The sergeant got the squaddies all sorted out and lined up by the time the Hercules finished taxiing from the runway to wherever. By then Harry had made sure his stick was invisible inside his pack because it wasn't allowed in public. The men were organised purely by their remaining gear with no reference to what unit they belonged to. Because he had a full set of kit, Harry was in the first thirty off. They started off as soon as the back door lowered into a ramp even if the view didn't help.

Harry couldn't see where they were going since the ramp pointed back towards the runways. The first thing he noticed was the puff of vapour as everyone breathed out. Then the cold bit through his clothing, reminding Harry, and the rest, that it was January and they were no longer in a desert. The soldiers wheeled as instructed and came around the end of the plane, and into view of the terminus.

The view of the terminus wasn't quite as expected. Harry didn't actually think there would be a cheering crowd, but nobody at all in one of the busiest airports in England was eerie. Nobody seemed to be in any of the parked planes outside the terminal, and nobody behind the terminal windows. Not even staff or Army brass to greet them.

There was plenty of debris around the planes as they marched past and a lot of noise somewhere ahead. There weren't any footprints in the light snow. The place really was deserted, though still warm inside. The soldiers marched into the main hall and came to attention in ranks, and an officer appeared.

As soon as he spoke it was apparent from his voice that he was the one from the plane. "There has been a breakdown in law and order. Martial Law has been declared in London and the other major population centres, so we are unable to take you to your barracks yet. First the streets must be cleared. There are no shields or batons available, so we will use fixed bayonets."

"You are the British Army, and I trust you to uphold the traditions of that Army. Turn in your ammunition so there are no accidental discharges, and try to minimise casualties among the civilians. We will organise cover if firearms are used against you." He left and headed back through the terminal, and the sergeants began to split everyone up into squads.

"What about bricks and stuff, Sarge?" Harry had seen riots on the TV and they always included rocks and bricks. "Without shields we'll get beaten to death even with helmets." "Move your packs round to the front if possible. Take some gear out to lighten them, but nothing essential. I don't know if we're coming back here though your kitbags will catch up eventually." The solution spread down the line and a very small pile grew behind them. Most of what was in the packs was essential if they weren't coming back to collect it. The pack felt weird hung in front but was probably capable of stopping a brick.

"Right, you lot. Outside those doors are the taxi ranks and access roads. We go left, to where a fairly thin line of London Bobbies is trying to stop the citizens storming the planes."

"Why do they want the planes, Sarge?" Which was a good question since there were no pilots in evidence. Though another two planes had now landed.

"Since I'm a mushroom as well I wasn't told. Presumably because one of them thinks they can fly one of those bloody planes. Which they will not be allowed to do. Am I clear?" "Yes Sarge!" From most of the throats present.

"Let's get at it then, because there's another two planeloads coming through here to sort out any other little problems. Turn in your ammunition, now. " Harry really started to worry. What sort of unrest needed three planeloads of squaddies with bayonets?

Fall of the Cities

A new dystopian series based in the UK.

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