the Prince. “You’re an honorary man, and you Commander. Unless you want to go with the women?”
One of the oil men sniggered.
“Thank you your Highness, we would love to stay.” Said Lady Linux, said so gently as well, but no one sniggered at her. Bitch Fuck.
OK, I really had to slow down the drinking now or I might deck someone. And to be honest I could deck them all. Not only could I but I could. Maybe not the mutant Felix though. I wondered if she still had her knife.
So I had a coffee. And then another. The men moved around. The oil men moved away. Linux came and sat beside me.
“Do you have to?” I said before I could stop myself and Linux laughed so loudly everyone turned to us.
“What’s so funny?” Shouted the Prince down the table. “Come on Linux, what’s so funny.”
“Oh.” Said Linux. “The Commander was just telling me of a young cadet who disarmed four professionals in a matter of seconds.”
“I see,” said the Prince, plainly not understanding the joke. “Tell me Commander, I’ve heard that there are more women recruits than men nowadays. Is this true?”
“God help us.” muttered one of the oil men to laughter.
“That’s correct your Highness. It was just one of these recruits I was telling Lady Linux about. Four grown men, one young girl. They never stood chance. Most impressive.”
“Shouldn’t be allowed.” Said a voice from out of a cloud of cigar smoke.
“Luckily the His Highness allows it.” I said.
“Yes I do don’t I?” Laughed the Prince. “I do like a woman in uniform.”
And the conversation moved on.
“OK, Lady Linux.” I said to Linux. “I think I owe you one and I’m not sure if that’s a good position to be in.”
“You don’t owe me anything Commander.” She said. “Please call me Mint. Or Mint Ubu. I do like Mint Ubu. Mint by itself sounds a bit… lacking, incomplete.”
“Mint Ubu.” I said.
“Good for you.” Said Mint Ubu of nothing in particular.
There was a roar of laughter from the Prince’s end of the table where all the men were now gathered round.
“Some things never change do they.” I said, watching them.
“No, “ said Mint, “But it is coming.”
“Really?” I said. “I don’t see it ever changing.”
“You said your best recruits were women.”
“Yes, I suppose so.”
“So are mine. The men are… sloppy. Not all, but so many.”
“Linux!” It was the Prince again, all heads were turned towards us.
“Linux. What’s this about us signing an immigration form for a wetter. I don’t recall signing that?” Shouted the Prince.
“Your Highness did, I assure you. But it was some time ago. Maybe your office has forgotten.” Replied Mint. “I can have the paperwork sent for if you would like?”
“No, no, no thank you Lady Linux I see enough letters during the day anyway. No, I want to see the mutant!”
“She’s in hospital Your Highness. She was badly wounded recently while working for me.”
“Its a girl! Of course I had forgotten that.” Shouted the Prince.
“Yes Your Highness. A very talented young woman.”
“And shot on the head I hear. And survived!” Bellowed Prince Andrew up the table. All the while the men around him laughed and commented. “I want to see her. Fetch her, bring her here.”
“Your Highness I really don’t think…” Started Mint but the Prince interrupted.
“Lady Linux. I put with a lot of shit from you. Everyone wants rid of you. I ignore their complaints. But you are not as indispensible as you think you are. Or your father. I want to see this mutant that I signed for, now.” He slammed his fist on the table.
“Of course Your Highness.” Said Mint with a smile. Conversation erupted around the Prince.
Mint Ubu pulled a phone out of her coat and made a short call. Then she signalled to the Butler. Mint said:
“Tell His Highness that Felix, the wetlander, will be here in the next 30 minutes.” The Butler nodded and went over to the Prince to deliver the message.
“Are you alright?” I asked.
“Oh you are kind. Yes of course I’m fine. I’ve dealt with His Highness for many years. We are used to each other’s ways.”
“He’s very well informed.” I said. “I didn’t think he… was so… in touch.”
“Oh yes. He’s very well informed. He has to be. I am sure everyone of those men up there.” She nodded to the men around the Prince. “Would love to take his place if they could. Call themselves President, or some such, if they could.”
“Back to Risky Business?” I asked.
“Yes back to Risky Business. If you are not growing you are shrinking, dying, in their eyes. So ultimately they have to become the President and then, the Ruler of the World.”
“And you don’t?”
“Me? No, I was brought up on Iain M. Banks, The Culture. That’s my aim. Everyone has what they want. No money. Peace. Freedom. Its quite simple really.”
“But impossible.” I said, not wanting to sound scornful.
“Maybe, but worth aiming for, and before you ask yes I have read Ursula Le Guin’s The Disposessed. Its the other side of the coin, I know.” Mint Ubu shrugged. “But we have to try.”
I tried to change the topic.
“So how does the Prince know so much about you. I thought you were…” I stopped, realising I was possibly about to commit treason of some sort. Break the Official Secrets Act or something.
“Difficult to hear?” Said Mint Smiling. “Yes, but that would be dangerous to be completely invisible. No, I have a few people with Windows and Macs and a pretty truthful script. They make calls, send emails, buy stuff. They keep the Prince up to date.”
“It would be worse if he found out about Felix later. No. I’ve nothing to hide, or not much. Anyway you know what Graphic Designers are like.” She looked at me. “Or maybe not. All mildly Aspergers. Somehow they feel they can only create on Macs. I once ran OSX on a virtual machine on linux and let a designer work on it. He couldn’t tell the difference. But he was so cross when he found out. Funny bunch.”
“Do you think the SRC know?”
“I’m sure they do. Your friend Cronin? Oh Yes. But I can’t give him everything. I’m not sure who’s side he’s on.”
“There are sides?”
“Oh, there are always sides. Ah, Felix.” Mint stood up. I turned round and yes, Felix was there. Wearing more normal clothes, looking normal, apart from the bandage round her head. Her hair was pinned up as ever. An additional seat was put beside mine and Mint lead Felix to the chair.
“Hang on.” Shouted the Prince. “I want to see it.”
Prince Andrew stood up and walked down the the room to where Felix stood. She turned her head as the Prince walked around her looking her up and down.
“She looks normal to me. Doesn’t even smell. Boris you said they smelt of fish.” Prince Andrew leant in to smell Felix. She leant away from him as if he was crazy.
“What are you doing?” She asked.
The Butler stepped forward and said.
“You are not to speak to His Highness unless spoken to first.”
“Why not?” She asked the Butler. The Prince waved the Butler away.
“Quite right.” He said, “You are not my subject, you don’t have to abide by my rules.”
“Tell me.” The Prince continued. “Is it true you killed four men? Hang on a sec Mint, is this who you were talking about earlier? You lied to me! Anyway. Miss? Wetter. What’s your name, Felix? Funny name for a girl. How did you kill four grown men?”
“We used a knife.” She answered.
“We? Are you royalty too?” There was laughter from round the table. “Where is this knife?”
“Here.” And out of almost nowhere there was a big old fashioned bayonet in her hand. There was a gasp all round the room. The Prince took a step back and I half stood up.
“Can I take that please Felix.” I said. holding out my hand. “I’ll give it back later.”
She passed it to me. It was heavy, probably for a Lee-Enfield. It was dated 1907 on the blade.
“Is this your only knife?” I asked. For a split second her eyes moved up and snapped back down. I looked up. Of course! The hair pin. It was actually steel and very sharp at one end. Our eyes met and I gave her the smallest smile and shake of the head. Felix gave a tiny smile back.
“Only knife I carry.” She said.
“Well I’m glad to hear it.” Said Prince Andrew jovially. “Almost had a heart attack then. Very sharp of you. But tell me now. Why are you here?”
He held up his hand to Mint who was about to speak.
“I know, messenger, special delivery, but why are you here? Commander Colme here thinks you’re a spy. Why are you here.”
Felix was silent for a moment.
“I came to speak to you.” She said quietly.
“To me?” Said the Prince. “How charming, I’m touched. Such a long dangerous journey. All for me. I’d love to hear what you have to say.”
“But do keep it quick, I’ve got a brandy over there.” the Prince flicked his fingers and pointed. The Butler went and got his brandy.
“We need your help. Prince.” Felix began. “We’ve…”
“You mean the wetters.” Interrupted Andrew.
“Yes, us wetlanders. We’re dying. We have little food and even less room to grow more. The Scats, the Scientologists are attacking us, The Mugs are attacking us, the Priests are no help, and I’ve seen your land.” She went on in a rush. “Your people are old, so few young and we’ve got loads of young people, your lands are empty, and we could work, farm it, farm it well, we don’t need much , we don’t need anything, just a little bit of space. You have fields and fields and moors empty. You have to help us.”
There were whispers around the room and tutting.
“Very touching I’m sure. But I don’t have to help you. You’re not my subjects. I’m not sure you’re even people. You yourself have two brains. I’ve seen the doctors’ report. You’re mutants. Strontium Dogs. We can’t have you here mixing your mutant blood with ours. And our hospitals cost money and our schools and our roads. Do you have money?”
“No, but we could earn it. We work hard.”
“Bollocks.” Said of the men behind her. “Everyone knows the people in the South work half as hard or as productively as the people in the North due to the rain.”
“Hear hear.” said a few more men.
“Please.” Asked Felix. “You could save so many lives, so many children.”
“Ah.” Said Prince Andrew. “But you see I am thinking of the children. I had a Priest in here only this monring saying he was worried about the children. Think what he would be saying if I let you lot in. No. So many people here,” he waved his arms round the room. “Paid good money to get into Topland. It wouldn’t be right to just let anyone in now.”
“But you need people.” Said Felix.
“But you need people, Your Highness.” Interjected the Butler. The Prince waved him away.
“Maybe we do, maybe we’re getting old, maybe the country needs a new young workforce to do the hard work and pay the taxes. But you look different and you speak different, christ, you even smell different. And for that matter you probably don’t want me as your leader. I’m sorry my young mutant friend. I don’t know who it will be but it won’t be wetters. You’ve got two brains, surely you can understand that.”
I did think Felix might go for her hair pin at that moment. And I may have been tempted to let her. I could quite see her forcing it through his ear, maybe it appearing out the other side, a look of surprise on the fat bastard’s face. I watched Felix carefully as she stared at the Prince. He eventually looked away and with a wave of his hand to dismiss Felix, moved back to his seat at the end of the table. I heard Mint breathe a sigh of relief.
I picked up Felix’s bayonet and tapped her on the shoulder.
“Fancy a walk?” I turned to Mint. “If you don’t mind.”
“No, no, good idea, get some fresh air.” Said Mint. “I may join you later, I just need to do a couple of things.”
She looked up the table to where the men were gathered round the Prince.
“Boring shit, you know.” I’m not sure I had ever heard Mint swear. Maybe she was as annoyed as I.
Felix nodded and we left the room. I wasn’t sure if protocol allowed for such a thing, but we went anyway. Probably acceptable as we were women, or mutants or something.
“I’m sorry about that.” I said as we went out into a cold wet summer night in Scotland.
“Why?” Said Felix. “You wanted to kill me a week ago.”
“I did didn’t I. But I like things organised, by the rules. A week ago you were illegal and then with the wave of a piece of paper you weren’t. I’m still not totally sure why you’re here. Actually that’s not true is it? I think you tell the truth don’t you. You were here to deliver some old tech parawing to Mint and you wanted to ask for help for your people. Anyway. I was on holiday and I’m always grumpy on holiday. Shit, I must phone the husband.”
We found an open door across the courtyard from the hall and went up it. Ancient stone steps took us up to a short rampart with a view over the Loch to the parked cars beyond. Felix peered over the wall to the water below.
“I’m not sure I’ve ever been this high.”
“Really? No, the Hospital was a couple of floors higher I think.”
“Freak.” She said stepping back. I had to put my arm out stop her falling back off the wall. She looked round.
“Its very different south of the wall?” I had seen it from boats, but I was only now starting to think what it would be like to live there.
“You have space, you have food, and power, and warmth, and you’re dry, there’s so much less mist and cloud up here. But you’re all kind of mean. No, that’s not true. Mint, Jane, the nurses. Its, I don’t know, you have so much yet you just seem to want more.”
“Well, you’re not going to change that.” I said. But regretted it. It’s not nice to admit to being horrible. But Felix wasn’t listening she was watching a group of people on the causeway. I looked round.
“Is that?” She stopped. “I’ve just got to…”
But she didn’t say anymore, but went quickly down the stairs. I followed behind, slower, less sure of my footing on the damp steps. Felix was trying hard to not run. But she was out of the gate and down the causeway to where a group of, I wasn’t sure, drivers, young people? As I got closer I saw that it was, in fact, Jane and probably a group from Mint’s office.
As Felix got closer I saw the group separate a bit and Jane looked up. But Felix’s steps faltered and then she walked straight past them. Jane looked round to watch her go past, but didn’t say anything. She looked hurt.
“Love’s a bitch.” It was Mint beside me. “I do like having a young staff. The camaraderie and the falling in and out of love. I think it keeps me young.”
“I’m afraid I would find it tiring. Past that sort of nonsense.” I said.
“Really? That’s a shame, its fun. Anyway, I must head home.”
“The Prince is finished?” I asked.
“Oh no, barely begun. But I can’t be bothered with it all.”
“But won’t you be missing out on wheeling and dealing and backhanders?”
“Still have a low opinion of me don’t you? Have to fix that.” She smiled. “Night Commander.”
“Good night Lady Linux.” I watched her walk along the causeway. The youths had split up and hurried back to the cars.
I went back into the castle to fetch my coat and walked back to the barracks in the rain, it helped clear my head.
I promised myself that I would phone my husband and children in the morning. Maybe try and get way from Aviemore now. I wasn’t sure there was anything left for me to do here.
I got back to my room, had a shower and went to bed.
Set a few decades into the future, when sea levels have risen 200 metres and most of England is underwater. What is left of the UK is divided: Topland/Scotland and the North is ruled by Prince Andrew, Wales has been taken over by Scientologists, while monks control the North Yorkshire Moors. Still, there are those who survive on the few hilltops above seawater. Pressure is building on these to find safety, to be allowed into Scotland, after all, they were UK citizens, once. Part 1: In the Peak District and Around The Downs Part 2: In Aviemore / The Journey This is Chapter 6 of Part 2: Prince Andrew, Loch an Eilein, Aviemore, Pigeons, Boris and romance? Readers so far: Part 1: Ch1 - 58, Ch14 - 12. Part 2: Ch1 - 17, Ch5 - 7. This is the 3rd draft of a book I wrote between April and September 2016. I am trying to find out if its readable, if it works.