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Title: From The Sun To The World
Author: Sashataakheru
Fandoms: The Chaser RPS/Electric Light Orchestra RPS
Starring: Andrew Hansen, Charles Firth, girl!Craig Reucassel, Chris Taylor, Dominic Knight, Chas Licciardello, Julian Morrow, Jeff Lynne, Kelly Groucutt, girl!Bev Bevan
Pairings: Craig/Bev, one sided Chris/Craig, vague Andrew/Jeff
Warnings: violence
Rating: FRM
Beta: [livejournal.com profile] aphephobia
Part: 2/3 [previous: part one]
Word Count:
6,409
Author’s Notes: Er, this went in a weird direction, but I still think it works.
Summary: WWII AU set in Birmingham, UK in 1943. A mysterious aircraft falls to the ground near a pub in Birmingham, and the pilot inside warns of invasion. With Britain busy fighting a world war, it is hardly a warning that garners much attention. He reaches out to one man, hoping his warning be heeded in time before the world ends.


Friday Morning, April 23, 1943
Chas was trying to rev the car he’d ‘borrowed’ from a friend when Kelly joined him, slipping in beside him as if he was meant to be there. The car wasn’t that interested in starting, and Chas cursed a little and tried again.

Chas glanced over at Kelly as he wondered whether the car could be hotwired. "Julian, right?"

"Who else? Besides, you're not the only one who's a little curious about our man in there. Shall we?"

“Definitely, when this bloody car decides to start. Here, give us a hand, will you?”

After a little more persuasion that resulted in both of them ending up spattered with oil as they tried to get it working, the car finally started. Chas, excited as ever, got behind the wheel. Kelly joined him, eager to get going at last.

"You know what I like about you? You like a good adventure," Chas decided as he revved the engine and sped off.

There was excited conversation between them as they drove, exploring all kinds of ideas as to who the man was, why he had come and what kind of ship he'd been flying in, until they arrived at the hospital. It was very late, and sneaking in would not be easy. Even though it was not as heavily staffed at night, that didn't mean it would be easier.

"Where should we leave the car?" Chas whispered. "How bout on the edge of this road here? Not a far walk and no one'd suspect it."

"Nah, lone cars are always suspicious. And it appears we have company," Kelly said, noticing the bright headlights behind them.

"Shit. We'd better keep going, pretend we're on some sort of business. Can you see what it is behind us?" Chas asked, daring a glance over his shoulder as he thought about what to do next.

"Not with them headlights, I can't. Here, keep going and turn round. Dim the lights. We'll be able to double back and see who it is."

Chas nodded his head in agreement. "An excellent suggestion."

Given the headlights, it did look a lot like some sort of truck behind them, but there was no way of knowing for sure. Chas dutifully continued past the hospital as Kelly watched to see if that was indeed where the vehicle was going. Sure enough, it turned into the hospital and Kelly couldn't help smiling.

"Go on, go back. He turned in there. We'll go see who it is," Kelly said.

Chas was more than happy to do so and turned the car around as they headed back to the hospital. They made sure they were hidden behind some trees as they parked the car. It was close enough to sneak around and see who was getting out of the truck.

"Army truck. Only one aboard though. Looks a bit of a ponce from here. He's no regular soldier at any rate. Probably here for our crashed pilot, what'd you reckon? Should we go mess with him?"

"Well, maybe a little. Come on, I think I know where he's going," Kelly said.

They didn't dare approach the hospital until their soldier was out of sight, just to make sure they weren't seen. They entered as casually as possible and Chas had to stop himself giggling too much as Kelly sweet-talked a nurse into believing they were here to see a mate, that they were there so late as they'd just come home on leave and would it be too much just to sit by his side, just for a while? With her permission, they headed off inside, wondering where the crash pilot was.

* * *

Andrew was not in the best of moods when he arrived at the hospital. It was getting late and he was more interested in sleeping. Nor did he believe their crashed pilot would be allowed to be transported so soon after arriving, so it was likely he would be spending some time at his bedside before he could return to base. He followed politely as the matron led him to the ward he was in.

There was a nurse by his bedside, watching over him, a blonde girl by the name of Abigail Wintress. She had attended to the injured man since he'd arrived and had found herself unable to leave his side. She had eventually succumbed to tiredness and lay asleep beside him, her hand still holding his gently.

"I suppose he's in no fit state to move," Andrew said.

"He's staying right where he is til he wakes. Who're you anyway?" the matron asked. She was a tall thin woman and her husband was a pilot in the Air Force. She took her duties very seriously.

"I'm with MI5. He's ours, orders from the top. I don't want anyone getting access to him apart from you, and your nurse, until he's able to be moved," Andrew said. "She can be trusted, can't she?"

"All my nurses can be trusted, sir, you have my word on that. Even if this one does fall asleep on duty," the matron said. She took a step forward to swat the girl across the head with the back of her hand.

Abigail woke and quickly got to her feet. She mumbled an apology to the matron as she approached. "Sorry, ma'am. Sorry, sir. I'm really a very good nurse, it's just-"

"Yes, dear, there'll be time for that later. Now, don't you let anyone but us come in and see him, alright? Military's got hold of him now."

Abigail glanced at the injured man curiously. "Is he some sort of spy then? Who do you think he is?"

"No idea, miss, not til we've talked to him. He hasn't spoken has he?"

"No, sir. Just been laying there, all peaceful. Got himself some terrible injuries though. I'd be surprised if he makes it, to be honest with you. Poor mite," Abigail said.

"Well, clearly he's not coming back with me tonight, so I'll leave him in your capable hands. Let me know the moment he wakes."

The nurse returned to her patient as the matron escorted Andrew out. She took the man's hand again and wondered what he was thinking about. Did he dream? Was he dreaming of what he went through? The thought that the poor man was reliving nightmares wasn't a nice one and she began singing him a soft lullaby, hoping to ease his sleep.

* * *

Chas followed Kelly as they made their way towards where they thought the injured man might be. Seeing the same MI5 man from the crash scene being led out told them they were on the right track. They quickly hid behind a wall as they passed, not wishing to be caught. Once they were out of sight, Chas and Kelly continued until they found the right ward. The man was being sung to by a young nurse. She hadn't noticed they were there.

"Come on, I just wanna see him-" Chas whispered as he gestured Kelly to follow him.

They sunk back against the wall, wondering when the nurse might notice them. The pilot was asleep, lying almost lifelessly on the bed. It was hard to make out anything else, given the bandages that covered all the wounds on his body, but he looked peaceable enough. They listened as she finished her song. She turned to see them, wondering how they had gotten in. They weren’t supposed to be there and she hoped they would be easily persuaded to leave. She got up and approached them.

"You're not supposed to be here. I'm not supposed to let anyone see him," Abigail said.

"Shh, it's okay. We just wanted to see him, just for a minute, before MI5 carted him off. We'd never see him after that. See, I reckon he's some Martian from outer space. The ship he crashed in wasn't made here, wasn't even made by bloody Germans. He said anything yet?" Chas said, keeping his voice low.

"Mate, I've heard you come up with some crazy ideas, but this has to be the strangest one yet. How can he be some alien? He's human," Kelly said.

"I've told you already, it's the way his ship was made, he-"

"Just go, please, before Matron gets back.” Abigail glanced around, checking no one was coming. “You've had a look, now, okay? Just go," Abigail said, pushing them towards the door.

"Okay, okay, we'll go. Look after him, hey?" Chas said, not willing to push his luck any further.

Chas was a little disappointed he hadn't been able to stay very long, but at least he'd seen him. Maybe he'd fake some other excuse and sneak back in again tomorrow. The man wasn't going anywhere, at least for a day, so it was possible he could sweet-talk Julian into giving him another chance to get out there again. Another plan forming in his mind, he and Kelly made their way back to their car and drove back to base, hoping they'd managed to be away under an hour and not get Julian in trouble.

* * *

Cassie lay in bed, wide awake. The repercussions of what she'd done with Bev were beginning to sink in. Sure, he might be accepted as a man, but she knew different, and while that did nothing to dent her love for him, she still felt like she was doing something terrible. She shifted a little, getting more comfortable as his arm wrapped around her. She didn't feel quite so small in his arms, not like with other men. They fit together in a way that was almost perfect.

"Hey, you awake?" Cassie whispered, glancing up at him.

"Maybe," Bev replied, keeping his eyes closed.

Cassie sat up and leaned against his chest. "They're gonna let us be together, aren't they? We're not going to be pulled apart?"

Bev woke properly and sat up a little. "Why do you say that? Why wouldn't we be able to be together?"

"Cos, you know, you're different. What if we end up married and mother keeps asking why we don't have any children? Then what?" Cassie said.

Bev stroked her hair gently and smiled. "You worry too much. It's not like anyone knows I'm a woman. I was doing this long before anyone knew any different."

"Yeah, but I'll know. You'll know. I don't know if I can live with that," Cassie said.

"We've barely got together and you're already worrying about that? Let's just try and get out of this war in one piece, shall we?" Bev said.

She settled down beside him and closed her eyes. Then that terrible siren rang and Cassie felt she was about to die.

* * *

Dressing as quickly as they could, Cassie and Bev hurried downstairs and to the shelter at the end of the road. There were no bombs close to them at the moment, but that could always change. Cassie looked back down the street as she watched flames leap into the air as bombs destroyed houses and factories and whatever else the Germans wanted to wreck. She couldn't look away. Bev had to grab her hand and drag her to safety as a bomb exploded two streets from them.

Cassie looked at all the frightened faces, people running for their lives. Screams of horror when someone didn’t make it out before the buildings collapsed. Cries of pain from anyone who’d been injured. The Wardens trying to get people to safety. All about them was the whine of the planes and the bombs falling, the way the sky was black and red and glowing hideously, the giant flames that destroyed whatever they touched, the eerie siren that did nothing to protect them; if this was what Hell looked like, Cassie didn’t want to live there anymore. Cassie took one look out at the street before heading inside the shelter. Few children were left now. Most had been evacuated when the bombings had first started. Those that were left were bent over from exhaustion.

She hugged her coat close to her, wishing she were home in bed and that none of this was happening. Bev wrapped a protective arm around her shoulders, and she leant against him, exhausted but too tired to sleep.

"When's this bloody war going to be over, hey? I've almost had enough near misses for one lifetime," Cassie murmured as the bombing continued around them.

"Haven't we all?" Bev murmured.

It was the last word either would say before a bomb fell close to them, destroying several houses and sending fire and debris everywhere. Cassie clung to Bev as they tried to protect themselves from injury. Thankfully, the bunker had saved them from more serious injuries, but it hardly mattered anymore, not when you could lose everything in a matter of seconds.

Time felt like it was in slow motion as they huddled together, trying to ignore the ground shaking and the explosions all around them. Glass shattered, bricks fell, and bombs exploded like a thunderstorm on the ground, leaving nothing untouched. The one light in the shelter flickered on and off. Cassie started counting the seconds between the bombs, but she stopped when she realised this was no ordinary raid. There were too many bombs. Too many explosions. As she gazed around, she watched everyone as they came to the same realisation. Fear etched itself into their faces. This might be the last night they ever see. Someone started singing an old church hymn Cassie couldn't remember the name of. Cassie didn't think it'd be enough to save them.

* * *

Chas and Kelly had just managed to arrive back at their military base as the siren rang, and they left the car where it was as they went to find Julian. There was no time to defend themselves, they just had to hide and hope for the best. With nothing else to do, Chas and Kelly joined Julian and whoever else was around as they hurried into the bunker as a bomb exploded far too close for comfort.

Chas had never liked the shelters. They were dark horrid places. He always felt one day they'd collapse on top of him as he was hiding away and he'd be buried alive under a mound of dirt. He felt it a most undignified way to go. It had given him the habit of sitting as close to the entrance as was safely possible.

The silence around them was palpable. It was always possible the Germans had managed to find their military bases and were intent on destroying them, so a bomb so close felt more like a warning shot than anything else. Next time, they might not be so lucky. Fighting back would just give their position away, and they weren't supposed to waste their missiles anyway. They were for the boys overseas, not for the defence of the Home Front. Well, not when they had thought the threat of invasion had passed.

No one could speak. Chas looked around at the soldiers. He might not've been very old himself, but there were too many young faces here. He wondered how many had lied about their ages, or whether it was just pure fear that made them seem so young. Julian looked sick with worry. What did he know that he wasn't telling? Chas couldn't work out why he looked so guilty. He wanted to shift over and talk to him but the ground shook from another close explosion and he stayed where he was, eyeing the ceiling as if daring it to collapse on him.

* * *

It had caught them completely by surprise. Too busy with the crashed spaceship, attention had been diverted from the German planes advancing in silence. They had been too close to stop when they had finally been spotted, and the alarm was rung with barely enough time to get to shelter. All over Birmingham, people woke from their sleep and hurried to whatever shelter was closest before the bombs started falling.

Fire-fighters had been deployed all over the city from the moment the first bombs fell, trying to stop a firestorm engulfing what was left of the city. It was dangerous work, but if anyone was going to survive at all, those fires needed to be kept under control. It would be a very long night for all involved, and not all would make it out alive.

* * *

There was no time to sleep, not now. A deep sense of urgency spurring him into consciousness, a voice deep inside him desperately urging him to wake, Jeff opened his eyes at last. He had mostly gotten used to breathing the air around him – though every breath brought a slight burning to his throat, it was nowhere as bad as it had been, and though his body still ached, he was beyond tired now. He was too alert. Whatever was going on around him, whatever bombing was going on, it was not giving him any rest.

He sat up. There were things to do. He couldn't rest, not now. His warning needed to be passed on. He needed to tell someone, the right person, and he wasn't sure he'd found them. However, as much as he wanted to get out there and tell anyone who'd listen, his body very much did not wish to go. He cringed at the pain in his leg and chest and lay back down again. Perhaps it would have to wait. He tried to reach for the drawer beside his bed, hoping some of his things had survived the crash, but he couldn't reach it, let alone summon the strength to open it.

Giving up, he settled down again, wondering when he'd be able to get out of here. He hoped he wasn't too late. Maybe the bombing was the invasion he'd come to warn them about. Maybe he had failed. He would die if they found him, he was quite sure of that. It seemed a better fate than most he could think of. With nothing left to do, he lay back and listened to the bombing, his mind devoid of thought.

* * *

Chas was up and out of the shelter as soon as the second all-clear was given. There was no way of knowing how many had been injured or killed and the sooner they attended to them, the better their chance of survival. They’d developed a routine of grabbing supplies from an underground bunker, water, food, medical supplies, stretchers, supplies set aside specifically for such emergencies, and heading out in small groups to get to as many people as quickly as possible.

The battalion had gotten used to this sort of work. If the Germans were good for anything, it was giving the men a chance to put all their emergency response drills into good practice, and they’d become very efficient at getting to everyone as soon as they could to minimise the deaths. While they might not be deployed over on the Continent, fighting on the frontline, they were back home looking after their people. It somehow seemed more important, at least on a small scale. What was the point in fighting overseas if there were no people left to come home to?

There were few left on the base once everyone had rolled out. A long convoy of trucks snaked through the countryside towards town. A field had been hit and the dawn light was just enough to make out the rim of a large crater dug into the middle. If there had been any animals around, they had fled, though one unfortunate horse lay dead not far from the crater.

The Germans had come in two waves. The first raid had been bad enough, but the all-clear did not last and soon everyone who had dared to leave their shelters was running back to seek them again as the attack continued on for hours. They seemed intent on bringing them down with them, destroying as much as possible.

As the convoy neared town, the damage was more apparent. The town had avoided a fire storm, but there wasn't much left standing and fire-fighteres were still putting out fires all over the place. The air was hazy with smoke, slowly drifting from extinguished fires and burnt buildings. Some streets were blocked by debris and rubble and would need to be cleared before anyone could get through to look for survivors. Everyone prayed it was the last raid they would ever have to endure.

The convoy met in what was left of the town square. Their CO told them where to search and sent them off. Chas, for once, was quiet as he sat in the truck next to Julian. It was hard to be happy when everything had been so badly bombed.

"Chas, there was nothing we could have done. We're not supposed to fire back, it'd give us away. Then we'd have been bombed and they wouldn't have missed. Now cheer up and concentrate on what we're supposed to be doing," Julian said, glancing at him as he drove.

"I don't like feeling so helpless, Julian. We're supposed to be protecting them, and what do we do? Hide like the rest of 'em. I didn't sign up so I could hide away like a coward. It's hardly fair," Chas said.

"It's what we're supposed to do. Don't go crowing about unfairness. They managed to miss the base this time. I'd wager some folk weren't so lucky," Julian said.

It was hard to argue with that. The street they stopped had about half the buildings still standing, though just how safe they were was not yet known. They drove as far as they could before they got out and started looking for survivors. It was a street-by-street process, as unhurried as they could manage.

Chas and Dom went to check the shelters while others searched rubble for anyone who hadn't managed to get out. Chas still hated shelters, especially when he saw everyone still inside. Most had fallen asleep, though Chas doubted very much it had brought them any peace. He stepped inside after prying the bent metal door open enough to get people out.

"Hey, is everyone alright? Anyone hurt at all?" Chas said.

Slowly, people began to wake, and Chas set about getting them a little water. Chas felt it was time everyone was evacuated, not just children. This couldn't go on any longer. One woman appeared to have a fractured ankle, and Dom did his best to splint it and keep it still before he carried her out to the truck. She was the first of many who would be taken to hospital that day.

* * *

Cassie woke in darkness. Apart from an overwhelming numbness, all she could feel was her head aching as if it had been cut badly, and her ribs hurt. She wondered what had happened. Had they been hit? Had their shelter not stood up to German bombing? It was hard to remember. Waking up a little, her eyes began adjusting to the darkness. She squinted at the daylight coming in around the door. Getting to her feet, she reached for a lantern. Someone grasped her hand as she was about to strike a match.

"Don't - there could be gas around," a voice warned.

"There's no gas, boy, I can't smell any," another voice said, apparently that of an elderly gentleman.

"You can't smell anything, gran. Trust me, there's something in the air. We'd better get out of here," the first voice said.

Too dazed to argue as panic began to set in, she set the match back in its packet. A couple of men began pushing against the door, trying to get it open. Eventually, it budged, and sunlight came pouring in. Cassie followed them out, aware there were probably others behind her. The street looked so different now. Half of it was gone. It took her a moment to realise her house had been destroyed. Then again, so had the houses that neighboured it.

Distraught, she ran over to the rubble. She wanted to scream and shout and bomb the bloody Jerries back, but it was a reaction she was incapable of voicing. She dropped to her knees and wept, barely noticing Bev sitting down beside her, wrapping an arm around her shoulders.

"It'll be alright, Cas. We're still here. We'll keep going, like we always do," Bev murmured, though even he felt her anguish as he gazed upon the rubble.

Cassie dried her eyes with the back of her sleeve. "It'll never be the same. I'm so tired of this war and everything it's taken from us. I want it all to be over."

* * *

Dawn came. The bombing had, thankfully, stopped, and the whining sirens had finally been silenced. The air was heavy and still. Jeff knew that feeling well and it did not calm him at all. He sat up again, wondering if his body was up to walking yet. Maybe he could sneak out amidst the chaos of casualties being brought to the hospital and go find who he wanted to talk to. Just as he'd swung his legs over the edge of the bed, a nurse entered to check on him.

"Well, you're a feisty one, aren't yeh? Would've been surprised if the bombing hadn't woken yeh, to be honest. Woke everyone else up. How are yeh feeling then?" she asked as she approached him.

Jeff squinted and yawned, even though he wasn't tired. "Far too awake to sleep. What's going on out there?"

The nurse gave him a strange look as she checked his pulse. "You got a touch of amnesia, eh? There's only a bloody war on. 'ere, I'll go get matron. She wanted to see yeh once you woke."

And then Jeff was left alone. He was happy to let things settle. He didn't feel as bad as he had before. His body still ached, but moving didn't seem to hurt as much anymore. His head still ached terribly though. He couldn't quite work out where all his injuries were; the pain had dissipated over his body rather than stay attached to the specific wound sites. He flexed his fingers, wincing only slightly at the twinge of pain in his arms as he did so.

He could finally reach the drawer beside his bed, and he was delighted to discover a few things had survived the crash. He picked them up, hoping they still worked. The fob watch had stopped, but it wasn't broken. After winding it, it began ticking again. He would've been in trouble if that particular artefact had broken. He needed it to tell him when he had to lose the human disguise. He could only sustain it for so long before he'd have to change back. He'd never found a way to keep it any longer; there was also the danger that if he did stay that way too long, he might end up becoming human permanently, and that was something he was unwilling to risk. While he didn't mind being human, or at least appearing human, there were severe disadvantages and he didn't like being so cut off. His species had evolved the ability to take on disguises as a survival mechanism, not for long term secrecy.

The other items that had survived were a small pen-like object and a small piece of translucent material set in a silver frame. They both had their own uses, though they were by no means the most important of his things. Necessity had forced him to carry a small weapon with him, which appeared to be missing, as was the pair of glasses he usually wore on Earth to protect his eyes. The Earth's sun was not particularly kind to him. He would have to be careful to avoid daylight while he was here.

Then again, as he sat there thinking about what had happened, nothing had gone right. He hadn't even gone to Mars to spy on the coming invaders; he'd been there to see an old friend who had requested his company in his dying days. That he had happened upon the invaders was pure coincidence. There had been little time to work out the best plan of attack. He worked out they were going to Earth to invade, and worked out the general timeframe for their visit, but that was it. He finished his business with his old friend before rushing off, hoping to beat the invaders to Earth. Just as he was about to land, he'd been shot down - by who he didn't know. And now he was in hospital, being looked after by humans. And there had been bombing last night. Severe bombing that had lasted most of the night. Perhaps he was too late after all.

* * *

Andrew hadn't been there to receive the call from the hospital. He'd been too busy catching up with reports from the night before, hoping they could find some reason for the sustained bombing their radar hadn't picked up. It had caught everyone off guard. Shivers of worry had begun sweeping through Military Intelligence as everyone began to wonder if perhaps they might actually lose this godforsaken war after all. The Germans had been known to have developed some very advanced technology; the British were doing their best to counter it, but missing a raid as big as that was troubling, and emergency meetings had been called in London with the Prime Minister and his military commanders to work out what to do.

As the Midlands Regional Commander, Charles had been summoned as well, and had left at the break of dawn to get there as soon as he could, leaving Andrew in charge. If he was honest, Andrew appreciated the distraction of the very minor issue of going to pick up some random spy from hospital from the worry that they were aout to be invaded. Taking a couple of men with him, they drove through the countryside to the hospital. Their normal route, however, was blocked. The road they normally took had been blown to bits, forcing them to head back down towards Birmingham itself. Picking a route through uncertain terrain was not exactly pleasant and they found many dead ends along the way. The whole journey took half an hour longer than they'd anticipated.

The matron was waiting at the entrance as Andrew and his men approached. Those injured during the raid were beginning to be brought in for treatment, and the chaos was beginning to build. It was still early, but there was a sense it was only the beginning. Extra beds had been sent for and extra wards were being set up to make room for the wounded.

"You took your time," the matron said, eyeing Andrew with irritation. "Your man's awake. Bombing must've woken him.”

"It wasn't my decision to bomb half the roads around here, ma'am. You can't be sure any route is still safe. Is he alright?" Andrew said.

“This way. You can see for yourself," she said as she turned and gestured towards the left side of the corridor. Andrew followed obediently, not wishing to annoy her further.

The matron led the way through to the man's ward. "He's awake. We don't have a doctor spare to look over him properly, what with all these injured folk coming in."

"We'll get him looked at then."

Nothing more was said as they headed towards the man's ward. Andrew stood in the doorway as he watched the man sitting on the bed. The man looked much bigger sitting up, now that Andrew could see him properly. Andrew gestured for the matron to wait outside and entered, sitting on the bed beside the man.

"You got a name, sir?" Andrew said.

The man hesitated a moment before he spoke. He still couldn’t remember what surname he’d used when he was last on Earth. Might as well not bother mentioning that little detail. They’d hardly be able to find him on record anyway, not in 1943.

"Jeff. Who're you then?"

Andrew was surprised at how English he sounded. While he couldn’t quite place his accent, he was definitely from the Midlands somewhere. Andrew decided he liked his voice, soft though it was. Probably saving his strength.

"A friend. We've been sent to protect you," Andrew said.

Jeff looked at him, scrutinising his face. He knew a wounded soldier when he saw one. "Had too many folk tell me they're meh friend lately. Not sure I trust you."

Andrew almost wanted to question him then, but held back. There would be time for interrogation later. He wasn’t sure he trusted Jeff. "I never asked you to trust me. You're under our care now. You're coming with us."

"I suppose I don't have much choice in the matter, do I?" Jeff said.

"No, sir, you don't. You belong to us until we decide to let you go," Andrew said. "Do you feel up to walking?"

"I dunno. I ain't tried it yet."

"Get him a chair, matron. It'll make things easier," Andrew said, turning his attention back to the matron.

She didn't look too happy to be ordered about in her hospital, but she was hardly going to complain and left them to fetch a wheelchair. Neither Andrew or Jeff spoke until she was out of earshot.

"You with the Government or something?" Jeff said.

"His Majesty's Secret Service, though we seem to be doing more to keep His Majesty out of trouble than the country these days," Andrew said. "Save your strength. We'll talk more in private where there aren't so many people around."

 There was no choice but to accept Andrew's word. Silence fell between them until the matron returned. Just getting in the chair required more effort than Jeff expected and he was glad he hadn't had to walk. Making sure he had his things with him, Andrew wheeled him back to the truck outside. The two men Andrew had brought with him sat either side of Jeff, stopping him from trying to escape.

Jeff had been right. Sunlight was not kind at all to him and he covered his eyes the whole way, wishing he were back inside where it was dark. Jeff wasn’t sure where they were going, or if Andrew was even the right man to tell, but he wasn’t sure he had any other options. The two men either side of him didn’t acknowledge him at all, merely holding him firmly as if he were a prisoner. That they had bound his hands made him feel like an animal. Andrew had given the order with such apathy Jeff wondered what might happen to him when they arrived. Maybe Andrew was no friend to him at all. With no one to allay his fears, the silence in the truck was almost unbearable.

* * *

Cassie had reluctantly allowed herself to be taken to one of the surviving community halls that had become ever more frequently used to house those whose homes had been destroyed. People were slowly billeted out to other areas, or moved to other cities, as places became available. There wasn't enough room to keep everyone in the halls.

Cassie sat on the edge of the stage, wrapped in a blanket. Shock was beginning to set in. She'd lost everything. Sure, she was by no means the first or only person to have lost so much, but that didn't make it hurt any less. She wasn’t even sure where her mother was. She’d asked around, but no one had seen her.

 Bev brought her a cup of tea and they sat together, listening to the wireless that was on nearby, if only to create some sort of noise that meant no one had to sit there in silence. War reports were somehow strangely comforting, especially when they brought good news from the frontline.

"We'll be alright, Cas. We'll start again, just you and me," Bev said, an arm around her shoulders.

"How can we just start again? Where are we going to live? I'm sorry, I just... I can't think right now. It hurts too much."

He set his mug of tea down and brought her close, pressing a kiss to her forehead. "Don't worry, I'm not going anywhere. We'll get through this, one way or another. Never you mind about anything, alright?"

Cassie smiled. His optimism was beginning to get catchy. Maybe things would be okay, but she wasn't ready to see things that way, not yet. She leaned against him, thankful for his company. The wireless droned on. And then the stirring sounds of Beethoven's Fifth caught her attention. The familiar and calming voice of the Prime Minister began, and Cassie listened intently, hoping to find some sort of reason for this madness.

"...Last night, we were attacked by German air raids in London and all over the country in a sustained attack designed to bring on our surrender. Let me assure you that will not be the case. We are in the dreadful business of revenge now, and we will not leave them unpunished. For England, for glory, for-"

The signal died, leaving hissing static in its wake. No one spoke. It seemed like a terrible omen.

Somewhere, an older man laughed nervously. "Maybe the tower got hit. Technical difficulties and the like."

The man next to him nodded in agreement. "Of course. Technical difficulties. That has to be it. Maybe the thing's gone and got broke.”

"Must be sabotage. Wireless like that don't go and get broke just like that," a third man nearby countered. "I should know, I used to make 'em, years ago."

"Only thing you used to make was hard work, ya fat bastard," the second said, only half-joking.

"The only thing you were ever good for was lying about, you lazy arse," the third retorted.

One of the women who ran the shelter approached the two men. "Can we please keep a civil tongue in here? Haven't we got enough to deal with without you at each other's throats?"

They mumbled apologies, though Cassie wasn't sure exactly how heartfelt they were. Someone switched the wireless off. The silence in the air was deafening. Cassie shivered and let Bev hold her tight. Yes, technical difficulties. What else could it be? She pretended she didn't have other more sinister scenarios playing out in her head as she sipped her tea.
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Sashataakheru

September 2010

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