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Magestic

Copyright © Geoff Wolak

www.geoffwolak-writing.com

Part 12
An independent Scotland

Jimmy was no big fan of the idea of Wales or Scotland becoming


fully independent from England. Both of these countries now ran
their own parliaments, but with limited powers. What they did have
plenty of, were nationalistic politicians that believed they could do a
better job of it. Well, all politicians thought that till the time came,
and then screwed up just like the rest.
The case for Scottish nationalists was that Scotland had North
Sea oilfields, even if those oilfields were in the dying throes of their
life. They believed that Scotland could, and should, be a small and
rich nation based on that oil presence. That was a belief and a hope,
not a certainty. The Scottish National Party, the SNP, wanted to
break away from Great Britain, after which all would be rosy north
of the border. Forget the fact that they had one of the lowest life
expectancies in Europe, a high obesity rate, and even higher alcohol
and drug rate, plus large estates full of unemployed people.
Jimmy voiced an opinion on the matter, without wishing to get
involved with local politics. The SNP, however, wished to debate
the matter, after Jimmy had used a few hard words to describe them.
He had likened them to Nazis, and those were the printable
comments.
When asked by a journalist if he would debate the matter with the
SNP, Jimmy replied, ‘They would walk out of the interview, they
certainly wouldn’t answer my questions. Their belief in their ability
to run an independent Scotland is just that – a belief with no
substance. They have no plan for what they’d do after independence,
other than ask Europe for money.’
The blue touch paper had been lit. A senior figure in the SNP
agreed to debate the matter, and we travelled up to London on a fine
June day. I aired caution, but Jimmy said that it was an issue that
needed airing. The SNP’s candidate, Mick Chandler, refused to
shake Jimmy’s hand in the studio. We were off to a good start.
Helen and I sat in a side room to observe the taping of the show.
Once the adversaries had tested their microphones, Jimmy kicked
things off, the interview technically his, the questions his, although
he came with no prepared notes. ‘Mister Chandler, may I call you
Mick?’
‘Sure,’ the man conceded, amicable now that the cameras were
on.
‘Mick, why do you desire an independent Scotland?’
Straight forward enough so far.
‘All countries should be independent. Scotland used to be
independent, the union with England was forced upon us.’
‘True, and I agree with you, but in most cases I’d rather see
countries coming together than splitting apart. What role would you
see for the European Union?’
‘An independent Scotland would be part of the European Union,
it’s something that we’re very much in favour of.’
‘So you’d give up being told what to do by London in favour of
being told what to do by Brussels?’
‘Countries within Europe have far greater freedom –’
‘And some have far greater unemployment, and a low standard of
living. European Union membership does not guarantee a great
quality of life. Talk to the Portuguese, the Greeks or the Baltic
States, they’re in Europe – and struggling, as well as now
questioning the benefits of membership. It’s not all rosy.’
‘No, but Scotland has great potential, and we’re starting from a
more modern industrial base –’
‘And you think you have North Sea oil.’
‘We do have north sea oil, something that we should have
benefited from over the past forty years.’
‘How?’
‘The oil revenue should have come to us.’
‘Did you pay the billions it cost to explore the North Sea? Did
you pay the billions it cost for the oilrigs to be built and operated?
The revenue you would have received is far lower than you might
expect, because you would have had to allow in foreign oil
companies – to do what you could have never afforded.’
‘It would still have been better than what we did receive,’
Chandler countered.
‘Really? Scotland has been a large net receiver of British taxes
since the last war, the English subsidising you. You’re top-heavy
with unemployed, operating an old industrial base that has been left
behind as the world has moved on. How will you balance the
shortfall between taxable income and your social bill?’
‘By re-organising our industrial base and workforce with money
from North Sea oil.’
‘OK, let’s assume that North Sea oil lasts longer than I think it
will, and that London hands over to you tens of billions of pounds
worth of oil rigs and refinement plants without a fight – or would
you nationalise the refineries – a breach of EU law?’
‘We would not nationalise the refineries, they’re run by private
companies like BP and Shell.’
‘So you’d just grab the oil rigs, also owned by BP and Shell?’
‘No, no private property would be grabbed.’
‘So you would just take your cut of the oil revenue, as London
does now.’
‘Yes, as the proper owners of the oil,’ Chandler agreed.
‘OK, so on day one of an independent - a supposedly richer
Scotland, the English military withdraws, closing all bases in
Scotland, a loss of some thirty thousand well paid jobs. How will
you cope with those jobs losses.’
‘Why would the bases close?’
‘Because apart from Germany and Cyprus - with their particular
histories - England does not keep military bases in other EU
countries, especially not when they’re fighting over North Sea oil.
So I’m pretty sure that all military bases would close and move
south, a massive loss of jobs and taxable income for you.’
‘It would be an adjustment to be considered at the time.’
‘Are you saying that you haven’t thought through independence
properly?’
‘Not at all –’
‘Then answer the question. What will you do when all military
bases close?’
‘We’ll adapt and carry on, new jobs in new industries.’
‘And if Russian bombers strayed close to Northern Scotland?
Who would scramble to meet them?’
‘An independent Scotland would be part of Europe, and within its
defence treaty –’
‘The European Union doesn’t have a defence treaty, so you’d be
on your own to start with. And English jet fighters would not
scramble to aid you, no more so than they would for Southern
Ireland. They might for Denmark or Norway, because they’re
members of NATO. Would an independent Scotland be a part of
NATO?’
‘It’s something we would consider at the time –’
‘Again, you have not thought it through. Yes or no, part of
NATO or not? Because if you are a part of NATO then you’d be
expected to maintain a suitable army, navy, and your own air force;
all very expensive items. You can’t be NATO in name only; it’s a
two-way street. You’d be happy to have a US bomber base in
Scotland?’
‘No, we’re not in favour of having US bombers in Scotland.’
‘So you’d not get NATO entry, and you’d be defenceless. Fine,
you’re choice. Moving on, what’s your definition of a Scottish
national – someone with the right to reside there?’
‘They would have to be born in Scotland, as with any other
country.’
‘So if Scottish parents working in England have a baby, it would
not be Scottish or allowed to live there?’
‘It would be allowed, because the child’s parents are Scottish.’
‘And if one parent was Scottish?’ Jimmy asked.
‘That would have to be decided.’
‘Again, you haven’t thought it through, you’re guessing what
you’ll do.’
‘Not at all –’
‘So one parent – allowed to reside or not?’
‘It would be decided in proper debate, since we don’t have that
issue yet.’
‘You already offer free university places, England doesn’t.
Would a child of a single Scottish parent be allowed to get a place?’
‘Again, that would be debated when the problem arises.’
‘And English people living in Scotland, could they send their kids
to university there free of charge?’
‘If the child was born in Scotland.’
‘Could an English citizen - already working in Scotland, who
becomes unemployed after independence, claim benefit there?’
‘That would depend on their status, and the years they had paid
national insurance in Scotland.’
‘Fair enough. And the five million people, either Scottish – or
with a Scottish parent, currently living in England and Wales –
they’d no longer qualify to claim benefits or tax credits in England,
and would need a new passport, obtained in Edingburg, and would
need to exchange pounds to Euros when they popped home for a
visit, passports shown at the border.’
‘The adoption of the Euro is something we would decide at time,
given the economic circumstances.’
‘Given that it may be just a few short years away, perhaps the
people of Scotland deserve to know now. Scottish pounds or Euros?’
‘I’ll not be drawn on it.’
‘How would you organise Scottish people living south of the
border, returning to be registered for new passports?’
‘That’s a logistical process that we would plan for.’
‘Do you think England would expel them?’ Jimmy asked.
‘Why would they?’
‘They’d become non-citizens of England as soon as you declare
independence. Their British passports would be void, no use to
travel abroad. So they’d all have to travel to Edinburgh to get fresh
passports, proving their heritage – where they could. Could a
Scottish person born in England have an English passport, but live in
Scotland and claim benefits?’
‘Again, it would be looked at.’
‘Right now there are five million people watching this
programme who’re wondering where they stand. Do they not have a
right to know? ’
‘I won’t be drawn on theoretical scenarios –’
‘It’s not theoretical, they’re sat watching. And what of people
who consider themselves Scottish, but whose parents were born in
England, do they get passports? Surely not.’
‘You muddying the waters with small detail.’
‘That’s the problem with two countries that have been
intertwined for hundreds of years: where do you draw the line? Who
is Scottish, and gets free tuition fees, and who doesn’t qualify? The
population of Scotland is around three million, a sizeable minority
being English, or born in England. There are then five million
people who could claim a Scottish passport, and if they chose to
move back you’d have to support more than twice the population,
and all the benefits, tax credits and health service.
‘Truth is, there are more Scottish people and their children living
and working in England than there are in Scotland itself. Their taxes
go to London, not to you, now or afterwards. And if the break with
England was acrimonious then you could have a lot of people being
made redundant south of the border. Your businesses would also
need to pay export duties when trying to sell their goods south of the
border. You could end up with a great many unemployed people on
your hands. ’
‘These are all things that our parliament would debate –’
‘You may not have a choice. Some of those choices would be
made for you by England, where most of your citizens live and
work. The London Government may wish to limit the number of
foreign workers. But let me ask you this? If the Scottish economy
was not doing well, would you consider it OK for Scottish people to
look south of the border for work?’
‘They enjoy that right and freedom under EU law.’
‘And if Scotland was doing better than it is now, under your
excellent leadership, would English citizens be allowed to take the
good jobs north of the border – as they do now?’
‘They have that freedom.’
‘So, not much would change really under your excellent
leadership. The economy would be the same.’
‘Not at all, we aim to make far reaching changes –’
‘For the benefit of Scottish citizens, creating jobs that the English
can then come up and take. All your hard work, and you’ll be
creating jobs for well qualified English graduates. Unless you wish
to state here and now that job protectionism will take place … illegal
under EU law.’
‘Under EU law … we would not practise job protectionism.’
‘But you’d like to, otherwise why improve the Scottish economy
for some else’s benefit. So, once independent, you’ll use North Sea
oil revenue to create a Scottish utopia, with all the good jobs going
to the English, Welsh and Europeans. Very kind of you, very …
charitable.’
‘It would not work out like that –’
‘So you would protect jobs?’
‘That may be an option.’
‘Which would be reciprocated by London, and five million Scots
would have to move north, walking all over the flowers of your new
utopia … and destroying your economy. If you have ever wondered
why there are so many immigrants in England, it’s because things
here are pretty good. If you do a good job for your citizens, then that
very porous EU border will be open to people moving north and
absorbing all the extra wealth that you’ll create for your own
Scottish citizens. So why bother? The better you do, the more
immigrants you’ll have to cope with. North Sea oil revenue will be
assisting them, not you.’
‘If immigration was an issue then we’d look at it.’
‘Not under EU law you wouldn’t. And if you’re out of Europe
you’re then you’re on your own, no money from London or
Brussels. Would you be begging the IMF for loans?’
Chandler offered Jimmy a flat palm. ‘We’ll be a member of the
European Union, with all citizen rights protected.’
‘Then you’ll be working for nothing, because the better you do
the more immigrants – and English - you’ll attract. Thank you,
Mick, you’ve clarified in my mind what a charitable group the
Scottish are.’ Jimmy reached across and shook the man’s hand, and
stood.
Leaving the studio I said, ‘They’re fucked either way.’
‘That’s the thing about the European Union, a sharing of
responsibility and wealth. You can’t get ahead without sharing it
around.’
‘What’ll happen now?’
‘Now, their angry citizens will wish to protect Scottish jobs,
which will help to refine their approach. Their politicians can’t be
seen to be protecting jobs, but don’t dare not protect them. I just
introduced them to the real would of European politics: damned if
you do, damned if you don’t, and damned if you sit and think about
it.’
‘You … going to get involved in the future?’
‘Not really, it just pisses me off – regions wanting to break away,
thinking they can do a better job of it. You’ve got the nationalists in
Northern Ireland, Czechoslovakia split in two, northern Italy wants
to break away from the south. It’s all bollocks. The politicians there,
they’re like heart surgeons saying to a patient: we’ve not done this
before, but we’re hopeful.
‘If, and when, the world economy goes to shit, lots of regions will
break away and put up roadblocks, starting with Texas, Alaska and
Hawaii.’

Boot camp

A few weeks later we hopped on a night flight down to Goma hub,


catching a connection to the airfield used by USAF Transport
Command, and finally a coach around to the new infantry base, the
first four hundred American soldiers in place and making friends
with the creepy crawlies. Rows of uniform, yet simple huts stretched
out into the distance, a few brick buildings now under constriction.
Their commanding officer called together the officers and NCOs,
many of the men in this first batch aiming to become instructors in
the future.
Jimmy stood on the bonnet of a jeep to address the assembled
men. ‘Welcome to the jungle. And that jungle is not as frightening
as it may seem at first glance; some people make it their home. They
go to sleep in it each night, they hunt in it, they have sex in it, and
they raise their families in it. To them, it’s not so scary.
‘To you, it’s a hostile environment … until such time as you
decide that it’s not. And that’s all you need to do, you need to decide
that you can master the jungle, and tame it. Members of the Rifles
are dropped into the jungle naked, in groups of two or three, a
hundred miles from the nearest road. They carry nothing with them.
And, as the Rifles say: if you can’t make it back – we don’t want
you back!
‘To them it’s a big joke, and a game. To most western soldiers
it’s a nightmare come true, and probably a death sentence. The
difference … is one of a little training, and a big shift in your state of
mind.
‘You’re here … to try and see how the Rifles do what they do so
well, and possibly to emulate that training for yourselves and your
men in the future. But you fine gentlemen didn’t grow up sleeping
on the floor with the insects. You did not eat with your fingers, go
hungry, and be beaten a lot. That, gentlemen, cannot be reproduced
in a training schedule, nor should it be attempted. The fact is, nice
white western soldiers cannot do what the Rifles can do, and for that
you should be grateful.
‘So are we saying that you could never reach their level? Well,
it’s a case of … would you wish to? Your political paymasters do a
good job of making sure that you grow up in nice safe environments,
and that you don’t sleep on the floor. Otherwise, what’s the point of
a successful and civilised western democracy?
‘The question that you’re now thinking, is can a western soldier
be trained to overcome his soft upbringing? The answer is partly
yes, in that British and American Special Forces personnel are
mostly capable of walking out of the jungle. But they represent a
small fraction of your men. And a group of British or American
Special Forces soldiers would not win against the Rifles.
‘To understand that, consider this: the training programme for the
Rifles is equivalent to your paratroopers, followed by your Rangers,
followed by your Green Berets, followed by Delta Force. That’s
followed by extensive jungle, desert and mountain warfare training
programmes. And that, gentlemen, is what every basic infantryman
in the Rifles goes through, the best of whom are selected for the
Pathfinders.
‘All of the Rifles have been injected with the super-drug, and are
fit enough to run a marathon and break a world record. They get up
at 5am each day and go for a twenty-mile run. After breakfast, they
start the day’s training, and don’t finish till 7pm, where they then
start educational studies or educational games. Those finish around
11pm, when they have time to clean up and have a beer. Theirs, is a
working day of around fifteen hours, and during basic training
they’re not given time to think.
‘Each soldier is trained on all of the world’s weapons: pistols,
rifles, machineguns, mortars, and artillery pieces. They’re taught to
drive a variety of vehicles, from jeeps to tanks, and their annual
allowance for ammunition would stagger you. In the west, soldiers
may go months without firing a shot. The Rifles will fire most every
day for two years during basic training.
‘In the west, we have an emphasis on self-training, and self-
discipline. Here, we don’t rely on such things. The Rifles philosophy
is to use every minute of the day, whereas in the west you’ll find
soldiers sat around a lot of the time. That … is your first key
difference. If you were to start afresh with new recruits, you should
design a programme that allows them no time to think.
‘The Rifles are also taught through the playing of games, similar
to the techniques employed by Rescue Force. Around a large field a
number of tables would be set up. At each is an NCO with a
weapon, or a book, or a piece of equipment. Teams run around the
field, stopping at each table. They may be required to strip a
weapon, find a fault, or answer a question. The teams compete for
prizes, and these games can take eight hours, all the time the soldiers
kept so busy they don’t notice the passing of time. That, is your
second key difference.
‘The final difference, is one of culture and motivation. The Rifles
have a great camaraderie: the Regiment is home and family, friends
and fun, work and relaxation all in one. To be threatened with being
kicked out is enough to strike terror into any of our soldiers. But that
in itself is not enough to explain the main difference between them
… and you.
‘Consider the following scenario. A four-man team of Special
Forces soldiers reaches its objective, but two are killed and one
wounded. What does the last able-bodied man do? He helps his
wounded buddy out, writes a book about what a hero he was and
lives happily ever after. The Rifles would press home the attack,
even if it meant certain death, they’ll never give up.
‘Now consider World War Two, and the same scenario on D-
Day. Would the last man have given up? Probably not, because he
knew what was at stake; his life may have saved a hundred others.
So what’s the difference between D-Day, and now? The answer is
one of no war, no particular enemy, so no motivation to make a
grand gesture and a sacrifice.
‘So how do you, officers and NCOs, train and motivate men to
fight to those standards in a small war, in a country that is not a
threat to the US of A? How do you motivate your soldiers to fight to
the end? The answer is – you can’t, and should probably not try to.
But, when a real threat arrives, you’ll find some meek individuals
willing to give all in that fight. You cannot artificially reproduce the
kind of scenario where someone would lay down their life without a
strong motivation.
‘The Rifles do not wear body armour, they don’t wear helmets,
and they don’t stop if their colleagues are wounded. They learn early
on that to take the objective will stop their friends from being killed.
Stopping to give first aid will simply create even more wounded on
the battlefield. They also learn tactics that are very different from
yours. In some ways, you could say that they sneak around more
than patrolling in lines, riding in jeeps – and generally letting the
enemy know where they are.
‘They would not simply exchange machinegun fire, or mortar
fire, from fixed positions. They hate static positions, and their
philosophy is one of gaining the advantage where possible – a tactic
more akin to your Special Forces than your basic infantry. They’re
happy to pick off the enemy, run and hide, and try again later,
instead of mounting a frontal assault. It’s about winning, not sticking
to rules and conventions, or gentlemanly conduct. They’ll use
decoys and set traps as part of basic infantry manoeuvres, something
that you’ll not see in western armies. To understand the Rifles,
you’ll have to grasp that the objective is everything, the tactics
employed don’t matter.’ He jumped down and we led the
commanding officer away.
‘An interesting approach, both for you and the Rifles,’ the man
commented.
Jimmy replied, ‘A hundred years ago, men stood in neat straight
lines in red and yellow uniforms and fired at each other. It’s taken a
while to get away from that, and to fight more like the Indians - than
General Custer and his men. The job … is to get the job done, not to
stick to formations and procedures on the battlefield.’
‘You think we won’t meet their standards?’
‘Your Special Forces already do – to a degree, and British Special
Forces teach the Rifles. The point is, you shouldn’t attempt to
reproduce their mindset, or your soldiers will go home on leave and
start killing their neighbours. When you take a nice white boy and
brutalise him, he goes psycho. The Rifles don’t.’
‘So … you think this mission is doomed?’
‘Any mission … needs an objective, clearly defined, in order to
reach that objective. What, exactly, is your mission … as far as
you’ve been told.’
‘Well, we tried to train the Liberian Rifles, and failed before you
got involved with them. That caused a few harsh words in the
Pentagon. And we’ve seen what your boys can do. So it’s a mix of
the two: how we could train a proxy army, and be more like them.’
‘That’s politics, that’s not an objective,’ Jimmy stated. ‘Your
objective … is to win the engagement, to kill the enemy – in
whatever theatre of conflict you find yourself. So, I’ll make it easy
for you. Follow my training manual, take the experience and
benefits that it gives your men, but never try and be something that
you’re not. Your soldiers want to go home to their wives and
girlfriends, to serve a few years and learn a trade before getting a
civilian job. You can’t treat them as we treat Rifles. So don’t.’
‘But after a few years of this, we’d be able to recruit and train our
own proxy army?’
‘Most definitely.’
We did not stay long, and flew back after an hour-long chat,
reclaiming our rooms at the golf hotel. Several ministers came
across to petition us for various things, before we made it clear that
anyone just turning up would be buried in the foundations of the
new marina. Still, we chatted to half a dozen ministers about various
projects, and I must admit that I found giving general pointers easier
than scanning reports and making my own decisions in my office.
At 1am, sat in the quiet rooftop bar, I said to Jimmy, ‘Do you
ever wonder what happened to the younger you?’
‘Younger … me?’
‘You said he went to Canada, forwards in time.’
‘You shouldn’t believe everything I say; the right lie to the right
people at the right time. He didn’t go anywhere, I killed him.’
I faced Jimmy, beer in my hand. ‘You … killed your younger
self?’
Jimmy nodded, reflecting on the past.
‘Would that not cause some sort of paradox?’
‘No.’
‘So … how?’ I gently nudged.
‘I appeared in that field in Canada, suitable passport with visa
stamp, plenty of money, a few diamonds. I waited till nightfall and
walked to the nearest town, trying not to be seen. I hopped on an
overnight bus - in Canada they don’t stop at night. At the next large
town I hopped on a train, couple of days to reach Toronto.
In Toronto I bought a suitcase, then some clothes, a toiletries bag,
the works. I bought a second camera and took snaps, having them
developed, bought a few postcards and maps, and made like a tourist
for two weeks, buying a plane ticket and flying to London.
‘In London, I grabbed a hotel room as a base, then caught the
train down to Cardiff, to see if my younger self was where he should
have been. You see, in late 1984 my original self got a job at
stockbrokers in Cardiff. I did quite well and eventually landed a job
in London, but I had four weeks between jobs. I had moved out from
my patents house and was living in a small bedsit in the Roath area
of Cardiff; student land.
‘I spied on my younger self, saw what his hairstyle looked like,
any marks on his face or hands. Happy with that, I knocked on his
door late one night and shocked him. I told him that I was him from
the future, and listed off a few things that only we would know.
When he wasn’t looking I broke his neck. In the early hours I
dragged his body out to the car I had hired and dumped the body
where I knew it wouldn’t be found.
‘Back in his apartment I squeezed into his clothes, then bought a
few more the next day. I rang my mum and made small talk, but
avoided seeing her till I moved to London and started at McKinleys
– and the managers there had only met me once. I worked in London
for two months, telling my mum I’d put on weight and that I was
working out at the gym a lot, finally going back to Newport to stay
for a week.
‘They saw the difference, but put it down to London and the extra
weight, and gym training. After that, it was a case of start ticking
boxes.’
‘Why replace yourself like that? Why take the risk?’ I puzzled.
‘How would it look if the world’s intelligence agencies couldn’t
verify my past?’
‘Well, yeah, they’d definitely think you a fucking alien!’
‘So I had to slip back into the timeline.’
‘What would have become of him?’
‘He would have grown into an arsehole. He’d have stayed with
the wrong girls … and left the one he should have stayed with. He
would have … made a lot of mistakes. You wouldn’t have liked my
younger self; it took me sixty years to finally figure it all out, and to
be comfortable with myself.’
‘You spend a lot of time thinking,’ I noted. ‘If you haven’t
figured it all out yet, what hope for the rest of us?’
He laughed, staring into his beer. ‘I’ll let you in on a great secret.’
He faced me. ‘I’m not even supposed to be here.’
I stared at him. ‘What?’ I puzzled, a heavy frown forming.
‘I’ll explain it at some point. But my stepping through the portal -
not quite what it may seem.’
I was not looking forwards to the next day’s political activities,
but it had to be done. We travelled the short distance around to the
Pentagon building and spent the entire day meeting ministers, glad
to be out the door at 5pm. But after our evening meal it started
again, Yuri and Marko introducing us to new business partners
involved with the shopping centre project.
We were then approached by an Indian businessmen, a hotel
guest, playing golf and enjoying the facilities. Thinking him a guest,
I invited him to sit. We soon discovered that he was from South
Africa, and owned a chain of washing machine factories both in
South Africa and India. And could he open one here?
I was starting to wonder if the place had a bad name; of course he
could open one here. But when I cautioned him about a small market
and a poor populace, I answered my own question about peoples’
attitude to the region. Our region was growing, but it was not a great
market for luxury goods.
Turned out that his washing machines were quite cheap by
western standards, and that he sold many around Africa. I offered
him free land, fifty percent of his factory construction costs – not
including plant and machinery, and a two year tax break. He thanked
me for that, but what he was really interested in was cheap plastic,
rubber and steel – the raw ingredients of an African housewife’s
wobbly washing machine.
With Jimmy sat watching, but not interfering, I said, ‘How about
this: we create a joint venture, and split the profits. That way, I have
no problem about giving you the materials at raw cost, which is just
about zero in some cases.’
‘What percentage?’ the businessman asked.
‘What would you say was reasonable … if I was hanging you out
of a helicopter by your ankles?’
The man laughed. ‘I’d say sixty-forty to you in recognition of the
raw materials, and my forty percent represents my network, and
expertise.’
‘You’ll have a two year deal, then a review.’ We shook hands.
With the businessman gone, I asked Jimmy what he thought.
‘Our aim is to create jobs, and to give back to the people - so fine.
At the moment, people here import stuff like that, and it’s not
cheap.’
Suffering further approaches for the next hour, I called over two
of the bodyguards, and they stood between us - and those interested
in talking to us.
Old Goma town was our first call in the morning, a short flight
over. In a large field northeast of the town, a new town in itself had
sprung up, hundreds of the self-assembly huts now laid out in neat
rows. Accompanied by a resident RF team, we wandered along and
greeted householders, enquiring if they had everything they needed,
and finding them all smiles. The RF team then informed us that
many of the new happy householders had been in tin shacks prior to
the explosion and fire. These huts were a significant step up.
In the town itself, we stopped and stared up at tall yellow cranes,
an apartment block – or ten – in progress. I recognised the design;
four storeys, twenty apartments per block. The mayor of the town
welcomed us, thanking us for all our help. Well, since the bomb was
aimed at us, it was the least we could do.
In Gotham City, the marina was coming along, an army of local
builders toiling over it. The large round concrete swimming pool
would, someday soon, be a marina. Now, it was dry and deep.
‘Why so fucking deep?’ I asked Jimmy.
‘To get sailboats in, keels of four metres.’
‘That’s a big boat!’
‘That’s … Yuri and Marko measuring their dicks. Still, it’ll be
nice to see them sat here. Otherwise it would just be speedboats.’
The basic shape of the bars and cafes could be discerned from
their foundations, and we’d name the place after Shelly as promised:
Shelly’s Marina.
A quarter-mile by coach brought us to another building site, a
more important one. The canal we found was again a large empty
concrete swimming pool, the deep foundations for our stock
exchange being laid, a second building taking shape next to it.
Progress.
‘Will the stock exchange be busy?’ I asked Jimmy.
‘Yes, because they’ll trade on all the world’s exchanges, plus our
own metals, ore and oil market. Oh, and diamonds.’
‘Will that piss off the Israelis?’
‘Not at all, they’ll be running it. I’ll make contact with the main
merchants in Amsterdam soon. African women like jewellery, so I’ll
persuade someone to open a factory or two down here.’
‘I mentioned this place to McKinleys. They’ve already bought a
few spare apartments ready, they can’t wait.’
‘I think we could attract two thousand traders at least,’ Jimmy
suggested. ‘They’ll be followed by buyers.’
‘Buyers?’ I queried.
‘Raw material buyers. They’ll look at oil, ore and metal ingots,
and haggle for them here, arranging their own transport out. Take
that Indian factory. Their buyer would sit around a pit and, when a
new batch of steel was ready, they’d bid for it. At the moment, the
people buying the raw materials we produce are at the end of a
phone or computer. Down here they’ll have a team trying to get the
best deals. Same for our food produce in the future.’
Back at the hotel, we took a call from the African Times editor; a
car bomb had gone off in Somalia. Jimmy rang the head of PACT,
only to find out that two Sudanese agents had been picked up thirty
miles from Mawlini. The men had been gainfully employed scouting
for an attack.
Jimmy told the man, ‘I want a line of men on the border, from
Kinshasa to the Red Sea. Deploy the Rifles, and put all of my
interests on alert.’
‘They’ll strike back at us?’ I asked when Jimmy had lowered his
phone.
‘And they deserve to,’ Jimmy softly stated. ‘And, what’s more, I
don’t want to do anymore damage to Sudan.’
‘You wanted to drive a wedge,’ I pointed out.
‘It’s … easy to see things in the 2025 perspective, and to react
accordingly. But, part of me hopes that we can chart another course,
that maybe 2025 can be dealt with quietly. And … I don’t always
like pitching nations against each other for 2025 posturing –
innocent civilians getting clobbered in the process. I know it’s
wrong for 2025, but we could have seen a few more years of peace.’
Jimmy called Abdi, getting the details of the car bomb. A busy
market had been hit, a hundred injured, thirty dead so far. We sat in
the rooftop bar, a fine day, and slowly ate lunch, not much said. I
could see Jimmy struggling with the turn of events, not least because
he had caused them. But the bad news had not ended; this episode
was only just getting warmed up.
After lunch, we packed ready to leave, our cases now with the
bodyguards. In reception, Jimmy took a call, the detail causing him
to close his eyes for a moment. He faced me. ‘A civilian airliner has
crashed in Mogadishu. It ploughed into the city centre.’
‘That’s no coincidence,’ I quietly stated.
‘No.’ Jimmy stared at his phone for a few seconds, then dialled
Forward Base. ‘What aircraft do you have on the apron?’
They indicated a 737 headed for Mawlini.
‘I want that plane, hold it, we’re on our way.’
He told the senior bodyguard to take us around to the airport, and
to grab Hueys for the short hop down to Forward Base. The Hueys
were sat waiting when we arrived, their rotors turning. With the
bodyguards carrying our luggage, we ducked our heads and jogged
across to the open doors, soon on our way to Forward Base across
lush green countryside, Jimmy oddly quiet.
At Forward Base we boarded the waiting 737, our luggage simply
placed between seats. The plane was not full, and contained the
usual mix of RF staff, Rifles or UN staff. With the door closed,
Jimmy grabbed the passenger tanoy.
‘Ladies and gentlemen, a plane had crashed in Mogadishu. We’re
going to detour there, after which this plane will carry on to
Mawlini. Sorry for the inconvenience.’
When the plane was airborne, and the seatbelt sign was off,
Hacker appeared next to us. ‘Guys,’ he acknowledged.
‘Hey, stranger,’ I offered. ‘Where you working these days?’
‘Teaching in Cuba mostly, but I run courses here. Are we
deploying to this plane crash?’
Jimmy said, ‘There’re plenty of RF staff based around
Mogadishu. Nothing we can do in time.’
‘Was it a crash on landing?’ Hacker innocently asked.
‘No,’ Jimmy said after I glanced at him. ‘We think maybe a
bomb, or terrorists.’
‘And there was a car bomb this morning,’ I put in.
‘Sudan kicking back?’ Hacker knowingly asked.
‘Perhaps,’ Jimmy replied. ‘Maybe al-Qa’eda. Either way, it’s bad
for Somalia – and the region.’
With Hacker seated, I wandered along the isle, greeting people
and chatting, finding a few familiar faces. Touching down at
Mogadishu airport, we lugged our cases down the steps, our
bodyguards joined by Somali Pathfinders, a bus waiting. Only then
did I think to call home and explain the situation. At least Helen and
the girls had not boarded the coach to meet me at the airport.
At our hotel, we found an empty suite, our luggage dumped
before we headed around the government buildings. Abdi had
visited the crash scene earlier, but now greeted us, dressed in his odd
general’s uniform, wide shoulders and much braid.
‘Many dead,’ he simply reported.
‘Whose airline?’ I asked.
‘Oman Airlines,’ he reported. ‘A hundred people on the aircraft.’
‘And on the ground?’ Jimmy asked.
‘The aircraft hit an apartment block being built, so no people
living in the rooms. Maybe sixty builders hurt or killed, some people
on the street, taxis. And this an hour from the car bomb!’
‘No coincidence,’ Jimmy agreed.
‘You think it is Sudan?’ Abdi asked.
‘We picked up Sudanese men near Mawlini,’ I put in.
‘I have thirty thousand men on the border!’ Abdi warned, a finger
raised. ‘They will not get through.’
‘Sudan may not be behind the attacks,’ Jimmy suggested to Abdi,
and I had to wonder the logic of that. But I kept quiet. ‘I think
maybe al-Qa’eda wanting revenge for Sudan.’
‘So we need to go back to Afghanistan?’ Abdi asked.
‘I hope not,’ Jimmy stated.
A man rushed in, shouting in the local language. Abdi faced us as
the man retreated. ‘Gunman had entered a hospital, they hold it
hostage.’
‘Don’t go near it,’ Jimmy insisted as he raised his phone. ‘Get the
Pathfinders and snipers, but don’t enter the hospital.’ Into his phone,
Jimmy said, ‘Ngomo, gunmen have captured a hospital in
Mogadishu. Have EMPs brought from Scorpion Base, and the new
counter-hostage toy. Quick as you can, my friend.’
‘We hit the hospital electrics first,’ Abdi realised.
‘I have another trick,’ Jimmy suggested. ‘We’ll see how it works
before we destroy a hospital full of equipment. I’ll need a command
post near the hospital.’
‘I will arrange it,’ Abdi faithfully promised as he lifted a desk
phone.
Jimmy dialled Mapley in the UK. ‘Bob, Jimmy. I want Rescue
Force Alpha from Mawlini - in Mogadishu - ten minutes ago.’ He
hung up.
‘A Chinook could be here quickly,’ I suggested.
‘That, or a C130 Hercules.’
Fifteen minutes later we joined a well-protected convoy and
ventured through the traffic to a city centre hotel. On the top floor of
the hotel we tried to commandeer a room. But as the guests from this
floor we’re being ushered out, Jimmy recognised a face. He lunged
forwards and grabbed the tan skinned man about the throat,
slamming the man against a wall.
‘Stop all the guests from leaving,’ Jimmy barked as he held the
man. ‘Move them all to a secure site.’ With the bodyguards close by,
Jimmy threw the man into a vacant room.
The bodyguards righted the man and held him. ‘Why are you
here? To watch the hospital? To warn them when our people are
ready? What?’
The man defiantly resisted.
Jimmy closed in on the man. ‘Do you know what the Somali
Rifles will do to you?’ The man struggled, but would not speak.
‘Take him out, make him talk.’
Abdi shouted orders.
Jimmy glanced out of the window, the hospital three hundred
yards away across scrubland. ‘Why was he here?’ he quietly asked I
as drew level.
‘Radio the gunmen,’ I suggested. ‘Let them know what the police
are up to.’
‘Which would suggest a long siege. Why a long siege?’ He faced
Abdi. ‘Is this the best building to watch the hospital from?’
‘Yes,’ Abdi responded.
‘Which would make it an ideal spot for a police command post,
which our friend probably knew. Evacuate! Now! Everyone out –
it’s booby-trapped!’
In a mad jumble, we made it to the foyer before the first blast hit,
taking out much of the top floor, showering us in glass.
‘Run!’ Jimmy encouraged, everyone making a mad dash up the
street in a disorganised rabble; police, bodyguards and terrified
guests. As we reached a corner the hotel restaurant blew, the hotel
now well alight.
Jimmy lifted his phone, dialling Mapley. ‘Bob, it’s Jimmy. I want
Rescue Force Kenya moved to Mogadishu airport as an emergency
deployment. All of them!’ He hung up and dialled again. ‘It’s Silo. I
want a full mobilisation of the Pathfinders. I want as many as
possible in Mogadishu.’
He faced Abdi, grabbing him by the shoulder. ‘Get on the radio,
tell all citizens to stay indoors! Have the police announce it with
loud hailers.’
Abdi stepped away and lifted his phone.
Jimmy grabbed a Somali officer. Pointing, he asked, ‘What’s that
building?’
‘A government building, sir.’
‘C’mon, that’s our new base. Let everyone know.’ Jimmy led
everyone off at the jog, soon at the bland government building and
up to its top floor. The office we selected afforded us a modest view
of the hospital.
‘Why haven’t they blown-up the hospital yet?’ I asked.
‘They want something, something more than just that,’ Jimmy
suggested as he stared across at the hospital. ‘They may be setting
booby-traps.’
‘They want to kill the Pathfinders when they storm the place,’ I
put in.
Jimmy heaved a sigh. ‘Yes.’
Fifteen minutes later we were set-up, radios and phones, satellite
phones, a dozen Somali officials, senior Pathfinder officers.
A Kenyan Pathfinder officer appeared with an NCO. Lobster.
‘We have the device, sir.’
‘We’ll need someone to get close with it,’ Jimmy stated.
‘I will do it, sir,’ Lobster offered.
‘You know the settings?’ Jimmy asked.
‘Yes, sir.’
‘First, we must play their game. They want us to wait for their
own reasons, we wish to wait for our reasons.’
‘Sniper report,’ an officer cut in with. Reading from a sheet, the
man said, ‘Eight men, AK47 rifles, three seem to have explosive
vests, and they are fixing explosives to the stairs from floor number
two and higher.’
‘And the spider said to the flies, come to me,’ Jimmy loudly
stated. He approached the window. ‘Contact your best sniper, and
ask him to shoot out all of the windows on the north side, but to do it
slowly, and without hurting anyone.’
‘Yes, sir.’
I closed in on him. ‘Won’t that spook them? They may blow it
up?’
‘First, it helps the device if the windows are gone. Second, we
need the Somalia Army to behave like the Somali Army.’
Jimmy opened a window, the echo report of a fired round
registering with us a few seconds later. He faced the assembled men.
‘Now we wait like the spider … till the medics are here.’ He pointed
at Lobster. ‘Go and find a way to get within two hundred yards, but
no closer.’
Lobster dashed out.
‘Will an EMP help?’ I whispered.
‘It’s not an EMP,’ Jimmy revealed.
‘Ah.’
Twenty minutes later, the air reverberated with the sounds of
heavy helicopters, our Chinooks landing nearby. An officer reported
Rescue Force landed, Jimmy leading me down to them as they
assembled on patch of parched brown grass.
Jimmy beckoned the teams closer, some thirty people. ‘Listen up.
The next job that I ask you to undertake will be dangerous. It will
involve getting the hospital staff, the wounded, and the patients out
of a hospital that has both gunmen – and is wired to blow.’
Our people glanced at each other.
‘This could go badly wrong,’ Jimmy added. ‘But, if the gunmen
blow up parts of the hospital, and themselves hopefully, we’ll have a
matter of minutes to get in there and get as many people as we can
out. Entering the building after the bombs go off will be handled
according to unstable building protocols, something you all practise.
If you go in with the soldiers, it will be keep you head down
protocols. They may also shoot at you as you approach the hospital.
‘This is not regular Rescue Force work, so an opposed entry will
be volunteer only. You have fifteen minutes, so think about it. I have
no problem with anyone who has reservations about an armed
assault.’
We left them to digest the detail, returning to the office.
‘How many snipers?’ Jimmy asked the Pathfinder officer.
‘Thirty in place, sir.’
‘I want the senior man to have a running commentary of the
movements of the gunmen. If we shoot, we need to hit as many as
we can in one go.’
‘The windows are all broken now, sir. Make for a better shot.’
‘Yes,’ Jimmy agreed with an affirmative smile.
Five minutes later, Lobster confirmed his position. Jimmy lifted a
pair of binoculars and checked. To the senior Pathfinder officer he
said, ‘Two seconds after the device is fired, all snipers should hit
any targets, but only fire for five seconds before you call ceasefire.
Then the Rifles go in, the medics right behind. Got that?’
‘Yes, sir. Two seconds, five seconds, move in.’
‘Make sure that everyone knows.’
We again walked down to the RF teams. ‘Gather around,’ Jimmy
called. ‘The Pathfinders will use a type of gas to sedate the gunmen,
who should not be able to detonate their explosives. Unfortunately,
the gas will only last four minutes, and will have a detrimental effect
on the patients.
‘That gas, and its use here - today, must always be denied
afterwards. It will produce symptoms similar to heat stroke and
shock. Try and cool down your patients any way you can.’
‘Will it linger?’ a man asked.
‘No,’ Jimmy adamantly stated. ‘It disperses very quickly, and
we’ve shot out the windows; you’re not at risk. Now, listen
carefully. You’ll go in behind the soldiers, and they’ll deal with
gunmen and explosives. But you may trip across one we missed. If
you see a weapon, unload it. If you see a gunmen, stamp on the
man’s neck before you do anything else.’
They glanced at each other.
‘Your job … is to save lives. But if one of the gunmen recovers,
and sets off his explosives, it could kill fifty people – including you
and your colleagues. Those gunmen will die anyway, either by
sniper or by the gallows, so don’t waste time worrying about them.
Your job is to get the patients out. And if you see any explosives …
don’t touch! Right, anyone want to pull out?’
They all stood fast.
‘Any one got any comments?’
A man raised a hand. ‘If we survive this … do we get extra time
off?’
They laughed.
‘If you survive, you all get a week at any of my hotels.’ Jimmy
called over a Pathfinder officer. ‘Split them into teams for each
doorway, to be behind the Pathfinders. No one closer than twenty-
five yards till the signal is given.’
The officer led our rescuers off, and we again climbed the stairs
to the office, sweating now.
‘We are ready,’ Abdi confidently stated.
‘When the medics are in place, we’ll go,’ Jimmy said to Abdi, a
hand on his arm. We stared out of the window, the Pathfinders and
rescuers approaching the hospital from a blind side with no
windows.
‘We are ready,’ an officer announced five minutes later.
‘Put me on with the man holding the device,’ Jimmy requested.
‘Nbeki here,’ crackled a voice.
‘This is Silo. Count to ten, fire, count to two and radio for the
snipers to fire, count to five and order ceasefire. Understand?’
‘Yes, sir.’
‘You have a go.’ Jimmy lowered the radio and approached the
window.
Ten seconds later the device fired, no sound or visible trace
given. Two seconds later, a crackling echo reached us, and
continued for what seemed more than five seconds. Finally, calm
reclaimed the scene.
‘They are moving in,’ came a voice.
‘Explosives on second floor.’
‘Wires in stairwell. Disarming.’
‘Ground floor clear.’
‘X-ray killed.’
‘Second X-ray killed.’
‘Second floor being evacuated.’
I paced up and down.
‘X-ray killed.’
‘All people unconscious, in fits.’
‘Third floor stairwell cleared.’
‘Patients being carried out.’
It was a long fifteen minutes, and I paced up and down, listening
to the reports, or glancing across at the hospital building.
‘Building secure,’ finally crackled out of a radio.
Jimmy tipped his head, and led me out, down the now familiar
stairs and into the heat. Across parched grass, we walked with our
bodyguards towards the hospital. On the grass in front of the
hospital we found a triage area, patients being treated, many being
fanned in the heat, some fitting and convulsing, a few being
intubated and worked on. Overall, I figured at least three quarters
were coherent, not knowing what their pre-existing conditions had
been. After all, they were in hospital for some reason.
We weaved through the busy teams, and to the group leader.
‘How they doing?’ I asked.
‘Hard to know why they were in hospital to start with, so …
overall not too bad.’
‘What are their symptoms?’ Jimmy asked.
‘As you said, heat stroke and shock; classic symptoms. That gas
knocked the gunmen out. Should I ask –’
‘No,’ Jimmy cut him off with.
Ambling back towards the command post, I asked, ‘What the
fuck did all that?’
‘A type of microwave burst; it warms your body up very quickly
from the inside, instant heatstroke. People fit, convulse, collapse,
and pass out. After that, you have five minutes to get to them.’
‘And it was developed for…?’
‘Situations just like this, to knock out captors and captives.’
Abdi met us in the car park, a smile for us. ‘It worked well,
Jimmy.’
‘Yes it did - a good field test. Now we have to think about what
we do next.’
‘We strike Sudan!’
‘No.’
‘No?’ Abdi queried.
‘We struck Sudan. And if we strike again they will fall into
anarchy and chaos, which will be even worse. As far as I’m
concerned, these men were all al-Qa’eda. And, in the weeks ahead, I
will think about Sudan, and what to do next. We play the spider, not
he raging bull, my friend.’
‘The people will want revenge,’ Abdi cautioned as we walked
towards our coach.
‘That’s why we have a great leader like you,’ Jimmy told him.
‘To lead, to persuade, and to influence.’
‘It will not be easy,’ Abdi complained.
Jimmy stopped and faced him. ‘If you strike without me, you will
lose me forever.’ He held his gaze on Abdi.
‘I have never understood what you do … till after you do it. I am
always reminded of who knows the best course.’
‘And…?’ I nudged.
‘I will wait to see the wisdom.’
We shook hands, and boarded the coach, soon on a flight to
London.
During the flight, Jimmy turned his head to me and said, ‘The
airliner flown into the ground was typical al-Qa’eda, I don’t think
that’s anything to do with the Sudanese. I think al-Qa’eda believes
Abdi responsible for the hit on Khartoum, and that they want to
strike back at him. Those two Sudanese near Mawlini, that seems
more likely as a Sudanese response. And the hospital, that was just
strange. It feels like al-Qa’eda, but to put bombs on that hotel first
was very clever. Too clever.’
‘You have someone else in mind?’
‘Once they identify the gunmen, and the lookout from the hotel,
then maybe we’ll get a better idea. Sykes’ team are on their way
down, so forensics might shed some light on it.’
Helen greeted me on the coach, the girls at a pony show in Wales.
Halfway home, Jimmy took a call. He lowered his phone and stared
at it before pinching the bridge of his nose and massaging it.
‘Problems?’ I asked.
His look suggested that I had understated something. After a long
moment staring out of the window, he heaved a sigh. ‘The lookout at
the hotel gave up a name during interrogation. Rahman.’
‘Rahman?’ I repeated, unfamiliar with the reference.
‘It’s not his real name, and the man is a ghost. Some believe that
he’s half western and half Arabic, that he grew up in the west and
converted to Islam.
He dialled a number. ‘It’s me. Increase the budget for PACT by
fifty percent immediately. Then increase the budget for security at
all pan-African airports in our region. After that, I want you to talk
to President Errol, and for him to start a process whereby any old
aircraft that doesn’t have a secure cockpit door is banned from flying
to, from, or over our pan-African airspace.’
When he finally faced us, he said, ‘We’ve altered a great many
things, and rightly so. We’ve … fixed a great many things, and
brought forwards many plans, altering the time line. The problems
that we’ll face in the next two years were not due to kick-off till
closer to 2015, or after.’
‘And these … problems?’ I nudged.
‘A very capable individual inside al-Qa’eda. In the next two years
he’ll hijack aircraft and fly them into the ground, and there’ll be
little we can do about it … because the aircraft will take off in small
shitty airports with fuck-all security, fly over a border and plough
into the cities of neighbouring states.’
‘The west will be OK,’ I suggested.
‘The west is not the problem. It’s the shit airliner taking off in
Oman that hits Nairobi … that’s the problem.’
Jimmy checked his watch and dialled Chase in Washington.
‘Mister President, got a paper and pen? Until our new F15s are up to
speed I need three squadrons of your F15s - piloted by your guys, in
Kenya, the Congo and Somali, and I need them there today. And
yes, you should be worried. I’ll be briefing the “M” Group at the
house later. Thanks.’
‘US cavalry to rescue,’ I quipped.
At the house, arriving at 9pm, the “M” Group representatives
were sat waiting in a lounge. We stepped in and joined them.
‘OK,’ Jimmy began, taking a breath. ‘We can all expect an
increase in hijackings in the next few years. The plane that crashed
into Mogadishu was – most likely – al-Qa’eda, and organised by an
individual code-named Rahman. He will, in the next few years,
hijack planes from the Middle East, North Africa and the Russian
Caucuses, crashing them into cities.
‘The following steps will need to be taken as a matter of some
urgency. All aircraft crossing your airspace must have secure
cockpit doors. Pilots … must never give up the cockpit, no matter
how many passengers are killed in the cabin. If they do they’ll just
be killed when the plane hits the ground anyway.
‘All pilots should have mace sprays and tazers in the cockpit,
senior flight attendants should have mace in the forward galley.
Flights to and from a list of nominated countries should have an air
marshal seated at the front. I’ll draw up that list for you. Next,
comes the hard part. You will all need to introduce protocols and
procedures whereby a civil airliner on approach, that is not
responding - or has indicated a hijack, is shot down.’
Eyes widened, mine included, and the group glanced at each
other.
Jimmy continued, ‘If not, those hijacked aircraft will plough into
London, Paris or Moscow. But first, they’ll start ploughing into
African capitals.’
He faced me. ‘Check up on the status of the F15s we bought. See
if some, at least, could be put on standby with instructors sat next to
them ready to go. We have Sidewinders?’
‘We bought a shit load of them.’
To Michelle, he said, ‘I want a meeting in Paris, in a week, a
meeting on global air transport security. Invite every country in the
world. What I would like to see … is that airports are classified as
secure, very secure, or not secure. That coding would be imposed,
whether the airports in question like it or not.’ He turned his head to
me. ‘Draw up a list of all airports in Africa that serve jet airliners,
and have them reviewed to see if they have metal detectors.’
To the group he said, ‘I would also like to see the following
radical approach adopted in as many areas as we can. Any aircraft
that does not have a secure cabin door cannot cross a border into
another country, certainly not to a country we care about. That
means that a Tu154 taking off from Tashkent would not be allowed
to land in Europe, Russia or China – or Africa.’
Ivan put in, ‘We have secured the doors.’
‘On small airlines in the Caucuses?’
‘They are outside of our control,’ Ivan said defensively.
‘Then ban them crossing a border until such time as their doors
are secured,’ Jimmy firmly suggested. He took a moment. ‘Back in
2000, there should have been an attack along these lines. I warned
everyone about securing aircraft doors, and I removed several key
individuals. The idea, however, has not gone away. Crashing a 747
into a city is the poor man’s weapon of mass destruction, and that
poor man is now keen to employ this tactic. The attacks will start in
Yemen, Oman, Sudan, Ethiopia, Djibouti, the former soviet Islamic
states and North Africa. Flights from Oman and Yemen must be
seen as flying missiles till further notice. We’ll reconvene in the
morning at 9am. Earn your keep, people.’
I greeted the girls, back from their pony show, and made no
mention of the problems. Both girls had won rosettes, and the
security detail had digital images and video for Helen and me to
review.
After a large meal we headed to bed early, both up at 5am. I left
Helen to sort the girls and headed to my office, a million things to do
today. I sent Ngomo an email, suggesting that I wanted the Rifles at
each small airport in our region. I wanted men inside the airport
terminals, assisting with body and bag searches, additional men
stood outside as deterrents. We had a surplus of police officers, and I
asked our new security minister to deploy permanent teams to all
small and regional airports. This crisis, unwelcome as it was, would
create thousands of new jobs.
I then found the contact details of the company we used when
buying airport detectors and scanners. I checked my watch, 7.30am,
then selected a mobile number. ‘That … Nick Fisher?’
‘Yes. How can I help?’ came a sleepy voice.
‘Paul Holton. I want a price on bulk purchase, installation and
training of your airport scanners.’
‘You need more? We have your five airports covered – to
western standards.’
‘We’re going to roll them out to all African airports.’
There came a pause. ‘Oh. Er … how many should we quote for?’
‘Do you have a list of all African and Middle East countries that
don’t have scanners, and that you’re trying to sell to?’
‘It’s engraved on my heart. It’s what I do all day; trying to sell
that lot scanners.’
‘How many units could you sell if they all suddenly said yes?’ I
pressed.
‘That would be close to a thousand units.’
‘And the total costs? Roughly?’ I asked.
‘Around three million raw cost, plus transport installation,
maintenance and training. So, all in, around six million.’
‘That all,’ I scoffed. ‘I’m going to send you five million pounds
today on account. I want you to make as many as you can, and then
to donate them to countries we nominate, starting with Oman,
Yemen and the Russian Caucuses.’
‘What?’
‘You heard, get a coffee and get to work.’ I hung up.
I headed down to the main house later, for the “M” Group
meeting, grabbing a bite and a cup of tea in the diner first. A TV was
now fixed to the wall, and the morning news reported that half the
world’s airports were on full alert. Many flights had been cancelled,
certain countries now banned from flying to Europe, a few
passengers stranded.
I took my mug of tea into the lounge at 9am, the gang assembled,
Sykes down, as well as New Dave.
Jimmy began, ‘To summarise what actions have been taken
overnight – it’s fucking chaos out there. So let me be clear: only
those flights originating at airports with poor security records need
be a concern. Flights taking off in Europe, Russia or the west are not
an issue. Flights taking off from Bora Bora are not an issue, even if
the airport there is not secure.
‘So, Yemen, Oman, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Sudan, Chad, Senegal,
and all North Africa states – they’re the airports of interest for now.
Let’s not create another ash cloud fiasco, people.’
‘I’ve ordered a thousand airport scanners,’ I put in. ‘I’m going to
install them whether the airports in question want them or not.’
‘Good,’ Jimmy said with a nod. ‘I’ve banned all flights from
certain North African states from landing in Goma hub or Nairobi
till we’re happy with their security. Concentrate on them for the
scanners. Mr Sykes, kindly put together a pan-European team of
inspectors and send them around those nations, and Africa. Let’s
start working on that airport ranking system.’
Keely announced, ‘We have an aircraft carrier off Mogadishu, so
if another plane is hijacked we’ll shoot it down. That air umbrella
covers Kenya as well.’
‘Good. Thank you. ETA for fixed wing assistance?’
‘Could take a while to get them in place,’ Keely warned.
‘Then send pilots for the F15s we’ve already got as a stop gap.’
Keely ventured, ‘Hardon Chase asked if they would be welcome
to stay long-term?’
‘For what purpose?’ Han asked.
‘To help out in situations like this,’ Keely suggested.
‘No,’ Jimmy said.
‘No?’ Keely repeated.
‘Once the Africans can defend their own airspace, they’ll handle
that task. I would have, soon, suggested US training bases in the
Congo – for combined operations and infantry exercises, the same in
Somalia. That’s a training wing, not an active squadron, so word it
that way and tell Mister Chase that he is most welcome.’
‘On that note,’ Jack put in. ‘I’ve been asked by the Prime
Minister to mention that we have jet training aircraft we can offer
the region, but more than that … we’ve put together a package of
instructors and technicians. That way, RAF pilots get more flying
time and exposure to other regions. And you have cheap fuel for
them!’
‘I’ll accept three training squadrons; one at the Rifles base,
Mombassa, one at Forward Base, and one in Somalia at Scorpion
Base. I’ll also accept a helicopter training squadron at Mawlini.
We’ll buy second hand Hawk training aircraft, ten aircraft at each
base. As well as any old Provost or Tucano you have. That package
was always part of my plan. By 2025 we’ll need African pilots.
Good ones!’
I put in, ‘I’ve asked for extra police at all small airfields around
our region, Rifles there for now – high profile.’
Jimmy said, ‘It’s time to create a Borders and Airports Police
Authority. Advertise for a minister of that title, then get President
Errol on it. Set-up a common training facility at Forward Base,
create a common uniform, give it a high profile and a big budget –
it’ll be a front line agency in the years ahead.’
‘I know someone who would be a great help with that,’ Sykes
mentioned.
‘Fine; hire him, send him down. Help us to create that training
facility.’
‘Are you aware of specific aircraft attacks?’ Jack asked.
‘Things have been altered a lot in recent years, so I have less of a
focus on when and where they’ll be. But I think the next will be
from Yemen towards Somalia, then Chad towards Nairobi.’
‘I’ll focus the scanners on them then,’ I helpfully offered.
‘Unfortunately, you’ll just move the attack to another place,’
Jimmy explained.
We spoke for forty minutes, made a few plans, then split to our
desks to implement them. At my desk, I quickly scanned all of the
emails in my inbox. I printed off many and simply put them to one
side, organising the money for the scanners as a priority. The
scanner company, being a bit cheeky, came back on with a question
about hand held scanners. I ordered the six thousand they claimed
that they could produce in three months.
I then noticed an email from the White House, sent late last night.
Opening it, it was hint from Chase about US manufacturers of
scanners and airport systems, a link to their website. Seemed that
Chase was now psychic. I clicked on “enquiries”, populating the
form. In the textbox I typed: ‘Paul Holton, where are you trying to
sell your kit – and failing? I’m interested in North Africa and
Russian Caucuses.’
An hour later an email came back, someone up early – or to bed
late. ‘We’ve been negotiating with airports in those regions recently.
What did you have in mind?’
I emailed back: ‘That you offer a ninety-percent discount, and bill
me the difference. Spend twenty million dollars. Knock yourselves
out. And quickly!’
In fairness to the company, they came back with a list of
countries, airports – large and small, the equipment currently
installed, and that which they were trying to sell.
For the next few days, that list occupied my every waking
minute. I even sat down with Jimmy and trawled through it, marking
those airports most likely to be affected in the near future.
Many countries protested their treatment, their citizens having to
take extra legs in their journeys to the west. Still, we had focused
their attention. Scanners were hurriedly installed at airports where
the resident airlines were squealing. Wands turned up, soon
humming over passengers in queues, and the who’s-who of bad
airports was posted online.
Within our own region, I was confident that we’d have it covered.
We had taken surplus police officers out of villages and towns, and
each small airport now counted at least thirty officers, the first few
scanners arriving. Ngomo had nominated a senior Pathfinder officer
for the post of Minister for Borders and Airports, and we accepted
him with a telephone vote by the leaders. He occupied an office
immediately, staffed by former and serving Pathfinders, and worked
sixteen hours a day at his new project.
The new Borders Police would wear dark blue shirts, darker than
most of their colleagues, with shoulder flashes that labelled their
function. The new airport police training facility was set-up quickly,
staff emanating from the existing airlines, from Sykes, but mostly
from the manufacturers of the scanners. The new recruits had to
learn all about passports, and spotting fakes, and the rules of
immigration to the various pan-African nations. The study of visas
would be a two-week course in itself.

Coal, the black gold

With the airport panic calming, and scanners winging their way to
third-world countries, Jack brought an RAF officer up to my office. I
made them tea.
‘This is Wing Commander Russell, he’ll oversee the training
squadrons in Africa.’
‘We already agreed the deal, you don’t need to hard sell it!’ I
quipped.
The man smiled. ‘No, just here to clarify a few points.’
‘You mean, you’re here to try and sell us some old kit!’
‘Not exactly. We wanted to know … just how you see the
training evolving, since we could offer a basic flying programme,
followed by a fast jet conversion, followed by specialist
programmes.’
‘I’d say … all of the above. But we’ll have to talk to the national
leaders. But, as you know, they don’t have much in the way of shiny
new aircraft to play with.’
‘Our American cousins have some cheap F16s they’re happy to
impose on you,’ Jack said.
I cocked at eyebrow. ‘I see.’
‘And we have a great many Tornados about to be
decommissioned.’
‘Which would still be more than adequate for regional use in
Africa,’ the Wing Commander nudged.
‘We’ve only just bought a few F15s,’ I pointed out. Firmly.
‘We’ll have more planes than enemies!’
‘These particular Tornadoes and F16s would be a steal,’ Jack said
with a grin.
I eased back. ‘What are you up to, Jack?’
‘I’d hazard a guess, and say Anglo-American influence in the
region.’
‘They wouldn’t be under your influence … would they?’
‘No, but they’d be preferable to a … growing and emerging
economic superpower buying Migs.’
‘Ah…’ I let out.
‘And once started on the route of western aircraft,’ the Wing
Commander began, ‘they would buy western aircraft in years to
come.’
‘When they had a little money to spend,’ Jack added.
‘You know what I think? I think … I’d like three squadrons of
F16s and three squadrons of Tornadoes to start with. Spares,
technicians and instructors. I’d then see all of the countries in our
region having a squadron. Will that get you two reprobates out of
my office?’
‘It would,’ Jack said with a smile.
An hour later, Jimmy knocked and entered. ‘Are you decent?’
‘Dressed decent? Or well behaved decent?’
He sat. ‘You agreed to the RAF deal?’
‘Yes, made sense. A bit early, but we need a culture of good
flying, and that takes years.’
‘It does,’ Jimmy agreed. ‘And the British Army are building a
base near Mawlini, one in Somalia, and one near Forward Base.’
‘We being invaded?’
‘Hopefully,’ Jimmy stated, a strange answer. ‘Oh, French
interested in a base near Forward Base, and Mawlini, and one in
Somalia.’
‘We being invaded?’ I repeated.
‘Hopefully,’ Jimmy repeated, making me puzzle just what the
hell they were all up to. ‘Anyway.’ He handed over a sheet of paper.
‘The kids in Shanghai have finalised a project that I won’t release
fully – not just yet.’
I scanned the detail. ‘So … they can turn coal into oil.’ I lifted my
gaze. ‘Industry can already do that. It’s expensive, and eco-
unfriendly.’
‘Not any more. The process they’ve developed creates a type of
oil that burns in a more eco-friendly manner. And the cost of the
process has been slashed. And … our region of the DRC has enough
coal to last a thousand years.’
‘Oh…?’
‘Order up the first coal mine and refinery.’
The sound of voices outside my door preceded a knock, and the
PM stepping in with an aide. ‘This where all the real work goes on?’
We stood and shook hands, and I ordered drinks from my
secretary.
Settled, the PM said, ‘We’re happy about the RAF deal.’
‘Bet you are,’ I complained.
‘We won’t be paying for your contribution, though,’ Jimmy told
him.
‘No?’ the PM puzzled, a heavy frown taking hold.
‘No,’ Jimmy repeated. ‘And we’d like the rights to re-start coal
mining in this country, and on a large scale.’
‘Coal … mining?’ the PM puzzled. ‘What the hell for?’
‘After 2025, oil will be at a premium, expensive before then.’
‘Coal fired power stations? Are you mad?’ The PM challenged.
‘We can make them eco-friendly with new technology,’ I put in.
‘You can?’ the PM puzzled.
‘We can now,’ Jimmy answered. ‘But we won’t be building too
many. That’s not what we want the coal for.’
‘You going to start making some sense, Jimmy?’ the PM
implored.
‘How much is a barrel of oil right now?’ Jimmy asked.
‘Sixty something dollars a barrel,’ the PM answered.
‘Well, don’t tell anyone, but I can convert coal to oil for fifteen
dollars a barrel. And I think we can dig it up for the equivalent of
twelve dollars an oil barrel. That gives a profit margin of at least
thirty dollars a barrel for capital equipment costs.’
The PM stared back, his mouth slowly opening. ‘That … that
could employ tens of thousands of people, and replace North Sea
oil.’
‘That’ll piss of the Scottish Nationalists,’ I said. ‘This will be
cheaper!’
‘My God, Jimmy. The ramifications are huge!’
‘The Yanks should be happy, they have plenty of coal,’ I put in.
‘So too the Chinese,’ the PM’s aide mentioned.
‘But there’s a problem,’ Jimmy noted. ‘If oil purchases from the
Middle East slowed too much it would be like 2025 – only sooner.
So this technology needs to be limited for now, but in place for
2015. We’ll build a plant in Africa, one here, one on the States, one
in China. And then we’ll make it look more expensive than it really
is, hiding the profits.’
‘How much coal is there in your region?’ the PM asked.
Jimmy glanced at me. ‘Enough to worry the Saudis. In simple
terms, enough to keep the whole world going for thirty years.’
The PM blew out. ‘No wonder you spend so much time and
money on that region.’
Thirty minutes later, Jimmy led the PM out, asking me to break
the news to Chase. I checked my watch, and dialled the White
House, eventually getting through after I told the lady receptionist
that the reason for the call was a need for advice on improving my
sexual technique.
‘Paul, they announce you now as Rude Paul. How can I help?’
‘You sat down?’
‘At my desk.’
‘America has a lot of coal, yeah?’
‘Yes. Why?’
‘We’d like to buy it.’
‘Buy coal? What the hell for?’ Chase queried.
‘Would you sell it to us?’
‘Sell you coal? No law stopping you from running a mine or
exporting the damn stuff. But what the hell for?’
‘Oh, we just found a way to turn it into oil for fifteen dollars a
barrel.’
There was a long pause. ‘You what?’
‘We can convert it now, perfected the technology.’
‘Future technology?’
‘Where else would it come from, dope.’
‘Fifteen dollars a barrel?’ Chase repeated.
‘Yep. So, that coal, you’ll sell it to us?’
‘Like fuck! You can fuck right off … to quote Rude Paul. When
can we get the technology?’
‘Sometime after we’ve drawn up a shopping list.’ I hung up.
At 5pm, I noticed an email from the White House. ‘We reckon it
takes two barrel equivalents of coal to make oil, and that we can dig
that up for twenty-two dollars, less with improved technology and
efficiencies. Downstream costs may add another twenty dollars. It’s
not a huge saving, but a great alternate. And creates jobs here.’
I emailed back. ‘The process creates a special oil that burns clean
for power stations. It can be converted quickly to car gasoline. PS.
Jimmy says he can mine coal for twelve dollars an oil barrel
equivalent, so check your sums.’

North Korea

Jimmy had visited North Korea once before, with a Chinese


delegation, and we had been quietly supplying them with cheap
medical equipment, ships of wheat, and the odd oil tanker. Now,
Jimmy said it was time to try and nudge them our way.
On a hot August day, I nudged my family onto the coach, iPADs
being carried. Shelly and Lucy sat with Han and practised
recognising Chinese symbols on their iPADS. Helen and I fired up
our laptops and attacked the hundreds of emails we both received.
Still, the motorway journeys passed quickly.
Landing in Hong Kong, Po met us with a coach, plus plenty of
security, that routine now handled by the local police. Booked into
Po’s hotel, we relaxed for a day; swimming, massages, eating, the
girls competing to see who could read the most Chinese symbols on
the walls.
On the second day, Po brought his family seniors around to talk
shop. They had heard about the washing machine factory in Goma
and were interested in opening their own factories.
Jimmy began, ‘If you open a factory, it should be for goods that
are in need, and could be sold locally, ideally back to us.’
‘What do you need?’ they asked.
‘Uniforms,’ I said. ‘Police and army.’
‘We can do that,’ they offered. ‘Synthetics.’
‘No, local cotton,’ Jimmy insisted. ‘Synthetics are not great in hot
humid climates. They’re good for rain coats, and we need them as
well.’
‘OK, we make raincoat and hats, umbrella, cotton uniform. And
we can make cheap TV and radio – old parts.’
‘They would be good,’ Jimmy agreed. ‘And we need satellite
dishes, furniture – plastic and steel, tools for construction.’
They now had a list of products, and they were keen to have a go.
‘The land is free,’ I said. ‘And we’ll help with factory costs.’
That pleased them. ‘And the more people you employ the better, but
the minimum wage is set by us.’
‘OK, OK, no problem.’
We agreed to areas where they would locate factories, a Po
family plot some two miles square, fifteen miles west of Goma. I
emailed the corporation, nudging them to make a start on clearing
the land. Our guests then insisted that they build their own tower
block and a separate hotel.
‘I think there are enough hotels,’ I pointed out.
‘No, no, we look. When Golf come, many people have no room,
and many tourist now from China.’
‘So you want a Chinese hotel for Chinese tourists,’ I realised.
‘Yes, the staff speak Chinese,’ they pointed out.
‘Fine,’ I said. ‘Build a hotel, but if doesn’t make money it’s your
problem.’
The next day, leaving Shelly and Lucy with Po, we flew up to
Beijing, joining a flight down to Pyongyang to meet the Korea
leader, the man much maligned in the west. Their airport was basic,
and their streets similar to Beijing in many respects; grey. I took in
what I could as the dated bus trundled around to the government
palace, the People’s Palace, although the people did not get to enjoy
it.
Our guide, the Chinese Ambassador, led our group inside, met by
his counter-part, and we sat awaiting their exalted leader for twenty
minutes. I already wanted to hit him. He stepped out ten minutes
later, and I found myself forcing away a grin as the puppet movie,
Team America, came to mind. His puppet character was more
lifelike. He wore a drab grey, and waved like the Queen as he
approached. Everyone was bowing, so I joined in, eventually told to
sit. I glanced at Han, wondering just how the world produced leaders
like this.
‘Thank you for seeing us,’ Jimmy offered. ‘I would like to begin,
by informing you that we developed the technology to convert coal
to oil very cheaply. We would like to open a plant here and assist
your oil production. If that plant is successful, we can create many
more, and boost your economy significantly.’
‘That would be a great assistance,’ the translator told us. ‘But I
am sure that you have something to ask for in return.’
‘There are a great many things that we could do to assist your
country, whether others like it or not. If you are prepared to
negotiate, we will negotiate for the future advancement of this
country.’
‘Negotiate what … in particular?’
‘All of those things that keep you at odds with the west,’ Jimmy
responded.
‘I still do not understand your motives,’ the leader complained.
‘I seek peace for all the countries of the world,’ Jimmy
responded.
‘And if we agree to these demands, what do we get?’
‘You get unlimited oil from coal to start with. You could even
sell it.’
‘That would be a benefit.’
Our glorious leader then rubbed his chest, as if in pain, and
pinched the top of his nose. An aide rushed over as our host just
about fainted. We were asked to leave, in a hurry, and soon on the
bus heading back to the airport.
‘He is not a well man,’ Han pointed out. ‘We may be able to
return in a few days.’
After our two-minute conversation, we reversed our trip, back in
Hong Kong twelve hours and two flights later.
In the hotel, Jimmy said, ‘He won’t survive.’
‘Then why we negotiating with him, instead of the next idiot?’
‘Oh, he would have lived a few years yet. But I … quickened the
process.’
I puzzled that. ‘How?’
‘Technology. And don’t tell anyone.’
The next day, a full two days after the leader had passed, his
death was announced to the world, the former head of the Army
appointed as President. The first thing that the new President
undertook, was to extend an invitation to the President of South
Korea to visit his northern neighbour.
A senior delegation of Chinese officials met us in Shanghai the
following day, after we made a quick visit to the gifted kids – who
were now breeding like rabbits. So much for being autistic; they
were more like sex maniacs.
We met the Chinese in a government building, Helen practising
her Chinese, which was now reasonably good considering she had
dedicated so much of her youth to filling her head with other
languages. Jimmy produced a small device and plugged it into a
wall, informing our hosts that it would jam all electronics.
‘We have a similar device from the children,’ they mentioned in
passing.
The Defence Minister got straight to the point. ‘We are concerned
by the military build up in your region. Now talk of more soldiers
and western aircraft.’
‘Why is that a concern?’ Jimmy asked.
That stopped the minister dead. ‘Well, what is the purpose of the
build-up?’
‘What do you consider the reason behind it?’ Jimmy countered,
being quite adversarial today.
The Minister glanced at his team. ‘This is a preparation towards
2025?’
Jimmy explained, ‘For the African armies, and air forces, to be
ready for that date they would have to start now. You don’t train
pilots and officers in a few years, you need a good tradition of such
training establishments. Now is the right time to start that process, so
that a plentiful supply of officers and skilled pilots are available at
the time. And if my aim was to use western pilots, then these steps
would not be necessary.’
They seemed to acknowledge the sense in that.
‘You are teaching the Americans, and now the British, how to
fight the Brotherhood.’
‘Of course.’ Jimmy waited.
‘Will that disadvantage us in the future?’
‘I see no scenario where Chinese troops move into the Middle
East. If the Brotherhood reaches Western China then the tactics will
be different.’
‘The Americans would take the lead in a war with the
Brotherhood?’
‘The most likely scenario is that the Americans protect Israel and
Saudi Arabia, that the African armies defend the south, that the
European Armies defend Turkey, and the Russians draw a line at
Georgia.’
‘That would leave the east open,’ they noted.
‘India would take that burden, hopefully with your support.’
‘And Pakistan?’
‘For them, it’s hard to say which way they’ll turn. But to start
with, Pakistan would resist the Brotherhood – all governments will.’
‘And if factors change, as they have already done many times?
As you say, there is no point in knowing the future just to repeat it.’
‘Indeed,’ Jimmy said with a polite smile. ‘If they change, then we
can assess them at the time.’
‘And would it not be wise for at least some Chinese units to be
trained to fight in the Middle East?’
‘I could give you the manual and you can create your own
programme, here in China, sure.’
‘Would there not be some merit to training in the region of
concern, alongside the Africa soldiers.’
I hid a smile.
‘That would be a better option, but it would be very difficult to
mix your soldiers with others. Your soldiers are like worker ants,
your officers like moronic automatons, your style of warfare dated.’
Oh dear, I thought. For some reason that I could not put my
finger on, they did not seem to like that.
‘You say that our army, and our officer structure, is
disadvantaged?’
‘Very much so. But your forces are fine to defend China. They’re
just no good at expeditionary fighting, or guerrilla fighting, or co-
ordinating with western armies. That’s fine, they don’t need to be,
not till 2025.’
‘If we lack such a basic skill as expeditionary fighting, then do
you not think that it should be addressed?’ the minister unhappily
pressed.
‘There are not many scenarios where you’d need to run an
expeditionary war involving others.’
‘But there are some,’ they pressed.
‘Well, yes, if things go wrong.’
‘Is it not always the case, that things going wrong are the start
point of most conflicts?’
‘Usually, yes,’ Jimmy conceded. He took a breath. ‘If you wish to
create a unit and send them to Africa I’ll do the very best I can with
them. But I warn you, they may end up being less able to integrate
with rigid infantry manoeuvres afterwards. They’ll be taught to fight
like the Rifles.’
‘We could ring-fence such a unit,’ they insisted.
‘Then, when you’re ready, I will do all I can to assist.’
They asked simple questions for an hour, thanked us and we
headed back to Hong Kong. We enjoyed a few days in the colony,
Jimmy not even mentioning Korea, and flew back to Blighty. All he
would say, was that the device developed to kill the Korean leader
was now being field-tested by Mossad agents.

Haiti

I had just about cleared my desk of topical issues when we set-off to


Haiti in September. On the flight, I opened my laptop and read the
detail of emails that had been downloaded and stored. With the
software I now used, I could return emails, and they would be sent
when I connected to a 3g mobile connection upon landing, or the
phone line in a hotel.
Anna had sent me a lengthy report, her daughter now working
with her. Christ, how long had it been since I saw her daughter last?
Girl must be eighteen or more by now. And it seemed that Anna was
trying hard to do my job for me around our region. She had greatly
expanded the orphanages into colleges, children over fifteen
studying vocational subjects, those over sixteen studying for
recognised qualifications.
That would have been fine, but Anna had gone further. In each
orphanage, at least twenty-five percent of the boys attended the
cadet movement training sessions – evenings and weekends, plus
summer camps. More than a third of all girls qualified on a basic
Rescue Force course and Anna was producing a shit load of nurses,
some of who were destined for our village school projects.
But above and beyond the normal needs for warm bodies that we
had, she had taken it upon herself to contact the corporation and
enquire about skills – and the lack thereof. She now reported some
eleven thousand kids studying bricklaying and construction, others
training to become electricians, decorators, metal workers. She ran
courses for budding oil workers, mine managers, plastics workers.
Fighter pilots were not on the list, I checked.
At this rate, our skills shortages would diminish rapidly,
especially in the Congo, where our orphanages-come-colleges now
totalled sixty thousand attendees. And that number was now being
boosted by the prison orphanages, where truant kids were forced to
attend. So far, they only held five thousand inmates, and many kids
were moved to other schools after a few months of food and
schooling.
Anna had also taken Haiti under her wing, the super-sized
orphanages working along the exact same lines as Africa, French
speaking African teachers populating the blackboards. The first
colleges were also under construction, hopefully good construction,
and with decent concrete.
Our aircraft landed directly at Port-au-Prince airport, the airport
facilities having been improved and extended. The tented city had
not completely gone, a large number of re-construction workers still
utilising them, alongside RF staff and the Rifles. I did, however,
glimpse a large barrack block in the distance, numerous cranes
littering the horizon as we landed.
A coach met us, thirty Rifles with jeeps acting as escort for the
short trip around to a new hotel, positioned about a mile from the old
Presidential Palace. That palace no longer supported a roof to keep
the rain out, a myriad of small cranes attending it like crabs on a
corpse. Our hotel was a simple collection of long three storey
blocks, more functional than attractive, and I noticed again the
angled buttresses that ran up the walls. It had been built to last.
The rooms were basic, but nicely decorated, and had a new smell
to them. My bathroom looked unused, a lonesome cockroach in the
sink. After a satisfactory meal in the main restaurant, we occupied a
conference venue room, the new President and his team coming
across to us. Guess his palace still needed a lick of paint. And a roof.
‘Welcome,’ Jimmy offered.
‘Welcome to you,’ the President offered, his words heavily
accented.
With everyone seated, coffees made, Jimmy began, ‘How’s
progress?’
‘We have demolished four thousand houses or buildings and
rebuilt them, and constructed thirty new apartment blocks here in the
capital.’
‘And the soldiers?’ Jimmy asked.
‘Our own army is now seven thousand strong, some deployed on
the streets.’
‘And the police?’
‘More than six thousand that are the new police force,’ the
President offered. ‘Many former officers not working now.’
‘And crime?’ Jimmy nudged.
‘Crime is low, very low now,’ the President proudly stated. ‘Two,
three hangings a week.’
‘And the UN?’ Jimmy asked.
‘They petition us every day not to hang or shoot.’ The President
gave a large, gallic shrug.
‘Prison college?’ I asked.
‘Many of the prisoners now study the house building, yes. And
working with the wood. We release many, not so many problems.’
‘Good. Well, we’d like to bring in oil exploration teams,’ Jimmy
announced.
It was news to me, and made me smile.
‘Oil?’ the President repeated. ‘You think there may be oil here?’
‘We’ll not know till we look,’ Jimmy said. ‘I have the forms with
me, you can sign them later … and we’ll make a start.’
With our guests gone, I asked Jimmy about the oil. ‘Off the
southern coast. Not much, but enough.’
‘And the real reason we’re here?’ I pressed.
Jimmy sipped a cooling coffee. ‘The chances of the States going
at it with Venezuela have diminished, but not gone. So Haiti and the
Haitian Rifles are a chess piece; on the chessboard sat ready.
There’ll also be unrest in Central America after 2015. And finally,
the Caribbean would have fallen to the Brotherhood around 2029
without a boost, and some suitable soldiers to hand.’
‘A piece on the chessboard,’ I repeated.
The following day we reviewed the RF teams still in place,
making like electioneering politicians at the hospitals, especially the
two new ones that we had raised with our own money. In the
afternoon we met the Rifles instructors with their Haitian Rifles
charges, and reviewed regular African Rifles still on duty here. With
the sun low on the horizon, a UN chartered flight gave us a lift up to
Washington.
Hardon Chase welcomed us to the White House the next day, but
this time we used the front door, and were filmed doing so. I
suspected he was after something. In the oval office, tea plentiful,
Chase began with, ‘So, coal technology.’
‘We’ll develop test sites in Africa, so you can have a peek when
they’re running,’ Jimmy placated our host with.
‘Timescales?’ Chase nudged.
‘A year at least.’
‘Some excited folk over here,’ Chase admitted. ‘And … a few
concerns.’
‘Something about gift horses and teeth come to mind,’ I put in.
Chase ignored me. ‘The … Chinese have a lot of coal.’
‘As do the British,’ I added. ‘And … Poland.’
Chase glanced at me, but waited a response from Jimmy.
‘Your concern, oh great leader?’ Jimmy toyed.
‘That if the Chinese economy gets the technology, and makes
good use of it, that’ll it’ll give them a big boost. And … then we’d
see lower oil sales, and pressure on the dollar.’
‘Oh, no,’ I quipped. ‘Did someone arrange for all oil to be trading
in dollars? Bummer.’
Chase gave me a fatherly, disappointed look.
Jimmy said, ‘The Chinese use of coal-oil will have very little
affect on oil prices, since emerging markets will take up the slack.’
‘Yes?’ Chase firmly nudged.
‘Yes,’ Jimmy repeated. ‘But what it will do, is keep oil under
seventy dollars a barrel, whilst upstream costs rise, and the profits
for fat Saudis fall.’
‘Everyone’s … upstream costs will rise as the years go by, so oil
is bound to rise,’ Chase thought out loud.
‘Yes, but in proportion - and measured,’ Jimmy commented.
‘Otherwise, oil will reach over a hundred dollars a barrel by 2013.’
‘And the effect of coal-oil on the US economy?’
‘You’ll move away from foreign oil, but still keep at your gas
guzzling when you should be turning to electric cars and the next
generation of nuclear plants.’
‘We’re cooperating with the plant in Somalia, learning a few new
tricks.’
‘Here’s the thing,’ I began. ‘Your good friends the Chinese have
a drawing board, and on it are more next generation reactors than I
have fingers and toes. Then there are the Russians, and we may also
involve the Indians in the technology. So don’t cogitate too long.’
‘You seem to be helping the Chinese a great deal,’ Chase
complained.
‘No,’ I said. ‘We tell them what we tell you, but they listen and
react quickly. Go figure, huh!’
Chase gave me another look. ‘I’ll look at it again. Anyway, I hear
the French have landed in Africa.’
‘The French have been there a long time,’ Jimmy commented.
‘They still have a pseudo-colonial attitude to Africa.’
‘You’ll train them to fight the Brotherhood?’
Jimmy nodded.
I said, ‘You may as well know now, that the Chinese were not
happy about us training your guys. So…’ I checked my nails.
‘You’ll train Chinese soldiers? In Africa!’
‘We will,’ Jimmy confirmed with a forced smile. ‘Alongside the
British contingent that’s on its way, and the aforementioned French.
Oh, and the enlarged Indian detachment in the Congo.’
‘Are all the damn “M” Group countries trying to get in on it?’
Chase loudly asked.
‘Can you think of a good reason why they wouldn’t?’ Jimmy
broached. ‘Or did you wish to face the Brotherhood alone?’
‘It’s not that that I’m worried about.’
‘How can you be worried … about foreign soldiers learning to
fight in the desert?’ Jimmy posed. ‘Any threat to you - from those
countries – would be by airpower, naval or nuclear. Not counter-
terrorist.’
‘Well, yes,’ Chase conceded. He sipped his coffee. ‘We have
enough airpower in the region to stop a hijacked plane.’
‘For which I am grateful,’ Jimmy offered. ‘But keep up the
pressure on crap old airlines flying crap old aircraft out of crap
fucking airports.’
‘We’re upsetting a few as we speak,’ Chase noted. ‘The officer
training college OK?’
‘They’ve started the first term, three thousand entrants,’ I
reported.
‘And the bit here that I’m missing, that you two sneaky shits are
hiding?’
‘You saw what I did with the Rifles,’ Jimmy began, a hint of a
grin creasing a cheek. ‘Now see what I do with the officers.’
‘Future leaders?’
‘Future leaders,’ Jimmy confirmed. ‘Pro-west, pro-America, pro-
Baywatch and 90210, at a time when African GDP matters to the
world.’
‘You’re welcome,’ I quipped.
‘We’ve contributed to the officer college, and to the new infantry
bases,’ Chase thought he needed to mention.
‘Always appreciated,’ Jimmy told him.
‘A lot of folks over here getting twitchy about al-Qa’eda. It may
just be an African and Middle East thing at the moment, but that
aircraft coming down has worried a few people.’
‘It should.’
‘We’ve used satellite imaging over Afghanistan,’ Chase informed
us, as if that in itself might have been a bit naughty. ‘And we can see
training camps, upwards of five thousand fighters sat around the
campfire. Maybe more.’
‘I’m working on a solution, one you’ll like, and one that those
digging your ribs will like. It’ll come to a head in a year. But don’t
forget, to take any action you’ll need the public behind you, and not
just here. You’ll need wider public support.’
‘Support for … what?’ Chase puzzled. I wanted to know that as
well.
‘Wait and see. And trust me.’
Thirty minutes later we left the President to run the evil empire.
On the plane, mid Atlantic, I asked, ‘The officer college: you said
it would change the world. Not seeing how?’
‘You will in a month or so, if you’re bright enough.’

Lebanon

A handful of rockets landed in Northern Israel a few weeks later, but


instead of invading, Ben Ares came to talk, an odd move. A very
odd move.
I welcomed him at the front door on a damp September day, New
Dave and a few officials with him. In the lounge we found Jimmy
with Han, our Chinese representative bowing his head at our guests
and leaving us alone.
With the door closed, Ben got straight to the point. ‘We have
EMPs, we have the counter-terrorist device, we even have the hand-
held devices. We have a few blinding laser rifles, and we have the
silent dart guns for close-up work by soldiers. And now we have the
prospect of a war in Lebanon.’
‘It’s not a war, it would be you invading,’ I pointed out, earning a
look.
‘Is there anything else we can use against Hezbollah other than
the James Bond gadgets? Because they don’t stop rockets!’
‘I’d be happy to put the Rifles back in there,’ Jimmy announced.
‘You would!’ Ben and I said at the same time, both equally
surprised.
‘Yes. But, I would not use Kenyans, that could be seen as …
antagonistic. I’d use … Somalis.’
‘Somalis!’ Ben and I again repeated.
‘Somalis would attract al-Qa’eda to Lebanon!’ I put in. Loudly.
Jimmy eased back and waited.
I exchanged a puzzled look with Ben Ares. ‘Hezbollah would
attack them, as would al-Qa’eda?’ I noted. ‘Abdi has been calling
the Arabs a few names of late.’
‘Hezbollah would attack, and get themselves killed by the Somali
Rifles,’ Ben thought aloud. ‘A thousand Somalis, with the James
Bond gadgets, waiting for Hezbollah to make a move.’
‘It would be a massacre,’ I suggested. ‘Which might just make it
worse!’
Jimmy said, ‘If Hezbollah fighters were massacred, it would take
them a long time to recover.’ I was surprised by that. ‘But, I would
keep the Somalis there for a year or more,’ Jimmy added.
‘So every al-Qa’eda operative goes to Lebanon to attack them,’
Ben Ares realised. ‘And get themselves killed in the process.’
‘I don’t think the UN would sanction Somali peacekeepers in
Lebanon,’ I quipped. ‘Something of a contradiction: Somalis and
peacekeeping!’
‘No,’ Jimmy agreed. ‘They’d have to attack north through Israel,
with the world watching. Fortunately, the “M” Group would handle
the media, and we’d explain that it was either Somali peacekeepers –
or a full-on Israeli invasion. Since we control the UN Security
Council, not a problem. Ben, rattle some sabres towards Lebanon.
Threaten to invade.’
‘When could the Somalis be ready?’ Ben asked.
‘In five days.’
‘Did you anticipate this?’ Ben pressed.
‘I may have put a unit or two on standby.’
‘Abdi wants payback,’ I realised.
‘You’ll need to re-supply them, Ben; food and water. We’ll
handle the munitions, and the gadgets.’
A long way off, Sergeant Nbeki, better known as Lobster, packed
his bags and said goodbye to his wife and children.
With the Israelis gone, I asked Jimmy, ‘Is this wise?’
‘You ask that whilst looking at the world from this perspective.
So, try and imagine a scorched earth, the Brotherhood running
rampant, and ask it again. I see things from a different perspective. If
there’s no end-of-the-world, then it’s not wise at all. It’s all about
perspectives.’
‘Oh.’
‘When you started that officer training college, you set in motion
a chain of events that will have huge ramifications. When Rahman
downed that plane, he set in motion a second set of parallel events,
and the two will collide in around thirteen months.’
‘And when they do?’
‘The world will stop and pause on its journey to 2025,’ Jimmy
enigmatically stated. ‘And people will take a long hard look at each
other.’
That following week, Jimmy ordered a massive push by Rescue
Force into Southern Sudan, a huge charm offensive that would be
spread out over the next year, and I had to consider that a war with
Sudan was possible. Jimmy said otherwise. He asked me to divert as
much food as we could spare to Southern Sudan, along with extra
water containers, and even electric buses and scooters.
I had hardly finished speaking with Mac on the phone when an
incident occurred at Mawlini. Mac had driven to the nearest town in
his four by four air-conditioned jeep, to a merchant who claimed he
could get a hot-tub for Mac. The shopkeeper confirmed that the hot-
tub was in Mombassa, and being loaded on the lorry as they spoke.
Placated by that, Mac decided to return to base and do some proper
work.
But getting back into his car he noticed two suspicious men,
appearing to be Somalis or Ethiopians. As Mac drove off, the two
men jumped into a jeep and followed, cutting up a few bikes in the
process. Mac reached across to the glove compartment and pulled
out his pistol as he started the journey back to base. On the edge of
town, the two men were still following in their beaten up old car, a
lonely stretch of road ahead. Mac used his phone to call the base.
Ten minutes along the straight stretch of road, and having passed
only the odd lonely oil tanker, Mac could see helicopters on the
horizon. Half a mile later he slowed and pulled up, the men behind
being a bit obvious and pulling up two hundred yards back on this
desert highway. Pistol in hand, Mac jumped down to the roar of
approaching helicopters, and moved to the rear of his jeep. Stood in
the middle of the road, pistol in hand, he stared at the other vehicle.
The two men in the car were now less sure of themselves,
something of a debate going on as to what to do next. They
eventually decided that retreat was the best policy, and executed a
three-point turn, starting back down the road as a Cobra dropped
from the sky to a hover just ten feet above the road, some three
hundred yards in front of them. As opposing traffic went, the Cobra
was more worrying than a large lorry driving erratically. They
halted.
From their side windows they could now see Cobras either side,
Hueys behind the Cobras, a curtain of sand being blown up as if to
hide what was about to happen next.
The lead Cobra hit the car engine with a burst of fire, shredding
it. The two would be assassins burst from the car, one with an
AK47. Righting themselves, one ran away, the second firing toward
the Cobra, for all the good that would do. The Cobra, not wishing to
be unsociable, returned fire, taking the man’s legs off. They went
one way, his torso the other way. The second man, the runner, held
up his hands in surrender as Mac walked slowly forwards.
A Huey full of Rifles landed nearby and ran at the survivor, soon
kicking him to the ground and stamping on him. Two other Hueys
touched down as Mac waved off the Cobras. The Rifles ran
forwards, checking the car, opening the boot and searching.
Mac stepped up to the Rifles officer, a captain. Over the roar of
helicopters, Mac said, pointing at the dead man, ‘I want him
questioned!’
The captain stared at the blood-soaked sand that lay between the
upper half and the lower half of the would-be assassin, his fists on
his hips. ‘Medic!’ he called with a smile.
The survivor was dragged over. ‘Take him back. Make him talk!’
Mac ordered. ‘And send some men to the town, search it.’
A line of three jeeps pulled up, more Rifles jumping down as
Mac ambled back to his jeep, wondering when his hot-tub would
arrive.
I received an email about the incident, suggesting that senior staff
make use of driver-bodyguards. Mac refused, so I made it an order,
copying in Bob Davies, then shouted down the phone at Mac. When
that didn’t seem to persuade him, Jimmy called Mac and offered to
sack him and kick him off the base and out of his house. He would
have a driver bodyguard. Or else.
Three days after that incident, Somali soldiers started to land in
Israel. The UN had been petitioned to allow Somali peacekeepers
into the UN patrolled area of southern Lebanon, but the UN had seen
the obvious flaw in such a deployment straight away. They resisted.
Overnight, the Somalis – complete with blue helmets, drove north
from Israel to the UN bases now occupied by soldiers from West
Africa, and replaced their colleagues. Those colleagues had been
briefed a few hours earlier and were looking forward to returning
home. They drove to the coast, where ships had arrived during the
night, and were whisked away before dawn. The Lebanese woke to
find no difference in the black Africans with blue helmets, and all
was normal. Everything appeared the same.
The UN woke to find that their deployments had been altered
overnight, and without their say so. The West Africans were on their
way home, and would refuse to go back, the Somalis now in place.
Not wanting to have their authority tested in this manner, the UN
convened a meeting and ordered the Somalis out. The UN Security
Council then convened and requested the Somalis to stay where they
were, the outside world a little confused to say the least. One group
of Africans had been replaced with another. So what? What was the
big deal?
Hezbollah found out the next day, the papers reporting the
presence now of Somalis on the Israeli border. For the most part, the
average citizen of Lebanon shrugged and said “so what?” But the
Hezbollah leadership, and their sponsors in Syria and Iran, knew
only too well of the west’s nuclear power plant and waste dump in
Somalia, of western support for Somalia, and now the build-up of
western bases on Somali soil.
What I found odd at the time, was the fact that neither Hezbollah,
the Syrians, or the Iranians liked al-Qa’eda, or even spoke to them.
The Iranians hated al-Qa’eda, because al-Qa’eda supported
dissidents and separatists in the south east of Iran, bordering
Afghanistan. So I failed to see how they might cooperate on
attacking the Somalis.
That first week, the Somalis did little other than play at
peacekeeper, and the world’s media lost interest, not that it showed
much interest in the first place. But the Somali Pathfinders, along
with Kenyan Pathfinders wearing Somali shoulder flashes, checked
their ground and set-up reconnaissance patrols. Men were now dug
in and hidden with their supplies, night sights and gadgets ready,
satellite phones for secure communications.
Five days after the Somalis deployed the first team of Hezbollah
fighters set-off to fire a few rockets towards Israel. The rocket team
pulled into a lonely orchard at midnight, three cars and one lorry,
and began setting up. Dawn saw no sign of the men, their families
out looking for them, their vehicles nowhere to be seen. Those
vehicles were actually sat in a compound in northern Israel,
forensics being carried out, the bodies being examined.
Much scratching of heads followed. A second team, in a second
area, set off after dark to prepare more rockets. Four cars and one
truck, all now with their lights out, pulled into the rear of a large
house, shaded by high walls, a lookout on the roof. Death crept
quietly forwards. The man on the roof rubbed his chest, felt unwell,
and slumped. The second lookout, in a field at the rear, thought he
saw a flash of light, then wondered why the night had suddenly
become so dark. By dawn, the cars and truck were across the border
being examined, the rockets unused.
The Hezbollah regional commander was now suspicious, sure
that Israeli commandos were out and about after sundown. He said
as much to his people, asked them all to be vigilant, and sent
forwards close to a hundred men to try and engage the Israeli
invaders. By noon the next day the news was not good. Only six
men had returned, along with twelve bodies, the nature of the men’s
deaths yet to be determined. The rest had vanished.
The various outlets for Hezbollah claimed the Israelis were
capturing men and taking them prisoner, killing others. Israel
pointed out that they had no soldiers in southern Lebanon, and went
so far as to blame the Somalis, which was a bit cheeky of them.
Ineffectual mortar fire was then directed towards the Somali
peacekeepers, no one hurt.
For some odd reason, it had taken Hezbollah command a while to
figure it was the Somalis, and not the Israelis, despite what happened
when the Kenyans had been in position. With no other logical
choice, Hezbollah anger was directed towards the peacekeepers,
whose vehicles got stoned when they ventured out. So the Somalis
stopped venturing out in the white UN armoured personal carriers.
And, just for spite, the Somali’s blew every electrical appliance in
the nearest large town. People recognised the effect, since some had
been on a rally where the same thing had happened. No TV tonight.
With the Israelis providing intelligence about local Hezbollah
leaders, some living forty miles from the border, Somali snatch
squads captured the men, typically leaving most of the household
dead. But the deaths were causing concern, since the people just
seemed to have stopped living. There were no signs of injury, and
post mortems revealed nothing at all. They had just stopped.
Panic over the strange deaths spread, rumours of the Israelis
using chemical weapons. The UN got involved, sending in doctors
to examine the bodies, but found nothing. It was all very puzzling.
Al-Qa’eda then showed up, permission asked for safe passage,
permission to blow up the Somalis. Permission was granted by
Hezbollah, and the al-Qa’eda team drove south. In the Somali base,
a computer screen tracked an active satellite phone being
intermittently used on its journey south. Teams were warned, others
made ready, as the signal closed to within five miles.
The car was spotted on a quiet road, its movement matched to the
signal being tracked. A mile further on, Lobster readied a device, a
new toy, and moved to within ten yards of the road, not too fussed
about being seen. As the car drew closer it slowed, spotting him, the
device discharged. The explosives being transported had blown
when small sparks permeated the vehicle – and everything inside it,
the very purpose of this new device. The last thing the men felt was
a tingling, like a million small electric shocks. The device had been
successfully field tested, Lobster clambering to his feet and dusting
himself off, jibes and rude comments coming from his Somali
colleagues.
In the rear command post, situated in northern Israel, a Pathfinder
officer explained the device, and its range limitations, the Israelis
fascinated. Unfortunately, the device could not be widely used in
everyday life without electrocuting innocent Palestinian drivers. The
Israelis were not seeing a downside, keen to try it.
In Lebanon, local villagers saw the explosion, and went to
investigate. The news reaching Hezbollah command was that the
explosives had gone off prematurely; so much for al-Qa’eda’s
reputation as proficient bomb makers.
A long way off, Rahman sat thinking about many things.
Shelly’s marina

With permission from the school, we took the girls and a group of
their friends down to Goma for the grand opening of the main phase
of the marina. The kids enjoyed a day at a safari lodge, chasing after
balls of fur that were faster than they were, and the next day we all
dressed smart for the grand opening. Many of the ministers were due
to attend, as well as Marko and Yuri, Po and his family, plus a few
of the senior staff from the corporation.
But arriving at the marina we could see thick crowds, many
tourists, others appearing to be local businessmen in their smart
suits. I even saw a few Indians and Arabs amongst the crowd.
Security was tight, a line of police officers in blue stretching out and
marshalling the crowds.
There remained tall yellow cranes around the casino, but that
structure was taking shape nicely, and in the distance I could just
make out very tall cranes around the new stock exchange. Pulling up
in our electric bus, we stepped down being photographed by
hundreds of people, the crowds ten deep at least behind the police
and barriers. I waved, getting snapped by tourists.
The canals were now full of green-tinted water, clear at the top,
but I could not see the bottom. The concrete sides had been nicely
finished with a type of brown tiling, a black-painted iron guardrail
running alongside the canal’s edge to stop drinkers and revellers
from falling in. The sun glistened off the water’s surface, and even
this small section was appealing to the casual visitor. We strolled
along the canal’s edge, soon to the main circular marina, wooden
pontoons and a handful of boats in place, including a tall sailboat
that Yuri had flown down in an IL76. Stood at the edge, at the
railing, a hand on Lucy’s shoulder, I was very pleased with our new
marina.
Turning, I could see the curving row of cafes and bars, signs
above doors proclaiming the names and dishes served within. The
head of the corporation led us on, finding Po, Marko and Yuri inside
an ice cream parlour, suitable produce in hands. We accepted ice
creams as we greeted the gang, Jimmy leading us slowly up to the
second floor. There we found that all of the restaurants offered
balcony seating, and that you could walk along the balcony, which
we now navigated as a group.
From the second floor I could appreciate the whole of the marina
and its horseshoe of bars and cafes. Directly opposite the cafes,
edging the main canal down to the lake, sat two areas of neatly
mown grass, many benches dotted about, play areas for kids tucked
into corners.
Helen and the girls took snaps with digital cameras for five
minutes, before we wandered down to the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
We crossed an ornate wooden bridge, local dignitaries and ministers
stood waiting in the sun, TV crews and journalists backing them.
President Errol handed Shelly an oversized pair of scissors, and
under the gaze of the crowds my daughter cut a large red ribbon.
Behind it stood a plinth with a plaque, dedicating the opening to
Shelly. Shelly’s Marina, Gotham, City, had been born.
With a nudge from Jimmy, I approached the microphone, now the
focus of the TV cameras and the keen journalists, some appearing to
be western.
‘Ladies and gentlemen, thank you all for coming here today, to
the opening of Shelly’s Marina. This marina was named after my
eldest daughter, because she drew the pictures that inspired the
creation of this facility for the people of Goma, and for tourists to
enjoy.
‘It is our aim to create more water features and marinas to
improve the appearance of the city, and to attract more tourists,
helping the economies of Africa. To that end, I would like all of you
to visit the cafes and bars, and to spend some money on cold drinks
on this warm day, and some food later. Thank you.’
The crowds applauded, and Jimmy nudged me towards them.
They snapped us close up, many asking for autographs. I had to
wonder when I stopped fearing the public, and they started asking
for autographs. I greeted families from all over the world, a wide
range of accented English uttered. I practised my Russian, my
Chinese, and even some German.
Yuri led us to his own restaurant, our group soon sitting on the
balcony in the sun, having lunch as the crowds spread out, people
either walking along the canals or using the bars. Sat there in a
gentle cooling breeze off the lake, I could hear metal wires tapping
the yacht masts, a familiar sound in any marina. The arrival of a
hungry pink pelican was a treat, the bird resting on a pontoon and
being keenly photographed by the tourists.
Not to be outdone by Yuri, Po was building his own restaurant –
and on a grand scale, and now handed us a sketch of the hotel he
was going to build. My first thought was that he would not fill it, but
it was a beautiful design. If he wanted to build it he could, the land
free, the materials and labour both cheap enough.
After lunch we sat chatting, cold beers on a warm day with a
great view; I could have stayed there all day. The girls wanted to see
the view from the tallest tower, so we reclaimed our bus and set off
as a group, soon on the windy viewing platform, the balcony now
complete with wire mesh to stop jumpers. The girls peered down,
getting a birds-eye view of the marina, and the sections that were
still a work in progress.
The main structure of the casino was complete, and in the
distance we could make out the first four floors of the stock
exchange in skeletal metal form, a second tower rising up next to it.
Po and Yuri seemed to be in a heated debate about what new
buildings should go where – and who should build them. Jimmy and
I didn’t care; they could build as many new structures as they liked.
Jimmy called Po over to a large plastic drawing of the city, one
that detailed the various attractions for the tourists. On the drawing,
he pointed out where Spiral III was being built, and a new estate
called Hilltop. I took a wild guess and figured it would be atop the
distant hills that backed Spiral III. Po then studied the distant hills
through a telescope fixed to a pole.
That led to a debate between Po and Yuri about who should buy
the land and build the houses, Jimmy resisting a smile. Jimmy
intervened, explaining that neither Spiral II nor Hilltop was up for
grabs, but if they wished they could sponsor Spiral IV and V each.
These estates would be closer to the Stock Exchange. I peered out
across the city, and figured that they might, by a whole hundred
yards or so. Po and Yuri, keen to measure their dicks, agreed to one
each.
‘My estate will be better than your estate,’ I whispered to Helen.
‘We should get Shelly to design them, and charge a fee!’
I took my wife to the south side. Pointing at the lakeside, I said,
‘Jimmy will build marinas all the way along, a mile or so. If they’re
like the first one, it’ll make this place the Venice of Africa.’
‘We should build a house here.’
I stopped dead and faced my wife, the one I was supposed to lose
in a year or less. ‘You serious?’
‘Yes. Why not? It’s cheap to build, and the city is nice place to
visit now. We all have a lot of work here, so why not.’
‘Holton Mansions,’ I quipped. ‘Shelly!’ I called. When Shelly
drew near I pulled her in. ‘We want you to design a new house, a big
one that we can live in when we come down to visit.’
‘On the lakeshore,’ Helen put in.
Shelly peered out at the lake. ‘Where?’
I pointed to a place beyond the Stock Exchange. ‘Half a mile
further down the lake.’
Five minutes later, stood with Jimmy, I said, ‘Helen wants a
house down here, a big one. What do you think?’
‘Helen … suggested a house? Here?’
I was surprised by his surprise. ‘Yes. Would that … not have
happened anyway?’
‘No.’
‘Oh.’ We took in the view. After a moment I said, ‘Is … that a
good sign?’
‘I guess so. It’s … all new to me.’
‘And the house?’ I nudged.
‘May as well make it talk of the town. Make it a fucking great
pink palace, Miami style, rooms for us all; offices, staff, security
lodge, gates - and a dinning hall to entertain guests. Ten guest
lodges.’
‘Governor’s residence,’ I quipped.
‘About time, really.’
I told Po and Yuri about it. It took a whole ten seconds for them
to ask if they could build along the shoreline like that. I agreed. And
down here, a ten-bedroom mansion cost about fifty thousand pounds
to build. If that. Returning to Jimmy, I suggested that we build a row
of mansions ourselves, and sell them or rent them out as holiday
homes to the rich, especially pro-golfers. He lifted his eyebrows and
nodded.
‘Shelly!’ I called.

The snowball effect

Back in the UK, with Shelly busy refining drawings, and Helen
having a strong input to our own mansion’s design, I got back to the
drudge of running the empire. A golf tournament was about to start,
and the hotels were packed out, limiting the spectators. Houses in
the Spirals, and the city’s existing apartments, were being rented out
for two weeks at a premium, some residents moving out for those
two weeks to make money. Other householders had moved in with
neighbours to allow their homes to be rented out.
I was busy directing food to Southern Sudan, that country now
suffering from the destruction of its oil pipeline. Southern Sudan had
all the oilfields, but the north controlled them, the south remaining
dirt poor. I now arranged regular food shipments, and also bought
food on the open market to ship over. Rescue Force had moved in,
being kept busy distributing food to villages. Rudd had organised the
self-assembly huts in their hundreds, and the lorries now trundled
through Ethiopia to reach their destination.
Anna got a nudge, and some of the new school-building budget
went to the southern-most parts of the Christian southern Sudan.
With that organised, I returned to the cooperation group, and to
facts, figures and statistics. Zimbabwe’s crop yields were an
inspiration, growing by fifty percent or more a year. They had even
seen the return of white farmers. I was not sure that was a good idea,
but the farmers did know how to till their own land for the best
results.
One report caused me to stop and stare at it. The Chinese,
thinking that they should be more involved with grabbing future
African GDP and import markets, had made our bank a loan, a great
deal of money. That had been followed by the British, the French
and the Germans, and finally by Hardon Chase. They all wanted a
slice of a future apple, and were falling over themselves to get in
there now.
Traditional African investment was seen as “owning” the
country, since the country in question could never pay back its debt.
That would lead to lucrative mining contracts for the creditor
nations. I wondered how much of that attitude was still alive and
with us. I heaved a sigh, and realised that everything I had spent or
earmarked had been topped-up. Back to the drawing board.
In a bold move, I ordered an entire estate built east of Goma hub.
It would replace the huts that sat there now, and would consist of
neat rows of our standard four-storey apartment blocks, thirty-six of
them at the first go. When complete, those living in the huts would
be offered the apartments for the same small rent they paid now. The
huts would then be moved elsewhere.
I increased the budgets for thirty town councils, but then had an
idea. It was outlandish. It was so outlandish as to make outlandish
ideas seem normal. I smiled, but then I shook my head, expecting
Jimmy to shout at me. But the damn idea would not go away.
Standing at my window, hands in pockets, I decided that the worst
Jimmy could do was shout.
Hopping into my electric car, which I still had not charged, I
raced down to the house, finding Jimmy in the office. ‘Got a
minute?’
‘You have a phone, dear,’ Helen quipped from behind her screen.
Jimmy eased up and stretched.
I tapped a large map of our region, one affixed to the wall, and
Jimmy closed in, awaiting my great idea. ‘Kinshasa is a thousand
miles away from where the action is. If - and it’s a big if - a new
capital city was built here, south of Forward Base, it would be at the
centre of all the action, and have road, rail and air links to
everywhere. It would create jobs in this region, and make it easier to
spread the money around through their existing institutions. And
such a new capital would have no shanty towns, people would only
be allowed to live there if they had work there.’
Jimmy sat back down. ‘One of the main reasons for having Goma
hub where it is, was to isolate it from the corruption of Kinshasa. To
be … a new start.’
‘As this would be,’ I countered.
‘And another reason, was that we run the region – seen at the
time as a giant swamp – so that we can control it, its growth and its
money.’
‘Which should not change, not now; everyone is loyal to us, not
Kimballa. Look, I can only grow the region so much without
wasting money, or spending it on projects that are someone else’s
ideas. For the region to grow faster it needs entrepreneurs,
businesses, and people growing their own city naturally – like every
other city on the planet did.’
‘True,’ Jimmy admitted. ‘And it would transplant a million
people into our region, people with jobs and skills.’
‘And … Gothan City would be more Beverly Hills to this new
city’s Los Angeles. We keep Gotham City elite, and make this new
city a proper working city.’
Sharon, her daughter and Helen, were all now keenly listening.
‘The growth of Gotham City has always been a struggle in my
mind,’ Jimmy explained. ‘Because it will attract poor people, as it
does now. I’d guess, that twenty years from now, it would be less
ideal … and more traffic jam.’
‘So this would make it a posh suburb,’ I concluded.
‘I had planned on building the next phase of Goma to the south
and south west,’ Jimmy explained. ‘The stock exchange area would
be mostly posh apartments, the lake would be Miami, the hills would
have the Spirals, and south west would be more working class
apartments. If those working class apartments were twenty or thirty
miles further south it would not do any harm.’
‘Put a rail link in,’ I suggested. ‘They can commute.’
‘Could you move a whole city?’ Sharon asked.
‘Most of Kinshasa is shanty town anyway,’ I said. ‘And there
would still be business and buildings left there, we would not be
pulling them down. I reckon that a quarter million of the best paid
jobs might move.’
‘Go sell it to Kimballa,’ Jimmy suggested. ‘See what he says.’
A few days later, Shelly presented me with some typically Miami
style mansions, all beautifully drawn by hand. I asked her to
photograph them and email them to me, pleased with the work. She
then presented me with her drawing of our new house, Helen having
had a hand in it.
The house was a large “H” shape, and reminded me at first glance
of a French chateau, a slopping tiled roof with numerous small
windows. It was two-storey, three with the attic rooms, offered
ponds and gardens, and lodges for guests.
‘Twenty-four main bedrooms,’ she explained. ‘Another twenty
small rooms in the attic, ten guest lodges, an indoor and outdoor
pool, a gym, a dinning hall and three reception rooms.’
‘Excellent work, babes. Where would your room be?’
She pointed at a window facing the lake. ‘Lucy would be next
door, you and mum are here, and Jimmy there.’
I faced Helen. ‘Are you happy with the design?’
‘Yes, it should be lovely.’
‘It’s a deal then. I’ll call Rolf tomorrow and start it. Right, young
lady, I have a new project for you as well. See if you can draw a
design for a whole new city, in Africa, but nothing too strange.’
‘Am I getting paid for this?’ my daughter nudged.
‘What … would you like?’
‘A horse, twelve or fifteen hands.’
I turned my head to Helen. And waited. My dear lady wife
shrugged. ‘OK. Find one you like.’
‘Portia has one for sale, he’s called Max,’ Shelly said with a
smile. She ran off to phone whoever Portia was.
When Rolf turned up the next day, he found the Kangaroo in the
drawing straight away, this Kangaroo peering out from a window. I
wagged a warning finger at him. ‘Design it, and build it where I
marked on the back. Then I want twenty mansions built, different
design for each, as per the other drawings. Think … Miami
waterfront properties and canals. Po and Yuri will build their own
houses at the end of this row. There’ll be a road down the backs of
the houses, and another row of mansions the other side. Think …
Beverly Hills.’
‘We get the whole contract?’
‘To design and build, but using local labour. Go to work.’
A week later, Jimmy told me to pack a bag, and we flew down to
Goma hub with Big Paul and his mates, jumping on a flight for
Mawlini. At Mawlini we booked into the hotel before boarding a
flight of three Hueys that had been sat waiting for us. Ten minutes of
flying southeast towards the border delivered us to a base almost as
big as Mawlini, hundreds of huts, high fences with guards, many
brick buildings partly complete, many cranes attending others.
Landing on a concrete apron next to a Huey hangar, we were met
by Ngomo himself. ‘Welcome to the United Nations.’
‘UN?’ I queried as I shook his hand.
‘The “M” Group military academy,’ Ngomo clarified. It was
news to me. I didn’t even know that this super-sized base existed. I
knew there were foreign soldiers about somewhere, but not where.
Ngomo led us to jeeps, which whisked us around to an officer’s
mess. Stepping down, I could now see Big Paul and his mates
suitably armed. Ngomo led us inside.
In a large and air-conditioned lounge we found a sprinkling of
officers sat about, and a variety of national uniforms. The officers
eased up and lowered books, newspapers and files, stepping slowly
towards us.
Ngomo introduced the men, just about getting the names right.
We had an officer from the British Parachute Regiment, an
American Rangers officer, a Russian Parachute Corp officer with his
distinctive blue and white stripped vest, an Indian officer in a turban,
a French Foreign Legion officer and a Chinese officer.
Wow, I said to myself, wondering what the hell Jimmy was up to.
‘My sister is not a goat,’ the Chinese officer said to me. And in
English.
‘Your English is good, for a mainland Chinese officer,’ I probed.
‘A condition of being here; everyone must speak English.’
‘Yes?’ I faced Jimmy.
‘One size fits all,’ Jimmy responded. ‘And it saves having to use
interpreters … too much.’
Ngomo put in, ‘In the evenings, all the foreign soldiers have
lessons in English, two or three hours a day.’
The British officer said, ‘And the native English speakers have
learnt how to offer insults about sisters, and farm animals, in a
variety of languages.’
The other officers agreed whole-heartedly about that. The
Russian said, ‘In my language, “whoey” is a bad word. So, instead
of “How are you?” the English boys say “Whoey are you?”’
I smiled. I had used the phrase myself once or twice.
‘How’s the training progressing?’ Jimmy asked Ngomo.
‘They were all injected on day one, and most now train like the
Rifles. A few accidents, and few broken bones, but they are
progressing.’
‘And the discipline?’ Jimmy pressed.
‘Not where we would like it,’ Ngomo admitted. ‘A … change in
culture for some.’
‘Punish the whole squad, and their officers, when they break the
rules,’ Jimmy insisted. ‘If they’re a problem, send them home.’
‘The English and Americans are the worst offenders,’ Ngomo
mentioned. ‘They like to play the fool and play tricks on others.’
‘Have the worst offenders flogged in front of their units, remove
liberties and beer, or just kick them out. If you like, flog their NCOs
and officers – I don’t fucking care.’
The British Major stood silent, and looking worried, as Ngomo
grinned at him. Back in the sun, we boarded the jeeps, soon out of
the base and heading along dusty tracks to a firing range. This
particular range was enclosed by high brick walls, sand dunes
having blown into place against their base.
At the entrance to the range we climbed a set of steep metal steps
to a viewing platform, a thick glass pane protecting us from errant
rounds or ricochets. Below us, a squad of six men stood in a line –
appearing British, no flack jackets or helmets worn. In front of them
a man stood waiting our signal. He now lifted his colleague into a
fireman’s lift, held up his M16 and stepped slowly forwards.
A target popped up on the left. He swung left, fired twice, then
checked the area to his front and right. The target dropped away. A
few steps in he fired to the right, followed by a target at the front. At
the end of the fifty-yard range he turned around, facing his squad,
and started back.
‘In the UK, this would be illegal,’ I noted.
‘It would be in most countries,’ Jimmy agreed.
The man being tested swung his weapon around and fired as he
progressed. Back at the squad he carefully laid down his travelling
companion, stripped his weapon whilst using his mock-injured
colleague as a mat to keep the rifle parts off the sand, then reloaded
his weapon, checking it. He lifted the injured man, and repeated the
exercise.
‘How many times would they do that?’ I asked Ngomo.
‘Till they are so tired they cannot think.’
‘Anyone ever been shot?’
‘Yes, a few Rifles have died this way. But it’s good training.’
At the next range, soldiers were holding small targets at arms
distance, their colleagues firing at them with pistols from ten yards.
After that came a grenade training exercise.
‘How the fuck do you train … for a grenade going off?’ I asked.
‘You see now,’ Ngomo said.
From behind a thick glass screen, scratched heavily on one side,
we observed a soldier with a standard NATO grenade. He walked
forwards, alone on the enclosed range, and pulled the pin. My eyes
widened and my heart stopped. The man tossed the grenade into the
sand, just four yards in front of himself, spun around and lay down
so that the axis of his body pointed to the grenade through his boots.
The grenade exploded in a puff of smoke and sand, the soldier
jumping up and joining his colleagues emerging from a brick room.
He sat down and took his boots off, revealing blood on his foot.
‘He caught some!’ I noted.
‘Yes, he need the doctor to remove it,’ Ngomo calmly said.
‘Everybody get a piece in the foot.’
‘And … the point of this exercise?’ I firmly nudged.
‘Not to be afraid the grenade, and to know what to do.’
‘No wonder this doesn’t go on in the west,’ I quipped. ‘Shit.’
At the next range, a group of Russians were being put through
their paces by Rifles NCOs. Those NCOs had their berets on, but
shirts off, each looking like a heavyweight boxer – only more scary.
I guessed that they didn’t get much backchat from the recruits.
A long bench crossed the range at this end, on it some twenty
weapons. The assorted weapons started with pistols and ended with
an M82 fifty calibre sniper rifle, and the aim of the exercise was
simple: to see if the recruit could remember how to handle each
weapon. There was just the one small problem. The ammunition was
on a separate table, in a bowl, all jumbled up. If you tried to stick the
wrong round in the wrong weapon you were in trouble. You could
even blow your own head off.
Back at base, we observed as men were learning to drive a variety
of vehicles, forty-eight different types of them available, and all had
to be mastered. The philosophy here was simple. They learnt all
vehicles, all weapons, all scenarios, till they were confident that they
could tackle anything. That basic training would then be extended
into desert specifics, such as desert survival and desert sniper
courses, jungle survival and jungle fighting, mountain climbing and
mountain fighting. And that was before they got anywhere near unit
manoeuvres and company manoeuvres.
The final training area was for advanced first aid, Silo Stiffys
getting plenty of attention in rooms built like lecture theatres. Teams
of four men were now competing with each other to correctly
diagnose the patient. We sat to observe.
‘What do you see,’ Jimmy whispered.
‘What do you mean?’
‘What … do you see?’
I studied the men. ‘Soldiers … training in advanced first aid.’
‘What else?’
‘Training to … fight the Brotherhood?’
‘Open your eyes, numb nuts.’
With a curious frown, I studied the teams trying to diagnose the
patient. And I was still studying them thirty seconds later.
Then the clock on the wall froze, and the world stopped turning.
I glanced at Jimmy as he waited expectantly, and turned back to
the soldiers. Each team had four men, but of different nationalities.
The team on the left offered a Russian, an American, an Indian and a
Chinese soldier.
‘The national soldiers are training together, and bonding,’ I
whispered.
‘Good. And what else?’
‘Might make it harder for them to fight each other in the future,’ I
whispered.
‘Soldiers don’t make policy, politicians do, so that’s not a factor.
What else? What … current and near-future events may be
affected?’
‘They … could be used in Africa? Against Sudan?’
‘Never. Where … else?’
I gave it some thought. I ruled out Lebanon, the Somalis were
there, and we didn’t want western soldiers to be seen there. A
thought occurred to me, and I grinned towards Jimmy.
‘Finally,’ he said.
‘Hardon Chase is pushing for an invasion of Afghanistan,’ I
whispered.
‘He’d need some suitably trained soldiers first.’
‘And a multi-national force would stop complaints about western
aggression,’ I whispered.
‘And such a campaign would need cooperation at the highest
national levels,’ Jimmy suggested. ‘With the public behind them.
Chase doesn’t realise it, but this will be the undoing of the Pentagon
hawks. If he was sensible, he would never have agreed to this – it
was a huge mistake.’
With the competition at an end, rude words exchanged by the
various the teams, we walked down to them and chatted for ten
minutes.
Back at Mawlini, we spoke to international soldiers undertaking
basic flying lessons, both Tucano and Huey, before tackling a well-
earned steak in the rooftop bar. Mac stepped out fifteen minutes
later, pistol holster on his hip. It looked a bit odd, because he wore
RF medical whites.
Mac was looking better these days, better than the gnarled old
baldy he had been most of the time I had known him He looked ten
years younger now, the little pot belly gone, even the sunglass crows
feet gone from his eyes.
‘Expecting trouble?’ I asked, pointing at the pistol.
‘Never know around here.’
‘And the two men who tried to follow you?’ I asked.
‘Sudanese fuckers. And fucking amateurs!’
‘Compared to an expert like yourself,’ Jimmy said with a straight
face, but we all knew he was taking the piss.
‘Aye, bollocks,’ Mac responded.
‘You look … well,’ I nudged, knowing full well that he had been
injected four times.
‘I’m ageing backwards!’
‘Mentally, or physically?’ Jimmy asked.
‘Both! And you could have given me some of that stuff twenty
years ago.’
‘We had to test it first,’ I lamely suggested.
‘How’s the wife?’ Jimmy asked Mac.
I snapped my head around to Jimmy, then back to Mac. ‘Wife!’
‘We ain’t married, she … er … just lives with me.’
‘A nice bit of black,’ Jimmy said. ‘A nice … nineteen year old …
bit of black.’
‘Aye, well … I couldn’t tell how old she was when I met her.
They all look the same to me.’
‘Did they not list her age in the catalogue?’ Jimmy asked.
‘I’m helping the local community, providing a job and a home,’
Mac said defensively. ‘That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.’
‘She’s less than a third of your age,’ I pointed out.
‘Yeah, well I can still get it up.’
‘So how’s the base?’ Jimmy asked.
‘Still fucking growing with the new camp out there; they all fly
here.’
‘More people for you to shout at,’ I quipped.
‘So why the big move towards Sudan?’ Mac broached.
‘Since their referendum was inconclusive, the situation has
become … less clear. And, with the damage to their oil industry, I
figured we should help.’
‘Aye, and I don’t know who did the damage either!’
‘It’s a mystery,’ I said, shaking my head.
‘Should the people of Southern Sudan wish to break away, I may
consider assisting them,’ Jimmy suggested.
An F15 came into land, right in front of us.
‘They based here?’ I asked Mac, certain that they weren’t.
‘No, Mombassa. But always up here for a visit, or to bomb the
ranges.’
A second F15 came in behind the first, and I faced Jimmy. ‘Do
you think anyone would tell Helen?’
‘You’d be divorced,’ Jimmy suggested.
‘It’s no fun, is it,’ I said with a sigh.
‘Stick to golf,’ Mac suggested. ‘We do.’
‘You play down in Mombassa?’ I asked.
‘No, there’s a wee course here now.’
‘You … have a golf course?’
‘Four holes so far, we made it ourselves,’ Mac explained. ‘We
formed a committee, paid a few labourers, cleared an area and dug
up the dirt so that the good stuff was on top, watered it and spread
grass seeds. Took six months. Plenty of sandy bunkers, no water
feature.’
‘You can allocate some money to it,’ Jimmy offered.
‘We can?’
‘Yes. I’ll be ordering a new estate, just like yours, to sit the other
side of the road. May as well have a nice course for the people who
live around here.’
‘I’ll get on it sharpish,’ Mac threatened. ‘Any major deployments
in the works?’
‘Nothing on the horizon at the moment other than Southern
Sudan,’ Jimmy replied. ‘But there’s plenty to do around Africa, so
keep them reaching the villages. And the next time you waste the
fuel of eight helicopters to deal with a few gunmen the cost will be
taken out of your fucking salary.’
Mac raised his hands in surrender. ‘I called the base and told
them the situation, that’s all. It was their decision to send out a full
squadron. Or two.’
‘Don’t keep a pistol under your pillow, Mac,’ I warned. ‘You
annoy that nice young girl and she’ll blow your balls off.’
This visit, the senior staff did not wish to corner us and worry
over the drug, or any of our innovations and inventions. They were
all now reported to have been injected – and enjoying the benefits. I
stood at the wall as the sun hit the far horizon, beer in hand, and
enjoying the amber hue that everything adopted this time of day.
Hueys came and went, that sound that I was so fond of, and two
F15s glided effortlessly by, heading home for tea.
Big Paul drew level, an elbow on the wall, peering down with a
beer in hand. ‘You miss this place?’
‘Yeah. And I miss the stress of a deployment or a battle.’
‘Getting old, you see.’
‘Fuck off, underling. Where you been, anyway?’
‘I’ve been working on the training programme with Jimmy for
the past six months. I’m the liaison, computer in the house.’
‘Kept that quiet.’
‘Jimmy don’t want the world to know. Al-Qa’eda might come
straight for us then.’
‘Yeah, I suppose,’ I softly stated. ‘Looks like the Sudanese are
intent on sniffing around this place.’
‘They think the Pathfinders blew up their bridges. Can’t blame
‘em.’
‘How’re the international soldiers getting along?’ I asked.
‘Yeah, fine, no problems. What you gotta keep in mind, is that
this lot are all volunteers, and that back in the UK they’d have fuck
all to do other than exercises after exercises. Being here is like going
to war for them. And the training they’re getting – well, when they
finish they don’t need to apply to join the SAS, they exceed the old
standards – and then some. Prime Minister was concerned.’
‘About what? Accidents?’
‘No, about the Rambo types going home and kicking-off in civvy
street.’
‘Ah, I see. That a problem?’
‘No, soldiers want to show off when they think they have
something to prove. When this lot get back they’ll have seen some
action, nothing to prove to anyone. They’ll all get patrols in northern
Somalia, a few places in the Congo where rebels hold out, Angola.
But it’s been a fucking eye opener for the British and Russians,
being taught by blacks who know more than they do. And the
fucking Chinese have never seen blacks.’
‘No Israelis here?’ I puzzled.
‘Some problem with the injections I heard. Not sure if they want
their people injected, some religious crap.’
‘It’s been banned in the Middle East,’ I informed my sometime-
bodyguard. ‘But they fly to Goma to get it. Pope spoke out against it
as well.’
‘Ah, fuck ‘em. What’d they know.’
‘Haven’t seen your lad for a while.’
‘He’s down here, at the beach hotel, trainee assistant manager.
Having a ball, plenty of girls on holiday.’
I smiled. ‘Not a hard life for him. You got anyone steady?’
‘Nah.’
Jimmy appeared the other side of Big Paul. ‘Any minute now.’
‘Any minute now … what?’ I asked.
‘Italian UN coordinator with a great cleavage.’
We waited. She appeared beneath, stopping to chat to a few
people, but our eyes were not good enough to appreciate the boobs.
‘Reckon we could hit the cleavage with our drinks?’ Jimmy
asked.
‘Only one way to know for sure,’ I said, and we poured, ducking
back and getting three more beers, soon sat looking innocent as the
lady in question stormed in; wet hair, and now a wet see-through
top. A few cat calls went up, an applause issued from one table as
the fiery Italian babe shouted at a waiter, pointing at the wall. That
waiter pointed at the men clapping, turning to us with a grin as she
assailed them with curses in Italian. We eased back in our seats.
After a minute, she realised that she was leant forwards as she
shouted, and coming undone. The men, all RF doctors, beckoned her
back when she turned away.
She returned ten minutes later with the senior Italian
representative, and Coup, lambasting the doctors again. They had
cheered when she reappeared.
‘Do you think we should intervene?’ I asked, without sounding
sincere.
‘And spoil their view of her cleavage?’ Jimmy questioned.
Everyone in the bar was now laughing as she assailed the men in
English and Italian, her best assets wobbling as she wagged a finger,
eliciting even more laughter.
Jimmy scraped back his chair and stood, wandering over with a
napkin. He uttered a few soothing words, wagged a finger at the
men, and rubbed her cleavage with the napkin. Coup threw his hands
in the air and walked off, Jimmy leading the lady below.
‘That’s him gone for the night,’ I said. I stood at the wall and
rang home, chatting to the girls and getting the latest on the new
horse, Helen hinting that Shelly had a steady boyfriend. We didn’t
know the lad, and we were not about to pry. I drank with Big Paul,
chatting to many of the senior staff, and hit the sack around
midnight.
At noon the next day we landed back in Goma, a meeting with
Kimballa arranged in the Pentagon. At the Pentagon building, we
took a little time to view the canal reaching towards it and a new
café under construction, before proceeding inside. On the top floor,
we entered President Errol’s office, making use of his boardroom,
Kimballa and his team sat with Errol and chatting away.
When everyone was settled around the boardroom table, I lifted
the shroud on the first drawing that Shelly had made for me, certain
that any Kangaroos would be too small to be visible to my audience.
‘We have, for some time, considered building a larger city in this
region.’
My audience were quietly stunned by the scope of the
undertaking.
‘That city would be designed from the ground up, literally, to be a
modern African city, and a shining example to the world of what can
be achieved here. But, such a city would compete with Kinshasa and
draw the talented individuals this way. To that end, I have the
following suggestion. Why don’t we build a new city here, and
move your centre of government from Kinshasa, to here.’
They were shocked.
‘Move the capital?’ Kimballa asked.
‘A capital with no slums, with new road and rail links, clean
streets, tall towers and low unemployment,’ I teased. ‘A capital, that
would put Lagos, Nairobi and Johannesburg to shame. The centre of
Africa, the capital … of Africa.’
They were still stunned, but pleasantly stunned.
‘It would take a long time to move the government and its staff,’
Kimballa complained.
‘We would build certain departments and ministries first, and
move just those, and could build enough buildings and apartments to
accommodate all of your government’s staff and functions. These
new buildings would be purpose built, luxury, yet functional. There
would be a new university, a major hospital, parks, cinemas …
everything that you would see in a modern western city, but there
would be no slums or pollution.’
‘How long would it take?’ they asked.
‘We would at start the centre and work out, so some ministries
could move in a matter of months. And, to start with, it would be a
giant complex for the government and its workers. After that would
follow apartments for civilians, business offices, factories and
industrial parks. The entire project would take ten years or more, but
the first stage could be ready quickly.’
I opened a folder and handed out sketches of buildings, images of
what such a city may be like in the future.
‘You would pay for this?’ Kimballa asked.
‘Out of the money we make here, plus other money that we
would put in,’ Jimmy answered him. ‘Some buildings we would
own, some you would own.’
I showed Kimballa the sketch of my new house. ‘We’re building
many houses like that along the lake. You could all live in one.’
Now I could see the kind of response I wanted, and from the simple
sketch of a house.
‘And what of Kinshasa?’ they asked.
‘It would go on as now, still a major city,’ I assured them. ‘It
would only be the government moving, and then key sectors,’ I lied,
hoping that they would not question it.
I answered their questions for twenty minutes before we sat
around drinking cold lemonade on the balcony. My audience was
keen, I could see that, it was just a matter of logistics. I ended by
saying, ‘If we build it, it will attract all of the key businesses from
Kinshasa, and become a powerful city.’ I could see Kimballa’s grey
matter working away, and I knew that he feared us breaking away.
We thanked him for his short visit and showed him out, our
President already buying properties off-plan in Spiral III. Our
luggage had remained with airport security and Big Paul. We now
reclaimed it and passed through our own scanners, boarding a
British Airways 747 bound for London.
En-route, I asked Jimmy about the meeting.
‘I would have built up Gotham City, but not as much as you’re
proposing for this new city. It’ll use up a lot of cash, but at the end
of the day it’ll create jobs and improve the regional GDP, which is
just as important. If it’s a modern city, and we ring-fence it to keep
the poor out, then it should attract a lot of talent.’
‘And Gotham City is the rich suburb up the road.’
‘Which would not be a bad thing,’ Jimmy agreed.

Winter

As winter approached, India and Pakistan were making threats,


which worried us all, and the Ukraine was in danger of splitting
along ethnic lines. Sumatra had suffered a major quake, RF
deployed in time, and Samoa was hit again.
In Lebanon, the complaints to the UN were souring, allegations
of the Somalis kidnapping hundreds of people. Fortunately, the UN
were very short on hard evidence, and even their own inspectors on
the ground did not understand it, many of those inspectors embedded
with the Somalis.
An Israeli invasion had been averted, and two-dozen al-Qa’eda
attacks had been thwarted. Unfortunately, our scanners had come too
late for Chad, a plane hijacked and crashed into its capital, an odd
move for al-Qa’eda since it achieved little. A third plane, taking off
from Yemen, had been hijacked at gunpoint, despite us donating
scanners, and had been shot down by Kenyan F15s with American
crews, thirty miles off the Somali coast.
That was the first time a hijacked airliner had been shot down,
but it would not be the last. The Middle East, and many countries far
and wide, condemned the shooting down, but the UN Security
Council countries all spoke in favour of the action, and the dangers
that such aircraft posed to the world’s major cities.
Unfortunately, many US commentators were suggesting an
invasion of Afghanistan, joined by the Russians. The Russian capital
had suffered numerous bomb attacks, despite Jimmy’s warnings.
Problem was, as soon as the police spotted a suicide bomber from
the Russian Caucuses, they blew themselves up in the street, or
wherever they happened to be when spotted. Many of those fighters,
Chechen and others, had made a happy home in Afghanistan, as
Jimmy had predicted. We now had the odd situation where Russia
and America were on the same page over global terrorism.
In November, I hosted a meeting with Po and his family, Yuri
and Marko, plus other investors in our new city. In on the meeting
were all of the household “M” Group representatives, CAR and our
property management business, the US bankers that we were
friendly with, as well as Rolf the architect – now MD of the
company that he worked at.
The meeting, at the club in London, concerned the new city south
of Goma. Using a large screen, and images created by my laptop, I
first displayed a map of the area and labelled various building
projects, outlining future projects for Gotham City. That led to an
image of the new city, and a few gasps.
‘If you build this, what will happen to Goma?’ Yuri asked.
‘Goma will be kept for higher earners and quality housing, and
tourists,’ I explained. ‘And it will have a fast road and rail link to the
new city, which will be less than thirty miles away. That city will
have everything you may imagine of a modern western city, and
may also house the Kinshasa Government. Gotham City will be a
rich suburb, with no shanty towns.’
That pleased Po and the Russians no end, all of them now
building their own phallic mansions on the lakeshore. Han indicated
that his government would be interested in a substantial stake. He
was followed by Keely making similar noises on behalf of Chase,
and our property development company was certain it could raise
more money for the project.
Drinks were brought in, and plans were made, Po suggesting that
it could be the new Hong Kong, but African. This was not turning
out to be a hard sell, and everyone wanted to know when they could
lay claim to a patch of land. Figures were bandied around, sums
large enough to give our US bankers an erection. I could see them
salivating as they stood over a drawing of the proposed new city.
Since property prices in the States were now rising at less than two
percent a year, they were keen to invest.
That two percent was a worry for us all, since we knew what a
fall in house prices may mean. Jimmy issued stark warnings, and the
European Governments made sure that their banks were not
exposed. Jimmy said that if prices could be held static for three years
we would see some growth afterwards. We stopped building houses,
and spare cash was now being earmarked for Africa, not the west’s
property market.
In the first week of December, damp and chilly in the UK, we
flew down to Goma for the much-publicised grand opening of our
new stock exchange and metals market. McKinleys had a key role,
supported by many of the world’s key bourses, especially from the
“M” Group countries.
Computers had been set-up well in advance and thoroughly
tested, even EMP proof, and a group of traders had used a practise
program to try everything, all the usual trades. We even had a group
of traders sat in Gotham City trading the various world markets till
ours was ready.
Our exchange, our stock exchange, was not so much a national
exchange of company shares as a subsidiary of six other exchanges,
plus links to existing African exchanges as full members. We had
not floated CAR, not yet, and it controlled a massive slice of the
markets in Africa.
Our oil, ore and metals exchange, on the other hand, would be a
world-beater, the volumes potentially huge. We had deliberately
stockpiled ore, metal ingots and gold, and they would be for sale on
day one. Each of our mines had agreed to partner the exchange,
making life easier for them. They dumped their stock with us, and
either their own traders or ours would try to get the best price for it,
the mines no longer having to worry about transport costs. Their
jobs ended when they handed over the ore or refined ingots.
The building was finished, a gleaming beacon that I noticed as we
came into land. Next to it stood an office block, where mining
companies and traders could have offices. In front of the new
exchange ran a canal, down to the lake one way, around to the
marina bars the other way. The young traders living here were
already singing its praises: It’s like Canary Wharf in London, but
with all year round sun and cheap beer! Spare apartments were at a
premium.
We drove around in convoy, some of the directors of McKinleys
with us, plus a representative of the Bank of England and the
London Stock Exchange. And fifty reporters.
Inside the building, we took the lift to the second floor, and
walked out to applause from young traders in pink shirts. This floor
offered an open-cry pit, but also computers around the walls for
posting and receiving trades and instructions.
‘Are you ready?’ Jimmy loudly called, getting back a cheer. He
cut a ribbon in front of six TV cameras and fifty photographers, and
the main screens came to life. Trading life had begun.
We had posted ore, metal and even some oil deals at good prices,
the buyers now making offers to our sellers. Leaving the melee, we
took the lift up one floor and viewed a room of computerised trading
stations, young men and women sat behind three screens at once and
trading the global markets.
One floor up we found the room for McKinleys, since they were
principals to many derivatives traded here; they offered the bets and
took the punters action. Above them we found Yuri, Marko, Po and
others, champagne flowing. Po had his own traders, as did the
Russians, and I suspected that insider dealing might be an issue.
I accepted a champagne flute, one for Helen, and we stood
chatting to traders, the first few trades of the day pointed out on
screens. Wondering up another level, we met the regulators, the
internal police of our exchange, those who would try and spot the
insider dealing. Stepping to a window, I could see the canal below,
several small speedboats sat waiting some trade, local drivers, and
across a wide area of mown grass sat the main marina. I smiled; this
place was coming along rapidly.
The other place for gambling your money, although definitely
biased in favour of the house, was the casino. After an hour in the
exchange we headed that way in a speedboat, tearing along at the
legal limit of three miles per hour, bodyguards in front and behind. I
smiled; this was the way to travel to work in the mornings. What a
contrast to when I started trading, commuting to work on the tube in
chilly old London.
At the casino, the neon lights were already flashing, smartly
dressed local staff helping us out of the boat, a red carpet laid on,
ropes through brass poles. We stepped into the cool, air-conditioned
interior, past a security check with airport-style scanners, a quick
nose into the cloakroom, and onto the main floor, already hundreds
of tourists playing games. Well, Yuri had given them all free chips
to play, valued at two hundred dollars.
We gravitated towards a long bar, grabbed beers, and eased down
around a table that offered a view of the action below, the bar raised
whilst the main roulette tables floor was sunken.
‘Very nice,’ I said. ‘Rooms for shows as well.’
‘They have a few stars playing,’ Helen put in. ‘Talk about west-
end shows coming here.’
‘There’re enough tourists,’ Jimmy commented.
‘Can’t build Spiral II fast enough,’ I said. ‘All sold off plan. Half
of Hilltop sold off plan.’
Jimmy turned his head. ‘Extend the marina behind us, and put a
row of nice apartments along it, maybe four storeys, but long.
Ground level should be parking. Build a good three hundred
apartments. Call it … Casino Row.’
Po joined us, Yuri and Marko working the room. Well, they did
own half of it.
‘New Hong Kong,’ Po insisted.
Yuri showed us the show rooms and stages, and I could imagine
Katie Joe up their singing. I wondered what she was doing now.
Stepping outside, and into the brilliant sun, we donned sunglasses
and ambled along the side of the casino, parkland and benches that
led towards the marina and canals. At the main canal we walked left,
and towards the central marina, a fine day for a stroll.
Tourists waved, or took our pictures as we progressed, and I
noticed millions of small fish in the canal, pointing them out to
Jimmy.
‘Safe still water for breeding,’ he commented.
At the main marina square we noticed a crowd, many pointing
into the water. A local, dressed as a chef, tossed a dead chicken into
the water. A huge slash followed a pair of massive jaws snapping at
the chicken.
‘Jesus,’ I said. ‘That croc is ten feet long!’
‘No swimming today,’ Helen quipped.
We closed in on the scene, the croc now munching on its chicken
and swallowing, the tourists snapping away. Well, it was Africa,
what did they expect.
‘Can’t prevent them,’ Jimmy said. ‘And have boats in here.
Besides, they’re a pull for the crowds.’
Those crowds turned and snapped us more than the croc as we
wandered past, but we were soon upstairs in an Indian restaurant and
ordering food, enjoying the view below. The sun sparkled off the
water, and the white sailboats looked great, now a dozen of them
moored.
‘It’s coming along,’ I said, contented with my work.
‘Beautiful,’ Helen agreed. ‘And our house will be ready first
week of February with a bit of luck.’
‘I told Rolf to make a few security enhancements.’ Jimmy put in.
‘Ground floor will be stronger, windows bullet-proof.’
I nodded, absently.
The head of PACT came and found us, Jimmy pulling over a seat
for him. ‘The Ethiopians have sent us a delegation. They surrender.’
‘They … surrender?’ I queried.
‘They’ve seen the new F15s, although they’re thirty years old,
and the American squadrons, and the new RAF squadrons, now the
multi-national force training near Mawlini – and they think we’re
going to invade.’
‘Ah,’ I let out. ‘We do have a lot of soldiers on their border.’
Jimmy sipped his beer. ‘Ask them if they would like to join the
cooperation group.’
‘Yes?’ the head of PACT asked.
‘Yes?’ I also asked.
Jimmy nodded. ‘They have resources, they’re well placed, and
we don’t want them siding with Sudan, especially not if we have
designs on Southern Sudan.’ He faced the head of PACT squarely
and nodded, the man stepping away.
‘They would assist with Southern Sudan,’ I realised. ‘And secure
Kenya’s northern border.’
‘I have no desire to build up Ethiopia,’ Jimmy began. ‘But there’s
some merit to clearing out certain groups from within.’
‘Sudan won’t be happy, they’ll be … twitchy.’
Jimmy nodded. ‘They could be an issue.’
I took in the boats. ‘That money you asked me to spend? By the
end of this year I’ll have more than when I started the way things are
going.’
‘You give someone a simple task,’ Jimmy mock complained.
‘Don’t waste it, but be bold.’
‘You don’t call moving Kinshasa bold?’ I complained.
‘Actually, that surprised me about you. And the house down
here.’
‘It did?’ I asked, Helen equally surprised.
‘It did,’ Jimmy confirmed. ‘You’re doing better than I had
expected.’
‘Thanks, Granddad.’
An hour later we were still there, enjoying the weather, the food
and the cold beers.
The head of the corporation came and found us instead of calling,
an excuse to get out of the office. Jimmy offered him a seat. ‘Some
interesting news, sir. Kimballa has agreed the move of the
government.’
Helen and I exchanged looks. Jimmy took a moment, ‘Thank
you, start making preparations. Recruit a team of a hundred people;
architects, designers, builders, sewage engineers, road builders - find
them an office. Start with a four lane highway south, towards the
new location –’
‘And a monorail,’ I cut in with. ‘From the airport. It should be
raised at the airport, eight metres or so, to allow for traffic, then
ground level the rest off the way. At the city, I think it should be
raised again, traffic underneath.’
Jimmy approved. ‘We need a design, starting with sewers and
roads, a new sewage plant capable of handling a million people, a
new power plant further south. Design the road layout first, based on
New York, then the sewers, then the electricity, then the government
buildings, and finally residential areas.’
The man looked stunned. He blew out, stood up and returned to
the office.
‘What do we call it?’ Helen asked. ‘New Kinshasa?’
‘That would be the obvious name,’ Jimmy commented.
‘Shelly City?’ I ventured, causing a smile.
Jimmy raised his phone. ‘May as well shake up a few people.’ He
dialled the African Times. ‘It’s Jimmy Silo. Listen, Kimballa has
agreed to move his seat of government to a purpose-built new city
south of Goma hub. Building projects will be allocated soon.
Thanks.’
‘Did that just treble property prices around here?’ I asked.
‘At least. I’ll be ordering Spiral V, VI and VII.’
‘Need a bigger airport now,’ I complained.
‘No, it’s big enough.’
We wandered back around to the casino, and into its cool dark
interior to find the gang. Po and the Russians were sat together,
plotting and scheming as usual.
‘Some news,’ Jimmy said. ‘Kimballa has agreed to move his seat
of government to a new city south of here.’
‘Should treble property prices,’ I added, and I could see their grey
matter firing up.
‘Be big building contract?’ Po asked.
‘Very big,’ Jimmy emphasised.
I tried my hand at roulette, blackjack and even the slot machines.
That evening, we returned to the marina, the water illuminated from
beneath – a nice touch. From the balcony restaurant we could see the
fish darting about, also the odd crocodile sliding past. The bars and
restaurants were well attended, and I glimpsed my first batch of
drunk city traders in pink shirts. Seems that they had a good day on
the markets. If they had a bad day, they wouldn’t need to jump off
the tall tower, they could jump into the water here and be croc meat.
‘A lot of people here,’ Helen noted.
‘All the lodges advertise it,’ Jimmy commented. ‘And the hotels.
Left and right of us are the smaller marinas. They have a few bars
and restaurants, and they attract people wanting some peace. Once
the waterfront is extended it’ll thin out a bit. But some people are
coming down here for the city, not for the lodges. And we get
golfing holidaymakers now.’
At 9pm, Jimmy suggested some shopping, the new centre open
till midnight. With a blanket of bodyguards, we wandered back past
the casino, through a well-lit park and to the new over-sized
shopping centre.
The centre’s security staff opened glass doors with golden
handles, the interior air-conditioned, the floor marble. It resembled
any shopping centre the world over, a wide variety of products on
offer, a good spread of jewellery shops. I noticed a second floor,
people peeking down at us, a few cameras flashing.
The first cross-section of isles offered a café, and we jumped into
glass lifts for the second floor, the place now reminding me of Hong
Kong. We passed a shop that sold safari goods, khaki green shorts if
you wanted to get into the spirit of things. We stopped at a bar, beers
ordered, and sat peering down at the shoppers below.
‘Well attended,’ I commented. ‘Even at this hour.’
Jimmy said, ‘Some people, with an hour to spare at the airport,
come out here. But now, most safaris have the last day being a night
in a hotel here, giving people most of a day to see the city and to
shop here.’
‘That last golf tournament put the place on the map,’ Helen put
in.
‘I’ve increased the prizes,’ I informed Jimmy. ‘All the best
players want to come here now.’
‘Yeah, well one particular golfer will be here in the morning,
upsetting the smooth running of things,’ Jimmy informed us.
‘Who?’ I puzzled.
‘Chase.’
‘Chase is flying in?’ I asked. ‘What for?’
‘Bit of an African tour, and a few rounds of golf. He’ll be off to
River View after this place, bit of a break. He’s meeting the
Tanzanians for a bit of plotting and scheming, after which they’ll
call me.’
Back at the hotel, we could see the Secret Service wandering
around, a stronger presence of Pathfinders in suits, sniffer dogs with
their twitchy noses to the floor. In the morning, Chase’s coach
arrived below the rooftop bar, no armoured limo for his short trip
from the airport. He came up and met us, most of the hotel’s rooms
now reserved for his party.
I shook his hand. ‘Welcome to Africa.’
‘So, this is where it all happens.’ He stood at the wall and took in
the golf course, the Pentagon building and the distant Spiral estates.
‘Looks just like Los Angeles.’
‘You heard the news?’
‘Yes,’ Chase said, facing me with an intent expression. ‘A new
capital, plenty of building contracts.’
‘Should boost the region significantly,’ I pointed out as Jimmy
and Helen closed in.
‘Not on the course yet?’ Jimmy asked as they shook hands.
‘Can’t wait. But let’s chat first.’ He gestured towards a table, a
hovering waiter beckoned over.
With cold drinks ordered, Chase’s Chief of Staff and his aides
seated, Chase began, ‘This new capital – it’ll be the power centre of
things African?’
‘It would be,’ Jimmy agreed. ‘This place would be a posh suburb,
plus a tourist attraction.’
‘It already looks like Beverly Hills,’ Chase noted. ‘So where
would the seat of power be? Your corporation, this new pan-African
parliament, or this new city?’
‘The simple answer is – a bit of each, since they all have different
functions. The corporation is us … putting money back into the
region, our profits back into the region. The pan-African assembly is
to coordinate the countries and establish standards across Africa
plus, in time, a common army and defence policy. The new city will
tie together this region in a bigger way, and boost the GDP. If it’s
done properly, that city will attract smart white guys with good
business ideas. When that happens, we have the next Hong Kong
right here.’
‘We would, obviously, wish to be in on the ground level,’ Chase
firmly told us.
‘Kimballa will follow my lead,’ Jimmy said. ‘So, if we want
American companies in here, with incentives and tax breaks, we can
organise it. But don’t forget how far we are from the coast. We’re
still trying to improve the infrastructure.’
‘The new rail link to Angola looks promising,’ Chase suggested,
and I was impressed with how much the devious bugger had
researched it.
I said, ‘That rail route could become a road route as well, a good
port facility on the west coast, and some stretches of the rail track
could be high speed rail, at least higher-speed.’
‘And will Kimballa adopt the dollar?’
‘I think so,’ Jimmy offered.
‘And the neighbouring states?’ Chase pressed.
‘Some would love to, but we have to stabilise them and improve
their economies first.’
‘OK, let’s talk about Southern Sudan. You’ve offered to let
Ethiopia join the assembly, so what about Southern Sudan?’
‘You been spying on us?’ I teased.
‘We have a whole section dedicated to you,’ Chase joked, but we
all knew that it was no joke.
‘I would like, very much, to get hold of Southern Sudan,’ Jimmy
suggested. ‘But not at the cost of a war.’
‘We could make that war a … quick war,’ Chase risked.
‘And antagonise the Muslim North African states!’ Jimmy
pointed out.
‘The referendum in the south was in favour of cessation from the
north, just about.’
‘The infrastructure of the South is tied into the North. Most
business in the south are run by the north.’
‘And their oil profits taken – at least till they lost their pipeline.’
‘I’ve organised a charm offensive in the south,’ Jimmy explained.
‘And when the time is ready I’ll nudge Sudan towards a semi-
autonomous region, but with the north benefiting. The best of all
worlds.’
‘Timescale?’ Chase asked as he eased back.
‘Twelve months.’
‘And the effect on the region’s GDP?’
‘They have oil in places they don’t know about, and ore. But
those two markets are stable, prices stable, so we can’t just boost
output without hurting ourselves.’
‘True,’ Chase conceded. ‘This new city, how many Americans
would end up working there?’
‘Hopefully, many. But we’re talking about ten thousand, so no
boost to jobs back home.’
‘But we will be able to sell our goods from a base here, like
Caterpillar?’
‘Definitely. And I’m hoping that you’ll sell a lot of high-tech
equipment here, computers and software, and boost African
technology by a decade or two.’
‘Consider it done,’ Chase threatened. ‘And when I return to DC, I
can confidently state that American companies will get major
contracts here?’
‘You can,’ Jimmy said with a smile. ‘Even if some of it is your
own money.’
We laughed.
‘And US citizens can live and work here with no visa?’ the Chief
of Staff asked.
‘I’m the governor, but Kimballa has the last word on that. At the
moment, they can live and work here with twelve-month visas,
simply to keep track of them. And you can own property here. I
would say that, within the city limits, any westerner could live and
work, but the locals may not be happy with that. There may be some
protectionism. We’re trying to create jobs for Africans, not for you
lot.’
I put in, ‘If an American business employs Americans – fine. If a
local newspaper advertises a job, then you’d not want white faces sat
waiting an interview, pinching jobs.’
‘Besides, the wages would not attract many people,’ Jimmy
suggested.
‘But no restriction on opening a factory?’ the Chief of Staff
asked.
‘There’re none now,’ Jimmy told him. ‘You want land - it’s
yours. Problem is, the people around here are on low wages, so can
only buy cheap goods.’
‘That will change,’ I said. ‘Year by year, but they won’t be
buying many big four by four jeeps.’
The Chief said, ‘But companies like Motorola, Coca-Cola,
MacDonalds – they’d all get a good foothold?’
‘Sure,’ I said. ‘They can move in now if you like. The locals can
sit in MacDonalds and enjoy a Coke whilst sending a text message.’
We laughed.
‘The university we built here was cheap,’ Chase noted. ‘We could
build another one at the new city.’
‘Counting on it,’ Jimmy told him. ‘And you can set-up the mobile
phone towers and grid, meaning that the locals would use your
service first.’
‘When will the ground be cut?’ Chase asked.
‘Soon. But first we need to design it, and you can have an input to
those designs. That way, you can prepare your corporations, pick out
buildings and sites, the works.’
‘I can send a team down here to work on the design?’ Chase
asked.
‘Just as soon as you’re ready,’ Jimmy offered him.
‘You don’t have any qualms about us investing heavily in the
project?’
‘African GDP and dollar usage was planned with you in mind,’
Jimmy pointed out. ‘So knock yourself out.’
‘How much ore is being produced, compared with what’s under
the ground?’ Chase asked.
‘Fuck all,’ Jimmy replied. ‘We could increase ore production ten
fold. But then prices would fall.’
‘What I meant was, how long will the ore here last?’
‘At least a hundred years, probably more.’
‘Will you be in office then?’ I asked Chase.
‘Two more years,’ he reflected.
‘And will they erect statues to you?’ Jimmy asked.
Chase cocked an eyebrow. ‘Maybe around here! Anyway,
military want a word, they’re set-up downstairs.’
We all eased up and wandered to a restaurant below, eight
generals and their aides sat waiting. After exchanging pleasantries,
we settled, coffee poured. Chase gestured towards the Chairman of
the Joint Chiefs and took a back seat.
‘We’re advanced in our planning for an invasion of Afghanistan.
Realistically, we don’t see much of an alternative to invading and
clearing out al-Qa’eda, before more aircraft are hijacked.’
‘So far so good,’ Jimmy commented.
They glanced at each other. ‘You don’t think it’s a bad idea?’
‘I think … it’s inevitable. I have no problem with the invasion,
just your plan.’
‘Our plan?’
‘Yes. Why don’t you give us a very brief overview.’
‘Well, we’d land in Kabul, thirty thousand troops supported by
helicopters, aircraft and armoured vehicles, and push south.’
‘Might I ask, what the fighters living on the border might do
when you land?’
‘They’ll move over the border into Pakistan’ I put in. ‘And wait
for you to leave, then move back afterwards.’
‘We’d be working closely with the Pakistanis –’
‘Yeah, good luck with that,’ I quipped.
‘And your plan?’ the general snapped.
‘Do you have any soldiers suitably trained for mountains and
deserts?’ Jimmy asked, checking his nails.
‘Our Special Forces and Rangers can handle mountains,’ the
general said defensively.
‘I see. And what multi-national support would you have for this
risky venture?’
‘The “M” Group countries get on well enough these days. I think
we could get a UN resolution,’ the general stated.
‘And I’m certain … that I could get you a consensus,’ Jimmy told
him.
They exchanged looks. ‘If … we modify the plan to one that you
approve of.’
‘Yes.’
‘And that plan?’
‘Was worked out a long time ago,’ Jimmy told them. ‘As you
might imagine. So, what is your objective?’
‘To neutralise al-Qa’eda.’
‘Al-Qa’eda is an idea, not a person or a place. They exist in
Lebanon, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and North Africa. So, as far as
Afghanistan is concerned … what is your objective?’
‘To destroy as many training camps as we can.’
‘And then?’
‘To stop them coming back.’
‘Which would mean a long-term presence, which would be a
disaster as your troops drive over mines every day, the folks back
home not too happy, the incumbent feeling their wrath – and
becoming rapidly less popular.’
They all focused on Chase for a moment.
‘And your plan?’ they testily asked.
‘First, I’d produce some suitable soldiers, then train them ready
for such an operation.’
‘The Rifles?’ they asked.
‘No.’
‘No?’
‘Do you have any of your own soldiers that are starting to look
and train like Rifles?’
‘The unit in Kenya?’ they queried. ‘There are not many of them.’
‘Do you need many of them?’ Jimmy posed. ‘It’s mountain and
guerrilla warfare.’
‘And then there’s the matter of international support for the
operation,’ I put in.
‘A multi-national force?’ they queried. ‘Mixed infantry?’
‘Mixed infantry, operating like Special Forces,’ Jimmy explained.
‘Why do you think they’re there?’
Chase said, ‘You set that base up … to train them to invade
Afghanistan?’
Jimmy turned his head to Chase, lifted his eyebrows and nodded.
‘Will they be ready?’ Chase asked.
‘In May, the best time to go in. Armed with EMPs, lasers, silent
darts, and suitably trained. They’ve all been injected, and they are all
currently undergoing a modified training program, Afghanistan in
mind. Many of them are in the hills of Somalia as we speak, and
those hills are just like Afghanistan. They’ll be ready in May, around
four thousand of them, supported by two thousand Rifles.’
The generals were shocked. ‘And … support and logistics?’
‘That’s what you lot are there for. They’ll take Kandahar airport
again, and try and draw out the fighters, ambushing them on the
roads. Separate units will move into the border region to prevent any
escape.’
‘Six thousand? That’s all?’ they queried.
‘More than enough. I’ll give you my logistical needs soon, but
the Chinese will cover much of it, and the Russians will assist.’
‘How long would they stay?’
‘Four months maximum, then out. They’d return two years later.’
‘And the Afghan government?’ Chase asked.
‘A waste of space, and will always be a waste of space. Try and
fix that country and you’ll come badly unstuck, so don’t bother.’
‘Could we alter the make-up of troops in Kenya between now and
May?’ a general asked.
‘Sure, but make sure that they all get three months at least.’
‘They’ll use helicopters?’
‘No, they’ll walk, drive or ride horses. They won’t have any body
armour or wear helmets. They will … feel their environment and
interact with it.’
‘And the casualty rate?’
‘Less than one percent. As the Rifles say: if you get shot, you’ve
let the side down.’
‘Just to be clear,’ Chase began. ‘We’re talking about our soldiers
fighting alongside Russians, Chinese and British soldiers?’
‘And black Africans, and the French. And can you see the UN
Security Council voting against such an action?’
‘Jesus,’ Chase let out.
‘Keep it under wraps for now. Very … securely under wraps.’
Chase tried to improve my golf swing later, and I quite enjoyed
the game. We took him to the top of the tallest tower, pointing out
the various features, and he toured the university at length. Hell, he
paid for it. With Chase on his way to Mombassa in Air Force One,
we bordered a flight back to London, war now on the cards.
End of year

By mid December, the designs for the new city were coming along,
some two hundred people involved. I called them all to London,
where a number of models had been designed. Fortunately, the
models moved, and you could break bits off.
Around a monstrous table, some six feet square, we pored over
drains and sewer works first. They were followed by power lines
and phone lines. Then came the main roads, and the link to Gotham
City, a four-lane highway now in progress. That highway would cut
right through the middle of the city and carry on south another thirty
miles, splitting as it headed towards nearby towns.
The monorail was already being built, and would be a two track
elevated line to the city centre, Chicago style. In the centre it would
split and loop around, looking like a giant pair of scissors. Electric
buses would be a key feature, running every ten minutes on most
streets, every five minutes down the main drag.
The original idea was for the government buildings to be near the
lakeshore, till we figured that the most valuable land would be there.
It was moved half a mile inland, a large marina planned. Behind the
marina would sit a huge shopping centre and an indoor bar and
restaurant area, New Orleans with a glass roof. That would lead to
business centre, tall towers, behind which would sit the government
buildings. On either side of the government area we would build
quality apartments.
Along the lakeshore, north towards Goma, would be a series of
posh estates, gated complexes with their own marinas – after the
shallow water had been dredged and the mosquitoes killed.
Millionaires row, where my new house sits, would be extended a
good few miles towards the new city. We planned on two distinct
housing estates on nearby hills, nice houses and gated complexes.
South and west of the city would be industrial areas, business
parks and factories. The city would have its own hospital, and four
regional medical centres, a new university, several technical
colleges, a library, a football stadium, a swimming pool and several
posh gyms. We were not short of ideas.
I awarded the mobile phone network to an American company,
the sewerage to a German company, the phone lines to another
American company. The building contracts for the government
buildings were spread out amongst several western contractors, but
after that it was a bidding war as to who would get what; I allocated
the shopping centre to a consortium operated by Po and Yuri.
It was then a case of people wanting plots, with any buildings that
they erected being done so at their own cost. Those near the city
centre would charged for, those on the outskirts given away free.
The row of international embassies was down to us to build, and
they would stretch north towards Goma. In essence, the north and
the lakeside were posh, the south and west working class. And,
risking some criticism, we would impose a license to live in the city,
roadblocks on the main roads. Locals could not simply move in and
set-up a shack, since it would be well policed.
I had complained about not spending my budget, but this project
would certainly have eaten it all up. At least it would have, but so
many people wanted to invest in the new city that we’d have money
left over. The Americans, the Russians and the Chinese were falling
over themselves to have influence. And the American banks, they all
asked for offices to be built in Gotham City, even the ones we didn’t
get along with. Behind the stock exchange, six modest towers were
taking shape, a banking quarter in the making, property prices still
under pressure. I could see a Spiral Twenty-Two on the horizon.
Literally on the horizon.
Considering New Year, we all agreed that Gotham City was an
option; we could get a bit of work done whilst there. We travelled
down when the girls finished their school term, the senior staff from
RF Mapley invited down, as well as the Mawlini gang. Po, Yuri and
Marko, and many others travelled down, a fireworks display and
lightshow planned.
Jimmy gave all the RF staff five hundred dollars worth of chips to
lose in the casino, and New Year’s Eve found us in the marina, at
the Chinese restaurant, sat on the balcony under the stars, watching
the resident monster crocodile below. That croc was now fed
chickens every day and had become an attraction in itself. So far, it
had not tried to eat anyone. A woman now stood with a small pooch
on a lead, the dog barking at the floating log. My money was on the
croc.
At midnight we all stood, a barge on the lake beginning its
expensive fireworks display courtesy of Po and the Russians.
Gotham City had been here a while, but this felt like its birth, its real
birth, the start of a something special. I held Helen around the waist
and watched the display.
She leant in and whispered into my ear. ‘I’m pregnant.’
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