CHAPTER THIRTY THREE
Edward Montford brooded through another long and empty night. His three spin doctors had tried to tell him he had won the previous evening's war of words. In the end, he had lost his temper and told them to fuck off.
He had watched both of the feeds three times over. He had looked like a speaking corpse, but at least he seemed like a man who meant business. Campbell looked like he was having a bloody ball. And when the bastards started up with 'Flower of Scotland......' If only he still had a nuclear button to press he would have gladly reduced Fort George into a heap of radio active rubble
What the hell. Maybe he could have got himself onto a real roll and wiped Paris off the face of the map as well.
The news channels ran spot polls and it seemed like a small majority of the English were behind him. That was OK. The number would soon start to go up once the army removed Campbell from the air waves. Things would be very different in a couple of weeks. He just needed to stay the course.
He managed two hours of broken sleep and kick started himself back to life with a shower and a handful of Oxys.
By seven o'clock he was back in the Situation Room. General Moore didn't have a hair out of place. The bloody man looked like he was polished from head to toe
“We have done quite a lot of contingency planning Prime Minister. However, I think we should wait until Campbell has made his broadcast before running everything by you. Agreeable?"
“Fine. I need to make some calls. We'll see what the bloody man has to say and take it from there.”
He managed to force down some breakfast along with three black coffees. He spent two hours on the phone with senior people in the party. Sometimes he was Mr Nice. Other times he went in hard. He cajoled and manipulated and gently brought up past indiscretions. He worked them like the old pro he was.
Ten o'clock in Northwood. Ten o'clock in Fort George. And this time the setting was altogether more conventional. Angus Campbell sat behind a desk in a dark suit.
“Good morning. As you can see, things have calmed down a bit. This morning I mainly want to speak directly to the people of Scotland. Maybe I might have a word or two for Edward Montford at the end. So. Where are we up to? Well, I think I better start with a correction. In the early hours of this crisis, I made a rather rash promise. I told you the men of the Black Watch were about to march out onto Culloden Moor to wait for the English Army. Oops. I obviously got a little carried away. Well, I have calmed down now and yes, to do such a thing would be utterly ridiculous. So we won't be doing it. Instead, we are readying Fort George for an old style battle. My fellow Scots, it looks like we are in for a siege.
'I have no doubt the English Army will be arriving in the next few days. Well, they are not going to like what they find. Over the last day and a half, a further 653 Scottish soldiers have made it to Fort George. They managed to slip the net and get out of Edinburgh. A further 300 are on their way. Which means our force will soon be nearly 2000. For the last two days we have been stocking up on food and weapons. By the time the English get here, we will pack one hell of a punch. I have asked our senior officers what kind of force will be needed to seriously threaten such an impregnable position without the benefit of any air support. Their best guess is a minimum of ten thousand. Probably more. So there's something for you to chew on Edward. At least 10,000. That's an awful lot of soldiers for you to march all the way up here.
'I have no doubt your generals will tell you what a grisly business it will be, trying to take a fortress like this one....
'But I digress. I promised to leave Edward Montford until the end. I have some information to pass on, some requests to make and some favours to ask. Information first. Already seventeen Members of the Scottish Parliament have managed to make it up to join me here at Fort George. Going by the conversations I have had on the phone, I am confident we will have over sixty by tomorrow. Here is my message for any other MSP's who are planning to get here. I wouldn't. It is very soon going to get seriously hairy around here and traveling will quite frankly be too dangerous. Here's the good news. Sixty MSP's is more than enough to form a Parliament of sorts. We will sit for the first time tomorrow and I will be forming a cabinet. Obviously, our interim government will be an all party affair. As it should be during a national emergency.
'OK. A message to anyone living within thirty miles of Fort George. I am not going to tell you to leave your home. But I think getting away will probably be a pretty smart play. This place is about to be a major combat zone, probably by the end of the week. The best thing you can do is play safe.
'And now I would like to ask a favour of every Scot who is watching this broadcast. I ask you not to co-operate with the English occupation in any way whatsoever. I don't want anyone to be stupid and to disobey a direct order issued by a man with a gun. We absolutely do not want any martyrs. But if not going into work makes their life more difficult, then stay at home. I give you a firm commitment as your First Minister that the Scottish Government will pay any wages you might miss out on as a result of your non co-operation.
'We all need to send out a crystal clear message to our invaders. You are not welcome here. You have no business to be here. What you are doing is illegal. And make no mistake, you will never, ever be welcome here. Don't for a minute think things will settle down and go back to business as usual. London has asset stripped our country once too often. This time they are going to regret the day they chose to cross our border.
'So I'm going to finish with a commitment. It is a commitment I make on behalf of every man and women here at Fort George. We are going to stock up and hunker down. And we are going to take everything they are about to throw at us. And when they advance, they are going to pay a very heavy price. Maybe we will find a way to hang on for many weeks. Maybe even a few months. And every day we hang on, we hope all of you are able to draw encouragement and know in your hearts the day will come when the invaders will have to leave.
'OK. Edward. I will get back to you. My response to your offer to surrender is somewhat crude, but I think it is rather appropriate.
'Away and shite.'
'Is that clear enough? I guess it probably is. We are here Edward. Lots of us. And we are waiting for you.”
And then Angus gave his forehead a theatrical slap. "Good Lord. I nearly forgot. Check this out, Edward. Here. Can you see? Sitting comfortably..."
A box appeared in the bottom right corner of the screen showing a long line of electricity pylons snaking across a line of hills.
“.... guess where this is Edward? Any ideas? Well, let me bring you up to speed. This is the Scottish Borders. Nice view, don't you think? These pylons are right now transporting 30% of England's electricity supplies. As in all that power you haven't been paying for. Well, Edward, I'm afraid we don't supply power to people who invade us. Not a chance. So, guys, I think it is probably time. Here we go.... three ….two … one...."
And almost in slow motion, five sets of pylons crumpled to the ground.
The Prime Minister's eyes widened at the sight of the mangled metal. He half expected the lights to go off, but of course, the Situation Room had all kinds of back-up systems in place. What did a 30% loss of power actually look like? Christ. It was yet another nightmare to try and get a hold of.
Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck.....
And yet again words from school English lessons slipped into his mind. Macbeth. Always Macbeth. Macbeth and the inevitability of fate. Macbeth, known as 'The Scottish Play' by superstitious theatre types who were terrified of the play's dark reputation.
'Fear not, ‘til Birnam Wood comes to Dunsinane.'
A King drenched in blood. A King clinging to false promises made by witches.
A king gone bad.
Get a grip. Make like a stone. Show them nothing. Ignore the eyes. Find the right voice.
“OK. General Moore, it appears to me he has made his intentions very clear. Do you agree?”
“I do sir. Would you like us to run you through our various scenarios?”
In the end, it was a no brainer. Edward Montford went for speed. The sooner the Army could ring Fort George with artillery, the better. The plan was as simple as a plan could be. Moore said everything was down to logistics. This was going to be old school. Gather enough force and then move the force to the right place. 5000 troops, mainly reservists would be deployed to Edinburgh to take over occupation duties from the Paras and SAS. Three artillery regiments, one armoured brigade, the Marines, The Coldstream Guards and the Royal Welsh would join up in Catterick and then deploy to Edinburgh along with all necessary transport. This force would then join with the Paras and the SAS and deploy north to Fort George. How long? Five days to gather the whole invasion force together in Edinburgh. One day to organise. Four days to Fort George. In ten days the English Army would be ready to pound Angus Campbell with a deadly mix of tanks and artillery. Within a few days, Fort George would look like Berlin in 1945. Like Grozny in 1994. Like Aleppo in 2017.
The walls of Fort George were thick. But they not thick enough to hold back the kind of bombardment General Moore had in mind.
Marc Romaine was back in the President's office twenty three and a half hours after leaving it. Valerie thought the man was a machine. He looked more like a man who had just walked off a golf course than a man who had ducked in and out of a war zone without any kind of sleep.
They both lit up. “Good trip, General?”
“The air strike?”
A dismissive shrug. “It was nothing. Just the English trying to show off. We were never in any danger. Not exactly Verdun.”
“And how is the First Minister holding up?”
“Good. I'm impressed actually.”
“Did you discover anything we don't know? Anything important?”
“A couple of things. The traitor was an SAS trooper. Wendel MacDonald. He is in a relationship with the reporter. Samantha Keating.”
“Ah. This explains a great deal.” Valerie was beaming at the news. “So Montford's plans were destroyed by a pair of love birds. Like Hollywood, don't you think?”
“I don't watch movies.”
“Of course you don't, Marc. Anything else?”
“One more thing. Some volunteers arrived. The leader is ex SAS. My age, but impressive. He had five men with him. They all came through the Calais Jungle nearly twenty years ago. They were all child soldiers. Afghanistan, Syria, Uganda. The Afghans are very interesting. They are the two sons and the nephew of Akram Kebir. You remember him?”
“Of course I remember him. He killed six of our soldiers.”
“Now they have volunteered to attack the English as they move the army north. They were the ones who blew up the electricity pylons. I think they will be a major asset."
“Excellent. Henri. Bring Marc up to speed with your end of things.”
Jardin was succinct. Eight of his best operatives were now in place in Northern England and Southern Scotland. Four teams of two. They would observe the English deployment and assess the strength of their forces.
“So Marc, were you able to come up with a plan?”
“Yes, Madame President. We did.”
“Then pour us both a coffee and let me hear it.”
It took him ten minutes and by the end, his audience of two wasn't quite open mouthed, but they nearly were.
“So this is why Campbell is making such a show of preparing for a siege. Of course. Henri, do you think we will be able to get confirmation from your agent 'Lapin'?"
“I hope so. She is due to meet with her target this evening. The usual hotel. Maybe he will cancel with everything that is happening. Hopefully, he won't. For now, I think we can assume the English are believing what Campbell is telling them. We can proceed on this basis."
“Good. So how long will you need Marc? To get everything in place?”
“And how long do you think it will be before the English reach, Fort George?"
“Best guess? Ten days. Maybe a little longer.”
“So we need to slow them down. I think I can understand why you seem so pleased about the child soldiers. How many are they again?”
“Eight in all. Wendel MacDonald and an old comrade are joining them. Two teams of four.”
“So it is more Hollywood I think. The fate of a country in the hands of eight men. Can they do it?”
This prompted one of Marc Romaine's rare smiles. “They can. These are the kind of men I would welcome into 2 REP any time.”
This brought smiles to the faces of Valerie and Henri. Marc Romaine's career might have taken him to the lofty heights of the General Staff, but it was an open secret that his heart would always be with 2 REP.
2 Regiment Etranger de Parachutistes. The Foreign Legion's airbourne. The tip of France's spear for a nearly a hundred years. As a Lieutenant Colonel, Marc Romaine had been their commander for ten years.
The best ten years.
Henri was already well ahead of Marc's game. “So I presume you will be flying down to Camp Raffelli once we are through here?”
Camp Raffelli on the island of Corsica was the home base of 2 REP.
“Of course. Who else do you think I would take?”
Who else indeed? It was a 'no brainer' to end all 'no brainers'.
“And of course you will be leading them yourself?”
“Obviously.” The General spoke with absolute confidence, but couldn't help a small glance at his President.
“Don't worry, Marc. I'm not going to override you. You would never forgive me and you are not an enemy I would ever want to have. After Raffelli? Senegal?"
“Yes, Madame President."
“Well. We better not delay you any further. Bon voyage Marc.”
Jardin and Romaine departed and Valerie lit up cigarette number twenty six. Her secretary got Angus Campbell on the line.
“OK, Angus. So I have just met with Marc Romaine and Henri Jardin. Marc has explained the plan and I have approved it. France will play our part. I believe it will take 14 days for everything to be ready?”
“Yes. That is what the guys told me.”
“So I think your child soldiers need to buy us some time.”
“It looks that way. I will let them know”
Wendel took the call half an hour later. Both Toyotas were parked up in a long disused farmyard a few miles north of Duns.
“We need you to find us four days. Are you good with that?”
“Of course. Leave it with us.”
Sally had first become an escort to manage what promised to become a mountain of student debt. It didn't take her long at all to realise she was a natural. She had the looks, the brains, and the easy charm. Lots of her punters were more than happy to pay serious money just to have her at their side. To show her off. Others, of course, wanted to pay the extra fee for 'additional services'.
And the fee for the 'additional services' she provided was eye watering. She gave up on her Law Degree half way through her third year to concentrate fully on her newly chosen career. Her clients came from the ranks of the global super rich who were drawn to the lawyers, accountants, bankers and tax breaks of London.
She had made her way onto the radar of the DGSE four years earlier and the two parties had agreed on terms. The French spooks were willing to pay Sally the same again for bringing them up to speed with the pillow talk her customers had whispered into her ear.
She became agent 'Lapin'.
Most of the pillow talk was worthless. Some of it was of minor interest. Every now and then she came up with pure gold.
Her weekly meetings with Major General Terrence Fielding had first started in the autumn of 2028. Her DGSE handlers were delighted and promised her a fat bonus if she could keep the English Army Staff Officer interested. She kept him more than interested. Every week without fail he booked a suite in a discreet hotel in Chelsea and slowly but surely ran his way through the substantial inheritance he had received from a favourite aunt and banked without his wife's knowledge. There was more than enough in the account to cover the costs of spending a weekly night with Sally for at least another eighteen months. And after that? After that, he would have to show some financial imagination.
As he lay back and worked his way through the lion's share of their second bottle of champagne, Major General Terrence Fielding relived his thrilling hours in the Northwood Situation Room to a doting Sally.
She was all wide eyes and admiration. "My God, Terry this is amazing. And you really think it is going to be like a real siege?"
“Absolutely. Like General Moore said. Old school. We'll batter the bastards with tanks and cannon. Starve the buggers out. I wish I could be there.”
“It's amazing. It's like Game of Thrones....”
Six hours later Henri listened to the recording and allowed himself a smile.
Hook, line, and sinker.
He called up Marc Romaine knowing he wouldn't be asleep.
“They've taken the bait.”
Call killed. Dead air.
“It was nice chatting with you General.”
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