The end of the world has been avoided — for now. With Miri and her team of extracted heroes still on the run, Mother, the disgraced former head of the British Secret Service, has other ideas…
While Mother retreats to her bunker to plot her next move, Miri, Ben, Safa and Harry travel far into the future to ensure that they have prevented the apocalypse. But what they find just doesn’t make sense.
London in 2111 is on the brink of annihilation. What’s more, the timelines have been twisted. Folded in on each other. It’s hard to keep track of who is where. Or, more accurately, who is when.
The clock is ticking for them all. With nothing left to lose but life itself, our heroes must stop Mother — or die trying.
London 2062, Monday morning
The windows are mirrored so anyone glancing at the GCHQ building will not see them staring out across the River Thames to the twelve- foot-high holographic 3D image of Tango Two giving her finger to the heavens above.
‘Rather apt,’ Mother mutters.
The man at her side stays silent, secretly agreeing with her and wishing she would just go.
The assault on Cavendish Manor was only a year ago, but already the world is a vastly different place. Borders sealed. Alliances shattered. Trust gone. NATO in tatters. The UN a laughing stock. The EU on the brink of collapse. A new global cold war with walls going up on hard borders equipped with heavy weapons. Satellites hacked and spies turning up dead every week.
Maggie Sanderson used a time machine to simultaneously appear in dozens of government war rooms at the same second with a truly American show of absolute power designed to bring total shock and awe. She certainly brought about world peace as not one single nation has fired a shot at another in the guise of war. Instead they have murdered, poisoned, drowned and gone back to covert methods of secret messages written with invisible ink on edible paper while riots raged in nearly every city as the masses rose up in emulation of the heroes that held guns to the heads of their oppressors.
Mother sips from the long-stemmed glass of champagne. Her eyes now more hooded and the bags deeper and darker. fte lines on her face more pronounced. ‘World peace,’ she snorts bitterly.
‘Indeed,’ the man at her side says.
She looks at him, hating him, detesting every ounce of his creation and existence. ften she smiles warmly. ‘So,’ she asks, taking another sip. ‘How does it feel?’
‘Feel?’ he asks politely.
‘To be Father. How does it feel?’
‘Oh, I won’t be Father,’ he says, turning back to the window. ‘It’s been agreed that such terminology is too closely associated with the, er . . . well, with the bad old days.’
She glares at the side of his head. ‘That’s a good idea,’ she says amiably. You smug ****,she thinks.
‘Yes,’ he says deeply, rocking on his heels in a way that makes her want to slam his face into the window. ‘Plenty to be getting on with,’ he adds, hoping she’ll take the hint.
There certainly will be, she thinks, draining the glass and watching the heavily armed paramilitary police unit arrive to batter the people away from the holographic projection, using boots to stamp the plastic cube to bits, making Tango Two flicker for a second before blinking out in a way Mother wishes was true and real.
‘Well, it’s not my concern anymore, is it?’ Mother says, turning from habit to stalk back towards her desk, then remembering it’s not her desk anymore. It’s his. Roger Downtree. The new head of the British Secret Service. And Mother knows that not one single person within the organisation will be sad to see her go. They’ll have a party. They’ll celebrate and rejoice that the witch is gone.
‘Anyway,’ Roger says brightly, turning away from the window to hold his hand out. ‘On behalf of His Majesty’s government, may I thank you for your service?’
She shakes his hand and waits expectantly. Staring at him. He falters. Unsure of what she is waiting for.
‘Well, go on then,’ she prompts. ‘What?’ he asks, narrowing his eyes. ‘Thank me for my service.’
‘I just did.’
‘You said May I thank you for your service. You never said thank you.’ ‘Right. I see. Er, okay then. Thank you for your service.’
‘You’re most welcome,’ she replies icily, holding his hand until the moment becomes uncomfortable, reading the point when he is about to ask for his hand back and ever-so-politely suggest she should leave. ‘Cunt,’ she hisses sharply, making him flinch and pull his hand free as an urgent knocking comes from the door being pushed open by a harried-looking woman blanching at the sight of Mother.
‘Mr Downtree, sir . . . there’s, er . . .’ The woman hesitates. Her gaze flicking from Roger to Mother. ‘We have an urgent situation developing, sir . . .’
‘I’ll see myself out,’ Mother says, striding past the woman and out of the building for the very last time to be driven through the sullen streets of London for her final debrief with the PM, passing soldiers standing sentry on street corners with drones whirring near silently to keep the masses under scrutiny, and three more times she sees the glowing holographic image of Emily Rose shining in the air.
A symbol of freedom that the massed public took to their hearts. A lone female armed with an assault rifle making a stand against gunships and armies. A taunting reminder that not only did Mother fail to stop Maggie Sanderson securing the device, but that she also failed to stop that very image being hacked and released from what should have been a secure satellite feed.
At Downing Street, she walks alone past the soldiers stationed every few metres and looks up the road to the tank sitting massive outside the gates.
A glance to the side of the street where the press pack once dominated. Now banned since the terrorist attack in which Safa Patel apparently died protecting the then PM.
‘Mother,’ Colin Brough says in formal greeting, ushering her in through the main door. An aide to the PM and so full of his own self- importance it makes her want to claw his eyes out, but her attention focusses on the hub of noise and the sight of aides and advisors rushing from room to room clutching tablets and holding rushed conversations. Something is happening. Something big.
‘Through here, please. We’ll try not to keep you waiting too long . . . but the PM is somewhat busy right now . . .’
A look of horror shows on Mother’s face as she walks into the waiting room to sit in humiliated isolated silence. She is Mother. She practically ran this country and has never even seen the inside of a waiting room in Downing Street before, but now sits like a toxic pariah in true isolation until the door opens and the same aide rushes in, his manner worried, his whole being now very preoccupied.
‘Colin? Where’s the PM?’ she asks, standing up to glare through those hooded eyes that once made men quake in their shoes.
‘My apologies,’ Colin blurts. ‘The PM is, er . . . dealing with some- thing, but she has asked me to pass both her highest regard and her personal gratitude for your service . . .’
The reaction shows on Mother’s face that floods with deep offence at the insult, and she storms to the front door through the clamouring chaos and out into the silent street, suddenly filling with more soldiers, to be taken home on the last journey she will probably ever make in an armoured government vehicle.
‘What’s going on?’ she demands of the driver and guard in the front of the Range Rover as the vehicle speeds through the London streets to her private residence. They don’t answer but then they don’t have to now. She’s not Mother anymore.
They pull up outside her private Georgian residence and she waits for the driver or the second guard to get out and open the door.
‘When you’re ready, love,’ the front-seat passenger says rudely, turning to motion for her to go.
She goes to fire back, to wither his crass insubordination with a diatribe of abuse, but she is not Mother now. She is nothing and so for the first time in years she opens her own door and gets out to stand and watch as the Range Rover speeds away.
She walks briskly to unlock her front door, then stops at the alarm panel set on the inside wall, lowering her head for the biometric scanner to read her iris while her thumb presses on a small panel. ‘I am home,’ she says quietly for the benefit of the voice-recognition system.
‘System deactivated,’ a soft automated voice announces inside while she turns to absorb the ambience of her cold and empty house that will never be a home, and again she pauses, her eyes narrowing, then flickering to the grandfather clock off to her right.
She strides forward a few steps and stops facing the open door to the downstairs toilet, staring in at the white-tiled room in silence.
Seconds pass. A minute. A flicker of irritation, then both things she was expecting happen at the same time. fte bathroom fills with a green glow as the tablet in her pocket vibrates with an incoming call.
She pulls it free, holding it in her hand while taking in the way the white tiles reflect the green shimmering iridescent doorway of light. A figure comes through, marked with blood spatters and holding a pistol. Mother lifts a hand, indicating to wait.
‘WHAT?’ the figure shouts before pulling out ear gels that give off the tinny sound of loud rock music. ‘I was listening to music . . . What did you say?’
‘Wait,’ Mother says, showing the tablet vibrating. ‘Is it all ready?’ ‘I’m here, aren’t I?’ the person replies. ‘Are you answering that?’
‘I am indeed,’ Mother whispers, swiping the screen to activate the call.
‘Mother?’an urgent voice says through the secure connection, one she instantly recognises.
‘PM,’ Mother says.
‘Please,’Veronica Smedley says, the British Prime Minister and the person that deflected the full responsibility from the government to the shoulders of Mother when it all went so horribly wrong. ‘Mother, please tell me you have nothing to do with this . . .’
‘With what?’ Mother asks while the waiting figure taps a foot and hums patiently.
‘Mother, I am asking you now. Are you behind this?’ the PM asks, her voice hardening. ‘Behind what? You sacked me, remember . . . How do I know what’s going on? I’m the toxic fucking pariah that has been humiliated the world over and hung out to FUCKING DRY . . .’ Mother screams the last two words, her face twisting with rage.
‘Oh dear god,’the PM whispers. ‘Please . . . please don’t do this . . .’
‘Tell me,’ Mother hisses. ‘Did you honestly think I wouldn’t find out? Did you really honestly think I wouldn’t know?’
‘Mother, please . . .’
‘It’s in front of me right now, Veronica, and what a nice shade of green it is. Who chose the colour? Was it you?’
‘Full re-instatement. Full control,’the PM says quickly. ‘I will make a public apology and exonerate you of all wrong-doing. You can have the project . . .’
‘What project?’ Mother asks, switching to an innocent tone while the figure holding the gun in the bathroom looks at the blood spatters and tuts mildly. ‘Do you mean the secret time machine you’ve built, Veronica? That project? The one I now have control over? That one? The one I am going to use to hunt down and kill that **** Maggie Sanderson? That one? I’m going now, but, please, try not to worry, I won’t do anything stupid . . . Sleep well, PM, because it won’t just be Maggie standing over you in the dark . . .’