Central Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Inspector Richard Doherty was a veteran police officer, having been in the Police Service of Northern Ireland, or Police Service of Northern Ireland (incorporating the Royal Ulster Constabulary, George Cross) to give it its full name, since 2001 and had served in the Royal Ulster Constabulary for twelve years before the change of name. He was one of the 20 percent of the service’s officers who were Catholic (well, ex-Catholic and it was about 15 percent since The Message), though as a veteran RUC man he thought of him as an eight percenter, 8.3 percent of the old force having been Catholic. The Message had hit Northern Ireland harder than the Mainland; around a quarter of the population had just lain down and died, or committed suicide, including many of the Province’s religious leaders and some of the political ones. Sadly for the police about ten percent of the service had been amongst those who had died.
Like many of his co-religionists he represented the fact that Catholics had been promoted in numbers well out of proportion to the percentage of total officers. He still remembered the days when becoming a police officer, or soldier, was a very dangerous choice for a Catholic. Not only were you likely to be shot in the back, or blown up while carrying out your duties, but your family was also at great risk. Only now, times had changed.
The appearance of the armies of Hell in the desert of Iraq and a baldrick attack in America had really stepped up the level anxiety for the public. To reassure the population, the PSNI had put a strong armed presence on the streets of the Province. Backing them up were a couple of regular army infantry battalions, who would soon be joined by the recently re-formed Home Service battalions of The Royal Irish Regiment. Men and women (known as ‘Greenfinches’) who had served in these battalions had flocked back to the colors when the decision to re-form them had been announced. Fortunately the army still had enough equipment and uniforms in storage in Northern Ireland to equip them.
The Inspector was in charge of a Police Support Unit of twelve officers, mounted in a pair of armored Land Rovers, known as the Tangi. Once upon a time the Tangis of the RUC had been painted grey, now they were painted in the same orange and yellow checkered ‘Battenberg’ high visibility scheme worn by similar vehicles on the Mainland
Doherty shook his head as he saw a man and a woman, both carrying Armalite rifles, walked past as they did their shopping. One of the first acts after the British Government had declared a State of Emergency was to repeal all existing gun control laws. Illegally held weapons were now appearing openly on the streets. It was quite amazing how many of them there were. But then, the various groups of Irish terrorists had been notorious for burying stashes of guns all over the countryside.
“Few years ago we would have been arresting that pair, or worse, Sarge.” Doherty commented.
“That’s right, to be sure.” Sergeant Chris Ryder replied. “I don’t think I’ll ever get use to seeing ex-Provos or Loyalists walking about with their guns openly.”
“Yeh, I know what you mean, Sarge. If I had my way half of them would still be in the Maze; murderous bastards the lot of them. Those rifles won’t do them much good anyway; I hear that a full thirty round magazine of 5.56mm rounds only slows a baldrick down.”
Doherty had every reason to be bitter about the terrorists. One of his friends had been shot in the back by an IRA gunman while administering First Aid to a woman injured in a road accident, while another had been crippled by a blast bomb thrown by a Loyalist mob.
Suddenly a series of loud screams caught the attention of both officers. Doherty and Ryder turned towards the sound, just catching the sound of two ‘pops’, pistol shots. They were just in time to see one of the police support unit personnel, Glock 17 still in his hands, being eviscerated by a three meter high demonic apparition.
“Jesus…I mean bloody hell! ….. I mean, oh shit!” Doherty exclaimed as he watched the baldrick kill a civilian who was too slow in running. His mind seemed to be running in slow motion and he had time to reflect that The Message had eviscerated the English language’s stock of forceful expressions.
“Get the rifles out of the Tangis!” He yelled to the remainder of the unit, then “RUN! RUN!” to the nearest civilians.
Doherty and Ryder both drew their pistols and opened fire, even though they knew that the 9x19mm rounds would probably do little more than piss the baldrick off. The baldrick turned as he felt the new stinging impacts, he turned and saw two more of the humans dressed in green and wearing those funny hats pointing their outstretched arms at him, as if praying, or begging for mercy. He marveled at their apparent stupidity, praying had not saved the last green clad human.
The two police officers retreated towards the Tangis, changing the magazines in their pistols. Several other members of the unit had also opened fire, but to Doherty’s horror he could see that although the baldrick was bleeding from multiple wounds it had not even been slowed down. All he could do was continue to fire until he ran out of ammunition, and hope for the best.
At this point an armed civilian joined the battle, engaging the baldrick with an AK-47, the demon paused, ignoring the police officers for a moment to take hold of the civilian, tear out his heart and throw him through the air.
Finally the two officers assigned to the task managed to get the six HK33 rifles that were held in lock boxes in each Land Rover and threw them out. Doherty dropped his Glock and grabbed the rifle from the police woman with a great deal of gratitude. He had no hesitation in selecting full auto, raised the rifle to his shoulder and opened fire. Now that the surviving officers were armed with rifles, even ones firing 5.56x45mm NATO rounds, the baldrick finally began to show that it was feeling the effects of the gunfire. It began to stagger back under the effect of the massed gunfire, especially now that several armed civilians had joined the fight. Two of them had pump-action shotguns and the heavy slugs produced the first real impacts on the creature.
They drove it back, the bullets pounding on its body. Finally it collapsed to the street, dead. Doherty and Ryder advanced on the body cautiously, changing the magazines on their rifles. To their relief it was very dead.
“Score one for the good guys.” One of the armed civilians was loading his shotgun with more heavy slugs. He looked sadly at the street where a police officer and two civilians were down, in crumpled, lifeless heaps. “Cost us though.” Then he grinned at the police officers. “Still, its good to see true fighting Irishmen all on the same side at last.”
Cabinet Office, White House, Washington D.C.
“We must anticipate that there will be further attacks of this kind. In view of what that monster told us…” Secretary Warner was interrupted by a tangible shudder that ran around the room. Memories of the succubus’s presence at a meeting were all to fresh. “these attacks have been going on for a long time and we see no reason why they should stop now. In fact, with the destruction of the baldrick army in Iraq, they might well pick up in tempo. So, as a line of defense against such attacks, I propose the formation of a local defense force that will protect areas where there are large gatherings of people. Malls, sports meetings etc. The personnel will be drawn from all citizens between the ages of 18 and 50 who are not currently serving in the armed forces. Obviously, we’ll give priority to people whose industries are not needed for the war effort, they can serve one of their work days. We’ll arm them with the new .458 rifles we’re putting into production. I propose the new force be called the Local Defense Volunteers.”
“Local Defense Volunteers.” Secretary Rice’s voice was thoughtful. “LDV. You know what they’ll be called don’t you? The Look, Duck and Vanish.”
“Look, Duck and Vanish?” Warner thought for a second. “I suppose so. How did you come up with that?”
“The British had a similar force back in World War Two. Originally they called it the Local Defense Volunteers but they changed it to ‘Home Guard’ because of the misinterpretation of the acronym.”
“How did you get Local Defense Volunteers anyway John?” President Bush’s voice was curious.
“I was looking at a picture of the Civil War and it made me think of the U.S. Volunteers. The new group is for Local Defense so I put the two together.”
“What’s wrong with U.S. Volunteers?” Bush was curious. “Sounds good to me. We can revive all the names of the Civil War units for the local forces. Add a sense of history to the undertaking. We can even call on some of those re-enactor people to start them off. They’ll have to use their own guns to start with of course.”
“I’d love to see the effect of a minie ball on a baldrick.” Rice’s voice was droll. “They might like the smell of black powder though. Lots of sulfur in it.”
“So, we’ll get the bill written and pushed through. U.S. Volunteers it is. So decided?” Bush looked around. There was a unanimous nodding of heads. “So be it. Next issue?”
“Aircraft production Sir. We’re getting the B-1 production line set up now. It’ll be starting work in around three months time, expect to see the first aircraft off the line this time next year. It’s good we kept the tooling. The first AT-45Cs are coming off the Boeing line now. They’re a minimum-change armed version of the T-45C, they’ll keep the line running until the single-seat D model is ready. F-111s and B-52s are re-entering the fleet from Davis Monthan now. A lot of older aircraft as well, we’ve got some like the F-4 being assigned to wings, more as placeholders than anything else. The rest we’re going to use for tests. To see what sort of aircraft can fly in Hell-like conditions.”
“Any F-102s?” Bush spoke with a mixture of nostalgia and enthusiasm.”
“Yes Sir, nine were preserved, we can make two flyable. Not enough for issue so we’ll be using them for experiments.”
“No you won’t.” Bush spoke firmly. “This is a Presidential directive. Get those two flyable F-102s down to Andrews and designate them the Presidential Fighter Flight. And get somebody to check me out on them, it’s a long time since I flew a ‘102.”
In the background, the Secret Service Presidential Bodyguard detail went white at the thought of a President flying a death-trap like the F-102. The President might think he was going to fly one and the aircraft might be sitting at Andrews with a pretty paint job but he would get in the cockpit over the Secret Service’s collective dead bodies. From the expressions around the Cabinet Room, they weren’t the only ones with that in mind.
‘PINDAR’, under the MoD Main Building, Whitehall, London.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown looked across the table at his new Deputy Prime Minister. God (he’s have to remember not to use that name again), that grinning idiot got on his nerves, he’d strangle him if he asked Brown to call him ‘Dave’ again. Well, it was the price of coalition politics he supposed, and there was not a great deal he could do about it. The PM did reflect on the fact that Deputy Prime Minister David Cameron did rather remind him of a poor clone of his late, unlamented predecessor. Who could have imagined that Tony Blair had been so devout? It had come as quite a shock, even to this son of the Manse.
Given his Scots Presbyterian upbringing, his father had been a Minister in the Church of Scotland, The Message had hit Brown hard. He felt angry and betrayed, but could not help wondering if this was some kind of supreme test by God, or maybe the creature claiming to be Him was in fact not the Supreme Being at all, but some kind of imposter. The latter had certainly been the opinion of the Moderator of the Church of Scotland when Brown had spoken to him.
In the first couple of days after The Message there had been a great deal of uncertainty in the United Kingdom. Those who were most religiously devout, around a tenth of the population, had died; some had just lain down and given up, others had committed suicide in a variety of imaginative ways. Some religious leaders had spoken to the Prime Minister, demanding that Britain surrender to the inevitable; those that were still alive were now residents of HMP Belmarsh, which was rather empty now that most Islamic fundamentalists were gone.
While a smaller proportion of the population of Britain had died, the deaths had been largely concentrated in a few areas. Parts of Leicester and Bradford had become ghost towns and at least a couple of the smaller Western Isles had been totally depopulated. Clearing up the bodies before they decayed and caused a disease outbreak had been quite an undertaking. The government had called in the army, who had assisted in clearing up the corpses and building the funeral pyres used to dispose of them. Facing economic and social chaos on a scale never before seen, Brown had declared a State of Emergency and had signed Queen’s Order Two, mobilizing the entirety of Britain’s Armed Forces. ‘Entirety’ included all reserve forces, service pensioners and all cadet force personnel over sixteen.
Britain was going to need everybody who could hold a rifle, or train others to do so. One largely unknown fact was that the Army Act and its counterparts covering the RAF and Royal Navy allowed for the reintroduction of conscription without any new act having to be put before Parliament. In his second speech to the British people Brown had announced the immediate reintroduction of National Service for everybody between 19 and 55. Finding enough equipment, uniforms, or personnel to train the millions of men and women who would now be inducted into the army, navy and air force was another matter, and would take some time.
The next step had been to examine existing Emergency Powers Bills that had been prepared for potential wars and see what was applicable to this particular situation. While all of the anti-terrorism related emergency plans were up to date those doing the research were rather alarmed to find that the last time the plans for General War (the closest scenario to this one) had been updated was 1992! This set of plans and Emergency Powers Bills had served as the basis for those that had just been rushed through Parliament along with a declaration of war on Hell, which along with Britain’s devolved parliament and assemblies, was now prorogued, the remaining members having dispersed to their constituencies.
At least now with Parliament prorogued Brown would now only have to deal with his Cabinet and the three First Ministers, though they could be something of a pain. At least many of the government’s emergency powers overrode much of their authority. The Prime Minister realized that the Minister of Defence was speaking and tried to look like he had been listening all along.
“…And the news from Iraq certainly seems to be good. The baldrick attacks on Allied Forces have been totally defeated and their army is in headlong retreat towards the Hellmouth.” Admiral of the Fleet Lord West was saying. “Damn all good it will do them because the American 1st Armored Division and the Iranian armored division have cut off their line of retreat.”
Appointing Admiral West as the new Secretary of State for Defence had come as a development of the horse-trading that had taken place during the formation of the Coalition government. The Service Chiefs as well as the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats had made it very clear that they had no confidence in West’s predecessor, Des Browne, so he had to go. The Admiral was already the Parliamentary Undersecretary for Security, so he had experience of working in government, he had great experience of military matters and was highly respected by both the Services and politicians.
“The 4th Mechanized Brigade has performed very well against the baldrick army; I think our retention of rifled guns for the Challenger 2 has finally proven its worth.” The Admiral said, continuing his briefing. “They’ve demonstrated an ability to strike the enemy at a greater range than the smoothbore guns on the American tanks.”
“That’s certainly true.” General Sir Richard Dannatt, the Chief of the General Staff, agreed. “Our HESH rounds have also proven to be somewhat more effective than the HEAT rounds used by the Abrams, though we do need something like the canister round they have. There was a canister round produced for the old Challenger 1, and if we have any left they may be compatible with the Challenger 2.”
“Talking of shells, ammunition is one thing that Major General Binns has expressed concern about.” Admiral West told the Prime Minister. “A great deal of ammunition was expended in stopping the baldrick attack and while the stockpile in theatre is in no danger of running out just yet he is beginning to run short.”
“I take it we are moving further supplies to Iraq?” The Prime Minister asked.
“Yes, Prime Minister.” West confirmed. “We are moving stocks of ammunition from the UK and Germany to Iraq. The remainder of the 1st Armoured Division is moving to ports of embarkation in Germany in case it is needed in Iraq, and we have alerted 3 Division to be ready for possible deployment, though we may need them at home.
“Immediate reinforcements for our forces in Iraq will come from Afghanistan, where the threat has disappeared overnight. In fact the senior surviving Taliban commander has sent a message to the commander of ISAF offering the support of his men in fighting the war. Iran has agreed to assist in the movement of our troops, and other contingents of ISAF from Afghanistan to the theatre of operations.”
The Prime Minister nodded, indicating that he understood.
“What progress is being made regarding the restarting of tank shell production?” Brown asked. “I don’t think that we can rely on supplies from South Africa, as memory serves they were somewhat shoddy anyway.”
“We have sent a Ministry team up to the site of ROF Bishopton, along with some chaps from BAE. It seems that the factory is still largely intact, so restarting production should not be too difficult, if a bit expensive.” West replied. “Fortunately the plans to build houses on the site were delayed, so no demolition has taken place and most of the equipment is either there, or was put into secure storage. The initial estimate given by my people is that the factory should be up and running within two months.”
“Good.” The PM replied. “I trust there will be no problems regarding finance, Alistair?” He asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
“Not at all, Prime Minister.” Alistair Darling replied. “Defence and industrial projects related to the Defence of the Realm will get all the money they need. The Bank of England is printing more money so that we can continue to pay our bills; that does, of course risk the most appalling economic downturn when the war is over.”
Gordon Brown laughed, the first time he had done so in a long time.
“Only if we win, Alistair. If we lose then I don’t think it will be a problem.” He turned back to Admiral West. “Admiral, if at any point BAE drag their heels, either over Bishopton, or increasing production of aircraft, tanks, rifles, or whatever, tell them that should they continue to bugger us around Her Majesties Government will nationalize the company and sack the management, thus making them eligible to be conscripted into the army.”
“Certainly, Prime Minister. I shall certainly look at sending them somewhere nasty if that happens.” West said.
“I’ll deploy them to Iraq.” Dannatt commented. “My soldiers need more equipment as soon as possible, so I’ll not have them putting their lives at risk any more than they are already. There is one thing that we do need to ask your permission to do, Prime Minister. The SA80, along with all rifles chambered for 5.56mm NATO rounds have proven to be less than effective at dealing with baldricks. They will kill them, but it takes a great deal of ammunition, and has resulted in soldiers being killed before the baldrick dies.
“We have found that the .338 Lapua round used in our sniper rifles is far more effective, so we would like to start immediate and rapid development of a rifle chambered for this round to replace the SA80. My staff have identified the old SLR as a suitable basis for this weapon, so we would like to arrange for production facilities to be set up as soon as possible.”
“An Urgent Operational Requirement I take it, General?” Brown asked. “Then by all means do whatever is necessary to get this weapon into the hands of our soldiers.
“On another matter entirely I have heard that the Americans have managed to make contact with some of their soldiers in Hell and are in the process of starting an insurgency. Are we engaged in a similar undertaking?”
He saw the Chief of the Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, smile in very cat like way.
“We most certainly are, Prime Minister. Our Special Forces people are working very closely with the Americans on this. If possible we’d also like to try to contact any of our personnel who have ended up in Hell. We believe that if we can organize all of the ex-military personnel who have ended up in Hell, or even just a small proportion of them, then we may be able to get quite a rebellion going.”
(Thanks to Jan who wrote the beginning and end of this part)
Nations do not survive by setting examples for others
Nations survive by making examples of others