Short Story: Good Show

Helicopter blades thumped in percussive repetition. Their drives whirred a piercing whine behind headsets and through gaps in pilot speech that bleeding over them. The AW101, callsign Lancelot, banked wide against a black sky. SAS veteran Lft. Alfred Douglas watched his rag-tag team of would-be mercenaries hang against their safety-belts. Still unaccustomed to operational flight, only one stood out as having been in any way prepared for the shift.

That operative, former MI5 agent Daniella Dawn, was all but sleeping. She had the former-agent/soldier mentality of rest as the highest of luxuries to be indulged whenever and wherever possible. Having spent most of her adult life in-air or on infiltration ground-side, this was just another day for her. Douglas couldn’t claim quite as many flights, but found himself aligned regardless.

Unfortunately, he was also leading the mission. What once would’ve been termed “command,” was now something more akin to a small group of shared ideals. He and the others were ideological mercenaries; soldiers in the same sense that the American Revolution’s had been. They were paid, certainly, but to do a job they’d have done anyhow.

Ostensibly, they were fighting for freedom from tyranny. One greater, even, than that of a two-cent tea tax. In fact, this fight wasn’t about taxes at all. Perhaps indirectly, but Socialised as certain aspects of Brit-society were, equally more were exclusionary or smothering. None was a more egregious example of this than so-called state security. No-one aboard Lancelot knew that better than Douglas or Dawn, and most of all they knew what it meant in the modern age.

It meant cameras on every street corner. Rozzers with trunks of automatic weapons; indefinite detainment. No justice. It meant, that despite all their progress, the UK was turn of the century America. Parliament and their string pullers had seen how that went, and still found it a preferable alternative. They used men and women like Douglas and Dawn to raid and murder over drugs, guns, “illegal” porn– anything for an excuse to fear monger and flex authority, power.

The most terrifying thing wasn’t the force used. It wasn’t the media portrayals as righteous, or the “preventative measures” conveniently put in place in their wake; it wasn’t even the lack of public outcry. It was the simple, unassailable fact that a pattern had emerged. Every raid, bust, attack– run under the guise of counter-terrorism and state-security– were on the poor.

It was classism. Pure and simple. As if they hadn’t learned from the French Revolution centuries before. Then again, such imbecilic arse-hats couldn’t recall their own species as human, let alone that species’ own past.

Officially, the first riots began as a result of surveillance. The Nanny state, ever more intrusive, had crossed a line. Illegal porn was one thing, but no-one ever expected it to actually affect them. Proxies and such were the easiest way to overcome that, tech-wise. Boot-sales were the second best, although it required a physical intermediary– something to play it on. Unfortunately, the Nanny state had extended even to that, making it impossible for the average person to have electronics that weren’t also being monitored.

Those same systems monitoring the cameras monitored everything else too. Inhuman speed. Inhuman response. Sub-human purpose. In the end, it wasn’t about security. It was about control. Power.

Douglas knew that. Dawn knew it. So did millions of others. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. No-one should have known that better than their countrymen. No-one. They’d been every form of tyrant yet somehow never learned it. At least, not the ones that mattered.

So, there was only one response; revolt.

The effect was a skyline ravaged in a way unseen since the Second Great War. It would never be the same now, no matter how many generations tried to preserve or rebuild it. It could never be what it was.

That was hardly a bad thing. They’d had it all those years before and it hadn’t made anyone remember how close it came to being lost. Perhaps it being gone would be the reminder the future needed. Time would tell.

Douglas turned from his introspection as Lancelot began to sink. They’d had the government on the run for weeks. What was left of it. Most of the Royal armed forces holding out were doing so more from fear. There’d been times to pick sides, long since past, and now that theirs had lost they feared retribution. At least someone had learned something from the French Revolution. If only the resistance had La Guillotine’s influence. Instead, they had only Alfred Douglas, Daniella Dawn, and their team.

Lancelottouched down outside a palatial estate. The kind of place Bond Villians might inhabit on the continent before spiriting away to their island lair in the second act.

But there was no second act here, just an end.

Douglas and Dawn split their eight man team in two. Each led their half out one side-door. They advanced through darkness in two lines, diverging at the edge of the main building. Like any elderly mansion of respectable heritage, the place was all stone and wrought-iron. Dawn wanted it turned to ash.

The place was good, Douglas knew. Better for infiltration. Small sounds didn’t travel as easily through stone. He was at the front door, stacking up; he at one side, his trio on the other. A radio click sounded. Dawn’s was team in place at the back-door. Each team prepped small bits of plastique. Two clicks. The plastique was ready. Three clicks, the three second count began.

Doors blew inward, locks pulverized.The teams charged in through smoke. The house was quiet. Eerily quiet. Smells of death, betrayed the immaculate cleaniness. The lights were on. The help was nowhere to be found.

Hand signals further divided the teams to searched the rooms in twos: Brass fixtures. Antique furnishings. Ever more luxuriant décor and pointless knick-knacks. A study. A kitchen. A dining room. Elegance. Power. All of it, empty.

The first floor was empty. The two upper-floors were empty.

The two teams regrouped at a cellar entrance; a dungeon, more-like. A long corridor of rooms both private and common led to a circular section. In moments, the teams were there, breaching into an old smoking parlor. The eeriness shattered to the peace of a modern tomb. Death-stink was heaviest here emanating from the six, dead bodies strewn about the furnishings. About them were drinks, hinting their self-poisoned contents with putrid scents.

Douglas straightened, at-ease in the wake of the empty home. Its purpose was obvious now. They didn’t want anyone to know. Douglas’ people into a more causal stance with him. Each one stood, confused, armed with an utter lack of purpose– all of them, save Dawn.

She followed Douglas to the bodies, instantly recognizing a few: A former PM turned advocate. A magistrate justice. A current ambassador. These men weren’t directly in power. Rather they were in places beside power– the better to manipulate things and retain benign appearances. Their faint stink said they’d been dead a day or two, but long enough for rigor and death’s other regularities to set in.

Douglas focused on an antique coffee table sitting between the various bodies. A single parchment, stamped with the old government’s seal bore official-looking signatures– no doubt those of thepresent and dead. Douglas lifted the page slowly, reading. Dawn watched, waiting, surveying the dead.

Douglas suddenly sneered, snarled, and shoved the paper at her. He turned and marched off. She read the handwritten script, still clearly legible:

We believed. Every step. Good show, old boy. Ta.

Dawn felt fury surge through her. Externally, she showed indifference. Douglas’ rage was evident; the resistance had won, but not on their terms. It was the last slight. Intentional, as everything ‘til now.

She crumpled the page, and followed Douglas out.

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