CS Sealey

Sydney-based sub-editor, writer and author

Goosey Goosey Gander

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A pair of heavy boots crunched across the broken glass strewn around the disused loading yard as Alistair MacTavish ran for his life. He risked a quick glance backwards as he neared the gaping mouth of the neglected warehouse he had spotted from the hills. His pursuers’ field of view had been obscured by the stationary goods train behind him, making him momentarily hidden from sight.

Clutching at a stitch in his side, he hurried through the wide, sliding warehouse doors and quickly looked from side to side. Old dusty pallets were stacked high against the walls on his left, husks of forgotten machinery lay abandoned on his right. Thinking quickly, he darted across the warehouse floor, heading for an old truck. Robertson’s Fine Goods was scrawled in flaking red paint down the side of the truck, but this vehicle had not delivered anything for years.

Prising open the truck’s passenger-side door as quietly as he could, Alistair slipped into the cabin, drew the door to behind him, and hunkered down. It was dark inside the warehouse and, in the silence that followed, he strained his ears to hear the footsteps of his pursuers. He did not have long to wait.

‘Which way did he go?’ one man shouted from outside. ‘Did any of you see him?’

‘No, Father.’

‘Spread out, see if you can catch sight of him! Go!’

Alistair heard footsteps hurrying around the warehouse, the occasional shouted word, the clanging and banging of machinery being moved, and then a long silence. He did not dare come out of his hiding place yet; he had been on the run from these men for a long time and knew they would not so easily give up the chase.

The Faith had been in control of the country for seven years. For seven winters, Alistair had been on the run, unable to settle in one place for fear of being caught, and unwilling to go to anyone for help for fear of incriminating them. But he was running out of options, and fast. They had once been a political party, a group of wizened men spouting tales of mercy and promises of peace and prosperity, all in the name of some deity. At the height of the last world war, they had launched a ruthless campaign, smearing the ruling government and attacking its wartime policies and morals. In the depression that followed the very last ceasefire, the Faith won an election in a monumental landslide. Alistair had fought in that world war. He had been on the front line, a machine gun in one hand, a rifle strung across his back, blood and grime dotting his face. He had returned home, wounded and scarred, and been declared a murderer by the new government, the Faith. A stroke of luck had gained him his freedom, a loop in the political system, and he had taken it and fled. The Faith had quickly patched up that method of escape and been pursuing him and others like him ever since.

After an hour without any further sound, Alistair risked reaching into his pocket and drawing out his phone. In the darkest crevice of the cabin, he held the device in one sweaty palm and brought up the local map. His destination was only four miles away now. If he left soon, he could make it just before dawn. Convinced by the silence that the Faith Seekers had moved on, Alistair quietly emerged from the truck’s cabin.

Keeping to the darkest shadows in the warehouse, he moved around the walls, glancing from side to side. He reached an open doorway and paused there, listening intently, his eyes delving into the shadows outside. An owl hooted, but that was all. It seemed as though the Faith had, indeed, moved on.

A sense of relief washed over him but he was no fool. Alistair knew it might only be a matter of hours before they caught up with him again. He had to use this brief period of respite to his advantage and put as much distance between them as possible and find a new sanctuary in which to spend a few nights and rest.

The sound of a foot crunching on dried leaves made his skin crawl and he froze in the act of emerging from the shadows. There was a Seeker close by, waiting. By the dim light of the moon, Alistair noticed the firearm at the Seeker’s side and swallowed. He looked around and found a short, discarded length of dusty pipe. As quietly as he could, he bent down and grasped it in his fingers.

‘5-4 to base. Still no sign of him,’ the Seeker said into his radio. ‘Returning to the rendezvous.’

The man’s feet crunched their way across the yard and his shadow passed by the open doorway to the warehouse. Alistair peered around the doorframe and saw the Seeker replacing a two-way radio into a pouch on his belt. He was looking the other way, oblivious to where Alistair was hiding. He was vulnerable and within striking distance.

Alistair leapt forward, swinging the short pipe down towards the Seeker’s head. With a dull thud, the pipe connected with the man’s skull and he crumpled.

‘Confirmed, 5-4,’ a female voice said in the radio as Alistair stood over his victim.

He knelt and turned the Seeker over. He was young, younger than Alistair, but the insignia on the front of his jacket suggested he had been in service to the Faith for most of their reign. Trying not to look at the man’s face, lest he see someone he had once known, Alistair unbuckled the man’s belt and fixed it around his own waist.

‘7-2, any sign of the fugitive?’ the woman on the radio asked.

There was a pause before a man replied, ‘Negative. Continuing the search in quadrant 2-2-3.’

‘Confirmed, 7-2.’

Pulling off the Seeker’s jacket, Alistair straightened up and put it on. It was a size too small but the disguise would have to do for now. He looked around and tried to regain his bearings. Though the moon was high, a thin layer of cloud had drifted in from the west and the light was pale. He spotted the hill he had traversed earlier that night and recalled the map on his phone. Turning away from the sprawled Seeker, he hurried along the outside of the warehouse and followed the train line towards the west.


Four hours later, as a sliver of yellow light was growing brighter on the eastern horizon, Alistair reached his destination. The house was on the outskirts of Baskerton, a tiny village of only a handful of houses. A car stood in the driveway beneath the wide branches of an oak tree and the amount of leaves covering the bonnet, windscreen and roof told Alistair it had not been used for at least a few days. A slight feeling of unease gripped him as he walked quietly up the front path. His sister worked almost ten miles away in the heart of the closest large town. She should have used her car every day.

He glanced around for any pursuers or signs that the Seekers had been there before him but there was nothing. The radio chatter had died almost an hour before as, one by one, the Seekers had returned to base and clocked off for the night. Thankfully, they did not seem to have realised yet that one of their number was missing. Alistair had discarded the radio along the train line, just in case there was some kind of tracking device inside.

His sister’s house was dark and the curtains were drawn in every window. He stood at the front door, his heart racing, and raised his hand to knock. But then he paused.

What if it’s a trap? a small voice asked in the back of his mind. They could be here already, waiting. You shouldn’t have come here.

I have no choice, Alistair argued with himself, and I promised him. This is the last place I can go.

There was no sense delaying any longer. Taking in a deep breath, he rapped his knuckles on the door and waited. It was the longest wait of his life. Anxiously tapping his fingers against his thigh, he looked up at the windows on the second floor. For a moment, he thought he saw a curtain flutter as though someone had peered through for an instant, but he saw no face. He knocked again and a light came on in the hall. A moment later, he heard someone fumbling with the lock and chain, then the door finally opened.

‘Yes?’ asked the tired woman standing in the doorway. ‘How can I help you this time?’

Alistair looked down at his twin sister, her blonde curly hair as dishevelled as he remembered. It took her a few seconds to rub her eyes and look up into his smiling face, a face she had not seen for seven long years.

‘A-Alistair?’ she stammered, holding her hands up to her mouth and shaking her head. ‘I…’

Her knees gave way beneath her and she stumbled. Alistair leapt forward and grasped her arms, steadying her back on her feet.

‘We should sit down,’ he said, guiding her back into the hall and shutting the door behind him. ‘I have much to say.’


‘I heard you were dead, that they’d got you!’ Alyssa said a while later after Alistair had eaten a great deal of food. Her hands were still shaking but there was colour in her cheeks and relief had replaced her shock. ‘A message came probably about… three and a half years ago now, from Nick. He said the Faith had raided your hideout and everyone had scattered. You didn’t show up at the rendezvous, so he assumed…’

‘I tried to get word to him but I didn’t know who to trust after that,’ Alistair admitted. ‘We were sold out.’

‘Yes, he mentioned that. I never wanted to accept that the worst had happened… but then when the weeks went by and you hadn’t sent word to them, we thought you’d been caught, or worse.’

‘Not yet.’

‘Have you seen Jack?’ Alyssa asked, unable to conceal her expression of acute worry. ‘I haven’t heard from him for almost a month.’

Alistair looked down and swallowed. Alyssa had been Jack’s childhood sweetheart and she had married him the day before the war had broken out in eastern Europe. For three years, while the battles raged on, she had waited in fear and hope for her husband to return. However, the man who had stepped off the plane, bearing the scars he had received for serving his country, had not been branded a hero. Under the Faith’s regime, all servicemen who had taken a life had been declared criminals. Alyssa and Jack had barely seen each other since the war and their son, born while Jack was on the run with Alistair, never would.

‘I’m sorry, sis,’ he said, his voice cracking with grief. ‘Jack… He didn’t make it.’

‘What?’

‘Three weeks ago, we were stopped by a blockade. I think the Faith knew we were coming. Jack was shot and we didn’t have any medical supplies left, none that would help anyway. We found some shelter but the Faith were moving to surround us. He told me he’d hold them off, distract them while I made a break for it.’

As Alistair spoke, he saw his sister’s eyes well up with tears and lips begin to tremble. He reached out and took her hands.

‘I didn’t want to leave him, but he… he was bleeding out, there was nothing I could do. He told me to tell you how much he loved you, and Tom, and to give you this. I only just managed to escape.’

Alistair reached into his pocket and brought out Jack’s wedding ring. He handed it over to his sobbing sister and comforted her as best he could.

Jack had been his best friend but there had been no time for tears while running from the Seekers. His brother-in-law had served with him in the war and, together, they had defied the laws of the Faith when they had returned home. He still felt the pain of Jack’s absence and, now, looking at the tears streaming down Alyssa’s face, wished not for the first time that he could have died instead.

What was he but a minor commander in the efforts to overthrow the Faith, little by little? Without a team behind him, could he even call himself that now? Jack had had a child, a wife, people who loved him, needed him. He had more reasons to fight the Faith, to make the country great again. Alistair had nothing, nobody.

You still have Alyssa, he reminded himself. You promised you’d look after her. You promised.

‘I hope you make them suffer for it,’ Alyssa said, her sobs lessening. ‘I hope they feel the fires of that hell they believe in!’

Alistair nodded but could summon no more words of comfort. After a while, his sister dried her eyes and turned to face him.

‘Why have you come here?’

‘I had nowhere else to go,’ Alistair admitted.

‘You know how dangerous it is here now?’ Alyssa asked. ‘They’ve been searching the houses in Baskerton for two weeks! Anyone who doesn’t display one of those is arrested.’

She gestured to a metal idol on the wall, a somewhat grotesque symbol of the Faith’s doctrines. Alistair glowered at it.

‘Where’s Thomas?’ he asked.

‘Germany.’

‘What?’

‘I had to get him out of the country,’ she explained sadly. ‘The Faith wanted to take him to one of their schools, bring him up as a Seeker, but I refused to let them. That’s one of the only freedoms we still have, to keep our own children.’ She sniffed. ’He’s staying with a cousin of Jack’s. Been gone these last two years now. I get letters from him occasionally and I send him presents whenever I can. He says he wants to be a doctor.’

Alistair stood up and approached the idol. He ran his fingers over the cold metal and made to rip it from the wall, but a sudden flash of bright light stopped him. Two cars were coming down the driveway, their headlights on high beam.

‘They’re here!’ Alyssa cried, leaping to her feet.

Alistair cursed and looked around frantically.

‘Upstairs, quickly! You mustn’t be found!’

Alistair bolted down the familiar hallway and took the stairs two at a time. The first room on his right was Alyssa’s and he hurried into it, scanning the shadowy corners for a hiding place. There was a series of loud knocks on the front door and he dove under the bed. There were a few boxes and a rolled up carpet under the plain double bed and he squirmed his way between them, wedging himself up against the wall, his face pressed to the floorboards. A moment later, Alyssa entered the room and peered under the bed.

‘It will have to do,’ she whispered.

Again, the front door shuddered with the force of a few loud bangs. Alyssa moved over to the bedroom doorway and switched on the light.

‘Just a moment!’ she called down the stairs.

‘By order of the All-Father, open up!’ came a reply. ‘Now!’

‘Stay still and don’t come out, whatever you hear,’ Alyssa whispered to Alistair.

‘I’m sorry, Lyss,’ he whispered back. ‘I shouldn’t have come.’

‘At least, this way, I got to see you again,’ she replied sadly. ‘That’s more than I can say for Jack.’

Alistair heard her soft footsteps descend the staircase and then the front door opened.

‘Oh, it’s you again, Father,’ Alyssa said.

‘Show some respect!’

Alistair heard a slap and a sharp gasp from his sister. The blood in his veins boiled but he fought to stay still and gritted his teeth.

‘We don’t have time to be kept waiting on the doorstep,’ a second man said. ‘What took you so long, woman?’

‘I was taught to wash my hands after going to the toilet,’ Alyssa bit back. ‘Would you rather I skipped on hygiene just so I can open the fucking door a bit quicker for you at all hours of the night?’

Alistair closed his eyes and bit his lip, hearing another slap.

‘Search the house.’

‘Yes, Father Alexander.’

‘Again?’ Alyssa asked mockingly. ‘I told you, my son’s not here. Did you think I’d ask him back for the summer holidays? Not to this putrid mess of a country.’

‘We’re not looking for your son, heretic. Turn this place upside down!’

Through a gap in between two boxes, he could see the top of the stairs. A moment later, a Seeker crossed the landing, followed soon after by a second. He could still hear his sister downstairs arguing with the Holy Father, demonstrating only too well that her fiery nature had not abated in seven years of hardship.

A Seeker came into Alyssa’s room and threw open the wardrobe doors. Alistair watched as his sister’s clothes were pulled out and thrown unceremoniously across the floor. Then he heard the curtains being drawn back and the sound of another door creaking open. Lastly, the man crouched down and looked under the bed. The shadows were still thick, as the sun had not yet risen, and the man peered intently into the darkness. After a moment, he reached down to his belt and produced a torch. Alistair had no choice.

As the Seeker switched on his light and got down onto his hands and knees, Alistair reached out from between the boxes and grabbed his arm. The man uttered a quiet gasp as Alistair pulled him to the floor and his other hand grasped the Seeker’s throat. Sat astride him, pinning his legs to the ground, Alistair fixed both his hands around the man’s neck and squeezed. The Seeker’s hands flailed and punched, trying to throw Alistair off, but his wartime training was too much for the holy man. Within a minute, the Seeker was dead and Alistair had taken up position behind the bedroom door.

‘Nothing in there,’ the second man said from one of the other upstairs rooms. ‘What about you, Brother?’

Alistair heard the Seeker approach the bedroom and look in.

‘Brother, you in here?’

‘In a manner of speaking,’ Alistair muttered, darting out from behind the door and grabbing the man by the jacket.

He headbutted the Seeker in the face, hearing the satisfied sound of a cracking nose. Shouting in pain, the man staggered backwards and fell onto the bed, nursing his wound. Alistair leapt after him and, in the blink of an eye, grasped both sides of the man’s head and snapped his neck.

‘What was that?’ came the voice of Father Alexander from downstairs. ‘You two! Upstairs, quickly!’

Alistair drew his commandeered gun and hurried over to the bedroom door. Peering around the doorframe, he saw two men hurrying up the stairs towards him, their own guns in their hands. Taking in a deep breath, he darted out onto the landing and pointed the weapon.

‘Stand down!’ he shouted. ‘Drop your guns, or I’ll fire!’

The two men stopped, unsure of their next course of action.

‘Stand down, I said!’ Alistair shouted. ‘I mean it! I’m not afraid to kill a single one of your bastards!’

‘Are you quite sure about that?’

On the floor below them, the Holy Father appeared, dragging Alyssa behind him. In his own hand was a gun, glimmering gold in the light from the headlights outside, and it was pointing at Alyssa’s temple. Her lip was bleeding and her eyes were looking up at Alistair, fierce and defiant.

‘Drop the gun,’ Father Alexander said calmly.

‘Don’t do it!’ Alyssa shouted. ‘Kill them! I’m not worth it!’

‘Silence!’ the Father hissed, pressing the barrel of the pistol deeper into her hair. ‘The gun or her life. Choose carefully.’

‘Kill them, Alistair! Please! Do it for Jack and all the others! Just do it!’

‘Alistair…?’ Father Alexander asked, interested, though the gun did not lower in his hand. ‘Alistair MacTavish, perhaps?’ The man peered curiously up at him, then chuckled. ‘My, my. The Grand Cleric has issued a warrant for you. Kill on sight. No questions asked. This might just be my lucky day.’

‘Alistair, don’t listen to him! Just kill him and run!’

‘Try it!’ the Father cried. ‘Pull the trigger. Your sister will be dead before I hit the ground and you won’t escape.’

Alistair looked into Alyssa’s eyes. Despite her fierce facade, she was scared. Had he never come to her for help, she would not be in this position, a gun to her head, certain death for one of them.

I was a fool to come here, he chastised himself. I will pay the price for it, not her. It’s over. My race is run.

Slowly, keeping his eyes on the Holy Father, he lowered the gun.

‘No, Alistair!’ Alyssa screamed. ‘No!’

The two Seekers hurried forward and Alistair dropped the gun to the floor. He was pushed roughly up against a wall and one of his arms bent behind him in a vice-like grip.

‘Smart choice,’ the Father said as Alistair was bound. ‘Though it was merely an illusion of choice, I’m afraid. That gun was taken from one of our Brothers, wasn’t it? It can only be fired by the man for whom it was made. Had you pulled the trigger, it would have sent a spike of electricity through your body and killed you stone dead. But that’s not the way I want you to go. I think we need to make an example of you.’

One of the Seekers grabbed a handful of Alistair’s hair and thrust his head against the wall twice in quick succession. He could hear Alyssa shouting and crying on the floor below before his vision went hazy and he blacked out.


He awoke soon afterwards when his head hit the carpeted steps and he groaned. One of the Seekers was pulling him down the stairs by his leg. Early morning sunshine was now streaming in through the front door but Alistair felt none of its warmth as he was dragged across the threshold. He had heard the stories and seen the bodies. He had heard the screams and seen the scars on those he and his rebel friends had managed to save. He knew what was going to happen to him.

Outside, he caught sight of Alyssa, struggling frantically with Father Alexander who still held his gun to her head. Seeing him, she screamed in despair and made to rush towards him but the Holy Father held her back.

‘Get him on his feet!’

Alistair felt two pairs of hands grasping his arms and then he was hauled up onto his feet. He tried to speak some words of assurance to his sister, but his attention was suddenly drawn aside. One of the Seekers was holding a large hammer and two long, gleaming nails. Whatever Alistair had meant to say fell forgotten on his tongue as a wave of dread washed over him.

‘Alistair! Fight them, please! Don’t let them do it!’

His sister’s screams sounded so far away as the Seekers pushed Alistair up against the large oak tree in the front garden. Still groggy from the blows to his head, he could hardly support his own weight. He struggled feebly when one of the Seekers split the cords binding his wrists but they seemed suddenly much stronger than him. He felt one man extend his arm across the trunk of the oak and hold it there. Alistair closed his eyes and cringed, knowing what would come next.

A single flare of intense clarity seared through the haziness of his mind in the form of sudden blinding pain. A scream issued from his bloodied lips, ripped from his very soul, as the Seeker fixed a nail into his palm and hammered. Dark blood streamed down his arm from the wound, slick and hot, and stained his already soiled shirt and the Seeker jacket he still wore.

‘Alistair!’

The Seekers grasped his other arm and, while one held it steady, the other man fixed the second nail to his flesh. One, two, three, four hits of the hammer and Alistair screamed anew. Suddenly, the horrors of the war streamed back into his consciousness and he felt the bullet that had ripped through his ribs, narrowly missing his heart. His eyes flickered shut and he saw again the trenches, the siege machines, the dismembered body parts, the barbed wire, the tanks, the destroyed buildings and the running civilians. The river of blood in the churned up soil had been his own then, seeping between his shaking fingers. Opening his eyes, he saw drops of his life’s blood trickling down the bark of the oak tree and soaking into the ground at his feet. The pain was unlike anything he had felt before. He wanted it to be over, to feel nothing, to be nothing. He wanted to die.

‘You monsters!’ Alyssa shouted and spat in the Holy Father’s face. ‘I’ll kill you!’

‘Quiet, heretic!’

Again Father Alexander hit Alyssa across the face. This time, she fell and landed heavily on the ground. For a moment, she stayed there, her body shaking with sobs, but then she raised her head and her tearful eyes fixed on Alistair.

‘I’ll deal with you soon enough,’ the Father said, then reached into a pocket of his jacket and produced a small book. ‘Watch her.’

One of the Seekers standing by the oak tree drew his gun and moved over to Alyssa. Leafing through the pages of his book, the Holy Father approached Alistair, then glanced down at the words.

‘I give you one chance to repent, to save your soul from eternal damnation at the hands of the Dread Beast. Embrace our Lord, the All-Father, and we will show you mercy.’

‘Mercy?’ Alistair rasped. ‘What mercy could you show me? A slightly slower death?’

‘Repent!’

‘Never.’ A clot of blood was stuck in his throat and he coughed. A moment later, a trickle of crimson dribbled from his bottom lip and down his chin. ‘If I had the choice, I’d go back and do it all again.’ He somehow managed to laugh. ‘Better get on with it, Father. I don’t have all day to just… stick around.’

Father Alexander glowered and snapped his book shut.

‘Then I condemn your heathen soul to burn for eternity, as the All-Father demands!’ He took a step back and gestured to the remaining Seeker. ‘Take aim.’

‘Be strong, sister,’ Alistair said, turning his pained eyes towards her. ‘If I’m going where he says, at least I’ll have Jack for company for all eternity. We’ll wait for you.’

The Holy Father retreated from the oak tree as the Seeker took up his position half a dozen yards away. The man raised his gun and pointed it first between Alistair’s eyes and then at his chest.

‘You’ll never win, you bastards!’ Alyssa cried, staggering to her feet. ‘For every one of us you kill, another two will rise to defy you!’

‘On my command, Brother.’

Father Alexander turned and faced the oak tree, his arms folded and an expression of grim satisfaction fixed upon his cruel face. For a moment, he and Alistair stared at each other.

‘Fire.’

Alistair closed his eyes. A series of gunshots rang out across the countryside and his knees gave way beneath him.

‘No!’

For a moment, he felt the searing pain in his hands where the nails were tearing his flesh, the weight of his body pulling down on his wounds. He expected to feel a jolt, maybe two or three, as the Seeker’s bullets hit him and pierced his heart, but they never came. He heard a thud, then two more, as bodies hit the ground. Confused, he opened his eyes. The Seekers and Father Alexander were lying dead upon the floor, each of them shot in the head.

Suddenly, he heard footsteps approaching and, a second later, a large man grabbed him around the middle and steadied him back on his feet.

‘Steady, now. We’ll get you free.’

Confused, Alistair looked around and saw his sister sitting on the floor with a look of shock etched across her face. A splatter of blood and brain matter covered the front of her pyjama shirt. As he watched in amazement, four more men in camouflage emerged from the surrounding countryside and approached the house, rifles held ready in their hands. Seeing Alistair, one of these men broke away from his fellows and approached the tree, dropping down a small medical bag from his shoulder.

‘Hold still,’ the big man said, gripping one of Alistair’s arms tightly in his large hands. ‘Pain’ll be gone soon.’

The medic reached into his bag and produced a strong set of pliers and a needle. Without saying a word, he pressed the needle into Alistair’s arm and injected the clear liquid into his system. It was a quick-acting agent and Alistair felt immediately drowsy but the big man held him steady on his feet. As though drifting in the air nearby, completely detached from his body, Alistair watched as the medic fixed the pliers around the nail in his right hand and pulled.

Alistair blacked out.


‘HQ? You there? Over.’

There was the sound of static through a radio.

‘Slater to HQ, do you copy? Over.’

Another period of static followed, then an older man’s reply came through.

‘HQ here. We hear you, Major. Over.’

Alistair groaned and opened his eyes. Sunlight streamed down through the canopy of the large oak tree, warming his face. There was a dull throbbing pain his hands and the back of his head but he did not want to look at his injuries. The man sitting beside him glanced in his direction, nodded reassuringly, then spoke again into his radio.

‘Update on the Baskerton assignment. Town has been cleared of the Faith with zero friendly casualties. Father Alexander is confirmed dead, as well as seven Seekers and two mobile radio operators. I repeat, Father Alexander is confirmed dead, HQ. Over.’

‘Acknowledged, Slater. Good work. Over.’

‘Additional. We have acquired three Faith vehicles, should be useful in the upcoming campaign in London. We’ll bring them back with us. Over.’

‘Cars or trucks, Slater? Over.’

‘Cars, one with important Faith campaign documents. Over.’

‘Confirmed. Over.’

Alistair groaned again and attempted to sit up. The man named Slater reached over and grabbed his arm, helping him up into a sitting position.

‘Easy there. You’ve had a difficult morning.’

‘Did I hear your name was Slater…?’

‘Yeah, mate.’

‘Major Richard Slater?’ Alistair asked. ‘Served in the SRR in Serbia and Romania in ‘21?’

Slater’s brow furrowed but he nodded. Alistair lifted up his hand and managed a salute.

‘Captain MacTavish, sir. I assisted Reconnaissance for two weeks in the Iron Gate Gorge mission.’

‘Of course!’ Slater cried, his face breaking into a grin. ‘Alistair from the SF Support Group, right? The bomb expert! Oh, I’d shake your hand, mate, but the doctor wouldn’t be pleased! Good to know you’re still resisting.’

‘I’d say it feels good, but it doesn’t right now,’ Alistair admitted, cringing a little as he examined his hands.

Chuckling, Slater pressed a button on his radio and brought it up to his mouth.

‘HQ, you there? Over.’

‘Copy, Major. Over.’

‘Update on the Baskerton mission. Have located one Captain MacTavish, rescued from crucifixion. Very valuable expertise and intelligence, could also use him for London. We’re bringing him back to base, his sister, too. Over.’

There was a pause and static filled the radio channels. A moment later, a second man’s voice came through.

‘Acknowledged, Major. Debrief him on the situation. See you at 1300 hours. Over and out.’

‘What’s happening in London?’ Alistair asked.

‘Stage four of our liberation movement,’ Slater explained. ‘In a week, it’ll be all-out war. The Faith will need more than a miracle to keep power after that, my friend.’ He grinned, then rose, clipping his radio back onto his belt. Reaching down, he pulled Alistair up by the elbow and heaved him onto his feet. ‘Come on, Captain, I’ll explain more in the car.’

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