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First pages

CHAPTER 1

As the rest of the horrified world looked on, Nuclear war destroyed Western Europe and most of the Russian Federation on 12th April 2020. The Continent’s catastrophic ending was captured by satellite. Real time images of the devastation and slaughter taking place beneath the black mushroom clouds, were beamed around the globe. First hand Social media reports, containing mobile phone images, were posted on line, pictures of cities, consumed by fireballs, went viral. Seasoned television newsreaders, broke down on camera, struggling to deal with the dreadful orgy of death and destruction that they had to report.

What was left of the planets population watched with ghastly fascination, terrified and appalled by the carnage that played itself out in their homes, but unable to ignore it, they sat glued to all the media outlets, ratings soared. All of this slaughter took place in the vacuum that had once housed America’s foreign policy. The countries new, right wing, government had taken the entire world by surprise when it abandoned its Allies, closed most of its Embassies and withdrew from the world’s stage. Adopting the slogan ‘America First’ they mothballed all their Military Bases around the globe, pulling all their weapons and manpower back to the States.

Sick and tired of policing the worlds trouble spots and fed up with being taken for granted, the USA had decided that enough was enough. The watchword at home had become ‘American Workers for American Jobs’, this was the mantra that the Senate and Congress listened to. So, in the end, the world’s only super power made the decision to turn its back on its, so called, European friends. For many years, Congress had felt deep unease about the ‘raw deal’ that the American taxpayer was getting from the Europeans. Patience had run out, bank rolling a weak and underfunded NATO was no longer an option. So, from now on, the United States of America, safe behind its closed borders, gazed out upon a much more complicated, dangerous and fractious world.

With the sudden loss of American support and its troops and armour, the European Alliance became shaky and vulnerable. It was beyond the means of NATO’s members to make up the financial shortfall that had been America’s contribution and the organisation became emasculated. The ramifications of this situation, led to a dangerous destabilising of the MAD {Mutual Assured Destruction} doctrine. The doctrine, developed in the Cold War, had become the cornerstone of nuclear policy in Europe and across the world, a deterrent that had proved its worth and had prevented war for nearly eighty years.

The war, when it did break out, began on the much-disputed borders of Russia and the Ukraine, low level skirmishes intensified as people began settling old scores. Russia’s annexation of the Crimea three or four years earlier had left simmering tensions. These finally erupted when the Ukranian army was ordered to push the meddling Russians back behind their own borders.

• • •

Prime Minister Carlisle switched off the speaker on his telephone console and with trembling fingers, pushed it slowly back across the polished patina of his mahogany desk. His tired, watery blue eyes danced around the crowded room, he couldn’t remember his private office at No10 ever being so full. Civil Service Mandarins sat cheek by jowl with his Chiefs of Staff, their entourage and some of his own most trusted advisors filled the rest of the unallocated spaces.

Carlisle was in his late sixties, an imposing figure, tall, slim and always impeccably dressed, having a full head of grey hair with matching moustache helped him look younger than his years. Using the index finger on his left hand, he nervously elevated his glasses until they rested on the bridge of his bony nose. The Hotline conversation with the President of the United States had been difficult and non-productive. It had left him processing a number of mixed of emotions, first among them was exasperation, followed by annoyance and finally, stomach churning fear.

He’d expected that the man would be difficult, but, as always, he was bemused at just how rude, self-opiniated and loud the President was. Long silences always punctuated any conversations that the Prime Minister had with him, and when anything difficult was put to the man, his default position was to prevaricate, insist on time to reflect and always avoid making any significant decisions by reciting the usual mantra.

“He didn’t feel it was in the interests of the American people,” or the usual caveat, “leave it with me I’ll discuss it with my Chief of Staff later, but I must warn you that the mood on Capitol hill is very difficult at this time.”

Carlisle looked straight across at the Air Chief Marshall sat opposite him. Although everybody in the office had heard the conversation, the Prime minister wanted opinions.

“Well what do you think of that,” he asked, answering himself with another question, “completely bloody useless wasn’t it?”

I don’t think that we should have any illusions, the man is a complete arse, we are on our own, and the sooner we get used to it the better. So, let’s have your opinion on the crisis Jim, are the Russians bluffing, or do they mean business this time?

Sir James Biddle cleared his throat, “It’s a bluff Sir, it’s always a bluff with the Ruskies. As usual, they push and push until we back off. Well I say not any more Sir, this time we should stand our ground. There are twenty-six thousand troops from more than twenty European alliance nations in and around Ukraine on major exercises. I don’t imagine it will have gone unnoticed by President Kuynetsov.

General Sir Bruce Williamson was nodding in agreement.

“Don’t forget Sir, we also have Cyclops out there, that’s one of the Sabre Squadrons from our own 1st Armoured Infantry Brigade. That amount of armour is not to be sneezed at, eighteen Challenger 2 Tanks will look bloody impressive and they’re moving up to the border as we speak.” He smiled at the PM, “the Russians have nothing to match our armour, so they won’t dare risk a fight.”

“It’s a pity that the new Queen Elizabeth carrier isn’t ready for service yet. What about the French one that’s out there, what is it and where is it?”

Admiral Sir Francis Smith conferred with one of his adjutants, then turned to the prime minister.

“Apparently, it’s the Charles de Gaulle, it’s a nuclear-powered Aircraft Carrier with one hell of a clout. From the latest intel, we’ve got, it’s sailing up the Bospherous as we speak and will be in the Black sea by this evening. That’ll make Kuynetsov choke on his Vodka”

Carlisle turned to the Air Chief Marshall, “have we got any aircraft in the area?”

“We’ve got forty Typhoons and eight Tornadoes at our base in Akrotiri, Cyprus. They’re being used in the Syrian conflict and are operational now, if you so wish.” He hesitated for a moment, “may I just add prime minister,” he glanced round the room, “I think that everyone will agree, that this lacklustre response by the Americans to this latest Russian aggression, not only undermines our determination, but is disastrous for the men’s morale. This will not end well, we can’t stand alone against the Russians, the Americans know that, but obviously, no longer care. We are one of their oldest allies, with years of shared history between us, once, we were even their partner of first choice, yet now, when push finally comes to shove, they’re just going to shrug their shoulders and walk away.”

• • •

“The Brits seem really agitated,” said the US president James Gilbert looking across at his burly Chief of Staff Mick Johnson, “are you sure we’ve got a handle on this situation, because they seem pretty sure that the Russians are going to go for it this time.”

Mick stroked his bald head as he replied, “Our take on this problem, is that it’s a very European issue. Nothing for us to get drawn into, none of our assets or interests are at risk.

“Surely, it’s not just about assets or interests, our two countries go back a long way.”

“But that’s exactly my point, Mr President, we’ve stood shoulder to shoulder with the Brits through two World Wars. Our young men and women gave their all, we lost thousands, don’t you think that we’ve done enough?”

President James Gilbert was small and his belly sagged over his trousers, he had a round face with tight, shiny pink skin and wore a Crucifix dangling from one ear. His wavy copper coloured hair was pulled back in a pig tail and although he normally wore glasses, he was doggedly persevering with contact lenses, which made his small blue eyes look glassy and tearful.

“I see you’re point Mick, but don’t forget, we’ve got the Election next year. If the Russians kick off and we’re not there for the Europeans, what will the voters think?”

“They’ll be glad that we’re not involved Sir, why would they want to risk American lives in a far-off war that has nothing to do with us.”

“It bothers me though Mick,” his face was set, his normally cherubic mouth a thin line.

“But Sir, I’m just trying to make you understand that getting us involved in some European free for all, would be bad for your ratings, voters don’t want you sending their kids off to die in Europe.

“No Mick, it’s you that doesn’t seem to understand,” said the President, with a sly smile, “I’m not really bothered about the war.”

“Well what is it then?” Said chief of staff, massaging the back of his neck and looking exasperated.

“It’s that pompous old fart, Carlisle, the British Prime Minister, he always sends me a case of good Scotch Whisky for Christmas, well, I think that I can kiss that goodbye this year.”

Then he started laughing at his own joke, braying like a Donkey and pointing a finger at his Chief of Staff.

“You should have seen your face just then, I really had you going that time.”

Mick Johnson forced a smile.

“Very good Sir, you got me that time and I know that you’ve got another meeting in five, but before I go, I’d just like to say that everyone in your Government feels a bit weird not standing shoulder to shoulder with the Brits. But don’t forget, we’re talking about something that probably won’t happen.”

“It’s alright Mick, I get it, I was just being old fashioned, I realise now that those days are over, it’s time to move on.”

“Glad that you see it that way Sir, I honestly wouldn’t have advised you to steer clear if I’d thought for one minute that anything was going to happen. We’ve got no evidence or satellite information coming in that shows any significant troop build-up in the area. Neither is there any sign of increased activity with their Aircraft or Navy. I just get this feeling that the Brits feel lost without us at their side, they’re feeling a bit rattled at having to handle all this on their own. We are closely monitoring the situation, but don’t worry, I have a premonition that this will all blow itself out.”

• • •

The Russian President Artur Kuznetsov, looked out of his office window as night fell over Moscow. The reflection in the glass showed a stocky man in his late fifties, with receding sandy hair that was turning white at the temples, he had a large, coarse featured face and puffy red eyes. A childhood accident had left a livid scar from the left corner of his mouth to his earlobe. He could have had Plastic surgery at any time, but he felt that the scar gave him a hard man image, one that he enjoyed cultivating.

It was rush hour, the lines of traffic running alongside the Moskva river were lengthening, rain rattled the glass. He felt tired, listening with only half an ear, as his Chief of Staff droned on behind him.

“I’m afraid that this is all becoming rather serious Sir, perhaps it’s time for you to put yourself forward and diffuse the situation. Maybe you could make a few phone calls, mend a few bridges, calm things down a little, you know the sort of thing, I think that it’s called being diplomatic sir.”

Dimitri, Artur’s Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office was standing on the other side of the large Walnut desk that dominated the room. He was a good bit older than his president, balding, with wispy grey hair round the edges, slightly stooped, his parchment skin looked yellow in the strip lights above his head.

“We’ve given the West the luxury of time.” He continued, clearing his throat with a dry cough, “We’ve missed a trick here Sir, we should have been more pro-active, kept them on the backfoot and moved quicker on the Ukraine. Our intelligence tells us that there are at least twenty-six thousand troops from the European alliance countries almost on our borders.”

This caught Artur’s attention, he turned quickly, his face looked shocked.

“How the hell did they get there,” he demanded, “why wasn’t I told?”

“It’s actually all by pure chance sir.” Said Dimitri, trying to placate his Boss, “They’re all on planned exercises, it’s been on the cards for months. Just a bit of Sabre rattling, under the miss-apprehension that it will frighten us off, make us think twice about taking the Ukraine.”

Artur felt a sudden flash of anger tighten his chest, his fist clenched.

“How dare they get so close to our border,” he shouted as he slammed his hand down hard on the desktop, spittle flying as he continued, “This is provocation of the worst kind. Perhaps they think that I’ve no stomach for a confrontation, that these bastards can do just what they like and I’ll simply turn the other cheek, well Dimitri, I’ll show the Swine just how wrong they are”

“I’m afraid it gets a little bit worse sir,” said Dimitri bracing himself for the explosion, “there’s a British Tank squadron playing war games, they’re on manoeuvres around our border with the Ukraine.” He paused, taking a deep breath before continuing,” the French have also informed us that they are sending their nuclear Aircraft Carrier, the Charles de Gaulle, up the Bospherous and on into the Black sea.”

President Kuznetsov looked incredulous, the colour was rising in his face.

“Try not to get too worked up Sir, I must stress that this is all an exercise, nothing more, and it has been planned for months,” continued Dimitri, “We have received many messages from European Alliance that these manoeuvres are purely peaceful and there is no malicious intent whatsoever.”

“No Dimitri,” Kuznetsov had reached the point where he was trembling with anger, “this is too much, they’re laughing at us, do they really think that the Russian people are so stupid? How would the French feel if we sailed an Aircraft Carrier up the river Seine? They have pushed me and the Russian people too far this time, we will not tolerate this flagrant incursion, neither will we ignore their obvious provocation. We will re-pay this gross insult to our Mother Land once and for all,” his voice was shaking, almost on the edge of hysteria, “get me the General Staff of the Armed Forces, Dimitri, I want them here now, no excuses.”

“Yes sir.” Dimitri started to leave the office.

“Before you go running off, get me the National Defence Control Centre on the phone, I’ll see to it that their fancy Aircraft Carrier never leaves the Black sea.”

• • •

By the evening of the 11th April 2020 Europe, was yet again, engulfed in war. Skirmishes on the Ukraine border had turned into deadly battles as troops became fully engaged. The Russian Defence Control Centre, under direct orders from the Kremlin, was given orders to arm the batteries of ground to ship missiles that Russia carried on their ‘Bastion Mobile Launch Systems’ at the port of Sebastopol in the Crimea. Once the Charles de Gaulle sailed into range the order to fire was relayed directly from President Kuznetsov. The supersonic Onyx missiles did their work splendidly, the Carrier sank without trace, along with everyone on board.

In a dangerous escalation, the Russian troops on the Ukraine border, for the first time ever, used tactical battlefield Nuclear weapons. Using their T-14 Armata Tanks, they fired two ZBV3 one Kiloton yield nuclear artillery shells at the squadron of British Challenger 2 Tanks. Destroying ten and putting the remaining nine beyond use.

Prime Minister Carlisle had now gathered with his Generals in the War Rooms beneath No 10 Downing Street, London. He gave orders for the deployment of all four of the Nations battle ready Nuclear Submarines. Each vessel carried a formidable amount of weaponry, sixteen Trident 11 D5 ballistic missiles with a range of seven thousand miles. Each missile equipped with twelve independent and targetable warheads, each one of which would destroy a large city. Confirmation was also received from the French, that they too had deployed their four Triomphant class nuclear submarines from their base in Brest.

In a none nuclear first stage escalation, Air Chief Marshall Sir Henry Stebbins, in consultation with the Prime Minister, ordered the squadrons of Typhoon and Tornado aircraft, based in Cyprus, to perform retaliatory bombing raids on Moscow. The Prime Minister made a last ditch, emergency call to the White House, pleading for assistance. Unfortunately, President Gilbert was playing golf and couldn’t come to the phone.

As the bombs fell on Moscow, President Kuznetsov, almost apoplectic with rage, threw caution to the wind and ordered a pre-emptive Nuclear strike on both the British and French nuclear Submarine fleets in Faslane and Brest. Followed by all the Capital Cities of Europe and Britain. Whilst the missiles were in the air, the Russian president used the Hotline to contact his opposite number in the White house. Once connected, Kuznetsov developed a conciliatory tone.

“Hi, James, its Artur here, just thought I’d give you a quick call. There’s a situation developed this end and we’re trying to contain it. We’ve been attacked by the European Alliance and unfortunately, I had to order a retaliatory nuclear strike. Believe me it was unavoidable. So, I suppose what I’m trying to say is that our two great nations can surely remain friends.” He hesitated for a moment, then continued with a veiled warning, “What’s done is done James and I’m sure that you’ll agree with me, when I say that there is no earthly reason why millions of Americans should die as well.” Without waiting for any form of reply, he broke the connection.

Five hours after the destruction of Europe, the four British and French submarines are still at sea, undamaged and fully armed. Unable to pick up any radio chatter from their respective countries, they followed well documented procedure and concluded that both their Mother Countries had been destroyed. The British captains, took the keys that they’d hoped they would never have to use and unlocked the two nested safes in their control rooms. Inside were the launch codes and the Prime Ministers letter of last resort, to be only opened when the normal chain of command has been destroyed. The hand-written letter contained the British governments final instructions on how the nuclear arsenal was to be used. The letter was unequivocal, written in the Prime Ministers own hand, ‘retaliate with nuclear weapons and if you survive, place yourselves and your submarine under the command of the US or Australia.’ The Captain fulfilled the letter’s instructions and ordered an immediate retaliatory strike.

Every large Russian city was destroyed in what was to become known as the tit for tat war. Millions died before sanity was restored. The ancient continent of Europe, west and east, famous for centuries of Art and Music was reduced within hours to a festering wasteland of disease and radiation. Southern Europe, including Greece, Spain and Portugal were relatively unscathed. Italy, although not a Russian target, suffered two accidental strikes.

Two RS-24 Yars missiles carrying MIRV warheads were fired at 1am on the 12th April, by the 39th Guards Rocket Division at Novosibirsk Siberia. Conditions were atrocious, there had been a heavy snowfall that had left the roads almost impassable, blizzard conditions still prevailed, driven by gale force winds.

The two Topol mobile launchers had made their way gingerly down a narrow track in the forest, until they’d both found their designated clearing within the trees. The Colonel in charge, was in a drunken stupor when the order to launch had come through. He was in the lead vehicle, sleeping it off in the back of the driver’s cab, snoring loudly. The responsibility for the launch belonged to the young Captain and the rest of the seven-man crew. They elevated the missiles, set the targeting system, armed the warheads and successfully fired the two missiles.

They made one mistake, one error, that would affect the World, not in their lifetimes, but in generations to come. As the missiles roared into the night sky, the young Captain, sick with worry for his family, realised he’d neglected to download the correct trajectory information. A flight path that would have maintained a height above twenty thousand feet, well clear of any passenger aircraft. He shrugged dismissively, it was too late now he thought, the chances of a collision were small and what the hell, there was a war on.

Flight BTA 635 out of Berlin’s Tegal airport on route to Tokyo Japan had taken off two hours before the war had broken out. Electromagnetic bursts of energy from multiple detonations rendered radio reception almost impossible. What snippets they did pick up told the pilot that Berlin was in ruins, along with all the other cities in Europe. A hurried vote, taken by the passengers and the crew, had confirmed, by a slim majority, that pressing onto Tokyo was the only sensible course. So, the airplane was following its original flight plan and everyone on board was praying for a safe outcome, unfortunately, that was not to be.

Death came instantly to them all, just as they were starting their Breakfast. The two Russian missiles collided with the aircraft with devastating consequences, debris and bodies rained down onto the frozen earth below. The guidance and targeting systems on both missiles were destroyed in the impact, veering from their original programmed destinations within the UK, they both turned southwards towards the Mediterranean Sea. What was left of the two missiles’ on-board computers, burnt out over northern Italy. In their final death throes, each of the two missiles adopted their default position, discharging their multiple warheads over a wide area, causing devastation from as far apart as Rome in the south to Venice in the north.

CHAPTER 2

Sixty years later

“Have you had any more information from the Americans on their plans for the Time Travel launch?” Zhao Yatsen asked the diminutive Ouyang Xiu, chair of the National People’s Congress.

They were working in Yatsen’s Penthouse, above the party’s office complex, near the Emperor’s old palace in busy Beijing City. Yatsen, was a big man in his early fifties, he’d been born and raised in the northern territories, and, like most of his people, he looked more native American than he did Chinese. Small eyes and large hooked nose, sat above a lipless, cruel mouth that seldom smiled. Yatsen had recently clawed his way to the top, and was now the Secretary General of the Politburo Standing Committee, this meant that he was China’s most powerful and dangerous man.

Nothing yet Sir,” Xiu replied, “the selection process for the Pilot is nearly over. One of our people working at the S.A.C’s {Sino American council} building in New York, thinks that they’ve narrowed it down to two. But, at the end of the day, he feels sure that they’ll go with the American female, and not our man.”

“It doesn’t really matter Xiu, I couldn’t care less who goes” said Yatsen irritably, “If the launch is successful, and this incredible experiment proves to be viable, then that’s all we need. With this technology, we’ll be able to change the old-world order, so that China will finally come out on top. Surely, I don’t need to spell it out, do I? You know as well as I do, how much we’ve got riding on this, don’t you?”

“Yes, I do sir,” said Xiu getting to his feet. He was in complete contrast to his leader, short and fat, with a plump round, almost cherubic face. “I’ve overseen every part of this mission myself, I made sure that our hardware contribution was delivered to the launch centre in Germany last month.”

“That’s the nuclear reactor sphere, right?

“yes sir.”

“Well why can’t you say it like it is? Yetsen sounded threatening, “You’ve picked up all this lazy Tech speak from the Americans and it’s getting on my nerves Xiu. Did delivery go ok, no hiccups?

“It all went according to plan sir,” said Xu cheerfully, ignoring the hard knot of fear in his stomach, “we put a team in there some time ago, they’re monitoring progress.”

“Well God help them out there in Berlin,” said Yatsen, “from what I’ve been told its mainly radioactive ash.”

“You’re absolutely right, Secretary General, but after sixty years, I’ve been told that the radiation levels are much more manageable. Besides, they’re all well shielded inside the launch centre. Everything seems to be going smoothly, and I understand that they’re quite confident that they’ll be able to launch within the week.”

“They’d better,” said Yetsen, he got up from behind his desk and walked over to Xin and put his bony hand on the younger man’s fleshy shoulder, he squeezed as hard as he could, gouging with his thumb and fingers into the soft area above the aides Collar bone.

“I do hope you’re taking all this seriously,” he said, leaning close and whispering intimately into Xiu’s ear. The smaller man was squirming with the incredible pain in his shoulder. “I keep hearing words like, ‘smoothly’ and ‘confident’, said Yetsen, almost purring as he continued to torture the younger man,” all that sounds a little bit wishy washy to me, doesn’t it to you Xiu?”

Xiu couldn’t speak for the colossal pain, he felt on the edge of collapse, the sweat was pouring down his face, staining his light blue shirt collar, dark navy. He swallowed hard and nodded vigorously.

“I’m so glad that we agree,” said Yetsen cheerfully, pulling back and releasing his grip on Xiu’s shoulder, “I was told that the Americans have already installed their ‘Chronos’ device inside the sphere. So, everything will be ready for launch on the 11th April, won’t it?”

Yetsen’s cold eyes stared at the little man expectantly.

“Yes sir,” murmured Xiu, eyes downcast.

“Good, I’m glad that’s all sorted out,” said Yetsen. “The other thing I wanted to ask you about, was the camps around the Italian cities, are our people there?”

“They are,” said Xiu, wiping his face with a tissue, “we did it as a joint effort between the Americans and ourselves and it went very well. The tent cities and the Hospitals are all in place. We also airlifted about five hundred stewards and greeters to each venue.”

The leader hesitated, choosing his words carefully. He was a deeply superstitious man, coming from simple farming stock in Shandong province, near the mouth of the Yellow river. His roots had been steeped in the elemental spirits of the countryside, anything that the farmers couldn’t explain away, they described as magical.

“Xiu,” he said carefully, “I know that we’ve discussed this many times over the years, but we’re nearly there now. It’s a strange feeling to know that everything in northern Italy is about to change suddenly. I, for one, am struggling to come to terms with the dead people, the citizens who lived in the cities when they were destroyed, all those men, women and children. Where are they now? What will they be like when they suddenly come back to life?”

Xiu felt frightened, his mind searched for some easy answer that would settle Yetsen’s fears, calm his anxieties. He was only too aware of the leader’s dangerous mood swings.

“All the religious leaders that have been consulted, say that they’ll all just think they’ve been asleep, they’ll probably be a little confused and disorientated when they do come back sir, but that is all the trauma that they’re expected to suffer”

“What a lot of sanctimonious clap-trap.” Snapped Yetsen,” trust an idiot like you to come up with all that garbage, it goes against everything we’ve ever known, or were ever taught as children. Death is final. Thousands of corpses were incinerated in the last war, many more were simply blown to bits. Yet, all these do-good Christians, believe that somehow, all the poor bloody victims, will be magically restored, untroubled and unharmed. You know what Xiu? If I had any kind of religion, or if I believed in some all-seeing, all knowing Deity, then I think I’d be saying that we were all in danger of playing God, badly.

Yetsen turned on his heel and walked back to his desk, without waiting for any reaction from Xiu. Pulling open the bottom drawer, he took out a bottle of Scotch Whiskey and a glass. Scotland had disappeared long ago, but if you were the Secretary General of China, Whiskey was still available. As he filled the glass, he shouted across at Xiu.

“Just one more question, then you can clear off. Have you heard anything from the people that you’re in contact with in New York about our proposition to the council to clean up the Russian Federation. I mean it’s a complete cesspit of Radiation and disease, we’d be doing everyone a favour if we just saw to it all. If this Time Travel goes to plan, the Americans will want Europe, so it’s only fair if we get Russia.

“I’ve heard nothing back from New York yet sir. I suppose they won’t make any final decisions until they find out if the mission is successful.”

“I know that,” snapped Yetsen dangerously, “do you think that I’m stupid?”

“No sir, I didn’t mean that sir.” Xin was terrified.

“I just wondered if there were any rumours wandering the corridors,” said Yetsen feeling somewhat mollified, taking a large gulp from the glass in his hand before he continued. “If as planned, we can re-generate Russia city by city, the big question will be, what do we do with all the people that come back with their cities. Will they be classed as Russian or will they be Chinese?”

• • •

The Sikorsky UH60 Black Hawk banked to the right, Piper glanced out of the window, into the night. Laid out below her was post war Germany, devoid of life and light, just endless stretches of irradiated blackness.

She was sitting huddled on a narrow canvas seat, cold and tired, her gloved hands thrust deep into the pockets of her service overcoat. Piper was feeling exhausted, it had been a long, drawn out, twenty-four hours since she’d arrived in Naples on a night flight from Hong Kong. By the time she’d been through de-briefing at the base, there’d been no time to catch up on much needed sleep, now, sitting beneath the Helicopters throbbing rotors, any chances of taking a nap, seemed a long way away.

Now, in her mid-twenties, Captain Piper Reed was a woman who turned heads, she was tall, slim, yet not boyish, light skinned African American on her father’s side. Blessed with high cheekbones, large, deceptively soft, brown eyes and a generous mouth that lit up her face when she smiled.

Her Grandparents on her mother’s side were white German, or as they preferred to be called ‘Berliners’. They were enjoying a Skiing holiday in Colorado when the Russian European war broke out in the Spring of 2020. Marooned in America, they accepted the chance to settle and begin a new life in their adopted homeland.

Piper’s Mother, Greta, had been born ten years later and grew up in America, where she met and married Benjamin Reed, in the Autumn of 2053. In due course, Greta became pregnant, giving birth to Piper in the summer of 2055.

Her childhood was difficult, soured by her mother’s alcoholism and her father’s violent temper. They lived in South Side Chicago, an area where they moved around a lot, everything they owned was carried in the trunk of their old Chevy. They Rented furnished properties when Piper’s dad was in work, when the work dried up, they moved on, usually in the middle of the night.

One evening, on her fifth birthday, Piper lay in her bed, trembling with fear, listening to her Mother as she screamed for her life in the next room. Eventually, when silence fell, she slipped from her bed, wiping away the tears with her sleeve, pulling open the bedroom door, she stepped out into the light.

Her mother lay unconscious on the floor, a gash on her head, bleeding into the carpet. There was no sign of her Father, he’d gone, Piper would never see him again. The rest of the night she spent sitting on the floor, holding her Mother’s hand. Then, when Greta finally surfaced from her alcohol induced collapse, she pushed Piper away and crawled to the settee, where she pulled a bottle out from under one of the cushions and took a swig. Piper dragged a bucket and cloth from the back step to clean up the blood. Her Mother watched her without comment, until she vomited and passed out again.

As the weeks went by, Greta’s life descended into an alcoholic fog. Piper was left alone most nights, until the Bars closed, then she was subjected to a procession of her mother’s foul-mouthed boyfriends.

There were more rows on the doorstep as the neighbours complained and the Bailiffs chased unpaid rent. Piper started to learn how to stand her ground in the street, face up to the bully’s, ignore the sniggering taunts of ‘your Mother’s a whore’. The deep hurt, shame and misery she felt didn’t show. She kept it all inside, along with the feeling of helpless horror at her situation in life.

Six long miserable months passed, until one evening, the Police, who were regular visitors, turned up with a Bailiff and a Social worker and took Piper from her mother and placed her in care. When she left her home with all her belongings in a plastic carrier bag, her Mother turned her back, lit a cigarette and stared at the wall until Piper quietly closed the door behind her.

The Authorities in charge of her care, contacted Piper’s Grandparents, who hadn’t seen her, or been in touch with her, since she’d been born. Initially they refused to have any contact with her at all, refusing to even discuss the possibility of bringing her up. It was only later, after a generous financial package had been offered to them, that they reluctantly agreed to take the child.


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

I was born in Shipley, a small Town in the County of West Yorkshire, England. I went to Grammar School in nearby Bradford, and spent four years at the Art College there. I'm married with two Daughters and four Grandchildren. Most of my working life, I ran a Post Office in the Village of Burley in Wharfedale, making many kind and good friends. I've dabbled in the visual arts all of my life, drawing has always been my main focus, so I was pleased to find that I really enjoyed writing this Novel.


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