Would You Do It Again?
PCN: a new voice for all of Kemr!
Gwen watched the clouds cross the sky through the tall window of the living room. It was raining heavily in Dunregei, a quiet little Dúnein town in the south of Kemr near the mouth of Avona le Dam — the Ox River or "Avon" River as the English call it. It was a lovely part of southern Britain by anyone's reckoning. And far, far away from the violence and heated political speeches the Troubles brought to the rest of Kemr. It was also the town where y Vleden Rampent were located. Y Vleden, or the bloody Wolves as their English neighbours call them, were one of the most active Chos Nustoer cells, or guilds, in the Province of Dúnein — accounted terrorists by some, they were patriots to others. She smiled. By all accounts, ‘active' truly wasn't the best word for it — y Vleden had burnt six English families out of their houses and terrorised another dozen this year alone; they'd taken part in eight large political rallies over the last four years; and they assumed a rather prominent role in London's Victoria Station bombing in 1992. ‘The Wolves' was, by all accounts, a name the English used to great effect when frightening their children when they'd been naughty. The rain hadn't let up all day.
She smacked the wooden arm of her chair. "Look Arty, I say it can be done!"
"I don't know, Gwen, I just don't know..." Arthur, the tierens, or guild chief, of y Vleden had become a careful man in the six years since Victoria Station. Too careful in Gwen's forthright opinion, although she admired her chief and close friend very much.
"Oh, come on! Surely you're not going soft on us Arty!? We spent a quarter of a million on this piece, a veu charatheck — it's the answer to all our prayers!" Arthur considered this silently: Gwen was perhaps a little too extreme in some of her thinking. Perhaps some of the imbalance could be blamed on that English yngrupó — that bloody gang who raped and murdered her sister when they were in London several years ago. She was just a girl then, and that violence had affected her more profoundly than she let on or was generally known; and perhaps even more than Gwen would admit to herself. Even so, as their group's nauigeors, or guide, she was a sound tactician and rather brilliant at getting done whatever needed doing. Of course, more often than not she did it her own way when you got right down to it! For example, it had been Gwen's idea to buy a small atomic device from a patriotic group in Germany not at all unlike y Vleden themselves. Of course, the Germans were not exactly thrilled at the idea of selling the piece — the Germans invented the thing, after all, and their military held almost all the atomic bombs in the world — but the sight of two hundred and fifty thousand pounds in crisp notes of the Federated Kingdom (not a single shilling of which was Kemrese or Dumnonian, it might be added) and Gwen's sweet talk, smooth as new milk, easily convinced them. And we, y Vleden Rampent, were the proud new owners of one small atomic device. Danke schoen and welcome to the Atomic Club, a Chambrea charathemend.
"Perhaps, Gwen...you do seem to have a knack for getting the job done. This mad scheme of yours – I still don't see exactly how we're going to get that - that thing - past the Willies' border guard. They've not yet forgotten Victoria Station, you mark my words. And what's more, Cos Nustoer has stirred up a bit of ‘trouble' in every major city in Kemr. The English can't help but take notice!" That ‘thing' sat in the corner of the room. A two man force of inconceivable terror in a black box. If we set it off now, we'd lay waste to southern Dúnein. In a few days, we would set it off in central London, for that was Gwen's "mad scheme", and lay waste the heart of Saxon England. And then...wouldn't it be easy as you please to push them back into the sea that brought them to our island?
"Ah, and won't it be easy, Arty a veu charatheck? What with all the Troubles hereabouts, the Willies' only concern will be watching the border, making sure nothing spills over the Fence."
"I suppose." Arthur paused a while, watching the rainwater cascade off the thatch.
"Bloody weather." That was old Davy Smith, always complaining.
"You complain too much, Davy," said Gwen. "You've always complained that the mission is too big. If we pull it off you'll say the bloody mushroom cloud is too bloody small!"
Arthur liked Davy in spite of his dour moods. "Right. Well, we've spent the money — and the expence has nearly broken us — we might as well get our money's worth. Let's do it then!"
Davy couldn't resist one more complaint: "Huh. Broke, eh?" Y Vleden stared out the window at the ceaseless rain. A young mother and her toddlers sang happily and splashed in the mud puddles in the lane.
You and PCN: let's get the job done!
It was raining steadily on the day of departure. Of the dozen or so Wolves in Dunregei, only Arthur and Gwen would take the personal risk of entering England with the bomb. Arthur got the old motorcar lent by Dr. Johnson in motion and headed for the border — Lla Ffens, or The Fence, as it's commonly known. The din of the old Morris Minor could easily be heard by the Willies, the English border guard, well in advance of its arrival at the border station.
"Well now, Taffy, and isn't it a fine day for motoring?"
"I love it — Saxon wit! It's been raining a bloody fortnight and he says it's a fine day!"
"At least it's dampened you scallywags and your unrest! How many Welsh cities have ye lot torched? Legionhead? Exeter? Glastonbury?" The Saxon penchant for using the English names grated a bit on the nerves, but Arthur had practised controlling his temper.
"Those Coney buggers... Look, yer honours, I'm just aimin to get away from all that for a spell is all."
The guard looked at his papers for a brief moment. "Ah, well now. Welcome to the bosom of Mother England, Taffy me chap! Don't let the Coney buggers get thee!" ‘Coney bugger', that was Saxon for Cos Nusteor operative. Just the way coneys evaded the hound, so these patriots evaded the gendarmes and police of both Kemr and England. Anyway, for whatever reason, the guard had lost interest in tormenting Arthur and had waved him across, counterfeit papers and all.
" ‘Bloody weather' old Davy said. Huh!" Gwen had spent three days in an old boat with her cargo stowed against the rain. She had sailed halfway across the British Sea, over towards the Arvorec Islands, and back again to avoid the English Coast Guard. If they caught her and discovered the contents of her box, they'd likely execute her on sight. Or they might do worse things to her, she thought darkly. Gwen pulled into the rendezvous place in the dead of yet another rainy night.
"Wet enough for you, eh Gwen?"
"Ah, bugger this wet, Arty, and blow it out the wrong end of the sailor's hornpipe and right up an old sow's arse. I've spent three bloody days bailing water out of your daft cousin's "yacht". I ought to politely introduce that lousy git to me own two fists for sending us out in that old washtub!"
"Well, washtub or no, she's gotten you around the Coast Guard." They hauled up their cargo into the motorcar without further talk.
In London, a policeman came up to them and demanded to see their papers. "Well! What a day for a tour of London, eh Welshman?"
"Ah, it's no bad day at all your grace, tis a lovely day for motoring."
"Don't get snippy with me, Taffy. Sure even a feckin Tarker as thyself can see it's pourin with rain!"
"Alright, on yer way, yer smartarse Welsh bastards of washerwomen."
"That was a close snip Arty old friend!" Gwen was in an excitable mood, as she always was after a close scrape with English police.
"That berk took a good long look at my papers, Gwen. And I used your right name — ah, gods and saints!"
"Now, don't fret yourself over it, Arty, he probably liked the look of your picture is all! Wink, wink, nudge, nudge and all that rubbish!"
"Woman, you are an old badger!"
The night was spent positioning the device in one of the locations their scouts had staked out earlier — an old empty warehouse near Parliament. They began the job of connecting the wires and setting the switches. Arthur swore: "Sweet Jesus, Mary and Joseph, that's an awful mess of wires and such!"
"And don't you touch none of em, Arty; or we'll be taken clean to Heaven's shining city on a mushroom cloud as quick as those devils out there drop straight into Satan's back garden." Several dark and tense hours were spent connecting the wires and setting the right switches.
"Daft buggers! ‘Instruction manual included' they said! ‘Clear and easy to understand' they said! They could have given us it in some civil tongue — Saxon even! ‘Unterricht fuer Verknuepfung' my old sow's eight tits! What's that load of German rubbish then, eh?"
"Means ‘Connecting Instructions', Arty. Take it easy lad! This is simple as you please."
"It'd better be right, mein freunde. If it doesn't blow up right, the Guild will dock your wages til the thing is all paid for!"
"Come on Gwen, it's getting light. I've put the motorcar three blocks up. The second set of counterfeit papers are under the floorboard. Two days from now this place will look like Paris in ‘46; and I for one don't want to see about a tour package." As they came towards an alley, two policemen rounded the corner of the next street. "Just what we need, Gwen!"
"Ah now, don't fret yourself, Arty. We're bound to see coppers in town — just stands to reason, eh?" Smiling wickedly, she linked her arm in his and added: "Besides, what have we, two innocent tourists, done to warrant their attention?"
One policeman looked at a paper in his hand. There was a sharp whistle and the two policemen were pounding along the pavements. "That's the one — the Coney bugger! Stop where you are, Taffy, and don't move a muscle!"
Suddenly, as they breasted the alley, Arthur shoved Gwen into it. "Run Gwen!"
"Gods and saints Arty...!"
"Run Gwen charathecka, and don't look back!" Gwen paused for a brief, eternal seeming second staring at Arthur as he turned to face the policemen. Gwen fled into the dark alley. Arthur charged the policemen and easily knocked the first one straight through a shop window — glass scattered everywhere accompanied by shocked and fearful screaming. He continued his mad charge. "That's League rules, you Willie berk!"
The other policeman stopped, whipped out a telescoping baton, sidestepped Arthur cleanly and brought the baton knob straight up into Arthur's throat; downing him with no more than a blood muffled gurgle. "Oh ho! That's Grame's rules yer stupid Coney bastard; as in Grame, Metropolitan Police, captain of! Oi ave certain ‘friends' up Scotland Yard way oo'll be very interested in talkin wiv thee. And p'raps fittin yer wiv a short length of rope, eh? Ain't that right, Taffy?" He tightened his grip on Arthur and took him away.
Gwen didn't look back once, knowing that to look back when being chased would invite all sorts of unseen paving stones to trip her up. The alley turned and opened out onto the street near the motorcar. She slowed as she approached the street, appearing calm. No coppers in sight. Good. Get in the car and be off with you quick, Gwen old gal. Don't think about Arty. Gods and saints don't think about Arty. Until you're well away from here.
"Hurrah the conquering hero!"
"Anyone for English Toast?"
"It's up the long ladder with Parliament and down the short rope with the Queen!"
Such cheers and high spirits greeted Gwen in the pub in Dunregei upon her return from England. Much of Kemr was dancing in the streets and singing for joy. It seemed that by teatime the whole nation would rise up and push the Bloody Saxon back into the sea they came from fifteen hundred years ago. Hurrah.
There was no chance of hiding her tears — both joyful over a successful mission and bitter on account of Arthur. No one could say for certain what had happened to him, but most suspected the police had already beaten him to death. "I say, Gwen, that was a bloody nice mushroom cloud, that was." Ah, dear old Davy Smith, and not a word of complaint.
PCN: a bright future for Kemr!
"Goueoldreus ty faoier-el di new, missus?" The small but awestricken voice came from the vicinity of Gwen's knees. She slowly arose from the depths of her reverie. It's been forty years since the bomb that changed so many things. She recalled the trembling voice of the EBC newsreader as he read the account of the ‘bold terrorist bombing' of London, the ‘horrible slaying of our beloved Queen Diana and the Royal Family,' the ‘tragic deaths of so many of our countrymen' and the ‘cruel mass murder' of Parliament. Both the Pope of Rome and the Abbot-Patriarch condemned the murder of a Catholic monarch. She recalled the institution of martial law in England and the proclamation of a new English Commonwealth. She watched the grey flickering images on the big round screen of the old fashioned television in the pub as they read out the Chancellor's decree and publicly hanged Arthur, her tierens and caretheck — her closest friend. The English who were so recently quailing in terror of war with Kemr were now whooping for joy and howling for bloody revenge. This came in the form of a surprise invasion of Kemr; her country soon capitulated, and her own Province of Dúnein was ceded to England at the peace conference as the condition of withdrawal. Martial law lasted twenty years there, and the English had renamed it ‘Wessex'. The English chancellors took it as a personal responsibility to make life as hard as possible for those remaining in Dúnein. She recalled the forced Deportation of Recalcitrants, mostly fellow PCN guildsmen, and that twenty years of enforced ‘cultural reëducation' had turned the joyous children of Dúnein into little Saxons. They were compelled to speak English, sing English songs, wear English clothes, eat English food. She watched eight year old girls laugh at old women because they were foreign Welsh buggers. She watched old women cry. She cried with them.
She recalled the Chancellor's formal proclamation of permanent exile to New Cambria in the South Seas issued to her by the newly formed English Commonwealth. She had been arrested as a Cos Nusteor operative — the bloody Saxon had cornered their Coney bugger — but they could not place her in London at the time of the bombing. She started a moment when she heard the girl question her in Kerno, the language of old Dúnein — now a dead language by all accounts — but the child's family had maintained their heritage even in exile. Ah, what price patriotism?
"What's that dear child?"
"Would you do it all again, missus? All of it?"
A hundred questions and a thousand images of what might have been — of what should have been — paraded before her mind's eye: was it worth it? was the price too high? should I have done it at all? did I plan well enough? did I underestimate the English? did I overestimate us Kemrese? There was a long pause as Gwen watched the clouds of another world and another time pass unheedingly before her window.
Her answer came eventually — a hoarse, barely audible whisper. "Si."