The glue was dripping down his forearm, matting the hairs as it went, a gluggy blue lava flow. How much longer do I have to hold this position?
The lights blinked twice. The signal. At last, now let’s get moving. Rosedendrum bushes parted as he slipped forward. Far away a dog howled a solitary sentence. There was barely a breath of air and yet he could hear the wind moving over the grass louder than his breathing. He crept forward toward the house. Soon all that separated him was the expanse of the forecourt. He tracked to the right for twenty metres until the shingle gave way to the tarmac surface of the driveway and then looking swiftly toward the darkened windows, he tip-toed across the hard core and onto the grass verge. Now he was alongside the wall. No tech but watch out for the glass-roofed lean-to on the other side. Partially covered in bushes. Make a bit of a racket if you drop into that!
Harry crouched low, fondling his belt and the line-bolt. He looked up, his cheek against the cold brick and the smell of Wiltshire a high calling in his windpipe. Just one swing was all it would need. He coiled just like Lister had taught him at the Dingle, and waited for the moment. It was directed as always, by an unseen sergeant:
The knife, check it’s where you want it.
Head cocked into wind momentarily, so that the air blows toward you and carries the sound of movement.
Yes sarge, it all checks out..
He lunged into the night air with a soft squeak. The lanyard caught the parapet’s summit and with a stony click, bit into the brickwork. One fierce tug and then a progressive heave as all his weight transferred to the thin blue rope.
In a breath he was over the wall and crouched like an animal inside the compound of the garden. He crab-walked in fast staccato jerks, moving like an alien monster across the fifty metres of open lawn to a line of bushes. He held his breath and listened.
The sound of western music played in the far distance, and he thought he heard people laughing, or maybe just talking loudly. Behind the bushes he could make out the outline of the greenhouse and as he scanned left and right, the deserted grey stanchions of Kemble House. England in all its finery. The keeper of history, bankers, millers and coach-builders and now, traitors soon to be drawn and quartered if he had anything to do with it.
He crept forward. Soon he was alongside the colonnade and the door to the shed. He checked it carefully through his infra-red lens. Looking for wires in and around the lock and the door stop, just the slightest evidence of active tech and the order was, abort the plan. Go straight to plan B. But there were no wires. Kemble was too far away from Jeddah to attract such attentions. A simple padlock, no UV or make-once-break-never lines. It took Harry less than a minute to spring the lock and dive into the opening of the shed. Once inside he felt a strange claustrophobia. Before he had closed the door fully behind him, the smell came to his nostrils. It was a smell of nostalgia maybe, of an adventure yes, he was sure there was some adrenalin associated with it but where – what?… He had known the smell before, in very different circumstances. He looked around and was intrigued that he could see something in the darkness. Without any infrared running, he could make out the dull outline of the tools and components inside the shed. There was a light, a dull glow. He squinted and sniffed, gasping for knowledge – what is it? – where did I smell that smell before? – and that glow??
Suddenly it came to him: He knew what it was: The smell, the light. – Cherbourg!
The Blanc Tanque. – Building number eleven where you needed a special pass to break wind even. Yes, that was it! The reprocessing silo at Cherbourg eleven – that smell was the ionisation of air in proximity to plutonium slugs.
And the more he thought about it the more it crystallised, like a giant leprosy spreading to form a black scab on the landscape of England. He had the sensation of something coming to whisper the secret to him: They plan to unload a bucket of sunshine right here. They are building it right here. So no one gets the blame but dear ol’ blighty!
from ‘The Placing of Rapture’ by Dave Scott-Morgan