Sooner than I expected we're passing through the tunnel and into the freedom of France. Thank fuck for that! Flicking-on to the train's HyperFi the news isn't good from either the official sources or the dark world. The BBC reports the 'sporadic' outbreaks of disorder are being contained, and order will be restored soon. I note the choice of language; they must be operating under Section 38 by now but still some clever, subtle writers manage to hint at the truth they want to reveal. The phrases "being contained" and "restored soon" speak far more than those couplings of words imply to anyone who takes the reports at face value. I should know, having performed that linguistic sleight of hand often enough myself.
I don't have much time for the BBC or the Connie glove puppets within it. When James puts his people in charge of the OMS the corporation and its staff will be in for an uncompromising series of unpleasant 'reforms'. But I do have a grudging professional admiration for whoever had the courage to take the risk involved in pushing against the shrinking bounds of what is permissable. They may be belatedly doing the right thing - reporting things as they are, not as those in power want them depicted to be - as a last act of futile defiance for the wrong cause and their own personal ends but it still takes guts to put yourself in the firing line, even if you've nothing left to lose.
I'm aware the Beeb might be trying to exaggerate the scale of the disorder but from what I saw in London today and what I see now on the dark news it appears they have actually got it right for a change.
At this moment I can even agree with their self-censorship to an extent; there are some things I'm seeing which should never be 'cast. As a journalist I've developed a talent for spotting hoaxes or fabricated images; I know what's real when I see it, and these dark blurts I'm watching are only too real. In my job I've seen more violence and death up close than most people, but even so... I mean, how could anyone do that to someone else; even if they are a Connie? I have to swallow hard to stop myself from vomiting. Christ! I hope they died quickly.
What worries me it that this, bad as it is, is 'only' the reaction to the Connies' defeat. I dread to imagine what would, or will happen if - when - my story gets out. Those destructive tensions within society which have only been suspended during the decade of Council rule would explode once more on to the streets, and I in breaking the news would be partially responsible for it happening. Yes that's one hell of a moral dilemma to grapple with... People are dying now, and who knows how many more will die in the bloodbath of a renewed civil war which will inevitably break out once the cheating is disclosed. I could save the lives of untold numbers of people by keeping the secret. I could retract my timeblurts, stay over in Paris for a day or so, then return with a concocted story about how I'd taken fright when my mail was hacked and the meeting set up. I'd explain it was my spontaneous decision to investigate a suspected Connie plot, but when things got out of hand I decided to get the hell out until the state of play became clear. Yes, I could come back and claim my richly earned reward for my past work and my present complicity; a nice little earner on the reformed OMS, overseeing the replacement of one pliantly uncritical staff with a new influx of obedient lackeys. But the chances are good in the not-to-distant future I'd be found floating face down in the Thames estuary or one of its creeks, veins shot full of Wreck or something even worse. Just another tragic overdose.
No, when I first saw the display on Bippin's screen I knew then the die was cast and there was no going back. My hand was forced from the moment I realised what was going on. People have the right to know the truth. What they choose to do as result of that knowing is entirely up to them; so I'm going to see this through to the end.
Now we're slowing down through the suburbs of Paris before arriving at the Gare du Nord. Only one invisible barrier remains between me and freedom; the exit portal from the Eurostar platform. Stiffly unfolding myself from my seat I disembark and limp through the gate without incident; it isn't even manned! I suspect it will be within a very few hours at the latest if there's a sudden wave of Connie refugees arriving here.
Now I can feel the weight lifting from my shoulders and a growing sense of elation: I've done it! I'm free! Well for the moment. I need to withdraw as much cash as I can in case or before my cards are frozen. Then I'll need to find myself a hotel; get myself cleaned up, and start writing.
I flick on my disposable slate; my IMS scroll is staying off and shielded against any attempts to hack or remotely wipe it. Now James has the resources of the state at his disposal he and his backers will be even more formidable foes. One of the swarm of sprites at the station entrance tells me the location of the nearest cash machines so I go off to find them. Once I have some money I can postpone my timeblurts from going public for a while to give me some time to recover and think. That done I flick off my slate; I'll be silent running for a while.
I withdraw the maximum amount of cash I can, and sod it, I'll use the the Zone card as well at a nearby machine belonging to a different bank. Using a different cashpoint may confuse my tracks for a short while, but eventually they'll work out I've fled here anyway and cancel it, so I may as well make the most of it while I can. Having taken out enough money to keep me going for a few days I've reached my daily limit, but I can always try again tomorrow; and who knows, tomorrow may well be a very different day.
Having lived so long in the bland sensory deprivation of the Fed I'm overwhelmed by the colours, sights, sounds, traffic and smells of the city; especially the smells of cooking! I'm feeling hungry now; in fact I can't remember when I ate last, so I find a convienience store and buy some snacks I can eat on the go. Then I search for a pharmacie; I need some more painkillers and bandages for my leg. I'll need to get that checked over later, but now I have more important things to do. My supplies bought, I take the Metro out of the city centre to a semi-industrial suburb where I check into a cheap chain hotel. It's almost a French version of the Perch which the sprite recommended, and that suits me just fine.
I prefer the anonymity of automated hotels, especially now. There are no awkward questions or curious staff. Just wave a standby prepaid debit card along with a false identity - one I had a frazzler create a couple of years ago - near the portal and and you're in. I've booked here for three nights, but I don't think I'll stay that long. Depending on how things go I might move tomorrow to another equally discreet equivalent if I feel that being in one place for too long is too much of a risk.
Finding my room I collapse on the bed for a while. I'm tempted to take a nap but the clock is ticking. I need to think about how I package my story and who I offer it to. But all that can wait for a while; first I must clean up my leg.
The hot water fiercely jetting from the power shower stings as I blast away at the dried blood and scabs: By fuck it hurts! I've not felt water at so high a temperature for years, it being such a luxury in the Fed. Yet if I don't scrub away all the ingrained grime in my wounds I risk an infection setting in. I leave the shower cubicle with tears streaming from my eyes; any hint of tiredness has been swept away by that ordeal. Fully alert now, with my leg still throbbing under fresh bandages, I can consider my next move.
Once my story is written I'll need to find a reputable organisation to 'cast it. There must be plenty of blurters in France who would relish the chance, or even the reconstituted Daily Post; but they'd be my very last resort.
The Post has changed a great deal from when it used to be a paper-based middle market tabloid. It was one of the most vociferous decriers of the insurgency and one of the Council's most ferevent supporters during the early days of the Transition. Over time though it began to disagree more with the Consensus policies it regarded as too socialist or statist, eventually falling foul of the newly passed Media Act and the OMS.
Banned from publishing and blacklisted by the all-ecompassing FedSafe web firewall, it's editorial staff set themselves up in exile in France. Their web site is still a popular source of Federation news for those who can access it; mostly the long established expat community who moved abroad before the advent of the Crises, paradoxically as they felt the UK was in danger of losing its way of life as a result of being swamped by too many migrants. The trouble is, with its sensationalist but never substantiated headlines about impending bad weather, the latest health scares, or the alleged Princess Diana conspiracy - yes, they're still going on about it, even after all this time - the Post has an air of hyperbole about it which leads most impartial observers to regard it as just a bit deranged and lacking credibilty. I'm sure they'd use my story, and I'd offer it to them if I have no other choice, but to have any chance of being taken seriously I need to find an outlet with a lot more gravitas; maybe one of the european state networks or a major international 'caster. As I'm in France I think I'll try the French media first.
A few hours later I've edited my blurt and gone through all of the files I grabbed from Bippin's terminal. Suddenly I'm overcome by a wave of tiredness; I need to lie down for a while.