The Shaking

Seismic terror is about to strike...

Maverick geologist Brian McLean was ridiculed when he warned London and south east England were at imminent risk of suffering a major earthquake. But when the unthinkable happens buildings collapse, power grids crash, transport is gridlocked, and high-tech life grinds to a shuddering halt.

In the stunned aftermath courier Ryan Buckland journeys through a shattered city to be reunited with his family, Deputy Prime Minister Stuart Pullman sees the emergency as his chance to seize power, while nuclear engineer Alan Carter desperately tries to avert a far greater catastrophe. If he fails, destructive aftershocks will be the least of our problems...

A homage to penny dreadful natural disaster potboilers, The Shaking will rock you to your very core!

A 103,000 word novel. Rated PG 16.


8. Chapter Eight

08.31. Whitehall.

Stuart Pullman could feel a crackling tension buildingbut the angry portency seemed not only due to the expected bust up at today's cabinet meeting; it felt as if there was something else, a far greater force at play, yet he couldn't quite grasp the nature of it.

Whatever it was seemed to manifest itself in a general atmosphere of frustration: One similar to the miasma of collective irritation which arises in the immediate aftermath of a national sports team doing badly, but even the England cricketers' abject overnight performance wasn't a sufficient explanation.

The annoyance appeared to be most obviously expressed by the outraged honking of horns as police outriders held up the traffic for Pullman's motorcade, along with the indistinct oaths and obscene gestures directed at Stuart's car by pedestrians who realised who he was as his convoy drove past them. Their actions incensed Pullman, who resolved that once in power he'd order governmental limousines to be tailed by unmarked vehicles whose occupants would be given carte blanche to teach anyone making such protests in future a harsh lesson about respecting authority.

However there was even more to it than that: The air had a humid, headache inducing, invisibly leaden quality which reflected the morning's saturnine ambiance.

As Stuart's car swept through the gated entrance to Downing Street he saw murmurations of city birds - more of them than usual - on the wing, The anxious fowl darkened the sky as if bad weather was approaching and they were looking for a place of safety to ride it out. Whatever had set them on edge, he could sense it as well; an intuition of something building, approaching a climax.

Pullman's limo drew to a halt and his door was opened for him. As Stuart got out he felt the oppressive glowering even more keenly. Though there was little chance of any rain falling from the sullen overcast Pullman knew an unavoidable storm was brewing, but unlike the ruffled avians he felt energised in anticipation of it: After all, it was a tempest of his own conjuring.


09.52. Dumfries.

Rosalyn McLean carefully observed the surrounding area before quickly walking up to her sister's house. She was relieved to find the coast appeared to be clear; there was no media hubbub taking place outside, in fact the only sign of any activity was a broadband service provider's van parked far further along the fractal swirl of recently constructed cul-de-sacs. Rosalyn dismissed it as unimportant, the lone telecoms worker seemed preoccupied with the fiberoptic entrails of an opened dark green painted metal cabinet set back from the pavement.

Rosalyn rang the door bell. There was a strong chance Sue wouldn't be in, or if she wasn't working as a nurse she may well be catching up on some badly needed sleep. McLean dreaded disturbing her but right now she needed a place of sanctuary and a listening ear.

From inside footsteps and a vague shadow approached the door. It opened. Her sister was fully dressed.

"Roz!" she exclaimed. "Come in! I've been worried about you! I tried to call you but there's been no answer."

"You've heard?"

"You can hardly avoid it; up until recently there's been little else on the news." Sue closed the door behind them. "Where's Brian and Sophie? Surely you've not-"

"No. But I'm really annoyed at what the silly bugger has done this time."

"I'll put the kettle on and you can tell me all about it."

A cup of tea, some blubbing, and a sisterly hug later Rosalyn had told her story and vented her anguish for the time being

"So what are you going to do now?"

"Brian wants us to stay out of way for a few days until it all blows over, If it blows over. He thought maybe Sophie and I could stay in your spare room for the time being while he sleeps in the car and keeps moving around."

"That'd be no trouble at all; but what about Brian? Surely he can't live rough?"

"He thinks so. Honestly Sue, I believe he's losing his mind! What with this earthquake theory of his no one else agrees with and then blabbing it all to Nathan bloody Rookley of all people, even if he didn't expect to have his identity made public. And now he's leading the news headlines for God's sake! It was on the radio! Live reports of journalists knocking on our door and the government hinting he might have broken the law... Oh Sue..." Rosalyn burst into fresh tears.

"Roz: Listen to me! You're going to get through this, alright? Look, before you go back to Brian and Sophie you need a good stiff whisky; yes, even at this time of the morning! While I fix that for you we'll catch up on the latest news. Just before I got sick of it all and turned it off there was a breaking story about a cabinet minister having an affair with one of her junior staff or something like that. What with the government so divided they thought it might cause a massive split or even bring it down. Well you know how the media loves to dwell on a story and blow it out of proportion; with any luck they might've forgotten about Brian by now... Here you go! Get that down you!"

Rosalyn sipped at the large measure of scotch Sue poured her while the large screen smart TV came to life. The Connect24 channel were running one of the interminable advert breaks they cunningly sandwiched the weather forecast between, so Sue channel hopped to the BBC rolling news. Their outside broadcast showed a political correspondent standing on Westminster Green with the Palace of Westminster's caramel coloured gothic stonework behind as a backdrop. He was engaged in a question and answer session with the studio presenter regarding the Pippa Slater affair. Below him the scrolling news ticker captions were almost exclusively about this story, the one exception reading GOVERNMENT DENIES EARTHQUAKE RISK.

"I told you they'd soon let it drop!" Susan reassured.

"Umm..." Rosalyn grunted as she mopped away the drying stickiness around her eyes with a hanky.

"It'll all work out; you'll see."

The sisters looked on at the screen. As they did so the picture abruptly changed: There was a thundering sound which drowned out the reporter, then the image began to judder; blurring before pixellating and cutting off completely.

"Was that technical problem or a bomb going off?" asked Sue.

After a moment of nothing being shown the open plan expanse of the BBC news studio in Manchester reappeared. The dumbstruck presenter was silent for a moment as he listened wide-eyed to the voice in his earpiece. Then, shocked, he began to speak.

"Ladies and Gentlemen." he intoned gravely. "We're getting news that London has just been hit by a major earthquake."

Chilling pins and needles pricked along the back of Rosalyn's neck. "Oh my God!" she gasped. "Brian was right!"   


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