The Blurt Of Richard Davies

When What Could Never Happen Here, happens here... It took a civil war and the fracturing of the United Kingdom to force the issue, but finally someone did what needed to be done to sort out the mess we were in once and for all. With the incompetent politicians replaced by the Consensus government, the Federation as we are now called is being led into a green renaissance. We may not be wealthy, but we're getting by, and from here the only way is up... While many people have been browbeaten into believing it, Richard Davies - an executive journalist recently promoted in one of the new media organisations - knows the propaganda to be an empty lie. But as a long-delayed General Election heralds the end of emergency rule and the start of the Democratic Reset he'll find out just how difficult it is to do the right thing in a world gone wrong. The Blurt Of Richard Davies: Today's fiction is a warning of tomorrow's nightmare. Read it while you are still able to.


31. Chapter Thirty One

The old adage relating to the Atlantic hurricane season runs in part; "October: It's all over." It will need to be amended to reflect our changing climate because I've just received the latest weather forecast. It doesn't look good. Another vigorous low-pressure system that should have become a Category Three hurricane and made landfall in Florida instead ran parallel to the US east coast before recurving to the north-east. It became entangled with the Atlantic jet stream, running almost permanently on a more southerly latitude now, so it hasn't weakened as much as expected; and now the densely-packed swirl of isobars which resembles the close contours of a mountain drawn on an Ordinance Survey map is predicted to hit the southern Fed tonight. It's time to go into emergency public service broadcaster, batten down the hatches mode.

At a conference call of all our offices I remind them of our, not the OMS' guidelines. "Remember; I don't want to see and I won't use any feet-wet or windblown breathless reportage, no matter how dramatic it may look: Not from us or any of our stringers! Don't stand out in the middle of it like a dinlo when you're 'casting! Yes, we know the weather is bad without you pratting about in it up to your knees! We're not NewSkyNews or the Beeb! So stick to the facts, taking no-one's word for anything without corroboration, and that goes especially for blurts. You all know your jobs so do what you do well and keep safe!" The advance warnings have been issued, we'll continue to update them as the storm approaches, and we're ready to cover any of the usual problems in the usual places.

Stronger storms are another thing  we've had to get used to over the last decade. There was a time just a few years ago when we hardly ever had a decent winter gale; it was said this was the effect of climate change with an overall warming lessening the contrast in temperature gradients which leads to storms. But now the weather seems to be making up for lost time and it's a rare winter month that doesn't have a Force Eleven gale smashing into the south coast. The sea defences have been reinforced as much as the straitened finances will allow but; as the residents of the Manhood peninsula coast will tell you, sometimes it just isn't enough. I must remind myself to commission a follow-up programme on the Selsey floods soon...

The other problem we'll probably face will be an overspin of the Éireaan wind farms. Wind energy sounds fine in principle but the practicalities let it down. Trying to balance so many variable inputs into the grid, especially during stormy weather, usually leads to the network going into a failsafe shutdown. The Crises set back the power station modernisation programme so we're still using many of the same generating plants that we were two decades ago, and most of them are operating way beyond their designed lifespan.

Across the southern Fed conscripted National Resilience Agency staff will be called to duty; wind-up lanterns and shakerlites will be brought out from Ready Bags, local emergency plans activated, and Rest Centres readied for the displaced. We've been fortunate so far, but with the intensity of the storms increasing each winter sooner or later we're bound to be hit hard.

With a few hours to go we're as ready as we'll ever be. The dedicated storm stream is up; waiting to show the inevitable huge waves crashing ashore, thrashing trees, and NRA personnel in their rain-slicked waterproofs doing what they can; but at the moment it's on a repeating loop of official preparedness blurts, the same ones which are Pushed to all personal devices flicked on in the projected danger areas. It's an easy way of fulfilling our Public Service Quota, even if we don't get any 'Cred for it. We've also got live links from the Rest Centres should we need them for the human interest angle to the evolving story, but we won't be allowed to show the routine examination for 'prohibited articles' which anyone seeking shelter there must go through; apparently to "preserve the personal dignity of those being searched".

I'll also be keeping a particular eye on the feed my father is 'casting from his park home located on the coast near Bognor Regis. At present the feed shows the seas a-building, with the occasional wall of spray blown over the top of the sea defences there; but the waves are being held at bay for the moment.

So now we wait and hope this storm passes through without being too much of a disaster. It's going to be a long night.

Early morning. We seem to have got away lightly this time. There were the usual power problems of course, but we only suffered some minor sea surge flooding in the most vulnerable areas and there are a few reports of collapsed scaffolding. Some windows in the Lipstick Tower were blown out but no one was injured. There were fewer trees blown down as those which were weakened enough to fall had already done so; even so there's quite a bit of windblown mess for the credders to get started on. Most importantly of all the caravan park where Dad lives avoided being flooded, but it seemed touch and go for a while.

Apart from that there's only the usual round-up reportage of the damage to be done. Ever since the infamous episode when an insensitive NewSkyNews reporter got chinned for asking a flood victim how it felt to lose everything they had, media coverage of disasters has been much more respectful of the victims. These days the emphasis is on sympathetically reporting the straight facts of what has happened and not stooping to gratuitously voyeuristic calamity porn. Frankly, people have had quite enough of that style of news by now.

St Andrew's day: The day the Albans celebrate their independence. As usual both they and the Fed have their propaganda machines poised for action. The Fed gets their shot away first with a PushCred report from a strategic think tank speculating how Alba is long overdue for a social, economic, and military collapse. Some of our viewers may be dumb enough to believe it, or forgetful enough not to remember the same organisation issued a similar report this time last year, but so far those stubborn Albans have refused to behave as forecast.

We couldn't 'cast from Alban territority without falling foul of the Media Act and the OMS, so such feed as we're allowed to see from Edinburgh comes from international sources. Despite all the talk of the Alban Typhoons being unflyable due to lack of spares, maintenance and technical support; or a shortage of competent pilots three of them circle above the renamed Alban Mile (the 'Royal' having been dropped.) We're informed the remaining aircraft in that squadron are being 'held on alert'. That may be a bluff, but obviously at least three of them can fly, and it only takes one to get through... The sight of saltaire roundels painted on them still irks we Fedders like having a broken tooth that you can't keep your tongue away from even after this amount of time has passed.

The march past parade features the expected polished troops, road-mobile medium range missiles, light tanks and associated pomp rumbling through; but what is noticeable is President McClellan isn't there to take the salute. Perhaps those long-standing rumours about his health are true, or he doesn't dare risk exposing himself to a possible drone attack on his way to or from the armour crystal protected viewing gallery. He wouldn't be the only leader paranoid about such a threat to his safety.

Of equal interest to the analysts as the President's health are the Alban drone displays flying with precision between the buildings just above the heads of the spectators. The battle 'droids bringing up the rear look impressive; and even appear to be completely autonomous rather than teleslaved to a remote human operator in an exosuit; but when all is said and done, 'droids are only legged tanks. It is the drones which give us the greatest cause for concern.

There are various stories and speculation doing the rounds about what the Albans are capable of. Their former North Korean masters were late in catching on to the military potential of Uncrewed Autonomous Vehicles; but once they understood what they could offer they soon became proficient in their construction and deployment. In the absence of their mentors the Albans have created a knowledge and manufacturing base almost from the ground up, despite the international sanctions.

In fact the removal of the leaden influence of their North Korean patrons appears to have done the Albans no end of good. Their products are as good as those of the major weapons producing nations, and being competitively priced they sell well with buyers unconcerned about the origin of their purchases. In reality the arms and trade embargo exists in name only. Alban 'droids have proven so reliable that they are used for continuously patrolling the northern side of the border; escapes over the Wall have all but halted since the 'bots were introduced.

Just as the public of the 1930s lived in fear of the unknown potential of strategic bombers to launch apocalyptic air raids our generation dreads robot wars involving cunning cross-country hedge hoppers, high-speed roadrunners, spiderbots, and slow missiles camouflaged to look like innocuous everyday objects delivering warheads of mass destruction.

Undetectable, uninterceptable, amphibious 'bots are said to be under development; able to sneak ashore and wreak havoc on coastal nuclear power stations, gas or oil terminals, ports, or any other riverine targets. No place, however well protected, can be considered safe anymore. Even an individual can be selected as the sole target for one of these relentlessly efficient assassins.

The war machines are developing exponentially; becoming smaller, smarter, more capable. So far mass swarm weapons are still only a theoretical possibility, but for how much longer? The next Secession War, if there is one; will be far different from the first. I pray we never have to fight it.

The land and air displays of the morning are finished, but there is still the naval display to come. Further out in the Firth of Forth a small flotilla of coastal patrol frigates are arrayed. The Alban feed splits into a double screen; one side showing a close-in of a ship, the other a deserted speck of a Hebridean island with an unpronounceable name. Suddenly there is an eruption of smoke and flame from the ship as a cruise missile is launched; it flies away north-westward to the horizon tracked by the camera as it shrinks into invisibility. In a moment all there is left is the ragged dispersing of the exhaust trail.

The screen now reverts to a single shot of the island with an elapsed time display counting. Nothing seems to happen for an interminable time; then there is a bright flash, a rising sphere of roiling orangey fire and a visible shockwave expanding away from the explosion, shaking the aerial camera when it reaches it. Did the Albans just conduct a public live fire test of a micronuke tipped missile? Apparently not; it was a conventional explosive, but quite a powerful one by the looks of it.

As impressive a demonstration as that was it appears not to be the climax of the display. The slightly delayed English translation of the official, compulsory Gaelic explains we should concentrate our attention on a vividly red buoy on the horizon; the camera zooms on to a patch of hammer beaten steel grey sea around it. Suddenly from an explosion of spray and steam bursts a missile, a plume of exhaust belching from its base. It accelerates into the low arc of a depressed ballistic trajectory and vanishes from sight far more quickly than the first shot.

The screen returns to the island again; its heather turf still smoking from the previous strike. The camera helicopter has quickly flown far further away from it. There isn't long to wait for this missile to hit, and it does so with far greater force, creating an incandescently bright bubble of a conflagration. Once the juddering picture has stabilised and the smoke blown aside by the wind it is clear to see the second strike has riven a hefty slab off a granite cliff at the end of the island. That must have been one hell of a powerful blast. We're told we've just seen the latest generation of conventional thermobaric warheads in action. The scene changes to the celebratory crowd who have been watching the test on a big screen applauding its success.

The submarine; streamlined hump of a conning tower low to the water, surfaces to acknowledge the ovation before slipping back beneath the waves. So that explains what the Albans have been doing inside the giant sheds they built over the Clyde shipyards! From beginning with a rag-tag navy of converted trawlers they've progressed to the construction of one or more micro boomers; small, stealthy and very capable diesel-electric missile submarines designed to be used in the shallow seas which surround these islands. The fact they feel confident enough to reveal their existence, and have a public test firing of one of their weapons is an unanswerable rebuttal to the Fed's propaganda about theirs being a failing state.

If anything it appears we are the ones who are struggling to avoid being left behind. We won't be told of course if our military intelligence services knew of this development in advance or if they were as startled as the rest of us; nor how our more northerly focused navy of coastal patrol craft based in Barrow-in-Furness and Tynemouth will respond to this development; but I suspect this latest demonstration has shaken a few people out of their complacency.

I wonder what effect this news will have on the upcoming election? Will it show up the Consensus to have fallen asleep at the wheel? Or will this latest shock prompt a jingoistic anti-Alban rallying to the government flag?


A supplemental PushCred was issued today. It was the usual 'intelligence sources' speculating yesterday's demonstration wasn't all it appeared to be. In their judgment the island had been preprepared with powerful explosives to simulate a successful strike, and the missile - though launched successfully from a pressurised launch tube towed out to and anchored at that point with just enough buoyancy to keep it just below the sea surface - had been aimed at a remote patch of empty sea; such was the concern about its accuracy. Even the oft-repeated slow-mo shots of a blurred object streaking down on to the target were merely manipulated images.

As for the submarine; it is only a short range vessel, designed for use near the Scottish mainland. They are still in the fitting out and sea trials stages of development. The navy was aware of them and has already put in action  countermeasures to deal with the threat; but considers those badly constructed death traps pose a greater risk to their crew than to the Fed. So all in all there is no cause for alarm.

We're informed grand deceptions such as these are what can expected from an insecure nation looked down upon by the rest of the world; a military and economic paper tiger which keeps its controlled population stupefied with such blatant propaganda. But is it a truthful view of the situation on the other side of Hadrian's Wall, or our reflection in a mirror held up to ourselves?

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